Understanding that Comes at Dawn

If you believe in something, it will be evident by your choices. Your conviction will result in more than the understanding that fuels explanations and theory; there will be a practice that displays the trust you have placed in that thing. If your belief is based in truth, that display should actually build on itself. In other words, if you’re acting in accordance with your beliefs and those beliefs are based in truth, your actions will become habits.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.” (Isaiah 50:4-5)

If you believe in God as Lord and are connected to Him relationally, your desires will increasingly align with His. The desire to help those that are “weary” will align with His heart for the broken and forgotten. That belief, those desires and such alignment won’t happen in a “one and done” fashion, however. It will happen morning by morning.

Morning by morning, you will wake up and seek deeper understanding of His will. In His faithfulness, as you draw near to Him, He will provide that understanding. The practice of persistently searching will shape your character because it will require a sacrifice. That sacrifice, at a minimum, is time. It may include sleep. It could require a choice that puts it above another option (breakfast, business, social media, etc.). The sacrifice for connection, however, will most certainly have a return on the investment.

Growth comes in the seeking and seeking, according to this passage, starts in the morning. There is something special about mornings. The dawning of a new day presents fresh mercies and new hope. The challenge of yesterday starts to give way to the hope of tomorrow.

Recently, I had a special morning where my understanding grew. It was one of many mornings, however, and not every one is as impactful as another. They build on each other. The relationship grows in the discipline and sacrifice and relationship is what fosters trust. Trust allows for sharing and sharing feeds understanding.

I suppose that kind of searching out doesn’t have to come in the morning and would never suggest that it can only happen in the A.M. Still, there is something special about mornings. We are all invited; morning by morning.

Every Job Presents Opportunities for Impact

During our first meeting in my office, I realized that the task at hand for this particular client wasn’t as legal as it was something different.  Her legal situation, while not particularly egregious, was grim.  She had been convicted of a misdemeanor and was appealing the conviction as she wanted desperately to clear her record.

As she sat and poured out her problems, I eventually put my pen down and just listened.  The facts surrounding the accusation were simple and the legal defense took just a minute to consider.  The chances of winning were slim, at best.  The facts surrounding the rest of her life were not nearly as simple.  She had taken some pretty tough hits in life and the result was financial stress, health problems and the challenge of raising two children on her own.

During that consultation, I told her how we would handle her case.  As importantly, I tried to give her something to get a hold of for her to begin to handle her life, as well.  Simple encouragement that brought hope and perspective.  The truth of who she was without the shame and guilt she had been piling on herself for some time now. No judgment or condemnation but recognition of the value of her eternal design.

We went to trial and lost.  We tried – threw a legitimate legal argument at a legitimate legal problem. Concerned that she was going to be upset following the trial, I started to talk with her in the hallway and she interrupted me.

She said, “Mr. Prickett, I am as full of hope right now as I have been in a long time.  When I came to your office, I was scared and defeated but you were kind to me.  Nobody has said the nice things that you said to me in my entire life.  Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.”  I listened and watched as a single tear rolled down her cheek.  She went on to share that she had signed up for college classes even though “it may take forever to get my degree, but I’m going to be moving forward with positive steps to keep my mind off of my problems.”

We all have the capacity to be the minister and we don’t need a church job to do it. We just have to be willing to agree with God in circumstances where people need God’s truth, hope and love. Once you know, you know enough. Once you have found truth, hope and love, give it away no matter what job you have from which you work as a minister.

The One Thing that Fixes Everything

The older that I get, the more challenging things can be. After 52 years, I am less confident in my correctness than ever before, even when I am right. I am increasingly decreasing through humility imposed as much as humility chosen. “Adulting” is no joke.

In my youth, zeal and ignorance kept me from fear. I was too young to know better and that’s not entirely good nor entirely bad; it just is. In fact, having the perspective of a child is ultimately the goal.

Now, I’m a professional Christian. I write things and say things and organize things that center around Jesus because I believe that everyone can benefit from what He is offering. I really do believe . . . and I doubt. I really am passionate . . . and I get weary. I really do want to help people . . . and I get hurt by them. I really do love people . . . and they wear me out. I really do trust God . . . and I’m afraid He won’t come through sometimes.

That list of paradoxical perspectives, feelings, experiences and thoughts could likely go on for quite some time. The uncertainty of me doesn’t change Him. The absoluteness of Him invites that uncertainty of me time and again. He remains who He has always been and invites me and my fluidity to his foundation. In that place, when I seek Him and find Him, there is a restoration and re-filling of contentment, peace, joy and peace.

His grace never gets tired of my agitation. His grace calls to me to step towards the one and eternal solution. The only thing that was ever designed or intended to be everything we need is, thankfully, also the most consistent and never ending thing we can ever imagine. In fact, it is beyond our imagination.

The only thing, place, person or feeling that fixes everything is the love of God. Only when I spend time in pursuit of the first and foremost need do the second and inferior other things take their proper place. Only in the security of relationship to “Abba” or Father God, even “Daddy” God, do my insecurity, inferior logic, busy mindedness, hurt, fear and other distractions fade to insignificant.

For some reason, and unfortunately, I’m too quick to go back to the other stuff once it starts flying at me. Then I am reminded of the open invitation to sit quietly with Him. He approves of me. He likes me. He loves me. He feels the exact same way about you . . . Just ask HIm. He’ll remind you.

There is No Badge of Honor in Impatience

We are all inclined to view our intentions and even our weaknesses in the most favorable light. When we mess things up or hurt someone else by our choices, a common defense is “I didn’t mean to.” Frankly, that intention usually isn’t the point; the choice and results declare themselves and owning them is the mature response.

