Relationships of Service

I think it’s very important to serve.

My “No Man” tattoo is a symbol. It’s my way of saying, “This is the best way I know to love my neighbor as myself.”

There are all kinds of tattoos that do the same thing. Everywhere, you see tattoos that symbolize something somebody read in the Bible, or in another spiritual book. It all boils down to one thing. Service.

It all boils down to living for other people. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what He has called us to do.

If I had to tie up the gospel of grace into one simple statement, it would be, “don’t live for yourself.” The gospel is all about living for other people. It’s about being a servant to those around you.

It’s about being encouraging! The gospel talks about the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Every one of those fruits grows from not living for yourself.

And it’s not easy. To live with patience is very hard to do. But the gospel encourages us. The gospel sustains us. Take a close look at the times you’ve lost patience with people. It’s because you were being selfish, right?

Maybe sometimes we find it hard to serve people because we don’t have goodness, or we’re not feeling particularly thankful, or we don’t have self-control, or we don’t have joy.

But why don’t we have those things? I think if we really examine ourselves and our lives, we’ll realize that it’s because we’re living for ourselves. The more we live out of selfishness, the less joy we have. When we live for ourselves instead of the people around us, we are less thankful. We have less to be thankful for! We’re less loving. We’re more controlling.

When we live for ourselves instead of the people around us, the things of the flesh tend to creep up on us. Impatience, ingratitude, selfishness, lack of self-control, a need to control others, etc., are all the opposite of the spirit. Flesh is selfish and self-centered, while our spirit is very servant-oriented. Our spirit is good. It’s made in God’s very own image! Our spirit is about giving back. Our spirit is about trying to figure out what other people need.

We can’t do this without putting aside some time to understand our own needs. Your needs should be met. You are a human being, after all!

But I think it’s very important to serve others first. Then, hopefully, the people you serve will serve you back.

Think about that. By serving others, you create relationships of service. The people you serve are meeting your needs, and you’re meeting theirs. You know what that is? That’s living life!

Have I tempted you to get “No Man Shall Live For Himself” tattooed on your forearm? I wouldn’t mind! Hopefully you’ll do it because you’re joining the movement. Tattoo or not, I hope you’re thinking about joining the movement.

See you Tuesday.

The Gospel Truth

From noon to three, the whole earth was dark. Around midafternoon Jesus groaned out of the depths, crying loudly, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

Some bystanders who heard him said, “He’s calling for Elijah.” One of them ran and got a sponge soaked in sour wine and lifted it on a stick so he could drink. The others joked, “Don’t be in such a hurry. Let’s see if Elijah comes and saves him.”

But Jesus, again crying out loudly, breathed his last.

At that moment, the Temple curtain was ripped in two, top to bottom. There was an earthquake, and rocks were split in pieces. What’s more, tombs were opened up, and many bodies of believers asleep in their graves were raised. (After Jesus’ resurrection, they left the tombs, entered the holy city, and appeared to many.)

The captain of the guard and those with him, when they saw the earthquake and everything else that was happening, were scared to death. They said, “This has to be the Son of God!” Matthew 27:45-54

We all make mistakes. We’re only human! But we’re also forgiven. When we mess up, we don’t have to live in guilt. Jesus is right there. He lives in us, and He walks through the mess with us.

I know we forget that. We keep expecting ourselves to be perfect, and we keep trying to perfect ourselves for God. I can almost see God shaking His head. He’s saying, “These guys! They actually think they’re going to get rid of sin so that I’ll be close to them! Don’t they know? By the time they get rid of one sin, they’ve already sinned again, in some other way! Curing their own sin is going to be literally impossible for them!”

There’s no way that God would expect us to perfect ourselves. It doesn’t make sense that He would, because it can’t be done! But there’s another reason why He doesn’t expect it. It renders the power of the cross obsolete.

Think about that Temple curtain. The only way that anyone could enter the Holy of Holies was if they had no sin. What if the priest had a bad thought before he walked into that tent? Talk about fear! That’s fear.

