Over a week ago, I wrote about a comparison between myself and the Old Testament Israel. In it, I quoted a Scripture that I thought summarized my adult life so far:

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
Proverbs 14:12, NASB

The message here is so important that it bears repeating in Proverbs 16:25. The core truth here is that a man left to his own devices can sincerely believe he is doing right while being sincerely wrong. And the results are surely not what he intends. Consider the following bit of wisdom:

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 12:15, NASB

Here we find Solomon once again noting that a man alone can feel completely in the right, and his description of the individual as a fool as opposed to the wise man indicates that his feeling of “right” is likely incorrect. As with much of the wisdom literature, though, Solomon offers a practical countermeasure. Get around some people who know more than you, have more experience, or simply have the potential to have insight you do not. Even the first Psalm offers similar advice.

Proverbs isn’t done yet, though.

All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives.
Proverbs 16:2, NASB

As with the first verse, this is stated twice (albeit with slightly differently words) in Proverbs (Proverbs 21:2 to be specific). Once again, there’s the statement that a man believes his choices and actions are good. It’s noteworthy this time, though, that the language (particularly the “but” transition) indicates that the latter half of the verse is in opposition with the former. That is to say that a man can make decisions that seem to be right with the wrong motivation. It brings to mind 2 Corinthians 9:7, where Paul urges people to give because they want to rather than out of compulsion or with a grudge. After all, Paul affirmed, “God loves a cheerful giver.”

What’s in your heart matters. In fact, taking into consideration God’s words about David in 1 Samuel 16, Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 6 and 10, or even His interactions with the Pharisees in Luke 6, it becomes clear that the why is at least as important as the what. God sees into our souls, knowing us better than we know ourselves.

There is hope, though:

…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2, NASB

As creatures of free will, and as Christians under a sovereign Lord, we are not static. With an act of submission from us and an act of power on His part, we can change on the inside. So how do we do it? Once again, to reinforce the importance of this premise (I believe), the Bible repeats itself.

Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established.
Proverbs 16:3, NASB

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.
Psalms 37:5, NASB

By no means do I have it all figured out. I’ve got a long, long way to go. Thankfully, I won’t be walking alone. I’m continually praying for Godly wisdom per James 1:5, but I’m also praying for Godly counsel (not, mind you, just “good advice” from well-meaning friends).

Over the past several weeks, God has continually brought to light exactly how human I am, and exactly how beyond humanity He is. Over and over, He’s brought to mind Paul’s words…

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness”
2 Corinthians 12:9 (NASB)

Over and over, He brought this Scripture to mind. And over and over, I applied it to the fact that my failures are not beyond God’s capacity for restoration. And for a while now, I’ve felt that I had wrapped my head around that verse pretty well. And yet, I kept hearing, “Chris, My grace is sufficient.” So why does He keep telling me if I already had it figured out?

Of course, it’s because I didn’t. And, frankly, I still don’t, though I’m making progress.

The past two months have taught me a lot about myself, but more importantly it taught me about my relationship with God. It taught me that I’ve “gone through the motions” since day one. I’ve never fully given myself over to Him and intensely, actively, intentionally pursued intimacy with Him. I’ve just intellectually known how good He is and acknowledged His handiwork in the world around me. I’ve seen His forgiveness and mercy active in my life; I’ve always known I’m a screw-up. But I’ve never experienced the power of God that I know He’s capable of.

A combination of my incompetence, lack of character, naivety, and weakness has lead me down the path of destruction and death. Over and over, He’s saved me. I’ve stood up, dusted off, thanked Him, and kept going down the same path. I’ve destroyed my marriage, countless relationships, several jobs, and possibly even my freedom. And, as a good friend reminded me a couple days ago, I can do absolutely nothing to fix any of it.

So, why try?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any intention of going down without a fight. But what am I fighting? Am I fighting my circumstances? Am I fighting my employment situation? Am I fighting to make my marriage work? Am I fighting to regain lost friendships? No. I can try (and for my entire adult life have tried) to fix it all, but I will fail (just like I always have). So I’m giving up. I’m not going to try to fight any of that.

So what’s my fight?

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
–Matthew 6:33

It’s not my job to fix anything except for my own lack of intimacy with God. He’s ready already, and He’ll draw near to me at the same rate and degree that I draw near to Him. If I get on the right path with Him and make sure that I’m sticking to that, God will work out the rest of it. I’ll have a happy marriage that bring joy and life into my heart. I’ll have a fulfilling career in service to the Lord. And I’ll have the genuine friendships that I’ve always wanted but never seemed to find myself in.

