Kingdom Warriors

Sometimes people ask me, “Do you really think we can end human trafficking in our lifetime?” The truth is, I don’t know. But I’m still going to fight it with every opportunity. If we fight, we can free some people from a pretty terrible life.

I can’t promise you that fighting trafficking will end it. But we can end it, and I mean end it permanently, for some people. That’s one promise I can make. We can give some people their lives back. And the men, women, and children that are saved because of our efforts are pretty happy that we showed up and fought for them. They are happy that we didn’t just sit back and say, “Well, I can’t end trafficking, so why should I try?”

Think of those people whose lives were spared because we fed them. Think of those people who have clean, safe water to drink because we put in a well for them. Now they have no disease and their communities are thriving. They’re living longer and living fully because they don’t feel sick all the time. They’re happy and full of joy! I think they are pretty happy that we helped them, even if we can’t completely eliminate hunger or contaminated water in our lifetime.

I know that when we put in a well and heal a community, someone else, somewhere else, is dying of thirst. There’s plenty of that going around. And even if we fix one problem for good, another might arise. There was the plague, the “Black Death,” in the 14th century. It devastated Europe, and the Europeans were probably wondering if it would ever stop. It did. Later, we learned to understand sickness, and to treat it. Yet disease still is rampant. We handled the plague, the Spanish flu, whooping cough, and many other diseases, but still others, like Ebola, pop up. So we ask, “Can we end trafficking in our lifetime?” And I think, even if we can, another threat may arise.

But we can end trafficking for some people. We can end poverty for some people. We can end disease, sorrow, and suffering for some people. And so that’s what we do. It’s our calling as human beings in Christ, and so we rise to the call. I can’t save the whole world, but I can do my part. I can reflect Jesus by meeting a need, whenever or wherever I see one.

We are here to create the conditions of God’s justice, like freedom and health, joy and community. That’s why we’re here, so that’s what we do! We don’t have to win the war. Jesus already did that for us. We just have to fight the battles. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition. We’re here to help when we see a need. That’s all.

That’s the whole purpose of life!

See you Monday.

Defining Success

I care about people. I love them. I love them because I love the God that created them. He’s the same God that created me. He’s the same God that saved my life! So of course I want to help Him save more lives.

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 God save. This is my definition of success.

I’d love to see this 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.

I’d like to see that change.

I think it starts with kids. When we approach kids with the idea of setting goals to help others, it turns out that they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with the Not For Sale campaign and the Something to Eat campaign. In those organizations, I see kids setting goals to achieve something just so they can help save a life. They say, “I guarantee you I can come up with fifteen cents to feed someone.” Or they say, “I guarantee you I can come up with five cents to help with Not For Sale. In fact, I can do chores and I’ll raise a dollar!” They follow through, too, because for them, helping people 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 as servant leaders. When they think of success as leadership through service, they get really motivated. They decide to be the best at what they do. They work hard to follow their dreams.

They also realize how big they can dream. Be a CEO! Be an entrepreneur! They’ll dream this big when we help them see 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 a food crisis or a water crisis. 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. Servant leadership is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, so 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 identify as servant leaders, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can help God save lives.

It’s great to teach this to kids, but I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

See you Thursday.

When Kids Can’t Dream

I have so much to be grateful for. So much! I want to show my gratitude by inspiring 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. You see, back then I could dream any dream I liked! I had no idea what a privilege that is. It’s not the same for every kid.

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 of dreaming and telling their parents, “Some day I’m going to…,” 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 take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.”

Think of the children out there who never dream for anything more than release, maybe even death. They are tired. “I’m tired of going in these fields and working hard. Every day I work. I don’t play. I don’t go to school. I don’t see my mother. At the end, I get hooked to the floor in a dark room, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  Kids. 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.

Everyone can help, no matter how old they are. I’ll tell you more about this next time. See you Monday.

By Grace Alone

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. And Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, captain of the guard, an Egyptian, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him down there. The Lord was with Joseph, and he was a successful man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian. (Genesis 39:1-2)

Why is Romans such a key text? Why is Galatians key? Why are Corinthians and Colossians key? It’s because they teach us so much about grace!

The Christian life is not about rules. It’s not about laws. Our lives are about grace. That’s what these letters teach us.

