Find Your Fulfillment in Work

We were created to love our neighbors as ourselves, with the same love that Jesus has for us. That’s why it’s so fulfilling. It feels so good. You feel so good when you love your neighbor! It feels good whether you’re a Christian or not. Loving your neighbor is loving like Jesus. Love for your neighbor is His love. It’s the love that makes you tick, and enjoy life.

There are no limits to this love, either. There’s no law against it. You can love your neighbor in any environment, and in any job or career.

Why do you work? Obviously, you work to earn a paycheck. And lots of us work because we want to earn tons of money. Why not? There’s nothing wrong with tons of money!

But why stop there?

Most of us can do something more.

Maybe you’re not earning tons of money yet. Maybe at the end of the month, you only have an extra fifty cents. Maybe you have a dollar extra, or even two. You may not think you can do much with that, but you can. You can pay for someone’s day.

Imagine that. One or two dollars is the same amount of money that people in some countries make in a day. It doesn’t matter how hard they work, or how many hours they put in. One or two dollars is all they can earn. That’s all anyone will pay them. This is chronic, intractable poverty, and it’s real.

So if you give a little extra, you can double somebody’s pay for one whole day. You really do have the ability to do that!

A lot of us work for more than money. A lot of us work hard because we’ve also set goals. We say, “I want to achieve something great! I want to get that raise, or that promotion, so that’s my goal. That’s achievement, man! That’s doing something great.”

That’s awesome, because there is so much you can do with that kind of ambition! Think about it. What’s the point of being great, if it’s just to be great? That’s boring. Wouldn’t you rather turn that ambition into a means to an end?

Are you working hard because you want to be the president of your company? Yes? Okay. But why?

“Well,” you might say, “because that’s my goal!”

But why is it your goal? What are you aiming for? Two million dollars a year? Ten? Fifteen? That’s awesome, but why? Why do you want to be rich? What for?

You might be thinking that you’d like to buy cars and boats and houses. You probably want to fly all over the world and enjoy luxuries. I understand! I think almost everybody understands. But the thing is, you can only do that so much. There are only so many boats or cars or houses you can buy before you start to get bored.

As a baseball player, I was all over the income map. I started out in apartments with the minimum, and now I live in a beautiful home. And I’ve learned that they both achieve the same thing. I sit on the couch and watch TV. I go in the kitchen and cook food.

It’s not like I wake up every morning in awe. It eventually becomes normal. It’s just a place to live.

So to me, if the only reason you want to work hard is to be in a beautiful home, eventually you’ll be disappointed. We all need more. We want fulfillment, man. That’s what we really want.

I understand working hard because you want to have a nice house for your family. We all want safety and comfort. But we can do so much more. We can dream much, much bigger dreams, and we can achieve them, too.

I found fulfillment in working hard because it gave me the ability to help out someone else. There are so many people out there who work just as hard as I ever did, and will never, ever, ever, be able to make more than two or three dollars a day. Those are the people I keep in my thoughts, every day of my life.

Did you know that you can actually help someone start a business, in countries like Uganda, Kenya, India, or Haiti?  You don’t even need much money. You can do microloans.

Here’s an idea. Get together with your yoga club or your youth group and put in a well. Depending on where you put your efforts, you can provide clean water for a whole village for as little as $2,000. Or you can use all that hard work and ambition and go as high as $10,000. Challenge yourselves!

There are a lot of things a well can do that we don’t think about, like provide education for a village’s children.

I got an education, and I never had to think twice about it. One morning my parents said, “You have to go to school,” and so I went to school. But there are kids all over the world who say, “I’d like to go to school. But I’m too sick. I don’t have clean drinking water. I’m literally wasting away from diarrhea. I’m so weak that I can’t walk.”

Or they say, “I want to go to school. But I don’t have time. My mom needs clean water to cook food and wash clothes, and we need drinking water too. But the well with the clean water is in another village, so I have to walk seven miles a day to bring forty gallons home.”

That’s why I want to encourage you to work hard and achieve at a high level! Then you can get together with three other people, and the four of you can chip in $2,000 each. With that, you can provide fresh water for 1500 people for life. You will eliminate 90% of their diseases. The kids can go to school and get educated, just like we got educated, without ever thinking twice about it.

