How Do You Evangelize?

How do you evangelize? I do it by trying to reflect the characteristics of God. When I’m around people, I do what I think He would do. I feel joy around them, I’m happy, and I encourage them. I love them! These are all the things that I think Jesus did when He walked the streets with us.

A lot of times when people get around athletes, they think we have big heads, so they don’t try to talk to us. And sometimes we can’t talk to them. We have to focus on doing our jobs! But if I don’t have anything to do, I try to say hi to people in the ballpark. I’m especially focused on the kids. I want them to know that we are human beings like them. I shake their hands and encourage them. I give them high fives. I let them know that I’m real, and I make sure they know that I hope the best for them. Sometimes parents ask if I have any advice, and I tell them to let their children dream. I think they should all dream really, really big.

I try to reflect Christ in a way that’s positive. I’m not necessarily out there telling people that they need to accept Jesus as their savior. When you’re representing a sports team, it’s not really appropriate to do that. Since I don’t always talk about God, I want to make sure that I exemplify the characteristics of Christ as much as possible. That way, people might follow me into other circles, where I do talk about God. Then we can have a dialogue.

When I talk to kids at community functions, I try to do the same thing. For example, I work with kids at a homeless youth shelter, and all I want to do is love on them. So I try as hard as I can to make sure that the characteristics of God positively ooze from me. I try to have the aroma of Christ 2 Corinthians 2:15. Through the aroma that I put off, I want these kids to feel good about who they are.

And I want them to come ask me what makes me different. If they do, then I tell them that I’m trying to reflect the love that I’ve been given. That’s the love of Jesus, my Savior.

He died for me, and He gives me pure joy. I try to give that joy to them. I try to give that joy to you!

See you Monday.

A Global Society of Service

Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you say you pitch for other people? What makes you focus so much on others?”

The answer is pretty simple. I care about other people. I love them! And that’s because I love the God that created them. It’s the same God that created me. He saved my life, so of course I want to help save the lives of others.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. It’s because I want to achieve something, not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I want to achieve something for those who do not have food or clean water. I want to achieve something for orphans and victims of human trafficking. Imagine being hungry, or having a contaminated water supply. Imagine what happens to children who don’t have a parent to love them. Imagine what it’s like to be deprived of your freedom! These are the lives I want to help save.

I’d love to see that same approach to success take root in society. Go find a random person right now, anywhere you like, behind a desk or on a ball field or in a doctor’s office. Anywhere you like. Ask them if they get up in the morning and set a goal to achieve something. They’ll probably say yes. But then ask them, do they do it in order to help provide for someone who does not have? Most people are going to say no, I don’t think that way when I set goals.

What happens we approach kids with the idea? It turns out they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with Team Not For Sale and the Something to Eat campaign. In these organizations, I see kids setting goals to achieve something just so they can help someone else. They’ll say, “I guarantee you I can come up with fifteen cents to feed someone.” Or they’ll say, “I guarantee you I can come up with five cents to help with Not For Sale. I can do chores and I’ll raise a dollar!” They follow through, too, because for them, helping those in need is a priority.

earth love

Involving young people in projects like these is the best way to transform society. We’re helping them see that they can live their entire lives according to the idea that success is for them and for somebody else. This motivates them to be the best at what they do. They’ll work hard to become leaders at their jobs and in their communities.

They’ll also realize how big they can dream. They’ll set goals to be CEO’s and successful entrepreneurs, because they’ll realize how powerful it is to be the one to make the rules. One of those rules can be to devote a portion of their company’s revenues to building orphanages, or responding to food and water crises. Or they’ll find a way to put an end to slave labor in their industry.

Showing up to help a person or a community that does not have is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, and they want to do the same thing. They know that someone provided for them by setting goals and dreaming dreams. So now they set goals and dream dreams. Now they achieve for the sake of others. Now it goes global.

When we think about about how to help others, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can actually help. I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

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.

Selfless

There’s no better way to reflect God’s love than by helping someone in need. Why is this the best way? Because you have to be selfless to help someone in need. You have to be like Jesus.

Jesus! When He came down, man, everything He did was selfless. He didn’t have to, but He served everybody! He didn’t have to do any of the things that He did when He came here. He didn’t even have to leave heaven. Coming down here was the ultimate selfless act.

Can you imagine what He must have been thinking? I’m sure it was something like this:

I have to come to this little planet here, and help these people? You’re telling me that I need to come here, to this place, where they’re going to deny me, persecute me, judge me, run me to the edge of cliffs, and basically try to kill me all the time? Uh, really? Fun times.

He knew how hard it was going to be, but He did it. It was a selfless act.

Because I think He also said this:

You know what? I love these people, man! They are the reason why God, my Father, created life. He created life for the purpose of relationship. And I’m going to go down there and fix that relationship. I’m going to restore it. I’m going to feed the hungry, and I’m going to set the captives free.

It feels good to feed the hungry. Ask these Whitworth University students, who spent a day packaging meals for the hungry.

He came to restore us to God. That’s where Matthew 25 comes in, because that’s where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. You know how it goes: “When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was in prison, you visited me.”

That is huge! Think about it. It’s so big! “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

We may not understand why there is hunger in the first place. I don’t think we can truly understand why, because it’s not our call. It’s God’s. But it doesn’t have to paralyze us, because we have a calling. We’re called to be selfless like Jesus.

