Relationships of Service

I think it’s very important to serve.

My “No Man” tattoo is a symbol. It’s my way of saying, “This is the best way I know to love my neighbor as myself.”

There are all kinds of tattoos that do the same thing. Everywhere, you see tattoos that symbolize something somebody read in the Bible, or in another spiritual book. It all boils down to one thing. Service.

It all boils down to living for other people. That’s what Jesus did, and that’s what He has called us to do.

If I had to tie up the gospel of grace into one simple statement, it would be, “don’t live for yourself.” The gospel is all about living for other people. It’s about being a servant to those around you.

It’s about being encouraging! The gospel talks about the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Every one of those fruits grows from not living for yourself.

And it’s not easy. To live with patience is very hard to do. But the gospel encourages us. The gospel sustains us. Take a close look at the times you’ve lost patience with people. It’s because you were being selfish, right?

Maybe sometimes we find it hard to serve people because we don’t have goodness, or we’re not feeling particularly thankful, or we don’t have self-control, or we don’t have joy.

But why don’t we have those things? I think if we really examine ourselves and our lives, we’ll realize that it’s because we’re living for ourselves. The more we live out of selfishness, the less joy we have. When we live for ourselves instead of the people around us, we are less thankful. We have less to be thankful for! We’re less loving. We’re more controlling.

When we live for ourselves instead of the people around us, the things of the flesh tend to creep up on us. Impatience, ingratitude, selfishness, lack of self-control, a need to control others, etc., are all the opposite of the spirit. Flesh is selfish and self-centered, while our spirit is very servant-oriented. Our spirit is good. It’s made in God’s very own image! Our spirit is about giving back. Our spirit is about trying to figure out what other people need.

We can’t do this without putting aside some time to understand our own needs. Your needs should be met. You are a human being, after all!

But I think it’s very important to serve others first. Then, hopefully, the people you serve will serve you back.

Think about that. By serving others, you create relationships of service. The people you serve are meeting your needs, and you’re meeting theirs. You know what that is? That’s living life!

Have I tempted you to get “No Man Shall Live For Himself” tattooed on your forearm? I wouldn’t mind! Hopefully you’ll do it because you’re joining the movement. Tattoo or not, I hope you’re thinking about joining the movement.

See you Tuesday.

Reminded to Serve My Family

Tattoos grab people’s attention because they are permanent.

It used to be a little more common to meet people who got tattoos because they were drunk, or because they wanted to go along with their friends. I think people also got tattoos because they were feeling rebellious. But tattoos are all over the place now. It’s pretty hard to rebel with a tattoo.

Now when you see a tattoo, you know it really means something to the person who got it. If you think about it, tattoos are interesting because they are permanent. You see someone with a tattoo, and you know they can’t wash it off or change it next week. They live with it, so you know they take it seriously. You know there’s a story there.

I think this is also why it’s becoming more common for people for get tattoos in areas that are visible. It’s possible to hide tattoos, but people don’t always go that route. And when someone makes their tattoo visible, then it can be a great conversation piece. This is what I’ve experienced with the tattoos on my arms.

When you get ink under your skin, people are interested. They want to know what it means. They know it must mean something. Why else would you do it?

There are stories behind my tattoos, but more than that, they are statements of my identity and my purpose. They say, “This is who I am.” They say, “This is what I believe.” They say, “This is how I live.” My tattoos have deep meaning and significance to me, and I love it when people ask me about them. I love talking about them.

I think it’s increasingly common to see young people using tattoos the way I am, as a way of saying, “This is who I am,” or as a way of telling their story, or of making a statement about their life’s purpose. A tattoo is a significant part of their life story. Whether it’s a word picture, or actual words, it has meaning.

I don’t know how many people use them as a reminder, but I suspect it’s pretty common. When you know there’s a story there, then you know there are strong feelings about it.

No Man Tattoo Large

The tattoo on my left forearm is really important to me for every reason I’ve given here. It’s a permanent statement of my purpose and my identity. It’s a conversation starter about what I believe and how I want to live my life. “No Man Shall Live For Himself” has deep meaning and significance for me.

And I really like the way it reminds me that this is how I want to live my life.

You see, I’m not always able to live for others. Like anybody, I can be selfish. Sometimes I get frustrated. And sometimes, you know, I just don’t want to. It can be difficult.

When I get into my selfishness, I have a reminder on my forearm that says, “You need to serve. It can be hard, and sometimes you don’t want to do it, but it’s still the right thing to do.”

