You Absolutely Can Go to Jail

When I was practicing law, I would routinely meet new criminal defense clients for the first time and they would tell me about the situation they were in. With alarming regularity, somewhere in their account of the situation, some of them would inform me something like “I can’t go to jail for this.”

I would stop what we were doing and interrupt by telling them, “You absolutely can go to jail.” Obviously, I was trying to keep them out of jail but there is nothing worse than standing next to a client that is surprised by the reality of the deputy putting handcuffs on them. Even if they don’t go to jail, feeling the weight of the potential consequences is beneficial to them long-term to avoid the situations that caused them to have to come to court in the first place.

Consequences cause us to have to consider the actions that bought the result. Ideally, we learn from the consequences to avoid bigger mistakes and greater consequences. Consequences are our friend as they suggest we consider our will. Why did we do the thing that causes us the discomfort of the consequence? What should we do differently?

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The love of God is particularly attractive compared to the consequences of our rebellion. It’s His kindness that calls to us for us to change our mind and turn away from the choices we make apart from Him. Kindness is only kind by contrast. If there are no consequences and everything is a soft landing, then kindness isn’t that big of a deal, is it?

Jesus invites us into His Kingdom; into His holiness. He is in the redemption business. He wants to exchange the depravity within us and replace it with His glory. He loves us and knew we had issues when He decided to die for us. He isn’t intimidated nor impressed by our sin.

The consequences we face aren’t from the anger of God; they are more like gravity. When we choose to walk outside of the way that He has made for us, we are open to the results of our rebellion. We aren’t very good at being our own small “g” gods, so when we try, there are problems. The big “G” God waits patiently in His kindness for us to come home from our prodigal ways to enjoy the benefits of the relationship He intends for us with Him.

Two Kinds of Wisdom

We all want wisdom and many of us proclaim wisdom once we think we have something figured out. Those premature declarations are indicators that we’ve attained the wrong or incomplete version of wisdom, however. Wisdom, by definition, comes in two forms; man’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. When we declare our wisdom, we settle for the inferiority of man’s wisdom over the eternal potential of God’s wisdom.

In order to realize the life of Jesus available from within us, we are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (our mind, will and emotions). If/when we will give up our opinions and desires, we can be informed by Holy Spirit’s perspective and not limited to our own. If we will die to ourselves, we will live and enjoy His wisdom and not our cheap substitute.

Wisdom that is me and not Him is “not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 3:15)

The description of my wisdom is given in three terms but they don’t mean the same thing. They can’t mean the same thing, since “unspiritual” and “demonic” are contradictory on their face. Human wisdom, if given priority over the availability of God’s wisdom which is available by submitting our soul has the following progressive (or regressive?) attributes:

  • Earthly – basic wisdom from existing on earth; if you touch fire, it will burn, so don’t touch fire.
  • Unspiritual – “sensuous nature with its subjection to appetite and passion.” This means driven by your own will and emotions, or soul. Beyond just the wisdom of the flesh, this is trusting the wisdom of the soul. It is, in effect, choosing to be your own small “g” god in those areas where you rely on your perspective.
  • Demonic – this is influenced or tormented by the perspective of an enemy that comes against the purposes of God and is intent on destroying you. Nobody would willingly choose this form of wisdom out of the gate; it is a progressive slide where the consequences of soul-ish wisdom lead to a greater depravity and give permission to evil. Sin has a progressive nature (it waits to devour you).

James goes on to say “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (3:17) “Good fruits” include “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” from Galatians.

That means that God’s wisdom isn’t just knowledge or ability; it is the feeling that comes with contentment as described in James and Galatians. It is without anxiety, fear, worry, shame and guilt. Wisdom from God comes at the expense of your preference but gives you life in abundance where otherwise we are limited to the boundaries of our soul.

The Glory of Shutting Up

Somewhere along the way, we have largely embraced a cultural value and belief that we need to be heard. We need to have a voice to proclaim our perspective. We need to be afforded a seat at the table to weigh in on whatever subject we deem ourselves interested and opinionated.

