Stuck in Judgment? Freedom in Jesus!

Too often we criticize and judge each other, instead of just loving on one another. One reason is that a lot of us are stuck. I don’t mean everybody! But a lot of us are.

Some of us are stuck in the idea that faith is a fire insurance policy. “Oh I’m saved,” we might think, “so I’m not going to go to hell now.” That’s such a huge relief that we forget to live a new life in our true identity in Christ.

Some of us are stuck trying to justify our sinful nature. We do it by looking at other people and seeing all their sin. We look at them and say, “At least I’m not as bad as them. Look at all their sin!”

Some of us are stuck in the fear that we have to live perfectly. The Bible says that when you find Jesus, you’ll find freedom. It says the truth shall set you free. Freedom in Jesus! But I see people get stuck in legalism. “Now I have to be right and not wrong. I can’t have a bad thought. I can’t say anything bad. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.” They focus so much on sin itself — and not doing it — that they end up sinning more. And as a result, they end up judging more. They end up criticizing more. They start trying to get everybody else to believe what they believe, by guilting and shaming them into it.

Do you remember when you met Jesus? You were in a really bad place. And I doubt that anybody shamed you into believing in Him. I think somebody loved you, and as you felt His love, creative and unconditional, you said, “I love God and God loves me!” But we forget. In our controlling nature, we start judging people. We start telling them how bad they are. Then we say, “You need Jesus because you’re really bad.”

You know what? They already know they’re bad. There’s something inside every one of us that says we’re not inherently good. Reminding people of that does not help them. You want to help them? You want to save them? You want them to know Jesus? Love on them. Don’t focus on their sins.

Sinners loved Jesus because He knew how to hang with them and love on them, and not condemn or judge them. He looked at people and said, “If you could only know who I intended for you to be, and not who you are right now! Then you would understand your true identity. If you could only see Me for who I am! Put your identity in Me, not in your sin, or in how bad or good you think you are, or in the judgments other people put on you. Know that you are holy and righteous! You will find joy and fulfillment in Me.”

In our flesh and bones, we sin. But that’s not who we are. If we can live in the understanding of who we are, we won’t sin as much. Plus, we won’t react as much. We won’t look all the time at how sinful other people are. We won’t get stuck in judgment.

Instead we will realize that by the blood of Jesus, we are saved. We are holy and righteous! When we look at others, in our love we will yearn for them to be saved. We won’t look at them in judgment and condemnation. We will yearn for them to see and understand that when you accept Christ, you thrive! You are happy in your new life!

I yearn for that for everyone! See you Thursday.

Room of Grace

Last time I told you a story. I read it in a book The Cure by Truefaced. It’s a story about a fork in the road, one we’re all going to reach at some point in our lives. One way goes to the room of good intentions. A lot of us take that path because we want to show God how worthy we are. It seems like a good choice, until you have spent some time there. Turns out it’s an exhausting place!

The cureOnce you’re all worn out, you decide to go the other way, to the room of grace. Much to your surprise, you’re warmly welcomed in the room of grace. There’s a huge party going on. There’s laughter and conversation. And people are not fake laughing, either. They’re really enjoying each other’s company. You might not be used to this, and you might not think you can fit in. You haven’t been having very much fun yourself, trying to make yourself worthy of God’s love. You might even feel afraid, and try to leave.

But you are welcome. This is exactly where you belong. And someone’s going to yell at you from across the room, saying, “Where do you think you’re going?” When you say, “I don’t think I belong here,” that voice will tell you, “None of us belong here. That’s why we’re here!”

What? You’re here because you don’t belong? “Yes!” the voice says. “None of us belong here, man. That’s why it’s such a great place to be. We all have our issues. We’ve all made mistakes. And we’re welcome!”

What a concept! Think about it. Think about your burdens, your issues, your wounds, your garbage, and all the crap that you think you have to hide. You’re welcome in the room of grace because of all of that! And so you stay.

When you checked into the room of good intentions and found your own room, what was in it? A bed piled high with all your sin and shame. Jesus was way over on the other side, and you worked yourself to exhaustion and despair trying to get to Him. Here in the room of grace, when you find your own room, there’s your bed, again piled high with all your sin and shame. But this time it’s different. This time, Jesus isn’t way over on the other side. This time, Jesus is standing right next to you.

And Jesus says, “Whew! That’s a lot of mistakes, man! That’s a lot of sin!” And then He says, “But you know what? I’m going to walk with you, all the way through it. I’m never going to leave your side. We’ll deal with all of that together, I promise. But not right now. Right now, why don’t we just enjoy each other for awhile?”

And so He sits there with you. You and Jesus just sit there, together. And He says, “I love you. And we’ll get through it.”

And you know it’s true.