So I’m not going to try anymore. I’m giving up on all the rest of it. It’s not my responsibility. My sole responsibility is intimacy with God, and I’ve made a promise (to myself, to God, and to others) to devote everything to making my relationship with Him what it always should have (and could have) been. That’s a much lighter load than trying to make up for all my mistakes and clean up my mess.

And that’s freedom.

For the duration of my adult life, I have never encountered an employer that actually did team building exercises. Before I started working for a ministry, my employer didn’t really care much about the cohesiveness of the team. When I had my own company, it didn’t have time to grow into a team to do much building anyway. Working at a ministry provided a different cause but the same result: we were all there because we believed in what we were doing. No one takes a job in ministry for the money, you know?

Now that I find myself working with my good friend Jon Simpson at Canonball Creative, I’ve found that there is indeed a value in these out-of-office experiences. Today, we played Whirlyball against another company we do a lot of work with. If you’re like me and the term is completely new to you, think of it as a peculiarly fun mix of polo, lacrosse, basketball, and bumper cars. Didn’t see that last one coming, eh? Me either. Gotta say, though, it’s a lot of fun.

And that’s important in the workplace.

When I had my own company, I was heavily invested in what I was doing (obviously). I never had any question about whether to go the extra mile or work hard because I lived work. Fast forward to working in a healthy ministry environment. It was easy to take for granted the fact that we were all bought in to a common vision, that we want to work through the inevitable difficulties because we were passionate about what God was doing through the practical, day-to-day work we did.

In the secular world, at least when you’re not personally invested in your job (that is to say, it’s just “a job”), there’s not much value in the cohesion and the team environment short of avoiding punishment and/or confrontation. I’m the type to throw myself into what I’m doing, but not everyone is made up of the same stuff as me. Enter the team building exercise.

Camaraderie produces efficiency; it’s not just about avoiding problems. And on some level, bonds develop between people working together anyway. However, there’s nothing quite like doing something for fun, something outside the office, something that calls on the same traits and natures as work but in a non-working environment.

For the team, it seemed to be a good bonding experience. For me, it was surely that. But it also gave me a chance to have a wholesome, healthy, fun distraction from the stuff of life. No profound spiritual insight was gained from it; no intense work of the Lord was witnessed through it; and no mighty wind swept through the place. But it was lighthearted fun. And I think that’s what I needed today.

Throughout my life, God has blessed me over and over again. He has proved countless times that His grace is sufficient, helping me out of tight spots, providing for my needs, and giving me gifts that I could never earn or deserve on my own. He has demonstrated a personal touch on my life, communicating His love in a manner that only He can.

Throughout my life, I have turned away from His direction, insisting that my own ideas and my own ways should work. It’s as if God puts me in the car to take me somewhere, then I hop over to the driver’s seat and shout, “I know the way.” And every time I end up in a classic “is God my pilot or parachute?” position.

So far, my adult life would be best summarized by Proverbs 14:12. “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (NASB)

He blesses me, I turn away and fall on my face. He helps me get back up on my feet, and the process starts over again. Each time, the situation escalates. Higher risks, bigger consequences. Seedtime and harvest becomes a spiritual principal that I see at work each and every day. As it escalates, I see it affecting the people around me like a cancer.

Two days ago, a good friend likened me to Israel. Over and over, they saw God perform miraculous signs and wonders, promoting them as His chosen people. And each and every time, they took to idolatry and distractions and sin. And they reaped the consequences, returned with tail tucked between their legs, and begged for forgiveness. And He was faithful to forgive.

It took the Babylonian Captivity to wake Israel up. They lost everything God had given them, including their own freedom. Again, God proved faithful, kept a remnant, returned them to freedom, and helped them rebuild from scratch. Entire tribes were lost, countless people died, and those that remained suffered. All because they wouldn’t properly steward His calling. They thought they had the answers, but they hadn’t even fully grasped the questions.

I don’t want to be Israel anymore. I want to be a better steward.

html5 logo in coffee cup

html5 logo in coffee cupI spent most of today at the Dallas TechFest on the glorious University of Texas Dallas campus. Like any other event like this, I learned a lot of information that was useful along with a fair amount that wasn’t useful.

The second session I went to was Todd Anglin‘s discussion on HTML5. In it, he expertly introduced a very mixed crowd to the real-world usefulness and applicability of the new functionalities being introduced in HTML5. Aside from the hardcore Flash and Silverlight fans in the crowd, most people were full of ooohs and aahs at some of the flashier elements such as video, canvases, and a couple interactive demos of local storage. Beyond the shiny, he also addressed some of the more functional facets, such as new form elements and geolocation.

That particular one found some irony later as I noticed that my Google Latitude and Twitter both seemed convinced that I was in New Orleans when I was connected to the Wi-Fi.

Moral of the story? Standards aren’t worth anything by themselves; implementation is everything.

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