The Least of These

Here’s part of what Jesus says in Matthew 25:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For 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.’

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:31-40

“You did it for me.” You see? When you feed somebody who’s hungry, clothe somebody in need, visit somebody in prison, or help the hurting, the dying, the people that are in pain, Jesus says, “You have done that to me, because they are a part of me. Whether they live for me or not, they are still a part of me. I created them.”

image credit: chapelfield.org

image credit: chapelfield.org

God created man and woman in His own image. When He did that it was as if He said, “I’ve created you with me in you.”

You have the spirit of God inside of you. When you were in your mother’s womb, God said, “I created you in my own image. You are part of me. And though you may sin, and though you may fail, you will be fulfilled in me.”

Now think about that. If something created by you, a part of you, is under attack, you feel attacked. I mean, if you attacked my son, I would feel attacked. If you attacked my wife, I would feel attacked. And if you go up to my son and give him a hug and show him love and care, then that’s how you feel about me. I feel it.

We’re creations of the Almighty God, and I think He feels the same way. We are sons and daughters of Zion. We are part of His family. So when He sees someone that is hungry, He feels it. He is hungry.

That’s what He means when He says, “If you do this for the least of these, then you’ve done this for me.”

See you Monday.

The Hole in Our Gospel

If you went to the Bible and removed all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping the really vulnerable, like orphans, you would leave a gigantic hole in the Christian Gospel. That is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. Stearns also says that this is basically what Christians have done.

We skip reading those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios, and we’re big into asking how Jesus can help me in my life. We use the Bible to find out how we’re going to be better and how we’re going to excel in life with Jesus. Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.

But how does that relate to what Jesus said: that all the law can be summed up in love your neighbor as yourself? In our “best life now” scenarios, we lose that. We’re not loving our neighbor.

Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. When you read statistics on poverty, you don’t feel like you can help. When you read how bad these issues are, everywhere in the world, you wonder, “What can my one dollar really do? Or my fifty cents, or my five dollars, or even my five hundred dollars?”

Stearns shows how the statistics can be overwhelming, deceiving, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, and that’s trying to figure out a way to alleviate poverty.

And then he shows how effective we can be. He shows how we can alleviate poverty. We do it as the body of Christ. We do it as His Church.

Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about the early church, and what Jesus tried to do. This is why Christians came together as churches in the first place.

But in the Western church today, we get into our own little bubbles. We create these mega-churches. They offer yoga classes, Starbucks in the lobby, all these things intended for the comfort of their own people. I understand the importance of discipling, but the impression these mega-churches give is that they only care about themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.

We’re supposed to be a church as a whole, a church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to go out into the communities of the world to figure out who needs help. And then we’re supposed to get together and help!

Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage and bring joy where there is none.” And when He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s our fulfillment in Christ. That’s our real “best life now” scenario. Who is with me?

See you Thursday.

Christian Social Justice

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
love and faithfulness go before you.
Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you,
who walk in the light of your presence, LORD. (Psalm 89:14-15)

What is Christian social justice? Put simply, justice is making things right. When the psalm says that justice and righteousness are the foundation of God’s throne, it means that God brings justice by making things right. Are you hungry? Let me make it right by feeding you. Are you thirsty? Let me make it right by building you a well and bringing safe water to your family and community. Are you an orphan, with no home and no mom and dad? Let me help you to an orphanage. Are you a slave, working for no pay, not allowed to leave? Let me free you. Let me make things right for you, because I know that when I do it for you, I do it for Jesus.

mlk-justice-and-righteousness-word-art

It can be pretty tough to respond to injustice without anger. While there are times when it’s appropriate, anger is not always the response of wisdom. When you respond to the hunger, thirst, homelessness, loneliness, and enslavement of fellow human beings, especially children, you need to use wisdom. Through wisdom, you can find lasting, sustainable solutions to the problems facing people in poverty-stricken areas. When you act with anger, you might alienate people. When you use wisdom, you can get them to listen to you.

