United in Love

I do not lie in bed at night saying, “Man, I’m so awesome, I’ve won three world championships! Oh, I’m so cool!” I do not do that.

I don’t go home at the end of the day and say to my three boys, “Hey sons! Tell me what your dad did,” just to hear them say, “Dad! You won three World Series!” I would be so disappointed to hear my kids say that. I don’t want them to say that. I don’t want them to know me as some pro athlete that won a world championship. In five years, no one is going to even know I was on the team. Okay, Giants fans might remember, because they really love their team! But most people will not know who I am.

When I stand before my God and King, and He looks at me from the throne, what is He going to say? Not, “Well done, good and faithful servant, you won three World Series, congratulations!” That is not what He will say! And it’s not what I want to hear.

I want to hear Him say, “Jeremy, thank you. Thank you for promoting the Gospel. Thank you for taking the least of these and loving them. Thank you for using your talents to love other people, and for using your success to help other people succeed. Thank you, Jeremy, for joining the movement of people devoted to loving their neighbor as themselves.”

I want to hear that because that’s how I read the Gospel. I read in Matthew 25 about the separation of the sheep and goats, and I hear Jesus say that when you feed the hungry and give the thirsty something to drink, you will go into eternal life. You will be righteous if you do these things. If you do not do these things, you will miss the boat. I can’t read it any other way.

So think about that when you go to work. Students, when you’re in school, think about that. Take that passion you have for your neighbor and bring it to your job or your classroom, and join the movement. Because it’s stirring. It’s stirring in you, and it’s stirring in the world. This is our calling as a Church.

When I talk about Church, I’m not talking about the four walls of a building. I’m not talking about a Presbyterian church, or a Baptist church, or a Catholic, or Evangelical Free, or non-denominational church. I’m not talking about any of that. We need to unify, but I don’t see a need for everyone to unite in one denomination. That wouldn’t make any sense! We need diversity. Every believer needs to be able to go to the church where they were saved.

No, no. I’m talking about something else. I’m talking about uniting in our calling. I’m talking about uniting in our mission. I’m talking about unity of purpose, about bringing the Kingdom of righteousness and justice.

If we follow the commandment to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength by loving our neighbor as ourselves, then we will unify the church. It’s in this commandment that we experience ourselves as one church. We are the body of Christ, and we have one calling. We are called to love.

When I stand before God’s throne, I hope to hear Him thank me for joining His movement, because this movement of love will unify the church.

See you Monday.

Preaching Justice by Meeting a Need

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne;
Mercy and truth go before Your face. (Psalm 89:14)

The psalm says that righteousness and justice are the foundation of the throne of God. The foundation! But we don’t preach justice.

We preach righteousness, alright. We’re all over that. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear about righteousness. But we don’t preach justice.

We do small missions. Short term missions. And that’s justice? A church group goes to some poor area and builds a building that the local community can’t afford to maintain. What happens? It becomes a pile of junk. In no time.

They build a house for someone who cannot sustain it, and then they say, “We did a good deed.” They built what they wanted to build. Then they sat back and said, “Look what we did.” They called it their short term mission, because they did it in Jesus’s name. They actually said Jesus’s name. But that’s not Jesus! You know why? Because they didn’t ask the community, “What do you need?”

Jesus asked people, “What do you need?” And then He fulfilled their needs. He asked the man at the Pool of Bethesda, “Do you want to be healed? Is that your need”? Jesus knew it was! Obviously it was. But notice that Jesus asked.

And the sick man said yes. He said, ”Yes, I need to be healed. I’ve been like this for 38 years, but I can’t get close to the water.” So Jesus said, ”Okay, well just pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was healed.

This is what Jesus did! He met people’s needs. The disciples went to Him and said, “These people are hungry, Jesus!” And Jesus said, “Oh, they’re hungry?” “Yes,” the disciples said. “Okay,” said Jesus. “Give me those loaves and fish.” Boom! He fed every one of them. Food left over. He met their needs.

After He met their needs, He spoke to them. After He met their needs. Jesus knew what people needed to hear. He knew! He could have just said it. But He didn’t start with that. He met their needs first, and then He spoke to them.

There are millions of people in this world who need to be rescued from human trafficking. They need to find Jesus! So go and meet their needs. Rescue them. Then you can tell them all about Jesus.

