SAFE

Motivation. 

Think about that word. What moves you? 

The opinions of others? I’ll admit that’s been my primary source of motivation for the majority of my life.

In the past, my fear of what others think has been enough to send me into a tail-spin of introspection and anxiety for days.

Image by:  Viktor Mogilat

Image by: Viktor Mogilat

But God is so gracious and He’s been at work; a slow steady work.

The moment I was willing to surrender to this work, whatever it looked like, He started a full-scale upheaval of the falsehood I had built my identity on. There was only one truth that could set me free. It’s a truth that I’d heard a million times but it didn’t make a difference in me until I came to the end of myself. God knows me through and through. He knows my every thought, sinful and glorifying. He knows my every motive, selfish and selfless. He knows it all and He loves me still. He loves me so much He sacrificed everything to be in relationship with me, the very relationship He created me for, the relationship that frees me from the bondage of sin and shame. And what He says about me is more powerful than the opinion of anyone else, even my own opinion of myself.

God’s love isn’t reckless. He knows what kind of people He came to save, He knew exactly what that would mean and He did it anyway. We’re the ones who can’t conceive of it. So yes, it appears reckless from our incredibly limited perspective. But it’s just who He is. (I love that song as much as the next person but I had to say it.)

There is nothing more humbling than knowing that God saw me at my lowest, least-desirable point and sent His Son to die for me. This not only speaks profoundly to who God is but speaks volumes about who I am.

The Creator of heaven and earth, powerful beyond comprehension, loves me beyond reason. 

For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
— Colossians 3:3-4 ESV
And you are complete in Him...
— Colossians 2:10 NKJV

When ruled by insecurity, we sentence ourselves to a fear-driven search for wholeness. 

Picture yourself standing out in the cold, alone. The door right in front of you leads to warmth and safety but it also means admitting your inability to find security apart from Jesus. It means surrender. And if we’re honest with ourselves we know deep down it’s the only thing standing between us and abundant life. All too often we try and find some sense of who we are apart from the One who made us, all the while still His beloved, welcome at any moment to come in from the cold and find the shelter we long for. 

You see, “He must increase and I must decrease” is not a loss of identity, but a reconciliation of it. (John 3:30)

John was not fading into the background of history, but fully embraced his role in the grand narrative of God’s redemption of mankind. 

We are the imago Dei, made in God’s very image and likeness. And Jesus is the purest expression of God’s intention for humanity. Therefore, who we are must be firmly rooted in Him. Our identity “In Christ” is the safest place for us to grow into the people we were always meant to become.

Don’t sleep on this truth. It’s everything. 

Your identity is safe with the One who made you. 

How could the men and women of Hebrews 11 sacrifice everything for the sake of a promise they would never see fulfilled while on this earth? How could Jim Elliot, John Chau and countless others feel so compelled to share Jesus that it would ultimately cost them their physical lives? The things we often feel entitled to or believe we will find fulfillment in were the things they counted as loss. Why? 

They knew that who they were was safe with the One who made them.

And if who we are is safe then everything else seems to matter so little. All the things that we look to for happiness and security seem to carry less weight. If our lives are hidden with Christ, if who we are is found in Him, we’ll find our grip loosening on the things we once held onto so tightly. We shouldn’t be surprised if we end up looking a little reckless ourselves.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.
— Philippians 3:8-12

Re-Discovering the Awe

My 7-year-old daughter has this thing for toy unwrap videos. In case you’re wondering, toy unwrap videos are where people unpackage toys on YouTube while providing commentary throughout the process. (Confession: Sometimes, it is strangely satisfying to watch.) A few months back my wife and I noticed a shift in her behavior. Multiple times a day she would ask for various toys. More than usual it was, “Daddy will you get me this? Can I have one of those? Hey, I want that!” I know kids love toys, but this was uncharacteristic of her. After some conversation and investigation, we noticed her fascination with these videos and thus, traced her change in behavior back to these clips.

Then, in an unexpected way, God began to use this scenario to deal with me, graciously chastising me for the many things that compete for the affections of my own heart.

Photo by:  J. Diego

Photo by: J. Diego

I became more aware of how this horizontal world can consume us. It could be a new job, a promotion, a fresh, new pair of kicks, or, perhaps it’s an unhealthy relationship, money, porn, revenge, etc. When our love is not aligned vertically, we chase after the horizontal. We aim to fill our affections with the objects of our obsession.

We seem so easily compelled to settle for a very human “second best,” when what God offers us is so much more. The temptation being to exchange the Creator’s glory for something created.

It’s in our nature to conform to the likeness of what we behold. In time, we come to care for the thing(s) we give our time, energy and attention to. Like a combustion engine, we have the capacity to fuel our tastes and motivations for life.

For Israel, God miraculously delivered them from Egypt. After which, He instructed them to craft a temple worthy of His glory (Exodus 24-31). Moments and chapters later (Exodus 32), God’s chosen people are crafting a golden idol, a god of their own making, to worship while Moses talks to God on the mountain.

Like this moment, our entire human dilemma comes down to one thing: worship.

As John Piper once said, “Missions exist because worship does not.” As creatures with sin in our DNA, we are not inclined to pursue God, only to seek self-satisfaction until we eventually destroy ourselves. Sin leads to death (Romans 6:23). This is the disease of the human heart.

But our hearts are made to worship, not things, but God. I challenge you to study the lives of those around you. Look closely and you will find everyone serving and loving something. Our worship is good, the things we worship, not so much. But only the one true God is worthy of being worshiped. Only God can absorb our praise. And in this, He uses it to turn our affections towards Him. It is His goodness that draws us to repentance (Romans 2:4). This captivation found in our creator has a name. We call it awe­­ - a complete and total captivation, an amazed wonder at the brilliance of who God is.

Worship begins with discovering the awe.

For the Christian, our daily pursuit is to re-discover the awe, where once again we revel in the majesty of our beautiful savior.

Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?” For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
— Romans 11:34-36

God has made us so that our affections will flow to and through Him. He wants to epitomize our worship. Since He made us to worship, our primary end is to uplift Him in our lives.

When God is not the ultimate aim of our affection, a problem arises. When He fails to imbue the fullness of our desires, our joy is short-lived. And so, as a human race, we find ourselves unhappy, chasing things, when all along it was God calling at our desires bidding us to come and find Him (Jeremiah 29:13).  

But think about it…only an eternal being (God) can handle the human heart’s deep yearning for joy and satisfaction. It’s only when our desires are set upon Him that we are truly satisfied. In Him, our contentment is certain, since only God can manage what He made - our hearts.

Do you see? Outside of God’s grace, when we steward the human heart, we destroy it. God completes it.

Application to the Believer & the Artist

Worship is equally central to the creative life. To be a creator is to share an element of the beauty we’ve beheld - to tell its story. When that most awe-inspiring thing or person is God, the creative works to translate these aspects of His revealed greatness through their gifts for His infinite glory.

This response (to God’s revealed glory) is what we call worship.

In other words, worship is our adoring response to the revealed glory of God.

When we behold the Creator, our hearts long to share the transcendence we experience. We long to capture these elements of the sublime and put them in front of the viewer as if to say, “Come look what I’ve found. Come see the glory and majesty of what I’ve discovered.”

