The Color of Character

The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13 NLT

I alway had a thing for art as a kid. Outside of gym, it was the class I looked forward to the most. My excitement about it didn’t mean I was good at it. Case in point: look at ANY art project I brought home to my parents.

One of my earliest art memories was these seemingly ordinary black and white drawings. They seemed to have no color to them nor were we given any colors to put on them. All the class was supplied with was a dixie cup of water and a small paint brush. We’d dip the brush into the water and, when the we brush came in contact with the paper, color would appear. The paper/drawing already had the color infused in it; the water simply activated the color to cause it to appear.

Looking back, I know this was the way to take the messiness out of painting while giving us kids the feeling of painting. But I think there’s a bigger picture to understand (pun intended): the color was released by contact.

This whole week, I’ve been sitting on this idea of character that out of last Sunday’s message at kfirst. It’s my heart to see people not just step into the dreams God has given but develop the character that is able to sustain them there.

One of the key ways we develop character is through contact.

Like a brush in the hands of an artist, the canvas is transformed by contact. With each stroke, the surface takes on the color of the paint dictated by the pressure of the bristles. And you and I are no different. We take on the character of what you come in contact with. The more we expose ourselves to influences, the more we should expect those influences to affect our character. 

Have you ever been caught off guard when something came out of your mouth? Have you ever be surprised by a reaction you had? I’m willing to bet there is something/someone you’ve been in contact with that has shaped the character you are experiencing. From the family that nurtured you to the influences you allow, your character is shaped by what you come in contact with.

This is what caught my eye in Acts 4:13. These were seemingly ordinary men. But something was different about them. They had come in contact with something that took the ordinary into the extraordinary. They were “men who had been with Jesus.”

What an amazing statement to their character and challenge to our own. When people see us, experience us, and/or get close to us, are our lives colored by our contact with Jesus? Can the character of Jesus be clearly seen? My simple response is to simply humble myself and pray,

Lord, today I draw close to you. I give you every part of me. Let me become more aware of you and how you desire to work in my life. Like a brush to paper, let your life shape the color of my character so that people can see the Christ in me, the hope of glory. Amen.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Character in Real-Time

“Then their good character will shine through their actions, adding luster to the teaching of our Savior God” Titus 2 (MSG)

One of my favorite shows of all time was the show “24.” Outside of a great lead character and the crazy storylines was the one aspect each episode offered that no other show was offering:

Real time.

What “real-time” mean in “24 was, essentially, if a person in that had a 15 minute drive, they didn’t arrive till 15 minutes later in the show. It’s quite different from seeing a character get on a plan, go to commercial, then see them get off the plane having traveled across the ocean during the commercial break.

Real time is where we live. And I wonder if we’ve forgotten that we are to navigate life in “real-time.” We read stories like Joseph, we preach about them in a series, and in a matter of a few Sundays, we’ve seen the start, beginning, and the end. Like watching the average television show, in a half-hour, we’ve seen so much transpire and accomplished.

And that’s what brings me to my point. We forget the stories in scripture are not in “real-time.” For example, in Genesis 41:46 Joseph is 30 years old but EIGHT verses later, he is 37. If they were written in “real-time” we’d have so much superfluous information given about the 7 years of plentiful harvest. I’m curious yet very thankful the Genesis author listened to the Holy Spirit on what should be and shouldn’t be included. 7 years would have been a lot of material to cover.

Why do I bring all of this up? Because as much as we know we are not reading in “real-time,” I think we have an unrealistic expectation on how God works in our lives. We want the “sitcom” version of God where we confront an issue and everything is solved in a half hour.

I believe God is not constrained by what we know as time. He is God. Yet the more I read scripture, I see that He works in us in real-time. And the things that He desires to produce in us takes place over time.

And that brings us to Titus 2 and the issue of “character.” Paul writes to Titus about the fact that the teachings of Jesus need to be lived out in real-time. That’s how our character is grown. In the day after day, moment by moment real-time expression. His character on display in our character. I appreciate Eugene Peterson’s choice of using the word “luster.” When we show character, we show not just the beauty of the teachings of Jesus but the value of Christ to life and all.