It’s an especially good reminder when it comes to serving my family. It can be harder to serve our own families than it is to serve other people. You’ll see a lot of people serving the least among us, but then they don’t serve their wife, or husband, or children.

Mostly it’s because they’re with their families every day! It really can be as simple as that. But there might be some frustration there too, or some wounds, or other things built up, like anger or animosity. For whatever reason, sometimes it’s just harder to serve the people you live with and love the most.

I get that. It happens to me from time to time. But I have my tattoo to remind me. I see it and it brings things into focus. It balances me. It reminds me that living for other people is not just something I want to do. It’s a lifestyle I want to live.

The most important people that need to see me live it are my wife and children. That’s why I serve them, and I’m glad to be reminded of it every day.

Slight shift in my schedule here. I’ll be blogging Tuesday and Friday for awhile. See you Friday!

A Tattoo To Invite Me In

I get all my ink done by my friend Matt in Seattle. I still remember flying in, sitting down with him, and saying “I want my next tattoo to say ‘No Man Shall Live For Himself,’ and I want it on my left forearm.” We sat there together and dialogued about it. He asked me what the phrase meant to me, and why I’d chosen my left forearm for it. It was a great conversation. I always have great conversations with Matt! And this one meant a lot to me. It was the first conversation I had about this tattoo.

Since then, so many people have been grabbed by it. It’s a statement. I remember Matt saying that it was a great idea because it’s the kind of phrase that people would Google or use in a library search. He said it was intriguing. And it’s true! I mean, people from 15 to 80 have grabbed my arm and said, “Do you mind if I read what your forearm says?” It always results in a good conversation. I’ve had such a great time with that. I love talking with people about what the phrase means and what it stands for. These conversations happen everywhere, while I’m out and about or doing things in the community. It’s just really cool.

Throughout my career as a pitcher with the Giants, I helped out at the Larkin Street youth shelter. I still go there. I was there the other day! I’ve learned a lot from my time there.

Street kids can be a little suspicious, for obvious reasons. They are smart.

When I was over at Larkin Street after getting this tattoo, talking with these kids and doing stuff with them, I noticed that they’d started looking down at my arm. I would see them turn their heads sideways a bit to read. Then they would look up at me. And suddenly, it was so much easier for them to open up to me in conversation.

Think about it from their point of view. Here comes this guy, me, and they have to ask themselves, “Why is he here? What is his motive? He has a platform. How is he using it? Does he really care about me, or is he just here to represent a baseball team?” Good questions! They are smart for asking.

When Larkin Street kids see “No Man Shall Live For Himself” on my arm, it calms them. It speaks to them. It says, “Now this guy, he really wants to be here with us. He’s tattooed it on his arm! He doesn’t want to live for himself. He wants to be a servant leader. His tattoo says that when he goes and does something, like coming here, he has a motive. He wants to help other people.”

This tattoo invites me in. Those kids see it, and they let me in.

These days, when young kids see a tattoo, they regard it as a sign. To them, tattoos are permanent and significant. Tattoos speak. They say, “This is who I am.” And there’s story that goes with each one.

For young people now, tattoos have meaning. They’re not just something you get while you’re intoxicated or because you’re trying to rebel. They’re not something you do just because somebody else did it. They’re not something you do half-heartedly.

There’s a solid meaning behind every tattoo.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

A Tattoo to Remind Me: This is Who I Am

We think a lot about how permanent tattoos are. Permanence is kind of the point when it comes to tattoos! But tattoos can also be visible or hidden. The tattoo on my left forearm reads, “No Man Shall Live for Himself.” This was my second tattoo. And I keep it where I can see it.

At first, I didn’t think I’d ever get any tattoos at all. Obviously that changed, because you’ve been reading about my “Solus Christus” tattoo. That sola is so important to me, and a point came when I realized I was definitely going to get a tattoo of it.

When I got my “Solus Christus” tattoo, I thought that was it. I didn’t think I’d get another one. Everybody was telling me, “Tattoos are addicting! You have to be careful! Once you get one, you’ll want more!” But I really didn’t think that was going to be me. I thought I’d stop at one.

On the other hand, I think I always knew, in the back of my mind, that there would be more. There are some other things that mean just as much to me as that sola.

First, though, I had to see how that “Solus Christus” tattoo sat with me. It turns out I enjoyed it! I really liked the conversations that it started.

I had the same thing in mind for my second tattoo. I wanted it to be something really deep and meaningful to me, and I wanted it to be a conversation starter.

That’s why the second one says, “No Man Shall Live for Himself.” This is very meaningful to me. It is the standard that I have set for my life. It’s the standard I want to live by. I want it for my family, too, for my wife and sons, and my friends. I want to be known as a servant.