Look around and you will quickly discover how God has crafted the world to reflect His greatness (Romans 1).

Is it any wonder that when we gaze upon God’s beauty, we long to do the same - reflect His greatness?

The same goes for what we craft with our hands. We want it to reflect the beauty we’ve beheld in what we make.

Look circumspect and take note, whether you’re a custodian or a craftsman, an artist or a homemaker, a coach or a designer, a thinker, a teacher, a dad or an entrepreneur, your first priority is to worship our great and glorious King.

 

Like What You Read?

Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

(No Spam. Just Love.)

Name *
Name
 

Other Recent Articles and Good Reads

Learning to Live Open Handed

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.
— Psalm 86:11 
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things, and give me life in Your ways.
— Psalm 119:37

Sticky notes with these two verses and one that says: “Give me singular focus,” sat on my desk for months. I needed the constant reminder.

Photo by Sabine van Straaten

Photo by Sabine van Straaten

God has been slowly untethering my soul from things that I’ve held too tightly. By my actions, I would protest (at times I still do), “Can’t I have both?” And I knew the answer was no. But “no” came with a promise of a life that I could not, in my short-sightedness, conceive of. At the turn of the year, I made a resolution that I intended to keep. 

The resolution was to be more yielded to the Spirit of God than I have ever been. 

This was not something to try. There was only yielding, dying and somehow living. It required constantly acknowledging my propensity to want to go my own way. And I’ve realized this year that this process, this steady constant returning, this well-worn path of repentance, is a gift. Every time I open my hands to Him in surrender He takes the thing that threatens my worship and replaces it with affection for Him. 

I have to remind myself that there is no merit to me finally acknowledging how lost, wounded, and broken I am, when God is the one who has revealed my need. What merit is it to me to lay every hope and dream out on the table and to say, “God, do with this what you will” knowing that He alone can make my life worth living? 

God has been showing me areas of self-deception and ways I’ve been short-changing my life from lasting character formation. One of those areas has been social media. 

A couple of weeks ago, I came home from a meeting grieved over my own sin and the struggle I suspect many of us are facing. I wrote the following thoughts.

I’m sharing this because maybe, just maybe, it will speak to a work that He’s already begun in you too. 

***

Oh Jesus, have we forgotten? Or did we ever really know that our lives are not our own? We know all the right words and we feel this deep ache. We ask ourselves why and then we fill ourselves up with doing. Doing makes us feel better. Slowing down just makes us realize we’re deeply dissatisfied and the doing will never really fix it. So, we fill the still moments up with other people’s doing. At the heart of it, we know there’s a daily dying that we can’t quite bring ourselves to embrace. What will our lives mean if we can’t show and tell people what we should mean to them?

What if? It’s the question that haunts all those being drawn deeper.

What if I stopped caring? What if they misunderstand?

What if they don’t care?

What if I slip through the cracks and I’m never really seen, never really known?

At times we begin to see shafts of light breaking through the clouds because God is pursuing us. But then we try to capture this unfinished business in moments that are fleeting. “I have to share this with the world, this is what everyone needs”. We tell ourselves that it’s for their good, but really it’s so that we can prove we have something to say. Something real. Something tangible. Something that, if we truly embraced it, would change our lives forever. But we don’t think about it too hard because laying everything out on the table feels a little too risky. We let Jesus close enough to make us appealing but not effective. I think Jesus wants to build His church by building our character. But the things that could really make all the difference in us we peddle for praise. So, rather than becoming who we know deep down God is calling us to become, we settle for the version of ourselves that will fool everyone, even us.

***

Friends, He wants so much more for us than we want for ourselves. 

Christ is all, 

Casey

 

Like What You Read?

Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff.

Name *
Name

Other Good Reads & Recent Articles

Stewarding Grace

We are constantly trying to make sense of the world around us. Our lives are a journey of discovery. “Who am I?” is a question we’re consistently asking and this leaves us searching for our identity wherever it might be found.

When we stop and think about it we find that circumstances are perfect for us to adopt our gifts as our identity and to forget that we did nothing to merit them. But the gifts we’ve received are what God has called us to use to serve Him and to serve one another, not tell us who we are. 1 Peter 4 tells us they are a reflection of God’s multi- faceted grace. When we steward our gifts we are stewarding grace.

IMG_7528.JPG
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
— 1 Peter 4:10 & 11

Because it’s so hard to determine sometimes where our gifts end and we begin it’s intensely personal to offer our gifts back to the One who entrusted them to us, as if to say, “These gifts are not my identity. My identity is found in You alone. You are the One who gives me value and worth. Therefore the grace I’ve receive is the grace I’ll extend with everything I have, with every gift You’ve given.”

Here are some signs that you’ve surrendered your gifts to the Gift-giver:

1. You’re happy for the success of others in your area of giftedness.

In other words, the success of others doesn’t intimidate you. It’s understandable to feel a tinge of frustration when you see people move ahead and you seem to be standing still, but reminding yourself Who you’re doing this for should realign your heart to the One who graciously gave you the gift in the first place.

2. You don’t dwell on past mistakes.

God has already seen where you’d fall short and He called you anyway. You have to give Him your failures and trust Him with them. He is the redeemer of every lost opportunity and every missed chance if we will let Him be.

3. You can surrender your idea of what using your gift means.

Our culture paints a very specific picture of what using our talents is supposed to look like and it has snuck it’s way into the church. Do you trust God enough to let Him lead you down whatever path He chooses, whether it looks like what you envisioned or not? We sometimes put a ceiling on how far God can take us because we think it needs to look a certain way.

4. You steward your gift faithfully no matter what.

Whether you’re having an opportunity to use your gift publicly or not, if God gave it to you He is telling you to steward it. You steward that gift for Him because He is ultimately the One you serve.

5. Jesus is enough.

If everything changed tomorrow and by the world’s standards you had amazing success, if God asked you to, would you leave it all behind because Jesus is enough? If you were called to disciple the people on the stage rather than be on the stage yourself would you do it because Jesus is enough? If God asked you to use your gift in a place where no one would ever know your name would you do it because Jesus is enough?

If you have a gift, use your gift. Walk it out in the fullest expression possible. God will make up where you lack because He’s to One who is glorified, even in our weakness. ALL the glory belongs to Him. He invites us to be partakers in that glory but not for one second are we intended to try to take it for ourselves. When we find ourselves deceived into thinking this might all be about us, the Holy Spirit mercifully reveals that no amount of achievement or notoriety will bring the kind of satisfaction that offering our gifts back to God could ever bring.

The satisfaction we all long for is found in the Gift-giver, not the gift itself.

You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.
— Psalm 145:16
 

Like What You Read?

Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

(No Spam. Just Love.)

Name *
Name
 

Other Good Reads

Let It Happen

Comfortable people don’t need Jesus, desperate people do.
— Bob Goff

I’ve been hearing this question lately, “Why do you keep watering it down?”

“Watering what down?” I ask.

The Holy Spirit whispers, “Your passion. Your longings. That voice that keeps telling you that you were meant for more. You turn to lesser things for comfort when you’re called to feel the discomfort of “not yet” or “not quite”. It’s worth the investment right now.”

