Sep 08

Heavenly Reverie, Pt. 3 – “Get Your Head in the Game”

by Leave a comment

I played basketball in High School.  When I was a senior, our opening game was against a highly ranked team.  I was to play defense against an all-state point guard, and that week in practice my coach was particularly hard on me, trying to get

...

I played basketball in High School.  When I was a senior, our opening game was against a highly ranked team.  I was to play defense against an all-state point guard, and that week in practice my coach was particularly hard on me, trying to get me prepared.  If he saw me losing focus even for a second he would blow his whistle and yell, “Smith, get your head in the game!!!”  It was a rough week being yelled at so much, but it did get my attention.  Come game time I was ready.

We played that first game at home, and we had a raucous crowd behind us.  The energy was flowing through the building.  I was trembling through the warm-up time.  Then something happened to me right at the tip-off, something that had never happened to me before, and never happened again.  It was as is if, in an instant, the crowd noise became silent.  I could hear the beating of my heart, and my breathing, and nothing else.  The game seemed to slow down.  I was fully present to the moment, and completely unaware of myself.  I was in what athletes call “the zone.”

Right away I anticipated a pass by my opponent, and jumped in for an interception, raced to the other end and scored.  We were ahead 2-0.  The next trip down the court I was all over my star opponent, and once again stole a pass and went down and scored again.  We were up 4-0.  The other team quit trying to pass to my opponent, and they stalled offensively.  With each trip down the court for us I scored—on six straight possessions.  They only managed one basket.  We were ahead 16-2, only ten minutes into the game, and I had scored all 16 of our points.

During a dead-ball near my bench, I ran over to throw the ball in to one of my teammates.  As I stood on the sideline, one of my teammates on bench swatted me on the rear (athletes do this to one another despite it being inappropriate in normal life) and said, “Smith, you’re playing awesome—keep it up!”  I turned and looked at him, and in that moment I realized something I had forgotten for the past ten minutes:  that I was playing basketball.  The crowd noise suddenly blared, like someone had just cranked up the stereo.  I nervously threw the ball in bounds, and tried to get back to that zone.  To no avail.  For the rest of the game I played terribly.  I never scored again, and made a lot of turnovers.  My star opponent soon caught on fire.  It was a nightmare, until the last few seconds of the game.

In the final seconds, down by a point, my teammate stole a pass and threw the ball to me and I raced down the court for a lay-up, only to be fouled (pretty hard) by my opponent.  With no time remaining on the clock, I was awarded two free-throws.  I made the first, tying the game.  With a chance to win the game, I let the ball fly, only to watch it clank off the back of the rim.  Now tied, we went into overtime.  We lost, by five points, and I never scored again.  I was crushed and felt defeated.  What had happened?

When I was in the “zone” I was in the flow of the moment.  I was completely concentrated on what was in front of me.  I had my “head in the game,” as my coach had barked at me all week.  In the zone, I played with a clear focus.  I played without self-awareness.   It was only later, in the locker room, that I learned I had scored 16 straight points.  I played without fear.   Every time I shot, I never thought of missing.  When my teammate swatted me on the rear, that all ended.  From that moment on I was self-aware (“Smith, you’re playing awesome”).  I played with pressure (“keep it up!”).  I played with fear.  My opponent, whom I had dominated, now intimidated me.  My head was no longer in the game, and I was awful.

I had not thought about that story for at least a decade until one morning in prayer I said to God, “Just tell me this—what is the one thing, the one thing I could do that would strengthen my life as an apprentice of Jesus?”  I heard the Spirit say, “Get your head in the game.”  It was the exact same phrase as my basketball coach, but said in a much more gentle tone.  In that time of prayer I asked the Lord to explain what that means.  God then brought this verse to my mind:  “Set your mind on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:2)

Set your mind.  That is the key.  In that verse, those three words “set your mind,” comes from one Greek word:  phroneo.  It is also translated as “savor” or “be mindful” or “think on.”  Bible scholars say it refers to “the seat of intellectual and spiritual activity.”  The ancient Greeks used the word to describe an inner disposition “oriented to the good and the beautiful.”[i]  One important verse where phroneo is used is in Matt. 16:23.  In that passage, Jesus tells the disciples that he will be killed, but raised again, on the third day.  Peter says, “Never, Lord, will this happen to you!”  And Jesus responds with the famous rebuke:  “Get behind me, Satan, you are an offense to me, because you set your mind (phroneo) not on the things of God, but the things of man.”

