Knowing You Are Loved

Our society deals with a lot of hurt and suspicion, right? So how can you let people know that you truly love them? How can you let them know that they can trust your love? Well, how did people know that Jesus loved them? Why did people trust His love?

One reason was His servant leadership. Jesus served people!

When your wife feels loved, it’s because you served her, right? The dishes are done, the trash is empty, the cars are clean, and the tanks are full of gas. These things make her feel loved, man. Instead of looking at a never-ending pile of chores and feeling overwhelmed, she feels loved.

You serve her when you tell her how beautiful she is. You serve her when you let her know how important she is to your life. These things encourage her. That’s service! And when you tell her these things, you’re being vulnerable with her. You’re being transparent. What about telling her when you’re scared? That’s service, because now you’re asking her to help you. These things make her feel alive, and make her feel like she can make a difference. Those are feelings of being loved. It’s very, very important.

I want to fill my sons’ love cups. When I feel like those cups are full, it’s because I’ve hung out with them. I’ve encouraged them. Their dad’s around them. Their dad smiles at them and loves on them.

Their dad also disciplines them. My sons will hear me say, “You can’t do that.” But they know it’s because I love them. People talk about “tough love,” but tough love isn’t about tearing someone down. Tough love is about giving someone constructive criticism that’s going to make them better. Tough love never loses sight of the image of God that lives in every one of us. Tough love is about recognizing the reality of where someone is, and telling them where they can be. It’s reminding them of who they are, and letting them know, “You’re not there. But you can get there. You have the ability to get there.” You encourage them so that they feel fulfilled. They feel built up. They feel strong.

When I say to my sons, “You can’t do that,” they also hear, “I love you.” They hear, “This is who I think you can become. We can do better. You’re not there yet, but I believe that you can get there.” And then, when they achieve something, I look at them and say, “That’s what I’m talking about. I believe in you. I’ve always known you can do this. I’m so proud of you. I love you.”

That’s love, man, when you feel like you add up in somebody’s eyes. You feel loved when you feel like you can measure up. You feel loved when you can say, “ Man, whenever I’m around this person, I feel like I can achieve greatness.”

Love is based on encouragement. You can know and trust that someone loves you when they are pouring into you, and you’re pouring into them. When somebody encourages you, loves on you, says positive things, and builds you up, you can be sure that you are loved.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

I Will Weep With You

While Jesus was here, incarnate and walking among us, He was the perfect model of servant leadership. He said, “I love people. I was there at the beginning of the world with my Father, and He created man in our image. So when I see things that are going wrong, I want to make them right. As long as I’m walking this Earth, and I see someone that is supposed to be created in our image but is not reflecting that image, I want to heal that wound.”

Last time, I focused on the way that Jesus served when He performed miracles. But Jesus served in so many other ways. For example, He served by teaching. Everywhere He went, He was teaching. When you teach, you take your time, and you give it up for other people. That’s service. And when Jesus went into the Temple, He preached and He loved on people. He served them.

Look at what He did for His disciples. Right before His death, He knelt before them and washed their feet! This surprised them, and Peter even protested, saying, “Master, you wash my feet?” (John 13:3-6) And Jesus said, “Yes, I’m going to wash your feet. I’m going to serve you.”

The ultimate service is the crucifixion, right? Jesus died for us. He died for everyone. He laid down his life even for those people today who think He didn’t exist. And He knew it! He knew what He was doing! That’s service, man! He didn’t sacrifice His life for fame or glory. He didn’t do it so that He could listen to people sit around and talk about how great He was. His life was over. Even though He resurrected, He left the Earth. That was it. It was sacrifice. He chose to do this one great deed, and through it, He saved humanity. That’s service.

And so, for me, that’s why Jesus was It. The one and only. He was transparent. He was vulnerable. He shared Himself with the world, and He exposed Himself to the ultimate pain by hanging on that cross.

He knows our pain, too. Jesus cried. He wept. He wept from His own pain, in the garden. He also wept for the pain of others. When Lazarus was dying, He wept for Mary. He said, “I can see your grief and I can see how painful it is. I understand it, and I’ll weep with you.” Jesus did this knowing full well that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. He wept with Mary because he was transparent and vulnerable. He took on all our pain. He experienced it all. And He shared it, all of it.