One misconception people have is that Jesus went around making things right in anger, but I can only think of a couple of times when Jesus got angry. He got angry with the Pharisees, calling them “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27) and a “brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:33). He only did that because the Pharisees were the religious teachers of Jesus’ time, and teachers are held to a stricter standard (James 3:1). Jesus told the Pharisees, “You represent my Father, and yet you act like this, judging people and casting them out of society. That’s not okay. Do not claim to be guardians of the truth, and then turn around and judge people. When you do that, you misrepresent my Father.”

Of course, we don’t know that Jesus spoke to the Pharisees with rage in His voice. That’s not a conclusion I would leap to. I’m pretty sure that Jesus was fairly self-controlled. Think of the other time He got angry, when He drove the money changers out of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13). He flipped the tables and drove them out, but when He did it, people listened to Him. That’s because they already knew who He was, and they trusted Him. They’d seen Him do miracles, signs, and wonders. They’d seen Him love on people. You see? Before He flipped a single table, Jesus had already earned the people’s trust. So when He got upset, people didn’t write Him off. They wanted to know why He was angry.

We can learn a lot from Jesus. If we talk to people about social justice with anger, then they won’t listen to us. Why would they? To make things right, we need to use wisdom, just like He did. Jesus served in love! There’s no other way to go.

To reflect the justice and righteousness of our Father, we need to ask for wisdom. We need to ask for calm. We need to ask to be loving and kind, peaceful and self-controlled, and full of mercy and grace. That’s how Jesus did it, and when we walk in the light of His presence, then those around us will feel nothing but love, and grace, and mercy. That is Christian social justice. That is making things right.

See you Monday.

Understanding Victory

Suppose I knew ahead of time that the Giants were going to win the World Series this year. Suppose God came to me in a dream and said, “Jeremy, here’s what’s going to happen. The Giants will win the Wild Card game. You’ll go on to win the Division Series against the Nationals in four games, and then you’ll win the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in five games. Then you’ll play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, and it will take seven games, but the Giants will win. And Jeremy, you will be the winning pitcher in Game 7!”

I wish! If God had done that, I would have walked out on that mound without a care in the world. I wouldn’t have feared any of the teams we faced. I wouldn’t have feared any of the batters I faced. I wouldn’t have feared any situation. I wouldn’t have been nervous. I would not have doubted. I wouldn’t have felt the slightest need to take control. I would have already known the outcome! And I would have just let it happen.

Obviously, it wasn’t like that at all. But in life, it kind of is!

Think about it. Jesus died for us, and in shedding His blood for us, saved us. Then He resurrected, giving us the promise of eternal life. So Jesus says, “I’ve already won. It’s finished. You are a part of me now. You are a part of my kingdom, and a part of my family. We are nothing but love and grace. That’s who we are!”

Even with victory declared, the story still has to play out. There are people out there that don’t yet understand. As soon as they accept Jesus and become adopted into His family, they will share in the victory.

But we share in the victory now. Because Jesus has won, we have won. We can play the game of life, joyful and worry-free, knowing that we have already won.

I still get weak at times. Sometimes I get fearful, or nervous, or doubtful. I still try to control other people. I get weak sometimes because I am still a man of flesh. But the more I understand that Jesus has won, the calmer I become. I don’t have to get angry at someone if they don’t agree with me when I talk about Jesus. I don’t have to try to control people who are angry or upset. That is not my play. My play is love. A lot of people have been wounded by the church, and when they express their anger and hurt to me, my play is to love on them. I share the truth. I tell them that Jesus loves them. But I’m not worried about how they might react to that truth. They can get mad, that’s okay. I can just love. Love has already won.

Your Freedom is Jesus!

“You will find freedom when you learn to love your neighbor as yourself and to love God with all your heart, soul and might. There’s your freedom,” Affeldt said. “Any time anyone asks me why I do what I do, I say, ‘Jesus.’ His love is something I want people to see.”

Check out the rest of the feature Charisma News did about me by clicking this link:

Charisma News Affeldt Feature

Thank you for reading! I’ll be back on Monday with some new material. See you then.

Travis Ishikawa’s Faith

My teammate Travis Ishikawa testified at Giants Fellowship Day last August.

It’s so powerful! He testifies to staying in the Word, even when the outlook isn’t very clear.

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? Romans 8:35

Stay strong and hope, because God has a plan. With Him, all things are possible!

See you Thursday.