I Am a C

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“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” ~ James 5:16

Well stink. I thought this whole blogging thing was going to be about The Lord using it in the lives of others. Instead, He’s mostly using it in the life of Me.

I thought I’d get to share the things I wanted to share, but like Uncle Si would say, “Nahh.” In order to keep my promise of a blog about “real thoughts from real women about real life,” apparently I must tell all and pray someone out there can relate.

Kinda like reality TV, this ain’t always gonna be pretty (or grammatically correct).

Through honest confession and testimony I’m realizing who I really am vs. who God wants me to be. Confessing my self-righteous thoughts and judgmental spirit to the world is not high on my list of things to do.  Yet, as the scripture says, confession brings healing.

I want to be healed.

With that said, you should know I’ve sat down to write this post probably a dozen times now, but every time I get flustered and walk away. Nevertheless, I value sleep and if I ever want to sleep soundly again, I have to do what The Holy Spirit leads. (I don’t know if you know this about Him or not, but He plays the Insomnia Card like a boss.)

So here we go.

It all started as I helped a family I dearly love move out of their just-foreclosed-on home. As we moved boxes and furniture, there they stood. The Neighbors.

I wish I could say I felt love for this neighborhood lined with “Pray for Joe” yard signs, but I didn’t. I felt anger. Infuriation. Rage.

How can they pray for [Fireman] Joe, who they’ve likely never met, yet stare in judgmental silence as their actual neighbors struggle?

How is it that friends and strangers who lived an hour and a half away could come and help this family, yet the very people who lined their block could only manage to gossip and stare?

Angry doesn’t accurately convey the emotions I felt. I was appalled. These neighbors actually claim to be Christians. How on earth?!

As the weeks passed I began to notice more and more hypocrites around me.

… The honking maniac who cuts you off while sporting a shiny silver fish above his taillight.

…The angry woman at the grocery store who can wear a Christian t-shirt but can’t crack a smile.

…The churchgoers who knowingly worship in the same congregation but ignore one another in public.

Right about now you may be wondering where I live. It may (or may not) surprise you that I live in The Bible Belt. Rural Texas, to be exact. A country community where everyone claims to love Jesus and The Longhorns. (A few love That Other Team, but we won’t mention them since they left The Big 12.)

As my sister-in-law from Denver observed, here we don’t ask, “Do you go to church?” We ask, “Where do you go to church?”

If you’re from here, Christianity is basically an implied part of your identity. It is socially acceptable to “go to church” and we just expect that everyone does. If you find someone who doesn’t, they’re probably under 25 and here on scholarship.

So if the majority of my community is Christian—which literally means to be like Christ—one would assume this would be the most loving, graceful place on earth, right?

Wrong. We in The Bible Belt are among the most judgmental and unloving people on earth. We have the ability to tell you off politely and with a smile. Bless your heart. (Think Julia Sugarbaker. And if you’re too young to remember Designing Women, I can’t help you.)

If you don’t “fit the mold” of our church, we eventually run you off. And if you visit, don’t even think about sitting in “my pew.”

Sadly, this is not just a problem in my neck of the woods.

I recently returned from my third mission trip to Tennessee. You’re probably wondering why in the world Tennessee, of all places. Don’t they have churches there? Yes, yes they do. But as one pastor put it, the people in those churches do not live out their faith.

While their church buildings are full, their community is wasting away. So a separate ministry has been organized to bring in other churches to help.

Did ya catch that? They bring in other churches to help.

Did you know a 2012 Gallup Poll estimated some 77% of Americans profess to be Christians and of those, 52% claim a Protestant or “Other Christian” identity?

When you turn on the news, does it seem that 77% of the people in this country are Christians? If so, shouldn’t America look slightly different? Better yet, even if 52% of our country lived like Christ, wouldn’t this be a totally different place?

I was reminded of an old song from Sunday School, “I Am a C.” Remember that song? I began to sing the lyrics…

“I am a C. I am a C-H. I am a C-H-R-I-S-T-I-A-N. And I have C-H-R-I-S-T in my H-E-A-R-T and I will L-I-V-E-E-T-E-R-N-A-L-L-Y!”

We used to sing it faster and faster until finally all you could hear was a jumble of L-L-Y’s.

As I sang, it occurred to me that for many of us, this is where the song of our faith ends. I’ve got fire insurance, I’m good to go! Thanks, Jesus!