Let It Happen.JPG

The lesser things just deaden the voice a little bit; they take away the edge. Rather than requiring me to trust God, I make it manageable by making it quieter.

Not too close. Not too hard. Not too much.
That’s how it feels. Like it’s just too much. Deep down I don’t know if I can handle being fully alive so I self-medicate.

I want to protect myself from the pain of disappointment because the dreams are bigger than anything I could do on my own. You know the saying, “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough”? Well, they scare me, so I shut them away and act like I don’t care. If it happens it happens, but while I’m waiting I’ll be over here watching Netflix.

There’s a song that goes, “Your full of life now, full of passion, that’s how He made you. Just let it happen.” I just got it. I just realized I wasn’t letting it happen. I was letting the voices of others in my head influence me. I was letting my own desire for comfort influence me. I was avoiding the pain that I know comes with “letting it happen”. Because it is painful. There’s another song with a line that says, “coming alive feels a lot like dying”. And it does. I’ve been comfortable. Not satisfied. Comfortable. I work for a church, I serve, I lead a small group...but I’m comfortable.

We require the right problem to expose our need for Jesus. What’s my problem? Laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that I might not be ready for an opportunity that could present itself tomorrow because my desire for comfort won. Isn’t it interesting how pain reminds us that we’re alive? We find ourselves stuck in the cycle of settling for lesser things until we wake up to the conviction that each day is a day we won’t get back. Because God is merciful He allows me to feel the pain of “what if” and then I wake up.

Sinking deep into who God created you to be can be scary because you’re not sure who can come with you to that place. But if God is calling you there, then it’s because you’re supposed to lead the way for others. The longer you put it off, the more frustrated you’ll become over the time that you’ve lost. But know this: God is the redeemer and He can redeem the time if you hand it over to Him. There is a facet of who God is that we will miss out on if we don’t trust Him with the opportunities we believe we’ve lost.

Watering down your calling is just a temporary solution for an eternal problem. It will never lead to the satisfaction and true rest that we all long for. At the end of the day, I know that if I don’t trust Him with this I’ve denied myself abundant life. Jesus said that’s what He came to bring us, and just as He challenged the rich young ruler, He also challenges us to leave our comfort behind.

What He’s placed inside us isn’t just for us. God’s purposes will be accomplished with or without us. Are you okay with that? I don’t think so. Although, my actions make me feel as if I am betraying myself, since they seem so contrary to who I know I am—to who I’m called to be.

Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
— Colossians 1:28-29

When Paul says, “for this I toil, struggling,” he's saying that he's exhausting himself for the sake of the call, for the good fight of faith. He acknowledges the powerful work of the Spirit within and responds accordingly. Know this: Paul is not working for the sake of achievement or earning recognition. He is working and toiling in response to the reality of a dying world and the corresponding power of the Holy Spirit within; the same power that raised Christ from the dead.

When we water down the call we relegate the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to the sidelines of our lives. The power that raised Christ is the same power that is available for you to spend yourself completely on the gospel (beyond what you thought possible). And in the very midst, the Holy Spirit invites us to rest in His sovereign care. He wants us to know that if we pour out our lives, abundant life awaits us.

You may be asking the same question I’ve used as an excuse many times to keep from being “all in." How is it possible to give beyond what you imagined and then to rest? Both are the result of utter dependence and yielding to the work of the Holy Spirit. You can’t have one without the other. You can’t work in submission to the Holy Spirit and not rest AND you can’t rest in submission to the Holy Spirit and not work.

When we try to preserve our comfort we deny ourselves true rest.

But Jesus invites us into a “glorious ‘yes.' " A yes that requires every part of us and gives us abundant life in return.

So give it all.

Give it everything you’ve got.

Do it scared if you have to.

Because it will be worth it.

It always is.

You’re full of life now, full of passion. That’s how He made you. Just let it happen.
— United Pursuit
 

Like What You Read?

Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

Name *
Name
 

Other Good Reads

Treasure

    Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid: and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.
    — Matthew 13:44
    Photo Credit:  Simon Wilkes

    Photo Credit: Simon Wilkes

    Growing up I read the Bible to find out what I needed to do and how I needed to act rather than to know God. Although, I had a love for scripture (that I now understand is by no merit of my own, but a God-given gift) I didn’t see the grand narrative of redemption because I didn’t know to look for it. I didn’t know God’s redemptive plan was woven in from Genesis to Revelation and parables like this one, rather than being instruction for me, were actually revealing something intrinsic to the nature of God and the way He interacts with us. 

    Since I was always reading to find the application I assumed the main character talked about in this short parable, stuffed in the middle of Jesus’ discourse on the kingdom of heaven, was me or you. Obviously, what we’re supposed do is give up everything we have because we’re so happy we’ve finally found the kingdom, right? That’s the application. Count the cost to get the kingdom. 

    But here’s the catch, we have nothing to offer. And why am I buying a field? Every word Jesus spoke was intentional. We can’t just ignore the details we can’t explain. If I sold everything to purchase the field that the treasure was buried in, as it pertains to the Gospel (which means "good news"), that doesn’t make much sense. Why would I buy the whole field when I can freely accept the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin?  If you’re still hung up on this, let me put it this way, there is nothing you or I have that could ever purchase our redemption. But when we receive the good news everything we once held of value will pale in comparison to the riches of Christ. What a convicting thought! But the idea of us being the main character just doesn't fit within the context of the parable.

    Rather, this story shows the incredibly intentional nature of our redeeming God and the man in this parable undeniably represents Jesus. 

    If that man is Jesus and the field is the world (vs. 38), then him selling everything and purchasing the entire field because of the treasure he finds there makes sense. Jesus has something to offer: His deity and His life.

    In the parable, this man is overwhelmed with joy when He finds the kingdom of heaven. But He can’t just take it. That’s not how it works. Because God is just, it has to be done the right way. So, the man hides the treasure right in the middle of the ordinary place he found it so that he can go sell everything he owns to buy something that only he understands the immense value of.

    But if the man represents Jesus why would the King of kings and the King of heaven need to sell everything to buy the kingdom of heaven? What is the “kingdom of heaven”? It’s not talking about what we typically envision when we think of a kingdom. I don’t know about you, but I generally think castles and princesses and dragons because I’m kind of a nerd and I like stuff like that. But what the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” is talking about here is the rule and reign of heaven, God’s rule and reign. So basically, Jesus is bringing God’s way of doing things in heaven to earth. 

    Due to man’s rebellion, the rule and reign of heaven on earth and in the hearts of men had to be purchased back. The price tag on this process would cost God everything. Much like the man who expresses so much joy at discovering the treasure, we see Jesus “who for the JOY that was set before Him endured the cross”. 

    Jesus went on the greatest rescue mission imaginable; He gave up the comfort of heaven to bring the kingdom of heaven to us. He gave up everything He had to buy back a broken world, so that the kingdom of heaven would come to it’s fullest expression in the redemption of man. And that is a really, really good story. It’s a story about how much God values us. It’s a story about how treasured we are.

    Of what great value is the treasure hidden in the field! If we only understood what a treasure we are to the One who has found us! 

