I’m in Little Rock, AR, for a NAMS meeting. Twelve of us, brothers, have gathered together. Incidentally, none of the sisters could join us. Our times of singing have had a certain powerful manliness to it. But a young woman, a random passerby, overheard us and popped up during the last song. Instantly our corporate voice, by the addition of just that one, took on a grace and beauty that has been missing all week—a deficit I do not think I would have noticed if she had not dropped by and added her voice to ours.
I saw this tweet and was reminded of something that happened the other day while I was putting my son to bed.
Jesus' ministry was constantly bombarded by interruptions.
So how can I start seeing them as ministry opportunities and not as nuisances taking me away from the "more important" plan? https://t.co/dLNP22cBnc
— Christianity Today (@CTmagazine) September 18, 2018
Sometimes Micah will tell me he doesn’t “want to” pray at bed time. Maybe it’s simply that I want him to. Maybe he’s just too emotionally spent at the end of the day. He’s six; who can really say why? So the other night I start praying and he starts repeating everything I say, in an attempt to be annoying and, I think, to get me to stop what I’m doing. The way kids do.
My gut reaction was to stop, and teach (OK, lecture) him about being respectful toward his father and his Heavenly Father. By God’s providence in that moment, however, I pivoted to another approach. I fed him words. I prayed in the first person what I wanted him to pray. And, for some reason, MrH didn’t fight it. He repeated after me.
One of the graces of a liturgy that includes responses for the people is that we give people good words to pray. Too often, I think, leaders in worship can default to any of several means to get people to participate more sincerely, more enthusiastically, more passionately, more obviously. We will say that what is important is the inward orientation of a worshiper, but when the gusto-meter is at an 8 instead of 11 on a given morning, we will try to exhort (extort?), cajole, manipulate, prod, or lecture our people into turning it up a notch.
What if we trusted the process of putting the trusted words of the saints who have preceded us—and, indeed, the very words of God!—on their lips? Expression is a healthy part of worship, and a core tenet of being an Anglican is that expression ought to be in “a tongue … understanded of the people.”1 Nonetheless, there is tremendous power in putting wholesome and life-giving words in the mouths of those who may all-too-often find themselves unable to generate their own extemporaneously. What if, in doing so, we could assist people toward the sort of worship we think God deserves—from the inside out?
I thought it would be fun to see if I could do a better job predicting the Jaguars’ initial 53-man roster. I probably won’t, because there are probably reasons why he’s a professional sportswriter and I am not. His take on the roster is here.
Quarterback (2, 2)
MD: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
Me: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
Running Back (4, 4)
MD: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Tim Cook
Me: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant, Brandon Wilds
I keep hearing about Tim Cook, but I haven’t seen it on the field. They may try and stash Cook on the practice squad.
Fullback (1, 1)
MD: Tommy Bohanon
Me: Tommy Bohanon
Wide Receiver (6, 6)
MD: Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene
Me: Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, D.J. Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Shane Wynn
Rashad Greene has caught 4 of 6 balls thrown his way, for 21 yards this preseason.He did not play in 2017, but in his first two seasons he averaged 5.2 yards per reception, had a long of 18 yards, and only managed 24 catches (the Jaguars offense was pretty desperate in 2015 and there were a lot of passing yards in 2016, so this stands out). It would not shock me if Shane Wynn got a shot. Wynn is generously listed at 5ʹ6ʺ tall, but Darren Sproles played at that height successfully. The Jaguars have several other players who can return punts in Wesbrook and Mickens. Greene has been a disappointed since he was drafted. I know the Jaguars like him because can play in the slot or outside, and the truth is they are probably more likely to keep him over the diminutive Wynn, but I’m calling my shot here.
Note: Zero chance they sign Dez Bryant.