The “things of man” would refer to the kingdom of this world, and its values, such as power, pleasure, self-preservation and wealth.  Jesus is essentially telling Peter, “Get your head in the game, the real game, which is the Kingdom of God, and its values of self-sacrifice, beauty, goodness, truth, and love.”  To “set your mind” of the kingdom of this world is tempting, because we are constantly bombarded with its values.   Everywhere I turn I see it.  Buy more, be more, have more.  Yet seeking the kingdom of this world is fraught with frustration and fear.

Jesus tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God and his right ways, and you will have everything you need” (Matt. 6:33).  He says this in response to those who spend their life worrying about what they will eat, or drink, or wear.  To get your head in the worldly game is to live in anxiety and despair.  To get your head in the Kingdom of God game is find life and peace.  Paul says the same when he tells the Colossian Christ-followers, “Since you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above.  Set your mind (phroneo) on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1-2).  Christ-followers are united with Jesus and his new reign, and we are invited—urged even—to get our heads in that game.

That is what I most want right now.  To have the same kind of focus on the Kingdom of God that I had in that basketball game long ago.  To be utterly caught up on this game that is happening all around me, the with-God life to which I have been invited, is my aim and purpose.  To be so in the zone of Kingdom of God that I am completely unaware of anything else, not the least of all, of myself.  And when I get in that zone I pray that no one snaps me out of it.

[i]  Kittel, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. 9, p. 222

Photo courtesy of  Chad Cooper – Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.


Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notablyThe Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

Join Dr. Smith and other Christian Formation authors and speakers this October for The Apprentice Gathering 2015 – The Joy of Kingdom Living.  Learn more at www.apprenticegathering.org.

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Heavenly Reverie, Kingdom of God, Spiritural Growth | Tags: / / /

More Less
Jul 07

Suburban Apprentice

by Leave a comment

Several years ago, I listened to a presentation at Asbury Seminary in Orlando.  The school was about an hour away from my home – a quaint, yet comfortable little place on the east coast of Florida.  I was working towards a Master of Divinity degree. 

...

Several years ago, I listened to a presentation at Asbury Seminary in Orlando.  The school was about an hour away from my home – a quaint, yet comfortable little place on the east coast of Florida.  I was working towards a Master of Divinity degree.  One of my professors was pleased to announce that the seminary would soon be establishing a “School of Urban Ministry.”  He explained the timeline and the reason for this new initiative.  Since Orlando is a fairly large city (especially compared to Asbury’s main campus in Wilmore, KY), there would be some tremendous opportunities for ministry.  My professor also said the School of Urban Ministry would be a terrific way for people to get solid training before heading off to participate in urban ministry throughout the country.

While the initiative is without question important if not necessary, I couldn’t help but get a little uneasy in my seat.  It had nothing to do with the seminary’s lukewarm coffee that was offered, either.  My mind was racing because I thought there was a large portion of our country’s population that was being overlooked.  Shortly after the professor left the classroom, I leaned over and told a classmate what I was thinking.  I said, “The seminary also needs to establish a School of Suburban Ministry.” My classmate gave me an odd look.  She wasn’t sure if I was serious or joking.  But I was dead serious.

I’ve visited several big, urban cities all over the country.  Sometimes it was on business.  Other times it was for pleasure.  I’ve also participated in inner city mission trips.  No matter the purpose for my visit, it was always very easy to spot the need.  Whether it was a run-down church with an eviction notice on the front doors or a homeless person on the corner with a cardboard sign in hand, you didn’t have to travel far into the city to see a source of pain or suffering.

Things are different in suburbia, a place removed from the city with neighborhoods full of manicured lawns and lovely patio furniture.  Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy living in the suburbs.  But there are some real challenges too.  Having lived in suburbia all my life, I have learned that the needs of my neighbors are easily hidden in the shrubs that help shape the landscaping.  Much of this, in my opinion, is done on purpose.  Suburbanites are supposed to have their act together.  So it’s not easy for people to reveal their “warts” when everyone else around them seems to have it so good.  News flash – we all have warts!

There has been a bit of a paradigm shift in neighborhoods over time.  Fifty years ago, people who lived in suburban neighborhoods knew each other.  They spent time out front talking about their lives, and sharing a cup of sugar or a few eggs for a recipe.  It was also easy to connect with each other because houses were designed differently.  Think about it.  Front porches were much bigger back then.  People placed an emphasis on being available for their neighbors, therefore they spent more time on the front porch.  In the 21st Century, our time and our money is spent on the back porch, where it’s harder to connect with our neighbors.  Contributing to the isolation is the habit of opening the garage door, pulling the car in, then promptly closing the garage door.  Our isolation has also bled into other areas of suburban life.