     

    Your kingdom come,

    Your will be done, 

    On earth, as it is in heaven!


    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name
     

    Other Great Reads

    Hidden

    There are no limits to what God can do with a life that is fully submitted to Him.

    I have wholeheartedly believed this for as long as I can remember. Day in and day out, I live with this deep conviction that He’s for me and when I give Him everything I won’t be disappointed.

    But what about those seasons where I feel hidden? Or when the things I know God has placed inside of me feel like they will never see the light of day? What about the times when my purpose or calling feels distant?

    Hidden-edited.jpg

    I think we all go through this at some point. It could be triggered by a move, job change or loss, or transitioning roles. It's not uncommon and I know I'm not alone. 

    Take Joseph for example. Dude was so hidden. You can find his story in Genesis 37-45

    Joseph, who dreamed his brothers would one day bow down to him, is sold into slavery by these same brothers. He finds himself in a seemingly hopeless situation, hidden for forty years before his dreams actually come to pass.  

    In the end, God strategically used Joseph's season of hiddenness to showcase His glory. 

    Over the years God has patiently shown me how to embrace seasons of hiddenness.

    As I’ve yielded to the Holy Spirit in these seasons, He has grown me in ways that I wouldn’t trade for anything. He has enlarged my capacity to just be with Him and I treasure the time I have come to set aside to listen and surrender. These are the moments where everything else falls away and I am His beloved. 

    From these encounters, I wanted to share some the things I've learned with you.

    Faithfulness in Hiddenness

    When it feels like your God-given gifts aren’t being utilized in the way you had hoped, it doesn’t mean you should ignore them.

    You’re called to faithfulness in hiddenness because God doesn’t invest something in us that He doesn’t intend to get a return on. That return is always about bringing Him glory so that He can draw people to Himself. (2 Timothy 1:14) It may not look like what you thought, but that’s mostly because you don’t see like He does. Rest assured, faithfulness will yield results. 

    Ephesians 2:10 says that God prepared good works for us ahead of time so that we could walk in them, but we have to be ready to walk in what He has prepared. This requires faithfulness on our part. 

    Also, if you love something, you’re not going to stop growing or investing in that area just because no one is watching, right? What a sobering thought to let sink in. 

    Contentment in Hiddenness

    Rest requires trust. A lot of it. 

    It's not easy. Rest is so contrary to our human nature that we often forget that this is God's plan and if He has us in a place where we feel “hidden,” then it's for a good reason.

    His plans have always been so much better than mine. They are always so much bigger. When I look back I see His strategy in every step and every move. I also see the times where I became anxious and tried to move things in a certain direction. Almost like I was telling God, "You're just not moving fast enough. I've got it from here." Looking back, I laugh at myself realizing how foolish it was to think I was in control. Self-promotion is a very real temptation when you feel like the world is telling you that you're getting too old or pretty soon you won't have anything to offer. But when we wholeheartedly trust God to do the heavy lifting we can rest and there is nothing like it.

    David (from the Bible) was anointed as king long before he ever took the throne. In the interim, the king he was supposed to replace was actively trying to kill him. Instead of retaliating when he had the chance, David chose mercy. King Saul, however, was so afraid of losing the position, which had become his identity, that he became obsessed with killing David.

    While David is a great example of contentment in hiddenness, Saul is a great example of the fear and obsession that results from finding one’s identity in a position or title. (1 Samuel 16-31

    Prayerfulness in Hiddenness

    Prayer is a divine alignment of our will to God’s.

    When we feel hidden to the world around us God wants to reveal that His affirmation and affection are enough to fulfill the longing in our hearts. Only cultivating a deep prayer life will yield the fruit that abiding in Him produces. If you haven’t read John 15 lately, I encourage you to do so…and then I recommend reading it again. 

    The hidden or secret place is where God reveals Himself. As we behold Him, we can’t help but become more like Him. Hiddenness, when embraced, has the potential to produce the kind of character that can withstand the challenges we'll face when our gifts are acknowledged. If we have developed a habit of consistent communion with God, when the time comes, we will offer our gifts as a sacrifice to the God who saved us, loves us, and gives us an identity in Him.

    The Big Picture

    "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places."  Ephesians 3:8-10 ESV

    I want to encourage you to embrace hiddenness. I know it can be frustrating and downright depressing when you don’t feel like you can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’ve been there. These are the times where God does the deepest work in us–when we learn to love people better and what’s most important. It’s when we cultivate a lasting dependence on God, and in turn, He grows us far beyond the places our own efforts could ever take us. The result is something God can use to draw people to Himself. 

    One more thing: you're not as hidden as you might think.

    People see you and they see the fruit born from your covenant and communion with God. The light inside you shines brighter and brighter with every decision to yield and every moment of surrender. In the end, it's more than worth it. 

    God's plan has always been to reveal the work that He's done in you, to others. It may not be what you expect, but I do know this...it's so much better.

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    Name *
    Name

    An Open Letter to the One Considering Giving Up

    To the one who is considering giving up, 

    Maybe you’re wondering where God was when you needed Him most. When no one else understood and when the pain was too much, God was supposed to be there. He was supposed to fix it. Isn’t that what He does? Make it better? 

    I know you’re tired. I know you feel stuck and that you’d do anything to feel unstuck — even going as far as to do something you know you’d regret. At the end of the day, don’t you just want to remember what this life is for? 

    Maybe you don’t talk to God anymore, at least, not like you used to. It’s not that you’re being dishonest with Him. You know He knows. It’s just not up for discussion, since you decided you already know what He’d say. He would be disappointed, right? He would say, “You knew better”…right? 

    Maybe that’s what you tell yourself and now you feel like you have all the reasons you need to hold Him at arms length. 

    But you can’t keep Him at a safe distance forever. 

    You can do your best to put it off; to deny His existence and live in a kind of willful deception, but there will be a day when you can no longer hide (I know, because I couldn’t hide either).

    What will it be?

    Will it be the realization that you were and still are deeply loved? 

    Will you suddenly have to admit to yourself that you refused God’s love -– the same love that He wanted to lavish upon you, but you didn’t trust Him enough to give you what you needed most? 

    Will it be a humble plea? “I can’t do this anymore.”

    Will you yield to the breaking and the mending?

    He will meet you. 

    Maybe not in the way that you prefer and maybe not in the way that you expect, but at the point when you feel like there’s none of yourself left, He comes in with grace and fills every part.

    Here I am pleading, “Don’t give up hope.”

    But please, give up. Stop fighting God. Maybe after giving it some thought you realize you’re actually trying to punish yourself. You know you don’t deserve His love, so you’ve decided you’re not going to receive it.

    But refusing Him doesn’t make Him sacrificing the life of His Son for your life untrue. Blaming Him for the failures of others and the pain of this fallen world doesn’t mean that the blood of Jesus wasn’t shed on your behalf. 

    I want you to know one thing: He was there when you needed Him most. 

    Your idea of when you needed Him and His omniscient understanding of when you needed Him are two different things. He was there when you were dead in your sins, even when you could do nothing for yourself and had NO HOPE. 

