What is a Christian?

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

John 14:23-24

My boys holding candles representing the “Light of the world” during a Christmas Eve service.

__

My children are filled with curiosity fueled by their tireless and abundant energy and (possibly) too many sweets. This curiosity makes me the direct target of many, many challenging questions numbering into the hundreds during our average 12-hour day. Inevitably, I leave them disappointed… unable in my aging, finite and exhausted mind to meet the herculean challenge of answering all of their earnest questions.

If you have enjoyed the privilege of spending any significant length of time with someone between the ages 3 and 7, you probably understand the feeling—and you likely well know that one deeply philosophical question is followed in strict pattern by one absolutely ridiculous could-have-fallen-from-the-sky inquiry. It goes something like this:

“Mommy, how close can I actually get to the sun without dying?”

“Mommy, can you describe exactly what a booger should taste like?”

“Mommy, can you ask God if we will live in our human bodies when we die?”

“Mommy, do sidewalks have shadows?”

“Mommy, is God a number since numbers never end?”

“Mommy, how are batteries made?”

“Mommy, if I eat an apple seed will I have a baby?”

“Mommy, what is the biggest thing in the whole world?”

You know… typical questions from the pint-sized philosopher.

Although tiresome, these questions are not at all useless. They are great warm-ups for the questions occasionally thrown at me from an adult over a hot cup of tea—and especially for the ones too important to forfeit a response, such as this:

“So, what is a Christian?”

It’s such a great question—and one that always stops my breath for a second. We absolutely need church-attending (or not) folks to consider this question here in the South, and we absolutely need to be asked to answer it. It can be tempting to stack many assumptions regarding the intentions behind this question and balance them on top of one another to avoid the awkwardness of getting right to the heart of the gospel. Oh, how we don’t want to offend. Oh, how we want to make others feel good so that we can also feel good about how they feel about us. Oh how easy it feels to say a Christian is any or everybody who calls themselves one. But what good is this if it’s not true?

The reality is that “What is a Christian?” is an earnest question in need of an honest answer. And we can not fabricate this one, lest we do so out of the delusion that we are mini-gods. Jesus tells us explicitly in his teachings: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:23-24).

A Christian is someone who obeys and submits to the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ.

“But how do I do this?”

You must prioritize a discovery and an openness to learn what Jesus taught and submit to it seriously in full faith so that it leaves nothing in your life untouched by what you have learned from Him.

“What did Jesus teach?”

He taught many things, but foremost Christ taught that we are all sinners (have turned away from God) and that we must repent (earnestly ask forgiveness from God) in order to receive enormous and incredible forgiveness given through Christ to our souls (the merciful, unearned favor of God to return to His presence). Jesus taught that if we are to “take up our cross and follow Him” (Matt.16:24-26) — we are to make a study of Him and His life that we may learn from Him and model our actions by Him here on earth.

And He stated that the road following Him is not easy, but when we follow Him He provides us a Helper (the Holy Spirit) and we will never be without His help for us.

So many of us have spent our time sitting in pews, singing hymns, owning a Bible, attending Christian private schools, and saying bedtime prayer poems that we may have missed it…

And others of us have devastatingly never heard this good news offered by Christ before. Forgiveness! The presence of God to help us! Could this be true? Is this not a myth?

It is true! And it is so real, my beloved reader…

And just in case you are one of the many who may have missed it, I wanted to make sure I stop and answer this question (like I do with my own children) that you receive a very straight-forward answer here.

In brief, a Christian is someone who believes this to be true: that Jesus is the Son of God who died for their sins, rose from the dead, reigns now as King over all, and because this is true they follow His teachings found in the Holy Bible and repent of their sins, accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness so that they may enter God’s presence, and submit to Jesus’ kingship over their life for an eternity.

Reader, a Christian is someone who believes that God has done the seemingly impossible because He is the very definition of LOVE itself. He has offered rescue to a broken, dying, and undeserving world.

You may need to ask yourself one very important follow-up question in sincerity: “Am I a Christian?”

And if you find yourself in need of a friend to discuss the possibilities of the answer to your question, my husband and I are absolutely available.

With all of my heart—Your humble servant,

Reagan

Sayonara to Social Media: After a year of being off social, being back on is proving unfruitful for the soul

The year 2020 was a chaotic year for the world, but was an incredibly peaceful year for our family—and it was this for a lot of reasons, but probably the most impactful reason was that we were not on social media.

