Bags of Dreams

Bags of GoldAgain, [the kingdom of heaven] will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. Matthew 25:14-18

Have you read this parable? When the master returns, he generously rewards the two servants who doubled their bags of gold. But it wasn’t a happy ending for the one that buried his gold in the ground. To that servant the master said, “You have done evil! I’m taking your one bag of gold away! I’m going to give it to the guy with ten bags, because he multiplied his giftings.”

The very next thing Jesus talks about is the sheep and the goats. He talks about those who saw Him hungry and fed Him, or saw Him naked and gave Him clothes to wear. So to me, the parables of the bags of gold and the sheep and goats go hand in hand. We should invest the gold we have been given in order to feed Jesus and give Him clothes. The servants who invested the gold are the sheep and the one who buried his gold is the goat.

There’s a reason why we need to strive to make a quality investment with our life!

In order to do that, we have to dream really, really big. We have to dream, because there are kids out there who don’t get to dream. There are countries, whole social areas, where people don’t get to dream. No matter how much they want to dream, it will be impossible until someone – you, me, every Christian – helps them bring justice to their situation. Unless that happens, it will be impossible for them ever to accomplish their dreams.

I’ve had the ability to dream. And I’ve had the ability to accomplish my dreams. And I’m not done accomplishing my dreams. My dreams go so much further than being a professional athlete. You know what? They go so much further than being a World Series champ. My dream is to become a complete human being.

My dream is to know that when I die, people will say, “Man, that guy loved his neighbor as himself. He did what he could with what he had to bring other people’s dreams to fruition.” That’s my goal.

And I think it has to happen. I have my bags of gold, and I want to invest them and multiply them. I want to take what I’ve been given as a human being and put it to work so that I can become the greatest human being I can be. I can do that by knowing that when someone needed my help to accomplish their dreams, I was able to help them in that.

That is what a humanitarian does. That is what a human being does. That is my dream.

What is your dream?

See you Monday.

Be Encouraged

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope. Romans 15:4

If you actually look at what’s going on in the world, it’s hard to feel encouraged. Given the standards of the United States of America and what it costs to live here, we’re in turmoil. We have a crisis going on. And in so many other places in the world, things are a lot worse. At least here in the US you can go to a drinking fountain and get fresh water, and just drink. If you needed to, you could probably go into some restaurant bathroom and take toilet water in a cup and drink it. It would still be good. It would take care of you. It wouldn’t give you a disease.

There are real issues with poverty in America. I definitely see that, and I want to help. I don’t forget that I was born here for a reason. But at the same time, I see a lot of suffering everywhere. So sometimes, it’s hard for me to feel encouraged. It’s so discouraging to realize that there are so many people in the world that can’t even get good drinking water.

be-encouraged

It’s not like the scriptures aren’t encouraging. The Bible is full of encouragement! I’m also encouraged by who I am, a child of God. I’m encouraged in my family. My family is healthy, my sons are awesome and they are going to be great, and God has taken care of us. I don’t have a hard time sleeping at night, wondering who is going to pay the bills. I don’t have that issue. I’m encouraged by my readers and your comments, too. I’m encouraged in many ways.

But I am not self-absorbed. I also have a heart for the people.

Christians are lovers of humanity. That’s who we are supposed to be. We’re supposed to help one another. We’re even supposed to love our enemies, even though it’s really hard to love them when you see what they are doing to people around the world. So how do we help and love one another, even our enemies, and how do we do it well? How do we do it without judgment or condemnation?

Sometimes I think, “God, that’s impossible for me. For You it’s possible, but for me it’s not.” And yet He tells me, “Jeremy, with Me all things are possible. If you have Me in your life, the answer is yes. You can do it. For those who are not believers in Me, or who are not led by my Spirit, love for the enemy is not possible. But for you? It’s possible. You are to show that it is possible. You are to show that your joy does not come from what you can see, but from what you cannot see.”

