Discipline, Not Punishment

(Note: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

I want a safe environment for dialogue with my kids. I want my kids to be able to talk to me without fear.

I want them to feel safe to bring their mistakes to me, especially the serious ones. I want to help them!

Here’s the dialogue I want:

“Hey dad, I messed up.”

“What did you do?”

“Well, I was speeding. I got a ticket.”

“So let’s talk about it. What are we going to do? ”

I’m not going to snap. I’m not going to hammer on my kids. You won’t hear me say, “How could you do that?” Or, “Why are you such an idiot?”

Hammering, hammering, hammering them – that’s not going to help. There are many different ways to handle any situation. You can find one that keeps your children safe in their relationship with you. The judging, and the holier-than-thou stuff, has never worked. It will never work.

It didn’t work with Jesus. The Pharisees were always hammering, and He blew up at them. The Pharisees were the holier-than-thou people. They were the people that said, “I’m the best.” They were the people that said, “You have to follow us and do what we do, because we’re better than you. We’re going to police you. If we catch you breaking our rules, we’re going to take you to the Sanhedrin. If we catch anybody, we’re going to haul you up before the high priests.”

Jesus did not like that and criticized them constantly for it. He knew it never works. It does not work. Thinking you’re better than everybody else will not draw people to you.

What my sons need is a dad who can say, “I messed up.” When they see that, then they will feel safe to come to me and say, “I messed up too.” They will know that they can come to me for help. They will trust me because they’ll know what I will say. I’ll say, “You know what? You’re right. You messed up. I know what that’s like, because I’ve messed up too. So let’s talk about it. How can I help you? I want to love on you, man. I don’t want to judge and condemn you. I want to love on you.”

God never messes up, and this is how He parents us! We should do the best we can to be like Him. I can guarantee you that God loves my sons without judgment or condemnation. I want to do the same.

There has to be discipline, but it doesn’t have to be given in an angry way. If my son comes to me to say that he got a speeding ticket, I will say, “Listen, I got a speeding ticket too. And you know what, when I was sixteen I got in two wrecks in a row and I had my license taken away. So if you get another speeding ticket, I’m going to take away your license for a little bit. It will help you understand that it’s not good to speed.”

When your kids mess up, help them understand that you’re not bringing discipline to the situation out of anger. Don’t overreact. Don’t make them think that they’ve done something you’ve never seen before. You have to train them up, but you don’t have to punish them.

When you actively reach out to your kids with encouragement and understanding, the whole idea of not judging makes so much more sense.

See you Saturday.

The Dialogue of Intimacy

(Note: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Intimate relationships are different from other relationships. We want to replace judgment with grace and love in all scenarios, but when it comes to intimate relationships, there also has to be dialogue.

Our loved ones might do things that bug us, and when they do, we want them to change. The problem is, they’re never going to change!

Right now you might be saying, “There’s this thing that bugs me about my husband. And he needs to know that it bugs me.” Well, talk to him about it! Tell him, “This is what you’re doing that’s bugging me.”

Jesus built intimate relationships with His disciples. He talked to them, asked their opinions, and made them His confidants. And if one of them did something that bugged Him, He said something. The Bible tells us:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:31-33)

That’s amazing. Jesus looked at Peter, His dear friend, and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He was in essence saying, “I know who is controlling your thoughts right now, and I know which way you’re acting, so you need to get away from me. You are not who you think you are.”

He said that right to Peter’s face!

Jesus was very comfortable with His intimate friends. I guarantee you He was not going to go to some random person and say, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He could have devastated people, and He understood that.

Obviously I don’t think your dialogue needs to consist of telling the people closest to you, “Get behind me, Satan.” You can’t see into people the way that Jesus can. Still, you have to talk to your loved ones.

Just remember, they cannot change without God. Unless they choose to accept God’s help, change will never happen.

