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Dad, Do What Is Best

Today’s sermon title comes from The Message’s rendering of those iconic words from the Lord’s prayer, “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Dad, do what is best.

That’s what dads are supposed to do, and as a kid growing up, I didn’t always appreciate some of my dad’s choices. There was one time in particular where I bought something and he made me return it because he didn’t approve. At the time, I was really upset at him, because I felt like he just made me do what he wanted, and I had to go along with it.

The way I saw it, he got his way because he was the adult and I wasn’t.

This, by the way, is the same reason why I used to have a problem understanding this part of The Lord’s Prayer. I never understood why we’re supposed to pray for God’s will to be done. My analytical, philosophical side couldn’t really make sense of it.

It’s God’s will. Of course it’s going to be done.

Praying for God’s will to be done seemed to be the logical equivalent of praying for the sun to rise every morning. It’s happening regardless, whether we pray for it or not.

So why pray for it?

That’s a question I struggled with, one that many struggle with today. What is the point of praying to God about an issue that seems like a foregone conclusion?

Looking back, I can honestly say that part of what led me to this question was an incomplete understanding of God’s will. Like many good Christians, my concept of God’s will was like… well, it’s a stretch, but it was sorta like playing Madden.

See, anybody who has played John Madden football – the gold standard of video game football – knows that there’s a great little option in the game called “Ask Madden.” Former NFL coach John Madden was a legend in coaching back in the day, and so the game programmers were able to crunch a bunch of data and figure out the kinds of plays and formations he used a lot. So in any game scenario, if you don’t know which formation to use or which play to call, you can just “Ask Madden.” You press a button, and get a recommendation. If you use Madden’s play, you usually end up looking like a genius.

This, to me, was my concept of God’s will. Life is full of choices here and there, and amidst all of the options and alternatives there’s always an official “God’s Will” option, and if you can figure out which plays are “God’s Will” plays, more often than not, you’ll come out on top.

I realize not all of you are big football video gamers, so here’s another metaphor:

I also tended to see God’s will like it was a consumer incentive program.

It was as if when I became a Christian, I was issued this purple God’s Will ™ Club Card, and every time I read my Bible or spent time in prayer, I earned some Discernment Points. These points would become useful anytime I needed to purchase something, because having my God’s Will ™ Club Card gave me access to discounts on select divinely-endorsed “God’s Will” products and activities. Using these products and engaging in these activities – in conjunction with regular Bible reading and prayer, of course – would earn you more Discernment Points, and thus keep you on track with “God’s Will.”

(Considering all the Christian bookstores I’ve browsed, I’m surprised this doesn’t actually exist.)

Obviously, something is wrong with these images of God’s will. Neither of them is totally wrong, but they’re both incomplete. What these images lack is perspective.

Henry Blackaby, in his book Experiencing God, says that when people ask the question, ‘what is God’s will for my life?’ they are asking the wrong question.

It’s not that they’re wrong for asking that question… it’s just that it’s the wrong question.

A better question is, “What is God’s will?”

“Because people are naturally self-centered, we tend to view the whole world – even God’s activity – in terms of our own lives … but that is actually an inverted life perspective. Once I know God’s will, then my life gains its proper perspective, and I can adjust my life to Him and to His purposes. In other words, what is it that God is purposing to accomplish where I am? Once I know what God is doing, then I see what I should do. My focus needs to be outward on God and His purposes, not inward on my life.”

God’s will is much more than just you or I knowing which plays to run, which products to consume, or which activities to engage in. God’s will is something much greater.

As we continue in this discussion today, I’d like to give you five rock-solid ideas about God’s will that will help your understanding, and help make some sense of why it is that we pray for God’s will to be done.

The first of these is foundational:

God’s will is bigger than you.

Ephesians 1:9-10 (emphasis mine):

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

Luke 3:5-7 (emphasis mine):

‘Every valley shall be filled in,

every mountain and hill made low.

