We Don’t Catch Our Issues; They Come Out of Us

When representing people charged with a crime, one of the first things that was necessary was to hear their story. Asking them how they viewed the circumstances would help uncover not only facts, but attitudes. It was common for many criminal defendants to say that they “caught” the charge.

Depending on the situation, I would sometimes stop them there and help them realize the flaw in their choice of words. The choice of words, whether it started out as a mindset or not, can create a mindset which is based in a lie. That is, for them to continually say that when they are charged with a crime, it was something they “caught” can create the idea that somebody threw it at them or it was just bad luck.

Criminal charges don’t typically float around and just get on people. They are not like a cold or the flu. Charges almost always come from someone putting themselves in circumstances that lead to trouble. They typically come from bad choices. We don’t catch bad choices, we create them, and if we don’t own them then we’ll make them over and over again.

Whether it’s a criminal defendant or anyone else, breaking patterns of destructive decision-making can be difficult. It may be that we have irresponsible spending habits or sloppy time management. The first step for any of us in getting things going the right direction in a particular area of our lives is to own it. It’s our deal; we are the ones responsible.

The next thing is to strip it down to its lowest common denominator. We need to ask ourselves “why do I do the things that I do?” The answers are within us and we have to be willing to do the hard work of responsibility and honesty to dig to the core. God will show us if we are willing to ask and examine and He will redeem anything within us that is producing the consequences in our lives that are distinct from the glory He intends from us.

Every time a flaw, insecurity, stronghold or some other expression of our soul is revealed to us it is an act of grace. The revelation of our depravity affords us redemption for security in His identity. We don’t have to stay where we are if we are willing to admit that we didn’t catch it; we chose it.


Value of Consequences is Determined by Entitlement or Humility

I once watched an attorney represent a young U.S. Naval Officer in a DUI case. The officer was a Naval Academy graduate and the attorney conceded that the facts of the case supported a DUI conviction but that there was more at play. He brought in a former Naval Academy graduate to testify of the ramifications of such a conviction. That former officer testified that he was forced to pay back the value of his Naval Academy education as a result of a similar conviction.

The attorney argued that a $100,000 “fine” would be the practical result of this conviction and that such a “fine” exceeded the intent of the state legislature’s guidelines. The judge reduced the charge to reckless driving but sentenced the officer to several weekends in jail.

I asked the attorney how his client reacted to such a relatively favorable result and the attorney told me that he wasn’t happy about it. He said there was a sense of entitlement that left the officer dissatisfied with the fact that he have to go to jail for a number of weekends.

Similarly, I once represented a client for a felony that I was able to help get reduced to a misdemeanor but he had to go to jail for a couple of weekends. He wasn’t happy; he didn’t want to go to jail. Going to jail for two weekends with a misdemeanor vs. going to jail for months/years with a felony is a huge win. Yet, not a happy client.

Each of the defendants that I referenced was given a bit of a legal gift. The Naval Officer was afforded mercy to avoid a large bill to the government. The felony defendant benefited from a bit of legal maneuvering. In both cases, they did the thing they were convicted of but didn’t want to embrace the stark reality of some time in jail. They were above that, but they weren’t above the abhorrent behaviors that resulted in the scrutiny they were under.

When we are entitled and believe that our intentions supersede our behaviors and our beliefs justify our choices, we simply won’t grow. We’ll be stuck in our immaturity for as long as we aren’t willing to embrace the limitations of our soul. The limitations of our soul are reflected in our choices and our choices have consequences.

I wrote the other day about the value of my depravity. There is grace available where we will seek redemption. For as long as we embrace our “good-guy” status, we’ll miss the exchange. Consequences are graceful as they highlight the goodness of God and the opportunity for transformation if we will change our mind. Otherwise, it’s just a few weekends in jail and the embarrassment without the benefit to our soul.

