The Program is Jesus

As Christians, our calling is to make Jesus visible by reflecting Him into the world. So just like Jesus, we should want to live for other people. We should look at the least among us and say, “I’m going to live to provide for you.”

We need to build up struggling communities, in the US and outside of it. We need to help them become self-sustaining. No one should ever be so poor that they have to sell their kids. Children should not have to take jobs that put them at risk. Imagine a 10 year-old trying to sell gum on the street corner to get money for food, only to be grabbed and sold as a slave. What are they going to do? They’re 10! They’re not strong. They’re scared!

I want to provide opportunities. But I can’t save the world. I’m one person. This is what the Church needs to be doing.

Churches need to expand their focus. It’s okay to focus on building projects. There’s nothing wrong with 5,000-member cathedrals. Some of them have the best sound systems and the coolest giant screens. I’ve visited churches that are up on the best technology possible to run their Sunday programs. And these are great programs!

What happens when someone approaches one of the pastors and says, “You have so much influence here. Will you mobilize your congregation to work on fighting against the traffickers?

I’ve done this, and the answer has been, “No, it’s not one of our programs.”

What? It’s not one of your programs?

Well, I’ve thought about this. And you know what? These pastors are right. Fighting trafficking is not one of the Church’s “programs.” Fighting trafficking is Jesus. Jesus is the vision. Jesus is the one and only “program.”

Sometimes the answer has been,”Well, we’re trying to raise money for our sound system so we can have better acoustics.” Or, “We’ve got this nice sound system, but we’ve got other different types of programs. We’re trying to help our congregation become better people.”

Do you know what’s going to help your congregation become better people? Help them do Jesus. Key in on what’s going on in your towns and cities, and in the world, and live Jesus!

Now I’m not saying that if you don’t choose to fight human trafficking, then you’re not Jesus. I’m saying there are a lot of issues going on out there, beyond the bounds of our suburbs. When did your community become the only one you care about? “Well, I’m called to this suburb.” What? No! You’re called to live like Jesus!

How about using your resources to bring your community into the fight against human trafficking? How about mobilizing your congregation to participate in hunger initiatives? Why not work to build wells? You obviously have great resources. Why not use them to create sustainability for people who are trapped by poverty? Set the captives free!

This is what the Church is called to do. We’re called to represent Jesus, who healed the sick. We’re called to represent Jesus, who set the captives free. We’re called to represent Jesus, who fought for truth. Truth sets people free! We have got to do Jesus in the world.

I’m not shaming you for your beautiful building, your 5,000 people, and your state-of-the-art sound system. It’s great! It means you have awesome resources! I’m just asking you to utilize these resources to make Jesus visible by doing what He did. Your congregation has built this church for you because they respect your voice. Mobilize them to fight for freedom, healing, and sustainability. That’s the program. Jesus.

There have been times when I’ve asked congregations to join in the fight to end human trafficking, and they have actually said, in so many words, “No, it’s not part of our program.” But that is changing. More and more, churches are getting involved.

More on this next time. See you Monday.

When Kids Can’t Dream

I have so much to be grateful for. So much! I want to show my gratitude by inspiring you to dream the biggest dream you possibly can, and then work for it.

A really big part of our energy and success lies in our ability to dream. There’s a great line in the movie Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, where the Ojibwe elders tell Archie Grey Owl, “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.”

When moms and dads at the ballpark would ask me for advice, I always told them to help their kids dream, and dream big. That’s what I did as a kid. I didn’t know if I could be a professional ballplayer! But I dreamed about it anyway. You see, back then I could dream any dream I liked! I had no idea what a privilege that is. It’s not the same for every kid.

Some of the kids that we rescue from slavery have awesome talents. But those talents have been squandered by the people that were slaving them out. These kids never enjoyed the chance to use their talents or challenge themselves. They didn’t dare to dream, not even small dreams.

Imagine not being able to dream at all! It’s shocking! Instead of dreaming and telling their parents, “Some day I’m going to…,” these kids were saying, “I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave. I just want to wake up one day, and know that I’m not chained to the floor, that someone won’t come take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.”