Fullback (1, 1)
MD: Tommy Bohanon
Me: Tommy Bohanon
Tight End (4, 3)
MD: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, James O’Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Me: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, James O’Shaughnessy, Niles Paul
This is an underwhelming group. Koyack has never lived up to his potential and O’Shaughnessy has never consistently performed–missing some big opportunities as well as making some good catches last year. It would not shock me to see some action at this position after cut-down day. And, if Goolsby has a productive 4th preseason game I could see him making the roster and the Jaguars making a cut somewhere else.
Offensive Line (9, 9)
MD: Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Jermey Parnell, Tyler Shatley, Will Richardson, Chris Reed, Josh Wells
Me: Cam Robinson, Andrew Norwell, Brandon Linder, A.J. Cann, Jermey Parnell, Tyler Shatley, Will Richardson, Chris Reed, Josh Wells.
The Jaguars seem to really like Will Poehls and have had along look at him in a few games this preseason, but it’s hard to see them letting Wells, who has played a lot for them the last few years, go.
Defensive Line (9, 9)
MD: Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Michael Bennett, Abry Jones, Lerentee McCray, Taven Bryan
Me: Calais Campbell, Malik Jackson, Marcell Dareus, Yannick Ngakoue, Dante Fowler, Michael Bennett, Abry Jones, Lerentee McCray, Taven Bryan (edit: Dawuane Smoot until Fowler comes off suspended list?)
Linebacker (5, 5)
MD: Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs, Blair Brown, Donald Payne
Me: Telvin Smith, Myles Jack, Leon Jacobs, Blair Brown, Donald Payne
The Jaguars say they like the young talent they have, but it wouldn’t be a shocker if there were some moves here in September. This would be a rookie, two 2nd-year players, a 3rd-year player, and a 5th-year player as it stands. Young.
Cornerback (6, 5)
MD: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Tyler Patmon, D.J. Hayden, Tre Herndon, Quenton Meeks
Me: Jalen Ramsey, A.J. Bouye, Tyler Patmon, D.J. Hayden, Tre Herndon
It’s hard for me to see two undrafted free agents making the roster at cornerback.
Safety (4, 5)
MD: Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson, Ronnie Harrison, Cody Davis
Me: Barry Church, Tashaun Gipson, Ronnie Harrison, Cody Davis, Jarrod Wilson
Wilson seems to have played well this preseason, and he played well last year.
Specialists (3, 3)
MD: Logan Cooke (P), Josh Lambo (K), Carson Tinker (LS)
Me: Logan Cooke (P), Josh Lambo (K), Carson Tinker (LS)
Two bits of narrative have been really stuck in my head recently. First, a few days ago I read the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. There are many remarkable parts to that story, but I cannot seem to shake this bit: Zacchaeus “received [Jesus] joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled.” Of course just a little bit before that in Luke we read of the father exuberantly receiving back his lost son. Now it is the wayward son of Israel receiving the savior who has come to him.
Zacchaeus is a mess, and everybody knows he is a mess. Still, something about Jesus’ reputation has compelled him to draw close. In Jesus, he finds “salvation” and receives it joyfully. Given the care Luke takes in his research, I think we can take his inclusion of this story as a testimony to a genuine and lasting change—a conversion—in wee Zacchaeus. The joy with which this man receives his Lord must be evidence of true faith and trust. He had no doubt heard for ages how sinful he was as a tax-collecting collaborator and how angry God must certainly be with him. Nonetheless, he “received him joyfully.”
* * *
Elise and I have been watching the Great British Baking Show (or for the legion of UK viewers out there, the Great British Bake Off) thanks to my parents. In the season we are currently watching there is a young woman named Ruby who had a very rough start to the season. No matter how good her bakes actually are, she seems unable to gain any confidence. She hears only the criticism of what she has produced. She approaches the judges with a downtrodden countenance, blurts out every flaw she can think of (sometimes even inventing problems which do not actually exist), and speaks in such a self-effacing way that one has no doubt that she does not believe she deserves to be in the tent with the other contestants. She is desperate for approval, but even when receives validation for what she has done she seems to receive it only with a sense of relief, not with joy.
