Entrusted with The Gospel

To His followers, Jesus said, “I’m not only here to die for you. I want to show you how to live. And once I show you how to live, I’m going to redeem you and give you a second chance.”

To us, Jesus says, “Now that I have shown you how to live, you can be like me. And because I have died for you, you’re redeemed. Because of my blood, you can come into heaven. I did that for you because right now, without my redeeming blood, you don’t have a shot. You can’t live the right way. There is too much sin in the world.”

Second chances are so important. We all need one. We all need a lot of them! And that’s why we turn to Jesus. His blood is so powerful. There are too many things working against us now, here in the world, telling us to live the wrong way. We need His blood. Without it, we have no hope.

This is also why we need to do justice now. We can’t wait for Jesus to return. It’s our job to show others what Jesus showed us. We don’t wait for Him because we have to reflect Him now. People don’t really understand who He is, and without Him, they have no hope.

Who is He? For one thing, He’s a risk taker. He entrusted the Gospel to twelve men and a prostitute. He gave them the Gospel to take into the world. He relied on them to show people who He was, and then to remind people who God is. And Mary and those men did it. They did it well!

And now He’s asking us to do the same thing. He’s entrusted His Gospel to us. We have to continue that heritage. We have to continue the legacy left to us by Mary and the apostles. We have to show people who Jesus was.

Some people have lost sight of that. Some people think that the legacy of Jesus is make sure you go to church on Sunday, hang out within four walls and a roof, and then go home. That is not the legacy of Jesus! Jesus walked the streets! He hung out with people. He hung out with sinners, and He didn’t judge them.

Jesus said, “I created you and I understand you. I don’t live like you but I can see how you would sin. You’re going to need a lot of forgiveness, because you’re going to mess up. You’re going to need my blood, because you are going to tank it. All the time.”

Jesus knew how hard it would be for us. So He showed us how to live and then He gave us a second chance. Then, He asked us to make sure the world understands.

See you Friday.

Forgiveness

When you get into stressful situations, you probably start to get a little irritated. Maybe you get angry. You might even snap! I haven’t always handled stress well. Sometimes I’ve been pretty bad at it.

Dealing with failure and conflict is part of being human.

In my baseball career, there was a lot of success. And there was a lot of failure! In fact, I succeeded so much at the end of my career because my early failures were so bad. Those failures taught me how to handle stress a little bit better.

Even when I got better at it, stress still presented a challenge. One season, when I was wth the Giants, I lost my temper during a game in Toronto. When I came out of the game I kicked some stuff, I punched a water cooler, and I kicked some chairs in the clubhouse. In other words, I did not handle it well at all.

It was humbling! I had to talk to some of my teammates, and I had to sit down with my manager. I had to tell them I was sorry, and that I knew I should have handled it better. We talked it out after the fact, and everything worked out in the end. But it wasn’t easy.

To humble yourself before athletes as an athlete, one who tries to carry himself with confidence (but not cockiness), is a real challenge. It’s a challenge in any situation to humble yourself and say, “I was wrong. That’s the truth, and I’m sorry.” A lot of guys can’t do that. But as Christian men, Godly men, that’s what we have to do.

You have to know that when you make a mistake, your first question should be, “How should I be like Jesus in this scenario? How can I share in the image of God?” You do it by apologizing, and asking for forgiveness from the people you affected.

I’ve learned to do that. I’ve learned to do it well! I did it through awareness. I maintain awareness of my true self as an image-bearer of God. And yet I remember that, in my flesh as a human being, I can fail. You have to accept that failure is part of being human.

There is strength in that. Part of our strength as Christian men and women is recognizing that we are human. We are going to make mistakes, and we have to apologize for them.

And that’s the easy part, because you also have to forgive yourself. That’s a huge challenge. To forgive ourselves, we have to overcome fear. Yes, fear is the obstacle!

The fear goes something like this: “If I forgive myself for something I did, and then I let it go, then I’ll forget how bad it was and I’ll do it again.”

