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 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.

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.

Love is Stirring in the World

“I love you.” That’s what Jesus says. So that’s what I say. I see a homeless guy, and I love him. I’m going to help him if I can. That’s being Jesus.

The movement to love our neighbor as ourselves is stirring in this world. It is awesome to see. This is the movement that I’m asking you to join.

Where is it stirring? Everywhere! I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes Americans can forget that there are other countries out there. I mean, sometimes you can go to church and actually start to think that Bethlehem was in the USA and Jesus was white! He was probably clean-shaven, too. And He drove a Mustang. We might really think that sometimes!

But go around the world, and you’ll see a church that is passionately and deeply understanding of how to love its neighbor. You’ll see a church that is pushing congregations to really grasp the mentality of loving your neighbor as yourself. It’s so refreshing to me, because it shows me that we are starting to unify. We are starting to gain momentum in this movement.

I believe in the scripture. When the church becomes one, our God and King will come back. I truly believe His return is part of the unification process. Unity is stirring in this world, and I want to be a part of it. I want Jesus to come back! And our unity will flow from love. It will flow from loving the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.

Loving our neighbors seems so simple, and you might think, “Of course! That’s how I was raised!” But most of us still don’t do it very well. I don’t do it very well. There’s so much more I could do to love my neighbor as myself. But after all God has shown me, I am certain of one thing. I no longer pitch for myself.

I pitch to love my neighbor as myself. I pitch for people I don’t even know, but I love them. I really love them. I pitch for people who cannot eat. I pitch for people who cannot drink. I pitch for people who do not have houses to live in, and for people who are naked. I pitch for the men, women, and children being trafficked for sex, and war, and work. These are my neighbors, and I pitch to help give them something to eat and something to drink. I pitch to help house and clothe them. I pitch to free them. I pitch for all of them.

I get to help them! That’s why I am raising my three boys to be selfless. “You want to do something?” I tell them. “Then do it for somebody else. Do not do it for yourself. You’ll find joy that way!”

That’s the movement I’m stirring.

I pitch to glorify my God and King, and to represent Him well. But representing Him well extends far beyond the mound. I also put on a pair of jeans and a tee shirt after a game, and I walk out into the real world. I honor everybody. I don’t live in my own little bubble. That’s the reputation athletes have, but I want to break that mold. That’s not who I am.

If you see me on the mound pitching, pray for me. Pray for me, now that you know who I worship when I pitch. Pray for me, now that you know that to love like Jesus, I pitch for the least of these. When you go to your job or your classroom, don’t do it for yourself. Do it for somebody else. Think about your neighbor, because that’s how you will find your joy. When you love your neighbor as yourself, in your job and at your school, you will find your joy.

See you Thursday.

Who Am I?

In the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot to say about sin and grace. Jesus died for us. And when He did that, He served as the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Because of His crucifixion, death, and resurrection, we are free. We don’t have to make reparations before we can be in the presence of God, our Father. Not any more. He knows we will sin. We are in our flesh, so we can’t help it. We can’t help it! But when we sin, Jesus walks through it with us. He is right there. He loves us.

I’ve come to truly understand what it means to be a saint who sins. Discipleship is my identity. Who am I? Do you ever ask yourself that? I know who I am. I am a holy and righteous child of God. I mess up. I definitely mess up. But He loves me. He is in me, and He is with me. Who am I? Someone who wants to be just like Him. I am a man after God’s own heart.

Think about Jesus. He looked at people and He wept for them. Think about Lazarus. Jesus knew He was going to raise that guy from the dead. Yet still He wept. Why? Because He saw Mary’s heart breaking, and it grieved Him. This is who He is! So it’s a part of who I am. When I hear about people who are suffering, it grieves me. That’s the identity in which I live.

I love God with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength. I love my neighbor as myself. So God sends me out of His Kingdom and into the world. He sends me to where people are hurting.

I help fund wells so that families can have water to drink that doesn’t make them sick. I help hungry people get something to eat. I help orphans get into homes with moms who will take care of them. I help free the slaves — men, women, and children trafficked in work, sex, or soldier situations. They’re not allowed to leave. They’re locked up when they are not being used. I help them.

I don’t do it because I have to. I don’t do it because I’m afraid that God won’t see me or smile on me if I don’t. I do it because it’s who I am. The love of Jesus is part of who I am. Loving my neighbor as myself is part of who I am. When I know my neighbor is suffering, it grieves me. This who I am.

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.

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.