I can only describe Ruby the Contestant, because I do not know Ruby the Person. TV producers have a way of showing us a story they want us to see, and it is likely that they have helped to create a character. It’s entertainment after all!
How many of us, though, receive Jesus with only a sense of relief? How many of us continue to worry that what we produce isn’t good enough? How many of us worry that we haven’t attended enough church events, haven’t volunteered for enough things, haven’t given enough money, haven’t done enough random acts of kindness, haven’t built up a big enough church? How many of us approach God with so much trembling that it excludes the profound joy exemplified by Zacchaeus? How many of us, anticipating that sort of dread, simply do not approach our Heavenly Father at all? How many of us grumble at what God is doing in the lives of others because we do not recognize our own salvation looking upon us?
How can we manifest the power of God in a broken world if we do not believe what he spoken to us and over us? May we recognize not only the offer of forgiveness presented to us in Jesus and our need for us, but the trustworthiness of God’s “fatherly goodness towards us,” so that we may show others whatever it was Zacchaeus saw in the Son of God that caused him to “receive him joyfully.”
I have been reflecting over the last few days on how easily my life becomes cluttered. Recently on the one day of the week I have set aside for ministry- and church-planting work, I found that I had done really every sort of activity but what I had intended for the day. Each one of those things had crept in, one at a time. None of them were bad, exactly, but that day they amounted to noise rather than real work.
I have long imagined that it would become be less true if/when I can devote myself to a single vocation (i.e. the priesthood). But the truth is, I’ll never have a single vocation. It may come to pass that I become paid full-time for ministry work in (more or less) a single community. Even if that transition occurs some day, I will still be a husband, a father, a son, a NAMS companion.
I therefore appreciated this post from Dan Wilt.
The whispering stops as I learn to handle the informative power of my phone, rather than the informative power of my phone handling me. A new virtue emerges in the place of my first order impulse, as I learn to face down my [fear-of-missing-out].… And my heart is quieter, more focused, more attentive to the voice of my Shepherd, more ready to be present to the cultures in which I will represent Jesus, when I succeed on this battleground every morning.
When I force myself to not even look at my phone until after I have spent time with the Lord Jesus in the scriptures, and spent time in prayer, I find I almost instantly in a better spiritual place. One change in the morning routine results in a life that feels more orderly. I am more attentive to what is happening around me spiritually. There may not be less “stuff” in my life, but it’s more manageable. It feels, metaphorically speaking, like more of the stuff is in its rightful place instead of pressing in around me.
I have also observed that when I set the bar at the level of
- reading and meditating on the Bible (rather than reading a certain amount to check off a to-do item),
- evaluating my life in light of what I have read,
- offering up my cares and concerns to God,
- and listening to him speak into my life
that I don’t have to meet the bar perfectly every day to maintain a certain degree of health. What I mean is that even if I rush through the reading, or find that my prayers were really just me reading off a wishlist to God and hurrying through the end, or what-have-you, I am still in a better place for having done it. Even if the discipline was not undertaken whole-heartedly that day, I have still set aside that time. When one day I have hurried through my routine, I found it much easier on the following day to make an incremental improvement (slowing down) than to be faced with completely adjusting my priorities.
So I guess what I am saying is: legalism may be unhealthy, but a strict discipline of avoiding my smartphone until I have kept my morning appointment with God has been immensely helpful.
A beautiful improvisation of an arrangement for “Were you There?” by my former classmate and fellow graduate of IWS, Jeff Rogers.
It has a nice dose of prophetic judgment, but it’s the incredulity of Isaiah that really stands out. “Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing?” (v. 10, ESV). Who does that? No, seriously, who does that? The passage follows immediately after YHWH’s reminder of his character, his essence. Looking upon God and his nature—proven by his acts among and for his people—how could these people make idols?
