2018 – Re-thinking my Christianity

table in woodsI’ve called myself a “Christian” from the moment I could talk. Singing Jesus Loves Me was one of the first songs I ever sang. I got my first Bible in Elementary School and was playing CD’s of Amy Grant on repeat in my room as a pre-teen (I didn’t discover DC Talk and Jars of Clay until I was a teenager. I was SUPER-Christian-cool then)

I grew into adulthood where Beth Moore bible studies were all the rage and scrapbooking clubs were how young moms connected.  I hosted Premier Jewelry Parties and sang Hillsong worship songs in my car. I volunteered in ministry groups and quickly asserted myself into all things grown-up in church.

Then life got hard.

But I dug deeper. I fasted routinely, prayed constantly, spent hours on my floor listening to Bethel and crying until there were no tears left. I’d journal until I ran out of pages, anoint every square inch of my house with oil and proclaim the “promises” of God over my marriage, kids and family.

I prayed for healings. I prayed for breakthroughs. I memorized and quoted scripture. All begging and pleading God to make things better….to ease my trembling, breaking heart.

Those years were hard – all of this was done very quietly. In my room, in my car, during long showers alone with only the walls to hear my sobs. Two of my trusted friends traveled these inner battles with me…but to the outside world, I was smiling, preaching, writing books, raising a family and ministering round the clock to nearly everyone I encountered.

I loved. I loved deeply and I loved well.

I poured everything I had into the people I loved and those that I served. All of that flowed from my passion and what I believe I was put here on earth to do.

However, I was a lonely, anxious, scared hurting wife and mom. And I was doing the only thing I knew to do to survive: Pray. Speak Truth. Trust God. Repeat.

But my circumstances didn’t change. They only worsened. The only thing that did begin to change was my health. The anxiety had grown to a level of daily panic attacks and stomach issues that developed into chronic food allergies that I am still dealing with today.

I remember one morning when I was in the shower doing my daily pleadings with God that he said to me, “Anna, I died, so you don’t have to. Stop killing yourself in trying to be what they want you to be”

In that moment everything shifted. I realized that I was crucifying myself daily for the sake of what? Making people happy? Keeping the Christians impressed? Maintaining an image of a perfect family and life so people would like what they saw?

It was killing me.

In the moments that followed, God gently asked me what was wrong with doing what I knew I had to do in order to be healthy. I screamed all of the Christian arguments and he said to me, “Okay, but are you concerned with their opinion of you or mine?”

Was God’s opinion of me enough? If I pissed every person off I knew by taking drastic changes in my life that would bring me to a place of health and wholeness, would my peace with God be enough?

Honestly, I didn’t know.

And I wrestled for a long time with that. But, eventually I caved into what I knew my next right thing was. I had to heal. I made drastic changes in my life. With a shaking heart, God held my hand each step of the way.

And, you know what? What I feared most (rejection from people) didn’t kill me. I’m still standing. My tribe got smaller, but the peace inside is priceless.

I’m still learning to let go of the noise and hold tight to the still, quiet voice but at times it is hard – especially when it bucks the louder majority who are ready to throw stones via texts, Facebook or just give you a loud disapproving cold shoulder when they see you.

As I look at 2018, so much of me wants to be done with that fear.

I don’t want to please the “Christian” majority. I want to be at peace with the Divine and be at peace inside my own skin.

I am experiencing a peace deeper than I have ever known. Steadfast joy is resonating in unexpected places. A rich hope is fiercely standing like a tower of steel. And courage so brave that sometimes it takes me by surprise.

And, yet, much in my opinions and actions have landed me poor marks on the good Christian radar.

As I was getting ready this morning, I started thinking of what many believe defines a good Christian. I realized my list has shifted – a lot. But, I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, I’ll start with what you don’t need to be a “good Christian”:

  1. You don’t have to keep your kids out of public schools to be a good Christian
  2. You don’t have to only listen to only Christian music to be a good Christian
  3. You don’t have to go on mission trips to be a good Christian
  4. You don’t have to fast to be a good Christian
  5. You don’t have to have a prayer room to be a good Christian
  6. You don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian
  7. You don’t have to stay married to be a good Christian
  8. You don’t have to not cuss to be a good Christian
  9. You don’t have to have scripture all over your walls to be a good Christian
  10. You don’t have to memorize a ton of scripture to be a good Christian
  11. You don’t have to only have Christian friends to be a good Christian
  12. You don’t have to be a Republican to be a good Christian
  13. You don’t have to homeschool to be a good Christian
  14. You don’t have to use essential oils to be a good Christian
  15. You don’t have to tithe to be a good Christian
  16. You don’t have to be straight to be a good Christian
  17. You don’t have to be in ministry to be a good Christian
  18. You don’t have to interpret the Bible literally to be a good Christian
  19. You don’t have to post about Jesus, your relationship with Jesus or other people’s lack of relationship with Jesus on Facebook to be a good Christian

This list may ruffle your feathers. It may make you angry. It may make you want to email me and tell me how much I’m wrong. But, I venture to say that everything on the above list has to do with two things: fear and what people judge on the outside.

