A Tattoo to Remind Me: This is Who I Am

We think a lot about how permanent tattoos are. Permanence is kind of the point when it comes to tattoos! But tattoos can also be visible or hidden. The tattoo on my left forearm reads, “No Man Shall Live for Himself.” This was my second tattoo. And I keep it where I can see it.

At first, I didn’t think I’d ever get any tattoos at all. Obviously that changed, because you’ve been reading about my “Solus Christus” tattoo. That sola is so important to me, and a point came when I realized I was definitely going to get a tattoo of it.

When I got my “Solus Christus” tattoo, I thought that was it. I didn’t think I’d get another one. Everybody was telling me, “Tattoos are addicting! You have to be careful! Once you get one, you’ll want more!” But I really didn’t think that was going to be me. I thought I’d stop at one.

On the other hand, I think I always knew, in the back of my mind, that there would be more. There are some other things that mean just as much to me as that sola.

First, though, I had to see how that “Solus Christus” tattoo sat with me. It turns out I enjoyed it! I really liked the conversations that it started.

I had the same thing in mind for my second tattoo. I wanted it to be something really deep and meaningful to me, and I wanted it to be a conversation starter.

That’s why the second one says, “No Man Shall Live for Himself.” This is very meaningful to me. It is the standard that I have set for my life. It’s the standard I want to live by. I want it for my family, too, for my wife and sons, and my friends. I want to be known as a servant.

Living as a servant, like Jesus did, is not always easy. So I like the reminder. Putting it on my left forearm means I get reminded a lot, because I use my left arm a lot! I do everything with my left arm. I start my day with it. I’m in the mirror, combing my hair, getting ready for the day, and I see the tattoo.

It’s always there reminding me, in everything that I do, whether it be in photographs, whether it be at work, or whether it be simply getting ready for the day.

And at the time I got it, I was pitching for the Giants. I pitched with my left arm, so the tattoo was always there to remind me of why I was out there on the mound. “No Man Shall Live for Himself.”

So putting the tattoo on my left arm really meant something. It solidified who I am for others, by saying, “Hey, this is what I stand for.”

It’s easy to read, and it’s not hidden. In fact, when I was pitching, it had a lot of visibility. I’ve never wanted to hide it. I don’t want to hide what I stand for.

A lot of tattoos can be hidden. I have a couple that can be hidden, one on my shoulder and another on my back (more on that another day). But unless I wear a long-sleeved shirt, “No Man Shall Live for Himself” is always visible. And I never want to cover it up. I want it to be seen by everybody. I want people to know that this is who I am, and this is what I stand for.

And just as I had hoped, it has started a lot of amazing conversations!

More on that next time. See you Thursday.

Solus Christus Sums It Up

Solus Christus sums up everything for me. My lifestyle, my passion, my commitments, everything.

Do I believe that Christ is the only way to God? Yes. I believe it. I believe Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No man sees the Father except through Him.

When I do something, I do it with the understanding that I do it in Christ. What drives me to be who I am? The answer is Christ. I don’t get to hang with the guy every day like his disciples got to do, but I have His Spirit inside of me. Solus Christus. It’s in Christ that I do the things I do.

I try to view things the way that Christ wants me to view things. I know I will stand before the throne of God one day and He will say, “Jeremy, sometimes you were wrong.” I’m willing to accept that. It’s not like we get to go through life depending on an audible voice from God on every single topic. We read in Luke that Peter, John, and James went up on the mountain with Jesus to pray. A cloud came down, and out of the cloud God spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” We don’t all get that opportunity.

Solus Christus tattoo

But His Spirit is in me. Through His Spirit, I can ask for wisdom. In Christ, I do what seems right. I try to. I try to do things with an authority that says, “This is how Christ would do it.”

Suppose I fail? I know I will. Suppose I choose a route that I should not have chosen? Suppose I do something that involves sin? I’m still a man, made of flesh and bone, so I will fail. But when I realize my sin, I also realize that I’ve been redeemed. How have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In whom have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In Christ I am redeemed. In Christ I am made righteous.

It’s why I don’t have to live in guilt. I get to live in freedom! My freedom comes in Christ.