Sound familiar? We have a hard time forgiving ourselves. We think we need to live in the guilt. We think that as long as we live in the guilt, we won’t repeat our mistakes. It’s our way of saying, “As long as I can feel the sting, I won’t make that mistake again.”

Trust me, this is the hard way to do things. And it’s not what God wants.

Once you’ve been forgiven, it’s time to move on. You don’t need to live in the memory. You don’t need the sting to keep yourself on track. You’ve humbled yourself and asked for forgiveness. You’ve handled your mistakes directly and with humility. You’ve learned. You’ve become a better person. That’s growth. You can let it go!

The people around you forget about it, and that’s your affirmation. That’s Jesus, reflecting back to you!

So don’t hold onto that sting. Trust in that forgiveness.

You have no condemnation now, because of what Jesus did on the cross. You’ve been forgiven by the King of Kings! And if He can forgive you, then it’s okay. Forgive yourself.

See you Tuesday.

Heavy Burdens

No man shall live for himself. This is so important to me that I’ve had it tattooed on my left forearm. I want to be reminded of it every day. I want to talk to people about it. I want to stir a movement around it. I want to raise my sons to live by it. This is my heart. It’s the way to a fulfilling life.

That doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Sometimes, it even feels like a burden. I try to serve as Christ served. I try to love my neighbor and live for others. But sometimes it’s just hard to do.

I can get annoyed. I can get frustrated. And when I do, I’m tempted to start reacting that way. I want to be selfish! I think, “It would be so much easier right now if I didn’t have to represent Jesus. It would be so much easier if I could just do whatever I want to do.”

In my flesh, I want to just let go and be frustrated, and I want to react out of frustration. Or I want to just let go and be angry, and then react out of anger. The temptation can be so strong! Obviously, sometimes I do act out of anger or frustration. As long as we have flesh on our bones, we will struggle with this.

Sometimes, self-control really does feel like a burden.

My little boys are always watching me. And you know what? They act like me. I can see it. When I’m not doing well, or I’m not reacting well to challenges, they reflect that back to me. If I react to things with frustration, they react to things with frustration. If I react to things out of anger, so do they.

And then they get in trouble and I don’t! I’m sure they see that, and think it’s not fair.

(I do get in trouble. They just don’t see it. Right?)

Selflessness and self-control are very hard, and very important. It’s so important to represent Christ the right way for our children. So it can be burdensome. Sometimes, I don’t want to react like Jesus. Sometimes, I just want to react my way.

Even service can be burdensome. It can be burdensome to fight for it, and to really understand what it means. It can be burdensome to wake up every day and serve. Serving people is exhausting at times. It really is. Especially if you’re not being served in return.

Jesus, man, think about Jesus! He said, “I came to Earth to serve, not to be served.” That’s huge. People hear that, and they will say, “Oh, that is so cool.” And yes, it is! But guess what? It can be very difficult to do. When you’re serving all the time, and you’re not being served in return, that little tank of love you have can run low.

Then the doubts creep in, where you’re like, “Hey, man, I need something in return here. I need some validation. Is anything I’m doing all that important?”

Jesus served us, no matter what. But I think He got exhausted. I’m sure of it. I think He finally showed it in the Garden of Gethsemane when He started sweating blood. He must have been saying, “I’m exhausted, and I’m about to die for people who will eventually deny that I even existed. I know what I’m about to take on. There’s going to be a lot of pain.” What a burden. A stress level like that? Jesus sweated blood.

He was never a sinner, but this was a moment where He showed us just how exhausting it can be to constantly serve. Jesus was constantly needed. People were constantly asking things of him. He did it the best of anybody. He’s God! And even He got exhausted.

We’re not going to do it nearly as well as He did. We’re not going to be as reliable and repetitive in our ability to serve as He was. But we’ve got to do our best. When service grows heavy, when it gets tough, you really have to ask the Spirit for strength. You have to ask Him for wisdom, and knowledge, and understanding. He will teach you. He will show you how to represent Christ every day. And He’ll restore you. You can rest in that.

More on this next time. See you Friday.