It has everything to do with how we divide groups and decide who is “in” and who is “out”.

The religious in Jesus’ day felt the same way. But Jesus wasn’t about fear or division and he quickly upset the pecking order of who was in and out. They hated him for it. But he continued to challenge what we thought God’s view towards mankind was.

Mankind believed our acts of righteousness (according to our own lists of do’s and don’ts) were enough, along with the occasional blood sacrifice to make us worthy of God’s love and acceptance. (In pagan terms we had to keep the “gods happy” in order to spare ourselves from their wrath)

Although we preach that Jesus paid the price once and for all, we still argue that our lists of do’s and don’ts determine our worthiness of being called righteous. In many ways we remain paganist in our thoughts between God and mankind.

This mentality is what drives many to anxiety and fear, trying to keep the list and the masses happy.

But, Jesus offered a different way.

He showed us that not everyone is alike. Not every person has the same list. Instead of judgment and wrath, he extended an invitation to ALL. And, most importantly, he showed that at the end of the day, we should be only concerned with the state of our heart. Period.

That is what led me to create a different list. Based on how Jesus loved and demonstrated his life, this is how I’ve redefined (and how I know to back up with the Jesus story) what makes a Jesus follower (or Good Christian) in my book.

A Good Christian has:

  1. Love
  2. Joy
  3. Peace
  4. Patience
  5. Kindness
  6. Goodness
  7. Self-control
  8. Faithfulness
  9. Gentleness

These are the fruits of the spirit. And, if you encounter a person who failed to make one of the points on the first list, yet embodies a lot of this list, I’d encourage you to think twice before labeling them as someone holding a ticket to hell or as one who doesn’t know God.

Jesus and the divine often show up often in places we least expect, defending those we would’ve cast out – he is constantly challenging our ways of thinking and our views of God.

As we venture into 2018, my hope is that we can drop our personal fears of not making the mark and equally our fears of those who are different. I pray instead, that we can follow our inner voice – even if it leads us away from the majority. After all, that’s usually where Jesus was.

Hugs and Happy New Year.

Anna

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48 thoughts on “2018 – Re-thinking my Christianity

  1. Good for you! Don’t jump all the way out of the boat, just throw out all the stuff that is causing you to sink! That is exactly what you did. You will be fine. Love God and Love your neighbor and become the word made flesh. You are well on your way to that. I pray you will find you way to peace and joy in you life .Find a good church who will accept you for who you are not what you measure up to..
    Dwight

  2. Yes.
    Here is what I have discovered over the past 10 years…and I have been a Christian probably as long as you have been breathing.
    -Jesus never called us to a set of rules to win His approval. He simply calls us to Himself.
    -Jesus never called us to tell anyone they are going to hell without Him. We are simply to present Him and His Gospel.
    -Jesus draws people. We do not have to “convince” anyone.
    -Whatever doctrine we hold on to, Jesus (His example and teachings) is the starting point and the core of what we should practice and believe.
    -Love should be at the nucleus of what we say and do.
    -Obedience is born out of knowing His love for us, not out of legalistic obligation.

    Well, I am not here to write a post.

    If I may…you listed the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. Here is one thought…it is fruit, not fruits. Picture this as one Tree and this is the fruit we consume and share. It is, of course, fruit of the Spirit. Too many teach this as something we can or should attain and practice, when the fact is, such fruit is based on Him working through us. This shows the importance of getting to know Him and waiting on Him, listening for His voice.

    Okay, my apologies. This became a small post.

    • Hello there! Always so good to hear from you and I always appreciate your thoughts. I love your take on “fruit” instead of fruits. Such great insight. And you are free to post here (whether large or small) anytime!! Hugs to you and yours.

      • An old friend pointed out the fruit thing to me. He also pointed out that we don’t collect or develop the fruit…it is born out of the Spirit’s work within us. Many teachings suggest that we are to pursue the fruit…really, we are to pursue the Lord and His fruit is what manifests.