    God came for broken people. He came for people who don’t know how to love or how to forgive. He came for people who are ungrateful and selfish. He came for us. We could never earn His love, so when all is said and done mercy, grace and beauty flow from the cracks of our broken lives. 

    You see, this isn’t just about you. You’re not the only victim of your refusal. Your life relinquished to His care testifies to others of His immense mercy and the unsearchable riches of His multi-faceted grace. 

    He’s there. He wants to heal you. In fact, your healing was purchased at the point when you needed Him most. When the penalty for your sin, and mine, was satisfied on the cross. 

     

    Love, 

    A fellow sinner saved by grace

     

    “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”

    Romans 5:6

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Reaching Orphans with the Arts: The Joshua Blueprint (Kenya)

    Have you ever taken the time to get a picture of what happens in the throne room of God when we worship Him? What does it look like for God to be enthroned on the praises of His people? How does He respond when the fragrance of worship begins to flood His courts? What does it mean for His heart to be ravished by the mere glance of our eyes? Let me just start by challenging you to pause for a second and imagine this reality before we continue. Really personalize this and take the time to get a vision of how much your worship means to God; how much it moves Him.

    Girl with Guitar.JPG

    Now, imagine this with me. Orphans, the ones constantly mentioned throughout the Bible for being of utmost importance to the heart of God, worshipping. We have already gotten a clear picture of how much God loves worship from us, but can you imagine how much the sight and sound of the dejected little ones of the world truly worshipping God wrecks His heart? I can’t even begin to fathom.

    Yet, that is what The Joshua Blueprint – a community-based ministry in Kitale, Kenya – is seeking to discover. We want to see what will happen to this small town and even the entire nation when we raise up orphans as worshippers. Our program teaches first and foremost what it means to live the lifestyle of a worshipper, to make their lives a living sacrifice unto the Lord, and then we use visual and performing arts to call forth the talents God has hidden deep within them. Through our dance, vocal, music (guitar, keyboard, and drums), drama and art classes we are able to share God’s heart with them and give them an avenue to share their heart with Him.

    Playing Piano.JPG
    Taking Notes.JPG
    Dancers.JPG

    Kitale, a Place of Refuge

    Kitale is one of many towns in Kenya that is known for its large population of street children. These are children who have either been abandoned by their families (either through death or neglect) or they are children who left home to find greener pastures. Most of these kids hail from one of two tribes, the Pokot and the Turkana. For both tribes, there are major issues with drought, poverty and war. The Pokot and Turkana have also fought each other over cattle and land for many years, and considering they both are warrior tribes, the battles can get pretty bloody. So many people end up fleeing to Kitale, the closest city to both territories, for refuge.

    Kitale town is small, but it is saturated with children’s homes. There are some awesome programs here for the kids, but they’re only able to cover the basic needs (food, clothing, shelter, and education). It’s very difficult for them provide many extracurricular activities for the children. That was what attracted us to come here. When Ray and I first got married, we lived in Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city). For the first year of marriage we had committed to spend every Sunday praying and dreaming about what God would have us do here. At the end of the year He gave us the vision for the Joshua Blueprint. After some divine connections with three different sources, we were led to move to Kitale.

    God connected us with our first children’s home during one of our initial scouting trips, and as soon as we moved to Kitale we began working with a small group of students from Mattaw Children’s Village. Over the past few years the Lord has increased our reach, and we now work with about 75 children from four children’s homes (Mercy Rescue Trust, Kenya Church of Christ Children’s Home, and Seeds Children’s Home). In the beginning, we were traveling from one orphanage to the next to teach, but that became less and less feasible as we began to add more kids into the program. Thankfully, God has blessed us this year to be able to rent a facility that we’re in the process of renovating, where all of our students can come together for classes.

    JB Facility.JPG

    We currently have three of the four organizations together every Saturday, and the fourth group we teach separately. We’ll transition them into the large group early next year. As we get into a routine with the students, we’ll open the facility to the general community so that anyone, whether child or adult, rich or poor can come and participate in weekly classes or the workshops we’ll put on with teams from America over the holidays. Aside from that, we will also be doing street ministry, where student-led teams will go into the slums and side streets of Kitale, where many of them were once rescued, and share the gospel in their own unique ways.

    With Their Own Voices

    I would love to share testimonies from the kids, but I believe part of the value of what we do is to give these kids an artistic means with which to share their own stories; to express their hearts and tell the world what God has done in their lives. As missionaries, we often assume the responsibility of sharing other peoples’ testimonies, but there is nothing as powerful as hearing the direct impact of God’s influence on someone’s life from their own mouth. Viona is one of our dance and drama students from Mattaw Children’s Village. In this video, she tells her story through dance and a spoken word piece she wrote.

    Each student has their own story of how the arts have either helped them to discover something new about their identity in Christ, heal them from past trauma, embolden them to share the Gospel in new ways, and much more. We’re just at the beginning of stepping into God’s vision for these children, and we know that as we continue creating together, God is going to produce something so beautiful that the world will be just as wrecked as their Father God is.

    Partnership with We Are the Vigilant

    We are so happy to be able to partner with We Are the Vigilant in this endeavor and with any of you that may feel led to join us. We are always looking for teams to come out and lead workshops on worship, the arts, sustainability, and more. Any time we connect with similar-minded creatives about this project, we feel this gust of fresh wind push us a little closer to the fullness of what God has in store for this ministry. Speaking to Matt and Casey about partnering together was no exception. Thank you both for allowing us this space to share our hearts and welcome to the family!

    JB Group Photo.JPG

    Connect with The Joshua Blueprint Online:

     Facebook

    Twitter

    Web

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Partnership: The Joshua Blueprint

    Over the past 6 months or so, God has been re-prioritizing some things for We Are The Vigilant. We’ve been in contact with our community, sharing the heart behind where God is directing us. Now, we want to share more of the story with you and anyone that would listen, really.

    In short, We are the Vigilant exists to connect Kingdom-minded creatives who want to reach a hurting world with their unique resources.

    We believe that as creatives, God has equipped us to give what we can. This means that even if we don’t have the dollars we can still offer our time and our talents to those who don’t have access to the opportunities we often take for granted.

    We also feel strongly that as creatives, it is incumbent upon us to use our creativity to help people see things in new and challenging ways. We’ve been asking God to open our eyes so that we can, in turn, use creative means to help other people see. Calling ourselves “vigilant” is really a statement of faith. We’re asking God to help us stay awake and aware of what’s going on around us. 

    One of the ways we intend to do this is by highlighting people and ministries who embody what it means to use their unique resources (or talents) to reach a hurting world.

    Joshua Blueprint is the ministry of Ray and S’ambrosia Wasike.

    I (Casey) met Sam in college. We were a part of the same campus ministry. While I was the worship leader for our group, I constantly made her play instruments she wasn’t all too comfortable with, like drums, for instance. Granted, as a leader I had no idea what I was doing, but she was willing to try whatever crazy thing I asked her to do and I loved her for it.

    Me & Sam - edited.jpg

    Sam and I would get together regularly to pray for our campus and anything else the Lord might lay on our hearts. She was a leader even when she didn’t know she was leading. Her heart for the Father and willingness to be vulnerable in order to show people Jesus are two of the most beautiful things about her and they feed her creativity in incredibly moving and meaningful ways.