Jesus was selfless to come here. He did it because He loves us, and He promises to remember every one of our selfless acts. He shows us the way. He shows us how to be selfless just like Him, and He inspires us to do it with love. “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

And here’s the greatest thing of all. When we’re selfless like Jesus, selfless out of love, we find fulfillment. Being selfless like Jesus brings the fulfillment that we crave. We may not even know we crave it, but we discover it. All we have to do is experience it.  Fulfillment in Jesus is exactly what our souls crave.

When you can say that you helped someone who was hungry by giving them something to eat, you’ll experience it. That’s when you’ll know.

See you Monday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.

Because I’m Saved

What do children think when you hide alcohol in the house? Dad must be hiding it because he doesn’t want anybody to know it’s there. Why? Is it wrong? Maybe we should try it. You know that’s the thought process.

In my home, my sons will know where the beer is. I’ll tell them, “The beer is in the refrigerator. You can’t have it. You’re not old enough to drink. But it’s right there. In fact, I’ll tell you what, why don’t you go get me a beer. I’m old enough to drink, so go get me one, please.” I want them to be able to go get it, and hand it to me.

I’m not going to hide the fact that there’s alcohol in the house, because I want my sons to think, “Dad is being honest with us. Dad loves us and trusts us to know that there’s alcohol in the house. He’s not hiding anything.”

Sometimes kids have issues because their parents don’t want to address the reality of drinking. Some parents try to guilt their kids or scare their kids into not drinking. But that’s a problem, because then those kids only respect their parents out of fear or guilt, not love. That’s not how I want to raise my children.

LoveGreaterThanFear

I want my children to respect me. I’m hoping they will respect me enough to know that they’re not allowed to drink. If I do catch them drinking, there will be some disciplinary action. Will I have to take the alcohol out of my house? I hope not. I would, if they’re not making wise decisions. But I’m not going to start my relationship off with my sons by hiding things.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I’m scared of him.” I don’t want them to say, “That’s my Dad who I respect because I hate feeling guilty whenever I’m around him. I would rather obey him than feel guilty.”

I want my sons to say, “That’s my Daddy. I love and respect him because he loves and respects me. He’s honest with me. I know I can talk to him any time about anything. He won’t fly off the handle and yell at me. He won’t guilt me into doing what’s right. We’re going to talk things out and I’m going to feel so calm around him that I’ll want to do what’s right, because I respect him.”

It’s the same way with Jesus. Some people say they love and obey Jesus because He’s God, but that might be putting it backwards. It’s because He loved me and died for me that I obey. Put another way, I don’t obey in order to be saved. I obey because I’m saved. That’s the relationship Jesus wants to have with us.

I don’t want my sons to look at me and say, “I respect you because you’re the father figure of our home.” I want them to say, “Dad, because you’re the nurturing father figure of our home, I respect you and I love you. I’m not just obeying you because I’m afraid of you. I’m obeying you because I’m your son. You have done so much for me and you care for me, and I love you.”

That’s the reality that I want for my family.

I’m going to wrap up this short series on drinking with a few words for the churches. See you Monday.

Let’s Work Together

Anyone can change the world. Anyone can have a huge impact, just by joining forces with a lot of other people. If we work together, we can do anything.

A lot of people doing a little bit will do far more damage to this world’s injustices than one or two big corporations doing it all. A lot of people working together will produce a lot of energy. That’s more sustainable over the long run than trusting the work to a couple of large donors.

You know what else it is? It’s much more fulfilling! When you expect big corporations to shoulder the burdens of building the Kingdom, you quit. You say, “You know what? They have a lot of money, so I’ll just let them do it. And I’ll go on with my life.”

But when you do that, you don’t learn to understand why you’re here! When you leave it up to someone else, then you don’t learn to understand the purpose of the human race. You don’t learn to understand humanitarianism. You don’t learn to understand why Jesus came down the set the captives free. You don’t get the grace of Jesus Christ.

working together for the gospelJesus didn’t go to the biggest city He could find, teach its inhabitants to follow Him, and then say, “Now you change the world.” No. He left it to a small group of people. He left it up to them to go get more people. And then it was up to those people to go get more people, and then get more people. It was up to them to grow the church of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus did.

He didn’t want us to leave the Kingdom work to someone else. He wanted us to do it. If He didn’t want us to do it, then He probably would have just opened up the heavens so everybody could see God. He would have said, “Either follow Me or don’t, but now you know I’m real. You can see Me. I suggest you follow Me. Now that you see Me, you’re going to love Me now. You’re all going to do it.”

But that wouldn’t make any sense! If He did that, then what was the game? What was the journey for? What was the creation for? What was the reason for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What was the point of that?

The point is, you have to choose to love Him. He’s no dictator. Think about it: Jesus left the Gospel with twelve young men, and he said, figure it out! He left the Gospel with a prostitute and said, figure it out! He said, “Hey! I want twelve young men, a prostitute, and a couple of businessmen. You go put the Gospel into the world. You create the church of the Book of Acts.” That’s what He did! And the church grew!

That’s what He wants from us. He wants us to join together and build His Kingdom. Just a whole lot of people, doing a little bit each, and working together. You’d be amazed how much you can do!

See you Monday.