Worshipping the Problem Solver, Part 2

We  often ask God for the things that we want, and we are thankful when we get them. We have all these moments of asking and thanking, asking and thanking. But we don’t remember to have a simple time of adoration for our God.

So I started to do that this year. And I’m continuing to do it. This year’s knee injury came at a really bad time, just as my arm was just starting to feel better, and just as everything was starting to go a little bit better. I had to step back and say, “Abba, Daddy, I need you. I need you to be my strong tower. I need you to be my strength and my deliverer. I need you to be my all-knowing God and remind me that you know everything. Because Abba, Daddy, I feel like I’ve been abandoned.”

And that’s truly how I have felt at times. Sometimes I have to purposefully remember that I have not been abandoned. I’m a member of the family of the King of Kings, to whom He has said, “I am your father. I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

God is for us. He’s for me. There’s this aroma that I have to remember. It’s the aroma of Christ. It’s that feeling that we can trust Him. Our circumstances may not be what we want, but He makes all things work together for good. Trust Him.

It is so difficult at times. I read in scripture to trust the Lord with all my heart, soul, and mind. His Word tells me to lean not on my own understanding. The scripture says trust Him, because in all my ways, He will make my path straight. And I have to say, man, you are right. I can’t lean on my own understanding. Because I don’t understand. I don’t understand why this season went the way it went. Some of you might not understand why your job’s not going the way it’s supposed to be going. Or your marriage isn’t going the way it’s supposed to go. Or school’s not going right. Or things are falling apart. We don’t always understand that. And that is why God says, “Run to me. I am your rock. I am your strong tower. I am the person you can hide in. I will protect you.”

And we have to trust that! We have to! Because if we fight, if we don’t trust God, if we take our own way, then it will get harder. It will.

When I can get into that avenue of trust, sitting, even laying in the sanctuary of my King, then I can say, “Abba, Daddy, you’re right. Your burden is easy and your yoke is light, and I can come to you for rest.” I start to feel the Holy Spirit take over, and my heart fills with joy.

And so that’s been my year. I have had to learn to step back and trust. I have had to learn to lay before my God until my heart opens up and He says, “Yes. Jeremy, that’s what I’m looking for. Trust me. And that truth will set you free.”

If you don’t trust the truth, it can’t set you free.

I have really been tested this year. But I know my God is going to come through. It’s all going to work together for me. I love Him, and I trust Him, and I adore Him, and He is my God and King.

So I’m asking you, trust. If you need Him, if you don’t feel Him, then trust Him. You’ve gotta trust that aroma. I’m not going to guarantee that you will see God right now if you ask Him into your heart. I’m not going to guarantee that you’ll find Him sitting right there on the hood of your car. I’m not going to say that you will hear His audible voice. You won’t necessarily see some bright light. But you will feel Him in your heart. It will heal. Something inside of you will feel real joy. The joy that is true.

And it all comes from trusting. Trusting our King.

Worshipping the Problem-Solver, Part 1

There’s nothing like a tough personal challenge to remind us that we’re only human. Baseball is tough enough without the personal challenges. Mentally it’s difficult. Emotionally it’s difficult. Our blood, sweat, and tears go into this sport. What you don’t see behind closed doors is how human we are. We’re not robots. We don’t like failing. We don’t like losing. And when we see things happen on the field, whether it be our fault or not, it’s very frustrating.

I’ve had a lot of frustration this year. I’ve had a lot of hurt, and not just in my body. My heart’s been hurt. My soul’s been hurt! And it wasn’t something that I was expecting. You come away from a world championship year like we had, and you walk back in expecting to have an awesome season. But it’s been so up-and-down, what with my arm hurting, and then another blowout of another knee.

The theme for me this year has been trust. God has been telling me to trust Him.

Obviously, I started this season trusting Him. Of course I trust God! But He turned up the heat on me. It’s easy to feel the trust when things go our way. When things don’t go exactly as we planned, we find out that trust is really hard. I’m going to be really honest with you. In my flesh, it’s very hard to trust this guy we call God, this God that we don’t necessarily see, or have audible conversations with.

I know His word is true, and I know what my soul feels when I truly trust Him. But still, it’s really hard sometimes.