If we can truly grasp what other people are going through, we’re going to want to work harder. Our goals will change. Our concept of greatness will change! You’ll say, “I want to be the president of this company so that I can make the rules.” Then when you become president you’ll say, “The rule is that a portion of this company’s funds is going to build wells.”

What do you think of that? Aspire to be a successful entrepreneur, so that you can take your company and go help people!

The world is full of opportunities for fulfillment, if you’re not just working for a paycheck and thinking only of your own comfort. There is so much you can achieve, if you start thinking about how to love your neighbor! That’s when you’ll really start to tick. That’s when you’ll truly enjoy life!

A Movement Conceived in Love

Last week, I described the ways that God has chosen to teach me about suffering, poverty, and injustice.

The more I study, the more He shows me. And I don’t get discouraged.

It’s the opposite! This growing awareness stokes a fire in me! Growing awareness means a growing passion to help. I want to serve people the way that Jesus served them. Jesus loved people! He showed His love through service, so that’s what I want to do. I want to stir a movement of people, all with the same idea in mind.

God’s love is at the heart of this movement I want to inspire.

It’s a movement that begins and ends with Jesus. It’s a movement that begins and ends with knowing Him and His love. It’s a movement that begins and ends with following Him, and realizing His mission.

Do you want to know what God wants you to do? Look at what Jesus did. That’s all you need.

Jesus redeemed people. He had a relationship with them.  He loved on them. And that’s why when He spoke, people listened to Him. They gave Him the right to have a voice in their lives.

And when they did, what did He say? He said, “The opportunity you have here is to love God. To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s it! Just love God and love others.

But we don’t love others. We just don’t.

Why do I say that? Well, are you telling me that you want to be enslaved? Are you telling me that you want to starve and eat dirt? So many kids are doing that, just to feed their appetite. How can we say we love them, when we wouldn’t want that for ourselves?

Do you want to drink the same water that you relieved yourself in, and bathed yourself in, and washed your dishes in? We wouldn’t want to do that! But for so many villages, this is reality.

So I want us to spread the idea of this commandment, this awesome commandment to love others as ourselves. This commandment is not about following a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about respect for what He did for you.

The idea is that I have a right to decide who I’m going to have sex with, and not have sex with. The idea is that I have a right to choose what job I want to do, even if I have to pay a debt. I have a right to choose my destiny and my path in life. And to love others as myself is to recognize that so many people have that right taken from them.

You really feel it when it’s happening to kids. Their mom or dad might have sold them. Or maybe their parents died, because of bad drinking water, or lack of food, or HIV. So they have no parents and they get snatched up by slavers and thrown into a truck and sold. Maybe they get turned into child soldiers who wake up every morning knowing they have to shoot people, because somebody bought them and now controls them.

A lot of these scenarios are taking place. This really happens. Diseases from hunger, HIV, or lack of clean drinking water, is killing parents and leaving children vulnerable to slavers. These scenarios all work together.

What better opportunity for a Christian, hearing God’s commandments, to say, “Hey! I can help make a dent in this!” Wouldn’t you like to feel the joy of releasing a captive slave? Wouldn’t you want to see a well that has been broken open, and get to say, “I helped with that”? Imagine being part of the joy these people have when they realize someone loves them. What do you think it’s like?

I can tell you. It’s life! It’s life in Christ! And you would say, “I feel fulfilled!”  This is such a good thing! This is the love of Jesus!

This is His love because this is what He did. He freed the captives. He healed the sick, and fed the hungry. Once you get a taste of this, you’ll find you want to spend your life loving God and your neighbors.

I want every Christian to realize this. It’s my dream that every Christian be moved by the love of Jesus to show the love of Jesus in order to know the love of Jesus.

That’s my idea.

See you Friday.

Growing Awareness

God found a lot of different ways to raise my awareness of the problems of poverty and injustice. For one thing, I started hanging out with Mike King. He’s trying to do a new kind of youth ministry, so I hang out with him because I like to see how he’s training young people. One of the things he’s trying to do is help kids understand what’s going on in the world. He introduced me to the Something to Eat program, and when I read about human trafficking in the newspaper I asked him what he knew about the Not For Sale Campaign.

