Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Not Who I Used To Be

The older I get, the more I realize everyone changes. We can't stay who we were as kids, teenagers or even young adults. If we don't change, we never mature. This morning it hit me how different I am now than I was 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

When I was a kid:
I thought tomatoes were disgusting.
Now I think they are fantastic.

I thought girls were gross.
Now I know they are different, but amazing.

I thought the Bible was just a bunch of crazy stories.
Now I know it is one big story about God's crazy love for His children.

I thought riding a bike was the greatest adventure of my life.
Now I know living life is the great adventure.

I thought asking Jesus into my heart meant going to heaven.
Now I know asking Jesus into my heart was just the first step to bringing heaven to earth.

I thought my parents' coffee breath was disgusting.
Now my kids think mine is.

I thought my baseball cards would be worth a fortune someday.
Now I know I was wrong.

When I was a teenager:
I thought a date was dinner and a movie.
Now a date involves babysitters, clearing the schedule and finding a place to get away and just be with my best friend.

I thought if I worked really hard I could be a great basketball player.
Now I wish I would have worked harder to be the best I could be and a great teammate.

I thought picking on kids was funny.
Now I get angry when kids get picked on.

I thought driving a car meant freedom.
Now I often feel trapped when I'm in my car.

I wanted to be a youth pastor.
Now I see what a difficult calling that would be.

I thought missionaries were spiritually elite.
Now I know all who follow Jesus are called to be missionaries.

I thought looking and acting like a Christian was important.
Now I don't care how I look as long as I am actually following Jesus.

I thought loving my neighbor referred to the people I normally spend time with.
Now I know my neighbors include people I've never met and people I don't enjoy being with.

When I was in college:
I thought the internet was the most amazing thing in the world.
Now I think the internet is a tool to be used with great caution and moderation.

I thought war was an unfortunate, but sometimes necessary, part of our world.
Now I still think it's unfortunate and am not convinced it's ever necessary.

I thought finding a wife would be difficult.
Now I'm glad I found a best friend who became my wife.

I thought making money was important.
Now I know no amount of money can make you happy.

I thought having kids was a burden.
Now I know having kids is a burden - one that brings great joy and fun!

I thought feeding the hungry meant giving money to a charity organization.
Now I know feeding the hungry means actually feeding the hungry, by whatever means necessary.

I thought the words of Jesus were a good picture of how we should live.
Now I know the words and life of Jesus are exactly how we should live.

I thought living a comfortable life and doing some good things was enough.
Now I know living an uncomfortably weird life and loving others as I love myself is what is expected of me.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Christian or Disciple?

Sources: Christian, parts 1-8, by Andy Stanley, North Point Community Church;; Weird: Because Normal isn't Working by Craig Groeschel;;

I am a Christian.

Ever since I went to the front of the church and asked Jesus Christ to come into my life at the age of 6, I have been a Christian.

Until recently, I thought Christian was what I was supposed to be after that life-changing walk to the altar.

The last couple months have been filled with books, videos, conversations, classes and meditations that have made me rethink who/what I am supposed to be.

I believe in Jesus and I am confident His Spirit lives in me. So, what else would you call that besides Christian?

The problem, for me, is that Jesus never asked anyone to become a Christian. He asked people to follow Him, to become His disciples.

According to Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, in his sermon series Christian, the word DISCIPLE is terrifying because it calls us to actually DO something. A disciple is someone who actively follows, listens to, learns from, obeys and emulates another person.

Most people, including me, use the word Christian to describe someone's beliefs. As long as you believe in Jesus, you can call yourself a Christian. You don't actually have to DO anything, other than believe. In fact, you can do the opposite of what Jesus asked you to do and still call yourself a Christian because, after all, you believe in Him.

I'm tired of being a Christian. In fact, I don't want to do it anymore. I want out. I'm done!