Really, I was not on social media (I mean, my husband wasn’t either but he never really had a habitual problem with social).

We agreed to get off of social media to help support our year-long Contentment Challenge during which we did not participate in any extra spending for the year 2020 (it was an incredible challenge… and really helped us sort out our needs vs. our wants! You can listen to my interview with Nancy Ray, the founder of the Contentment Challenge here.)

It was probably the most focused… the most rewarding… the most productive… and the most restful year of my adult life.

And, again, this for many reasons… but a big reason was the absence of social media in my life.

The benefits of being off of social media were astounding for me. They included, but were not limited to, the following:

  • More focused time with my family.
  • A clear mind and ability to be all-in where I was at in the moment.
  • More time reading scripture.
  • More time resting when I was tired (rather than scrolling).
  • Less impetuous spending (for instance, we successfully completed one year of the Contentment Challenge, paid off an enormous amount of credit card debt, and built a solid foundation for our savings goal).
  • The ability to walk into church (mask or no mask) and love others well without the distraction of their political views flying in front of our faces.
  • The deeper conviction to take control of what comes into our minds and intentionally focus and filter out the light from the darkness (Jesus has a lot to say about how we should be doing this…).
  • I read so many books despite having been a full-time working mama of two during a stay-at-home pandemic.
  • Emotional stability and growing contentment with my self and my home.
  • The ability to hear from live people sitting at our dinner table, passing by on the sidewalk, or greeting in the grocery aisle and having them tell us about their recent life updates (pregnancies, marriages, divorces, sickness, etc..) and us having the authentic real reaction that comes with having heard the news for the first time.
  • Having the energy and emotional ability to share the gospel with our neighbors.
  • Picking up the phone to have real live phone conversations with those I thought of throughout the day.
  • Redefining my view of success being found in the shadows rather than on a public platform.
  • NOT having my brain subconsciously asking for the next “line” for my “public stage presence” on social media.
  • Discovering and investing in deep friendships without the distraction of surface-level noise from random crowds of others on my feed.
  • More time in prayer with a truly quiet mind and open heart to God’s opinion and direction.

(To hear more about how being off of social media completely changed my view of success as a woman and a mom, check out my interview on the Miss Teacher-Mom podcast on Christ-Centered Success.)

Then 2020 ended and the Lord began to nudge me towards writing… which I am doing and loving. Over the course of a few hard conversations, my writing coaches convinced me of the many benefits of joining social media to help build a bridge to my ideal reader, so I (prayerfully, hesitantly, and never completely peacefully…) agreed to do so.

Since rejoining social media here are some changes in myself that I have noticed over the past few months:

  • Cloudiness in my mind.
  • Distractions that cause me to be less present with my family.
  • Less rested than before.
  • The feeling of an invisible pressure to produce and perform.
  • Emotional ties to likes and follows that I know in my logical mind are of no value, but my illogical and emotional mind have fallen prey to…
  • More holding of my phone throughout the day and in front of others.
  • Less time spent on writing and more time spent on trying to figure out how to market on and simply use social media.
  • Anxiety in my heart and mind.
  • Inability to slow down.
  • A visibly disgruntled (although patient and supportive) family hungry for more of my attention.
  • People no longer asking me for life updates as readily in person… me no longer asking for life updates as readily in person.
  • A continued disenchantment with social media, realizing authenticity is hard to find there.
  • A busier mind and heart. It’s harder to quiet my spirit before the Lord.
  • More impulsive spending.
  • A temptation to covet.
  • A deep desire to leave social media and pursue writing in a completely different way.

For me, the benefits of not being on social media simply outweigh the benefits of being on social media.

When I was off social media, I told many people that I could not imagine coming back to the platforms. Having been back on the platforms over the past few months, I must agree with my 2020 self… for me and my heart, it’s better to be off the platforms—writing goals or not—so, I’m saying “sayonara” once again.

What does this mean for my writing and my projects forthcoming?

Well, I will continue to write… and I imagine the quality of my writing will greatly benefit from my break with the myriad of distractions on social media.