We don’t live under fear anymore. We don’t. Jesus took away our reason for fear when He died and the Temple curtain was ripped in two. The very thing that required perfection was split in half, and Jesus said, “That’s over. You walk freely now.”

Now there is no shame. Jesus took it, man! He took your shame! Think about it. If I’m Jesus, and I’m getting mocked, I’m not putting up with it. I’m getting off that cross so that I can scare the hell out of everybody.

But Jesus put up with it. He did it for you! He knew He could get off that cross, but He said no. He hung there instead, and He took all the shame. They spit on Him. They mocked Him. They beat Him. They laughed at Him. And the whole time He said, “I’m taking all this on me. Because 2,000 years from now, I’m going to live in you. I’m going to be right there with you when you start to wonder what you’re doing in life, and if you add up. I’m dying on this cross to let you know that you do. You add up. You’ve done nothing on your own to prove it. Nothing. I’ve done it all. I’m the point system for you now, and it’s all good. You are free!”

That’s the Good News. And that’s truth. That’s truth!

See you Monday.

The Hole in Our Gospel

I’m so grateful for all the new visitors to my blog in the last few days! I thought, out of the nearly 500 posts I’ve written, which one would I want new readers to see first? Which one will tell you, in a few short paragraphs, what my blog and my upcoming second book are about? Which one will show you the direction I hope to take in my next phase of life? And I settled on this one. Please give it a read. Please stay connected to me. Please join the movement!

If you went to the Bible and removed all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping the really vulnerable, like orphans, you would leave a gigantic hole in the Christian Gospel. That is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. Stearns also says that this is basically what Christians have done.

We skip reading those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios, and we’re big into asking how Jesus can help me in my life. We use the Bible to find out how we’re going to be better and how we’re going to excel in life with Jesus. Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.

But how does that relate to what Jesus said: that all the law can be summed up in love your neighbor as yourself? In our “best life now” scenarios, we lose that. We’re not loving our neighbor.

Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. When you read statistics on poverty, you don’t feel like you can help. When you read how bad these issues are, everywhere in the world, you wonder, “What can my one dollar really do? Or my fifty cents, or my five dollars, or even my five hundred dollars?”

Stearns shows how the statistics can be overwhelming, deceiving, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, and that’s trying to figure out a way to alleviate poverty.

And then he shows how effective we can be. He shows how we can alleviate poverty. We do it as the body of Christ. We do it as His Church.

Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about the early church, and what Jesus tried to do. This is why Christians came together as churches in the first place.

But in the Western church today, we get into our own little bubbles. We create these mega-churches. They offer yoga classes, Starbucks in the lobby, all these things intended for the comfort of their own people. I understand the importance of discipling, but the impression these mega-churches give is that they only care about themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.

We’re supposed to be a church as a whole, a church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to go out into the communities of the world to figure out who needs help. And then we’re supposed to get together and help!

Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage and bring joy where there is none.” And when He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s our fulfillment in Christ. That’s our real “best life now” scenario.

Who is with me?

See you Thursday.

The Hole in Our Gospel

If you went to the Bible and removed all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping the really vulnerable, like orphans, you would leave a gigantic hole in the Christian Gospel. That is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. Stearns also says that this is basically what Christians have done.

We skip reading those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios, and we’re big into asking how Jesus can help me in my life. We use the Bible to find out how we’re going to be better and how we’re going to excel in life with Jesus. Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.

But how does that relate to what Jesus said: that all the law can be summed up in love your neighbor as yourself? In our “best life now” scenarios, we lose that. We’re not loving our neighbor.

Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. When you read statistics on poverty, you don’t feel like you can help. When you read how bad these issues are, everywhere in the world, you wonder, “What can my one dollar really do? Or my fifty cents, or my five dollars, or even my five hundred dollars?”

Stearns shows how the statistics can be overwhelming, deceiving, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, and that’s trying to figure out a way to alleviate poverty.

