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…

Picking up the Pieces: 4 Thoughts About Personal Brokenness

Have you ever said, “What just happened?” Me too.

Last winter, I had one of “those” mornings. As I’m leaving for the day, I’m doing my best to be careful pulling my car out of the garage and I destroyed my driver’s-side mirror.

I remember being physically exhausted.  My mind was wide awake saying “You’re too close. Adjust the wheel” but the rest of me wasn’t responding. It was this slow-motion moment as I my car and garage met leaving a trail of my mirror all the way down my driveway. I put my car in park and just sat there in disbelief at what transpired.

[Enter joke about “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”]

I was in shock. I’ve pulled out of the garage hundreds of times and have never had that happen. A simple daily moment turned into disaster. I got out of the car and walked back toward the house picking up the shattered fragments of what used to be attached to my car. I stuck the broken mirror casing back onto my car thinking I can still used it as it still had a chunk of mirror left on it. (I know, ridiculous isn’t it?)

When I got to my coffice (coffeehouse + office), I did some quick research and hit up Amazon Prime to get a new mirror in the matter of a few days.  And sure enough it was there by Wednesday. So I set it by the door so to motivate me and, yet, it sat there for a few months.

For the next week, I found myself continuing to pick up the pieces of something I thought I was done cleaning up. As the snow melted, more pieces were revealed. I was astonished at how far the damage was spread from the point of impact. Even early this fall, while cutting my lawn, I found a large piece. I remember thinking to myself, “I thought I was done with this? How is it that I’m still dealing with this after all of this time?

While you may not have destroyed your mirror, I think many of you can relate to my “Monday moment.” Has anything ever impacted you and has left you feeling like:

  • You keep picking up the pieces of something that has happened to you. 
  • You didn’t anticipate at how far the damage was spread.
  • You’re just living life, and something happens that makes you say,I thought I was done with this? How is it that I’m still dealing with this after all of this time?

Me too. I get it. And I thought I’d share some lessons I learned.

My crazy schedule gave me every excuse to NOT fix the mirror. Sometimes busyness will sedate issues and distract you from dealing with things. Just because you no longer feel momentary pain doesn’t mean the issue is completely healed. Busyness is something I’ve learned to hide behind as it’s my drug of choice. If I can stay busy, then I don’t have to deal with it. But the more I put off the issue, the deeper the issue sets in me. Which leads to…

I learned to live with my brokenness. There was a fraction of mirror left in the casing and I got used to using it. I’ll admit I cut off a few people in traffic after not seeing them. But on the most part, I thought I was having “success” in accommodating to living with a “broken vision” of what things around me.  And the more I got used to it, the motivation for getting it fixed has waned. “I’ll deal with it another time” became my primary way to procrastinate dealing with this.

I needed to access what was provided. The new mirror was there and ready for installment. I waked by it every day. I’d even think to myself, “someday I’ll get it fixed…someday things will be back to normal.” What I find often in my life is a propensity to deal with things on my own instead of accessing what has been provided in Christ. I don’t think we have a lack of God wanting to move in our lives. I think we have a lack of us accessing what He has provided in Jesus.  It’s almost overwhelming how much access to healing, peace, love, and joy we have. Yet, quite often, we attempt to deal with things on our own. We need to access what God provides. 

Allow God to work through others. I’ll admit it was pride keeping me from asking for help. “I can do this” was my mantra. It was a friend (love ya Kevin) that came over for another purpose who looked and said “Let me help.” Kevin did in a few minutes what I thought was going to be a longer and harder process. It took someone with kindness and experience to help me in my point of need and walk me through how to move forward. But the key: I needed to allow him to help. Please don’t allow your pride to stop you from asking for AND accepting help.  Allow those with the kindness and experience to meet you in your point of brokenness. 

Is this you? Has something happened that makes you seem like you’re still picking up the pieces? I get it. And my “getting it” goes far beyond a stupid car mirror. I understand what it’s like to sedate my pain with something else. I get thinking I have to live with what happened feeling like I’m damned to living this way for the rest of my life.

But explore you: Don’t let a broken moment dictate the rest of your destiny.  Your life is worth more, your marriage is worth more, and your children are worth more than that impact has dealt you. Access the abundant available in Christ. I’m not promising a one-time-fix-all moment but daily access to the peace, joy, love, and healing you’ve been looking for.

Have I finished picking up pieces from that impact. I hope so. But each time I find another piece, I don’t remember how much I’ve lost but I embrace how far God has brought me.

Love you all. I’m praying for you today.

The 2 Things I Got Right in Marriage: A Blog for Singles (also married peeps):

Anne has been on me a while about writing a marriage blog to singles. I’ve been setting aside the idea for a long time.  But over the past two weeks, some comments have come my way, 

“I love reading about your mistakes. They help me correct my own.”

“Some of your mistakes help me to know what to NOT look for.”

So I’ve been asking myself a simple question: Of all of the things I’ve done wrong (the list keeps growing), what have I done right? 

I came up with two. 

That’s it. 

Obviously there’s more, but these were literally the first TWO that came to mind that, I believe, are the TWO FOUNDATIONAL decisions that has given me a great (not perfect) marriage. Again, I’ve gotten other things right in the past 18 years, but they’ve built off these two.

