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.

 

 

Broken Bread Today Feeds Us Tomorrow

We can sit where we are or accept the invitation into more that comes at the cost of the comfort we enjoy in the predictability of the present. Where we will step into the discomfort of the new, we will have to rely on Him for comfort as well as faithfulness in the most recent expressions of our developing faith. In other words, when He puts in a position to depend on Him, we get to choose. The idea of new and dependence can sound just fine until the reality of the discomfort is tangible and not theoretical.

When we get to the next boundaries of our control, we’ll need to depend on Jesus like we did the last time it felt like this. Thankfully, because there was a last time, we can lean on that experience for assurance that He did it before and He’ll do it again. He’ll get us through this and if we’ll endure just a little longer, the promise of His glory always follows the discomfort of His invitations. Joy comes in the morning.

The original disciples were invited to follow Jesus and they gave up everything to do so. They walked with Him for three years, witnessing and participating in miracles and challenges as He increasingly equipped and released them. Then He was crucified and they didn’t get it. He rose from the dead and made Himself known to them, but they didn’t recognize Him until they remembered the last time.

Luke 24:30-31 says “When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.”

He had done this before on the night before He died. By doing this again, He reminded them of the thing before. They were together and enjoying a meal. He used the bread to tell of what was going to happen to Him and now He uses the bread to quicken their senses to new belief. He uses the previous experience to get them through the current reality.

Following Jesus is intended as a life of experiences with HIm. In the experiences, reminders are born that will be useful for the next time. We go from glory to glory, leaving one to get to the next at the cost of the comfort that we have grown accustomed to in the former. Along the way, He’ll break bread with us to remind us that He is Who He says He is and He’ll do what He says He’ll do. Just like the last time.

 

Tuning Out, Turning Off to Tune In and Fill Up

There is nothing wrong with routine; in fact, the framework of “normal” can help to define the supernatural by contrast. When normal becomes distracting, however, it’s possible to miss the tell-tale signs of the Kingdom of God. That’s where I got to recently.

I have known times in my life when I knew the presence of God. I could discern His voice and fingerprints and drew life from the breath He would breathe into otherwise routine situations. Lately, however, it seemed that there wasn’t much fellowship in the flow.

About two weeks ago, I realized that I had formed a habit of distraction. I was on my phone almost constantly. Checking this or checking that left me missing what might otherwise be noticed in the spaces now occupied by technology. Then I went on Quest.

I’ve been going on Quest since 2008 and got into a bit of a routine there, too. I got used to the time away and didn’t value the disconnection. This time, however, as I was recounting the routine I had gotten into I heard an invitation. As I shared that I had not been to the river in several years, I heard a whisper of invitation to “come to the river.”

I went to the river, crossed it and climbed up a slope on the other side. I found a rock and spent time reading, writing, listening to music, praying and just being. I was connecting. I was relating. I was enjoying the breath of God in the moments afforded. I didn’t have to; I had chosen not to plenty of times before. This was good and right and refreshing.

The next day I didn’t perceive any specific invitation, but went out of my own accord. I made my way to the middle of the river on rocks that protruded just above the surface of the water and considered stepping off of those rocks into the stream just to get further into the middle. Any urgency that I might otherwise respond to had faded with 48 hours away from the routine and I was in no hurry to jump out to the middle. Then, after waiting and considering the present reality, I saw little stepping rocks just up a little further that took me out to the middle of the middle.

I can’t explain it other than to say it filled me from the inside. God met me in that time of no distraction and ministered to my soul. He filled me and healed me and called me His son . . . and the phone wasn’t a distraction to detour me from receiving.

Our Identity is Not What We Do; We Are So Much More

When I was practicing criminal defense law, one of the things I had to get “in” me pretty quick was the client’s identity was not what they were accused of. Where they were guilty, the choices resulting in that verdict did not reflect the truth of their identity. There was a deeper truth of their design that I had to look for to best serve them. I wanted to see the real them without being distracted by the evidence of their hijacking.

What’s the second question that you ask or are asked after meeting someone for the first time? Usually, right after asking or being asked names, it’s “what do you do?” From there, as often or not, there is discussion regarding the ups and downs of the professions identified by the answers given. While there is certainly nothing “wrong” with this form of communicating, there are opportunities missed.

