Am I a “Christian”?

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And who are these so-called “Christians” anyway?

Quite obviously, the term “Christian” means different things to different people. I’ve found it can mean one set of things where I live in the buckle of the US Bible-belt and another in Portland, Maine. Travel to other places in the world outside the US and you’ll find that the variations become even more diverse. In Turkey, I’ve found that many locals think of a “Christian” as any westerner. And these western Christians want to destroy their culture. They remember the Crusades from the Middle Ages!

Doing a bit of amateur Bible study, I was surprised to find that the word “Christian” is used in The Bible only three times:

1) The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. Acts 11:26

It was not the disciples who were first calling themselves Christians. It was other people! Many theologians believe that “Christian” was first being used as a derogatory term – a put down – to categorizing the followers of Jesus as a means to better identify them for persecution.

2) Then Agrippa said to Paul, “Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?” Acts 26:28

And Paul does not say that he is trying to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian, but, instead, to become what he (Paul) is.

3) However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. 1 Peter 4:16

This passage could be interpreted in many different ways, but I think it’s saying something like, “If you are being called this derogatory name Christian and being persecuted by the name-callers, just take the label and the suffering for Christ’s sake.”

I personally feel compelled to define a Christian as anyone who calls themselves a Christian. Who am I to say they are wrong? If I were to meet someone who calls themselves a Christian, and I don’t think they should be using that label, all I am saying is that their definition does not match mine. That they should be more like me if they want to call themselves a Christian! I can’t imagine that conversation going well. Life’s too short to expend any energy trying to change peoples’ word definitions to match mine. There are better things to do.

People who call themselves Christian today represent a very segmented and varied bunch. Much of what I see from Christians seems to have very little, or nothing at all to do with Jesus the Christ. As disappointing as that may be to many people, it’s not a huge deal-breaker to me. Yes, I want to see lives surrendered to Christ Jesus. But the label’s not that important. Encountering Jesus as Christ is important. Lives changed – surrendered to His Lordship – is important. In many cases it seems, the term “Christian” creates a huge hurdle for people. A barrier that need not be there.

I am encouraged by this: Jesus never asks anyone to become a Christian. He does not ask us to assume any sort of correct label or banner to describe ourselves. He asks us to recognize Him as Lord. He asks us to come to Him and drink (John 7:37). He asks us to lay down ourselves (Matthew 16:24) and, in so doing, allow Him to flow into us and through us (John 7:38). He describes the fruit that flows from us as the indicator of the change that has happened. And the fruit is the fruit of the presence of God Himself!

I don’t mind if other people think of me as a Christian, but it’s not a term I resonate with personally and I do not easily use it to describe myself. However, if I have to use a term, I am a follower of Jesus the Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. But using finite language will always fall short of describing the wonder, mystery and awe of the God/human transaction. Like any defining terms we might try to use – even one as scriptural as “disciple” – there will be problems.

Put simply, a disciple is a follower or student of someone – usually a teacher, leader, or philosopher. But Jesus is more than just a teacher, leader, or philosopher. He’s God! It is possible to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus, and think of myself as His disciple, yet not actually be surrendering my life to Him – His risen, present Lordship. In the end, it seems, it’s not about finding the right words in our limited English language to correctly describes what we think we mean. It’s about swimming into the mystery – individually and corporately – of oneness with God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I’d rather just let the fruit of my life surrendered at the foot of The Cross point to Jesus. I just want to get out of the way and have His life flowing through me.



“Indeed, in nothing is the power of the Dark Lord more clearly shown than in the estrangement that divides all those who still oppose him.” J.R.R. Tolkien, “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” (as spoken by Elf Haldir from Lothlorien)

I believe that true unity in The Church will only be found as we become one with Jesus the Christ,  just as God is one. This will only happen as we value “oneness” with Christ more highly than we value our own versions of “correct theology”.

“How good and pleasant it is
 when God’s people live together in unity! …
For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” Psalms 133: 1 & 3b (NIV)

“My prayer is not for them alone [the 12 disciples]. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” A prayer by Jesus as recorded in John 17: 20-21 (NIV)

Certainly, learning about God and developing our understanding of Him through scripture is important and a good thing. But unity with Christ and each other is more important than being right! The Psalmist tells us that, where there’s unity, God bestows His blessings and life eternal! From Jesus’ own prayer, we understand that “oneness” with Christ is the prerequisite to “the world” believing in Him! But if unity is ever to be achieved – “oneness” with Christ and each other – it will require us to hold less tightly to our cultural concepts of God and the emphasis on defending our own intellectual positions around the subject of God. We must hold to Him and Him alone – not our particular theologies. More easily and dangerously than many realize, theology can become an idol and this idolatry causes much disunity.