Isaiah continues, decrying the very absurdity of any idol-making. You cut up some wood, you throw some in the fire. Get yourself warm, cook up some vittles. And with the leftover bits, carve yourself a nice god!
Who. Does. That.
Me. I do that. We do that.
It’s easy to think that I don’t since I don’t do any actual idol-carving. But we as residents of “the developed world” are in fact quite quick to look to our own achievements for salvation. There is a common rhetoric about about idols that decries setting any particular thing up in the place of God as the one we ultimately serve. The downside of this sort of talk is that it neglects all of the small idols we make and set out for ourselves. We are quick in our personal lives and as a society to identify a problem (or, more likely, misidentify a symptom as a problem) and then figure out how we can fix it. It’s easy to see this in technology, medicine, politics, education—you name it. If we just had a new tool. If we just had a new medicine. If people only knew. If we all just banded together.
But the Bible is quick to point out that our problems are far deeper than they appear. “Humans striving and failing to fix problems by themselves” is a repeated theme of the Old Testament. Humans misidentifying symptoms as root problems is also a repeated theme.
The things we build are not deserving obedience or obeisance. We are deluded when we think that what we fashion can save us from problems that are in fact bigger than we are. They are powerless and they make us powerless because they separate us from God.
You probably know by now I have a lot of favorites. #sorrynotsorry↩
Elise and I have been reading through Acts in the mornings of this Easter season. It’s been a while, but a passage from Acts 3 has really stuck with me (emphasis added):
Acts 3:17 “And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. 18 But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. 19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, 20 that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, 21 whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. 22 Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. 23 And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ 24 And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. 25 You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ 26 God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”
#blessed is a thing these days. Free champagne at my hair stylist #blessed. Found my coffee rewards punch card with only one to go #blessed. Got that promotion I was really hoping for #blessed. Or maybe we identify blessings apart from the material world. I feel true peace about this decision #blessed. I had an amazing quiet time I know Jesus loves me #blessed.
None of these #blessings is opposed to the Christian faith. How many of us, though, feel “blessed” to be turned away from our wickedness by somebody else?
Too often, we consider any external constraints to be encroachments on our freedom and, as Americans, on our happiness. Freedom, after all, is a fundamental American virtue.1 Freedom, one might surmise by listening to the way American speak, is to be equated with autonomy and control; the less control we have, the less happy we must be.
This is not the way of the Christian disciple. Politics and political philosophy aside, this is not the message of the Bible for those who are a part of God’s kingdom. “Wickedness” is not a term we want to use—lest it be pointed back at us, I suppose—but the very first of the Ten Commandments forbids us to have any god except for the Triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit. The “greatest” commandment2 Jesus gives is to love God with everything we have, but there is no Hebraic understanding of loving God apart from obeying God.
Each and every time that God turns us aside from loving false gods—from placing our faith on anyone other than Jesus Christ, from putting anyone or anything before God, from making our ultimate allegiance to anyone or anything besides God—we are to count ourselves blessed, no matter how unpleasant. We are not to begrudgingly return to our loving Creator—we are to count ourselves blessed or even, dare I say, happy.
Such a blessing may feel unpleasant when it arrives—how many times is #blessed appended to unpleasant narratives, do you suppose?—but St. Peter here offers a clear rebuke to us for understanding God’s correction as anything else. A ship may not feel like altering course based on what some land-lubber says, but shipwreck awaits one who disobeys. In the life of the Christian, such a course correction may come from prayer and silence before God, from the guidance and conviction of the Holy Spirit at the reading of the Scriptures, or through the godly counsel of other Christians.
When Christians are being led thusly, when they are truly sitting at the feat of their Lord and learning to follow and obey him more fully every day, the natural outcome of the blessing of God’s correction is that those around them will also be blessed—until the whole world is covered in that blessing. That is, the blessing of turning aside from false worship, from idolatry, from wickedness. This is the covenantal promise to Abraham.