20 Ways to be a Better Christian
No one ever said being a Christian was easy. God gives us everything and asks for everything in return—our time, our talents, ourselves. We’re called to be Christ’s ambassadors, and to reflect God in everything we do. But, in the midst of our daily lives, filled as they are with our duties, deadlines and responsibilities, we often lose track of our highest calling. What follows are a few suggestions on how to draw closer to God and better convey His love to those around you. Some are easy. Some require more effort. But all can help remind you of one key truth: As a Christian, your life is not your own.
Write. Paint. Sing. Invent. Experiment with your creativity even if you feel you have none, and do it in the name of God. Why? Well, for one thing, to be creative pays homage to God’s boundless creativity. For another, you may find God has given you gifts you didn’t even know you had.
Too many Christians look at their church as a weekly appointment: They clock in, clock out and go home—sometimes bemoaning how lifeless the place seems. But churches are only as vibrant as their congregants. The Apostle Paul told us we’re all parts of Christ’s body, and as such we all are asked to perform a specific task within it. Find out where your gifts can best serve your local church.
Read the Bible
Delving into the Word of God is perhaps the most critical aspect of growing as a Christian. Taking a little time each day to read the Bible can both educate and inspire, and it will help you center your focus on what’s most important.
Take a Walk
There’s no better way to remind yourself of God’s gifts than surrounding yourself with the most spectacular and sublime of them. Walk down the beach, take a hike in the mountains, or just spend some time in a nearby park, taking time to look at God’s wonders, both big and small.
Serve at a soup kitchen. Teach underprivileged children how to read. Volunteer online. Give someone the most precious gift you have: Your time. By serving others, you mimic Jesus’ own heart and convey His love—and learn just how truly rewarding volunteering can be.
Read Christian Thinkers
For 2,000 years, some of history’s brightest minds have tackled the prickly paradoxes of the Christian faith. A trip through the words of Augustine, Aquinas, C.S. Lewis and many others can be educational, entertaining, and—every once in a while—mind blowing.
God never intended us to get too comfortable in this life. To become the person who God wants us to be, we must always look for new challenges—opportunities to learn important lessons that we can put into practice later on. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.
Keep a Journal
A record of your thoughts, feelings and actions can become an important guide in your spiritual walk. And, if you look back on your journals from years past, you’ll probably be amazed at how much you’ve grown.
Study the Saints
For nearly 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has held up a few remarkable Christians as examples for the rest of us. And, while many denominations reject the idea of “sainthood,” they, too, find role models from the pages of history. Some of these saints—official or not—are chosen for how they lived, others for how they died. Regardless, their stories can encourage us through our own struggles and push us into a deeper understanding of God.
The Apostle Paul wrote that the Christian's body is a temple, and exercise keeps that temple in good repair. But more importantly, perhaps, a good 30-minute workout can help clear your mind of everyday flotsam and allow you to focus on spiritual things.
Participate in a Bible Study
Beginning with Jesus and His disciples, Christianity has always been a communal faith. We’re meant to search for God together. By sharing insights, you build on each other’s knowledge – and maybe help each other through tough patches, too.
Christianity is not just communal: It’s about community. A spin through the New Testament shows that the earliest Christians were concerned with sickness, poverty and the issues of the day. As such, we’re called to be involved in the world around us, and in democracies that means voting—regardless of your political affiliations. When you pull the lever, be mindful that it’s not just your civic duty, but your Christian one, as well.
Give to Charity
God calls us to be His hands and feet, but let’s face it: We can’t be everywhere. But through our finances, we can make God’s love felt across the street or across the globe. There are hundreds of ministries and charities out there doing some tremendous work.
Make Time for Devotions
It can be tough to carve out time for devotions, but spending a few minutes each morning with God’s Word can make a huge difference in how you feel about—and spend—your day. Plus, there are lots of books, tapes and even web sites that make it comparatively easy. Beliefnet’s guide to the best devotionals can help you find one that will work for you.
Do a Prayer Walk
Some evangelical and charismatic churches ask their congregants to spend time walking through their cities, praying over schools, churches, and entire neighborhoods. While this form of prayer warfare may not fit in everyone’s theology, praying over your community, block-by-block, is a great reminder that everyone in it is God’s creation, and they are worthy of our attention, love—and prayer.
Spend Time with Family
God likes it when we enjoy His gifts, and no gift is as precious as our families. Take a long walk with your daughter. Toss a football with your son. Call up your parents. Take your spouse out to dinner. When we make the people closest to us happy, we’re showing God’s face to them—and nothing could be more important.
Take a Trip
You don’t have to go to Jerusalem to get a better appreciation of God. He’s everywhere we go: We see His power in the Indian Ocean, His majesty in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, His artistry in Cape Town out for God’s mercy, too: You won’t need to go far to see places and people in need of God. Think about ways you can help wherever you go.
Listen to Christian Music
Nothing touches our souls like music does, which helps explain why music has been such an important part of the faith from the very beginning. From Bach and Handel to Holy Hip Hop, Christian music could fill a couple dozen iPods—and the quality in most genres keeps getting better.
It’s perhaps one of the hardest things we’re called to do as Christians. When we’ve been hurt, the last thing we want to do is let go of that hurt: We want to punish the one who hurt us. But in so doing, we wind up punishing ourselves. Christ calls us to unclench our fists and forgive those who persecute us. And, if we do so, we learn that forgiveness isn’t so much to help them, but us.
God can speak in life's earthquakes and whirlwinds, but more often, He speaks in a still small voice—a voice that can often be all but overwhelmed by modern society's bustle and noise. Take time every day to be quiet and... listen. You might be surprised by what you hear.