    Although I’ve never met her husband, Sam would only marry someone who is as in love with Jesus and creative as she is. Ray is from Kenya and from our brief interaction over the phone and Sam’s blog I feel like I know him already. 

    Next week Sam is going to be sharing more about the heart of Joshua Blueprint. But please feel free to check out their website and GoFundMe.

    For the whole month of October we’ll be highlighting their ministry and discussing some of our biblical convictions about the direction God is leading us. We hope that you’ll come along!

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Ministry: It's Not What I Thought

    And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
    — Ephesians 4:11-13 ESV

    Too many frustrated conversations to count. 

    Conversations with people who felt called to ministry but were disillusioned when it wasn’t happening the way they had imagined.

    Photo Credit:  Ales Krivec

    Photo Credit: Ales Krivec

    They believed what I believed - that for people who were passionate about Jesus, ministry would be the acceptable way to achieve success, maybe even their own version of fame. 

    I’m ashamed to admit that for the majority of my life I thought ministry was about the person who was standing on the platform with a microphone in their hand. 

    It was about being known by your own little world and being admired. 

    I want this to be clear; there is never a moment where I feel more like I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do than when I’m communicating the Truth that the world needs to hear so badly. But in the last five years or so, by the grace of God, I’ve also come to wholeheartedly believe this: no one needs to know my name. 

    If you’ve followed WeAreTheVigilant for any period of time, you’ve seen me hash out this internal struggle over and over. You probably didn’t notice it, but the battle that went on inside me is woven into everything I’ve ever written.

    Ministry is not about being known.

    I am ALREADY known.

    You are ALREADY known.

    We are known by the only One who matters.

    For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.      
    — 1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

    This begs the question: What is ministry?

    • Ministry is admitting your brokenness, your need for a Savior to a broken world that also needs a Savior.
    • Ministry is acknowledging God’s incredible mercy and receiving His grace.
    • Ministry is asking for forgiveness, not pretending like it didn't happen.
    • Ministry is yielding to the deep work of the Holy Spirit.
    • Ministry is the willingness to be uncomfortable.
    • It is the divine cooperation between you and a Holy God that happens for the good of everyone that comes into contact with someone who has experienced redemption.

    God has given us gifts and He has called us for one reason: to bring glory to Himself so that people would turn to Him. The idea that we would have any part of that makes me want to get on my face and weep out of gratitude.

    Have you ever wanted to say, “If I can’t do this the right way then I won’t do it at all”?

    Me too.

    And if God rolls His eyes, I’m the most worthy recipient of said eye roll.

    We take a pre-emptive strike on the call because deep down we really think that somehow this is still all about us.

    A divine commission either is or it isn’t. Within the context of Jesus’ command to make disciples is there ever a moment that you shouldn't endeavor to make that command a reality? Even if it’s not in the way that you imagined?

    If there is a glimmer of a chance that your participation in the great commission would draw even one person closer to the heart of God is that not a risk worth taking? Whether the context is behind a pulpit, faithfully serving your community, leading a small group, adopting a child, or late night conversations on the phone with a struggling friend, it’s all ministry.

    If He gave you a specific talent or ability He has every intention of using those gifts to draw people to Himself. Where we so often get tied up is the desire to be recognized for the gifts we have merely received.  

    For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?
    — 1 Corinthians 4:7 ESV

    Sometimes we find ourselves at a standstill because we know that in order to move forward we have to lose all semblance of control. I don’t care who you are, that’s scary. But ultimately, I think the biggest lesson we need to learn is how to get out of our own way because “when Christ calls a man he bids him come and die"*.

    As disciples, the call is dying to self.

    As ministers, we must lead the way in this death. Only on the other side does a truly abundant life exist and we cannot show others the way when we have not yet been there ourselves.

     

     

    *Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Treading the Waters of Transition

    Transition can be a tricky thing.

    If you’re not careful, you can flow from one season to the next wondering if you’re right on target or just some random driftwood caught in the tide.

    So, how do you manage the waters of transition like a pro?

    Photo Credit:  Tim Marshall

    Photo Credit: Tim Marshall

    1.)    Holding on to Purpose –

    For the better part of my life I’ve been passionate about 3 things: Jesus, people, and the arts. Since college, I’ve made a living as either an artist, a teacher, or a pastor. Some days there was nothing sexy about the work because it was work.

    People say “Do what you love and you’ll never work another day in your life.” But they fail to mention the amount of work you’ll do as you move toward doing what you love.

    There will be times where you’re facing transition and the best thing you can do is fall back on what you know while you contend for the direction God is leading you.

    There’s nothing wrong in doing honest work. Maybe you’re not in your dream job, but at least you’re in a sustainable place where you can quiet your heart before God. This step is so practical, many people miss it (Proverbs 24:27).

    2.)    Dig into Discipline –

    God uses seasons of preparation to grow you into where you’re going. Even where you are right now, He’s crafting a certain skill, relationship, or element of your character that will play a vital role in where you’re headed next. Today’s triumph is tomorrow’s stepping stone. Don’t let the baggage of “right now” weigh you down. Don’t let the temporary things override what is eternal (Philippians 3:17-21).

    Let your motivation and discipline for today be persuaded by an eternal mindset.

    3.)    Never Underestimate the Power of Common Sense –

    There are some things you just know to do...

    • It’s nearing bedtime, I should brush my teeth.
    • My car is acting weird, maybe you should get that checked out.
    • This decision doesn’t feel right. I don’t think I should do this.

    You’ve been given a conscience for a reason. Listen to it. Don’t spiritualize that which is easily understood. Make good, consistent decisions and don’t overthink where you are. Please listen…if you don’t have something to hold down the bills, forget about the dream, cause you’re already drowning.

    Passion can’t be the sole source of your direction. What should guide you is the call upon your life.

    Where is God telling you to go? Get ready. Prepare. Find firm ground, then launch out as you discover where God is leading you (Habakkuk 2:1-3; Phillipians 3:14).

    4.)    Stay Hungry –

    As seasons build, you’ll find that like layers of a sandwich, there are defining moments that stack up to create who you are. Don’t let one or even four bad experiences define who you are. Don’t give power to circumstances beyond your control or to things lingering in your past. Fight for the joy that is Jesus in your life. Stay hungry for your relationship with Him (John 6:35).

    Let your walk with Christ be the guidepost through each transition. This way you’ll keep your focus on what matters the most.

    5.)    Find Community –

    The love of Jesus is wholly fulfilled in the presence of His people (Hebrews 10:24-25). Whatever purpose your called to, if it’s truly of God, then it’s so much bigger than you that you’re going to need others to:

    - Fulfill It.

    - Help You Grow Through It.

    - Serve Alongside You.

    Community will keep you from stagnating. God will use other people to push and provoke you further into the purpose He has prepared for you.

     

    Like What You Read? 

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Feeling the Weight

    It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
    — C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory, and Other Addresses
    Photo Credit: Matthias Heil

    Photo Credit: Matthias Heil

    About 2 months ago, God started asking me to think about what it truly meant to use the unique resources He has given me to reach a hurting world. I would let myself feel the weight of His invitation for a day or a few hours but no longer. I knew that if I accepted this it would change my life. It would require more of me than I was willing to give at the time.