What happens when you don’t ask what people need? What if you go on the street and pass out a pamphlet talking about Jesus Christ? What if you hand one to a sex slave and their pimp’s watching? That slave does not care about your pamphlet. They are trying to turn a trick and get some money, so they don’t get beat up that night. What are they going to say to a pamphlet? “Thank you”? No! Because a pamphlet is not going to keep them from getting whipped.

What’s worse, that girl or boy is going to say to you, “I need to meet your need. I have to get some money.”

You have to start with their need. Rescue them. Tell them, “No, I want to meet your need, child. I want to get you out of this. I am going to rescue you from this. After that, I’ll tell you why I rescued you. I did it because I love you. My love comes from a man named Jesus Christ. He loved you so much that He died, so that you could be free.

That’s grace. That’s Jesus. That’s the vision.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

A Savior You Can See

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed. Luke 4:18

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?”

Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” John 8:32-36

Last time we reflected on the parables of Jesus. He told them using familiar scenarios, making the Kingdom of God visible and tangible to the people who listened to Him. In the same way, the righteousness and justice of His throne become visible and tangible through His acts of compassion.

Just as Jesus showed people what the Kingdom really is, we need to show people who Jesus really is. We have to make Him visible and tangible to the world.

He has come to set us free. This is what He says! He says, “I have come to proclaim liberty to the captives.” He says, “I have set you free.”

Freedom is in Christ Jesus! And if freedom is in Him, then freedom is part of what makes Him. Jesus is freedom! Therefore in order to make Jesus visible, we need to show people freedom. We have to literally show them what freedom is.

That’s why I think that Jesus is the frontrunner in the fight against human trafficking. That’s why I think that He wants us to help Him rescue the slaves.

When people are put in bondage, enslaved, that is not freedom! That is not Jesus! So I can’t allow slavery to take place. You see, I have the freedom to do what I want. So if I love my neighbor as myself, and I am free, then shouldn’t I want my neighbor to be free?

We can’t love our neighbors less because they happen to live in areas where slavery is a high risk. They didn’t choose to live there! What about us? Did we choose to be born in America? No! But we still have all the opportunities that come with being American.

And think about this: approximately 250,000 Americans are in slavery right now! Why? Maybe they grew up poor and needed the work, and got caught up in labor trafficking. That’s a nasty cycle that’s almost impossible to escape without help. Or maybe they grew up in a scary home so they ran away, and then, out on the street, someone took them in and said, “Do what I say if you want to live.” They didn’t choose this! They don’t deserve it, any more than I do, or you do. They deserve Jesus, and He came to set them free.

To make Jesus visible in the world, we should help Him bring justice and righteousness. We should join him in doing acts of compassion. Just like Him, we should want to live for other people.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

Justice You Can Hold in Your Hands

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Matthew 13:44-46

Jesus spoke through parables a lot. Some people think His parables were mysterious. They think He used parables in order to obscure His meaning and make the seeker work to find it. But I think that Jesus spoke through parables to make His meaning more accessible to His audience. After all, He used real life scenarios.

The examples from Matthew are a perfect illustration. Jesus would say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who finds a treasure in a field,” or, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls.” These are scenarios that would have been very familiar to His audience. To describe the Kingdom of God, Jesus used stories that referred to things that people would know. He used things that listeners could picture and understand.

This means that the Kingdom of God is tangible. Jesus is saying, “Look. This is what the Kingdom of God is like. It’s actual. You can touch it. You can see it.”

I think the same concrete, tangible meaning runs through all of Jesus’ teaching. When Jesus said, “I’ve come to set the captives free,” there was a literal meaning to that. Now, obviously, most people say, “Yes, Jesus said that, but He was talking about the human heart.” Well, He was. But He was talking about literal captives too.

The Bible says that righteousness and justice are the foundation of God’s throne. (Psalm 89:14). His Kingdom is founded in right living and justice. But what does God’s justice look like? Does it mean that He’s going to come down and destroy everything evil? Does it mean that He’s just going to blow everything up? Does God come saying, “I’m going to put people in prison. They need to go to jail. Justice is going to be served. They are all going to jail.”

I don’t think so. The Psalm also says that mercy and truth go before His face. Mercy and truth are another way of describing righteousness and justice. So justice is acting on compassion. That’s what justice is. Not just having compassion, but acting on it.

This is what compassion looks like:

“Oh, there’s 30 million slaves in the world. Oh, man, that stinks. Oh, wow, I feel bad for all those people, man, that they have to live in that scenario.” That’s compassion. That’s beautiful. But God doesn’t stop there. God acts on His compassion.