I want to be a DISCIPLE. I want my actions to show who/what I am. And Andy Stanley is right, it's terrifying. It's terrifying because I know my actions don't always qualify me as a disciple. One of the worst things about being a disciple, and the thing that keeps many people from even considering becoming one, is hypocrisy. If we call ourselves disciples of Jesus, then go out and behave differently, we are hypocrites. If we ask someone else to become a disciple and do what a disciple does, but don't live it out ourselves, we are hypocrites. So, yeah, it's scary.

But, again, Jesus never sought Christians. He wanted disciples. Even the original disciples - the 12 who left their normal lives to follow Jesus while He was on earth - weren't perfect. They made mistakes. They were hypocritical. They disappointed Jesus.

Before he left the earth, Jesus gave his disciples what we know as the Great Commission. Do you know what He commissioned them to do?

There's nothing in there about Christians. Jesus told them to make DISCIPLES!

The first step to becoming a disciple is allowing Jesus to have your whole life, but it doesn't end there. I don't know how people can think belief is enough. It's a step, but it's not the end. Being a disciple requires more.

Love is the way people will know we are disciples. If we love each other the way Jesus loved those He spent time with, we won't have to tell people we are disciples, they will either know it or will ask us why we do the things we do.

So, how did Jesus love? That's a complicated answer, but the phrase "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14) seems to sum it up pretty well. Jesus served, healed, demanded obedience, called out sin, forgave, protected, listened, fed and taught.

Jesus put loving others right up there with loving God:

This is where it gets terrifying all over again because how can you possibly love someone else like you love yourself? Especially someone who isn't easy to love at all?

The only way to love like Jesus loved is to do what Jesus did. The only way to do what Jesus did is to read His story and try to emulate Him ... After all, that's what a DISCIPLE does!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Crawling Before Walking

I've been thinking for a while now about getting back into blogging. It's been nearly eight months since my last post and I miss it.

I've been trying to decipher my reasons and develop a strategy for my re-entry in the the world of writing. I don't want to do it as a discipline. I don't want to do it to get attention. I don't want to use it as a platform to spread my opinions. And I really don't want it to become an outlet for my passive aggressive side!

I want to use this blog as an outlet for my own need to put thoughts in writing. I've long felt I'm much better at expressing my thoughts through writing than speaking. I haven't spent much time writing - other than briefly in a journal from time to time - in the last eight months. So, hopefully, the blog will get me back into the rhythm of writing!

Since I'm not in the rhythm of writing yet, I'm going to start slow and easy. The easiest thing I can think of is to share some of what is inspiring me, interesting me and challenging me right now.

I'm almost done with Craig Groeschel's book WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working. I've often found myself wanting to rebel against what most people think is normal or trendy. In this book, Groeschel gives a strong case for why, as followers of Jesus, we should strive to go against the flow in many areas of our lives.

A few books I'm planning to read in the near future are Jon Acuff's Quitter, Multiply by Francis Chan & David Platt and a re-read of Sticky Faith by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark.

While online I've been regularly reading articles at Relevant and ChurchMag.

Ever since this past summer, Josh Garrels has been my go-to musician. This guy has a lot of music available and he's so unique. His voice is like none I've heard before and he blends folk with rock and roll and even a little hip hop and soul. His songwriting is fantastic. I've been listening to him pretty exclusively for about 5 months and I still love it!

I don't watch TV unless it's sports, and even then I pretty much only watch football. Football season is almost over so pretty soon my television consumption will be no more than the occasional college basketball game and the NCAA Tournament in March.

I don't see a lot of movies either, but I have recently seen The Dark Knight Rises and The Hobbit - two fantasy-type movies that were entertaining. Nothing about either really inspired me a great deal, but they were definitely enjoyable.

I recently watched a DVD series from Andy Stanley at North Point Community Church. The series is called Christian and it has made me re-think how I use that word. I am a Christian but would rather be identified as a disciple of Jesus - a true follower who seeks to be more like Jesus every day of my life.