Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Christian or Christ Follower: Is there a difference?

The word "christian" gets thrown around a lot these days. Because of this, many who say they are Christians don't really live a life that is any different than anyone else. So maybe if we want to differentiate ourselves, we should say that we are Christ followers. But is there any difference?
The Greek word for Christian found in the New Testament is Christianos. It is a word that refers to those who were "adherents" to the ways of Jesus. It was actually first applied to the Gentiles (or the non-Jews) in the New Testament. Followers of Christ actually didn't give it to themselves, but it was spoken of them by others. It was a way that others would designate these people who gave themselves over to Christ.
There may be important understanding here. To be a Christian shouldn't be a title we give to ourselves, but what others say of us when they see our behavior. To be a Christian really should be the same as being a "Christ follower." As a Christ follower we should seek to act and live and think as Christ did. Our lives should be different enough from the world that others will notice our example and behavior.
Unfortunately, too many "Christians" are not Christ followers. They say they believe, they go to church, they talk the talk, but their lives do not match their words. They act too much like the world to be Christ followers.
How do you see the difference between those who say they are Christians and those who are truly following Christ? How can we be less concerned with calling ourselves Christians, and acting like Christ followers? I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Gratitude. Grateful. Thankful. Thanksgiving. These are words that are important to think about, and even more, an attitude that is important to display. And yet, how often do we take for granted what we have in our lives? If you are like me, you tend to reflect too much on the negative experiences, instead of the good things of life.
This last Sunday my church celebrated "Pastor's Appreciation" day. It was wonderful to have them show me their love and appreciation. I was given a basket full of cards and gifts. Later, when I went home, it was a joy to go through the basket with my wife and kids and see all the special gifts, read the touching sentiments, and marvel at the time and energy that went into putting this basket together. This should be a memory that does not leave me; a memory of gratitude.
A number of years ago I started an "Encouragement" file. I did this because someone once told me that this file would help me in times of discouragement. So I put into this file (actually I now have files) the encouraging notes and cards I get from people. And sure enough, whenever I pull it out and read some of the thoughts expressed, I became grateful for the time these people put into sharing their loving thoughts with me; grateful for what I mean to them and the impact God has allowed me to have in their life.
If we take the time to notice, we really have much for which to show gratitude. In fact, it might be beneficial if you take a moment and list some of the things in your life for which you are grateful. It really makes a positive difference when we think about this. As Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." We should not only dwell on them, we should be grateful for them!
Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Overcoming Discouragement

The other day I was thinking about how discouragement is just part of life. There is a part of me that would like to avoid discouraging situations, but there is a part of me that also understands that they can help me in my life. As the Bible tells us in Romans 5:3-4, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4perseverance, character; and character, hope." It is through our sufferings, through our discouragement, through our trials and challenges that we learn how to persevere, and through this persevering spirit we are able to gain character; we become a better person!
So what has been discouraging me? My son's baseball team. I am managing my son's baseball team, and there appears to be a lack of talent on the team. Consequently, the last 2 games we have lost 10-3 and 7-1 which included countless errors! But that is just a game. Right? So to overcome this, I should focus more on what I can do for the kids to help them improve, than on the score or on winning or losing.
I am also discouraged by the lack of attendance and money in our church. There are many reasons for this, not worth going into at this time. If I were to think about how to overcome this discouragement, I think it would again be focus. If I can focus on those who are coming, and what God is doing in and through my life, and how I'm helping others, then maybe I can be less discouraged. If I follow Romans 5:3-4, and let this trial give me a spirit of perseverance, then I can have the character I need to make a difference as a minister in this church!
The good news, then, is that I can take each issue in my life that causes me to be discouraged, and find a new perspective on how it can challenge me to be better. May I give my discouragements to God this day and every day!!
Tell me what you think.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


In life it is important to admit the weaknesses, faults, and limitations we have in life. This is important, because until we admit this, we fool ourselves into thinking e are somebody that we are not. However, it is not easy, because to admit these things, makes us feel that we are less of a competent person. But admitting my shortcomings is not about putting myself down. It is about coming to terms with the "real" me. There is nothing wrong with having shortcomings, because everyone has shortcomings.
What this is really about is being transparent. Too often in life we try to put on masks, facades, and pretend we are someone that we are not. The problem with this is that we can never be comfortable with who we are, because we never live the life of who we truly are. We try to be what we think others want us to be.
Where I need to start with my transparency is with God. I know that God already knows who I am, since the Bible informs us that God formed my inward being. But being transparent with God is important, because it allows me to admit who I am to the One who loves me the way I am. A good way to be transparent to God is through journaling. In journaling I can share with God my true and honest thoughts and feelings. How freeing it is to put down on paper what I am, and the emotions that are inside. It is a wonderful release.
Another form of being transparent is admitting my sins. Too often, until I admit my sins to God, it is easy for me to pretend that they are not real. But once I reveal them, I need to deal with them. This too is a healthy practice. In the Bible, in Psalm 32, verse 3, it says: "When I kept silent, my bones wasted away..." Confession is the transparency that is needed when it comes to our sins. When we don't confess to God, our sin stays within us, and creates a guilt that eats at our being.
I am grateful that I can be who God created me to be. I can admit my limitations and faults and shortcomings, because that is who God created me to be. By being transparent in this way I can be more content in my living, because I don't have to pretend. And when I confess, I receive forgiveness from my sin from God and can live as a person who is free of all guilt.
Where do you need to be more transparent? Start today!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Can you really be happy?

Happiness is something that everyone wants in their life. In fact in the Declaration of Independence it says: "...We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness..." People have been led to believe that there is a path to happiness. And yet, as the Constitution says, they have the right to the "pursuit of happiness." Unfortunately, too many people seem to always be pursuing, and never finding!
What is the answer? Well, if I had the answer to a life of happiness, I could be a rich person. I know that in my own life, there is much happiness, but also much that brings unhappiness. Anytime there are problems in life, there are times of unhappiness. This is the reality; problems are a part of life. There is no way around this.
So, we need to discover how we can find happiness in the midst of problems. And for me, the way I do this is to give each day to the Lord. Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it." Each day is a new day full of possibilities. I try to live my life with enthusiasm and excitement, trying to make it the best day I can. That alone gives me happiness. When the day brings me fun and good experiences, that is all the better, but even when life is hard, and there are struggles, I still try to find the good in it.
Last week I came into my office and turned on my computer, only to find it wouldn't boot up. This has been a major inconvenience, and yet, I give thanks that I have a lap top that I can still use while my computer is being fixed. I can find happiness in knowing that there are alternatives to not having my office computer. We can do this with so many aspects of life.
How do you find happiness in life? Let me know.