New Creatures

It’s really difficult to understand God’s purpose when we look at what’s happening in the horn of Africa. A combination of drought, escalating food prices, and war has put an estimated 6 million people at risk of famine. It’s one thing to ask about God’s purpose for my life. I have a home and clean water. My children are not at risk of starving to death. But for many Somali families, that is exactly what they are facing. What is God’s purpose for their lives?

That’s a very tough question. I don’t know if I have the answer, but one thing that helps me get through it is the Lord’s Prayer. One day Jesus was praying, and when He finished one of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Luke 11:1-4)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth, just as Jesus taught us to do.

God didn’t have to create us to need food. He could have created us so that we’d never need to eat. I think maybe our hunger is the physical sign of our craving for God. It’s the material symbol of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Without food and water, we physically die. Without righteousness, our souls suffer.

In the kingdom of heaven there is no hunger. Obviously there’s no hunger, because in the kingdom, we have Jesus. We have the fulfillment of everything. But here on earth there’s hunger. Now we hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in the coming famine. You and I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God has promised that we will all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:6, Luke 6:21) Still, sometimes we look at the suffering around us and we ask, “When?” We ask, “How long, Lord? How long?

In the Bible it says we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. And before Jesus left, He said, “You are my best friends.”

That’s awesome. A master never reveals too much to his servants. A supervisor never reveals too much to her employees. But we are Jesus’s friends. He reveals everything to us! He says, “I’m your friend, so everything that my Father has taught me, I have taught you. I’m going to let you in on God’s ways.”

That’s why we are new creatures. We have a new life now. We’re not of this world. We have a Spirit that lives inside of us that says, “You are different. You are going to understand the ways of God.”

It’s His friendship that has made us into His ambassadors. We are ambassadors of Christ. As His representatives, we get to help bring His redemptive love to the ends of the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. In heaven there is no hunger, because part of God’s way is helping to fill those that hunger.  So feeding the hungry? That’s bringing the kingdom to earth. That’s what His ambassadors do!

Now, I know that helping families in the Horn of Africa is probably tugging at you, but remember, it is only a start. Becoming new creatures in Christ is about something so much greater. It’s about that Spirit that dwells within.

More on that next time. See you Friday.

Hearing the Spirit

We’re called to all kinds of different ministries. We’re the Body of Christ! Some of us are His hands, some of us are His feet, some of us are His eyes, some of us are His ears, and some of us are His voice.

Some of us conduct studies on the problems of poverty and slavery, and others come up with programs or ministries to alleviate those problems. If no one conducted those studies or created those ministries, I wouldn’t have heard of the problems of the poor. This is the influence of the Body of Christ!

There are a lot of people called to help and they don’t even know it yet. We don’t always know it right away. I didn’t begin to fully understand my calling until I was pitching for Colorado. I’m not sure I fully understand it yet, because I’m continually growing in it.

I know that part of my calling is to make sure that people know just how much we can do. There is so much that we can do to free the slaves, feed the hungry, bring water to the thirsty, and build homes for orphans. I’m passionate about bringing awareness of these problems to as many arenas as I can. I’m passionate because when I heard about the suffering of others, I felt it. I felt their suffering. In other words, I was called.

A lot of people want to help but they don’t know where to start. And they don’t know where to give their trust! Think about all the different well-digging organizations. Which ones can you trust? We hear about the ones that put in a well but never go back and check on it. They did their “good deed” so they stop paying attention. Then the well breaks, no one comes to fix it, and the people have to go back to drinking dirty water.

Even worse, they might not even be digging any wells! There are people that promote good in order to steal. They make a lot of promises, you give them money, and they walk. There was a guy in Oakland proclaiming Christ’s return on some particular day. He told people, “Give me tons of money so I can help promote this.” People gave up their life savings and nothing happened. Meanwhile, he ran away with their money.

That’s why I get the word out about groups that I know personally. I believe that I carry a Spirit upon me that is true and good. When I partner with a company it’s because I truly trust the people involved. I see what they’re doing and I know it’s sustainable.

I want to do my part too, and I want to do it well. I don’t want to just build a well somewhere and then forget about it. I don’t want to just build one orphanage and then say, “I built an orphanage. I’m good for my life now.” There are too many opportunities out there! How could I say I’m done? As long as I can help people, I’m going to try.

What I’ve done seems good to me. It seems like I’m on the right path. I don’t boast about what I do, because that wouldn’t make any sense. I know where my strength comes from.

It seems like I’m hearing the Spirit well. I also believe that God’s going to tell me when He wants me to change. He will tell me when He wants me to continue. I’ve got to be open to Him, and willing to let Him speak into my life and tell me what to do. So far, it’s been awesome. He’s allowed me to take part in bringing the kingdom.

More about this next time. See you Tuesday.

Living to Love

We’re here on this planet for the simplest of reasons: to love our neighbors as ourselves.

When we love our neighbors, we’re happy! Loving your neighbor as yourself is so fulfilling!

