Believer Or Follower?

When it comes to your relationship with the Lord are you a believer or a follower? Some might ask what’s the difference between the two? Aren’t they basically the same? Well, yes and no.

A believer in Jesus Christ is one who has accepted Him as their Lord and savior, sought forgiveness of their sins, attends church and tries to live a Christian lifestyle. Some might ask, “Isn’t a follower of Jesus the same?” Let me explain the difference.

The difference in the two is separated by one’s actions and not just mental agreement or belief that Jesus is Lord. As I said above, the believer attends church and tries to live a Christian lifestyle. But that’s as far as it goes for them. The follower, however, does all of those things but also commits to action in following the Lord. They serve at church, give of their time to others, give money above and beyond their monthly tithe offering. In other words they are “doers of the word and not hearers only.” (James 1:22-25)

In today’s culture, with our busy schedules, parental responsibilities and attending church it is easy to get caught up in the world’s view of what it means to be a Christian. Our mindset is more on getting things done and getting more from this worldly kingdom than giving for heaven above. Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with having a nice car or home or even a large income but it’s what you do with those things that count in heaven.

In the end God looks at the heart of man and what he deems valuable. Don’t be one who stores up treasures on earth where moth and rust decay, but, store up your treasures in heaven and there your heart will be also.

If you are truly following Jesus then you are following your heart and laying up your treasures in heaven where it really counts. Your service, love, and action to others will be accounted for on judgment day and your name will be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

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The Believer’s Highest Honor

What’s the highest honor you’ve ever received? Good grades in school? A Blue Ribbon for the best pie at the county fair? Graduating at the top of your class? If you think about it, all these honors are about you and me. As believers in the Almighty God we know the top honor should always go to God and none other.

The Word of God describes believers, that’s us, as ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), soldiers (2 Tim. 2:3), and saints (Eph. 2:19) but, the highest honor we can receive is to be called servants of the Most High God. From the world’s perspective, those who die to self in order to follow the Lord may stand in last place—in reality, however, they are first in His kingdom. (See Matt. 20:16.)

Sadly, today service to God is often equated solely with what goes on at church. The preacher serves. The choir serves. The worker in the soup kitchen serves. But the guy pushing papers and the woman cleaning up others’ messes tend to be seen as simply doing their jobs. From the Father’s vantage point, though, work well done brings as much glory to His name as a song lifted in praise. (See Col. 3:23-24.) So take heart—if you’re doing quality work and striving to make an impact on those around you, then you are serving God.

Service to the Lord is not about what we do, but rather how well we do all that the Lord has given us to accomplish (1 Peter 4:10). A good servant shares both Jesus Christ’s attitude of humility and His motivation to reach people with the love of God.

Christianity Is Not A Wellness Practice

[This is a great article and well worth the read. Very thought provoking. It is a reblog of a post at Samaritan’s Song blog.]

Wellness” is the big trend these days. And if you don’t know what wellness is, I can show you with a simple equation: it’s New Age thought + capitalism + our culture’s soul-deep hunger for wholeness and satisfaction.  It’s crystals and vitamin supplements and practices like “grounding” (walking barefoot!) and monitoring your aura.  It’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s goop brand, specializing in pseudo-scientific (read: quack) cures for all sorts of ailments imagined and unimagined.  It’s longevity diets and strange ingredients and promises of contentment, well-being, personal growth, and deep spiritual satisfaction.

If any of that sounds familiar to you from decades ago…well, it’s the old made new again.  “Wellness” is a modern re-purposing of practices and ideologies that have been around for a very long time, many of which have permeated even Christian culture in surprising ways.  (For a history of this with an emphasis on how it influences Christianity, check out L.L. Martin’s book Positively Powerless).  The difference between then and now is that wellness has become more of an economic juggernaut than ever before: hundreds of “gurus” and “thought leaders” are offering products and philosophies and making an obscene amount of money doing it.