It’s not true. We don’t need to be heard. Often times, it’s actually to our advantage to not be heard. The position of no position is peaceful compared to the contentious places of preference.

In Matthew 16, Jesus begins to teach His guys this lesson. He begins to teach them the Kingdom. Verse 21 says that Jesus “began to show” His disciples that He “must” suffer, be killed and be raised.

Peter actually starts to argue with Him. Peter needed to be heard, with what most of us would have concluded to be a noble position, but we would see in the reaction of Jesus that it was anything but noble. Peter said that he wouldn’t allow Jesus to suffer and be killed and Jesus shut him down; actually called him Satan.

Jesus tells Peter that his perspective is wrong; he’s looking at things from man’s perspective, not God’s perspective. Jesus goes on to say that to follow Him, we must deny ourselves, which actually means to forget about ourselves. It means to not focus on us or the opinions we foster within us. Those opinions don’t need to be heard.

We are invited to die to the preferences of our soul (vs. 25-26) just like Jesus was. We get to not have an opinion. We get to enjoy the benefits of sacrifice, if we will reject the apparent satisfaction of being heard or considered or preferred. If we’ll allow ourselves to lose, we will win.

Glory comes on the other side of crucifixion. Where we willingly allow ourselves not to matter and deny our desire to advance the preferences of our soul, the glory of God can come through us. Where we will sacrifice our mind, will and emotions, His Spirit will be put on display through us.

Jesus didn’t come to provide a history lesson or abstract idea; He came to unleash His Kingdom and His plan for multiplication of that Kingdom is us. We are invited to follow Him in His ways; the ways of His Kingdom. Not our ways and our need to be heard. His ways are better, but they come at the cost of our preferences.

Understanding Others Starts with Understanding Self

I was on a video conference call with people from the other side of the world last week. People who have become friends from time that we have gotten to spend together and now work we are getting to do together. People of different cultures and countries with a common goal. Even seeing them on video and interacting in that way stirred warm feelings of friendship and appreciation for them.

As we finished our meeting, someone asked me to close our meeting with prayer. As I started to pray, the Lord stirred the story of the Tower of Babel and I prayed in agreement. In that story from Genesis 11, people were building a tower to reach the heavens. God decided to confuse their common language to prevent their understanding and stop them from accomplishing their task.

Where we can gain common understanding, we can reach heaven and heaven will reach us. Where we can break through the common and preferred way we know things to understand them from a foreign perspective, we’ll gain insight into the Kingdom of God. When we are willing to be uncomfortable and hold our preferences loosely, we can gain the eternal alternative.

Ephesians 2:22 says that God, on the cornerstone of Christ, is building His household to house His Spirit. The household is people in relationship, not institutions, buildings or programs. Where we seek common understanding relationally, we have the capacity to house the very Spirit of God among us.

When stones are arranged relationally to build a structure, they require shaping. The shaping incorporates hammers, chisels and saws. There is abrasive effort to take a stone and alter it in such a way that it can fit with other stones unto a greater purpose than any of the single stones will serve alone. We require the same shaping.

We can reach the heavens as part of the household of God. Where we seek and depend on common understanding, we come closer to heaven and invite heaven closer to earth. That understanding comes at the expense of our preferences and sacrifice of the selfishness of our soul. If we will allow the shaping, our individual purpose will be multiplied in relational agreement with others who are being shaped, as well.

We won’t really understand them until we understand us. Until we are honest about our faults and insecurities, we won’t have any true strength. Our faults will be a fault in the structure until they are recognized and compensated for by the offsetting strengths of the others. We’ll know their strengths compared to our weaknesses if we are willing to admit our weaknesses first.

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast and Leaders for Lunch

Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “culture eats strategy for breakfast.” That quote indicates his conviction that strategy is good, but culture dictates capacity and outcomes.