Living as a servant, like Jesus did, is not always easy. So I like the reminder. Putting it on my left forearm means I get reminded a lot, because I use my left arm a lot! I do everything with my left arm. I start my day with it. I’m in the mirror, combing my hair, getting ready for the day, and I see the tattoo.

It’s always there reminding me, in everything that I do, whether it be in photographs, whether it be at work, or whether it be simply getting ready for the day.

And at the time I got it, I was pitching for the Giants. I pitched with my left arm, so the tattoo was always there to remind me of why I was out there on the mound. “No Man Shall Live for Himself.”

So putting the tattoo on my left arm really meant something. It solidified who I am for others, by saying, “Hey, this is what I stand for.”

It’s easy to read, and it’s not hidden. In fact, when I was pitching, it had a lot of visibility. I’ve never wanted to hide it. I don’t want to hide what I stand for.

A lot of tattoos can be hidden. I have a couple that can be hidden, one on my shoulder and another on my back (more on that another day). But unless I wear a long-sleeved shirt, “No Man Shall Live for Himself” is always visible. And I never want to cover it up. I want it to be seen by everybody. I want people to know that this is who I am, and this is what I stand for.

And just as I had hoped, it has started a lot of amazing conversations!

More on that next time. See you Thursday.

Solus Christus Sums It Up

Solus Christus sums up everything for me. My lifestyle, my passion, my commitments, everything.

Do I believe that Christ is the only way to God? Yes. I believe it. I believe Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No man sees the Father except through Him.

When I do something, I do it with the understanding that I do it in Christ. What drives me to be who I am? The answer is Christ. I don’t get to hang with the guy every day like his disciples got to do, but I have His Spirit inside of me. Solus Christus. It’s in Christ that I do the things I do.

I try to view things the way that Christ wants me to view things. I know I will stand before the throne of God one day and He will say, “Jeremy, sometimes you were wrong.” I’m willing to accept that. It’s not like we get to go through life depending on an audible voice from God on every single topic. We read in Luke that Peter, John, and James went up on the mountain with Jesus to pray. A cloud came down, and out of the cloud God spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” We don’t all get that opportunity.

Solus Christus tattoo

But His Spirit is in me. Through His Spirit, I can ask for wisdom. In Christ, I do what seems right. I try to. I try to do things with an authority that says, “This is how Christ would do it.”

Suppose I fail? I know I will. Suppose I choose a route that I should not have chosen? Suppose I do something that involves sin? I’m still a man, made of flesh and bone, so I will fail. But when I realize my sin, I also realize that I’ve been redeemed. How have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In whom have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In Christ I am redeemed. In Christ I am made righteous.

It’s why I don’t have to live in guilt. I get to live in freedom! My freedom comes in Christ.

That’s also why I can live my life with such passion. I don’t look back. I don’t. When I mess up, I repent. Then I can heal and grow. When I recognize my sin, I also recognize that I have a way out of it. Repentance challenges me to go deeper in prayer. It challenges me to deepen my commitment to living more deeply in Christ.

So you see, this tattoo means so much to me. Everything for me happens in Christ. Solus Christus. I want my sons to grow in Christ. I want my marriage to grow in Christ. When my family does things, I want us to do them in Christ. Solus Christus is my family’s crest and shield.

I live in Christ, I make my decisions in Christ, I repent in Christ, I challenge myself in Christ, and I want my family to be a family in Christ. That’s why I put this tattoo on my forearm. That’s why I chose those two words. And that’s why I put it in a circle. A circle has no beginning, and it has no end. It just keeps going.

And that’s how I am in Christ.

I just want to continue to grow in Christ, and never stop.

A Tattoo to Talk About

I got my first tattoo in 2011. It’s on the inside of my right forearm, and it says, “Solus Christus.” Christ alone.

We were in San Francisco at the time, where I pitched for the Giants. The Bay Area occupies an important place in the history of tattooing, and a family friend from Seattle — a tattoo artist — visited us in order to learn more about it. When he flew down with his wife, he brought his tools with him, and my wife Larisa and I got our first tattoos.

He came to our house, so our oldest son’s nanny took him out to play. At three and a half, Walker was all over the place, and I was worried that he’d get in the middle of the work. I didn’t want to end up with some random line tattooed up my arm!