That’s also why I can live my life with such passion. I don’t look back. I don’t. When I mess up, I repent. Then I can heal and grow. When I recognize my sin, I also recognize that I have a way out of it. Repentance challenges me to go deeper in prayer. It challenges me to deepen my commitment to living more deeply in Christ.

So you see, this tattoo means so much to me. Everything for me happens in Christ. Solus Christus. I want my sons to grow in Christ. I want my marriage to grow in Christ. When my family does things, I want us to do them in Christ. Solus Christus is my family’s crest and shield.

I live in Christ, I make my decisions in Christ, I repent in Christ, I challenge myself in Christ, and I want my family to be a family in Christ. That’s why I put this tattoo on my forearm. That’s why I chose those two words. And that’s why I put it in a circle. A circle has no beginning, and it has no end. It just keeps going.

And that’s how I am in Christ.

I just want to continue to grow in Christ, and never stop.

A Tattoo to Talk About

I got my first tattoo in 2011. It’s on the inside of my right forearm, and it says, “Solus Christus.” Christ alone.

We were in San Francisco at the time, where I pitched for the Giants. The Bay Area occupies an important place in the history of tattooing, and a family friend from Seattle — a tattoo artist — visited us in order to learn more about it. When he flew down with his wife, he brought his tools with him, and my wife Larisa and I got our first tattoos.

He came to our house, so our oldest son’s nanny took him out to play. At three and a half, Walker was all over the place, and I was worried that he’d get in the middle of the work. I didn’t want to end up with some random line tattooed up my arm!

That little man blew my mind when he came home. He’s so observant. He ran in the house yelling, “Dad, I’m home!” I called out, “Hey, Buddy,” and he came running in the room. He was just about to give me a hug, when suddenly he came to a full stop. He was literally three feet away from me. He looked down at my arm and said, “What’s that? What’s on your arm?” I told him, “It’s my tattoo!” Right away he said, “I want one!”

“Well,” I told him, “you know, I’m not against that, but people might ask questions if my three year-old son shows up with a tattoo on his arm. Also, when you’re 16 and you have a tattoo of Go, Diego Go!, you’re probably going to be a little bit upset with me. So not right now, Buddy. Let’s wait on that.”

“Okay,” he said, “but can I get something fun too?” And I said “Sure!” Larisa, my wife, got online and ordered some of those sticker tattoos that they make for little kids. I was on a road trip with the team when they came, so she texted me a picture. She told me Walker wanted his sticker tattoo on the same exact part of his arm as I had mine. He was so proud of it! Since he could change his, he wanted to know why I didn’t change mine. He didn’t realize that my tattoo is permanent.

That was the first time that my oldest child said, “I want to be like my dad.” I was awed when I heard it, because that’s exactly how I view my relationship with my Father in heaven. I want to be just like Him. And I want to be like my brother Jesus, the Savior of the world. As a husband and father, I want to be like Jesus.

I also want to be like Jesus in the world. Like Him, I want to be a servant leader.

Getting a tattoo might make me seem more like a follower than a leader. They are pretty trendy! And I hadn’t always wanted one. What were they for? Rebellion? We look at people who have tattoos and think, “Oh, there’s a rebellious side to that one.” We just know it. Whether it be quiet or loud, you hear that rebellious voice. It says, “I have a statement to make.” Maybe that voice is saying, “Well, my mom and dad don’t like them, and they didn’t want me to get one, so I did.” Or maybe it’s saying, “You know what? I’ve been so good my whole life. I want to get something that’s really out there, just this one time.”

Of course, there are also the accidental tattoos. The mistakes, if you will. Sometimes I’ve asked people about their tattoos and they’ve said, “Oh, I was drunk when I got that. It really doesn’t mean anything.” It’s true! People have told me, “I really don’t know why I got this tattoo. I just woke up one morning and there it was!” Fortunately, I’m not the kind of man who would drink too much and then get tattooed.

In fact, I talked to a lot of people before I made my decision. I heard all kinds of different opinions about tattoos, but everybody agreed that a tattoo is permanent. When you tattoo your body, that picture or that message is going to be there for life. I know there are laser removal techniques, but that’s painful! I really didn’t want to do that! I had to be absolutely certain that when I put something permanent on my body, it would mean something truly significant.