    I was holding Him at arms length. 

    How?

    I would let apathy wrap me up like a heavy blanket - not just heavy enough to slow me down, but also comfortable enough to help me forget to care. 

    There were times I’d try to shake myself awake. But I still made allowances for things I knew were holding me back all in the name of “balance”. But balance always turned into excess. Isn’t it funny how that happens? 

    Here’s a thought:

    If there’s a disparity between our day-to-day experience and who we know God is calling us to be, then somewhere, deep down, we are believing a lie - a lie that we’ve embraced so thoroughly, it’s impacting our everyday behavior.

    The irritating thing about lies is their subtlety. They slip under the radar so easily and before you know it, you’ve bought into them hook, line, and sinker.

     

    The lie I think I most often believe is “It’s okay. You can start tomorrow.” 

     

    But God, in His infinite grace, has been reassuring me of the following: 

    • LOVING people is what matters. No, not winning people over or impressing them, but LOVING people. When we love sacrificially we love like Jesus. And when we serve one another we show people Jesus. We preach the gospel everywhere we go.

    Galatians 5:13

    • Not everyone is going to feel things as deeply as I do or in the same way I do. God gives each of us a unique perspective and a unique way of expressing that perspective. The majority of us are so sedated by the idols of our own choosing that God is unable to develop that unique perspective into anything impactful.

    1 Peter 4:11

    • This is going to take time. I can’t help but think that I have so much further to come. That’s why I wrote a list of “Daily Expectations”. These are the things God is calling me to be faithful in right now as He has been reassuring me He’s going to take care of the rest. What would a list of daily expectations look like for you?

    Luke 16:10

    • In order to feel the weight of the call you have to throw off the weight of lesser things...things that at face-value don’t look all that harmful. These things take up valuable “bandwidth”. You can’t have both. 

    Hebrews 12:1-2

     

    You’ve been given an assignment. Your assignment is to live a grace-filled, gospel-driven, justice-loving life.

     

    You weren't created to just work a nine-to-five job and retire one day. You were created for good things that God, in His foresight, prepared for you ahead of time (Ephesians 2:10).

    You’ve been uniquely resourced to complete that assignment knowing that if God has called you to it, then He’s more invested than even you are. Everything you need is found in Him. You don’t have to worry about how, and you don’t have to worry about when. All you need to do is say, "yes". Say, "yes" when He tells you to put down your phone. Say, "yes" when He moves you to prayer. Say, "yes" when He asks you to go.

    Don't give yourself a chance to hesitate. If you've been holding Him at arms length, if you've been half-heartedly embracing the Gospel I pray that the Holy Spirit deals with you like He did with me. I pray that you become utterly dissatisfied with life as you know it.

    Go ahead, feel the weight. 

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    A Decade of Lessons (Pt. II)

    In celebration of 10 years of marriage, we are sharing the 10 most valuable lessons learned over the last 10 years. If you missed part one, you can read up on it here

    August 11, 2007

    August 11, 2007

    6. Sex is a consummation of desire, not a cure for lust. 

    I was foolish to think that when my wife and I could make love, I would no longer struggle with lust. I was wrong. It would take years before I could say that I was free and it would cost me dearly. Bottom line, who you are before you're married is who you are when you get married. Just because you have an outlet to express your physical desires doesn't mean you can have sex at any moment, all of the time. It's not a cure all for lust. Marriage doesn't solve your problems, it exposes them. When you commit to doing life together, there's suddenly this another person who sees you at your best and at your worst. 

    Which brings me to my next point...

    7. How you handle disagreements, fights, and squabbles reveals the health of your marriage.

    You will disagree. You will argue. If you're shaking your head "No" right now, then you're delusional. This person will see you as you've never been seen, and you have to be comfortable with this. How you handle these moments speaks deeply about the quality of your marriage and says even more about your character. How you treat your spouse is the truest reflection of who you are and a measuring test for how you will engage with the rest of the human race.

    (And on a side note, when you do disagree, sex is great grounds for making up. Admit you're wrong, say "I'm sorry," and take it to the bedroom. **Cue that "Boyz II Men." **)

    8. You will never fully understand her...love her anyway. 

    There are moments where my wife is emotional on a level that I DO NOT understand. Ten years of marriage and I still don't get it. I have NO IDEA why she's crying. As a man, it's moments like these where I feel obligated to "fix" something. The dude in me says, "How can I make this right?" but experience tells me to listen. This is my wife. She is precious. Just because I don't understand doesn't mean I can't do my best to try. People (spouses included) are not just problems to be solved. So often, she just wants to be heard. She doesn't need my repair skills, she needs me to be present and to love her in light of my limited understanding.  

    9. Don't stop delivering. 

    Now, that you're married you've got to keep it going. If you want to stay married, date nights are a must. By "must" I mean they're non-optional, necessary moments that you have to put on the calendar otherwise your marriage will suck. Be creative. Be romantic. Be together. And have some freakin' fun!! This is your marriage, so make it an adventure. Spice it up. Chase after your spouse now, as you did then. 

    10. You are the prophetic vision of the Christ you want your family to see. 

    When she sees you, does she see Jesus? If you claim to represent God's love, but your life does not show it, then where is your love walk falling short? As the leader of your family, you are the representation of what Christ is to the church. He loves her and willingly laid down His life for her (John 10:11). Would you do the same? Let me very clear on this point. What I mean to say is that the manner in which you conduct yourself, the example you live out in front of your family, says everything about who you believe Jesus is and who you want them to become. You're the husband. You're their dad. As Christ is in you, so will He be in them.

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    A Decade of Lessons (Pt. I)

    Moving into August, my husband and I will celebrate 10 years of marriage. In honor of our decade of marriage we wanted to share 10 of the most important lessons we’ve learned since we’ve been married. Here are the first five: 

    A quick capture from our wedding day. 

    1. Marriage is precious.

    Matt recently wrote about some things that have been going on in our little family over the past 5 years. When, materially, we were at our weakest point, our marriage thrived. Why? Because we decided that the important thing wasn’t regaining all that we had lost, but maintaining a healthy relationship with each other. I remember times when we would look at each other knowing that we had like two dollars but we were incredibly rich for two reasons: Jesus and each other. We’d kind of shrug as if to say, “We don’t have any money but at least we can have sex.” #kiddingnotkidding 

    2. My husband’s purity is not my responsibility but it is my priority.

    I have to ask the hard questions sometimes. I have to encourage him to reach out to brothers in Christ because the odds are not stacked in his favor. If they’re not stacked in his favor, then they’re not stacked in mine. I refuse to turn a blind eye and not have the conversation about how he’s doing even though the answer might break my heart. We've set up healthy boundaries to safeguard both of our hearts. In the end, I care more about him and our marriage than I do about my comfort. 

    3. We look at each other through eyes of potential.

    When I look at that man and I see who he’s becoming I’m amazed. He constantly encourages the gifts inside me and I encourage the gifts in him. The weight of our calling is too much to carry on our own, so we help carry it for each other. Our callings are irrevocably intertwined. 

