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.

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.

 

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.

You Absolutely Can Go to Jail

When I was practicing law, I would routinely meet new criminal defense clients for the first time and they would tell me about the situation they were in. With alarming regularity, somewhere in their account of the situation, some of them would inform me something like “I can’t go to jail for this.”

I would stop what we were doing and interrupt by telling them, “You absolutely can go to jail.” Obviously, I was trying to keep them out of jail but there is nothing worse than standing next to a client that is surprised by the reality of the deputy putting handcuffs on them. Even if they don’t go to jail, feeling the weight of the potential consequences is beneficial to them long-term to avoid the situations that caused them to have to come to court in the first place.

Consequences cause us to have to consider the actions that bought the result. Ideally, we learn from the consequences to avoid bigger mistakes and greater consequences. Consequences are our friend as they suggest we consider our will. Why did we do the thing that causes us the discomfort of the consequence? What should we do differently?

“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4 NLT)

The love of God is particularly attractive compared to the consequences of our rebellion. It’s His kindness that calls to us for us to change our mind and turn away from the choices we make apart from Him. Kindness is only kind by contrast. If there are no consequences and everything is a soft landing, then kindness isn’t that big of a deal, is it?

Jesus invites us into His Kingdom; into His holiness. He is in the redemption business. He wants to exchange the depravity within us and replace it with His glory. He loves us and knew we had issues when He decided to die for us. He isn’t intimidated nor impressed by our sin.

The consequences we face aren’t from the anger of God; they are more like gravity. When we choose to walk outside of the way that He has made for us, we are open to the results of our rebellion. We aren’t very good at being our own small “g” gods, so when we try, there are problems. The big “G” God waits patiently in His kindness for us to come home from our prodigal ways to enjoy the benefits of the relationship He intends for us with Him.

How to Win Without Trying

After 51 years, I’m starting to get it. The fire that has burned is best used when restrained and tended in order to prevent unintended casualties even where the goal is achieved. When I am able to not take the bait and step into a fight that doesn’t have to be fought, the peace and position are far superior to the aftermath of a contentious outcome (even a victory).

Less is more, even when less is elusive. Maybe especially when less is elusive. When we can throttle back and allow for ourselves to be subject to the adverse interests of others in a manner which is non-inflammatory, we gain the superior position. In other words, when we will concede the superior place, we inherit it.

Jesus most often referred to Himself as “Son of Man.” He could have called Himself a number of things, including “Son of God” or “King of Kings,” but instead He chose “Son of Man.” He chose the lower position from which He would serve and not be served. The result was a legitimacy that was never really in question. It was a superiority which couldn’t have been threatened, anyway.

Trust is essential to this posture and trust is built through relational experience. The way to the lesser position is by reliance on a  Source greater than ourselves. It’s a trust that exceeds our personal ability and a willingness to allow for the outcomes that may contradict our desires.

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)

What has already been entrusted is the fuel for what convinces. Experience in trust breeds confidence in trust. What little has been offered is fuel for the potential of more.

In effect: I trust that God is able to take what I have trusted and make it more. I have been convinced and am being convinced. God has called to me and I have been persuaded; now He is continually persuading me as I continually trust step by step and grow in Him. We believe in part and then are convinced in that part to trust for the next part.

Being convinced allows for the security and peace that facilitates the apparently lesser position. It affords the freedom of knowing victory without having to try to win.