The crooked roads shall become straight,

the rough ways smooth.

And all mankind will see God’s salvation.’

Daniel 7:13-14 (emphasis mine):

In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Those are just three examples, but the Bible is literally full of them… if you read the Bible to cover, you’ll begin to see that it’s not just an anthology of books of various literary forms, but it’s a collective tapestry of God’s interaction with humanity. The Bible is way more than just “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth” (did anybody else learn that in Sunday school?), it’s a written record of God’s desire to save humanity from itself by establishing the headship and rule of Christ over all.

All of the battles, all of the miracles, all of the stubborn kings, all of the evil prophets, every story that has ever unfolded from any page of the Bible… they’re all chapters in the story that God has been writing from the beginning of time.

Once you begin to see that, even a little bit, it changes the whole equation.

It explains how the most brutal, unjust killing in the history of man can be commemorated on a day called “Good Friday.” What makes the crucifixion good? It was part of God’s plan.

So when you pray for God’s will to be done, you’re not just praying for your little thread in the grand tapestry. You’re praying for the whole thing. That’s part of the reason it says “on earth, as it is in heaven” … because God’s will encompasses it all.

Despite its brevity, this is a big, huge, massive prayer.

While there are times when the choices we make play a part in God establishing His kingdom, our choices are infinitely small compared to the grand stage that God operates on. That’s why it’s so foolish to reduce God’s will to only a series of choices that we make as individuals. God’s will transcends and supersedes our choices. His will cannot and will not be thwarted, ever.

The chief proof I have of this, by the way, is the fact that He entrusted His majestic endeavor to fickle, random, unpredictable human beings. Nothing sinks a project like getting incompetent, sinful, fallen people involved in it. And yet, centuries and centuries later, disciples are still being made, Christ is still being preached, and God’s kingdom is still advancing in every corner of the earth, even today. If that’s not proof of God’s omnipotence, I don’t know what is.

The bottom line is, He’s God and we’re not.

Thus, when we pray for His will, we don’t always know exactly we’re praying for, which brings me to my second rock-solid thought:

God’s will can’t be fully understood by us humans.

Isaiah 55:8-9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,

declares the LORD.

As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

The fact of the matter, not only is “thy will be done” a really big prayer, but it’s a really dangerous
prayer, because when we pray this prayer, we do not really know what we’re asking for. We may have a certain set of outcomes in mind when we pray this prayer, but fundamentally, we’re acknowledging our inability to discern what is truly best in the largest sense of the word, thus entrusting that duty to One who is worthy of such a task. It’s a spiritual blank check that only He can cover.

This, by the way, is one of the biggest stumbling blocks to belief for certain people. Some people, for whatever reason, cannot reconcile this… they think, well if God is all-loving and all-powerful, why is there so much evil in the world? How could an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God allow 9/11, or the Jewish Holocaust?

For centuries, philosophers and theologians have wrestled with this very question without coming to a uniform consensus on the matter. So if you’re struggling with it, let me provide a fail-safe answer: I don’t know.

For some people, that answer is a deal-breaker. If it doesn’t make sense to them, they cannot commit. They refuse to worship a God they cannot understand. For me, of course, that’s entirely the point… why worship a god that can be understood by mortal men? Such a god, by definition, is not worthy of such adoration.

(Unless it was designed by Steve Jobs, of course.)

Jokes aside, the sad thing about such intellectual perfectionism is that it tends to be an all-or-nothing deal, where the baby gets thrown out with the bath water. Though God cannot fully be understood, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing about Him that can be understood.

On the contrary, if we know how and where to look, there is plenty to be found, which leads to my next rock-solid truth:

God’s will becomes evident as His character is revealed.

My favorite cable TV network is the USA Network, and not just because my two favorite TV series (“Psych” and “Burn Notice”) are there, but because of their slogan: “Characters Welcome.”