The problem is that lately I’ve found Christianity and the wellness movement intersecting in ways I don’t expect.  I ran across an article the other day that was advocating daily Bible study as a “path to self-fullness and embracing one’s healing energy.”  And in my browsing through Pinterest recently I discovered a Pin that encouraged believers to read the Bible as a series of “affirmations meant to celebrate the divine self.”  I’ve glimpsed prayer rooms (“war rooms”) decked out like spa retreats (and, indeed, I’ve written about those before) and meant to provide a “shelter” from the harrowing day-to-day.  Art and coloring Bibles encourage believers to express themselves in marker, pencil, and crayon all over the Word with pictures and words that occasionally obscure the actual text: the Bible as therapeutic coloring book.

Now, certainly not all of these things are negative in specific contexts.  I like to pray in pretty rooms full of my favorite things.  And I’ve written in my Bible before and I’ve even seen examples of Bible “doodling”/coloring helping people to understand and emphasize the text. But in other contexts, these practices can at times resemble what you see in the wellness movement, and here is why:

The “wellness” movement places a fundamental emphasis on self and the fulfillment of the self through “holistic” and “spiritual” means.

In other words, wellness is about you.  Everything that happens is to benefit you.  Every practice, every crystal, every coloring book, every affirmation, every supplement: they all exist because you are special and sacred and you deserve everything wonderful.  You are your own god/goddess.  The result is that at least theoretically, in the wellness movement, everything is a means to an end: the betterment and deification of you.

Any time we take a Christian spiritual practice and make it solely about our own benefit – any time we use a Christian practice to deify ourselves as sacred and holy – we’ve dipped into the wellness pool.  More simply put: any time we use God as a means to our own end, any time we make God a “tool” that serves the same purpose as a crystal or a supplement or a coloring book – we’ve lost the plot.

Because Christianity is not about self.  It is actually a faith about setting yourself aside in order to love others because you’ve come to understand the love of Christ.  As Christians we believe that Jesus is special and sacred and the embodiment of love, and so we set ourselves aside to serve Him.  In Christianity, everything we do is a means to an end, and that end is Christ – not the self.  Yes, we are the ultimate beneficiaries of a relationship with God – and, in the end, our relationship with Him is what offers the fulfillment, joy, and replenishment that the wellness movement purports to offer.  But our satisfaction, our desires, and the glorification of our selves is not the end goal.  It is not the highest good nor the inviolable sacred.  It can’t be, or God isn’t God.

So if coloring on a page of the Bible is getting you closer to God, you color.  If that spa-bedecked prayer room is where your relationship is growing and evolving with Christ, get on in there.  Meditations and affirmations from the Bible can be really useful if they keep you focused on living in Christ.  But if you’re using Christianity in the same way that you’d use yoga or herbal tea or reading your aura – if you are making it a means to the end of glorifying and fulfilling yourself – then you’re changing the fundamental nature of what the Gospel is about.

In his books, Timothy Keller frequently reminds readers that a great deal of sin and separation from God stems from our desire to control God – to make God something that is ours, that we use, that we control in order to please ourselves.  The problem, Keller points out, is that a relationship with God is antithetical to that way of thinking: the triune and dynamic God has invited believers to join into His great dance of love on His terms.  He is not there to submit to us; we are there to submit to Him.  The danger of the wellness movement is that it can encourage us, if we are not careful, to do exactly the opposite: to embrace God not as a deity, but as a neat and helpful technique to make our lives better.  To deify ourselves rather than Christ.

So feel free to go have some herbal tea or spend some time in your candle-lit “quiet space.”  I might even join you.  But in the process, don’t get suckered into the great lie of the wellness movement: that with enough time and energy (and boatloads of money), you can save yourself.

Christianity is not a wellness practice.  It was never meant to be.

Compassion. . .Does It Matter To God?

Compassion matters to God. This is a time for service, not being self-centered. Cancel the pity party. Instead, love the people God brings to you. This test will be your testimony. Second Corinthians 1:4 reminds us, “God comes along side us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us along side someone else who’s going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (MSG).

You didn’t sign up for this crash course in single parenting or caring for a disabled spouse, did you? No. God enrolled you. Why? So you can teach others what He has taught you. Rather than say, “God, why?” ask, “God, what?” What can I learn from this experience?

Your mess can become His message!