And then he shows how effective we can be. He shows how we can alleviate poverty. We do it as the body of Christ. We do it as His Church.

Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about the early church, and what Jesus tried to do. This is why Christians came together as churches in the first place.

But in the Western church today, we get into our own little bubbles. We create these mega-churches. They offer yoga classes, Starbucks in the lobby, all these things intended for the comfort of their own people. I understand the importance of discipling, but the impression these mega-churches give is that they only care about themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.

We’re supposed to be a church as a whole, a church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to go out into the communities of the world to figure out who needs help. And then we’re supposed to get together and help!

Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage and bring joy where there is none.” And when He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s our fulfillment in Christ. That’s our real “best life now” scenario. Who is with me?

See you Thursday.

Feed the Hungry and Be Fulfilled

We did not choose to be born in America. I could have been born in Uganda. Or I could have been born in Haiti. I respect that I was born in America.

But we weren’t born here because we’re lucky. We were born here because we are blessed.

We are blessed to be born in a country where we have freedom and prosperity. We are blessed to have the opportunities that freedom and prosperity make possible. I know some people think we’re not prosperous. We hear a lot of concern about the economic crisis. But unless you’re making less than four dollars a day, you’re making more money than 90% of people in the world make.

loaves and fishesI can guarantee that people in third world countries are not looking at us and saying “Oh, poor America.” They’re not doing that. We’re in economic crisis and they’re fighting to get here! Even if you’re homeless in America, you’ll find water that’s better than what they’re drinking in parts of Uganda! Maybe there are Ugandans or Haitians that say, “If I have to be homeless and all I can do is drink water, I might as well be homeless in America and drink good water. This water I’m drinking now is killing me.”

Thanks to our abundance, we have an opportunity to help. That’s why we’re so blessed. I think that God looks at all His children and says, “Those of you in this part of the world are doing very, very well. But there’s a part of Me over here that is not.” When you don’t help out with the part of God that is not doing all that well, you’re basically turning your back on Him. You’re saying, “You know what? I’ve got my own thing to do.” You’re becoming selfish. And selfishness is not of God.

Essentially, everybody has a broken spirit. Whether you are the richest man in the world or not, you still need the love of Jesus. You still need to be saved. You still need to have the blood of Jesus on your life. And when you share the love that is shared in feeding someone who is hungry, you have done the act of Jesus. That’s where Jesus says, “You have not only fed me, you have been me.” And I think that is so important to understand.

Jesus went to the people that were hungry. He took a couple of loaves and a few fish and He fed five thousand people who were hungry. And He did it for such a simple reason. He did it because they were hungry!

And when He was here, He said, “I am It. I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one gets to the Father except through me. I am Truth, and truth shall set you free.” And if you’re going to turn your back on Him, and you don’t care about the person that’s hungry, then your mind’s not in the right spot. You’re actually doing the exact opposite of what’s going to fulfill you.

Selfishness is very shallow. Pridefulness is very shallow. Making sure that you are taken care of is actually a shallow life. But when you take care of somebody else, you have created joy. You have put a smile on somebody else’s face. When you feed other people, you don’t feel hungry. Not at all. You are fulfilled. You don’t feel hungry because you didn’t need to be hungry. You were fulfilled by helping others who were hungry.

Taking care of somebody else will satisfy your soul. And I think that is the greatest thing ever.

Blessings to you. See you Thursday.

The Least of These

Throughout my baseball career, God has continually increased my role in Christian social justice projects. Due to my participation in hunger and abolition initiatives, and after I saw the joy expressed by Ugandan children over clean, clear water, I read about the judgment of the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25 with fresh eyes. And as I told you last time, this opened me anew to the simple truth of the Gospel. When you accept Christ as your Lord and Savior, and you make that dedication to love the Lord God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, then the Spirit of God becomes alive in you.

That’s when the aroma of Christ will flow out of you. Continue reading