Think of the children out there who never dream for anything more than release, maybe even death. They are tired. “I’m tired of going in these fields and working hard. Every day I work. I don’t play. I don’t go to school. I don’t see my mother. At the end, I get hooked to the floor in a dark room, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  Kids. This is happening to kids.

That’s why we have to dream as big as we possibly can. It’s through our dreams and determination that we can rescue these kids from slavery and restore them to their talents and their dreams. These kids are suffering and I promise you that Jesus is with them, waiting for you and everyone else to come and love these kids just the way He did: by saving their lives.

Everyone can help, no matter how old they are. I’ll tell you more about this next time. See you Monday.

Inspired by Dreams

I have so much to be grateful for today. One of the ways I can show my gratitude is to use this incredible moment to inspire you to dream the biggest dream you possibly can, and then work for it.

A really big part of our energy and success lies in our ability to dream. There’s a great line in the movie Grey Owl starring Pierce Brosnan, where the Ojibwe elders tell Archie Grey Owl, “A man becomes what he dreams. You have dreamed well.”

When moms and dads at the ballpark would ask me for advice, I always told them to help their kids dream, and dream big. That’s what I did as a kid. I didn’t know if I could be a professional ballplayer! But I dreamed about it anyway. I could dream any dream I liked! Back then, I had no idea what a privilege that was. I’ve learned it’s not the same for everyone.

Some of the kids that we rescue from slavery have awesome talents. But those talents have been squandered by the people that were slaving them out. These kids never enjoyed the chance to use their talents or challenge themselves. They didn’t dare to dream, not even small dreams.

Imagine not being able to dream at all! It’s shocking! Instead these kids were saying, “I just want to wake up one day, and not be a slave. I just want to wake up one day, and know that I’m not chained to the floor, that someone won’t come to take the chains off just to tell me to go have sex with some guy.” They never wanted anything more than, “I’m tired of going in these fields, and working hard every day.  What do I get for it?  I get put right back in the dark, I get hooked to the floor, and I get a thing of bread thrown in front of me as my food.”  This is happening to kids.

That’s why we have to dream as big as we possibly can. It’s through our dreams and determination that we can rescue these kids from slavery and restore them to their talents and their dreams. These kids are suffering and I promise you that Jesus is with them, waiting for you and everyone else to come and love these kids just the way He did: by saving their lives.

Happy Thanksgiving! Dream a big dream. See you Thursday.

Bring Jesus Back!

I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.
John 17:20-23

Before he was taken away to be crucified, Jesus prayed to His Father, asking that His followers would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. And this prayer was not only for the disciples that were with Him then, but for everyone who would eventually believe in Jesus because of their witness. In other words, Jesus prayed for you and me. He prayed that we would be unified as one heart and mind in God, just as Jesus was in His Father, and His Father was in Him.

Jesus prayed that everybody would see His heart, and unify in it. He prayed that we would become one because He is in us. “I in them and you in me.” His heart and His love come directly from His Father. “God gave that to me,” He said, “and I’m giving it to you.”

He prayed that we would mature in unity, becoming like-minded. Jesus says, “I need all of you to be like-minded, so that the world will believe that my Father sent me.”

If Christians are going to unify and become like-minded, then we have to key in more on not condemning one another. We have to key in more on loving one another.

Jesus did not say, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and judge each other by your sins.” That is not what He said! Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love one another. Love each other as you would love yourselves. Forgive each other as you would forgive yourselves.”

Now that is a huge deal. Imagine what could happen if we got into that place, creating a community of people that are willing to help each other in trials and tribulations. Imagine what could happen if we helped each other make decisions that are good and wise. Imagine what could happen in a community that gives advice and also accepts it, where everyone helps each other avoid the wrong road. Imagine what could happen in a community that shares love and wisdom, not condemnation and judgment. Imagine what could happen! This is the unity of heart and mind that Jesus prayed for! This is the evidence of God’s love for us.

If that happened? I think Jesus would come back.

More on this next time. See you Thursday.

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.