Can We Return “Christian” to What It Means?

Names often have a way of losing their original meaning.

The original Motorola car radio

Motorola. This week (September 25) marks the anniversary of this company that we all associate with cell phones. But when the Gavin Brothers launched the company in 1928, they were working on a car radio most people could afford. Two years later, they had it, so they combined the words “motor” with the name of the widely-popular Victrola phonograph and came up with Motorola.

7-11. The original U-Tote-Em convenience stores changed their name to 7-11 in 1946 to instill in people’s minds their extended hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.. That’s ironic, since for over 50 years, most of their stores are open 24 hours.

Canon. The company’s first camera was called Kwanon, named after the Buddhist goddess of mercy. To make the camera more appealing in America, they changed Kwanon to Canon.

Saab. At the outbreak of World War II, the Swedes needed airplanes. Svenska Aeroplan Aktie Bolag (Swedish Airplane Corporation) opened for business and supplied the Royal Swedish Air Force with planes. When the war ended, they switched to manufacturing cars, but they keep the name SAAB.

Lego. Want to say “play well” in Danish? Leg godt. 

Sharp.  In 1915, Tokuji Hayakawa invented the “Ever-Sharp Mechanical Pencil.” Although business was quite good, an earthquake destroyed the plant in 1923. They decided to move from pencils to radios, but they kept the name Sharp.

We have three examples of company names.

  1. Some companies are still accurately reflected in their names.
  2. Some companies have added extensively to their catalog of products and are known for far more than what they were originally known for.
  3. Some companies moved completely away from the product that established them.

I am aware of one name that, unfortunately, has done all three.


Some people carry the name Christian, but they have added so much more to its meaning. They’ve added politics … or rules … or rituals … or cultural expectations.

  • If you’re a Christian, why wouldn’t you vote Republican?
  • Real Christians don’t  get tattoos … or watch those shows.

They’ve added so many layers that have nothing to do with walking by grace and faith in Christ.

Some people wear the label of Christian, but they define it by their own standards.

  • Sure, I’m a Christian, but I’m not hung up on the whole church thing.
  • I think Jesus can be found even in Hinduism, but I choose to worship Him as a Christian.
  • Being a Christian means you love Jesus who won’t judge you for your lifestyle.

Both approaches have made Christian something it’s not. The word literally means an adherent—a devotee— of Christ. The word only appears in the Bible three times, and each time, it carries a hint of derision.

  1. The Gentiles in Antioch first called the followers Christians (Acts 11:26). It was a way of making fun of them for the way they stood out from the culture.
  2. When Paul was defending himself before King Agrippa , Agrippa had no interest in the gospel and said, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” (Acts 26:28). Can you hear the disdain in his words?
  3. Peter wrote to the church about persecution and how to respond “if you suffer as a Christian” (1 Pet. 4:16).

In each case, Christian had to do with how the outside world saw believers. They meant it in jest and contempt, but believers embraced the name along with the suffering they endured for the name of Christ.

Let’s return to our name. Let’s be identified as those who are truly devoted and committed to Jesus Christ. Let’s lose  it as merely a sign of family heritage. Let’s lose it as a political identity. Let’s lose it as just a way to explain our religious views.

Let’s be Christians.

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Why Does God Allow Bad Things to Happen?

In light of hurricanes and flooding in recent weeks, a familiar question has popped up, one that resurfaces anytime people face tragedy.

Why does God allow bad things to happen?

This is not only a familiar question, it is an old one. Ancient, in fact.  It was essentially the first question asked in the Bible. The Book of Job was very likely the first biblical book penned, and the heart of this book centers on the question of why good people suffer.

Job, who likely lived during the time of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, was a righteous man—yet God allowed Satan to take away his children and his great wealth. Job’s response?

Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing (Job 1:20-22).

Satan said Job would lose his integrity and curse God if his health was attacked. So God allowed Job to be struck with nasty boils all over his body. Again Job responded without accusing God.

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” (Job 2:10).

Job’s response doesn’t mean he was content with the situation. He wanted to know why God judges our actions when He can just as easily change things. He asserted his blamelessness. He wanted to know how to appease God’s justice.

It’s at this point a lot of people would simply write God off. While believers hold to the truth that God is both all-powerful and infinitely loving,  the skeptic says:

  • If God is all-powerful, He must not be loving, because although He has the power to stop evil, He doesn’t care enough to prevent it.
  • If God is loving, He must not be powerful, because as much as He cares and loves those suffering, He is powerless to do anything.