It seems to me that a great deal of Christian theology is developed with little or no consideration for the leading of the Holy Spirit and oneness with God and The Church. Theological doctrine is often developed out of a desire to be right about God rather than to be one with Him. Where there is doctrinal division and disunity, there also is a lack of oneness with Christ. Will we ever be able to celebrate “oneness” in Christ and with each other? For the answer to this question to be “Yes” and “Amen”, we must:

  • turn down the volume of our own cultural “Christianity”,
  • attune ourselves to the voice of His Holy Spirit,
  • let go of the desire to be right about God, and
  • learn from one another in our doctrinal diversity.

Perhaps then the Church will be one.



Brilliant stuff again from Oswald Chambers this morning in My Utmost For His Highest on Co-Crucifixion.

“It is … the greatest moment in your life once you decide that sin must die in you-not simply be restrained, suppressed, or counteracted, but crucified—just as Jesus Christ died for the sin of the world.”

The emphasis of “Christianity” (it seems to me) is merely the restraint and suppression of “sinful” activity. But the call of Jesus is my co-crucifixion with Christ – my “self” – the stone cold death of my sin nature – a complete end to my desire to live a self-governed life. This is a far deeper calling.

Read Chambers’ devotional here:

Remembering Rwanda


It’s been nearly five years since Brooke and I visited Rwanda in east central Africa. We were taken, primarily, to see the work of Compassion International first hand. Our time there in 2009 triggered significant, ongoing change for us. Looking back, I can see that the experiences and meetings of those ten short days (that felt so much longer) started a fire that continues to burn profoundly within us.

This week, Brooke and I worked together to make a music video for our song “Rwanda”. I started writing it at about 3am in our hotel room in Kigali (the capital of Rwanda) on our last morning there way back in 2009, but the emotion is still very fresh. The video will be shown at Experience Compassion conferences early in March, where I will be singing and speaking. For the new video, we used a collection of photographs taken during the 2009 trip. Looking at these images five years after they were taken, we have been moved again by the faith, hope and love of the wonderful people of Rwanda.

This blog is to share the song with the new video and an older poem (below). These are our best, creative attempts to explain what happened to us in Rwanda, and why we will be forever grateful.

“I Have Been To Rwanda”
by Grant Norsworthy

I have been to Rwanda.

I have stood before the tombs of over a quarter a million dead.

I have wept at the grave of a nation of unparalleled beauty and suffering.

Been afflicted by her great faith.

Cajoled by her smiles.

I have been struck speechless at the killing grounds – once a church building, a place of refuge, then a corral of carnage, now a monument to man’s evil upon man – the rows of broken skulls and the one the same size as my son’s.

I have listened to the story of a woman spared, with her three children, from mutilation and murder by the pleading of her seven-year-old son to the leader of a genocidal militia gang.

She has dedicated the remainder of her life to deliver children from their torturous memories and trauma.

I have carried water with a barefooted young boy whose daily journey and burden came close to breaking my will to carry.

I have sat and talked with a gracious old man in a crumbling mud hut – his home since birth – and heard him say that he is no longer concerned by death because he knows that his granddaughter will not be alone when he’s gone. She is loved

I have walked hand-in-hand with a twelve-year-old orphan girl who knows that soon she will be without her aging grandfather and soul caregiver. She has hope for the future and knows that Jesus loves her.

I have been held by a woman whose unfaithful husband, before he died, gave her the same virus that took his life.

She praises God for each new day she is given to care for her four children and the four orphans she has taken into her home and heart.

I have danced with a child whose shining face proclaims a peace and joy well beyond my own. She declares that she loves me and will pray for me.

I have been invited into the home of six orphaned children and their new ‘mama’ – a woman of indescribable grace and beauty and a healing victim of equally indescribable abuse.

They make no mention of the material assistance they have been given, but are humbly and eternally grateful for family and community.

I have stood shoulder to shoulder with the future leadership of Rwanda. Their quality of character, clarity or purpose and ethical conviction knows no boundary.

I have sung with two hundred clean brown faces with shiny white smiles and closely cropped hair. They have gifted me with more than I could ever give to them.

I have had my heart swept away by the smile and embrace of three children who give so much more than I can ever repay: Kirabo, Rafiki and Sandrine.

I have hobbled through a new nation: born out of chaos and blood and death into hope and forgiveness, into love (even for an enemy), into an understanding of what it means to ‘turn the other cheek’, of being ‘like the birds of the air and the lilies of the field’, and that ‘a kernel of wheat must first fall to the ground and die.’

The death of Rwanda and the new life in Rwanda sing loudly and clearly that greater faith in God grows in the garden of suffering.

I have been shown that the call to new life in Jesus is also an invitation to share in His suffering and death.

I have fallen in love with a hopeful, gracious and generous people that have gladly shared the pieces of God that only they have carried in their chests. Thank you Rwanda.

Meet more Compassion children here:

A Living Sacrifice?


A living sacrifice. What a paradoxical term! Intriguing. Befuddling. Crucial.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 (ESV)

But what does it mean to be a living sacrifice? It seems that, for many Christians, it’s a question that’s just too difficult. It’s left in the “too hard” basket and we move on. Or we can tend to think it means to give up things for God. And it certainly does involve giving up things. But it does not, and must not end there. Being a living sacrifice is not just giving up things – our possessions, or time, or energy, or anything else – as an end in itself. Not even giving up more extreme things like going to prison for God, or even laying down my physical life for God as Peter believed he was ready to do (Luke 22:33) … but was not.