That’s why I didn’t go for a standard tattoo. I didn’t want a Major League Baseball logo, or a baseball with flames on it. I didn’t want a cross, or a Bible verse. I didn’t want something obviously Christian, like John 3:16. I wanted a conversation piece. I wanted people to see my tattoo and ask me about it. People already know that I’m a man who lives by faith in the Almighty God, so John 3:16 wouldn’t advance the conversation in any meaningful way.

I had to ask, “What am I trying to say?” I needed a tattoo that would arouse people’s curiosity and prompt them to ask me about it. I wanted someone to look at my tattoo and say, “What does that mean to you? Why that tattoo?”

Well, I knew a tattoo in Latin would start a conversation. So that’s where I went. I had Latin words permanently inscribed on my body. My forearm reads, “Solus Christus.”

It’s worked out so well. I’ve had great conversations with a lot of different people because of this tattoo. It’s created all kinds of opportunities to talk to people about my faith. People see it and they ask, “What is that?” And I say, “It’s one of the Five Solas of church history.” Right away they ask, “What’s the big deal about that? What are you trying to say?”

The question itself points to the big deal. We’ve forgotten the Five Solas. We’ve gotten away from our history as God’s people. We’ve forgotten where things started. We’ve forgotten where things came from. We don’t remember who we are supposed to be.

I’ve done several studies of church history. I haven’t done an in-depth study, but I think I get the gist of it. God created the church. It was designed to be the mystery of God. And the Five Solas have always stood out for me. There’s Sola Gratia, by grace alone, Sola Fide, through faith alone, Soli Deo Gloria, for God’s glory alone, and Sola Scriptura, according to scripture alone. And then there’s Solus Christus, in Christ alone.

Solus means “solely,” or “alone,” so the Five Solas say something about our own individual journeys. My journey is different than the journey of the person next to me. My journey is different than your journey. When you look at the Five Solas, you can’t help but think, what is my journey?

They make you ask, right?

See how well this tattoo works?

United in Love

I do not lie in bed at night saying, “Man, I’m so awesome, I’ve won three world championships! Oh, I’m so cool!” I do not do that.

I don’t go home at the end of the day and say to my three boys, “Hey sons! Tell me what your dad did,” just to hear them say, “Dad! You won three World Series!” I would be so disappointed to hear my kids say that. I don’t want them to say that. I don’t want them to know me as some pro athlete that won a world championship. In five years, no one is going to even know I was on the team. Okay, Giants fans might remember, because they really love their team! But most people will not know who I am.

When I stand before my God and King, and He looks at me from the throne, what is He going to say? Not, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you won three World Series, congratulations!” That is not what He will say! And it’s not what I want to hear.

I want to hear Him say, “Jeremy, thank you. Thank you for promoting the Gospel. Thank you for taking the least of these and loving them. Thank you for using your talents to love other people, and for using your success to help other people succeed. Thank you, Jeremy, for joining the movement of people devoted to loving their neighbor as themselves.”

I want to hear that because that’s how I read the Gospel. I read in Matthew 25 about the separation of the sheep and goats, and I hear Jesus say that when you feed the hungry and give the thirsty something to drink, you will go into eternal life. You will be righteous if you do these things. If you do not do these things, you will miss the boat. I can’t read it any other way.

So think about that when you go to work. Students, when you’re in school, think about that. Take that passion you have for your neighbor and bring it to your job or your classroom, and join the movement. Because it’s stirring. It’s stirring in you, and it’s stirring in the world. This is our calling as a Church.

When I talk about Church, I’m not talking about the four walls of a building. I’m not talking about a Presbyterian church, or a Baptist church, or a Catholic, or Evangelical Free, or non-denominational church. I’m not talking about any of that. We need to unify, but I don’t see a need for everyone to unite in one denomination. That wouldn’t make any sense! We need diversity. Every believer needs to be able to go to the church where they were saved.

No, no. I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about uniting in our calling. I’m talking about uniting in our mission. I’m talking about unity of purpose, about bringing the Kingdom of righteousness and justice.

If we follow the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength by loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we will unify the church. It’s in this commandment that we experience ourselves as one church. We are the body of Christ, and we have one calling. We are called to love.