  3. Anna I read this and immediately wanted to hug you. This post express how I have feeling lately and one of the things I am bent on changing in the new year. For many years, I didn’t even realize it until recently, I’ve felt claustrophobic in my denomination which places a lot of emphasis on outward appearance. It took having to change some things in my life that made me realize that I couldn’t and wasn’t comfortable living that way. It’s really time to give focus to the fruits and through them, the Christ in you shall show. An admirable piece!

  4. Being a ‘good’ Christian, being a Christian, is following Christ, obeying Him, pleasing Him – as He obeyed and pleased His Father. It’s not about lists – it’s about His Word.

  5. Anna, this was exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been ‘butting heads” inside of me for these same reasons. You have shown me the light that I need. Although I’m in the ministry, I still feel constrained because I know I upset others who hold to their “denominational truths” and look down on those who don’t. I have struggled as of late in how I can communicate that I may not share in their total doctrinal beliefs, but if we hold to the same basic belief, we should be able to get along with a lot more Christians.

    You boiling it down to the 9 Fruits of the Spirit opened my eyes.

    YES! That is the exact thing I needed to see on January 1st…now my year ahead is a lot brighter!

    Blessings!

    Bob Thibodeau

    • Hi Bob! Your words brought a huge smile to my face. Thank you for your encouragement. And thank you for sharing your light with us. Hugs.

  6. Anna, I have followed your blog for quite a while now. I love your honesty and self-disclosure. I love your courage too.

    If your former list was all we had to live by and with, I guess we would just have to pick a few and go for it. I thought that was how grace worked for much of my life and ministry–that it gave us power go do that stuff. Well, I know different now.

    We have Jesus Himself to live by and (of course, once you see it) in.

    This dawning reality doesn’t set a lesser goal, just a more intimate and relational one–love each other as Jesus Himself loved/loves us. The good news is He is in us and we are in Him to do just that, love Father and everyone else, together with Him.

    I look forward to tracking with you this year. Blessings to you on your journey.

    • Hi Larry! Awe, thank you. What a freeing truth that is, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing that with me. Happy you are here!

  7. I fully agree with your list!! My goal for 2018 is to spend more time with Jesus. I know everything else will fall into place. Even if that “place” isn’t where or how I thought it should be. However, it always seems to end up better than I expected. (Sometimes after the hard pain subsides) love you girl!!!

    • Hi Katie!! Yes, letting that hard pain subside is sooooo important isn’t it? Thank you for your words. Love you!!

  8. I’m not sure I agree with your entire post but I love your bravery in sharing and your willingness to put down the standard “good Christians” would have you bear in favor of living under the standard of grace.
    Might just be my problem but I find I need to be more concerned about my own holiness and right relationship with God—whether I am a good Christian in His eyes—than whether everyone else is. To everyone else, I’ll try to extend His love and grace, arms open in welcome, fingers pointing to the cross of Christ instead of to the sin He paid for.

    • Hi there! Isn’t wonderful to not have to agree on absolutely everything? There is such beauty in coming to the table with many different perspectives and thoughts. Thank you for sharing yours here. Hugs!

  9. Yes, this, so much this. Thank you for speaking the words in my heart too, especially about love. I still struggle with how the people who told me, a transgender woman, that God hates me and I don’t deserve His love and grace, could have thought they were speaking from a place of love when they said it. I’ve found a church that has, so far, supported and affirmed and accepted me…but if I’m honest with myself, there’s stil (and always, I think) a bit of doubt about whether that will, at some time, change. So I continue to do what I understand – loving people, and letting all the judging and condemning be God’s problem and not my problem.

    • I love that phrase so much: loving people, and letting all the judging and condemning be God’s problem and not my problem. Beautifully said. Love to you!!

  10. 2 thoughts. 1) good Christian is an erroneous term. No one can be good at being a Christian. Christians are simply made righteous by God Himself. 2) sin is still sin and homosexual sex (not mere attraction) is among them and it would be inappropriate to allow people to be confused as to whether or not it’s okay with God to act out on same sex attractions.

  11. You nailed it Anna. I actually believe there is a new revolution that has been brewing just under the surface of a lot of Jesus followers. So many public figures in the faith are Using their voices and speaking up regardless of how it may drive some of their personal followers away, and deciding that said individual they thought was a good Christian, isn’t anymore and by speaking up they have deemed themselves a weaker, more conforming Christian.