Four Limitations We All Need Help With

camp staffWe are born into certain common conditions which are the limitations of our humanity. Left to our own devices, there is a ceiling we won’t get beyond. The capacity of our destiny is dependent on our acknowledgment of our restraints. If we’ll allow for redemption of the restraints, the eternal exchange multiplies our potential.

Redemption requires acknowledgment. If I don’t actually believe I have a need, I’ll never seek to resolve that need and likely never see improvement in that area of need. According to Matthew 8:17, Jesus came to cure our common condition. In that passage, the prophet Isaiah is quoted and it states, ““He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.”

Infirmities and diseases are different. Diseases are sickness while infirmities are weaknesses. The definition of “infirmities” includes two areas of weakness: body and soul. The weaknesses of the body are its natural limitations and frailty. We also have limitations of our mind, will and emotions; the components of our soul.

According to definition, the weaknesses of the soul that are inherent in our infirmities are a lack of capacity in the following areas:

  1. our ability to understand
  2. our ability to do great and glorious things
  3. our ability to restrain ourselves from corrupt desires
  4. our ability to persevere through trials

There is not a single one of us that has not been tested in one or more of those areas. There is not one of us that can completely overcome our lack in all four of those areas simply by trying harder. We need help to get beyond our limitations. We need grace to get beyond our limitations.

Here is the good news: according to Matthew 8:17, Jesus “took” our infirmities. Those weaknesses are bought and paid for and He took them on Himself. We don’t have to be limited in these areas forever. We can receive the redemption available through Him for those limitations to become abilities.

The exact same word as “took” is used in Romans 5:17 but this time it is translated as “receive.” What Jesus “took,” we can “receive” the exchange for through Him. Receiving in this case isn’t a passive waiting for something to come to us; it’s going to Him to appropriate what He has bought and paid for.

How do we appropriate the redemption of these inferior conditions of our soul? By His abundance of grace to reign in life (Romans 5:17). We go to Him and ask; sold out on Him provided our remedy with no plan B of our own striving. We rest in Him and He is faithful.

In Him is the treasure of redemption that exchanges our lack and gives us the 1) ability to understand things, 2) the ability to restrain ourselves, 3) the ability to persevere and 4) the ability to do great and glorious things. All we have to do is rest in Him.

Still Qualified

doubtWe draw all kinds of faulty conclusions. We presume what one person necessarily is by the way that they act and look. We presume what someone should do and appear to be if they want to do something we deem admirable. We elevate behaviors to justify labels and put people into the box of our expectations for them. Once the labels are on and the boxes established, it can be difficult to undo them.

We have to be careful not to add to what is required. If we add to the requirements, we become modern-day Pharisees. The best intentions of doing the best stuff are undone by our choices based in judgment and pigeon holing of people based in man-made requirements.

We tend to attribute certain characteristics to what a disciple looks like and additional characteristics to what a disciple maker does. These attributes make total sense to our natural minds as accomplished or mature people certainly produce evidence of that maturity in their lives and behaviors. The problem is that we are so inclined to stop at the behaviors and not go on with spiritual insight into the potential or the identity of another.

In Matthew 28, Jesus commissions His disciples to carry the Kingdom to all of the earth, making disciples of others. He sends them out to duplicate themselves. You know what some of those disciples He sent out were doing just before He commissions them? They were doubting.

Matthew 28:17, just before the commissioning, says, “When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted.” These were the guys He chose to carry and multiply the greatest spiritual upheaval of all time. These guys were the ones He counted on to start the movement that reaches generations to this day. Doubters.

Just in case it doesn’t seem like a big deal to you, remember that Hebrews 11:6 says that without faith, it is impossible to please God. Faith and doubt are contrary positions. Doubt doesn’t please God. Yet, these were the guys and these guys had actually lived with Jesus in the flesh for three years leading up to this doubt.

