The Most Critical Components Towards Realization of Our Purpose

Practicing law provided insight into things applicable well beyond the criminal justice system. Circumstances that had resulted in criminal ramifications exposed things that otherwise would go unnoticed. The insulation of the suburbs or compromise of excuses eroded under the scrutiny of the law. In other words, there were things that were true for people charged with a crime that are just as true for those of us living “normal” lives but we can’t see them based on our relative comfort or distraction.

When I was introduced to someone who was in the middle of a lifestyle of problems, resulting in repetitive criminal charges and other issues, there were consistently two things that were present. The #1 most consistent thing that was inconsistent in the lives of troubled people was fatherlessness. Almost every time I asked an habitual offender where their father was, it was a tragic story.

As things shifted, I became increasingly engaged with “good” people from the suburbs, typically from a church in the suburbs. When they had persistent struggles, the #1 thing that I have found to be an underlying agitate is their father relationship. The father relationship is incredibly pivotal to how we view God and how we view ourselves. Our realization of God’s true identity and our realization of our own identity according to Him is foundation to our freedom. If we have unresolved issues with our dad, we are often going to struggle realizing the Fatherhood of our Dad.

The second most consistent inconsistency is purposelessness. Where people lack purpose, whether impoverished criminal defendants or suburban professionals, they tend to struggle. We are wired for “why.” We need to get up every day knowing that the world has a need and we have a contribution to the solution. Realization of our place is the next question after realization of our identity.

We don’t realize our identity or our purpose “one time at band camp.” There are gates of realization along the pathway of a journey. They are markers and clues on our quest into eternity. Those gates and markers tend to come in difficult times when we have to answer questions within us that we don’t have the answer to. We need the Designer to show us how He wired us and what He intends for that unique wiring. Questions can bring revelation and revelation unlocks the application of our identity and design. You don’t have to wait for the hard times to ask the deep questions any more than you have to be charged with a crime to need to figure things out.

 

Get Your Gifts Back

When we see areas of our lives that are clearly not what they are intended to be, sometimes the picture of what is intended is the exact opposite. In fact, the thing that tends to torment us or challenge us the most might be a gift within us which has been perfectly hijacked. In such cases, the best course of action is to step towards the gift even more than trying to stop doing the things that are off course.

When I was younger, I was particularly good at the banter. The sharp, sarcastic jousting that cuts at any weakness was an area of strength for me. When in a room where there was that kind of cutting and slashing, I was a force to be dealt with.

The effort to stay ahead of others to defend myself and attack them verbally is mentally tiring because it’s not God’s intention for the verbal ability He put within me. He gave me language and ability to speak life and encouragement, but instead I was speaking criticism and destruction. The gift that He wanted to use to call out greatness in others was doing the exact opposite. There was no rest in it because there was no eternity in it. The rest that accompanies our gifts is in our agreement with God’s purposes in our gifts and abilities.

Since then, I have seen time and time again where sarcastic and cynical wit is actually a prophetic gift. Prophecy, by definition of 1 Corinthians 14:3, is speaking encouragement, edification and comfort. The hijacking of the gift is discouragement, tearing down and discomfort. Look into the shadow of the gift to find the true intention of design.

The Kingdom is an invitation, not a prohibition. Jesus calls us to follow and be included, unleashing everything He has put in us for eternal purposes. The law tells us to stop doing bad things; Jesus calls us to do powerful things. When we see that there has been a hijacking of our giftedness, the invitation is to step into the power of our design. The hijacking will be corrected when we agree with the purpose of our destiny.

If you’ve allowed your tongue to be hijacked to speak discouragement and dishonor, change your mind. Turn into the purposes of honor and encouragement that God has put within you. If there are other areas that have been off track, what is the track they are intended? Once those areas are released in agreement with their design, the attempt to kill, steal and destroy will be defeated by the life, abundance and creation that sons and daughters are called into.

