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.

Solus Christus Sums It Up

Solus Christus sums up everything for me. My lifestyle, my passion, my commitments, everything.

Do I believe that Christ is the only way to God? Yes. I believe it. I believe Christ is the way, the truth, and the life. No man sees the Father except through Him.

When I do something, I do it with the understanding that I do it in Christ. What drives me to be who I am? The answer is Christ. I don’t get to hang with the guy every day like his disciples got to do, but I have His Spirit inside of me. Solus Christus. It’s in Christ that I do the things I do.

I try to view things the way that Christ wants me to view things. I know I will stand before the throne of God one day and He will say, “Jeremy, sometimes you were wrong.” I’m willing to accept that. It’s not like we get to go through life depending on an audible voice from God on every single topic. We read in Luke that Peter, John, and James went up on the mountain with Jesus to pray. A cloud came down, and out of the cloud God spoke and said, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” We don’t all get that opportunity.

Solus Christus tattoo

But His Spirit is in me. Through His Spirit, I can ask for wisdom. In Christ, I do what seems right. I try to. I try to do things with an authority that says, “This is how Christ would do it.”

Suppose I fail? I know I will. Suppose I choose a route that I should not have chosen? Suppose I do something that involves sin? I’m still a man, made of flesh and bone, so I will fail. But when I realize my sin, I also realize that I’ve been redeemed. How have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In whom have I been redeemed? Solus Christus. In Christ I am redeemed. In Christ I am made righteous.

It’s why I don’t have to live in guilt. I get to live in freedom! My freedom comes in Christ.

That’s also why I can live my life with such passion. I don’t look back. I don’t. When I mess up, I repent. Then I can heal and grow. When I recognize my sin, I also recognize that I have a way out of it. Repentance challenges me to go deeper in prayer. It challenges me to deepen my commitment to living more deeply in Christ.

So you see, this tattoo means so much to me. Everything for me happens in Christ. Solus Christus. I want my sons to grow in Christ. I want my marriage to grow in Christ. When my family does things, I want us to do them in Christ. Solus Christus is my family’s crest and shield.

I live in Christ, I make my decisions in Christ, I repent in Christ, I challenge myself in Christ, and I want my family to be a family in Christ. That’s why I put this tattoo on my forearm. That’s why I chose those two words. And that’s why I put it in a circle. A circle has no beginning, and it has no end. It just keeps going.

And that’s how I am in Christ.

I just want to continue to grow in Christ, and never stop.

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.