We wanted laws, so God gave them to us. But we don’t need laws, we need grace. Think about it. The entire book of Genesis took place before God gave us laws. If we need laws to be made righteous, then no one in Genesis was righteous.

And we know that’s not true!

When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he ran. Why? God hadn’t told us yet that “thou shalt not sleep with another man’s wife.” There was no law about that. Still Joseph said, “I cannot sin against God.” How did he know? This was 400 years before God handed down the Ten Commandments.

Joseph knew because he lived in grace. Abraham, Sarah, and all the others lived in grace. I think this is because the Spirit of God was alive on the earth, talking to us and telling us what was good in God’s eyes. I really believe this. Before the time of the law, people lived in grace. They lived by faith.

By the Spirit of God, Joseph knew that adultery is not right. By the Spirit, Joseph refused to sin against God. God was with Joseph. It says so right there. God was with him, and Joseph succeeded in everything he did.

I think the law separated us from God. Once we had the law, the only time we could be with God was when we sacrificed a lamb. A sacrifice would justify our sins for awhile, but it wouldn’t last. We just couldn’t handle the Ten Commandments. Right? We messed up all the time! So over and over, year in and year out, we had to make the same sacrifice, just to make up for all of our sins.

Prophetically, David looked up to heaven and said, “God, you really don’t care about sacrifices, do you. You only care about the heart.” And God said, ”Right. You brought the law in. You guys wanted the law. So I gave it to you. And now you’re in a never-ending circle of death.”

We had no chance! You cannot live up to the Ten Commandments. You will fail. And when you do, you’ll feel like a failure. You’ll think, “I’m never going to add up.” That opens to door to shame. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had a time when we’ve looked at ourselves and said, “Ouch. I can’t. I’m not good enough.”

And then what does God say? He says, “You’re right. You can’t. That’s why I sent my son Jesus. He made you good enough. He fulfilled the law.”

Now by faith you are made righteous! By faith you are justified! You believe in Jesus and you know what He did, and guess what? That makes you good enough. Now God says, “Live in my Son! If you live in Him, you do not need the law.”

This message can be a struggle for people. If we don’t have laws from God, won’t we have anarchy? No, we won’t! We don’t need law to tell us what to do. Just like our ancestors in Genesis, we have the Spirit of God. We don’t need a “Thou Shalt Not.” We have relationship! And the Spirit will lead you to what you need to do.

Trust Issues

When He taught, Jesus used the paradigm of God’s kingdom, because the people gathered around Him understood monarchies. We have to try a little harder to form a kingdom mentality, but we can do it. It’s in our past, and it’s in our movies, TV shows, and books. We can learn to trust that the King has made us His sons and daughters, princes and princesses of the realm. We can learn to trust that when we represent Him in the world and need help, we can send word. He will help.

Still, it seems like it can be difficult for us to trust God the King. We already have a lot of trust issues with government. Our representatives in government make deals without regard to morality. They’ll actually sacrifice their own morals to make sure their agenda gets done. That’s what we have in government. No wonder we don’t understand what it means to trust!

Imagine living in the 17th century and the King says to you, “Come and be my son.” What do you think someone back then would have said? Obviously, they would have said, “Really? I’m in!” But now, we hesitate. Now we say, “I don’t know, I kind of like living out here, outside the gates of the kingdom.” Why? Because when we look at government, we don’t see trust. We don’t get trust.

So we don’t understand that we can trust God the King.

We’ve lost so much trust that we love Jesus and thank Him for saving us, but we still struggle to trust God. We don’t trust that He accepts us as His sons and daughters. We go out into the world, but we don’t really believe that we’ll be allowed back into the kingdom. We think God will shut the gate behind us.

So we get into a works mentality. We’re not perfect, so we sin, and then we feel like we have to cover for how we acted. We feel like we have to perform for God. “I judged somebody, so I have to read five psalms today.” Or, “I had a lustful thought, so I have to put in two extra hours at the food pantry.” Or, “I thought I was a better Christian than my neighbor, so now I have to go to Nicaragua and help build a new school.” With this mentality, fulfilling the royal law becomes work. Honestly, it becomes an ordeal.

When you start doing stuff to make yourself feel better because you sinned, then you have a works mentality. This is legalism. It misses the point. It misses the fact that we live in grace now, because of the sacrifice Jesus made, and then His resurrection. Now we live in God’s life. We walk in His Spirit and love with His love. When we sin, we can work it out on the spot with Him. He works all day every day for us. He loves us!