Disciples are flawed and so are disciple makers. We need to be careful about disqualifications based on the religious or moral pedigree and trust that He can use doubters and all sorts of others, including me and you despite our flaws, as agents of Good News. We aren’t disqualified based on our doubts, fears or choices. It’s His authority in the first place, not ours, so it’s His authority that carries the weight of multiplication.

Taste and See

jellyfishThe view that we’ve been afforded is rich and full of life. We have the opportunity to participate in the human condition at a deeper level than we typically consider. Majesty, connectedness and eternity are on display in the most ordinary of our observations.

We are intrigued by the supernatural to the point that we can miss it in the natural. There can be healing, transformation and destiny in accordance with an eternal design unfolding all around us and we can miss it due to the lack of a lightning bolt. Lightning bolts don’t require faith.

In the coming year, the greatest opportunity any of us face is the opportunity to see things differently. We are invited into a reality that exceeds the boundaries of our comprehension of facts. We can taste eternity and agree with a King if we will accept the things that we want to explain as fingerprints of an inexplicable God.

Consider the design of the Designer the next time you notice such things as:

  • The birth of a child
  • The love in a marriage
  • The hope of a father for his children
  • Effort that isn’t motivated by money, but by purpose
  • Laughter
  • The transcendent nature of music
  • Things that are beautiful

Don’t stop there. Consider the void of His design and intention in the notice of such things as:

  • Tragic death
  • Broken relationships
  • Fatherlessness
  • Greed
  • Grief
  • The silence of despair
  • The ugliness of difficult places

Both sets of considerations provide evidence of the tension between two distinctly different kingdoms. God, in His sovereignty, has chosen to commission willing sons and daughters as kings and priests to be  ministers of reconciliation. We are invited into the mix as agents of redemption and transformation. Where there is darkness, we can bring Light.

Do you want to see heaven? Look around. The contrast between the glimpses of heaven and the broken indicators of the void thereof are stark. The good news is that Jesus came to make all things new and we are welcomed into His plan as repairers of the breach.

If you wait until you think you are good enough or depend on some kind of professional clergy, you’re going to miss out. The Kingdom is unfolding all around us and all of creation cries out to worship a King. The evidence is overwhelming yet subtle. Ask for eyes to see and get in the fight like never before. The more He changes the little things around you through you, the more you will be changed and you’ll never want to go back. A taste is plenty to ruin your appetites.


Seeing Beyond the Evidence

scalesThe first time that I had a man sit with his wife across from me in my office and tell me that he was about to be arrested for a felony crime that would bring major consequences, I was challenged internally. I had handled many criminal offenses, but they were largely misdemeanors with potential jail time but no real victim. Up until that point, it was mostly people just messing up their own lives. This was different; the allegations were that somebody else’s life was dramatically impacted.

I listened as this man, who had never been in trouble before, cried and told me of the situation. I wasn’t sure how to react to the egregious nature of the allegations and was careful not to react at all. Finally, after quite a bit of me being quiet and them talking, I offered this, “I’m not sure what we’ll do about your case but what I’ll offer you at this point is that I won’t judge you. For now, that’s all I have.”

Sounds simple, I guess, but it was a little more of a watershed moment than that for me.

  • I started to see grace and judgment and accusation and guilt differently that day.
  • I started to understand, at a level which it had not previously reached, the value of true acceptance despite the evidence of guilt.
  • I started to comprehend like never before that I’m not equipped or asked to be the judge. There will be a Judge, it’s just not me.
  • I was able to begin to see people differently beyond the flaws and choices and into the intent and design of their creation.

The ramifications of my change in perspectives have been enormous. The value of seeing people despite the distraction of their behavior (most of the time) is infinite. The benefit of being released from having to form an opinion on everybody’s deal to let them know what I think of them and what they did is liberating. The relinquishment of evidence to decide the value of a person in exhange for the freedom of accepting them as the person God intended them to be is peaceful. Underneath of it all, I’ve learned to some small measure the perspective of Jesus as we come to Him crying.