Wisdom for The New Year

For many of us, the new year marks a time that we seek wisdom and vision for the circumstances we face going into that new year. We consider the things around us and before us with something of a fresh look and make plans for how to move forward. That look and those plans, however, are limited to the same duplicity and faults that were applied last year unless and until we submit them to a greater Source.

Psalm 2 establishes that Jesus has been ruling and will rule from His throne for eternity. His place is absolute and His perspective is perfect. By His grace, we have access to His rule as we consider the things that we might rule if we will choose to submit our things to Him.

The wisdom we desire for application to the opportunities and challenges we face is available and the first step towards attaining it is towards Him. Proverbs 1:7 says that the beginning of knowledge is the fear of the Lord. but that “fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

To attain the King’s wisdom for our issues, we do so through recognizing His holiness (which will produce what is described as fear of the Lord). Recognition of His holy perfection will only highlight and contrast our imperfections. That’s the beginning of wisdom; true recognition that He is God and we are not.

Fools despise it because they don’t want to be reminded of their foolishness. I suspect that each of us is a fool with some frequency as we would prefer to operate from the limits of our imperfect skills and abilities rather than be reminded of our faults. I know that I am foolish in that way with embarrassing frequency.

The humility required to admit our faults positions us properly in relationship with an eternal and perfect King. We can properly submit our lives and the issues within them to Him as we seek His wisdom, favor and grace. Our humility affords His anointing; that is, when we bow down in recognition of our limits, His Spirit within us is afforded permission through us to present eternity to an earth in need of glimpses of heaven.

True security will facilitate successful relationships, stewardship and influence. That absolute security can’t come from the limits of our soul, but can only be accessed through the fullness of His Spirit. Our humility in recognition of our limitations will grant us the perspective, wisdom and anointing of an eternal King. Our hope for the coming year will be well founded and applicable well beyond the next 365 days.

Invited into Extreme

We are living in extreme times where the rhetoric and divide has escalated negotiable to absolute. At the same time, absolutes are too offensive so things that used to be held as true are compromised for comfort.

In the middle of those political and societal shifts, matters of faith get chipped away at as fringe and extreme. Most people don’t want to be either fringe or extreme so the instinct is to adapt in small ways to remain relevant. Compromise is seldom drastic and the slide is usually indiscernible.

This year, and in the coming years, there will increasingly be no room for compromised faith. There will be no power anywhere except for the extreme and extreme will be easier to attain by contrast to the culture. Weird is weird and it’s increasingly weird just to profess belief, much less to zealously follow and advance the cause of Christ.

Here’s the thing; it’s His cause, not a plank on the platform of the religious right. Extreme faith will be in Him, not ideas about how Him. Reliance on Jesus for supernatural protection, provision and promotion is neither boastful nor argumentative. The argument is in our actions and our choices must be dependent on His power. Our extreme place in these extreme times is less, not more. Less of us and our ideas and more of Him through our humility, brokenness and obedience.

We don’t need better candidates or laws; we need a Church that is as authentic in the sufferings of Christ as they are in the abundance of His Kingdom. We don’t need to win; we need to die. Death to ourselves allows the anointing of His Spirit to exude from us. The compelling extreme of the Holy Spirit circumvents all theological or philosophical debates as He draws others towards Himself despite what we do to repel them.

The coming years of extreme invite us to die to ourselves for the One whom we say we believe. When He invited us to follow Him, the glory He promises is through the crucifixion He modeled. Christianity is neither a spectacle nor a program, but agreement among us in the absolute of Him. He did and does everything that needs to be done; the stuff we attempt to heap on top of His absolute is compromise no matter the intention of our souls.

Tending to Things that Seem to Go Unnoticed

I used to routinely represent clients who were seeking bonds. The bond allows them to be released during the time that they are waiting to stand trial. Without a bond, they may have to sit in jail for a month or two leading up to a trial. The judge looks predominately at whether the defendant is a flight risk or a risk to the community. If either of those things are a concern, the judge is less likely to grant freedom to the defendant while they await their trial.

As part of the judge’s paperwork, they have a piece of paper from the magistrate with notes on it from when the person was first arrested. The magistrate can often grant a bond right there at the point of booking but for one reason or another did not in the present situations. The magistrate writes notes about the evidence (very brief) and any criminal record. Additionally, the magistrate can take notes about the person’s conduct during the arrest process or while in front of the magistrate.

In two of the cases I was working on, the magistrate wrote derogatory notes. In one instance, the defendant had a bad attitude with the magistrate and cussed them when addressing them. In another, the defendant had to be physically restrained by deputies when in processing at the jail.

The defendants were now on their best behavior and wanted to go before a judge to ask them for some favor and mercy. They wanted to be found trustworthy of release pending trial. The problem is that the notes from the official who most recently came in contact with them reflected rebellion and disregard for authority.

Our integrity and character are best measured when we believe nobody is watching or going to hold us accountable. Do we choose to take the shortcut on our taxes? Do we intentionally flip to the pornographic movie when our wives aren’t around? Do we have people in our lives that we call to share our struggles and failures to ensure that we develop in those areas?

Integrity and character can’t be turned on and off; it can only be transformed. We are going to mess up, but owning those failures opens up the opportunities for us to grow. Better to grow in the small things that we could just as easily get away with to avoid the implosion that builds up with unleashed depravity. Confession of the little things keeps the big things at bay.