“If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.” ~ 1 Corinthians 3:14-15 (NIV)

But isn’t there supposed to be more to Christianity than just salvation from Hell? What about the “abundant life” Jesus promises to give those who trust in Him?

“I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.” ~John 10:10 (The Message)

I began asking myself crazy questions like What if I was dropped on an island and told to find the Christians there? If there were no church buildings, where would I start? What would I look for to identify them?

I asked The Lord, What exactly makes someone a Christian? Is it simply believing in You, Jesus? Is there a difference between being a “believer” and a Christian? Is it just a label we claim after joining a church?

Of course, The Lord answered my question.

“And how can we be sure that we belong to Him? By looking within ourselves: are we really trying to do what He wants us to? Someone may say, ‘I am a Christian; I am on my way to heaven; I belong to Christ.’ But if he doesn’t do what Christ tells him to, he is a liar. But those who do what Christ tells them to will learn to love God more and more. That is the way to know whether or not you are a Christian. Anyone who says he is a Christian should live as Christ did.” ~ 1 John 2:3-6

I love how God gives such blunt, to-the-point-answers.

According to 1 John 2:3-6, there are 4 things that define a Christian.

1—A Christian is someone who sincerely strives to do what Jesus wants him to. (vs.3)

2—A Christian is someone who actively does what Christ tells him to. (vs.5)

3—A Christian is someone whose love for God continually grows. (vs. 5)

4—A Christian is someone who lives like Christ did. (vs. 6)

Do you see the action in those words? According to this passage, Christianity is not a passive belief; it is an active faith.

After we are saved, there is usually a desire within us to actively live out our new faith. We are “on fire” for Jesus. So what happens along the way to snuff the flame?

Life. Life happens. We get busy, consumed with our circumstances and focused on our problems.

The song in our heart ends in a jumble of L-L-Y’s and the other songs of our faith fade away.

It is not well with our souls.

Grace is not amazing.

Our eyes aren’t turned upon Jesus.

Believe me, I totally get this. It’s hard to turn my eyes on Jesus while sitting in a car without a/c in the Texas summer sun. It isn’t well with my soul when I’m stressing over finances. Grace is not amazing when I get a speeding ticket on the way to church.

In my own experience, when life just becomes life, that “C” from the song quickly comes to stand for something else…

I am a Complainer. I am not satisfied with what God is doing or not doing for me. He’s not meeting my expectations. I deserve to be happy and enjoy “the good life.”

I am a Coveter. Not just of other people’s possessions, but I want more, better, or different things than what I currently have. I want a different job, a better marriage, more stuff—a better situation in general. I’m entitled to more and if I had it, then I’d be content.

I am a Critic. Be it of the church, fellow Christians, or—even worse—the lost around me. I am the jury and the judge of everyone. If they don’t meet my standards, I don’t speak to them. Or wave.

I am a Controller. I am the master of my ship. No one will convict me or convince me that my ways are wrong. I get to decide what is right for my life. If I’m in control then I have nothing to doubt. I will “make it happen”.

I am a Contradiction. I say I love Jesus and believe the Bible in its entirety, but my live-in lover is okay. Besides, marriage is an old fashioned concept imposed by society, so my rebellion is justified.

I am a Consumer. I buy and do what suits my likings, not just my needs. I value church in much the same way. I’ll go to church, but when the pastor leaves or the music is no longer my style, I’ll just find a new one. After all, The Church is not about being a committed family; it’s about feeling good when I leave at noon.

I am Confined. I live in a perfectly rose-colored world, so don’t mess it up. I know The Rules and I follow them to a tee. I have God in a box where I like Him, where I feel safe. No need to step out of my comfort zone; the Lord will send someone else to talk to “that family” next door.

Before you think I’m criticizing and condemning, hear this: God has revealed the plank in my own eye. I have been or currently am All Of The Above.

Like the story of the sheep Nathan used to reach David, I realize I have been That Neighbor. (2 Samuel 12) I have lived across the street from a young, widowed, mother of two and never lifted a finger to help or befriend her. I have avoided eye contact with “the weird people next door” to avert an inconvenient and uncomfortable conversation.

Listen to what God would say to our hearts through the prophet Ezekiel…

“My people come to you, as they usually do, and sit before You to hear Your words, but they do not put them into practice. Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy for unjust gain.” ~Ezekiel 33:31

Basically, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than visiting the zoo makes you a monkey.