If you are one of my precious (and few) readers… I so value your time spent on my works. Here is how you can keep up with me…

I will be posting articles full of testimony, lessons learned, interviews and sisterly advice on my website at www.reagan-reynolds.com and you can always visit me there at your leisure. Each article will continue to include an audio recording for those of you who prefer to listen in.

Or, if you prefer, you can let me come to you…

I will be sending a quarterly newsletter that will include the following:

  • A brief personal update on my experiences pursuing the writerly life.
  • A curated list of my recently published articles.
  • Announcements to new original Bible reading resources (I will soon be providing a reading guide for Genesis Chapters 1-11 created for new readers or returning readers of the Bible) – these resources will always be free.
  • Links to new Parent/Child Reading Guides for Young Adult classic fiction (These resources will assist parents in leveraging fiction to jumpstart deep discussions about our complicated world with their children.)
  • Announcements for original short Christian fiction audiobooks for kids, published to Audible.

If any of those forthcoming assets would be of interest to you, please sign up for email list below. I really look forward to a clearer mind and deeper in-person interactions to help inform what I bring to my readers in the future.

I can not say enough how much I appreciate you and how I would truly love to hear from you. If you feel so inclined, please drop me a note on the Contact page.

With joy (& a social sayonara),

R

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Passive vs. Active Reading of Scripture: How to ignite a passion for the Bible

“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.”

Proverbs 18:15

__

I may be wrong, but I have a nagging suspicion that most Christian individuals living in the bible belt are passive readers of their Bibles. They may read a portion of scripture every day, but––likely––they are under some sort of compulsion to do so (whether real or imagined), and that compulsion starts them off in the direction of passive readership of God’s holy word. 

A passive reader is someone who reads quickly or nonchalantly, and rarely remembers what they are reading. They are typically selfish readers––whether they are aware of it or not.

Some passive readers focus on speed––their goal is productivity in their reading. I call these “checkbox readers” because their primary goal for reading is to accomplish some sense of pride at having finished the reading, whether or not they retained anything from it. I have found that I am tempted towards this type of readership when I participate in the traditional group bible study method of reading scripture. Don’t get me wrong, I love group bible study––but one of my sin patterns is to submit to productivity rather than laying down my list of hopeful accomplishments in submission to the Lordship of Christ. The temptation to read scripture this way is heavy in our American culture––a culture which values what you do over who you are.

Some passive readers focus solely on affirmation and application of the reading to their personal lives. They often read when they feel they need something from the text. I call these “consumer readers.” You may be thinking, well––is that not active readership? This person wants to engage the scriptures for their personal well-being, don’t they? 

Seemingly, but no. 

This type of passive reader forfeits correct context for what they hope to hear from the scriptures. Often, this type of approach leads to false beliefs about the character of God and our relationship to Him. Imagine that you receive a letter from the White House. Having recently felt unappreciated for any of your contributions to our country’s needs, you open it and quickly skim to the bottom where you read “Thank you for your commitment and loyalty to our country. We would not be the nation we are today without you.” You close the letter happily, encouraged that the President thought to write to you to thank you for being such a special citizen. What you missed entirely was that the letter was a notice of draft into the armed forces requiring your attendance at check-in in two weeks time. You’ve read the letter out of context, and the resulting implications for your citizenship and your daily life are impending.

It is not so much different to approach the holy scriptures seeking personal affirmation and application before considering the context of the text you are reading.

And then some passive readers approach the text only when led by a guide, typically a pastor on a Sunday morning and a guided Bible study. Often, not always, these readers approach the scriptures with unsure trepidation, similar to a foreigner approaching a native to ask where the bathroom might be located or if there is one at all. I call these readers “visitor readers” because they have formed an approach to the biblical text that assumes the text was not written for them, it was written for those who are teaching it to them––they are just visiting during the span of the sermon.

My goal is to inspire you to awaken from passive readership so that you may become an active reader of the one text that I believe is the most important work you will ever engage with in your lifetime.

What is an active reader?

An active reader takes the time necessary to dig into the context of the text they are approaching—considering audience, authorship, time period, cultural happenings, and textual themes. They often read the scripture with pen in hand, making notes on the things they do not understand or those things that engage their thinking on a deeper level. They read the same passage multiple times, and—not always, but often—they read slowly. An active reader reads to understand the text, not simply to benefit from it.