When you approach your life with the mentality of discipleship, you taste that fulfillment, and you are hooked. Salvation is awesome. When you realize what Jesus did for you, filling you with grace and bringing you into God’s kingdom, the joy will spill out of you. You’ll long to chase after Christ. You’ll long to hang out with him. You’ll read about all the things His disciples did, and you’ll want to do the same. You’ll want to do more!

Making the confession that Jesus died for you is just the start. What comes next?  Your life transformed by the Spirit! Just wait until you experience what it’s like to live your salvation. Living your salvation is living the lifestyle of Jesus. It’s having the discipleship mentality.

I truly, truly, truly, believe this. Salvation is not the whole story. It is fundamental, sure. It’s the key. It’s the beginning. You have to be saved. You have to recognize what Jesus Christ did. You have to know that He died on that cross. He took your sins. He took the blame. He took it all.

But He also taught us to pray for God’s kingdom on earth. He discipled us. He called us to live the life that He lived. He called us to bring the kingdom.

And that’s simple! All you have to do is keep His commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself. Whether you’re rich or poor or in between, your joy will come from the way you use the gifts you’ve been given to live the lifestyle of Jesus.

This is what I teach my children. Life isn’t about how much money you make. It’s not about fame, either.

Life is not about what you can get. Life is about what you can do. What can you do? You can love your neighbor as yourself! It’s really that simple!

Loving my neighbor as myself is the concept that I’ve built my life around. When I use my gifts to love my neighbor, I feel like I’m fulfilling my life’s goal. It’s fulfilling to do something good for somebody else, with no thought of a return.

Try it. Do something good, and do it simply to love. It feels great!

Do you believe in Jesus? If so, then how do you use your gifts? Do you use them to love others? Then congratulations! You’re on the course of discipleship. You are living the lifestyle of Jesus.

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.

A Movement Conceived in Love

Last week, I described the ways that God has chosen to teach me about suffering, poverty, and injustice.

The more I study, the more He shows me. And I don’t get discouraged.

It’s the opposite! This growing awareness stokes a fire in me! Growing awareness means a growing passion to help. I want to serve people the way that Jesus served them. Jesus loved people! He showed His love through service, so that’s what I want to do. I want to stir a movement of people, all with the same idea in mind.

God’s love is at the heart of this movement I want to inspire.

It’s a movement that begins and ends with Jesus. It’s a movement that begins and ends with knowing Him and His love. It’s a movement that begins and ends with following Him, and realizing His mission.

Do you want to know what God wants you to do? Look at what Jesus did. That’s all you need.

Jesus redeemed people. He had a relationship with them.  He loved on them. And that’s why when He spoke, people listened to Him. They gave Him the right to have a voice in their lives.

And when they did, what did He say? He said, “The opportunity you have here is to love God. To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself.”  That’s it! Just love God and love others.

But we don’t love others. We just don’t.

Why do I say that? Well, are you telling me that you want to be enslaved? Are you telling me that you want to starve and eat dirt? So many kids are doing that, just to feed their appetite. How can we say we love them, when we wouldn’t want that for ourselves?

Do you want to drink the same water that you relieved yourself in, and bathed yourself in, and washed your dishes in? We wouldn’t want to do that! But for so many villages, this is reality.

So I want us to spread the idea of this commandment, this awesome commandment to love others as ourselves. This commandment is not about following a list of do’s and don’ts. It’s about respect for what He did for you.

The idea is that I have a right to decide who I’m going to have sex with, and not have sex with. The idea is that I have a right to choose what job I want to do, even if I have to pay a debt. I have a right to choose my destiny and my path in life. And to love others as myself is to recognize that so many people have that right taken from them.

You really feel it when it’s happening to kids. Their mom or dad might have sold them. Or maybe their parents died, because of bad drinking water, or lack of food, or HIV. So they have no parents and they get snatched up by slavers and thrown into a truck and sold. Maybe they get turned into child soldiers who wake up every morning knowing they have to shoot people, because somebody bought them and now controls them.

A lot of these scenarios are taking place. This really happens. Diseases from hunger, HIV, or lack of clean drinking water, is killing parents and leaving children vulnerable to slavers. These scenarios all work together.

What better opportunity for a Christian, hearing God’s commandments, to say, “Hey! I can help make a dent in this!” Wouldn’t you like to feel the joy of releasing a captive slave? Wouldn’t you want to see a well that has been broken open, and get to say, “I helped with that”? Imagine being part of the joy these people have when they realize someone loves them. What do you think it’s like?

I can tell you. It’s life! It’s life in Christ! And you would say, “I feel fulfilled!”  This is such a good thing! This is the love of Jesus!

This is His love because this is what He did. He freed the captives. He healed the sick, and fed the hungry. Once you get a taste of this, you’ll find you want to spend your life loving God and your neighbors.

I want every Christian to realize this. It’s my dream that every Christian be moved by the love of Jesus to show the love of Jesus in order to know the love of Jesus.

That’s my idea.

See you Friday.

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 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.