God’s people should put God’s words into practice. That means we actually DO what He says. We LIVE like He says to. We ACT like He wants us to.

If we, as God’s people, can’t do and live and act like God wants us to, then why would we expect our country—our world to get any better? There’s no hope in that.

As one of my favorite songs says, “We are Your Church; We are The Hope on Earth.”

Can you think of someone right now who you would describe as “The Hope on Earth”? I hope you can.

The truth is you should be able to think of a CHURCH FULL of Somebodies! How in the world are we going to be The Hope on Earth with frowny faces and sorry attitudes?

Now please don’t get defensive—I love The Church. I am The Church.

I point these things out, not to condemn or criticize, but out of a desire to see The Body live abundantly and to see Jesus Christ glorified and accurately portrayed through the lives of His people.

Church, we’re not living abundantly. Many of us are not even living happily.

I literally cannot count the number of women who have confessed their misery to me.

“…Life is so hard…I’m just not happy…My husband isn’t who I thought he would be…My family isn’t close…I’m saved but how come my life isn’t abundant?”

My heart is heavy because these are precious, beloved Daughters of The King. I see their despair. I watch them either fake a smile or slump around on Sunday mornings, but either way, they are sincerely joyless. Unhappy. Miserable.

There is a dark, dying world that desperately needs our Light, but we can’t shine it while wearing The Cloak of Misery.

This observation has nothing to do with salvation. I’m not questioning anyone’s eternal security here. But I am questioning the abundance of life that is being enjoyed and the image that is portrayed of what life with Jesus looks like.

Those alternate “C’s” do not lead others to Him and they do not lead to abundant life. In fact, The Lord has taught me they lead to life in the wilderness.

Though I recognized the problem, I didn’t know what to call it.

Then, right on time (as usual), God dropped the hammer on me through a recent series preached by Pastor James MacDonald called, “Lord, Change My Attitude Before It’s Too Late.”

What I’ve been witnessing is His Children living life in the wilderness, just like Moses and The Children of Israel did.

I didn’t know it, but I’ve been living in the wilderness myself. Though frustrated and angered by the attitudes of Christians around me, I realize I am no different. What I saw in them, God has uncovered in me. A spiritual wilderness.

Graciously, He has shown me the way out.

Being a Christian isn’t about being perfect or getting it right all the time. It’s about the attitude of our heart and mind. The way we strive to live and what we seek to accomplish—our will and wants or God’s?

Chuck Swindoll said, “I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”

Isn’t that what this boils down to, our attitude? When our attitudes allow it, we find ourselves in a miserable place, a spiritual wilderness.

I’ve learned attitudes are patterns of thinking formed over a long period of time that, when left unchecked, make life a dry, hard, joyless, parched experience.

Consider this post an introduction to “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say. Over the next few weeks I will attempt to cover the attitudes that lead to wilderness living, as well as the attitudes that lead to abundant living.

I am currently on my way out of the wilderness. Won’t you come with me? All it takes is recognizing the bad attitudes within you, confessing them as sin and repenting.

We didn’t get to the wilderness overnight, so this journey will take some time. (Hopefully not 40 years!) Let’s step out together and watch with eager anticipation for the clouds and fire God will use to lead us out.

Now go grab your boots.  We’ve got some walkin’ to do.

Jessie

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” ~ James 5:16

Click here to listen to one of my favorite songs, “Build Your Kingdom Here,” by Rend Collective Experiment.

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4 responses »

  1. Yes! I live in the South, too, and see the same things. As Christians we have two main commandments- loving The Lord and loving our neighbors (Matthew 22:37-39). We can shape up this wilderness if we follow these words. Thanks for being real and using your gift with language to inspire others.

    • Anna, you hit the nail on the head. Real love DOES with a sincere heart and good attitude. We need more of these kinds of Doers.

      I hope you will join me as we venture out of the wilderness. There are 5 wilderness attitudes that lead us there, and I’ll just tell you now that I have or have had all 5 of them. Yikes!

      It’s going to get interesting…

      Thanks for stopping by!
      Jessie

  2. Pingback: Welcome to The Wilderness | notmyownblog

  3. Pingback: All I Want for Christmas is Contenment | notmyownblog

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