As I started learning about problems like hunger and slavery, I started reading more about them. And when I did that, the suffering of these people grabbed my heart.

Also, I have boys of my own now, and I’m feeling a strong fathering instinct. I’ll do whatever it takes to be sure they are fed. I feel this powerful sense of compassion, and I want to make sure my family is safe. So I really feel for the people that are trying to do whatever it takes and they still can’t feed their children. That would be devastating to me. Like I said, it grips my heart.

I used to wonder why teenagers are homeless. Are they running away? Then I spent time at a shelter for homeless youth, and I learned something shocking. Yes, some of them are runaways. But a lot of them have come out to their parents and said that they are gay, and their parents kicked them out. These kids are on the street because their parents want nothing to do with them, just because of their sexuality.

They get kicked out of their homes, and then they get trafficked. They get sent out as prostitutes, and they have go. If they don’t, they won’t eat. If they don’t, they could get killed. Something like 80% of the girls in one of the shelters I visited had been trafficked at one point in time, or had been raped, or had to have sex for money to live. They have no choice, they die.

How do you even make sense of that? This is not light! This is evil! There is something so wrong with this. I would never throw my son out on his own, saying, “Fend for yourself.” I wouldn’t do that because he would die! Even if these kids physically survive, they die inside. There’s a lot of restoration work to be done.

It’s so sad, and so confusing. It’s happening right here, in our own country. There’s not nearly enough love. There’s not even enough understanding of the concept of love. And I just don’t get that. I don’t understand where our thoughts and intentions are when it comes to love.

Maybe I used to understand. Or maybe I never really understood. Maybe there was a time when I could just ignore it, or shrug it off.

But now I’m not okay with any of it.

All of these things are hitting me because God is showing me. This is God’s concern! So the more I pray about it, and the more I ask Him to show me awareness, the more He responds. He is always showing me more.

And you know what? It doesn’t overwhelm me! It doesn’t make me say, “God, there’s no way I can ever help. This is too much.”

Actually, it stirs me. It stirs me to want to join or start a movement. I’m not saying I want to start an organization. I have one of those already. I want to start a movement. Think of what Martin Luther King, Jr. did. He caused a whole country to embrace his dream and say, “Whatever it takes, we need to create justice where there is injustice.”

I know King died for that. But the movement continued, because God is moving in the world, and stirring His children. He is stirring me. Is He stirring you?

See you Tuesday.

World Poverty: We Can End This!

What if you took a Bible and a pair of scissors, and cut out all the verses where Jesus talked about justice, poverty, the poor, and helping really vulnerable people, like orphans?

What would be left?

A gigantic hole, that’s what. This is the basic point of The Hole in Our Gospel, a 2009 book by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision U.S. According to Stearns, this is basically what Christians have done. They’ve left a huge hole in the Gospel.

How do we do it? Somehow, we skip over those parts. We’re big into our “best life now” scenarios. 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. We focus on how we’re going to excel in life because we have Jesus.

Somehow we convince ourselves that the Gospel is all about us.

So how does that relate to what Jesus said? When a scribe challenged Him to name the first commandment, Jesus replied:

“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 the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

You shall love your neighbor as yourself! Jesus said that! But in our “best life now” scenarios, we lose it. We’re not loving our neighbors.

Part of the problem is that we think it’s too hard. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed 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, and even depressing. They can make you do the opposite of what you are called to do, which is trying to figure out a way to make it better.

But Stearns also shows how statistics can be deceiving. You see, we can help. We can be effective. We can be very effective. We can end poverty! How? Easy! Don’t work alone. This is the calling of the Church. It’s the calling of the body of Christ.

Christian churches are supposed to be the pillars of their communities, and even the pillars of the world. Read about what Jesus did. Then read about the early church. Loving our neighbors as ourselves is the reason why Christians came together as churches in the first place.

We’ve lost that. We get into our own little bubbles. We create megachurches that offer yoga classes and Starbucks in the lobby. They focus on the comfort and nourishment of their own congregations.