Interesting premise, but there is no doubt of God’s power. Look at the universe around us. There is nothing too great for Him or beyond His scope.

And I have no doubt about His love. My own experience confirms His love and grace.

Job wanted to question God, and God responded. He asked Job a boatload of questions to show how little Job knew.

“Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said: ‘Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand…. Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this…. Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth?’” (Job 38:1-4,18,33).

God’s point? Job knew so little of the physical world he could see, so how could he possibly understand the vastly more complex moral world he could not see?

In the end, God never directly answered Job’s question! Admittedly, we don’t like that. We want a full explanation complete with charts and diagrams. But do we really want a God we can explain? Frankly, if we could explain all God does—and doesn’t do—He wouldnt be much of a God.

I will state the one reason we know for sure bad things happen: we live in a sinful fallen world. We are sinful people—all of us. Bad people do bad things. Evil people inflict evil on others.

God stepped into the world in Jesus Christ to address the problem of a sinful world. Granted, not everyone responds to His solution, but through the death and resurrection, God guaranteed a life to come that will be free from pain, suffering, and evil.

“Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all” (2 Cor. 4:17).

That answer sounds like a cop-out to some. It’s easy to talk about the by-and-by, about heaven someday, but why doesn’t God keep the innocents from suffering now?

I don’t know.

But I do know this: I’ve learned to trust God even when I don’t understand. Please don’t view that as a blind, naïve faith, but what I know of God—what I’ve experienced at His hand—gives me confidence to trust Him when I don’t understand.

When I became a parent, I never wanted to give my sons the pat answer, “Because I said so.” It didn’t take me long to realize sometimes that’s the best answer you can give a small child. Their developing brains cannot yet grasp the full complexities of, say, why you just can’t use that plastic card to buy whatever they want. Sometimes you just have to leave it at this. “I’m the parent and you can’t have it—because I said so.”

We need to trust God even as a small child must trust his parent when he doesn’t understand. That’s what Job did.

  • “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his” (Job 12:13).
  • “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (13:15).
  • “I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth” (19:25).

OK, I’ve been fairly academic to this point. Christian, it’s time to get personal.

Where is God when tragedy happens? He’s there—in us.  We are the body of Christ. We are His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:17), and when people see us, they see Jesus.

So when hardships hit, we step in.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

We show the world who Jesus is—not through our doctrine or religious habits—but as we live and love like Jesus.

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Survivor Guilt and Hurricane Harvey

I grew up in the Houston area. Although Houston has not been my residence since 1980, it’s my old stompin’ grounds and I still consider it home. A lot of you have asked about my family in the area, and they are doing fine. Their home was spared from any water damage.

Others were not so fortunate. And that’s where the guilt kicks in for me.

In less than two weeks my wife and I are moving.

  • We sold our house in one day for more than we were asking.
  • We found a wonderful new house that perfectly fits our needs.
  • We are closing on both houses on the same day.
  • We are literally moving from one house directly into the other.

We have continually thanked God for His graciousness in how wonderfully and smoothly things have progressed and come together.

So after the hassle-free tasks and logistics of buying and selling houses, I sit down and turn on the TV. The news is filled with tragedy, suffering, and loss. My wife and I are moving because we want to, yet so many in Houston are moving—or more accurately, evacuating—because they have to.

When bad things happen to some people, they ask, “Why me, God?” I do something similar when good things happen. “God, why are things going well for me when it’s not for others?”

I am experiencing comfort while others are not. But I am not to rest in my comfort.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (2 Cor. 1:3-4).

God has blessed me, and I can turn around and be His blessing to others. Regarding the massive recovery work on the Gulf Coast, I don’t know what all that means for me yet, but I don’t want to sit idly by. Join me in this.

1. Work with your local church to give finances, supplies, and specific items needed.

2. Partner with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.  In size and scope, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief is third behind FEMA and the Red Cross. This well-organized volunteer program uses any funds donated solely for disaster relief—not for administrative costs. Work alongside them because they have done their homework, and know exactly the kind of help needed and where. Check them out at:

We can represent Christ to others and be the comfort they need.

Share this post and help me challenge others to step in and be a blessing to those in Texas.

Your Voice Can Be Heard

It sounds like a cliché, but your voice does make a difference.