I really encourage you to read the book. Truefaced takes you through so many scenarios to help you understand grace. Once you understand grace, you’ll understand who you are. You’ll understand that you are holy and righteous. And when you live out of that, you will find freedom.

Next time I’ll tell you a bit about freedom. See you Monday.

How Do You Evangelize?

How do you evangelize? I do it by trying to reflect the characteristics of God. When I’m around people, I do what I think He would do. I feel joy around them, I’m happy, and I encourage them. I love them! These are all the things that I think Jesus did when He walked the streets with us.

A lot of times when people get around athletes, they think we have big heads, so they don’t try to talk to us. And sometimes we can’t talk to them. We have to focus on doing our jobs! But if I don’t have anything to do, I try to say hi to people in the ballpark. I’m especially focused on the kids. I want them to know that we are human beings like them. I shake their hands and encourage them. I give them high fives. I let them know that I’m real, and I make sure they know that I hope the best for them. Sometimes parents ask if I have any advice, and I tell them to let their children dream. I think they should all dream really, really big.

I try to reflect Christ in a way that’s positive. I’m not necessarily out there telling people that they need to accept Jesus as their savior. When you’re representing a sports team, it’s not really appropriate to do that. Since I don’t always talk about God, I want to make sure that I exemplify the characteristics of Christ as much as possible. That way, people might follow me into other circles, where I do talk about God. Then we can have a dialogue.

When I talk to kids at community functions, I try to do the same thing. For example, I work with kids at a homeless youth shelter, and all I want to do is love on them. So I try as hard as I can to make sure that the characteristics of God positively ooze from me. I try to have the aroma of Christ 2 Corinthians 2:15. Through the aroma that I put off, I want these kids to feel good about who they are.

And I want them to come ask me what makes me different. If they do, then I tell them that I’m trying to reflect the love that I’ve been given. That’s the love of Jesus, my Savior.

He died for me, and He gives me pure joy. I try to give that joy to them. I try to give that joy to you!

See you Monday.

A Global Society of Service

Sometimes people ask me, “Why do you say you pitch for other people? What makes you focus so much on others?”

The answer is pretty simple. I care about other people. I love them! And that’s because I love the God that created them. It’s the same God that created me. He saved my life, so of course I want to help save the lives of others.

I’m focused on success for the same reason. It’s because I want to achieve something, not only for myself, but for those who do not have. I want to achieve something for those who do not have food or clean water. I want to achieve something for 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 save.

I’d love to see that same 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. 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.

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

earth love

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 according to the idea that success is for them and for somebody else. This motivates them to be the best at what they do. They’ll work hard to become leaders at their jobs and in their communities.

They’ll also realize how big they can dream. They’ll set goals to be CEO’s and successful entrepreneurs, because they’ll realize 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 food and water crises. 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 that does not have is holy. It really is. The effects are felt everywhere. People know they have been helped, and 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 think about about how to help others, we are motivated to excel in our jobs and our lives. We work harder for success when we know that our success can actually help. I really hope we can all learn to think this way.

Understanding Victory

Suppose I knew ahead of time that the Giants were going to win the World Series this year. Suppose God came to me in a dream and said, “Jeremy, here’s what’s going to happen. The Giants will win the Wild Card game. You’ll go on to win the Division Series against the Nationals in four games, and then you’ll win the NL Championship Series against the Cardinals in five games. Then you’ll play the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, and it will take seven games, but the Giants will win. And Jeremy, you will be the winning pitcher in Game 7!”

I wish! If God had done that, I would have walked out on that mound without a care in the world. I wouldn’t have feared any of the teams we faced. I wouldn’t have feared any of the batters I faced. I wouldn’t have feared any situation. I wouldn’t have been nervous. I would not have doubted. I wouldn’t have felt the slightest need to take control. I would have already known the outcome! And I would have just let it happen.

Obviously, it wasn’t like that at all. But in life, it kind of is!

Think about it. Jesus died for us, and in shedding His blood for us, saved us. Then He resurrected, giving us the promise of eternal life. So Jesus says, “I’ve already won. It’s finished. You are a part of me now. You are a part of my kingdom, and a part of my family. We are nothing but love and grace. That’s who we are!”

Even with victory declared, the story still has to play out. There are people out there that don’t yet understand. As soon as they accept Jesus and become adopted into His family, they will share in the victory.

But we share in the victory now. Because Jesus has won, we have won. We can play the game of life, joyful and worry-free, knowing that we have already won.

I still get weak at times. Sometimes I get fearful, or nervous, or doubtful. I still try to control other people. I get weak sometimes because I am still a man of flesh. But the more I understand that Jesus has won, the calmer I become. I don’t have to get angry at someone if they don’t agree with me when I talk about Jesus. I don’t have to try to control people who are angry or upset. That is not my play. My play is love. A lot of people have been wounded by the church, and when they express their anger and hurt to me, my play is to love on them. I share the truth. I tell them that Jesus loves them. But I’m not worried about how they might react to that truth. They can get mad, that’s okay. I can just love. Love has already won.

