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.

 

Consequences Are Your Friend

One day I was checking the docket at the courthouse when a woman approached me to ask where a particular courtroom was. She went on to explain that she was nervous because her son was scheduled for an appearance on a possession of marijuana charge. “Why does that make you nervous,” I asked her?

“He could go to jail,” she said.

“Did you drive here today?” I asked. After confirming that she had driven her son to the courthouse, I responded by encouraging her that “well, if he goes to jail, just drive home.”

“But he’s my baby,” she explained.

“How old is he?” I asked. After learning that he was 19, I told her, “he’s not your baby, he’s a grown man.” It was about that time that he walked over. “Is this him?” I asked, and she affirmed that it was.

“Listen,” I told him, “you are not a child anymore. Smoking weed and getting your mom to drive you to court are childish. You are a man, you are equipped to be a man and it’s time to start being a man. When I was a child, I acted like one, but when I became a man, I put childish things behind me. It’s time for you to do the same; you are a man and you are capable of putting childish things away.”

This young man’s shoulders straightened up, his eyes locked in and everything about his body language accepted the reality I was presenting him. His mom, at the same time, looked scared to death. It was clear that she was much less ready for him to be a man than he was.

I don’t know what happened with his court case, but whatever consequences he had to deal with were a benefit to him. A misdemeanor on his record is a small price to pay if he was able to allow for the consequence to draw him into responsibility.

Love allows for consequences because consequences allow for repentance. When we have to deal with the implications of our immaturity and/or depravity, we are more aware of the goodness of God. From that place of pain that comes as a result of or rebellion or immaturity, we get to choose. The choice to submit our lives back to the goodness of God is much more appealing when we have tried it without Him and are facing the reality of our choices.

We all mess up sometimes. The stuff that we do is not who we are. Don’t rescue people from their consequences and don’t believe that the mistakes are who they are any more than your mistakes are who you are. It’s the kindness of the Lord that leads us to repentance; not the sloppy compassion or harsh judgment which we may offer in its place.

Not para, but Part Of

You’ve got to know who you are. When you know who you are, everything flows from that as you do the thing(s) you are designed to do. It’s the first step towards understanding your context and understanding your context is the first step towards fulfilling your purpose.

I recently took the responsibility of becoming the Executive Director of Fellowship of the Sword. For the first time in the 15 year history of the organization, the ministry is Board-led where it had been founder-led. The fact that the Founders, Richard and Paige Henderson, had the courage and humility to facilitate the transfer is remarkable. For many organizations, the founder’s unwillingness to hand off operations cripples the capacity and potential of incredible vision.

Some would call FTS a “para-church” organization. One of the most important and enlightening things I have heard from Richard over the past several weeks is his clarification of that tag. “We are not a para-church, because ‘para-church’ means to come beside the church. We are not coming beside the church, but we are part of the church,” Richard said.

There is only one church. It’s not different churches determined by different buildings. There is one Bride of Christ. We are here to serve His Bride as part of His Body. We are in, not beside.

This is a big deal for many reasons, one of which was that the only grant of authority that Jesus gave was to make disciples (Matthew 28). He didn’t commission us to start a ministry or facilitate a Quest or anything else unless it is to contribute to the disciple making process. He gives us that authority and the mechanism through which that occurs is the local church.

This opportunity comes several years after answering a call into ministry which moved me away from a fulfilling practice of law. The only way that Julie and I want to do things is on a call from the Lord. His call includes this recent invitation to serve the local church through this ministry called Fellowship of the Sword.

The primary mechanism by which the Lord has equipped FTS for this purpose is the facilitation of Quest and HeartQuest events, which serve as catalysts in the disciple making process. That process, first and foremost, is accomplished through the local church. It’s our pleasure to serve the local church in this way as hearts get awakened and set in healthy rhythms, to be alive in their purpose and passions which are to be carried out in their eternal context. That context is as part of a local church.

 

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.

 

 

A Priest, A Lawyer and a Business Owner Walked Into a Bar

I’ve been doing this for a living for about five years. Before I did this, I was practicing law. When I practiced law, I was responsible for the representation of clients as an advocate. That advocacy sometimes meant investment that exceeded their legal questions. Life questions got them in legal problems so my advocacy sometimes meant life investments.

Before that, I was a business owner. There were things I did well as a business owner and there were things that I did not so well. My intentions were to serve my clients and my employees in a way that was honoring and gracious. For those that didn’t know Jesus, my hope was to put Him on display in the ways that I interacted with them.

Now I am a professional minister. I’ve had several roles, but my job is Christianity. This has afforded incredible opportunities to  grow, share and multiply in the life I have found in Christ. It has also afforded me a perspective of what is challenging in the professional endeavor of Christian leadership.

The truth is that I am no more or less of a Christian leader than I was when I owned a business or practiced law. I was a born again believer in Jesus Christ, committed as a disciple to carry the good news of the Kingdom of God then as I am now. The recognition, credibility or validation that comes with vocational positioning does not qualify me any more or less than He did in those previous roles.

The problem, to some extent, is that we struggle to accept that. We struggle to accept that lawyers and business owners are the same as pastors and ministers. The separations are subtle, at times, but insidious, just the same. The little hints of superiority or separation feed the lies of inferiority and disqualification. In every way that we elevate professional clergy, we disqualify the saints that are called to do the work of the ministry.

I’m just as righteous in Christ today as I was in the courtroom, and so are you. I’m also working out that salvation through my flawed and wounded soul as a professional minister as you likely are as someone who is engaged in the marketplace. We’re the same. Our flaws don’t disqualify us nor does our knowledge validate us. There is no more pressure on me to live a perfect application of religious expectations as there is possibility that you are able to pull it off outside of grace.

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!”