Being a servant is understanding and empathizing. Jesus said, “Hey, I see your pain and I feel it. And do I know there’s going to be joy? Yes! Do I know the sun’s going to come up tomorrow? Yes! But you know what? I’m frustrated because you’re frustrated. I’m sad because you’re sad. I’m here and I understand, and I will weep with you.”

When you think about how husbands are supposed to love their wives as Christ loved the church, it’s basically this. It’s serving.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Embracing Failure @TheCauldron

Did you know that I almost quit baseball? My dad helped me stay the course. I wrote about it at The Cauldron for Father’s Day. Here’s a teaser. Click the link at the end to read the full piece!

Mariano Rivera. Babe Ruth. Christy Mathewson. Sandy Koufax.

Jeremy Affeldt?!

Even now, three World Series rings later, it sounds almost comical when I hear my name mentioned among some of the greatest players in baseball history. Those guys were elite, the best of the best; every one of them a Hall of Famer who left his indelible mark on the game. Me? Not so much. Yet when you check the all-time post-season ERA rankings, there I am.

via Jeremy Affeldt Wins By Embracing Failure — The Cauldron — Medium.

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.

Talking to Young People About Drinking

I like the taste of some beers. I really do. I like enjoying a nice beer. It relaxes me and it calms me. Wine does the same thing. That’s why my wife enjoys a glass of wine. It relaxes her, and relieves some of her stress. It eases up her shoulders after a long day. It’s okay to do that.

But you shouldn’t drink to a point where you’re no longer sober-minded. And my sons are going to know that.

If my sons ask me if it’s wrong to drink, I will say, “No. It’s not wrong. If you drink to drunkenness, son, that’s when it is wrong.”

I won’t tell them it’s a sin to drink, because that’s not true. But it is against the law to drink. I’ll tell them about that. I think that angle would work pretty well for most young people. It is illegal, and you’ve got to follow the laws about drinking.

So when my sons turn 16, they might ask me, “Why can’t I have a beer?” I’ll tell them, “In this country, it’s not legal for a 16 year-old to drink beer. That’s why. The Bible says to obey the government that you’re in, and this country, they don’t want you drinking at sixteen years of age.”

be sober

Because here’s another reality: at sixteen, you’ve just started driving. You don’t know whether to make a left turn or a right turn. You’re not even confident enough to know whether to speed up or slow down at a yellow light. So what makes you think that you’re going to make the right decision when you’re sixteen and drunk? If you get drunk and then drive drunk, people can die.

That’s why it’s against the law for teenagers to drink. There are huge decisions involved here, with huge consequences!

The government says that when you turn 21, you’re an adult.  At 21, you are expected to make adult decisions. And an adult decision is a decision that can influence another person’s life. So at 21, you can go ahead and drink. But if you drive drunk, and someone dies, you can be held with adults, and you can be punished as an adult.

I know young people will argue , especially when they reach the age of 18. They’ll say, “I’m 18 years old, so I should be able to make my own decisions.” Right. Because you’re good at that. At 16, 17, 18 years old, you’re telling me that the decisions you make are made with a lot of wisdom. You’ve been through life. You know exactly what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

I know you think you know everything. Well, you don’t. I mean, we all went through it when we were 18. I get it. I understand. But it is what it is. You have to wait until you’re 21. Anyway, when it comes to alcohol, too much of it can cause you to lose self-control, and that leads to bad consequences. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. People see self-control in us when we represent Jesus, and they don’t see Him in us when we lose self-control.

That’s what I’ll tell my sons. Because when you’re 21 boys, you are no longer in my control. When you’re 21, I can’t help you. You’ll be an adult then, making adult decisions. While you’re with me, I’ll give you wisdom. I’ll help you, defend you, and fight for you. But I’m not going to sit there and slap your hand if you have a beer or an alcoholic drink at 21. You can do what you want. Just know that I can’t go to battle for you anymore.

We can tell our children it’s a sin to drink. We can try to control them with fear. But why not relate to them instead, with love and respect? That’s what I want to talk about next time. See you Thursday.

Love in Action

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear!…Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.”

Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove. (James 1:22, 2:14-18)

Love in ActionLet me tell you what I hear James saying here. James is worried about the converts in the churches who say they accept Jesus, but don’t do anything. Maybe they are just quiet, meaning they aren’t out taking care of their neighbor. Maybe they are showing favoritism (2:1-7). They are still reflecting the values and concerns of the world, instead of doing what Jesus asked us to do: renounce the world in order to live with the mentality of God’s Kingdom. To these people James is saying, “You say you’re a Christian, but you act like the world. I say I’m a Christian, and I will act like the Kingdom of God. The world is flesh, and the Kingdom is spirit. You show me what’s more alive.”