Good active readership requires approaching a text knowing that you stand to be corrected by what you may read. Your assumptions give way to the content in the scriptures, and—although you may wrestle with what you find there—you actually wrestle.

My question to you is:

How are you approaching your Bible today? (If you approach it at all?)

Do you desire to walk away from your reading of scripture––even a small portion of scripture––with a deeper understanding of this God who saves? 

In my last article, I encouraged you to begin to pray that God would give you a hunger for His holy word. Today, I encourage you to reflect on how you are currently approaching scripture. Are you a passive reader of God’s holy word—unsure how to extract more meaningful meaty content from these sometimes confusing and foreign passages? Or are you an active reader of scripture, allowing the living word of God to seep into the crevices of your born again existence?

Over the next few weeks, I will provide some suggestions on how to approach scripture in a way that will allow you to walk away with deep truths about God resonating in your soul, supplying you with His bread of life and leaving you longing for the next moment you can crack open your Bible. 

If this sounds intimidating to you, rest assured the suggestions I will provide are elementary and all levels of literacy can apply these methods to their reading.

There are a lot of reasons to remain a passive reader––none of them good, in my opinion. But there is one good reason to become active in your reading of the gospel—active readership will fuel a life burning with passion for walking the narrow path with Jesus. What could be more exciting than that?

__

Resources:

I highly recommend Jen Wilkin’s Women of the Word for more on how to be an active and informed reader of the Bible. I will be including some of her suggestions that have impacted my relationship with scripture in articles to come.

For This Girl from the Bible Belt: This One Realization Changed Everything

reagan reynolds, reagankreynolds, southern authors, bible belt, the bible, spiritual writing

“The Lord, the Mighty One, is God,

and he has spoken;

he has summoned all humanity

from where the sun rises to where it sets.”

Psalm 50:1

I’m going to say something that may feel like a slap in your face at first, but it might save you from one of those theoretical spiders crawling up your cheek.

The Bible is not about you.

I’m not the first one to say it—I know. Brilliant and humble people have been speaking this truth for years. Some preachers yell it from the pulpit, and others just assume you know. But I didn’t. I simply didn’t know.

I grew up thinking the Bible was a map for how to live my best life—or, in some seasons, it was just a bit of “extra” that God sprinkled on the world to help us out (even though I rarely could make up or down of most of it, so not actually very helpful).

And, look, I’m by no means ranked with one of the best readers out there–but I have done my fair share of literary study, and so I know that if the fact that the Bible isn’t about me wasn’t apparent to me, it may not be apparent to you.

Friend, the realization that the Bible is not about me literally changed everything. Things that didn’t make sense about the Bible suddenly were brought to light. Passages in scripture that I banged my head against for years became the very core of the pillars that uphold my faith today. I’ve since walked away from my fight to be centerstage, and to do so has given me great freedom.

You see, reading the Bible as if it was about me resulted in:

  • confusion about the role of and the relevancy of the Old Testament in my life (which led to complete avoidance of it),
  • sporadic reading of random chapters or verses in order to extract some application to my current need,
  • leaving my Bible on the shelf for days, weeks, months, years… while I searched for a means to experience God,
  • a complete obsession with figuring out my calling,
  • a rejection of Christianity altogether because it didn’t seem like I was the main character of the Christian story, which caused me to doubt whether it was true at all.

Life after realizing the Bible is not about me (or you) produced in me:

  • a voracious hunger to learn more about the most dynamic and virtuous character ever portrayed in history—our God;
  • a desire to read scripture in context and feast on it as a means to align and wake up to truth, and witness the vitality of the greatest story ever told still playing out today;
  • a true love for the Bible, which is now my favorite book of all time (surpassing even Little Women), and one I read again and again;
  • a very real desire to witness God moving in the lives of those around me, and watching Him work in my own life in complete awe and wonder that the Ancient of Days is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow (as proved in scripture);
  • a solid and unwavering—although imperfect—surrender and devotion to Jesus Christ, the King over all the earth.

All of that from the simple realization that the Bible is not about me.

It is about God. And humanity plays a role in this grand story, yes. But we are not the heroes of the story. The story that God is writing with humanity is a beautiful act of redemption, which glorifies the Author of it all. God is writing His memoirs with us—and, let me tell you, the story does not disappoint. 