Jesus says, “I’ve come for those who are sick. Those who are healthy don’t need doctors. I’ve come to heal those who are broken-hearted.” Well, I’ve needed my doctor this year. I really have. I’ve loved Jesus my whole life, and a lot of good things have happened. My bride and I have been married for 16 years. I have three wonderful boys, high energy boys, and yes, they do cause me physical pain sometimes! I’ve had a great career. I’ve had an unbelievable experience in San Fran, and I’ve had great teammates that I truly, truly love. I have all these good things, but there are still times when I need my doctor. Times when I need my daddy. And I feel like I’ve had that this year. I’ve really needed to lean on Him.

I have no problem telling God I’m angry. There might be theology out there that says you can’t do that. But I’m going to tell you right now, I rip my clothes and scream at the King all the time. And it’s okay. Because my heart opens up and He says, “That’s what I’m looking for. Open your heart to me. I want to heal it, and I will, as long as you can trust me.”

No one said being a Christian is easy. No one said that if you became a Christian, all your problems go away. I read something the other day that I will never forget. It said, when you start looking at all your problems, remember to start worshipping the problem-solver. That was huge for me. That’s been my year. In this scenario of trust that God asked me to walk in, He said to me, “You need to learn to adore me more.”

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

A Man After God’s Own Heart

Take a good look at who Jesus was. He never condemned anybody. He loved everybody. And He brought joy to the people He was with.

That’s what I’m trying to do. I want to be a different kind of baseball player. Of course I want to be a guy that makes lots of money, but not to have seven houses and six yachts and eighteen cars. I earn as much as I can for a different reason. I want to make money because it means I can help people that need to be helped. It means I can love people and bring them joy, just the way that Jesus did.

Of course, Jesus is God, so He’s perfect. I don’t expect myself to be perfect. Trust me, I know I’m not perfect. I mess up. I strive to live a life that is Christ-like, but I feel a lot like Paul did in his letter to the Romans. He said, “Why do I always do the things I don’t want to do, and the things I want to do, I don’t do? Because there’s a battle living inside of me and it’s called sin.” (see Romans 7:15-25)

That’s me! I’m always doing things I don’t want to do, and not doing the things I want to do. But I also live by Paul’s words in Romans 8: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives you life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” (8:1-2)

When I mess up, I feel repentant like David. I want to tear my clothes! Instead I say, “I’m sorry. I’m trying to live my life the way that You’ve asked me to, and I messed up. Help me and guide me. Help me to hear You and not be in my own selfish thoughts.” And because there is no condemnation, He helps me. Jesus is the savior of my life!

Because of his repentant heart, David gets called “a man after God’s own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22) That’s what I strive to be: a man after God’s own heart. And I try to encourage others to be that way. As an athlete and believer, I’m trying to be a man after God’s own heart. In my circle, when people look to me, that’s what I want them to see. I don’t want them to see someone who’s working for their salvation. No, no. I want them to see someone who says, “You know what? Because I am saved, my works will represent Him.”

That’s what I’m about, and I that’s what I’m trying to get young people to be about. What you do in life will represent Christ because of who you are. Whatever your giftings are, whatever your talents are, you represent Him. Be a believer after God’s own heart.

Identity in Christ

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance. Galatians 4:4-7

When I say that my identity is in Christ, what do I mean? It means I am a child of God. As Paul said in his letter to the Galatians, because of the blood of Jesus I have been adopted by God. I am God’s child, and His heir. That makes me a co-heir with Christ. This is who I am. It’s my identity.

My actions and thoughts flow from this identity. I do what I do because of who I am. In the same way, Jesus did what He did because of who He was. He performed signs and wonders because that’s who He was. Jesus said, “Hey, I do these things because I saw my Father do them.” Jesus reflected God in everything He did.

Child of GodI see how Jesus reflected God and I try in the same way to reflect Jesus. I’m passionate about social justice because Jesus was passionate about it. Jesus walked the streets, taking care of people who were poor, sick, and outcast. I try to follow His example. I try to take care of people in my world who are poor and suffering.

Unlike Jesus, I mess up! And I have to say I’m sorry, seek forgiveness, and then keep trying. But I am sure of God’s love. He loves me just as I love my own sons. It’s a love that doesn’t stop, not for any reason. I am a child of God.