 

The Value of a Champion

One year ago tomorrow, I jogged down a hospital hallway to catch up with two attendants pushing a gurney with my father on it on the way back to heart surgery. They stopped as I called out and when I reached them, my dad had already closed his eyes as was beginning to go to sleep. He opened his eyes and I said, “I love you, dad; I’ll see you in a few hours,” while placing my right hand on his upper left chest.

He reached his right hand across his body and put it on top of my hand, saying, “I love you, son,” with a slight grin. That was the last time we talked and, as far as I know, those were the last words he ever spoke. The surgery went poorly, he never woke up and my dad entered heaven three days later.

Anniversaries cause you to reflect and as I reflect at the one year anniversary of my father’s passing, I realize the greatest loss I have suffered as a result of his death. I lost a champion.

My dad wasn’t one to give tons of advice and hardly ever pushed his opinion into my circumstances. He was supportive and available and was unconditional in his love. He let me figure things out and responded if called upon. In figuring it out, there was nobody in this world that celebrated the wins for me and with me more than my dad has.

Over the past year, what I have missed the most is the ability to share the victories with him. Phone calls or visits to talk of how something was working out well were always met with equal joy and satisfaction from him. The times I miss him can be diverse in their origin but some of the most palpable times of grief are when I want to share a win.

My friend, Omar, reminded me not too long ago that while we often talk about the Bible’s call to “mourn with those who mourn,” the rest of that verse is to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” (Romans 12:15) It’s just as important to have relationships that celebrate with us as it is to have those that will allow for the healthy processing of our grief.

I’m so thankful to have a loving bride that celebrates with me and kids as well as other family. I just miss my first champion.

You Can’t Be Accountable to Yourself and Maximize Your Potential at the Same Time

The Packer’s head coach got fired with the rumor being that he and his quarterback didn’t get along. There then arose some questions about who would lead or hold the quarterback accountable if the coach were going to get fired for contradicting the wishes of the quarterback.

The quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, is quoted as saying, “There’s nobody that holds me more accountable than myself . . . I mean, I’m always checking myself on my preparation habits and my practice habits and my mindset, but there’s always been a great deal of accountability under Mike’s program for the last 13 years.”

I have no idea about the relationship between the two or who needs what accountability. What I am convinced of is that none of us are as adept at holding ourselves accountable as we would like to believe. The presence of an accountable authority is a benefit, not a detriment. The reason being is that for as long as we are accountable to ourselves, we are bound by our own limitations.

Where there is healthy authority, there is a multiplying factor. We are better when accountable to others because our strengths have the context of the group. That means that our shortcomings or weaknesses can be compensated by the strengths of others in the group. Thus, we are elevated despite our limitations as are the others in the group because of our strengths.

Accountability for results is a necessary component to collaboration and collaboration is necessary for greater capacity. Accountability to ourselves, or self-discipline, is a great starting point but it is limited by an incomplete perspective. The view of us that is the least comfortable for us is often the most beneficial for us.

Accountability is more than just correction; it is context and encouragement as well as adjustments and critique. In it’s best form, it is based on a set of finite and defined standards that remove personal preferences and bias to leave cultural norms important to the purpose of the group. Those standards aren’t susceptible to excuse or personality but are deemed necessary for the goals of the group.

You can’t, or at least you shouldn’t, be accountable only to yourself. I assume Aaron Rodgers believes that because he is an accomplished professional in his field. At the same time, the perspective of “me” is not only erroneous, but it is growing in our culture and it presents a limiting factor on our individual and collective potential.

Not Worrying About Who is Wheat and Who is a Weed

There was a time when I watched a bond hearing for an 18-year old man who was in jail for a misdemeanor charge and apparently this young man had some more serious legal problems pending. Because of the overall seriousness of his patterns of behavior, he was not allowed out of jail while waiting for his trial(s).

When that decision was announced, he completely lost his composure. All of his anger and frustration were released in with a profane outburst. “I’m trying to get my life turned around and I can’t do it in here. I just got a new job; I am supposed to start today. I cut my hair and everything!”

To this kid, getting a haircut was apparently a pretty significant change to his previous norm. He made a conscious decision to make changes in his life which probably aren’t comfortable or easy for him. His frustration was that even with this effort, things still weren’t going his way. His recent changes were showing some signs of promise; he did get hired. There were still the remaining consequences of his previous choices.

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away.” (Matthew 13:24-25)

In the same way that young man trying to transform internally with evidence (job, haircut) externally, we all have things that God will work out within us. We don’t need a haircut or a job; we need God to change us. The fact is that we all started out as weeds and it’s only by the grace of Jesus that we become the fruit producing wheat that is talked about in Matthew.

Notice that there are weeds with the wheat; the next verse tells us, “Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

Let them grow together. Quit worrying about the weediness of other people and be about the opportunity to simply be wheat. Sorting it out is God’s job, not yours or mine. We should be about our wheatness and quit worrying about their weediness.

The same grace that invites us to be wheat invites others, as well, and they are working it out the same as you and me. In fact, there are likely days that the weeds within us are more on display than the wheat. If we ever forget that, we’ll start weeding out the weeds that Jesus tells us to co-exist with. In fact, the more we do that, the more chance that we are the weeds in the first place.