    I think such things are actually just a more creative way that evil is using to divide people who honestly and truly try to follow Jesus. There is a good and holy reason that Jesus says the most important thing is to love God, the only thing second to that is to love thy neighbor as yourself. I hope if I’m claiming to be a believer in Christ that I am open to everyone’s ideas and views, loving them as myself, and trying to hear. I believe Jesus would have a lot to say about our ideas and arguments regarding this as well.
    It’s also okay to not know the answers, or think we absolutely could defend this or that in the Bible. It’s okay to let God be God, and for us to focus on loving God with all our heart and focus on that single thing. We may be surprised how his Holy Spirit shows himself to us, and it may not be what we think. Love God. Love your neighbor.
    Good post, Anna.

    • Hi Jaime!! Thank you for your encouraging words. I agree with you, there is a definite shift taking place –
      it’s a thrilling time to be alive and be a voice for divine love. Love and hugs to you!

      • I dont know if its helpful or not, but I wrote a devotional on this verse the other day based on customs. Based on your first podcast i can see that people in your life might be confusing customs with what Gods desire is. Not sure if its helpful or not but wanted to share (Note I’ve not edited on this much yet so its raw)

        This story can be found both here in Matthew as well as in Luke 9:59-60, and it revolves around a disciple of Jesus asking to delay his personal ministry. Jewish tradition was at the time that a person was to buried immediately after death, and then later moved to a bone box. Because this disciple was with Jesus we know that his father was either not dead yet or was awaiting to place his earlthy remains in its final resting place. We will never know witch this was, but we do know that he as asking Christ for his leave to delay his ministry, and go tend to his father death.

        Jesus instructs him to follow him, and to let the dead bury their dead. In following Christ he would be shareing the gospel to the spiritually dead and giving them a chance at eternal life. It would be better for everyone if the spiritually dead where allowed to bury the physically dead, and for the disciple to follow and preach to insure the salvation of the people. In this way Jesus is telling him to not delay his ministry but to spend his time sharing God’s word instead of following the customs of the world.

        Application

        Too often we dont share the message of Christ because of stigma attached too it in social settings. These customs risk the eternal soul of all individuals that is available through the Grace of God by his son Jesus Christ. Today we as followers must share his message whenever possible, and display his power by our discipleship.

  12. I was with you until you brought in “good” Christian. What then is a “bad” Christian? Christianity is black and white…no gray. You are either a follower of Christ or you are not. It has never been about what you do or don’t do.

    • Some people attend church every time the doors are open and Claim to be a “Christian” but their actions for sure don’t show any if the qualities of the “fruits of the spirit”. I can’t answer for Anna but that may be what she us referring to? Or you may have just taken it too literal? Also just some food for thought…being a Christian, doesn’t automatically make you “good” and not being a Christian doesn’t automatically make you “bad”. In my time of need I had more Atheists and non Christians have more of a heart to help than the majority of my so called Christian family did. I have met many non Christians who were kind and loving and that is a “good” quality. Be mindful that the Bible says that there is not One good amongst us! So we all fail and miss the mark! I think goodness in general was designed by the creator so it’s not something we can claim to be, it is something that the creator designed into us, if we choose to tap into it or not and if we choose to acknowledge Him, then He can grow that and use it for His purpose. The Bible says, even the Rocks cry out his existance so if He can use the Rocks for His glory than He can use believers and non believers as well. Just as well as satan can work through many of those that wear the “Christian” Title.

  13. I was a bit concerned at first with the post title but decided to read it, and I’m happy I did. I enjoyed your process to get to where you ended. There is one story in the scripture that I always think of when dealing with other people.

    Matthew 8:21-22
    And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead.

    There is a lot of history to that scripture, you have to take into account Jewish tradition and who Jesus is speaking too. My take away is simply that each moment we worry about customs or this world is a moment that we are not sharing or showing the gospel. Many times when people refuse to be open to the truth of scripture and I risk getting bogged down I hear that verse in my head “Let the dead bury their dead”

    That was the verse that your post brought to mind, I thought to myself several times “good for you, follow him, and leave the dead to bury their dead”.

    Good post, and thank you.

    • It’s ironic that you used that verse….it’s one that has been coming to me lately a lot. Thank you for offering a perspective to that passage that I had not seen before. Hugs to you!

  14. Yes! I have a similar upbringing and have too been redeemed from fear and shame stemming from an expectation to always be the ‘good christian’. I love hearing of the power the Lord has to completely transform our lives into what He alone has planned for us. Amen! 🙂

  15. I can relate to this so much! I’m glad you have been set free!
    “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

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