You can’t fix a relationship. You, in your own power, cannot fix another person. But you can always ask God for help. You can ask God to show you what you need to do. You can ask God to show you who you need to be.

Why not ask God to show you how to change? Maybe your husband or wife bugs you because of something you’re doing. If you’re being a jerk, they’re going to respond to that. So quit being a jerk! Then maybe they’ll start loving you as if you’re the person God means for you to be.

Try saying this: “God, you know what? I need to quit telling my husband about all the things he does wrong. Instead, help me focus on doing my things right.”

Or try saying this: “Hey God, I need your help. I need to stop criticizing my wife. I need to encourage her instead.”

Do this, and then watch. You watch how that relationship changes, as God transforms you together in love.

See you Wednesday.

Urged to Change

All God’s children are more or less the same. In our flesh, we all sin. We might deal with different sins, and we might deal with our sins in different ways, but we are all sinning. No one is better than anybody else.

We will never change, either. Not on our own. But Jesus can change us. By running through us like hot water, He heats us up with the wisdom of the Spirit. We can’t change ourselves, but in Him, we can be changed.

And do you know what? Much as we might want to, we can’t change anybody else!

The urge to change other people can be very strong. It’s part of being human. Sometimes we get into the habit of thinking, “You need to change. I will change you.”

Let me tell you, you have no shot at changing somebody else.

That’s why you have to communicate. Suppose I notice that someone always reacts the same way to me, and it’s not a good reaction. In that scenario, two things have to happen. First, I need to get to the heart of why he reacts that way to me. There needs to be dialogue. If I have an issue with somebody, then I go to him about it. That’s Biblical. I tell him, “I’ve got this issue. I want to know why every time I do this, you react like that. Why?”

Maybe he’ll tell me! Perfect!

Second, I need to look at what he tells me. Is it necessarily the case that he needs to change? Or is it me? Am I the one that needs to make the change?

Think about that scenario! What if you were wishing that a person would change, when all along you were the cause of their frustration or anger?

If that’s true, then God will help you use wisdom to stop provoking him. Then maybe when you change, he’ll change too. He will quit getting angry with you!

Don’t be afraid to speak openly and have that dialogue with the people closest to you. In your most intimate or important relationships, you’ve got to be able to say, “Look, I understand you’re upset, but you have to help me understand why. Why are you upset with me?”

In your closest relationships, you can’t get along without that kind of communication. You’ve got a lot of people in your life. Obviously you’re more engaged with some than others. But with some, you are intimately engaged. You have to communicate.

Of course, you don’t always get to ask them why they are upset. Sometimes your loved ones hide it when they are upset with you, even when you’re depending on them to open up to you.

If my wife was frustrated with me and never told me, then how would I know to be changed by God’s wisdom? If she didn’t point out the places where she was feeling bothered, concerned, hurt, or angry, I might not realize that I need to turn to God for help. I depend on her to tell me when I’m upsetting her.

Of course some things are obvious! I’m sure your husband or wife is not thrilled about it when you yell at them. You don’t get to yell and someone and then say, “I didn’t know I was doing something wrong.” You know you did something wrong!

It’s the same with criticizing someone in a negative or non-constructive way. You know that’s hurtful. You have to take ownership of that.

But if you’re not aware of how you’re troubling someone, you depend on them to tell you.

Jesus sets the best example for how to be in a relationship. More on that next time. See you Saturday.

Praying off the Judgment

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

There’s Jesus in Luke, telling us not to judge. But judgment is such a basic part of being human! Baseball is a good example. Baseball is full of judgments.

Think of the fans. Part of being a fan is being engaged with the players. They’ll tell you when you’re good, and they’ll tell you when you’re not. They’ll tell you why you should be traded. They’ll even question why the GM signed you!

Everyone is full of judgment because judging is a normal human thing.

You know what else it says there in Luke? It says,

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6: 27-28)

But that’s nearly impossible! Do we really pray for those that hate us? There is no way we do that. There’s no way that you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, you know what, this person hates me and I just pray that he or she is blessed today. Face it! We do not do that. Not without giving ourselves a little push!