People become devoted to their favorite series if they can make a connection with the main characters involved. Likewise, people become devoted to God once they begin to experience a revelation of His character. And just as a person’s character is not established by only one action or one line of dialogue, but from a series of actions and interactions, that’s the same way God reveals Himself to someone who is looking for Him … over time, across a series of interactions, both interpersonally and historically.

This is why it’s so important to read the Bible… like, all of it. We must use the Scriptures as the lens by which we interpret our own experiences, rather than the other way around. Every story or poem or letter or account in the Bible gives us a unique piece of insight into who God is and what He likes to do, and by taking these stories in, we give God a chance to reveal a part of who He is to us.

So for example… if you read the story of David and Goliath, you can tell that God likes to confound conventional wisdom, because it was the little runt from the house of Jesse, the kid that everybody forgot about, that eventually slew the giant, and later, was anointed as king.

If you read about Jonah and the great fish, you can tell that God wants to reach out to those who don’t know Him, and that He cares about people who are lost more than He cares about making things convenient for His servants.

If you read about the story of Achan in Joshua 7, you learn that God is particular about obedience, and will find a way to get your attention if you disobey.

If you read about Nehemiah and how he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, you learn that God cares about cities, and that casting vision and community organizing make a difference.

These are the kinds of revelations we can experience if we get to know the God of the Scriptures. And every time we have an experience with God, either through His word, or personally, it’s important for us to view it in light of all of the other things we know about God. If God reveals His will through His character, it’s important to make sure you have enough information to have a clear picture of His character.

This is especially true when we’re talking about the Lord’s Prayer, because in it, we address God as Father… and there are many different kinds of fathers out there. Not all fathers have the same character. When we say, “our Father,” I don’t think we’re all necessarily seeing God the same way.

Speaking of characters, does anyone remember Gordon Gartrell?

For those of you who haven’t earned your 80s-sitcom-trivia merit badge yet, Gordon Gartrell was and is the name of a designer, a high-end NYC fashion designer, whose name was immortalized in one of my favorite episodes of The Cosby Show.

In this episode, Theo has promised his girlfriend he would wear a Gordon Gartrell shirt for an upcoming date, but when his father Cliff finds out the shirt cost $95 — in 80’s money –, Theo must return the shirt for something more reasonable. Desperate to avoid losing face, Theo asks his sister to sew together a replica shirt of similar design… and wacky hijinks ensue.

Here’s a question… if you had never seen the Cosby Show before, would you automatically assume that Cliff was being a good father when he ordered his son to take the shirt back?

I suppose it depends on your background and how much you would be willing to pay for a new shirt. Your interpretation might also be affected by your own experience, especially if, like mine, your father ever did anything similar (more on that later).

By and large, though, I think the episode is funny only because we believe that, in general, Cliff is a good dad, and his choice to deny his son the object of his desire (the shirt) is done out of a general desire to look out for his wellbeing. If we as viewers didn’t have any other reason to believe that the character Heathcliff Huxtable is a good dad, we might see the episode differently.

This principle is critical to understanding the will of God. God’s will is revealed through His character, so if you’re going to evaluate His character, you can’t just pick a few isolated situations or experiences and hope you’ve gotten a good picture. The key is to put those experiences in the proper context.

My other, non-USA-network favorite show is “Lost.”

One thing that frequent “Lost” viewers recognize is that episodes often start with one single image, usually an extreme close-up.

In the pilot episode, that image is of a human eye.

It’s kind of weird at first, but then it eases up. Then you see a head, a man’s head. Eventually you can tell it’s a man lying down in the middle of the jungle. The man gets up, and begins first jogging, then sprinting toward what we can now tell is the wreckage of a plane that just crash landed onto an island.

On a normal TV show or movie, the first images you see are normally wide shots of picturesque locales: an urban skyline, a boundless meadow, a majestic meadow, or wherever the action is supposed to be taking place. It helps the viewer establish a sense of setting.