Every Offense Doesn’t Require a Verdict

When I was practicing criminal defense law, the contention of the adversarial system would wear on me. I would have to take a break and get away from time to time to clear my lens. My lens would get cloudy from a residue of accusation, explanation, lies born of self-preservation, consequences and other aspects of the situation. I would get a bit jaded in my view of humanity and I wasn’t the only one. The criminal law bar generally could be a bit cynical and sarcastic with salty language and vices to lube the friction.

All too often, I have chosen to play the part of judge, prosecutor of defense attorney where there is no court of law. In life’s everyday interactions, there are disappointments and disagreements that draw a reaction which is born out of an illusion. The illusion comes when we think we need to get to a verdict regarding right or wrong. Where the verdict is “wrong,” and it often is based on our flawed human condition, we think there needs to be an assessment of blame. But there doesn’t.

There is no freedom in the assessment of justice. Freedom is grace based. It has to be, or the busyness of blame will overcome any of the potential peace of freedom.

Freedom starts and ends with identity. When we realize who we are and why, we are at ground zero of peace. That identity is not earned and doesn’t have to be defended. We don’t have to prove anything because we didn’t do anything in the first place. Jesus died to make us righteous by His sacrifice. Where we are willing to agree with Him, we enjoy the benefit of His victory.

When our identity is based in His perfection and sacrifice, we can stop. We can stop defending ourselves and we can stop prosecuting others to elevate ourselves by comparison. Every mistake does not require a verdict. Every shortcoming doesn’t call for an explanation. Every flaw doesn’t need assignment of a cause.

I don’t have marriage perfected, but I have seen that when I can avoid the traps of judgment, prosecution or defense, the grace that breathes in the void gives us life. It’s not easy because it is often only given room in the wake of a decision to die to myself. I turn fifty in a few months and I’m starting to see it more clearly than ever. Less is more.

Today things are going to happen. Grocery clerks, co-workers, kids and others are going to mess up. So are you. It’s OK. Those mistakes don’t demand a verdict. Rest in the peace of grace. Rest in Jesus.

 

 

The Road Goes on Forever

Our freedom is entirely dependent on our willingness to sacrifice our preferences to the objective truth. We can’t generate our own sense of liberty from our desires. Those desires are often legitimate indicators of our design, but the context they are created for is submission to the Father as sons and daughters. Any application outside of the family of God is an application of a prodigal headed towards disastrous consequences.

We don’t maintain freedom from an occurance; we nurture freedom as an alignment. Without the alignment of submission to truth, we will steer back into the dominion of sin and/or the burden of the law from our fallen state. The alignment is a realization and reminder that Jesus is Who He says He is and we are who He says we are. Not because we are doing good, feeling good, wanting good or any other subjective measure. It is true because He is Truth.

Recently, I had the honor of accepting the position of Executive Director at Fellowship of the Sword. At Fellowship of the Sword, we facilitate events that serve as a catalyst to set hearts in healthy rhythm. Hearts are not set in healthy rhythm from our teaching or program; they are set in healthy rhythm by encountering the Truth of Jesus. It’s between Him and those that seek Him. He is the One that changes things.

That encounter, the freedom born of it and the transformation is all temporary unless nurtured and maintained. The nurturing and maintenance takes place in the local church. The community of believers that you plug into is intended to sharpen, encourage and comfort when you have been tempted toward subjective distractions from the objective truth. Without community to call out our blind spots and without willingness to live with others in a way that is vulnerable to inspection, any freedom we have tasted will be a fleeting experience.

I believe in the catalyst. The jump-start is powerful. The transformation is real.

I also know that I know that the catalyst requires the context of the church in order for the benefit to be sustainable.

I am so honored and thankful to get to do the stuff that I do. God is good and He is faithful and the journey from “there” to “here” has not been easy, nor is this the end of the road. In the words of Robert Earl Keen, “the road goes on forever and the party never ends.” While my application of his lyrics differ from his, we apparently can agree on the truth of the eternal journey. Enjoy the ride, and don’t travel alone.