If you do something in order to show people what you’ve done, you’ll be dissatisfied. You won’t feel very good when you’re done. But if you do something to help a struggling neighbor simply because you love her, you’ll feel so good and fulfilled. Your heart will be right where it needs to be.

So trust the King! And when you struggle, send word to Him. Tell Him, “I need some help here.” Trust Him. Help will come.

See you Monday.

Consuming Fire

Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire! Hebrews 12:28-29

When Jesus was here, the social environment was pretty black and white. I think He walked in a place where you were either somebody or nobody. Either you were elite or you were trash. There wasn’t a lot of in-between.

Jesus went to the so-called “trash,” and He made them feel so good. And when the Spirit of God is in us, we are free to do the same thing. Obviously Jesus was able to do things that we don’t always have the ability to do. You might say that He cheated a bit by doing things that we usually can’t do, like healing people. But there are a lot of things we can do to reflect Jesus. We can love our neighbors. Basically, that’s what Jesus did. What if people looked at you, and saw Jesus reflected back to them? What would that be like?

I think when Jesus was around people, they felt consumed. I think that’s why they called Him a “consuming fire.” They were around Jesus and they said, “I finally have peace. My mind is calm. I don’t feel like a loser. I feel like a winner! I don’t feel lost. I feel like I’ve been found!” It felt so good to be around Jesus! People felt consumed by it.

Jesus could do that with people just by talking to them. He made them feel like they were somebody. He went to the so-called “trash,” and He made them feel like royalty. And He loved them for who they were, right at that moment. He didn’t promise to love them later, after they cleaned up a bit, or succeeded at some task. No. He loved them right then, just as He found them.

He loves us the same way. He loves us just as He finds us. And when we have Him in us, we can do the same thing. That means we can bring peace to people. That means we can draw them to God, who will bless them and bring them into His kingdom, where they will live as His precious sons and daughters.

When the Spirit of God works through you, then He’ll lead you to what you need to do.

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9

Happy Independence Day! See you Thursday.

Multiplying Grace

I am constantly stressing that grace is the unmerited favor of God. I like to stress this point because it’s so amazing. Grace is God’s favor! God smiles on you and delights in you just as you are. You don’t have to worry about whether you deserve it or not. God’s grace is unmerited.

But that’s not all you get with grace. God’s grace brings with it the ability to let God work through you. Because of His grace, you can walk in His Spirit. Take a minute to think about that, because it’s awesome. Grace makes more grace possible!

For example, suppose I get home from work and I discover that my family is experiencing some chaos. We do have three young boys, after all. What should I do? Should I get angry? Well, is that what God would do?

Walking in grace means asking God to give me the ability to say and do what is needed to make my family feel loved in a time of chaos.  That’s what Jesus does. He makes us feel loved in our time of chaos. He doesn’t love us for who or what we should be. He loves us for who we are, right now. That’s who He loves. He loves you. And then in that love, He nurtures you. He loves and nurtures you into becoming more like Him.

This is what grace allows us to do for each other! When we let God work through us, we let Him turn grace into more grace. When we ask what we as Christians should be doing, that’s our answer. Let God work through you. Let Him compound His grace, multiplying it everywhere. Let Him make you more like Him.

Realizing that I have favor with God gives me so much joy. It frees me! It frees me up to do what I can for others. It frees me up to think about other people. Walking in the Spirit allows me to ease their pain, and bring Christ into their lives. My joy is so motivating!

You might say, “Look, I don’t have much money. I can’t just give money away.” But that’s not the point. If you want to give money, and you can, then that’s one thing you can do. But that’s not even close to all that you can do in Christ. Walking in grace isn’t about giving money away. It’s about reflecting Jesus!

Loving your neighbor as yourself doesn’t cost any money at all. You meet people all day long. What do they see when they see you? Do they see Jesus? This is as simple as looking at somebody who is having a bad day and saying, “Man, I hope your day gets better.” It’s as simple as asking, “Are you okay?”

Let people know that you are there, and that they are not alone. That is Jesus. Let Him nurture each of you through each other. And then grace will multiply in abundance, everywhere!

See you Monday.