With that in mind, things that we think we intend or why we do what we do can be elusive. We may think we know what we meant, wanted, etc., but we will lie to ourselves and believe it. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

That passage isn’t about cardiac disease; it’s about the condition of our soul. Our soul is our mind, will and emotions. Our mind, will and emotions are deceitful and lie among themselves beyond our understanding. We think we believe something (in our mind) but we choose to do things (our choices reflect our will) inconsistent with the values of those supposed beliefs.

Within that reality, the “fix” for our problems is sometimes not what we think. For instance, fear is not overcome with courage. Courage, in fact, is evidence of fear and the choice to do something despite the presence of fear. Fear is overcome with love. (“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” – 1 John 4:18).

Similarly, I found recently, that the opposite of impatience is not patience, but the opposite of impatience is humility. Consider Ecclesiastes 7:8: “Better is the end of a thing than its beginning, and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit.”

All too often we embrace our fears (e.g. fear of heights, dogs, etc.) and, likewise, often embrace our impatience. We will wear our impatience as almost a badge of honor. When asked about our weaknesses in a job interview, it is not uncommon to try to present a negative in a positive light.

According to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, impatience is pride. It is the willful choice of rising up to take control. There is nothing to brag about in our fear nor our impatience. There is certainly nothing to boast about in our pride. When we think we have to resolve things because God hasn’t moved quickly enough in our circumstances so we elevate ourselves to small “g” god status since capital “G” God hasn’t met our expectations, we choose to sit on His throne. That never turns out well in the long run.

God, will you grant me humility enough to wait on you? In Jesus, name, Amen.

Eternity Focused Leadership Development

Moving towards the transition of the organization, an assessment was in order to consider the condition of top leaders and rising stars. A consultant was engaged for the benefit of a third party perspective and time was short before Jesus would turn over the reigns. Following an exhaustive process, the consultant met with Jesus to report his findings.

“Jesus,” the consultant said somewhat reluctantly, “this organization has some problems and the result is alarming as you prepare to transition.”

“What do you mean?” Jesus asked, as if He didn’t know and clearly not alarmed with the negative tone of the consultant.

“Well, your personnel largely aren’t ready,” the consultant continued. “After three years of intensive leadership development and vision casting, most of them just don’t get it.”

Going along with it, Jesus asked, “do you have any examples?”

“Sure,” the consultant replied while pulling out his report to apparently refresh his memory on the details. “First, there are James and John. What I found was that they are in no position to lead. They are simply interested in themselves and their own advancement. I just don’t see where they are ready to be the kind of servant leader you require to continue the culture and DNA of the organization. Remember, they even got their mom to try to influence you for their benefit. (Matthew 20:20-28)

Then, there’s Peter. This guy is going to get you sued. He is very undisciplined and emotionally immature. Talented and bold, for sure, but sloppy.  I recommend a personal coach and some risk management training. (John 18:10)

Thomas is negative; he isn’t fully on board with the direction you have set. He has questions and he voices those doubts, which is detrimental to the morale of the organization. (John 20:25)

The one guy that you have who it diligent and can be trusted to look over organizational resources is Judas. He gets it; he is the most mature, responsible and prepared guy you have to take this thing forward.” (John 13:29)

“Thank you for your time, consideration and report,” Jesus replied as He appeared slightly amused at the conclusions.

“I really appreciate your help, but I’m going with my guys. All that you pointed out about James, John, Peter and Thomas was factually accurate. This is different, though.

For the last three years, I wasn’t trying to perfect their maturity; that will come with suffering and persecution. I was always looking at their heart. You see, My purpose has been and always will be about their heart. I’ve seen their hearts and I know that they will finish what I’ve started.

They will persevere through the difficulty to hand this movement off to the next generation and their passion is worthy of my trust for the purpose of My Kingdom. They have given their hearts to Me and My purposes; that makes them ready to represent me going forward. I trust them; we can work out their other stuff as we go.”

The Grace of Pain

When and if you stop to consider your arguments and rationale for why you should get things that you want, those reasons are often based in our perceived value, contribution, entitlements, etc. For those of us of faith, we’ll then put those expectations on God and often find a Scripture or two to “support” our justification. Sometimes we’ll even mistaken the challenges we face as an “attack” when, in fact, God Himself has both orchestrated and allowed our discomfort and He has done so for our benefit and His glory. Consider the following passage:

“You have neither heard nor understood; from of old your ears have not been open. Well do I know how treacherous you are; you were called a rebel from birth. For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath; for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you, so as not to destroy you completely. See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:8-11)

The Father addresses the rebellion of Israel, which is typically no different than the rebellion of you and I. He explains that instead of appropriate wrath for the depravity of rebellion against a Holy God, He chooses to refine. Instead of a swift and just judgment to the demise of the prodigal, He allows for affliction to grow up the immaturity and grow out the obstinance. I’m thankful for that because without it, I would have been destroyed long ago.

He chooses to look past our depravity which is offensive to His nature and, by His grace, work it out of us. Here’s the bigger point; He does it for His glory and fame. We aren’t really that big of a deal, despite our participation trophies. He is and always will be the point. He knows our selfishness and shallowness would prefer it were about us, yet He allows the affliction of difficultly to refine us and work out those iniquities.

Justice would demand our punishment for punishment’s sake. We would be destroyed but we are pressed to work it out of us, instead. It’s gracious to give us the time to grow and it’s gracious to allow us the process of refinement to redeem what otherwise is simply unacceptable.

In this world, you will have trouble. It’s not always an attack, but no matter if it is or not, the Lord is likely willing in every challenge to work out some expectation of justice or entitlement from within you. He’s willing to redeem your pain for His glory through the resulting maturity that comes with trust, if you’ll submit to Him through the circumstances and allow His glory to be the point over your comfort, preferences or expectations.