I don’t help people who are poor in order to build my resume. I don’t need to submit an application to the Kingdom. I don’t feed the hungry or rescue slaves so that God will say, “Let me save this guy Jeremy. Look what he did.” I don’t do these things in order to ensure my salvation. My salvation is ensured. That is my identity.

I seek justice because I’m living out of my heart. I’m living out of who I am. I’m trying to bring food, clean water, shelter, and freedom to people who will die without it. And I do it because I am filled with His love. That’s the awesome thing about being co-heir to the Kingdom. You know?

What’s in me comes out of me. And what’s in me is my Father. So my actions reflect God. His Holy Spirit is in me, and the Spirit is telling me, “This is what your Father does. This is how He loves. This is a perfect time to love, Jeremy. So go love.”

That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to go love on someone in need! How about you?

See you Thursday.

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.

I Love Sinners!

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6

It is impossible to please God without trusting Him. And without trust, it’s impossible for your wife to please you. It’s impossible for you to please your wife. It’s impossible for you to please your kids, and it’s impossible for your kids to please you. You can go down the line with this. You need trust in your family. You have to be able to look at them and say, “You’re going to mess up. I know that, and I still love you. Thank you for trusting me. I’m glad you can come to me and tell me how you messed up. I trust you too, so I’m going to tell you how I messed up. I don’t necessarily do everything right, so I’m going to need some grace here. I’m going to need some forgiveness. I’m going to need some mercy. Can you extend that to me? I am a good person. I am holy and righteous in Jesus Christ.”

This is what should be happening in the church. This is the culture that the church should nourish, if it wants to thrive. Why do so many kids leave the church before they get to college? Why is the Christian church getting smaller by the day? It’s because people don’t trust each other. They judge each other. It is a drag. You have to perform, acting like everything is always great and you never make any mistakes. It is very, very exhausting.

Hanging out with non-believers can be a pretty different experience. They’re not living a moral life, so they don’t condemn you. Sometimes you feel more freedom around them than around believers, because you’re not being judged. You’re trusted. You’re just being. It’s refreshing!

I am righteous and holy, and I like to sit with non-believers. I’m not going to say, “Oh, I can’t hang around those people. They’re not righteous and holy.” You know what? I believe the aroma of Christ can flow off of them. So I’m going to make sure that they feel loved by me. I won’t partake in their lifestyle choices, and they will see that. But I’m still going to love on them and have fun with them. I’m going to make them feel comfortable. They’re going to trust me, and I’m going to trust them. We’re going to talk, and we’re going to be real.

And the next thing you know, they’re going to say, “Man, it is really a joy to be around you! I don’t have to get drunk, and I don’t have to sleep with you. I don’t have to do all that to be accepted. I can just be around you and I’m comfortable!” Or they might say, “I don’t have to brag about how many girls I’ve slept with, or how many guys I’ve slept with, or how drunk I can get on the weekends. I don’t have to brag about all of that stuff to you to feel accepted. You just accept me for who I am!” And then I can say, “Yeah! I love you man!”

When I say that, they’re going to ask why. “Why do you love me?” And I can say, “Because I’ve got Jesus, man. And I love you with the love of Jesus. And Jesus loved the sinners. He loved them!”

Back in the day, that’s how the church grew. It grew daily because of all the trust. People said, “We’re serving each other, man. You have a problem? We’re going to love on you. We’ll pray about it. We’ll ask God what to do. We’ll talk about it. But we’re not going to hide from it. We’re not going to make you hide from it. We’re not going to cause you to live in shame, and we don’t want to be ashamed of you. We live in freedom!”

And I’m telling you, this is what we are called to do. This is what the church is called to do. This is relationship.

Next time, I’ll tell you a little bit about how this looks in friendship. See you Monday.

Why Did You Feed Me?

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 2 Corinthians 2:14-15

I would like to encourage you to think about your purpose in life. It took me a few years to figure out mine. Perhaps I can save you some time! After a lot of frustration and failure, and many conversations with God, I learned that my purpose for being on earth is to love my neighbor as myself. This is a mentality that will change your entire life. Continue reading