Last week, I wrote about how supervision of results is relatively easy. Strategic duplication of those results is more difficult. Cultural change to multiply impact requires the discipline and determination to forego control. That type of multiplication requires release.

Release of others to carry the vision and culture as multipliers means that they are likely going to do things different than how you might. It’s the cost of multiplication. The reward of tending to culture is the satisfaction of knowing that you didn’t have to matter directly but got the privilege of being a part of a multiplying impact towards a common vision.

Some leaders, however, won’t possess the security or emotional intelligence to be unnecessary. They won’t want things to happen around them indirectly, but they need to be in control directly. They may never know the deeper satisfaction of multiplication beyond themselves.

Culture change will only be attractive compared to tactics and strategy when leaders are willing to get out-of-the-way. When it isn’t about the individual, the group can flourish. Until then, the capacity of the organization is directly tied to the limitations of an individual’s insecurity.

Freedom is rooted in identity. A by-product or fruit of freedom is security. Where there is an assurance of identity, there will be a security that overcomes temptations of control. The capacity of the organization will be tied to the soul of its leader as the insecure leader won’t empower and entrust others. Without release, the culture will be and remain stagnant yet predictable.

The cost of release includes the messiness of mistakes. The security of a leaders allows for mistakes to be opportunities, not definitions. They won’t define others by their mistakes nor accept the whispers of definition related to their own worth when the results are less than excellent.

Being quiet when you know the answer is more difficult than being right. Yet, stepping back is the only way that others have space to step up. Ultimately, them stepping up or not is what defines the leader; not the skill of that leader being applied directly to a task.

A friend of mine with a doctorate degree in leadership still refers to himself as a student of leadership. He never stops developing. He is open to his flaws and needs for learning and growth. He is an excellent leader because he doesn’t consider himself a leader of note. We’re never done; there is always more. The price of leadership is vulnerability and vulnerability requires the security of not needing to be perfect. Imperfect leaders breed a multiplying culture as others are allowed to grow in their imperfections, too.

Multiplying Impact and Results By Developing Culture

I was reading a post-game interview with a major college coach who has been in his current position for two years. His team was coming off of a big, program defining win. There was a particular play where a team rallied with extraordinary effort around the ball carrier.

The play had come on 3rd and 19 and there was about a 10 yard pass; well short of the first down. The receiver pushed and pulled, with the help of his teammates, another 7 yards or so and set up 4th and short. Ultimately, the team went for it on 4th down and converted the first down.

The call – the strategy and tactics – only produced about 1/2 of what was required. It was the unity of agreement towards a goal that pushed the situation to favorable. The coach had done all that he could do and he was left to simply watch as the team took matters into their own hands beyond the result of the strategy and tactic.

Immediately following the play, the coach reportedly said, “That’s a culture play right there.” The culture was changing. He inherited a program with limited success and he was trying to get them to achieve more. He was going about it by attempting to change the culture. If the culture changes, the norms change. If the norms change, people agree related to how and what to do. They already know why; it’s cultural. They agree with the why and are unified towards the what.

Culture multiplies leadership. Culture is the multiplier because it extends beyond the direct control of the leader. The leader doesn’t have to direct the specifics, but can trust that hearts are aligned towards a common goal and the extra effort, creativity and perseverance is a produce of agreement. Skills, talents, abilities and creativity are released to multiply. All the leader is left to do, at times, is watch as the team results exceeds the strategy or tactics employed.

When the leader doesn’t have to be present but the vision is “caught” in the culture, there can be exponential momentum. Ultimately, it is the test of truly outstanding leadership; how do they perform in your absence? Additionally, how do they perform in your absence when faced with unexpected challenges? Can they adapt collectively and push through the variables that weren’t planned for?

Strategy and tactics are easy by comparison. Culture is the hard, slower process of agreement towards a common goal. It’s the “why” becoming so inherent in the language and consciousness of an organization that the leader’s immediate presence isn’t necessary. It’s also the only true multiplier of the three.