But there’s more to this. As I study the scriptures on judgment, I realize that every time Jesus talks about judging, He immediately talks about hope and forgiveness. He immediately describes abundance. He says it right there in Luke:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.

I remember late September 2010. I wasn’t getting called into many games. In fact, I didn’t pitch for two weeks! I grew angry and frustrated, and then, I read this scripture. It really hit me. I mean, I knew these scriptures, and I knew these things, but did I really pray for those that hate me? I didn’t. It’s not a normal human thing to do.

But we’re Christians. We’re called to more, right? So I prayed about this. I said, “I know it’s normal to judge, and I know it’s not normal to pray for those that hate us. But God, I am yours. I am a child of the King! I am a new creature in Christ! I have been reborn. I have been remade. Now my spirit drives me, so truly, I have to strive to do these things.”

Then I really started listening. If someone judged a teammate, or something negative was said about him — by the media or any another person — I would walk over to that teammate and I would just speak the opposite over him. I would basically give him a positive in place of the negative.

I did this randomly. Sometimes he didn’t know why I was doing it, because he hadn’t heard the judgment. But that’s not why I did it. I was just trying to break up the judgments off of every player on our team. I was praying the judgments away.

I began walking the outfield, praying for every guy on the team. If I found myself accidentally judging again, I’d ask for forgiveness.

I am not the reason the Giants won the World Series that year. We won it as a team. No, that was the year I learned to replace judgment with prayer.

See you Wednesday.

Always More Grace Than Sin

It can be uncomfortable hanging out with Christians. I might feel like having a beer, but I don’t know if they’ll accept that. Sometimes I’m not even sure if my thoughts will be acceptable. I might literally say to myself, “Is it okay to have this thought? Should I admit to this frustration?”

Meanwhile, my non-Christian friends do not judge me. They don’t care if I have a beer or not. They don’t judge me for my thoughts or frustrations. If I’m feeling frustrated about something and talk about it, they really don’t care. They just accept it. They say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been frustrated that way too.” Their attitude is, “Yeah. You’re normal. Just like everybody else.”

I can sympathize with people who are struggling with something. We’re all human. So I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. Believer or non-believer, I don’t judge them. I listen to them and love on them.

A guy can come to me in struggle and pain, and he can confide in me without fear of judgment. He can say, “Hey Jeremy, I’m struggling with something right now, and I want to tell my wife, but I’m afraid. I feel like a bad person.” I’m comfortable with this. I can say, “Yeah, I understand. I could probably go there too. And if I made the choices you made, I would be in the exact same spot.”

I don’t fear becoming like him in his sin. I think this is the mentality that Christians fall into sometimes, but it’s faulty. We have Jesus! He is with us always! There’s always going to be more grace than sin.

If I live by the Spirit, then I will act by the Spirit. So when someone confides in me, I can say, “Let’s figure out a way where we can help each other. I don’t want you to feel condemned around me. I want to love on you, man. I want to help you.”

I look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same. We all sin. We all struggle. We all feel pain. I want to understand people’s pain. I want to understand their struggles. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’ve been there, or I could easily go there.” And I want to help.

How many more people would feel comfortable around followers of Jesus if they were treated this way?

The night before Jesus was arrested, He celebrated Passover with the apostles, and then He washed their feet, telling them,

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (John 13:13-15)

Jesus is our judge, and yet He came as a servant king. When He knew His time with His beloved followers was ending, He did a job reserved for the lowest servant of the house. Why did He do that? He lowered himself in order to show humility. He said, “I have given you an example. Do as I have done.”

Humility doesn’t say, “I judge you.” Humility says, “I want to help you in your struggle and pain.”

That’s what He taught us. Let’s do that.

See you next Saturday.