God wants me united with Him – reconciled to Him completely. Not just my actions; my performance. Me! My whole being presented to Him, surrendered to Him as a living sacrifice. When God has me, the way I move through life will show it. The things I go without and the things I keep with me will be a picture of Christ in me. This is the polar opposite of what I want for myself if I am left to my own human, corrupted, sinful desires.

This is a process, of course. The masterful surgeon’s hand of God is changing me, over time, into a living sacrifice to Him. If I attune myself to the voice of His Spirit, as I move through day-to-day life I will be instructed to lay certain things down, and perhaps to keep some things and take up others. These actions will show less and less of “me” – the “me” that is defiantly independent and without God – and more of who I was created to be. More of who God is through me for the benefit of all. More of Him.

Oswald Chambers explains that God does not necessarily require from me a sacrifice UNTO death, but, instead, a sacrifice THROUGH death so that I am free from my own “worldly” passions, desires, willfulness, selfishness and sense of entitlement. If God asks me to give up things, He is doing it so that I can know Him better. Then I can be free from the distractions that hinder me from true oneness with Him. This is what it means to be a living sacrifice.

Inspired by “Is My Sacrifice Living?” by Oswald Chambers

My Favorite Christmas Song


My favorite Christmas Song is “The Little Drummer Boy”. It’s been special to me ever since I was a young kid. Each Christmas I’d watch the 1968 TV show of the same name that featured the song. Even then I found the jerky, stop motion animation and story a bit weird and even a little scary. And it’s not a Christmas story that’s from scripture. It’s a story that’s been made up to go alongside the Biblical Christmas account. Despite this, I loved the song that came at the end of the show so much that I would watch right through to the finish to make sure I heard it. “The Little Drummer Boy”.

Only in recent years have I realized why this quaint little song goes so deep for me. Why I connect so profoundly. It’s my favorite Christmas song because it’s about an insecure musician. I can relate. That’s me!

I come face to face with God, just like the Little Drummer Boy. And, again, just like him, I feel like I have nothing of comparable value to offer. I see people all around me offering things to Him that are so much better than anything I have. More than that: What can I possibly give God when he has given me everything?! Yes, the song’s about an insecure musician, like me, but it’s actually about all of us insecure humans. Like me. Like you.

Wonderfully, graciously, lovingly, miraculously, it turns out that God just wants me. Not my performance. With all my imperfections, insecurities and the ways I don’t yet measure up, He just wants me! This is too good to be true. But it is. What a relief!

And as I give myself to Him, I find myself wanting to give the best of my talent and everything else that I am. I discover that all I have is His anyway, and I am merely a steward – a caretaker.

“I play my drum for Him, Pah-rup-a-pum-pum,”
“I play my best for Him, Pah-rup-a-pum-pum, Rup-a-pum-pum, Rup-a-pum-pum”
“Then, he smiled at me, Pah-rup-a-pum-pum,”
“Me and my drum.”

Chokes me up every time I sing it.

Here’s a newer version of the song for you to enjoy by a cappella group Pentatonix:

What does it mean to be a Resident Alien?

I named my first (and so far, only) solo album “Resident Alien” for four reasons:
1) As an Australian living and working in the USA, “Resident Alien” is my official status with the US immigration authorities. I have a “Green Card” but I’m not an American Citizen.
2) While I feel very welcome and enjoy a good life in my adopted home country, I am a foreigner in the USA, and I feel like one. I live here, but I am different.
3) But, having lived in the USA for about 12 years now, I feel foreign when I go home to Australia too. I feel like a resident alien no matter where in the world I go.
4) As a follower of Jesus, I don’t believe I am supposed to feel completely at home and comfortable on this planet the way it is anyway. I’m not of this world. I am – we are – created for something else. Something better. Feeling that I am alien, even though I reside here, is a helpful reminder of my eternal purpose.

It’s like that saying that Christians often say, “In the world, but not of the world”. Or is it?

I was surprised today to find that the statement, “In the world, but not of the world” is not actually found in The Bible. I kind of thought it was!

“I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” Jesus the Christ as recorded in the book of John in The Bible.

Jesus’ statement from John 17:14-19 (which surely inspired the formation of the snappy Christian-ese catch-phrase) has, in my opinion, been tragically over-simplified and misconstrued, leaving us with a misleading, passive image of what it means to be a follower of the Christ.

It seems to me that many are clumsily trying to balance “in the world-ness” and “of the world-ness” with the main emphasis of just making it through to a time when (we believe) we will be taken out of the world into eternity. But to do so is to miss the whole point of what Jesus is saying and what we are called into this world to do!

What do you think of this revised version?
“Not of the world, but sent into the world.”

Special thanks go to David Mathis. Here’s his blogpost that inspired mine: