A Society of Servant Leaders

Sometimes people ask me, “What did it mean to you to pitch for other people? Why do 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. It’s the same God that saved my life! So of course I want to help save the lives of others.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I want to achieve something not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m focused on those who don’t have food or clean water. I’m focused on 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. Go 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 when we approach kids with the idea of setting goals to help others? It turns out they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with the Not For Sale campaign 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.

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 in need 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.

Happy Thanksgiving! See you Monday.

Inspired by Dreams

I have so much to be grateful for today. One of the ways I can show my gratitude is to use this incredible moment to inspire you to dream the biggest dream you possibly can, and then work for it.

A really big part of our energy and success lies in our ability to dream. There’s a great line in the movie Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, where the Ojibwe elders tell Archie Grey Owl, “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.”

When moms and dads at the ballpark would ask me for advice, I always told them to help their kids dream, and dream big. That’s what I did as a kid. I didn’t know if I could be a professional ballplayer! But I dreamed about it anyway. I could dream any dream I liked! Back then, I had no idea what a privilege that was. I’ve learned it’s not the same for everyone.

Some of the kids that we rescue from slavery have awesome talents. But those talents have been squandered by the people that were slaving them out. These kids never enjoyed the chance to use their talents or challenge themselves. They didn’t dare to dream, not even small dreams.

Imagine not being able to dream at all! It’s shocking! Instead these kids were saying, “I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave. I just want to wake up one day, and know that I’m not chained to the floor, that someone won’t come to take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.” They never wanted anything more than, “I’m tired of going in these fields, and working hard every day.  What do I get for it?  I get put right back in the dark, I get hooked to the floor, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  This is happening to kids.

That’s why we have to dream as big as we possibly can. It’s through our dreams and determination that we can rescue these kids from slavery and restore them to their talents and their dreams. These kids are suffering and I promise you that Jesus is with them, waiting for you and everyone else to come and love these kids just the way He did: by saving their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving! Dream a big dream. See you Thursday.

Servant Leadership

I think the Bible tells us to live and love like Jesus, and the scriptures tell us a lot about how He lived and loved. Last time, I offered some thoughts about what I think that means. Keep reading your Bible! You can see for yourself what it says about Jesus, and how we’re supposed to love our neighbor as ourselves.

I’ll tell you what living like Jesus is not about. It’s not about health, wealth, and prosperity. These are things that God chooses to bless us with as He sees fit. Whether you are blessed with them or not, you can still be fulfilled through discipleship.

Living like Jesus is also not about your best life now. Not all the time. I know sometimes Christians say that once you’re saved, everything’s going to be hunky dory. But that’s a tactic they use to get you saved. And it works! People hear that, and they get saved. They think they’re going to become rich!

And when they don’t become rich, they say there is no God.

We get into this salvation mentality. We think we just have to get people saved, and we’re done. I truly don’t believe that’s where it ends. I truly, truly, truly believe that salvation is just the beginning of a lifestyle of discipleship that we begin to live. It’s living out an understanding of what the Gospel means.

What is the Good News? I mean, what is the Jesus Gospel? That you have to accept Christ or rot in hell? I’m sorry, but you’re seriously telling me that sounds like good news? That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

The lifestyle of Jesus, the one He lived and taught us to live, is good news. The discipleship lifestyle is the Gospel. Salvation and justification are part of it. They are our beginning. But we’re called to live it.

You hear people ask, “Did Jesus speak the Gospel?” And some people will say He didn’t. They’ll say He couldn’t have. They’ll say the Gospel didn’t come until after Jesus died.

That’s a little mind-boggling to me! I mean, Jesus is the Gospel! Jesus is the good news! Whatever Jesus did was good news. He was IT! Of course He preached the Gospel, because He did the Gospel! But people don’t think like that.

That just shows me where we’re at. We’re stuck in this salvation mentality. We focus everything on Jesus’ death. We think we’re done being Christian when we acknowledge His death for our sins. But what about His life? How can we ignore that, when the Bible contains a detailed account of all the things He did, and all the things He said, and all the instructions He gave to everyone who wanted to be His disciple?

Sometimes I ask myself why I live the way I live. That’s the question! That nails what I’m saying here. Why do I live the way I live? I don’t ask myself why I am the way I am. I know the answer. I’m saved. I’m justified by Christ. But I don’t assume that means I’m good. I’m not necessarily good. I’m not necessarily right. I’m not necessarily on the right path.

Do I mess up? Yes. Am I always good? No. Am I always on the right path? No. But when I get off on the wrong path, I ask the Spirit to lead me back. And I believe that the Spirit does, because I want to live as a disciple of Jesus. I want to be deeper, I want to go further, I want to be on His path.

How do I know when I’m on His path? I’m fulfilled, I’m happy, and I’m full of joy.

I have more to tell you about this! See you Monday.

Living Abundantly

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

Abundant life! What does that mean? Well, abundant life is a life that is not in need. You don’t need to find food, you have it. You don’t need to find water, you have it. You don’t need to find a place to live, you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job, you have a job.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. I think abundance is having enough, plus some for somebody else. And if you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

An abundant life involves so much more than having a lot of consumer goods. You can get caught up in buying more stuff for yourself — stuff you don’t even need — while there are people who will die if they don’t get your help.  That’s the situation we’re in. Consumerism can actually kill people! Living like Jesus is the answer to the problem. Jesus came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” It’s true! I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I’ve got three things that get on the internet all at once. Maybe that’s excessive! But I also give, because saving lives is so important.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. But what if you never even have a mindset to help someone in need? That’s shallow. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m not saying that at all. I’m saying that if our drive, our heart, our focus, is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always saying, “I want this and I want that, and I know I could live without it but I’m going to get it and I’m going to get that too,” and we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we have the wrong mindset.

We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s our habit here in the US. But abundance can mean something really different, depending on where you are. There are so many places in the world where someone might say, “Abundance? That’s when I’ve got a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. Now my family doesn’t have to live on the street. I’ve got a home, I’ve got a job, we’ve got food on the table, I’ve got a well to get clean water from, and my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. In fact, they’re going to school. That’s abundance. I know what it’s like to not have these things. Now that I have them? And my family’s safe? That’s abundance.”

We need to help make that happen. We’re ambassadors for Christ! He said He came so that we may have life, and have it more abundantly. He gave us the message. He gave us the example. And He gave us that quality of life when He was with us on earth. These things didn’t leave when He did. He gave them to us, so that we’d live by them. If we are to represent Him, we need to follow His example. We need to spread His message. And we need to give that quality of life to others. Let’s bring abundant life to others!

See you Thursday.

Salvation Is Only the Beginning

I’ve never been in the back of the room at a church meeting, but I can almost see how some go. “Hey,” they say, “How are we going to get people saved? We’ve got to figure out how to get them to say the prayers.”

I think we’re used to thinking in terms of numbers. It’s only human to play the numbers game. I mean, think about it. In the baseball world, or anywhere in sports, the concept is, “How many fans can we get in the seats?” After all, that’s where the business is. And so we see it in some churches. “How many butts can we get in the pews?” After all, there’s our tithe.

And you see that a lot, man! You see churches saying, “Fifty people got saved today!” Or, “One hundred people got saved today!” But being a Christian is a lifestyle that we live, not a decision that we make. It doesn’t end with being saved. That’s where it starts. We should be asking, “How are we going to get people to live a life of Jesus?” That’s the concept, because that is joy. That is true joy.

Too often someone will say they’re a Christian because at some point in their life they said, “Oh, I believe Jesus is Lord.” They made that decision at some moment in time. But how does it affect their lifestyle throughout the next 30, 50, or 70 years of life? A lot of times it doesn’t. I think that’s why you see Christian marriages failing at the same rate that you see non-Christian marriages failing. Using this type of salvation theology, Christianity is not a lifestyle that people live. It’s just a decision they made.

When you admitted that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins, and rose again three days later, you were saved. And that is awesome! You were saved! Now the resurrection empowers you. It gives you the salvation that you’re looking for. You’re in the family of God. You’re justified!

But justification by faith is only the beginning of your fulfillment. Confessing that Jesus is Lord is not what makes you a Christian. Life in Jesus, the life of a Christian, is a life of discipleship. A Christian lives this life by living as Jesus lived. Scot McKnight expands on these exact same concepts in his book, The King Jesus Gospel, where he shows that if you stop after confessing that Jesus is Lord, then you’re not going to feel fulfilled in this life.

If the life of a Christian began and ended with confessing that Jesus is Lord, then love and mercy and grace would be lived out through all Christians everywhere. Salvation alone would make us God’s instruments of love and of mercy and of grace. That decision we made to accept Jesus Christ as our Savior would be enough. We wouldn’t have to do anything else.

But we don’t love very easily. We don’t do that. We don’t show much mercy. In fact, McKnight talked to a number of non-Christians and found that they’ll tell you sometimes Christians are the meanest people they’ve ever met!

So it can’t just be justification and salvation that makes us different. I believe it is a Spirit-led lifestyle. If you feel empty, like you can’t accomplish something in life, it could be because you don’t understand why you’re here. I believe I understand why you’re here, and why we’re all here. Living the lifestyle of Jesus helps us understand.

See you Monday.

I Can Do All Things

I think one of the greatest injustices anyone could ever experience is to not know who Jesus is. In fact, I think it is the greatest injustice.

It’s not necessarily that Jesus died on the cross, although not understanding that is definitely part of the injustice. But simply put, the greatest injustice of all is to not know Him. And I think the church, in some ways, has tainted our view.

