Asking for Wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. James 1:5-6

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Romans 8:26

How are we supposed to do justice without judging? I think it becomes clear once we think about what it means to do justice. To do justice doesn’t mean to make judgment calls – and then alienate people with them. To do justice means to make things right. When we see that something is wrong, we have to make it right.

But we have to use wisdom. Think about how many people you’ve met who are angry at the church. I’m talking about the ones who are angry at the church because they’ve been wounded by the church. They aren’t angry because they never went to church. They aren’t angry because they hate God. They are angry because they’ve been wounded by people who claimed to love God, and then judged them. They’re angry because of Christians who pushed them away from God. Judgments came, and they came without wisdom.

I wish I could step in, and reassure them that that’s not who I am. That’s not who Jesus is. We need to ask God for wisdom before we open our mouths.

I think there are a lot of times when Christians intend to do justice and think that making a judgment call is the way to do it. They think they know the difference between right and wrong. Well, maybe they do! But it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t ask for wisdom. If I know a person who is in the wrong, I still need wisdom. If I don’t ask, then how will I know how God wants me to handle that person? If it’s up to me to tell someone that he is wrong, then I need wisdom so that I’ll know how to handle him and make sure he feels loved. If you need to create justice in a situation in someone’s life, then you need to ask for wisdom on how to do that. When you don’t, you might say something to make that person mad – so mad that they push you away, and maybe God too.

We used to live in our flesh, but now we are Christians. Now we live by the Spirit. Our identity is in the Spirit of God. And it is God’s Spirit who brings us wisdom. Always. All we have to do is ask in faith.

It says in Romans that there are times when we don’t even know how to pray. We don’t even know what to pray for. But that’s okay, because the Spirit will help us. He will intercede, with groanings which cannot be uttered. So ask for wisdom, and believe.

See you Thursday.

Leaving the Kingdom Walls

Blessed is the man
Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor stands in the path of sinners,
Nor sits in the seat of the scornful.
Psalm 1:1

I’ve been freed in the last couple of years more than I’ve ever been freed before, because now I understand who I am. I’ve been freed because of grace.

Sometimes Christians that grew up in the church don’t want to hang with non-Christians. They say, “Oh, I’m not supposed to surround myself with people of that nature.” But you can’t tell me that! You can’t tell me that I can’t hang with non-Christians because I’m going to be tempted to be like them. That’s taking the verse out of context. It’s nonsense! I’ve answered the call, man. So I’ve got to leave the Kingdom walls.

It’s only by going outside the Kingdom walls that I will find the people that are hurting. I love Jesus and I follow Him, and Jesus left a pretty awesome spot in Heaven to come down here and deal with us and our sin and shame. Think about it. He left a really awesome spot. And He didn’t do it just to hang out with people who didn’t need Him! He said, “I don’t help the ones that don’t need doctors. I help those who are sick.” (Matthew 9:12) He wasn’t talking only about disease, either. He said He came to help those who are sick. Sick.

We have to do the same as He did. If we don’t go out and hang with those who are sick, then what are we doing? If we don’t go outside the Kingdom walls and say, “Let me tell you about Jesus,” then what are we doing? If we don’t go out there where people are hurting and do something to help them, then what is the point? Loving our neighbors as Jesus loved us is the whole point of life! If there’s no reason to do that, then I don’t need to be here. You might as well just kill me right now and take me home.

But there is every reason to do that. Jesus said, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” And then Jesus said, “And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.Mark 12:28-31

No greater commandment than these. So how could I possibly want to do any less?

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.