Too Peaceful to Wander Astray

The righteous should choose his friends carefully,
For the way of the wicked leads them astray
. (Proverbs 12:26)

We are going to have all kinds of people in our lives. If we can stop judging people, then we can better love them and witness to them.

Still, the Bible says, “Be careful in who you hang out with lest you become like them.” Does that mean believers should shut themselves off from non-believers? I don’t think so. I don’t fear non-believers. In Christ, I don’t fear becoming like them. In Christ, I can just love on them. Why wouldn’t I?

Remember, Jesus is the hot water. Hot water flows through a copper pipe and the pipe changes. It gets hot. I may not be able to change myself, but just like a copper pipe, I can be changed. Jesus can change me. I turn that hot water on, Jesus flows through me, and I change.

I don’t have to turn on the hot water, of course. I can continue to live in my irritability and say, “What can I do? I will never change in my flesh. I’m a copper pipe, and always will be, and so is everyone else.” That’s the mentality that fears the non-believer.

But why would I be so fatalistic, when I can access Christ? The quicker I turn to my Savior, the quicker I’m going to change. So I’m hitting that hot water. The more I do it, the longer it stays on. It’s running through me a little more all the time.

We have access to all the hot water we need. And the more we hit that hot water, the faster Jesus flows through us. The peace of Christ comes over us.

It’s through Christ that we live in peace. It’s only through Christ that we live in His peace.

If you’re at peace, you’re slow to anger. You’re quick to forgive. And you become an encourager. You don’t have to be angry all the time, or deal with the burdens of lust or fear. This is the whole awesomeness of Jesus. Whatever our particular burden of sin might be, in Christ we don’t have to be that way.

That’s why I don’t fear hanging out with non-believers. The hot water of Jesus turns me into a blessing to them. They don’t lead me astray. I lead them to Him!

More on this next time. See you Saturday.

Comfortable in the World

Have you heard comments like these?

“You Christian people think you’re better than us. Christians judge everything everybody does.”

“It’s the Christians who are always saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re doing this, you’re bad.’”

People who don’t even know me will look at me and say, “Don’t you make mistakes? Don’t you have flaws?”

Well, of course I do!

Obviously somebody along the way has told these people that if they become Christian, then they’ll be perfect in everything they do. Someone has told them that if they become Christian, then they’ll never make another mistake, and they’ll be better than all the non-Christians who do make mistakes.

I pity the people who think that way. As followers of Jesus, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we are better than other people in our flesh. That’s why we judge. That’s why we start saying things like, “Man, I don’t think you should be drinking. You shouldn’t have beer. You shouldn’t even have wine.” Or we say, “You know what? I heard what came out of your mouth the other day. You cussed the other day. That’s really not good. The Bible says no unhealthy thing should come out of your mouth.”

Well, you know what? Whether I cuss in anger or I say “Shoot!” in anger, it’s the same thing. Some believers think the sin lies in the actual word, but it doesn’t. It’s the emotion behind the word that is the sin. I was angry. That was my sin. Yet somehow we think we’re better than others because we say “Shoot” instead of its coarser cousin.

I hang out with believers that are really comfortable in the world. They’re totally comfortable hanging out with everybody. They can hang out with people that aren’t Christian and feel totally fine around them. They’re comfortable because they aren’t judging everything people do or judging every motive.

The believers that have problems with judging are the ones that tell me, “Oh, you’re not supposed to hang out with outsiders, because they probably don’t live like you, and they probably don’t think like you.” They’ll say, “I don’t want to hang out with outsiders or non-believers, because they’re not good to be around. It’s evil.” I hear that and I say, then what was Jesus doing? That’s all he hung out with!

Christians have just got to quit judging. We have to stop. As long as we are judging, we will never be comfortable in the world. People in the faith will always have outsiders in their lives, and we can’t live comfortably with them if we’re always judging.

You know what else? When we’re judging them, we can’t witness to them.

Worst of all, we certainly can’t love them.

See you Wednesday.