But for this pilot episode, the director J. J. Abrams takes the opposite approach – a choice that is designed to leave the viewer, well, lost.

When we try to decipher God’s will without really getting to know His character first, we end up the same way – disoriented, confused, and lost.

My earlier attempts to conceptualize God’s will were futile because they focused mostly on the choices that I made from day to day. Knowing God’s will is more than just making the right decisions, buying the right products, or engaging in the right activities. To know God’s will, you must first know His character. Trying to do one without the other is futile, like trying to guess the plot of a random show based only on a few close-ups.

That doesn’t mean that said decisions, products and activities are unimportant, just that they must be placed in the broader context of who God is and what He is doing in the world. The close-ups will come, but come on… first things first.

Which leads to my next rock-solid idea…

God’s will is proven through the daily renewing of your mind.

Romans 12:1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Doing the work of discerning, proving, examining and discovering God’s will as it pertains to life requires mental renovation every day. Renewal of mind can take on several forms – personal worship and/or devotion time, prayer, and Bible reading all quickly come to mind – but it’s got to happen, and it’s got to happen every day.

And part of the reason why I advocate for reading Scripture, especially in large quantities (several chapters at a time), is because if you grow up in church, you might hear people quote certain scriptures, and without reading them in context, you might be taking away a message that’s not necessarily what God intended for you to receive.

For example, earlier I referenced Isaiah 55:8-9, where the prophet Isaiah is relaying a word from the Lord about how His ways are higher than our ways. If you’re a Christian and you’ve been in the church for awhile, you’ve probably heard those verses dozens of times. But you might not have ever read the whole thing.

Take a few minutes now, and read all of Isaiah 55, including those two verses, and see if you look at those passages differently:

1 “Come, all you who are thirsty,

come to the waters;

and you who have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without cost.

2 Why spend money on what is not bread,

and your labor on what does not satisfy?

Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,

and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

3 Give ear and come to me;

hear me, that your soul may live.

I will make an everlasting covenant with you,

my faithful love promised to David.

4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander of the peoples.

5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,

and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,

because of the LORD your God,

the Holy One of Israel,

for he has endowed you with splendor.”

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;

call on him while he is near.

7 Let the wicked forsake his way

and the evil man his thoughts.

Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him,

and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

neither are your ways my ways,”

declares the LORD.

9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 As the rain and the snow

come down from heaven,

and do not return to it

without watering the earth

and making it bud and flourish,

so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

12 You will go out in joy

and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills

will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field

will clap their hands.

13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,

and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.

This will be for the LORD’s renown,

for an everlasting sign,

which will not be destroyed.”

Looks pretty different, doesn’t it?

I don’t know about you, but when I read verses 8 and 9 alone, I tend to project onto it a tone of derisive mocking. But that’s not at all what the Lord is saying to Isaiah. When you read the whole thing, you read an invitation. It’s the warm greeting of a loving God who desperately wants to extend His love and authority to His children, a God who wants His children to know Him, to be loved and reassured by Him. When He says that His ways are not like our ways, He’s really saying, I’m not petty and vindictive, I don’t seek only to tear down, but to restore. I know that’s probably a foreign concept for you, but it’s true.

What an incredible image this is!

This is why we must renew our minds daily. Renewing our minds through Scriptural intake is what helps our image of God’s character stay fresh and accurate, and it helps us defend ourselves against the enemy’s lies. This is a crucial, because whether consciously or unconsciously, we use our concept of God’s character to evaluate His will.

So if we slack off with renewing our minds, then we’re liable to believe things about God that aren’t true. We end up thinking, just like my man Theo Huxtable, that Dad isn’t really looking out for our best interests, that He really just wants to keep us from having fun, that He doesn’t ever want us to have meaningful relationships, and that He’s punishing us by being stingy with His resources.