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

Be encouraged. People everywhere in the faith are going through these same things, but we know that God is at work. When you start looking at the world through scripture, through the eyes of Jesus, you will feel the joy of what you cannot see. And you will be encouraged.

See you Thursday.

Let’s Do Something!

Last time I wrote about being a man after God’s own heart. I want my works to represent Him. I want to love on people, and bring them joy. I want to bring justice where there is hunger, enslavement, sickness, loneliness, and fear. I strive to do these things, and I repent when I mess up.

I also want to help everyone see that we can make a huge difference when our works represent Him. We can bring justice to the suffering by loving them as we love ourselves. We can smile on them with the smile of Jesus. We can let them feel the warmth and love that He shows us. We can do that.

But sometimes it’s hard to get people moving. I speak about human trafficking or various hunger scenarios, and people get so enthusiastic! They say, “Hey man, preach it, Brother!” And I say, “Yeah! So tell me, what are you going to do?” And they say, “Oh, you know, I’ll pray for them.”

Pray for them? They’re starving to death! What is there to pray about? This is scripture! Jesus says to love your neighbor as yourself. Love your neighbor. So I don’t want us to just pray about it. I want us to help do it.

I know I’m being impatient. It’s just that I know how we go to church, preach and pray, and talk about how we need to help. But then we can go home and have a family, and we can go home and sit on our couches and watch TV, and we can go home and watch our kids play in the backyard.

I know people that can’t even meet in a church building without fear of being put into prison. I know people that can be walking home from a church gathering fearing that militiamen will come by and swipe them up — or shoot them. They’re so worried about getting trafficked. They’re so worried about guys like Joseph Kony kidnapping them and making them shoot people. They’re so worried about drinking water that is making them sick. And they’re wondering, “Am I going to have to eat dirt today, or is someone going to be awesome enough to make sure I have a bowl of rice?”

We can go home and enjoy our families and our lives, and they are the blessings of God. I don’t take them for granted. We are His beloved children. But people living in fear or coping with disease and food insecurity are God’s beloved children too. They are made in His image, and they have worries we can’t imagine. How are they supposed to use their giftings? How are they supposed to reflect God?

Understanding the suffering of God’s beloved children is the source of my greatest pain. It frustrates me that they suffer while we relax and talk about how blessed we are. It grieves me.

I know that if I walk into a church and talk with this kind of zeal, I might not get the response that I hope to get. They might try to push me to the edge of the cliff. Maybe they’ll even try to make me walk off of it! (Luke 24:28-30)

So how do I get people moving?

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.

Justice Fighters

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?”

Helping-HandsThink 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 finish the battle. 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.

We Are Justice Makers

Justice is making things right. Still, you might feel that no matter how much you do, no matter how many days you put in at the soup kitchen or how many blankets you crochet for refugees, it will never be enough. The need is so great. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

Think about the courts. Since the birth of this nation, they’ve been trying to create justice. That doesn’t mean there is no crime! They’ll tell you that making things right is an ongoing commitment. When Jesus was walking the streets with the disciples, He responded to a lot of poverty. People were hungry and thirsty. They were impoverished and enslaved. And when He left the Earth, it was not over. He didn’t end it while He was here.

just feed oneEven when you go to a soup kitchen day after day, and the line of people needing your help never ends, you are doing justice. When you feed one hungry person, you have still ended hunger, even if it’s only for one meal. That person was really hungry and she really needed that meal.

People who love Jesus fight for justice. It’s what we do. Loving Jesus is our identity, and we do things out of our identity. So when you love Jesus, you work to make things right.

Eventually it will end. When Jesus returns He will end it. No more pain. No more sorrow. No more trafficking. No more hunger. No more thirst. No more homelessness. No more sin. He’ll end it.

But as long as sin is on this Earth, there will be injustice. As people that live in the identity of who Jesus is, we have to live IN justice. So where there is injustice, we bring justice. Does that mean we will end all injustice? No! But that’s not why we do it. We walk the Earth as God’s people, living in righteousness and truth, and we make things right.

That is who we are.

See you Thursday.