That little man blew my mind when he came home. He’s so observant. He ran in the house yelling, “Dad, I’m home!” I called out, “Hey, Buddy,” and he came running in the room. He was just about to give me a hug, when suddenly he came to a full stop. He was literally three feet away from me. He looked down at my arm and said, “What’s that? What’s on your arm?” I told him, “It’s my tattoo!” Right away he said, “I want one!”

“Well,” I told him, “you know, I’m not against that, but people might ask questions if my three year-old son shows up with a tattoo on his arm. Also, when you’re 16 and you have a tattoo of Go, Diego Go!, you’re probably going to be a little bit upset with me. So not right now, Buddy. Let’s wait on that.”

“Okay,” he said, “but can I get something fun too?” And I said “Sure!” Larisa, my wife, got online and ordered some of those sticker tattoos that they make for little kids. I was on a road trip with the team when they came, so she texted me a picture. She told me Walker wanted his sticker tattoo on the same exact part of his arm as I had mine. He was so proud of it! Since he could change his, he wanted to know why I didn’t change mine. He didn’t realize that my tattoo is permanent.

That was the first time that my oldest child said, “I want to be like my dad.” I was awed when I heard it, because that’s exactly how I view my relationship with my Father in heaven. I want to be just like Him. And I want to be like my brother Jesus, the Savior of the world. As a husband and father, I want to be like Jesus.

I also want to be like Jesus in the world. Like Him, I want to be a servant leader.

Getting a tattoo might make me seem more like a follower than a leader. They are pretty trendy! And I hadn’t always wanted one. What were they for? Rebellion? We look at people who have tattoos and think, “Oh, there’s a rebellious side to that one.” We just know it. Whether it be quiet or loud, you hear that rebellious voice. It says, “I have a statement to make.” Maybe that voice is saying, “Well, my mom and dad don’t like them, and they didn’t want me to get one, so I did.” Or maybe it’s saying, “You know what? I’ve been so good my whole life. I want to get something that’s really out there, just this one time.”

Of course, there are also the accidental tattoos. The mistakes, if you will. Sometimes I’ve asked people about their tattoos and they’ve said, “Oh, I was drunk when I got that. It really doesn’t mean anything.” It’s true! People have told me, “I really don’t know why I got this tattoo. I just woke up one morning and there it was!” Fortunately, I’m not the kind of man who would drink too much and then get tattooed.

In fact, I talked to a lot of people before I made my decision. I heard all kinds of different opinions about tattoos, but everybody agreed that a tattoo is permanent. When you tattoo your body, that picture or that message is going to be there for life. I know there are laser removal techniques, but that’s painful! I really didn’t want to do that! I had to be absolutely certain that when I put something permanent on my body, it would mean something truly significant.

That’s why I didn’t go for a standard tattoo. I didn’t want a Major League Baseball logo, or a baseball with flames on it. I didn’t want a cross, or a Bible verse. I didn’t want something obviously Christian, like John 3:16. I wanted a conversation piece. I wanted people to see my tattoo and ask me about it. People already know that I’m a man who lives by faith in the Almighty God, so John 3:16 wouldn’t advance the conversation in any meaningful way.

I had to ask, “What am I trying to say?” I needed a tattoo that would arouse people’s curiosity and prompt them to ask me about it. I wanted someone to look at my tattoo and say, “What does that mean to you? Why that tattoo?”

Well, I knew a tattoo in Latin would start a conversation. So that’s where I went. I had Latin words permanently inscribed on my body. My forearm reads, “Solus Christus.”

It’s worked out so well. I’ve had great conversations with a lot of different people because of this tattoo. It’s created all kinds of opportunities to talk to people about my faith. People see it and they ask, “What is that?” And I say, “It’s one of the Five Solas of church history.” Right away they ask, “What’s the big deal about that? What are you trying to say?”

The question itself points to the big deal. We’ve forgotten the Five Solas. We’ve gotten away from our history as God’s people. We’ve forgotten where things started. We’ve forgotten where things came from. We don’t remember who we are supposed to be.

I’ve done several studies of church history. I haven’t done an in-depth study, but I think I get the gist of it. God created the church. It was designed to be the mystery of God. And the Five Solas have always stood out for me. There’s Sola Gratia, by grace alone, Sola Fide, through faith alone, Soli Deo Gloria, for God’s glory alone, and Sola Scriptura, according to scripture alone. And then there’s Solus Christus, in Christ alone.

Solus means “solely,” or “alone,” so the Five Solas say something about our own individual journeys. My journey is different than the journey of the person next to me. My journey is different than your journey. When you look at the Five Solas, you can’t help but think, what is my journey?

They make you ask, right?

See how well this tattoo works?

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.