I don’t like to brag, but I was elected to office when I was young. I was going to be a real mover-and-shaker because, as a freshman, I was elected to the student council. It made me feel good that my peeps (or whatever we called each other back in 1972) wanted humble me to represent them.

A few days later, I happened to be in one of the high school work rooms. Left in plain sight were the tabulations from the historic student council vote. My ego took a hit when I saw how few people voted for me—and how few people voted at all. No one really cared who represented them, and of the small number of votes, I only had two more than my opponent.

I could’ve been depressed at the low number of votes; instead, I was happy that just two votes occasionally got me out of class in order to hang out in the cafeteria for student council meetings.

We face greater stakes than the opportunity to skip Algebra I. And our voice counts all the more.

You’re familiar with the women’s suffrage movement and the drive that gave women the right to vote in 1920. The House and Senate passed the amendment in 1919, but it had to be approved by 2/3 of the states. That meant of the 48 states, 36 had to vote in favor. When it came Tennessee’s turn to consider the amendment, 35 states had ratified it. All Tennessee had to do was say yes, and women could vote.

Harry T. Burn after his decisive vote

But the state legislators were tied at 48-48.

So one mother took it upon herself to speak up. Her son, Harry T. Burn, was barely an adult. He was only 23, but he was a representative and he had a vote. He was also opposed to giving women like his mother the vote, but dear ol’ mom wrote him a letter. She reportedly told him to “be a good boy.” Burn changed his vote and the amendment was ratified. This past week (August 18, 1920) marks the date one letter and one vote made a difference.

Your voice matters. Your single solitary voice can make a difference. It matters in politics—and it matters in everyday life. You can make a difference …

  • … to that kid who’s bullied at school.
  • … to the adult who’s harassed at work.
  • … to the homeless guy who would be pleased if someone noticed him and talked to him like a normal human.
  • … to those facing injustice as an everyday occurrence.

We often see injustices as societal problems that are bigger than we are. We can—and should—speak up, though, and work through politics and the community to change things.

But to the person living under those injustices, they are not societal problems. They are his problems. It is personal—very personal. At this point, your single, solitary voice can truly make a difference. Show them the love of Christ. Jesus said,

I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me…. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:35-36,40).

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How NOT to Cook—or Live a Life

If I can get the Food Network interested, I want to do a cooking show. I will call it Kids, Don’t Try This at Home. For the first half of the show, I will regale viewers with stories of my attempts at creative cooking. The second half of the show will be turned over to my co-host, Martha Stewart, who will berate me and tell me I’m the one who should be in prison for my abusive treatment of taste buds.

At my house, I’m only allowed to microwave leftovers under adult supervision.

There’s a way to cook and a way not to cook. And we can thank Fannie Farmer for her contribution to the art of good cooking. She gave us measurements.

We celebrate Fannie Farmer this week who, on August 23, 1902, opened Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery in Boston. Her school was successful because she had already established a name for herself. She had earlier published a cookbook which revolutionized the way we approach cooking. She simply introduced precise measurements.

Before the days of clever measuring cups from Pampered Chef, people learned to cook more by watching others. Through experience, they developed good judgment on how much of an ingredient to add. But Miss Framer pushed for strict, level measurements. She put science in the art of cooking. Thanks to her, buffoons like me can actually whip up a decent meal if we stick to the measurements and instructions.

Most people approach life like I approach meal preparation.  They put in what they think will work and hope for the best. It doesn’t work with cooking—and it doesn’t work with life.

There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 16:25)

God expects us to use exact measurements with our life, and He has given us a standard to follow. It’s clearly written out for us in the Bible. No guesswork, hoping I get it right.

So be careful to do what the Lord your God has commanded you; do not turn aside to the right or to the left. Walk in obedience to all that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live and prosper and prolong your days in the land that you will possess” (Deut. 5:32-33). 

Even though I know that’s the only path to success or a fruitful life, I still falter and return to putting in a pinch of this or that, whatever looks good to me. But God in His grace steps in. He rescues me from my own failures. And I choose to get right back in line with His standards. Thankfully, by His Spirit, He leads me and helps me get it right.

“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him” (Ps. 37:23).

Life tastes better when I follow Christ and His instructions.

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Why I Don’t Like (Most) Christian Movies

I don’t like Christian movies.

There. I said it—and it feels good to finally say it publicly.

(What’s ironic about that statement is that I have a B.A. degree in film because I originally wanted to make Christian movies.)

