Understanding that Comes at Dawn

If you believe in something, it will be evident by your choices. Your conviction will result in more than the understanding that fuels explanations and theory; there will be a practice that displays the trust you have placed in that thing. If your belief is based in truth, that display should actually build on itself. In other words, if you’re acting in accordance with your beliefs and those beliefs are based in truth, your actions will become habits.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary.
Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will. The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me, and I have listened. I have not rebelled or turned away.” (Isaiah 50:4-5)

If you believe in God as Lord and are connected to Him relationally, your desires will increasingly align with His. The desire to help those that are “weary” will align with His heart for the broken and forgotten. That belief, those desires and such alignment won’t happen in a “one and done” fashion, however. It will happen morning by morning.

Morning by morning, you will wake up and seek deeper understanding of His will. In His faithfulness, as you draw near to Him, He will provide that understanding. The practice of persistently searching will shape your character because it will require a sacrifice. That sacrifice, at a minimum, is time. It may include sleep. It could require a choice that puts it above another option (breakfast, business, social media, etc.). The sacrifice for connection, however, will most certainly have a return on the investment.

Growth comes in the seeking and seeking, according to this passage, starts in the morning. There is something special about mornings. The dawning of a new day presents fresh mercies and new hope. The challenge of yesterday starts to give way to the hope of tomorrow.

Recently, I had a special morning where my understanding grew. It was one of many mornings, however, and not every one is as impactful as another. They build on each other. The relationship grows in the discipline and sacrifice and relationship is what fosters trust. Trust allows for sharing and sharing feeds understanding.

I suppose that kind of searching out doesn’t have to come in the morning and would never suggest that it can only happen in the A.M. Still, there is something special about mornings. We are all invited; morning by morning.

Every Job Presents Opportunities for Impact

During our first meeting in my office, I realized that the task at hand for this particular client wasn’t as legal as it was something different.  Her legal situation, while not particularly egregious, was grim.  She had been convicted of a misdemeanor and was appealing the conviction as she wanted desperately to clear her record.

As she sat and poured out her problems, I eventually put my pen down and just listened.  The facts surrounding the accusation were simple and the legal defense took just a minute to consider.  The chances of winning were slim, at best.  The facts surrounding the rest of her life were not nearly as simple.  She had taken some pretty tough hits in life and the result was financial stress, health problems and the challenge of raising two children on her own.

During that consultation, I told her how we would handle her case.  As importantly, I tried to give her something to get a hold of for her to begin to handle her life, as well.  Simple encouragement that brought hope and perspective.  The truth of who she was without the shame and guilt she had been piling on herself for some time now. No judgment or condemnation but recognition of the value of her eternal design.

We went to trial and lost.  We tried – threw a legitimate legal argument at a legitimate legal problem. Concerned that she was going to be upset following the trial, I started to talk with her in the hallway and she interrupted me.

She said, “Mr. Prickett, I am as full of hope right now as I have been in a long time.  When I came to your office, I was scared and defeated but you were kind to me.  Nobody has said the nice things that you said to me in my entire life.  Those words were exactly what I needed to hear.”  I listened and watched as a single tear rolled down her cheek.  She went on to share that she had signed up for college classes even though “it may take forever to get my degree, but I’m going to be moving forward with positive steps to keep my mind off of my problems.”

We all have the capacity to be the minister and we don’t need a church job to do it. We just have to be willing to agree with God in circumstances where people need God’s truth, hope and love. Once you know, you know enough. Once you have found truth, hope and love, give it away no matter what job you have from which you work as a minister.

“Come Away With Me”

Last week, I started to wake up a couple of hours early, but resisted. It wasn’t time to get up and I wanted to get more sleep. In this moment, it seemed to me that my heart was stirred by these words, “Come away with me.” About an hour later, the same thing happened. Same stirring and same reaction. In both cases, I went back to sleep.

Then, two hours after the initial stirring, it was time to get up and I awoke to that same perceived call. I believe God was stirring my heart in that way so I woke up praying and considering, “is that You? If so, what does that mean?”

I opened the Bible and found this passage: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

This meant some things to me personally which I continue to process. It also meant some things to me professionally. The ministry I work for (thequestlife.com) was started, in effect, from that phrase. The founder, Richard Henderson, tells the story of God stirring those exact same words within him over 18 years ago. That invitation, met with his “yes,” took him to Riodoso, New Mexico. From that invitation and acceptance, Quest was born on the side of a mountain. Thousands of people from different parts of the world with different stories have encountered Jesus during their Quest experience.

The invitation was given by Jesus to the guys with Him and it’s given to us. Our willingness to simply say, “yes” to his call to put down our business and go away to a quiet place for rest with Him remains. Maybe that’s the true “secret sauce” to Quest or any related “freedom” ministries . . . “yes” to the rest. Yes to the communion. Yes to the meal with Him.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I think it is, but it isn’t. In the “yes,” there is an implied “no.” That “no” is where the problem is. Most of us are simply unwilling to say “no” to the busyness. We are either too over-extended, self-important or addicted to the adrenaline that we won’t stop. Our excuses will vary, but they all result in a refusal to take Jesus up on that very simple invitation. Until they don’t, and then our quest can begin.

Understanding Others Starts with Understanding Self

I was on a video conference call with people from the other side of the world last week. People who have become friends from time that we have gotten to spend together and now work we are getting to do together. People of different cultures and countries with a common goal. Even seeing them on video and interacting in that way stirred warm feelings of friendship and appreciation for them.