When I stand before God’s throne, I hope to hear Him thank me for joining His movement, because this movement of love will unify the church.

See you Monday.

Why Should Christians Fight Human Trafficking?

I mentioned last time that in my early experience, suburban churches were slow to respond to social justice issues like human trafficking. But I have seen that change. Churches are increasingly getting involved.

The Church is called to make Jesus visible in the world, and we do this by doing what He did. We are the sons and daughters of the King, so we do battle for the Kingdom. We bring righteousness and justice. We bring mercy and truth!

I think this is why churches are increasingly starting up trafficking missions, along with hunger initiatives, water initiatives, mental health initiatives, homelessness initiatives, help for orphans, and help for refugees.

Bay Area churches tend to be more aware of trafficking issues because the Bay Area really has a problem with it. Also, the Not For Sale Campaign has been very successful in getting the word out, and is able to use its influence to mobilize people. Bay Area churches and their youth groups have started taking the initiative, talking about trafficking and working on solutions.

Churches increasingly have human trafficking missions, and these missions are really, really good. I’ve been invited into a lot of different churches in California, and I have really enjoyed the time I’ve spent with them, seeing what they are doing. It’s inspiring!

I used to have to go around and ask churches to get involved, but now a lot California churches come to me and say, “Hey, we’re trying to start a justice mission in our church. We’d really like to hear your views on human trafficking, because we really want to encourage our congregation to fight harder.” Near the end of my baseball career, I had so many invitations to speak that I had to turn some down. Awareness is definitely spreading! And now that I’m retired, I can accept more invitations to speak. I get to continue being part of this awesome work that God is doing.

But we’re still at a stage where churches are trying to educate their congregations. Churches are still trying to help people understand how important it is to fight trafficking. Some churches are still trying to get their elders to see how important this is.

I’m happy to see churches making the effort to launch these missions and gain some momentum. I really am! But if you think about it, they shouldn’t have to try.

Churches shouldn’t have to convince their congregations, or their elders, that fighting trafficking is important. It’s important! It should be obvious that believers are going to be in on the fight. Period. Slavery is not Jesus. If you are part of a church, or you are a pastor, then you should be part of freeing the captives. No question, no debate. Freeing the captives is Jesus.

I’m telling you, when the Church unites to do Jesus, everything is going to click. When the Church unites to reflect Jesus into the world, then we will be able to see Him. And that is when He will return. Don’t you want that? I know I do!

If we continue to narrow our focus to our own programs, our own suburbs, our own communities, then we’ll never unite. All we’ll end up saying is, “Hey, this is my church. Stay away.”

The unification of the church does not mean giving up our denominational identities. It just means that we should all be on the same page on certain issues: issues of righteousness and justice. These are the foundation of the throne of God!

See you Thursday.

The Program is Jesus

As Christians, our calling is to make Jesus visible by reflecting Him into the world. So just like Jesus, we should want to live for other people. We should look at the least among us and say, “I’m going to live to provide for you.”

We need to build up struggling communities, in the US and outside of it. We need to help them become self-sustaining. No one should ever be so poor that they have to sell their kids. Children should not have to take jobs that put them at risk. Imagine a 10 year-old trying to sell gum on the street corner to get money for food, only to be grabbed and sold as a slave. What are they going to do? They’re 10! They’re not strong. They’re scared!

I want to provide opportunities. But I can’t save the world. I’m one person. This is what the Church needs to be doing.

Churches need to expand their focus. It’s okay to focus on building projects. There’s nothing wrong with 5,000-member cathedrals. Some of them have the best sound systems and the coolest giant screens. I’ve visited churches that are up on the best technology possible to run their Sunday programs. And these are great programs!

What happens when someone approaches one of the pastors and says, “You have so much influence here. Will you mobilize your congregation to work on fighting against the traffickers?

I’ve done this, and the answer has been, “No, it’s not one of our programs.”

What? It’s not one of your programs?

Well, I’ve thought about this. And you know what? These pastors are right. Fighting trafficking is not one of the Church’s “programs.” Fighting trafficking is Jesus. Jesus is the vision. Jesus is the one and only “program.”