And I know somebody is probably thinking, okay calm down, Jelani… it’s just an old episode of Cosby. That’s not really how I behave toward God.

If so, you’re probably more mature than me.

That Cosby episode resonates with me because I actually had a similar exchange with my Dad during high school. Only it wasn’t just a shirt, it was a suit, a magenta-colored, polyester and rayon blend jacket-and-pants combo that I purchased from Jeans West, the leading teen apparel store of choice at the time.

Unlike Theo, who charged it to his father’s account, I paid for the suit with my own money.

And Dad still made me take it back.

Yeah, he tried to tell me that if I’m going to buy a suit I should spend a little bit more and get better value. He tried to tell me that it wasn’t professional looking, that I had a responsibility to represent myself well in public, and that I wouldn’t be able to wear it anywhere except high school dances. (Which, of course, was the very place I wanted to be seen wearing it.)

I wasn’t hearing any of that. All I could think about was how unfair it was that I didn’t have the freedom to choose. I was absolutely furious. And I would have stayed that way, possibly for a long time, except for the fact that I had a chance to sit and think for awhile.

And remember.

I remembered all the times where I took his correction and it ended up working out well for me. I remembered all the gifts he had given me, all of the times he did something special for me. All the times when I had disobeyed his correction and gotten myself into wads of trouble.

After sitting for awhile, I realized I only had two options. I was either going to ignore those memories, remain angry and hold a grudge, or I was going to let go, and just do what he asked me to do.

Eventually, I did the latter.

After awhile, I gradually understood that my Dad really did have my best interests at heart.

After awhile, the magenta suit joined the ranks of juvenile appearance fads that I coveted at first, then eventually let go of (along with jheri curls, Hammer pants, and African medallions).

By taking the suit back, I gave myself a chance to learn some powerful lessons, ones I would have learned the hard way had I kept it.

Which brings me to my last rock-solid idea…

God wants us to participate in His will.

Matthew 12:46-50 (emphasis mine):

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

As we’ve established, God’s will is more than just the choices we make on a day to day basis.

But that does NOT mean that our day to day choices are irrelevant!

God wants us to be connected with Him, to have an intimate, familial relationship where we know Him as Father. And yet, as Jesus is pointing out here in this passage of Matthew 12, the only way to be in His family is to do the will of His Father.

Jesus wasn’t trying to diss his blood relatives here. You have to understand the context. He had just spent all day healing people and teaching the crowds from the law. Yet, here He was being challenged by the Pharisees, who asked to see a miraculous sign, even though He had already been performing miracles of healing, and those miracles were denounced by many of those same Pharisees as being from the devil!

Jesus was tired of their relentless verbal traps, tired of their posturing, tired of them exalting their rule of law as the standard, and what’s worse, doing so on the basis of their religious family traditions. So when He received word that His mother and brothers had been waiting for him outside, Jesus finally threw down the gauntlet:

You wanna be in the real family of God? You want to be a relative of my Father?

Do. His. Will.

Sometimes, it’s really just that simple.

Because yes, you need to understand that His will is bigger than you. Yes, you need to be prepared for the fact that sometimes you won’t understand His will exactly. Yes, you need to experience a revelation of His character, and you must also renew your mind daily to help apply it to your everyday experience.

But at the end of the day, if we want to be called Christians, if we want to be in the family of God, if we want to actually live for Him and not just pretend to live for Him, we must follow through and do what He is asking of us.

And that, in my opinion, why we pray, “thy will be done” in The Lord’s Prayer.

When we pray that part of the prayer, we’re not simply giving our intellectual assent to the certainty of God’s purposes taking place.

We’re taking a bold step of faith, and declaring to God:

No matter the ramifications, no matter what it costs me, no matter where or in what condition I end up as a result, I commit myself to discovering Your will and carrying it out.

That’s why Jesus included “thy will be done” in his example of prayer, because that’s how committed He was to His Father’s will.