So, there. You’re not the main character of the Bible… or of your life. God is the main character in it all. You don’t have to conjure up a legacy or a purpose, or try to seek your name etched somewhere in the folds of scripture. God is writing you into His story, so all of the work of how, when and why you show up in it belongs to Him.

He is inviting you to participate in this beautiful adventure—for you to look to Him to lead and for you to willingly follow.

So, let me end with a question–

Maybe you’ve never heard this before and you’re unsure of the theology behind the statement. I encourage you, then, to open your Bible—just start at the very beginning—and read a passage or two and ask yourself this one simple question, “What does this passage say about who God is?” 

Let me know how it goes. If anything, I welcome the opportunity to revel in the scriptures with you and I’m available, if it helps to have a friend read along.

Five Ways to Love a Caretaker of Someone Living with Depression

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Romans 12:14-16

The endurance and love my husband showed me during the five long years I suffered from debilitating depression set an incredible foundation of trust in our marriage. When I was isolated by my condition–– emotionally, physically, and mentally separated from him––he showed great love for me by simply sticking around. To be honest, we both had resigned ourselves to the possibility that depression would play third wheel to our marriage, perhaps, forever. Praise God––that was not the case. He answered our desperate pleas for help and I have now lived free from depression for almost six years. 

In the wake of my healing, I found our marriage to be anemic. I can’t praise my husband enough for not abandoning me when I, although unintentionally, abandoned him for so long. However, anyone who has endured any difficult season of marriage knows simply sticking around is not enough to produce a successful life-giving relationship. It took years of prayer, marriage counseling, and additional therapy to restore all we had lost in the battle with my depression. My husband had suffered as I suffered. What depression robbed from me, it robbed from him also.

Providing love and support to a spouse, family member, or close friend of someone living with depression is one way the church can love the body of Christ well, and can intentionally share Christ with those who are somehow surviving depression without the incredible acknowledgement of Christ’s great love and mercy for them in their time of need.

Earlier this week, I posted five ways to love someone living with depression. In this post, I share five ways to love the caretakers of those living with depression. I hope this inspires you to reach out and love those who may get overlooked—those living in the pit with a victim of depression.

___

5 Ways to Love a Caretaker of Someone Living with Depression

Invite the caretaker to participate in life-giving activities.

Care-taking, especially caring for a spouse living with depression, can feel like a very lonely and unjust experience. Providing an outlet for the caretaker to enjoy a vibrant conversation, outdoor activities with friends, or a creative outlet with others can breathe life into a person caring for a spouse, family member, or close friend living with depression and it can fuel that caretaker with the endurance needed to care for their loved-one well.

Check in regularly.

Not every engagement needs to take up much time. A simple text to the caretaker asking how they are doing, how you might pray for them, or simply that you are thinking of them provides encouragement that they are seen and remembered in their efforts to love well.

Validate how difficult the situation is for the caretaker.

Often, much of the focus falls on the person suffering from depression, which is appropriate and helpful. However, validating the difficulty of the situation for the caretaker is equally important. As a friend, you can communicate compassion by providing a listening ear and showing sincere empathy by affirming that caring for a loved one with depression is hard. And trust me (and my husband)––it is.

Pray for endurance for the caretaker.

I think we often underestimate the power of prayer. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians that we are to “pray without ceasing.” Getting in the pit with your friend or family member by praying consistently for endurance for that person will not only evoke the Lord to move in their lives, but also remind you of the battle the caretaker is in to love and care for someone living with depression well.

Share or remind the caretaker of the gospel.

My husbands says this is probably what he needed most during my time living with depression. Caretakers need to be reminded of the hope they have in Christ––that He is writing a redemptive story that, in the end, conquers all sickness and pain and provides abundant life everlasting. Intentionally sharing the gospel with the caretaker is one of the best ways to remind them of the greater picture––the one where Christ, who moves in towards the desperate and broken, reigns as King.

For an example on how to share the gospel, read or listen to my recent article The Gospel in Five Minutes.

This is hardly an exhaustive list of ways to love caretakers of those living with depression well. If you have experienced caring for someone living with depression, we would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment on what has been most encouraging and helpful to you.


Thank you for visiting! I’m happy to come to you, next time.

Sign up to receive a monthly newsletter summarizing new content and providing a glimpse into my journey as a writer. I promise this not Avon calling… spam is neither in my diet nor my promotional strategy.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.