As we finished our meeting, someone asked me to close our meeting with prayer. As I started to pray, the Lord stirred the story of the Tower of Babel and I prayed in agreement. In that story from Genesis 11, people were building a tower to reach the heavens. God decided to confuse their common language to prevent their understanding and stop them from accomplishing their task.

Where we can gain common understanding, we can reach heaven and heaven will reach us. Where we can break through the common and preferred way we know things to understand them from a foreign perspective, we’ll gain insight into the Kingdom of God. When we are willing to be uncomfortable and hold our preferences loosely, we can gain the eternal alternative.

Ephesians 2:22 says that God, on the cornerstone of Christ, is building His household to house His Spirit. The household is people in relationship, not institutions, buildings or programs. Where we seek common understanding relationally, we have the capacity to house the very Spirit of God among us.

When stones are arranged relationally to build a structure, they require shaping. The shaping incorporates hammers, chisels and saws. There is abrasive effort to take a stone and alter it in such a way that it can fit with other stones unto a greater purpose than any of the single stones will serve alone. We require the same shaping.

We can reach the heavens as part of the household of God. Where we seek and depend on common understanding, we come closer to heaven and invite heaven closer to earth. That understanding comes at the expense of our preferences and sacrifice of the selfishness of our soul. If we will allow the shaping, our individual purpose will be multiplied in relational agreement with others who are being shaped, as well.

We won’t really understand them until we understand us. Until we are honest about our faults and insecurities, we won’t have any true strength. Our faults will be a fault in the structure until they are recognized and compensated for by the offsetting strengths of the others. We’ll know their strengths compared to our weaknesses if we are willing to admit our weaknesses first.

Overcoming Our Overwhelming Desire for Justice

In this era of instant access, we are flooded with stories of the shortcomings of others. The mistakes and misconduct of celebrities as well as the relatively anonymous are advertised on social media as well as the main line media. The depravity of people is almost celebrated.

To consider these stories a “celebration” of the mistakes of others may seem too drastic, but is it? Haven’t we become a society similar to the era of Roman citizens gathering in the coliseum to watch the death and manipulation of others?

Through it all, we have become a society of judges. We view the news, reality shows and internet communities with a lens that filters the information so that we can form immediate opinions on who is right and who is wrong. We decide based on the fraction of information we are given access to who is “right” and who is “wrong” in a given situation. Then, with this freshly formed judgment, we engage in online debate and justification of our position with increasing conviction and pride related to our conclusion.

Underneath it all, we are allowed multiple opportunities every hour to find somebody more screwed up than us, as far as we can tell. As a result, we can rest in our own junk as justified by comparison. The judgments we pass validate our own shortcomings and, as a result, we stall out in our own growth. We settle for less than we were created to be because at least we are not as bad as “them.”

Judgment is a difficult burden and one that should not be taken lightly. The decisions we make when residing in our position as judge over the lives of others either in the media or in our personal lives have consequences. Every time we choose justice over grace, we get to apply that same standard to how we view ourselves. We live with the burden of right and wrong and good and bad and strive to perform according to our version of the law.

Once the burdens are too heavy and we realize that we really just can’t do the deal ourselves, then and only then do we find room for grace. We cry out to be relieved of the burdens of performance. When we are shown grace in a personal and transformative way, we view the problems of others with increased restraint on our judgment. If that revelation of grace occurs at all is determined by the Source of grace in the first place. His name is Jesus.

“And” Keeps “Or” from Being Weird or Rigid

All too often, we hear that things need to be “balanced” and what is meant is that they need to be under control. Control is an illusion and pursuit of control is typically dysfunctional. Balance isn’t control and it isn’t compromise; it’s order. Balance should agree with the order of things and often it presents a tension. Tension is good as it presents opportunities for stretching without breaking.

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” – Ephesians 1:17

The prayer in Ephesians is for the Spirit of wisdom and revelation; not the Spirit of wisdom or revelation. Holy Spirit is wisdom with revelation. Revelation and wisdom; both together at the same time.

All too often, we can orient towards one or the other, preferring either wisdom or revelation. Where we prefer wisdom, knowledge and experience will trump the mystery. The ability to control, manage and maneuver will supersede any awe and wonder of the power of God.

Where revelation is preferred, the idea that God is speaking will trump the need to ensure Biblical accuracy. Potential revelation, left to its own merits, is potentially fallible. It has to be subject to the infallible Word and allowed context that comes with counsel from a diverse gift mix in a community. There can be no rogue prophets.

It seems reasonable to consider revelation, or the realization of eternal truth by hearing, seeing or knowing to be the “what” that God is making clear. If it lines up with the Word and proves trustworthy from the test of wise counsel, it leaves open the “when” and “how” of wisdom. Just because you know something, it doesn’t mean it’s time to do anything.

Often times, God will let us in on His plans, but it isn’t for us to get things done for Him. It’s simply to be relational and invites us to pray. We get to pray in accordance with the revelation and watch as we agree with heaven on earth. It builds our faith and includes us in the advancement of an eternal Kingdom.

Hold it loosely and walk with the humility required of submission. Pray first, act sometimes. Listen closely and pay attention; we are all invited into the eternal perspective. Eternal perspective is orderly; not controlled or compromised.