John 5:19 — Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

Jesus knew that without that level of commitment, you won’t last long in His Father’s kingdom.

Now here’s the deal.

Praying this prayer and living it out… is hard.

It’s simple to say, but difficult to pull off, because it requires us to consistently give over our will to His will.

And some people think it was easy for Jesus because, well… He was God. Of course He did everything the Father said. They were almost the same person.

People who say this don’t usually take the time to read the whole gospel narrative, because if they did, they would stumble onto Matthew 26:39:

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

This was Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, praying to His Father, asking Him to find a way to avert what Jesus knew was coming – his crucifixion at the hands of the people.

This was NOT easy for Jesus. He didn’t want to go through it any more than we would if we were in His place.

(And don’t get all religious on me here… you know good and well that if you were in this same situation you would be doing the same thing, looking for some kind of loophole or something. Nobody likes going through what Jesus went through, not even Jesus.)

This is what the writer of Hebrews was referring to in Heb. 4:16:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

Jesus modeled that prayer because He modeled that lifestyle. When given the option between the Father’s will and His own, even when His very life was on the line… He did the Father’s will.

Jesus had this in mind when He asked us to pray the radical prayer of “thy will be done,” because He knew that sometimes actually following through and submitting to God’s will is tremendously difficult.

And yet, it is the path to which we are called, a path that, almost inexplicably, almost paradoxically, offers us the greatest sense of fulfillment imaginable.

And that is part of the divine mystery; that such self-denial could lead to such glory in the end.

What Jesus knew then is the same thing that we are invited to learn every time we have a chance to submit to His will… that God is good, and thus, His will is good.

Good enough to sign up for, sight unseen. Good enough to give our lives for.

And certainly good enough to pray for.

I’m Jelani Greenidge, and thanks for Mixin’ It Up with me.

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Todd Bentley and Florida Outpouring Get MSNBC Coverage


Read the story here.

I have nothing new to report, other than that I think it’s fascinating to read the comments after each story like this. Skeptics are all, this is a hoax… get real, people! And some Christians are like praise the Lord! And other Christians are all, this Bentley guy is weird, but hey, people are getting healed!

This, to me, seems to be another example of God’s using a wacky vessel just to prove that He can do what He wants with whomever He wants. I pray that the FreshFire ministry stays true to the leading of the Spirit.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written:
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (NIV)

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from Google’s joke of the day…

This passed the make-Holly-laugh test (unlike the Noah’s Day joke):

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin – 5 and Ryan – 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson.
“If Jesus were sitting here, He would say , ‘Let my brother have the first pancake… I can wait.'” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

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QUICK HIT: Pray for the Dungys

Sometimes I strive to entertaining or amusing, but this is neither.

It’s being reported today that James Dungy, son of Indianapolis Colts’ head coach Tony Dungy, was found dead in his apartment. He was 18 years old.

I bring this up because Dungy is not only the celebrated head coach of a team that’s poised to win the Super Bowl, but because he is also an outspoken Christian.

In a media-saturated sports world where flash and glitz get attention, Dungy is a rare breed. He takes opportunities to speak up about his faith, but rarely grandstands to get attention. Dungy lives in a high-pressure world, a level of competitive excellence where the slightest miscue can provoke millions of people to second-guess your every move. Yet he’s repeatedly maintained an unpopular view in the NFL — that his faith is more important than his job.

During the ensuing controversy about the Terrell Owens / Desperate Housewives Monday Night Football intro segment last fall, Tony Dungy was one of the few voices from within the NFL to voice his disapproval of the sexually suggestive vignette. Afterward, a lot of the TV and radio talking heads were quick to say that the bit wasn’t a big deal, but no one had the gall to challenge Dungy directly on his opinion, ’cause none of ’em wanted to admit that he was right.