Character is not optional in the Kingdom of God. Our character is what takes “Christ, the hope of glory” and expresses it in the every day-ness of life so that people can experience the “luster” (beauty and value) of Jesus.

We live in real-time, but God develops character over time. So the way to see the results of what happens “over time” is to engage in “real-time.”

Love you all. Praying for you as you begin to live out the character of Jesus in real-time.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

The Dream that Destroys You

Usually, Monday is about closing out the documents and presentations connected to Sunday message at Kfirst. Like an old-school film room floor would be full of film clips that didn’t make it to the final edit of a movie, my notes are filled with statements and thoughts that never made it to the message.

And as I was going through that normal process, a statement caught my eye from my left-over thoughts.

Your dream will destroy you if your character can’t sustain it.

It really is a selah statement. Because, unfortunately, I’ve seen this first hand in ministry. I have watched it happen in people’s marriages. I’ve seen it pull apart families. Getting to a dream doesn’t matter if you can’t handle it. People have an idea of “what I need”, “where I need to get,” or “something I need to achieve” without thinking, “what character needs to grow IN me in order for me to steward (manage, handle) the dream that God has put in my heart.”

God isn’t honored by you achieving a dream as much as He’s honored by what is achieved in you. And that is called “character.”

This is what I hope was conveyed yesterday as we continued to look at the life of Joseph. Barely in his 20’s, he has immense influence and authority at his disposal in the home of the most powerful men of the region. And when faced with a compromising situation, his reply is stellar, “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.” (Genesis 39:9)

I love that.

Two sentences say everything you need to know about this 20-year-old. The essence of Joseph wasn’t his position with man but his position of his heart with God. He was a man of character before the position (and as you’ll learn about him) it was his character that continued to shine despite the tough seasons he’d face.

Dreams can destroy you if they are the sole goal. Dreams will rip you apart if you think attaining them is the only “win” in life. But from personal experience, there are times that God gave me dreams to go after, not because of what I needed to achieve, but because He wanted to achieve something in me. And the “win” was what the Holy Spirit accomplished in me and what I “arrived” at.

Don’t allow the dream to destroy you; let it change you. If God has giving you a vision for your life, marriage, family, vocation, etc., before you sign up for a class or quit your present job, would you start with Psalm 139 and some moments in solemn prayer. “Search my heart o God. Check my heart oh God. And change what you want to change in order that Your character will be on display within me.

Love you all. Praying for you today.

BTW: If you want to develop your character, check out my friend David’s blog, harvesttimepartners.com because character creates opportunity.

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

Marriage blog: Shut off the soap opera.

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I love friendships.  As much of an introvert as I like to think I am, I’ve grown to love people and the relationships that come from that. The greatest relationship, outside of my relationship with Christ, is what I have with my wife.  And if I’m not careful, I can allow other relationships to steal energy, attention, passion, and from my wife.

Bear with me…

I’m a stubborn movie-goer.  I will endure a terrible movie because, “I paid money and I’m gonna find some scene/part that is gonna convince me it was worth it.” I can be the same way with TV shows and even my sports teams (darn you Detroit Lions and my years of watching you lose).  For some reason, the little investment I made seems to be the reason I feel obligated to continue to feed that “thing” with my attention hoping the I’ll have some return on my investment.

In the end, whether with my movies or teams, I find myself feeling cheated. I feel used. There seems to be blocks of time I know I will NEVER get back.  But what do I still do? I keep running back hoping for better times and experiences.  But over and over I go back to these “things” that I know full well that will siphon me of time, money, and/or emotions while leaving me less of what I should.  The cycle of drama seems unending my life

You may make better movie/TV/sports choices than me.  But there are a number of you that chose to suckle upon certain relationships hoping they’ll feed you something worth the attention you’ve already invested.  In the end, they have drawn you into soap opera-like drama only to leave you in a place where you are less than what you should be.  You get drawn into drama that siphons emotion, mental, physical, and spiritual strength from you…

And when your mate comes to you, you’ve got NOTHING left for them.

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You marital communication dies down since you’ve exhausted your words on someone else.  Quality time is no longer desired because you want to be alone.  The marriage bed has far less activity because you don’t feel like you don’t want anything and/or you don’t have anything left to give.