If you’re single, this is where you START.
If you’re reading this and your married, this is what you WORK ON

The FIRST thing I got right: I loved Christ before I loved Anne

There is no other foundational decision greater than this. Everything, and I mean everything, builds off this. Let me explain. In Matthew 22, Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment. He said, 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.”

I cannot possibly love Anne the way she needs to be loved without first loving Jesus. I’ve had people take offense to that type of priority.  But when I love the Lord first, He teaches me how to love.

Why is that? When I encounter His love, it teaches me how to love myself AND others. It helps me live life through His perspective. I forgive completely because that’s how He forgives. I have compassion for others because He showed me compassion. I serve selflessly because He served me by laying down His life. I choose to love unconditionally because He choses to love me that way.

I’d love to say I’ve perfected all but, as you’ve read in previous blogs, you know I’m a work in progress as are all of us. But this is where I start from and CONTINUE to build on. Any season that I face, this is where I begin. And it’s given me a powerfully healthy perspective to have.

The SECOND thing I got right: I chose a woman who loved Christ before she loved me.

I didn’t ask her for an application followed with references and a dissertation. I saw her devotion to Christ.

When worship began, she entered in as a passionate worshiper.
When someone was in need, she gave without expectations.
When something needed to be done, she was the first to serve. 
When someone needed to be encouraged, Anne was the first to step up. 
But most of all, her reputation amongst people who knew her was the reputation of Jesus. She had the character of Christ (Galatians 5:22-23). 

She’s nowhere near perfect. Like me, Anne has plenty of flaws and it’s not my place to list them (that point may be for a future blog).  It’s my place to see her how Christ sees her. And that list what I saw. Her life was evidence of a Matthew 22 life. I knew if she loved Jesus completely, she could love me that way (because I’d love her that way). 

If you’re single, this is where you start. Instead of trying to find the “right one” for you, become the “right one” for others. Go after Matthew 22 passionately. As you encounter the love of Jesus, it’ll change you AND change what you look for in a spouse.

If you’re married and you didn’t start this way. Don’t scrap everything. Start a Matthew 22 marriage today by letting the love of God change you. And from you, let His love encounter and change your marriage. 

I love you all.  I believe in great things for you. Why? Because I know how great Christ is and I know, through you, great things can happen. 

 

Thanks for letting me ramble…

“You are the answer to your own prayer”: 7 prayers you may be the answer for.

“Prayer reminds us that we are human while also reminding us that God is God.” Charlie Dates

In daily prayer life, people can tend to miss a couple of things. First, we miss out on some very important aspects of prayer.  The largest portion of our prayer shouldn’t be spent on petition (presenting requests). In fact, I feel more time should be placed upon exaltation (act of elevating something or someone…namely Jesus), adoration (confession of passion), and intercession (the action of intervening on behalf of another) than upon our own petitions.  It helps us get our eyes off of ourselves and place our focus upon the Lord.  It removes selfishness within our prayer by making others a priority.

Secondly, we miss being the answer we’re praying for.  We pray in order to release something out of our hands so that it can be God’s responsibility.  It’s sounds great.  I love taking things to the Lord and praying the words of Jehoshaphat, by saying: 

“We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help.” 2 Chronicles 20:12

It’s within this moment that, perhaps, we don’t always catch that, what we are trying to release to God, He may not want to release us from. Perhaps, if we’re willing to listen, we’ll realize we may be the answer to the prayer we are praying.  What I mean by that is that if we are willing to be obedient to the Holy Spirit, it is through you that the Lord wants to work in and through you to provide the answer to the prayer you’ve been praying.  We’re so easy to use prayer as our way of, to use a cliché, of “letting go and letting God.”  Why don’t we see ourselves as candidates for God to work wonders through?  I love what Paul said to the Galatians

“…It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me…”

Paul recognized that in his every day life, it was the life of Christ that was working through him.  The grace of God empowered him to live his life as well as be a blessing to others to see Kingdom work accomplished. It wasn’t done to EVER exalt Paul, everything was done to exalt Jesus. Here you go, 7 prayers you may be the answer for

1. “Lord, there’s a family in need in my neighborhood.  Can you send someone to help them?” 

2. “I pray that you would help the people in my workplace/school hear/see a clear display of the Gospel.” 

3. “Please give my children an example in their life of a Godly man/woman.”

4. “I pray for that person that’s been struggling with sickness.  Can you send a pastor to visit them?”

5. “I saw some new people in church on Sunday. Would you send someone to connect with them?”

6. “Would you send someone to disciple my friend who is a new Christian?” 

7. “There’s a ministry need in our church, will you put that need in someone’s heart to step up and volunteer?”

Jesus is always the answer.  But stop eliminating yourself from being used by Him in opportunities that He is making available to you.  Perhaps the miracle people are waiting to see is not necessarily you, but Christ working through you.  Step out as a vessel of the Holy Spirit and watch God do amazing things. 

Spend some time in prayer today.  Be ready to respond in the way Eli told Samuel to respond

Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 10

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Philippians 2:1-4

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

2 Minute Devo: What are you thinking Day 3

We’re focusing on what the Bible says about the “mind” and how that affects us.  Spend time on the devo and take a minute or two to ponder what the Word is challenging you to do.

Colossians 3:2

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.