As a father of two young kids, I spend a lot of my time in the evenings at the soccer fields or in the dance studio or in a gymnasium.  It would be easier for me to find a seat and surf my social media accounts or return work emails.  By doing that, I would get to avoid everyone else.  After all, so many other parents are doing the same thing.  That’s life in the suburbs.  But the suburbs are my mission field – and I don’t want to miss an opportunity to connect with someone who might be suffering or going through a trial.  So I look people in the eyes, and ask about their day.  Some people are guarded with their answers.  Others are ready to unload a burden that’s weighing them down.  Financial stress, parental issues, relationship problems, spiritual crises – they are more prevalent than we realize.  Our neighborhoods and communities need us to be the hands and feet of Christ in the midst of our everyday lives.

In Knowing Christ Today, Dallas Willard speaks to this when he says,

“The ‘love’ Jesus lived and taught is not limited to compassion for the suffering and the downtrodden.  Those were simple and obvious cases of love, to be sure: obvious because the needs of such people were so glaring, and because they were not the usual objects of love for ordinary people in ordinary life.  They tended to be passed by.  Helping people in dire need was recognized as a ‘big deal,’ something to make a show of, and as a praiseworthy thing for extraordinary people to do – rather as we today would describe someone as a ‘philanthropist.’  Unfortunately, people are not thought to be philanthropists because they are kind and thoughtful and on the lookout for the good of those around them and serve them.  But when Jesus spoke of love as the principle of life as it ought to be, he is referring mainly to the posture of benefiting others in the ordinary relations of ordinary life.” 1

Our calling as suburban apprentices of Jesus is to help re-shape the narratives that form and cause harm to our neighbors.  Going out of your way to connect with the people around us may seem radical to this world.  But these practices are ordinary to Jesus because they flow of out of who he is.  So consider yourself an ordinary radical – someone who loves and cares for people – in the midst of your everyday life.  Whether they readily realize it or not, it matters to them and it matters to God, and it will make a difference in the Kingdom.

Questions for Reflection

  1. What does your everyday, ordinary life look like?
  2. Do the comforts and isolation of the suburbs prevent you from connecting with neighbors? How?
  3. What are some tangible ways you can show love to those in your community?

Bibliography

  1. Willard, Dallas. Knowing Christ Today. Harper One, New York, 2009, p.88.

John Carroll oversees the Apprentice Experience, a two-year certification experience in Christian Spiritual Formation for clergy and laity.  With a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Central Florida and a Master of Divinity from Asbury Theological Seminary, John brings a unique blend of experience (11 years in corporate recruiting, 4 years in the local church) to the Apprentice Institute.  He is happily married to his wife, Amber, and together they have two children, Aidan and Amelia. In his free time, John enjoys reading, watching football and spending time with family and friends.

For more information about the Apprentice Experience, contact John at john.carroll@apprenticeinstitute.org.


The Apprentice Gathering 2015 – An Apprentice Institute event in partnership with Renovaré.  Gather with us as we learn about The Joy of Kingdom Living.  For more information visit www.apprenticegathering.org 

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Formation for Mission | Tags: / / / /

More Less
Mar 31

A Priest Who Prays

by Leave a comment

“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great

...

“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Having been reconciled with us through his death, Jesus is now laboring for our healing through his prayer: “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34 nrsv).

What does this mean for you and for me? It means that not only do we stand forever forgiven, but Jesus is also forever praying for us. And what is he praying for? He is praying that you and I would be completely new people, people in whom he can make his home.

When Paul asks the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” he is urging them to reflect on the wonder of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and the splendor of Jesus, the High Priest who now prays for us. This is how God is “making all things new.”

The glorious Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) is on a mission to transform every one of us. That does not happen by anything we do of ourselves. Jesus did it all. And Jesus does it all—by continuing to pray for each of us. But we do participate in this transformation. We set our minds on these truths: we are forgiven, and Jesus is praying for us. And when Jesus prays, things happen. He will not stop until he has made us all new people.

Soul Training – Changing Narratives:

Make a small notecard today with the following 2 phrases; “I am forgiven” and “Jesus is praying for me”. Place the card in a place that you will see it over the next week. (Examples: Next to Computer Monitor, Refrigerator Door, Bathroom Mirror, Phone Screen Background or Coffee Table)


 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Apprenticeship, Kingdom of God, Narrative | Tags: / / / / / / / /

More Less
Jan 27

Testing or Trusting?

by Leave a comment

solitude

“You have an exhaustive personality” my co-worker said. “What? Me? No!” I was taken aback. He has only known me for a few months.  How can he say this? I had no idea what he meant but the words stung deep and rung through my

...
solitude

“You have an exhaustive personality” my co-worker said.