James is also worried about people who might say, “I love Jesus. I’m saved,” and then they act in ways that contradict the life we enjoy in God’s Kingdom. They hate, or commit adultery, or lie, or cheat, or steal (2:8-13). When you do that, no one is going to see that you are saved. Do you know what’s going to come out of that? Not the fruits of the Spirit. Not love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control. There is a lot of other stuff that’s going to come out of it, obviously. James also says that sin eventually gives birth to death. So you’ll die, inwardly. You’ll be a shadow person, dead inside, and you won’t reflect Christ at all.

This part of James is controversial, and we sometimes worry about a disagreement between James and Paul. But that’s because we put too much focus on performance. Paul and James see things the same way. God’s grace, freely offered to us, saves us. We can’t save ourselves. Think about the whole New Testament’s message on grace. Think about what Paul says: “The Law is rubbish. I no longer want to perform. It doesn’t make sense.”

You can’t achieve salvation by works (Greek: erga, works, acts, deeds). James knows that. But there will be a judgment. God will look at us and see sheep and goats. If you love your neighbor as Jesus described in Matthew 25, then you’re a sheep. But that’s not performance. That’s living in the Kingdom of God, not performing in order to get in. Love is alive, and where there is life, there is action. That’s why James says, “Faith without works is dead. I’ll show you my faith with works, and you’ll see that it’s alive.”

See you Thursday.

 

 

Your Faith Is Showing

What is the goal of life, the thing most worth striving for? Most people would probably say, “Happiness.”  My answer is a little different.  I strive to know that when I sit in front of the throne of God, He will look at me and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) My faith shows in the things I do. So does yours!

This doesn’t mean that I have a works mentality. I don’t believe my works will get me to heaven. Like Paul, I believe my faith will get me to heaven. (Romans 3:28)

But the works I perform are the result of the faithful life I try to live every day. You can boil my whole theology down to one concept: discipleship. I try to live a life of Jesus.

James, the Brother of Jesus. Italy, artist unknown.

We don’t have to resolve the works/faith “issue,” because when we live the life of Jesus, there is no issue. That’s what you see in James. He said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18)

Some people say that James and Paul were having a disagreement, but they weren’t. They were talking about two different things. When Paul said that you aren’t saved by works, he meant that works alone will not get you into heaven. Paul said, “Look, you’re not going to be able to just do good things and expect to get to heaven. You need to give up your soul.” And in my belief, that’s true. Paul and James agreed on this.

But while Paul was talking about giving up your soul and becoming a believer, James was talking to the believers, the ones that had already given up their souls to God. When James said, “I will show you my faith by my works,” he was talking about the lifestyle that you live when you’re a believer.

What lifestyle was James talking about? Just as Paul said, once you confess that Jesus died for your sins, you are saved. But then what? Do you now say, “Oh, I can just sit around and do whatever I want. My salvation is all about grace, so I can go ahead and live my life just the way I like.”

Paul and James and all the other disciples had one word for that: No! And the proof is in the lives they lived as disciples of Jesus.  They lived lives of sacrifice, and they were persecuted for it. They were definitely not persecuted because they did whatever they felt like doing! They gave their lives to Jesus. They lived the lifestyle of Jesus. They showed us the life of a believer.

It was this lifestyle that got them in trouble. It was a lifestyle that got them crucified upside down. It was a lifestyle that got them thrown into prison. It was a lifestyle that got them stoned to death. The disciples were living a lifestyle that shook people up! They were going into pagan Greece and pagan Rome. They walked into the temples of a ton of different Gods. They walked into places where people were having orgies. They walked into these places and said, “No! No! This is not the lifestyle you are supposed to be living! It’s unfulfilling.”

The disciples showed us how to live. They challenged people’s worldviews. That was their lifestyle. And that’s what James is saying. You show me a believer that has a lifestyle of Jesus. That’s Christianity. But you show me a lifestyle that is without works, a lifestyle where you don’t do anything? You sit around? You accept Christ and then you just sit there and you don’t go out and live for Jesus? That’s not Christianity. You say you have faith, but who can see it? We’re called to so much more.

When you show people your faith through your works, it might change you.  More on this next time.  See you Monday.