Sometimes the answer has been,”Well, we’re trying to raise money for our sound system so we can have better acoustics.” Or, “We’ve got this nice sound system, but we’ve got other different types of programs. We’re trying to help our congregation become better people.”

Do you know what’s going to help your congregation become better people? Help them do Jesus. Key in on what’s going on in your towns and cities, and in the world, and live Jesus!

Now I’m not saying that if you don’t choose to fight human trafficking, then you’re not Jesus. I’m saying there are a lot of issues going on out there, beyond the bounds of our suburbs. When did your community become the only one you care about? “Well, I’m called to this suburb.” What? No! You’re called to live like Jesus!

How about using your resources to bring your community into the fight against human trafficking? How about mobilizing your congregation to participate in hunger initiatives? Why not work to build wells? You obviously have great resources. Why not use them to create sustainability for people who are trapped by poverty? Set the captives free!

This is what the Church is called to do. We’re called to represent Jesus, who healed the sick. We’re called to represent Jesus, who set the captives free. We’re called to represent Jesus, who fought for truth. Truth sets people free! We have got to do Jesus in the world.

I’m not shaming you for your beautiful building, your 5,000 people, and your state-of-the-art sound system. It’s great! It means you have awesome resources! I’m just asking you to utilize these resources to make Jesus visible by doing what He did. Your congregation has built this church for you because they respect your voice. Mobilize them to fight for freedom, healing, and sustainability. That’s the program. Jesus.

There have been times when I’ve asked congregations to join in the fight to end human trafficking, and they have actually said, in so many words, “No, it’s not part of our program.” But that is changing. More and more, churches are getting involved.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Preaching Justice by Meeting a Need

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face. (Psalm 89:14)

The psalm says that righteousness and justice are the foundation of the throne of God. The foundation! But we don’t preach justice.

We preach righteousness, alright. We’re all over that. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear about righteousness. But we don’t preach justice.

We do small missions. Short term missions. And that’s justice? A church group goes to some poor area and builds a building that the local community can’t afford to maintain. What happens? It becomes a pile of junk. In no time.

They build a house for someone who cannot sustain it, and then they say, “We did a good deed.” They built what they wanted to build. Then they sat back and said, “Look what we did.” They called it their short term mission, because they did it in Jesus’s name. They actually said Jesus’s name. But that’s not Jesus! You know why? Because they didn’t ask the community, “What do you need?”

Jesus asked people, “What do you need?” And then He fulfilled their needs. He asked the man at the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be healed? Is that your need”? Jesus knew it was! Obviously it was. But notice that Jesus asked.

And the sick man said yes. He said, ”Yes, I need to be healed. I’ve been like this for 38 years, but I can’t get close to the water.” So Jesus said, ”Okay, well just pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was healed.

This is what Jesus did! He met people’s needs. The disciples went to Him and said, “These people are hungry, Jesus!” And Jesus said, “Oh, they’re hungry?” “Yes,” the disciples said. “Okay,” said Jesus. “Give me those loaves and fish.” Boom! He fed every one of them. Food left over. He met their needs.

After He met their needs, He spoke to them. After He met their needs. Jesus knew what people needed to hear. He knew! He could have just said it. But He didn’t start with that. He met their needs first, and then He spoke to them.

There are millions of people in this world who need to be rescued from human trafficking. They need to find Jesus! So go and meet their needs. Rescue them. Then you can tell them all about Jesus.

What happens when you don’t ask what people need? What if you go on the street and pass out a pamphlet talking about Jesus Christ? What if you hand one to a sex slave and their pimp’s watching? That slave does not care about your pamphlet. They are trying to turn a trick and get some money, so they don’t get beat up that night. What are they going to say to a pamphlet? “Thank you”? No! Because a pamphlet is not going to keep them from getting whipped.

What’s worse, that girl or boy is going to say to you, “I need to meet your need. I have to get some money.”

You have to start with their need. Rescue them. Tell them, “No, I want to meet your need, child. I want to get you out of this. I am going to rescue you from this. After that, I’ll tell you why I rescued you. I did it because I love you. My love comes from a man named Jesus Christ. He loved you so much that He died, so that you could be free.

That’s grace. That’s Jesus. That’s the vision.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.