You’ve been cheated. You’re spouse is being cheated.  You’re marriage get’s the leftovers of an individual disoriented from the motion sickness of the unending drama in other people’s lives.

If you are bringing their drama to the house…
If you find yourself obsessing over their facebook drama…
If you find yourself constantly fielding calls, texts, facebook messages, etc during dates and/or family time…
If your spouse is showing signs of jealousy over the attention you are giving others that he/she should be getting…
if you are engaging with them to the sacrifice of your marriage…

…then it’s time to shut off the soap opera.  It’s time to limit (or possibly cut off) their time.  They’ll survive just fine.

First, find your completeness in Christ. 

The main characters of your life cannot be them.  The main character of their life cannot be you.  I like what John the Baptist said in Matthew 3:11-12, the main character must be Christ. 

(The Message)“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out.

Our fullness comes from choosing Christ as the main character of the narrative that is our lives.  It’s from His fulness that He pours into our incompleteness AND it’s out of that place where we are able to help others. I believe we are meant to be contributors instead of consumers.  But contributing to people doesn’t mean that our marriage gets sacrificed because someone doesn’t know how to shut their mouth and control their emotions.

Second, draw boundaries. 

Again, I love people.  I enjoy friends. I love helping individuals. BUT…being a friend and a helper doesn’t mean we get allow people to abuse us with their drama.  Being a Christ-follower and friend doesn’t mean we don’t have boundaries.  There are times that Jesus was with the crowd.  Other times he went off with the twelve or even the three (Peter, James, and John).  Jesus even found moments where he’d get away from them to spend time with himself. Why?  Boundaries are places of safety and rest from the crowd.

Some of you need THAT rest; a rest from the drama of others.

Lastly, don’t stop being a helping hand to people.

Don’t stop being a contributor in life.  Don’t stop helping those who are hurting. Through the strength of the Holy Spirit, don’t stop pouring compassion upon others.

BUT….the only way you can be of help, while keeping a healthy marriage, is to keep the top priorities the top priorities.

The top priorities:

  1. Jesus
  2. Spouse
  3. Kids
  4. Everything else

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo Series: Book of Matthew Day 25

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Welcome to our 2 Minute Devos. This month we’re going through the Book of Matthew. Take the time to read through the passage of the day and listen to the 2 Minute Devo.

Matthew 27

English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Delivered to Pilate

27 When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over toPilate the governor.

Judas Hangs Himself

Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus[a] was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. But the chief priests, taking the pieces of silver, said, “It is not lawful to put them intothe treasury, since it is blood money.” So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, 10 and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

Jesus Before Pilate

11 Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

The Crowd Chooses Barabbas

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release for the crowd any one prisoner whom they wanted. 16 And they had then a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. 17 So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you: Barabbas, orJesus who is called Christ?” 18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up. 19 Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream.” 20 Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. 21 The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!”

Pilate Delivers Jesus to Be Crucified

24 So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood;[b] see to it yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!”26 Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged[c] Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Jesus Is Mocked

27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters,[d] and they gathered the whole battalion[e] before him. 28 And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29 and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 Andthey spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31 And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him.

The Crucifixion

32 As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man tocarry his cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34 they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall, but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35 And when they had crucified him, they divided his garments among them by casting lots. 36 Then they sat down and kept watch over him there. 37 And over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38 Then two robbers were crucified with him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, 42 “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. 43 He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” 44 And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.

The Death of Jesus

45 Now from the sixth hour[f] there was darkness over all the land[g] until the ninth hour.[h]46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47 And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, “This man is calling Elijah.” 48 And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. 49 But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit.

51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saintswho had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son[i] of God!”

55 There were also many women there, looking on from a distance, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to him, 56 among whom were Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Joseph and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.

Jesus Is Buried

57 When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. 58 He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. 59 And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud 60 and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had cut in the rock. And he rolled a great stone to the entrance of the tomb and went away. 61 Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The Guard at the Tomb

62 The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate 63 and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ 64 Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.” 65 Pilate said to them, “You have a guard[j] of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” 66 So they went and made the tomb secure bysealing the stone and setting a guard.

Matthew 28

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Resurrection

28 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene andthe other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

The Report of the Guard

11 While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. 12 And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers 13 and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ 14 And if this comes to the governor’s ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” 15 So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”