So there I was—the Christian who doesn’t like Christian movies—watching The Case for Christ and I liked it. I really did. But wait a minute. I don’t like Christian movies! This led me to do an inventory of the Christian movies I’ve seen over the years, and I had to admit to myself that, yes, I liked some of them.

The Christian movies I liked were true stories about real people. For example:

  • The Case of Christ – Lee Strobel, the atheistic journalist who took a hard look at the resurrection of Christ and moved from skeptic to believer.
  • Hacksaw Ridge – Desmond Doss, whose Christian conviction kept him from  carrying a gun in WWII, yet he received the Medal of Honor for his actions in battle.
  • The Hiding Place – the ten Boom sisters hid Jews during WWII, yet they maintained a strong Christian faith even after being caught and sent to a concentration camp.

This doesn’t mean every Christian biopic is done well, but at least they’re starting in a better place: a real story about real people dealing with real struggles and faith.

This also doesn’t mean there’s no place for fiction in communicating faith. Ever heard of Pilgrim’s Progress? Then of course we have the catalog of works by C.S. Lewis.  When I came to the end of the whole Harry Potter series, I was moved by the subtle way it communicated the gospel.

But the majority of Christian movie storytelling is … well, the state of Wisconsin probably envies the output of cheese in these movies. The filmmakers mean well, but as a way to bring your friends to Christ, they fall short. They’re not believable.

For all my disdain of the genre, they do serve a purpose. Although the intent of so many of these movies is to be evangelistic, they serve well to encourage believers. They give many believers Christ-centered entertainment.

But if I want to use a movie as an on-ramp to talk about faith and spiritual matters, make-believe Christians in a make-believe world are no match for the real thing.  

Watch The Case for Christ (which releases on DVD August 15), then go for coffee with a friend and have a conversation.

Freely Sharing a Life-Saving Drug

Prescription drugs are usually expensive—and some of them seem outrageously so. Much of that is understandable since some companies have invested years and countless funds in research and development.

And then there are others, the most infamous being what Turing Pharmaceuticals did two years ago. They acquired the drug Daraprim, which had already been on the market for 62 years, and immediately raised its price from $13.50 to $750—for each tablet. Granted, many of the most expensive drugs are needed by only a small percentage of the population, but for those people, it can be life or death. Only one million people in the world suffer from familial lipoprotein lipase deficiency, but the drug to treat this cost $1.2 million a year.

Sure,  we could debate finding the balance between adequately funding a drug and charging obscene prices, but I’d like to take the opposite approach and highlight when a completely different tactic was taken.

I’m a Type I diabetic. I’ve been one since I was 21. Had I lived a hundred years ago, I would’ve only lived to age 22. But things changed in the 1920s that made a difference for me and millions of others.

Frederick Banting and Charles Best

Diabetes had been known for thousands of years, but it was only by the 1920s that researchers figured out the pancreas had something to do with it. On July 27, 1921, scientists at the University of Toronto isolated the culprit as insulin. They did research with dogs. They were able to cause the pancreas to malfunction, then they injected the dogs with insulin—and the dogs were able to chase cars, annoy the family cat, and shed on the furniture. Y’know, normal dog stuff.

Next, they isolated a reasonably pure form of insulin from cattle, and gave it in daily injections to a 14-year-old boy. He was about to chase girls, annoy his sister, and put his feet on the furniture. Y’know, normal teenage boy stuff.

Daily  insulin injections were the answer.  Now comes the fascinating part.

They gave this information away. The scientists gave the license to produce insulin to any and all pharmaceutical companies for free. No royalty was required.

Immediately, thousands of lives were extended.  And because about three million people suffer from Type i diabetes just in the US, these scientists could’ve made a killing, Instead they settled for receiving the Nobel Price for their work.

I am a beneficiary of the life-saving work done by Drs. Frederick Banting and Charles Best. I am also a beneficiary of another life-saving treatment. Sin, rebellion, and death controlled my life—and with them the symptoms of no peace, no joy, and no contentment. I needed blood. The innocent blood of Jesus Christ was shed to take the place of my sin-tainted blood. I was washed clean and purified by the blood of Christ.

I know that without one ounce of doubt. I know who I once was and who I am now, and it can only be explained by the life-saving, life-altering work Jesus Christ did for me.

This gift from Christ was costly, but He gave it away freely.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace” (Eph. 1:7).

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