Indy sports fans were disappointed last week when their Colts suffered their first loss on the field for the season. But Dungy is experiencing a loss exponentially more ravaging and painful. And as the news broke today, two of ESPN’s NFL columnists have already weighed in on the matter, praising Dungy for his devout faith. The sports world is watching Dungy to see how he reacts to this unfathomable tragedy.

I will pray for Tony Dungy, and if you feel so led I ask you to do the same.

Pray for the Dungy family as they sort through the difficulties of this grevious process. Pray for God’s peace and presence to be bestowed upon them. And pray that this experience would only serve to solidify his testimony and elevate his favor among the elite names in sports.

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Fine Lines: Virgil Thompson

(“Fine Lines” title taken from “Change of Subject,” a blog by Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune.)

“The way to write American music is simple. All you have to do is be an American and then write any kind of music you wish.” – Virgil Thompson

Yeah, and then if you know the right people, your music will eventually be popularized on American Idol, covered by American cover bands, illegally downloaded by American college students, and hoarded by multinational corporations headed by Americans.

Not that I’m bitter or anything.

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Open Letter to Snoop Dogg & Jamie Foxx

Snoop Dizzle and my man J-Foxx,

First of all, congratulations for your life achievements thus far. You’re both successful entertainers, and I have to say that I’ve enjoyed both of your work quite a bit from time to time. It’s been a pleasure seeing both of you make the transition from being cult favorites among Black audiences to mainstream sensations.

I’m also glad that you both have seen fit to get involved with what is a sensitive and politically polarizing subject, capital punishment. I’m sure that Stanley “Tookie” Williams was grateful to have stars of your magnitude shedding light on his predicament. And I’m sure that even those people who fully support the death penalty can appreciate the good attempts Williams made to dissuade young people from joining gangs, even if they don’t think those deeds outweighed the heinous criminal acts he was convicted of committing.

Nevertheless, Tookie couldn’t run from the past forever, and his number was finally called. As Ken “Hawk” Harrelson would say, “he gone.”

So my question to you is simple:

What are you going to do now?

Specifically, what plans do you have to carry on Tookie’s legacy?

If he meant as much to you as you’ve indicated, then I hope to see you both continue to advance his legacy by doing whatever you can to stop the influence of gangs on America’s youth. And it’s probably not as hard as you think.

It may be simply a matter of helping provide products with positive entertainment value that don’t glorify violence or perpetuate gangsta / playa ethos that help to perpetuate the spiral of crime and degradation. It could be as simple as committing time, energy and money to advance extra-curricular programs that can give kids something to do besides knock off corner stores and sling rock.

Or maybe it could be something as simple as continuing to speak out about the problem. An interview here, a speaking engagement there, etc. I don’t know what your publicists have in mind. But if this is something you’re serious about, then by all means, let them in on your convictions. Please continue your efforts to make a difference.

Because if you don’t, then it’s gonna look bad for you. Many people (myself included) will conclude that this whole Tookie Williams affair was a sham; not quite an elaborate set-up, but much worse than just a waning of interest. It’s gonna look like you were less interested in changing our communities for the better and more interested in grabbing the spotlight to push a cause in order to network with Hollywood leftist activists.

I’m not God, and I can’t judge your motives. But I like you both, so I’m hoping you can quiet my skeptical instincts by continuing to be diligent in your anti-gang activism. If you don’t, then you shouldn’t bother yourselves with any other forms of activism. Because by then nobody’s gonna take you seriously. Credibility is like currency — if you’re not careful, it can disappear in a hurry.

So Snoop, with that in mind, keep your mind on your money and your money on your mind. Think of where it can do the most good. Jamie, do like you used to say with your “Wanda” character from In Living Color. Rock my world. Be so bold and daring in your desire to create change that you’ll be willing to look silly and endure criticism for what you believe.

Don’t just do it because I’m challenging you. Do it ’cause it’s the right thing to do.

And if he meant so much to you, then do it for Tookie.

sincerely,

Jelani Greenidge
Blogger, “Mixin’ It Up.”