By allowing what we do to sidetrack conversations, we avoid who we are. We are not what we do. We do things that might or might not reflect deeper truths of our identity. The depth of our identity, and the identity of others, holds the depth of relationship. The depth of living is within the depth of relationship.

We are created to know and be known in authentic relationship but we all too often miss it by labels that come with occupations, positions or mistakes we’ve made. It’s important for its own sake, but the weight of its importance is multiplied when considering the opportunities missed. When we get stuck there about others, we often are getting stuck there about ourselves.

When we think we are “just a ________ , ” we miss the eternal purpose of our design. When we miss the eternal purpose of our design, we miss the eternal impact of our efforts. What we do, or don’t do, can have forever ramifications. The satisfaction that comes with that kind of impact can dictate our satisfaction as well as our passion. When designed for more, we are left dissatisfied with less.

You may or may not be spending your time living from the passions of your identity and consequently experiencing the satisfaction of your design. If you are, you know what I’m talking about and if you aren’t, you know that much more. The best time to make changes to your circumstances for the unlocking of the real you was possibly years ago. The second best time is today.

 

 

Pressing Through Trials to Advance in Maturity, Wisdom & Character

I have a friend that has interesting counsel when you share a struggle with him. If you are going through some difficulty, he’ll ask, “Do you think you are at the front end of that challenge, in the middle of it, or closing in on the end? It’s good to know so you can persevere and get everything out of it God wants you to see.”

God doesn’t torture us, but He will allow for discomfort to shape us. He’ll use the troubles that are inevitable in our fallen state to mature us into greater relationship. As we are going through whatever it is we are going through, the best thing that we can do is look for the best things within it. At least then, the wisdom available through the adversity is maximized.

If we are looking for the fastest way out of any discomfort we face, we are cheating the process that is available for the production of wisdom and maturity. “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

Discomfort is not appealing and all too often not highlighted related to the Christian message. We love the promises and the freedom and the identity stuff, but the suffering part isn’t too compatible with our American Dream(s). It must be an attack.

We are sons of God and heirs with Christ and can share in the glory of Christ . . . if we will share in the sufferings of Christ (Romans 8:17). So difficulty invites inheritance in as much as we persevere. In as much as we stay the course despite the challenge and doubt, we can increasingly taste of the victory.

When, not if, you are going through whatever stuff it is that you go through, consider whether it’s the beginning, middle or end and hold on. Hold on and journal. Don’t miss “it,” whatever “it” is for that experience. Come out of it with more character than you went into it with as it finishes it’s work by your acceptance that suffering is not always an attack, but sometimes an advance.

Working a Job, Chasing the American Dream or Passionately Living With Purpose?

When I first started practicing law, I was sitting in court waiting for my case to get called. I was sitting next to an attorney in his 60’s who had been practicing for over 30 years. As we waited, I asked him if he liked practicing law and he told me that he did. He said, “I do, because I only take the kinds of cases that I like to work on. I had to take divorce cases when I first got started but I didn’t like them and now I don’t have to take them anymore, so I don’t. I like it because I like the cases I take.”

We can do things that we aren’t passionate about for a season of necessity but the target should be alignment with the things that bring us pleasure in our calling. We should seek to find joy in the things that we do. We may not always get to do only what we want, but increasingly with age we are often afforded increasing opportunities to narrow the scope of our pursuits.

In our 20’s and even into our 30’s, we are figuring out what we like and don’t like as well as what we are good at as well as not so good at. The passions typically align with the competencies. Bobb Biehl says that we go through a process of refinement and focusing and transformation that positions us to hit our stride in our 50’s. He goes on to say that our decade of greatest success is actually our 60’s.

Could it be that the attorney I was talking with as we waited for our case was enjoying his greatest success? Is it possible that he had spent a couple of decades refining his passions and aligning his pursuits before hitting his stride and now enjoying the fruits of the process?

God asks for our firsts and our best. We offer Him what we value first and foremost, which requires consideration of what those specific things are for us. Self-assessment for the purpose of agreement with His design invites His anointing. The things that He has put in us come out through us as we offer back to Him the very things that He created in the first place.

What do you love? What brings you joy? Are you working a job, chasing the American Dream or aligning with His purposes for you as expressed through your passions to give back to Him the thing that He invested in you?