I understand the importance of discipling. We all must become disciples. Some megachurches do radical, amazing things in this area, like the Los Angeles Dream Center. But all too often, megachurches give the impression that they are insular, turned within, and focused only on themselves. They make it look as though they are there for only one thing: seeing to the needs of their own congregations.

Christians are supposed to be the body of Christ in the world. Christians are supposed to be His hands and feet, His face, and His reflection. We are supposed to be a Church everywhere in the world. We’re supposed to connect to the communities of the world, so that we can figure out who needs help. And when we know who needs help, we’re supposed to get together and take care of them.

We’re supposed to help!

Jesus said, “I came to rescue.” He said, “I came to take people out of bondage.” He said, “I am here to bring joy to those who have none.” Based on how people responded to Him when He was here, he made good on those promises.

When He ascended to heaven, He left it up to us to continue His work. That’s what it means to be the Church. That’s our discipleship. That’s our fulfillment in Christ.

That’s our real “best life now” scenario!

Who is with me?

See you Tuesday.

A Movement to Bring Joy to the World

In April 2012, I published my first book, To Stir a Movement. It describes my coming of age as a baseball player, and as a man. It explains my passion for loving my neighbor as myself.

You might ask, what movement? Who is your neighbor? How do you show your love?

The movement I have in mind begins with awareness. It begins with the awareness that people all over the world, our neighbors and God’s children, are suffering. It’s the awareness that we are called to help.

This is awareness that goes much further than just knowing the world has problems. We all know the world has problems. I’m talking about a much deeper awareness. It it a profound awareness that you can help. You can make the world so much better.

How? Well, you can take part in ending the hunger crisis. Or you can play a role in ending the water crisis. You know what? You can help provide homes and families for orphans. You can even help end human trafficking, and restore the lives of its survivors. It’s true! You can do this!

And when you do, you’ll discover an awareness that goes deeper than anything you imagined. An awareness deeper than knowing. Deeper than doing. You’ll discover the awareness of the joy that you just created in someone else’s life!

You see, when you help someone, you give them joy. They feel joy because of you. Because you helped them. That joy is nothing less than the love of Jesus. That’s the awareness I’m talking about!

In 2010, two young women went to Uganda on my behalf to help build a well in a village in the south. Generation Alive, the youth organization I founded, built this well in partnership with Living Water International, a water charity headquartered in Houston, Texas.

Those two young women sent me pictures. I got to see what happened the day they busted the well. As clean water poured out, the kids were standing under it. They were washing themselves in it. This was clean water and they were rejoicing. I’ve never seen anything like it!

Now 90% of the diseases in their village are history. All it took was good, clean drinking water.

Here’s a video of the dedication of the well:

Look at the faces of those kids! Look at the joy that’s on their faces! That’s just for water! It’s the same water that’s in my toilet bowl, and these kids are actually rejoicing in it. This is so awesome! We flush our toilets every day and we don’t even think twice! Right? When do you flush your toilet and then rejoice over the water that’s in the bowl?

If I wanted to, I could go to a restaurant and say, “I don’t like this water, I’d like a different kind. Bring me the one in the blue bottle.” It’s that easy for us. We can actually choose our drinking water based on brand, or flavor, or bubbles. In Uganda, we’re talking about kids that are rejoicing because finally, they have water that simply isn’t dirty. Finally, their water won’t make them sick.

When those two young women from Generation Alive walked through the village, people rejoiced just to see them. The kids latched onto their legs and held their hands. They danced and sang for them, and they said, “We thank you so much! You’re a part of our lives now!” All we did was help them, but it earned us an invitation to speak into their lives. My girls got to sit with them. They got to talk with them. They just got to love on them.

That’s the cup of love. It is fabulous. It’s the love of Jesus!

And that’s what stirs this movement. It’s the love of Jesus. Give it a shot! As soon as you help create joy in someone, you’ll know. You’ll know by the way it fulfills you. You’ll know by the way that your spiritual hunger gets fed. You’ll find out that there’s something inside of you that craves Jesus.

Those who have Him want more of Him. You know why? Because He’s awesome.

See you Friday.