Selfless

There’s no better way to reflect God’s love than by helping someone in need. Why is this the best way? Because you have to be selfless to help someone in need. You have to be like Jesus.

Jesus! When He came down, man, everything He did was selfless. He didn’t have to, but He served everybody! He didn’t have to do any of the things that He did when He came here. He didn’t even have to leave heaven. Coming down here was the ultimate selfless act.

Can you imagine what He must have been thinking? I’m sure it was something like this:

I have to come to this little planet here, and help these people? You’re telling me that I need to come here, to this place, where they’re going to deny me, persecute me, judge me, run me to the edge of cliffs, and basically try to kill me all the time? Uh, really? Fun times.

He knew how hard it was going to be, but He did it. It was a selfless act.

Because I think He also said this:

You know what? I love these people, man! They are the reason why God, my Father, created life. He created life for the purpose of relationship. And I’m going to go down there and fix that relationship. I’m going to restore it. I’m going to feed the hungry, and I’m going to set the captives free.

It feels good to feed the hungry. Ask these Whitworth University students, who spent a day packaging meals for the hungry.

He came to restore us to God. That’s where Matthew 25 comes in, because that’s where Jesus separates the sheep from the goats. You know how it goes: “When I was hungry, you fed me. When I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was in prison, you visited me.”

That is huge! Think about it. It’s so big! “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

We may not understand why there is hunger in the first place. I don’t think we can truly understand why, because it’s not our call. It’s God’s. But it doesn’t have to paralyze us, because we have a calling. We’re called to be selfless like Jesus.

Jesus was selfless to come here. He did it because He loves us, and He promises to remember every one of our selfless acts. He shows us the way. He shows us how to be selfless just like Him, and He inspires us to do it with love. “When I was hungry, you fed me.”

And here’s the greatest thing of all. When we’re selfless like Jesus, selfless out of love, we find fulfillment. Being selfless like Jesus brings the fulfillment that we crave. We may not even know we crave it, but we discover it. All we have to do is experience it.  Fulfillment in Jesus is exactly what our souls crave.

When you can say that you helped someone who was hungry by giving them something to eat, you’ll experience it. That’s when you’ll know.

See you Monday.

Abundance: Simpler Than We Realize

I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Abundant life! What a gift! But what is it? An abundant life is a life without need. You don’t need to find food, because you have food. You don’t need to find water, because you have water. You don’t need to find a place to live, because you live somewhere. You don’t need to find a job. You have one.

It doesn’t mean you have millions of dollars. We think “abundance” and we see dollar signs. I think that’s America. But abundance is much simpler than that. Abundance is having enough, plus something for somebody else. If you have enough, and you have extra, then you live in abundance.

Clean water is abundant life.  We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Clean water is abundant life. We saw the joy clean water brings when Generation Alive built a well in a Ugandan village.

Think of what abundance means in other parts of the world. There are so many places where people are locked in a daily struggle to keep themselves together, body and soul. You could go to any one of those places and ask, “What does abundance mean to you?” And they’ll say, “Abundance is a home. I don’t care if it’s a 600 square foot home. It’s a home. My family doesn’t have to live on the street. My kids are going to school. I’ve got a job and we’ve got food on the table. I’ve got access to a well with fresh water, so my kids aren’t dying of dysentery. Now that’s abundance. I know what it was like to try to live without a home, a job, clean water, and food. When I have these things, my family is safe. That’s abundance!”

Sometimes we struggle to understand the simplicity of abundance because we live in a consumer culture. It’s hard for us to see it, but consumerism can actually kill people. We get caught up in buying stuff that we don’t even need, while there are people around us who will literally die if they don’t get our help. That’s the situation we’re in.

I know people are going to tell me, “Well, Jeremy, you have stuff.” And it’s true. I mean, I have an iPad, an iPhone, and a laptop. I can access the internet with three different devices, all at the same time! Do I need to do that? It’s probably excessive. But I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have anything. I’m not saying that you should never buy anything for yourself. I’m only saying that we also need to have a mindset to help someone in need. If our drive, our heart, and our focus is simply to make sure that we have what we need, then we have the wrong heart. If we’re always thinking about what we want and what we’re going to get, and at the same time we don’t have a thought for anybody else, then we’re being shallow. We have the wrong mindset.

Jesus came so that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. When He came, He gave us the message, He gave us the example, and He gave us abundance in Him. When He left, these things didn’t leave with Him. He gave them to us so that we’d live accordingly. Now we are His ambassadors! So if we are to represent Him, we need to focus our minds and hearts on bringing abundance to others.

See you Monday.