When you live like Jesus lived, will you make mistakes? Yes, you will! Human beings are not perfect. We fail. Sometimes we fail a lot. The mystery of God is the church, but the church is part of man. So the church can’t be perfect, and it can’t expect perfection from you. What it can do is help you experience the grace of Jesus.

What is it like to experience His grace? Jesus had turmoil around Him all the time. People tried to kill Him all the time. And yet, even hanging on a cross, He looked over at a guy and said, “Today you’ll be with me in paradise.” He understood what it was to love a human being. He knew the hearts of people and He said, “I love those hearts. And even though they’re bad at times, I still believe in them and I’m going to love on them faithfully and help them change.”

I think Jesus looks at you right now and says, “Look. I’ve redeemed your sin on the cross. I’ve taken sin away. But you’re still going to make mistakes. I know.”

My sons make mistakes. They make mistakes all the time! But they still feel loved. And while they live in my home, they will feel safe. I fear that a lot of people don’t feel safe in their own homes. I think that’s why they don’t understand their purpose in life. Even in their own homes, they don’t feel safe. Living the life of Jesus can change that. There is freedom in Christ Jesus. There is no condemnation in Him.

I believe that’s why the Word says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I know we put that phrase on our hats. We tattoo it on our arms. You see that a lot with athletes. They rely on the strength it delivers. But it means so much more than mere athleticism. It’s not simply, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me physical strength. That’s why I can be a professional athlete.” No, no. It’s a lot more than that. You can do all things in Christ, because you follow Him. Because you are His disciple. Because you live as He lived, the lifestyle of Jesus!

And if you truly lead that lifestyle, you’re strong in all areas. I walk in the lifestyle of Jesus. Things are not always going to go right, but I’m confident that I’m always going to be able to deal with problems. I’m always going to be able to overcome obstacles. I’ll be able to do all things because of who I am in Jesus. I’m in His family. In His family, I’m always safe. Even when bad things happen, Jesus is always going to love me. He’s always going to help me. He’s always going to encourage me to move on, and so I press on. I don’t look back. I look ahead.

Jesus says, “You might experience trials and tribulations, but you belong to my family. Will things go wrong? Yes. Things will go wrong. But because you’re in my family, you are safe. You will feel safe. You will feel joy. You will feel empowered. And when trials come, you can meet them. You can do all things through me. I will strengthen you.”

See you Thursday.

This Way to True Life

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

I believe that there is something after I die. While I live on this earth, I live because of Christ. When I die, I gain the Kingdom. I gain heaven. I gain a new relationship with God, one that I don’t have here on earth.

But until that happens? I truly believe what Jesus said when He taught us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We’re supposed to bring the Kingdom to earth. I live under that understanding. While I’m here, I’m an ambassador who is supposed to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth. And I believe that I can help do that. I believe that the Spirit of God helps lead me into areas where I can help.

The Spirit will lead you, if you’re living the lifestyle of Jesus.

That’s what the disciples did. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. Jesus foretold it. He told the disciples, “Greater things will you do after I leave, because you will be empowered by the Spirit.” And after Jesus was gone, they were! And they did!

The proof is in the persecution they suffered. I mean, no one dies for a decision. There’s no way you can tell me the disciples were hung upside down on crosses, were martyred, jailed, stoned, and beaten, simply because they were trying to get people to say they accepted Christ. For the disciples, conversion wasn’t just a matter of saying that Jesus is Lord. If that’s all we had to do, there’s no way anyone would die for it.

No, you accept that Jesus is Lord and then you live a brand new life. A life in Jesus! That’s what the disciples did. They not only accepted Jesus as Lord, they lived like He lived. They lived with a discipleship mentality. They walked the walk, and then they died for it. They died for the lifestyle of Jesus. True life! When they accepted Christ as Lord, when they believed that He was the Savior, they did not stop. For them, discipleship was a way of life.

What was that life? It was life in relationship. Life using the “love your neighbor as yourself” mentality. The disciples wanted to make sure that they brought God’s Kingdom to earth. That’s why they wanted to live like Jesus lived. That’s why they wanted to love people like Jesus loved people. And that’s what they died for. They died for the lifestyle that they knew was right.

It makes sense to me. If I’m going to die for something, it will be something that I know is right.

I think the disciples knew true life. Paul said, “Take joy in trials and tribulations.” Take joy? How? How are we supposed to take joy in trials and tribulations? Who does that? The disciples did, because they didn’t find their joy in the physical aspects of life. Life for the disciples wasn’t hunky dory on the outside. It wasn’t that they were joyful because they never had anything bad happen to them. In fact, they always had something bad happening to them! Not a moment of life was free of turmoil. There was a lot of stuff that went down.

So why did they challenge people to live a life of Jesus, when they knew they would die for it? They did it because it was fulfilling. They had true joy. They had true happiness. They said, “Things may go wrong around me, but I know where my joy is. It’s in my Savior! I’m filled with joy, because I know what it’s like to love people!”

Now that’s the way to live! That’s the way to live the true life. See you Monday.