“What? Me? No!” I was taken aback. He has only known me for a few months.  How can he say this?

I had no idea what he meant but the words stung deep and rung through my head for days.  I began overanalyzing every word that came out of my mouth wondering if I was being “exhaustive” or not.  I must rid myself of “exhaustive” behaviors.

I hated this description of me.  I was not angry with my co-worker at all.  In fact, I appreciated his honesty.  However, I was scrutinizing my every action and that was exhaustive!  I always thought of myself as a perky, upbeat, inviting person and within one conversation I was stopped dead in my tracks to reevaluate how I interacted with my community.

I love being in community.  Community is where I thrive.  The more helpful I can be the better.  Serving is definitely my love language.

How can a true servant have an “exhaustive” personality?

I prayed (a little).  I took time to reflect (kind of) on my actions to see how I was interacting with others.  I realized my life was going through an enormous amount of change, both personally and professionally.  I became a mother at the same time my job was shifting directions, all the while the small business I owned was steadily losing money making it harder and harder to keep the doors open.  I was exhausted all right and my mental exhaustion was rubbing off on those around me.

In the book “Holy is the Day” by Carolyn Weber, she asks the question “Am I testing? Or am I trusting?” I highlighted the line and kept reading.  However, for the days that followed that line haunted my mind. I continually asked myself, “God, am I trusting you to show me what plans you have for me? Or I am testing you to see if your plans are the same as mine?”

These words settled in my brain and I began to understand what within my personality had become “exhaustive.” I wasn’t trusting God.  I was running on auto-pilot putting my relationship with Him on the back burner.  As I began to slow down and make time for God daily I was able to listen to others better and respond better and serve better. I was less confrontational and more joyful.  I moved away from having to be in control of every situation and allow God to work within my life versus just when I think I cannot handle a situation.

Jesus trusted his Heavenly Father even in darkness. As his apprentice I am learning to do the same.  I trust that no matter how exhausted my body and my life, I can rest in him and he will provide what I truly need.

 

Kara Yuza is the Coordinator of Programming and Logistics for the Apprentice Institute at Friends University.  She is co-worker to four incredibly smart, talented, hard-working, generous and fun-loving men as well as a mom to the most beautiful daughter in the world and wife the the most supportive husband known to man.  For fun she teaches Jazzercise fitness classes and spends time in community with friends and family.

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Narrative | Tags: / / / /

More Less
Dec 17

Authentic to Who We Are

by Leave a comment

Making the adjustment from the ways of the world to the ways of the kingdom is hard. But guilt is a poor motivator. ….Being an apprentice of Jesus is not about rules and laws, it is about identity and place. The Christian life is not

...

Making the adjustment from the ways of the world to the ways of the kingdom is hard. But guilt is a poor motivator. ….Being an apprentice of Jesus is not about rules and laws, it is about identity and place. The Christian life is not an if-then obligation (“If I do this, then God will do that”). It is a because-therefore opportunity (“Because I am one in whom Christ dwells, therefore I will . . .”). The better way to encourage change is to remind people who they are now in contrast to who they once were. That’s what Paul does in his letters to new Christians. Christ lives in us, and our life is in him. Instead of applying guilt, we should say to ourselves, I am a Christ-inhabited person. What does that look like in the world I live in?

There is no escaping the reality—thanks be to God—that I am one in whom Christ dwells and therefore I am called to live differently than the life I once lived. Not because my salvation is dependent on it. Not because God will be mad at me if I do not. Not even because people are watching what I do and when I sin it is a bad witness. Put simply, I am called to live differently because I am not the person I once was. Paul’s logic is consistent in all of his epistles (see, for example, Ephesians 2 and Romans 5–6). It is not a matter of salvation, it is a matter of being authentically who we are.


Soul Training – Taking it Deeper:

Read Ephesians Chapter 2 and Romans Chapter 5-6. Write down significant words or phrases from that emerge from the chapters. Take about 5 minutes to reflect on the significance of these words. Consider writing a paragraph (3-4 sentences) summary of what Paul has written. Personalize this summary by using your name or I in the summary.

Example Sentences: I, Jim, was once living in sin but now the Spirit is at work in my heart. God loves me and has been rich in his mercy towards me. God has raised me, Jim, up with Jesus. Jesus has brought Good-news of peace to me. I, Jim, can now live life as one whom is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Apprenticeship, Blog, Identity | Tags: / / / / / / / / /

More Less
1
Back to top

Sign Up

Nam ut dolor at erat dignissim pellentesque. Aliquam erat volutpat.