The Impact of Fathers

I used to volunteer in youth prisons and over time developed a routine which I tended to default to when I met a young man (ages 14-17) for the first time in the facility. I would introduce myself and ask the boy his name and where he was from. He was reluctant to interact at all and would usually be looking at the floor with no interest in opening up even a little bit about himself.

I would then ask him where his father is and that would get his attention; he would usually look at me with interest for the first time. His eyes would communicate, “How did you know?” I would often have to repeat the question as he was caught off guard, “where is your father?”

The stories were always terrible; they were dead, in prison, never been around, drunk, on drugs, etc. The only reasonable response at that point in our conversation was, “I’m sorry; I’m really sorry that you have had to deal with that.” I can’t fix it, I can only hope to meet the kid where he is and show some comfort that his story and hurt is legitimate.

That was often a start to talk more about the hurts in his life that he had been challenged with and the choices that flowed from those circumstances. Connecting the heart and the head to begin to understand that he wasn’t weird for being angry and that the anger came from the hurt. Understand the hurt, hopefully choose to forgive and maybe begin to walk out of the cycle.

When I would offer comfort, however, it wouldn’t initially be received. “It’s alright,” or “It doesn’t matter” was always the response. Always. They were in prison; it mattered.

The need for affirmation and acceptance with unconditional love is foundational; we all need it. The connection to our experience with our father produces a lens within us for how we see God, how we see ourselves and how we see the world. The best dad in the world, however, isn’t the target; the Father is.

Our dad relationship is either a bridge or a barrier to realizing the love of the Father. Ideally, we have a father relationship that fosters an easier realization of trust and acceptance than abusive, neglectful earthly experiences would. Either way, though, we seek to hear from the Father, “You’re a son . . . and I’m pleased with you.”

Acknowledging the condition of our hearts related to our experience with our biological father positions us to hear from the Father. When we have let go in the natural, we can receive in the supernatural. Through the sacrifice of Jesus, we can hear this testimony of the Holy Spirit. From that, we will call out, “Abba (Daddy), Father!”

 

 

Reading the Writing of Law and Grace

If you look close enough at any of us, there is evidence against us. We’ve all done stuff that’s contrary to the intention of our design. If we were under the pressure of the burden of keeping the law, we could all be dragged out into the public square for persecution.

That’s what happened when Jesus was presented with a lady who had been caught in the act of adultery. There was compelling, albeit awkward, evidence of her guilt. The people who accused her brought her to Jesus to give Him a chance to defend her. It was a losing case, for Him, they figured as the law was clear and the evidence was sufficient.

When I was practicing law, I defended people who had broken a law all of the time. People, mostly Christian people, asked me (still do, sometimes) how I could morally support the decision to be an advocate for the immoral. It’s easy. Jesus is our advocate and we did “it” in some form or fashion. The case is airtight against us, but He doesn’t turn from us.

In this case where the woman was caught in adultery, His method of defending her was peculiar. He stooped down and wrote in the dirt. Then, He stooped down and wrote in the dirt a second time. In the middle of His stooping and writing, He allowed for anyone that was without sin to begin the punishment of stoning by throwing the first rock. Nobody could, and the old men slipped away first because they had sinned the most.

Jesus wrote in the dirt as a primary tactic in His defense of the woman. While it seems strange, it was actually necessary in the fulfillment of Jesus’ purpose. God had written in the earth with His finger previously and here He was doing it, again. The first time was when He wrote the Ten Commandments. He actually wrote them twice as Moses broke the first set. Now, here He is writing in the earth again. Twice, just like the first time.

The first time God wrote in the earth, He wrote the law. The second time, He wrote grace. Jesus came to satisfy the law for us since we can’t, just like the old men couldn’t. Our perspectives of God and people, starting with ourselves, are reflected what we are writing. We are either writing law or grace and we are only able to write what we receive, first. Realizing that we are not unlike the women allows us to receive grace and it allowed me to defend other people who did “it,” too, just like I have.