God’s justice is active. It is creative. It is doing acts of compassion. This is what an act of compassion looks like:

“Man, 30 million slaves in the world? That stinks! Now let’s do something about it. Because I do not need to hear about this anymore. So, what do we have to do?” We roll up our sleeves, put our minds and resources together, and we get busy. That’s God’s justice.

So, do I think Jesus would be the frontrunner in the fight against human trafficking and the rescuing of slaves? 100% I do!

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

Kingdom Warriors

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?”

Think 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 win the war. Jesus already did that for us. We just have to fight the battles. 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.

Defining Success

I care about people. I love them. I love them because I love the God that created them. He’s the same God that created me. He’s the same God that saved my life! So of course I want to help Him save more lives.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. I want to achieve something not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I’m focused on those who don’t have food or clean water. I’m focused on orphans and victims of human trafficking. Imagine being hungry, or having a contaminated water supply. Imagine what happens to children who don’t have a parent to love them. Imagine what it’s like to be deprived of your freedom! These are the lives I want to help God save. This is my definition of success.

I’d love to see this approach to success take root in society. Go find a random person right now, anywhere you like, behind a desk or on a ball field or in a doctor’s office. Go anywhere you like. Ask them if they get up in the morning and set a goal to achieve something. They’ll probably say yes. But then ask them, do they do it in order to help provide for someone who does not have? Most people are going to say no, I don’t think that way when I set goals.

I’d like to see that change.

I think it starts with kids. When we approach kids with the idea of setting goals to help others, it turns out that they love it! I’ve seen it in my work with the Not For Sale campaign and the Something to Eat campaign. In those organizations, I see kids setting goals to achieve something just so they can help save a life. They say, “I guarantee you I can come up with fifteen cents to feed someone.” Or they say, “I guarantee you I can come up with five cents to help with Not For Sale. In fact, I can do chores and I’ll raise a dollar!” They follow through, too, because for them, helping people in need is a priority.

Involving young people in projects like these is the best way to transform society. We’re helping them see that they can live their entire lives as servant leaders. When they think of success as leadership through service, they get really motivated. They decide to be the best at what they do. They work hard to follow their dreams.

They also realize how big they can dream. Be a CEO! Be an entrepreneur! They’ll dream this big when we help them see how powerful it is to be the one to make the rules. One of those rules can be to devote a portion of their company’s revenues to building orphanages, or responding to a food crisis or a water crisis. Or they’ll find a way to put an end to slave labor in their industry.

Showing up to help a person or a community in need is holy. Servant leadership is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, so they want to do the same thing. They know that someone provided for them by setting goals and dreaming dreams. So now they set goals and dream dreams. Now they achieve for the sake of others. Now it goes global.

When we identify as servant leaders, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can help God save lives.

It’s great to teach this to kids, but I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

See you Thursday.

When Kids Can’t Dream

I have so much to be grateful for. So much! I want to show my gratitude by inspiring you to dream the biggest dream you possibly can, and then work for it.

A really big part of our energy and success lies in our ability to dream. There’s a great line in the movie Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, where the Ojibwe elders tell Archie Grey Owl, “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.”

When moms and dads at the ballpark would ask me for advice, I always told them to help their kids dream, and dream big. That’s what I did as a kid. I didn’t know if I could be a professional ballplayer! But I dreamed about it anyway. You see, back then I could dream any dream I liked! I had no idea what a privilege that is. It’s not the same for every kid.

Some of the kids that we rescue from slavery have awesome talents. But those talents have been squandered by the people that were slaving them out. These kids never enjoyed the chance to use their talents or challenge themselves. They didn’t dare to dream, not even small dreams.

Imagine not being able to dream at all! It’s shocking! Instead of dreaming and telling their parents, “Some day I’m going to…,” these kids were saying, “I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave. I just want to wake up one day, and know that I’m not chained to the floor, that someone won’t come take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.”

Think of the children out there who never dream for anything more than release, maybe even death. They are tired. “I’m tired of going in these fields and working hard. Every day I work. I don’t play. I don’t go to school. I don’t see my mother. At the end, I get hooked to the floor in a dark room, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  Kids. This is happening to kids.

That’s why we have to dream as big as we possibly can. It’s through our dreams and determination that we can rescue these kids from slavery and restore them to their talents and their dreams. These kids are suffering and I promise you that Jesus is with them, waiting for you and everyone else to come and love these kids just the way He did: by saving their lives.

Everyone can help, no matter how old they are. I’ll tell you more about this next time. See you Monday.