    4. We realize that some things aren’t going to change.

    I am going to leave towels on the floor. When I walk through the door the uncomfortable clothes are coming off and the sweat pants are going on. He recognizes and appreciates my love for food, especially tacos. He knows that I’m either making plans to eat or I’m actually eating or telling someone about something that I just ate. He will always take the biggest bites ever taken by a human being. When we leave the house, he is going to find at least one reason to go back inside before we can leave. He is also one of the most particular and meticulous men I have ever met and I…well, I am not. At all. 

    5. He will never fully understand me.

    He will certainly come closer than any human being ever will. But I have a desire to be fully known that cannot be fulfilled through my husband. It is a desire that was put there by God. In the past, I withheld my heart from my husband because I felt misunderstood by him. I thought that if he really wanted to understand me then we wouldn’t have this problem. But I had the problem. I wanted something from him that he was unable to give. When you want something from your spouse that you were designed to get from God you will only find a breeding ground for dissatisfaction and eventually you’ll start looking somewhere else for the satisfaction that only an all-knowing God can give. (So staahhhppp.) 

    Well, there you have it. Five things I’ve learned in 10 years of marriage...although, the lessons have been more than I can count. Matt will be back next week with 5 lessons of his own and they’ll be way more interesting lessons than mine. 

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Better than Before

    Some years ago we lost…well, materially, just about everything.

    A series of tough breaks and the decision to transition my career had us on the ropes. 

    We went from having two cars down one. Despite our best efforts, our home was foreclosed on. In every expression of the word, it was awful. 

    Photo Credit:  Bryan Minear

    Photo Credit: Bryan Minear

    My wife and I found ourselves donating plasma so we could buy groceries. We had to pick and choose which bills to pay and what not to pay. We had to trust God around every corner for day to day things. There were moments where we had no idea where provision would come from, except that it would sometimes show up in our mailbox. The stress of that time was incredible, but the faithfulness of God had never been more real.

    Life was hard. 

    I transitioned from ministry and back into teaching. As a man, wanting to provide for his family, this season spread me thin. It was immensely humbling.

    I was recovering from some of the gravest disappointment I had ever faced in the local church. I felt wronged, mismanaged, and sorely misunderstood.

    I made the move, but it was not easy. 

    I went to church, a different church, but it all hurt. Not in a surface way, but in a super, subcutaneous way – under the skin, in the heart.

    I knew where I was. Not that I had wanted to be in this predicament. For a good amount of time, I struggled to see beyond the emotional weight of the situation. I was angry and broken.

    My wife had taken to quoting “Pride and Prejudice” to me when we’d talk about experiences of the past, “That savors strongly of bitterness, my dear.”

    It came down to this: I was unable to reconcile my experience with my convictions.

    To help you understand, ministry has long been both my occupation and my calling. As a pastor, leading the church is not just what you do, it's very much a part of who you are. “Church Hurt” is a specific kind of hurt. The wound is never surface; it cuts to the quick. It invokes a spiritual ache that is hard to describe.

    I knew this road to recovery would take some time, but I had no idea it would test me so much.

    There I was, teaching art again. Something I had done right after college. But I taught in the toughest school in the city. I’m talking hard-nosed kids from the streets. The school was (and still is) in an incredibly impoverished and struggling area. Art has been a love of mine for many years, but I didn't like it this time. And it wasn't because I hated the school or the students. I just couldn’t see past my circumstances.

    For a solid year, my wife endured my poor attitude, as we welcomed our 2nd little girl into the world. 

    I was delighted to have another beautiful, baby girl. When the school year came to a close, I was approaching the two-year mark in my time away from ministry. Time gave way to relief and I was longing to lead in the local church again. I agreed to take a position somewhere new. 

    The next 18 months went by quickly. While the church we were at had been struggling, God began to turn things around. We served faithfully and saw the church nearly double in size. Then, at the turn of this year (2017), we were blindsided by a family emergency. The course of action was obvious and, albeit hard, but necessary, my family and I chose to move back to Tulsa, OK to be closer to my parents.

    In the midst of our move, however, we were still on the road to financial recovery. While traveling over the holidays through the beautiful state of Kentucky, the transmission suddenly gave out in our car…while barreling down the road at 65mph. And so, without a car to call our own, we packed our things, said goodbye to the people we loved, and moved back to the Midwest.

    We had no assurances. 

    No jobs.

    No vehicles. 

    No house. 

    But what we lacked for in natural things, we knew God could and would provide. 

    After speaking with some incredible friends, they agreed that we could live with them (and their two kids), until things panned out. (Thank God for selfless friends who live and love sacrificially!)

    Within 3 weeks of our arrival, my wife landed a job. Not just any job, she was hired on at a church we love and now call home. 

    Then, along came the means to purchase car. No, it wasn't a sexy, speed wagon, but we found it and in 3 hours’ time, it was ours. At this stage in the year, we, a family of four, had effectively survived for 3 months without a car!!! (For the record, I don't suggest this. We opted not to finance a car because we did not want to go into debt. So, we held out until the timing was right.)

    Our living situation was good, but having a house filled with 8 people, four under the age of six, can test you as an adult. There was this nudge in our hearts to look for a house to rent. This was major. It had been 4 years since we had owned a home, and this was a sore spot for me.

    Am I the only one who finds house hunting to be a full-time job? We looked and looked, but everything either slipped through our fingers or cost more than we could manage. So, we prayed. I prayed that God would grant us just the right place. My wife, a highly motivated (and pretty) woman, came upon a lovely place in a part of town well beyond our current means. But as it happened, 2 weeks after discovering it, things worked out, and we moved in.

    At this rate, we were almost 3 months into our move. While my wife was employed, I was not. I had been furiously looking for work since our arrival to Tulsa. I wanted to work as an artist. After all, I had gone to school for it. Be it art making, design, museum curation, etc., I was chasing every lead I could find, yet nothing seemed to pan out.

    So, I watched my girls. Me, a grown, 35-year-old male, watched my 2 daughters, ages 2 and 5, while my wife got up each day and went to work. It was a humbling and precious time that allowed me to understand the role my wife had been playing in our lives for the past few years. Stay-at-home parenting is a full-on gig, not for the faint of heart.

    This routine carried on for a near 3 months, and then, I got a job. But not just any job, I scored a position as an artist and designer at a local agency. And while I was so grateful to begin work, this opportunity meant my wife and I would have to travel in opposite directions every morning to get to work. As you might have guessed, this meant I would need my own car to get there. A car we didn’t have.

    God’s faithfulness was revealed yet again, when someone gave us a a car. Please understand, that up until the last few weeks, I’ve been Uber-ing rides and renting cars to make my way to work. My dad even graciously stepped in to help me for a few weeks until it all came together.

    If you’re reading this, I want you to know that the last four years have tested me more than I ever thought they would. And now, in a matter of five months, God has provided my family and I with work, vehicles, and a home, where there were previously none.

    But more than the things He has restored, is the man He has restored. My passion to serve my family and others is stronger than it has ever been. This is, perhaps, the greatest miracle of all: the joy I have found in trying times. I still have days where I struggle, but they do not define me, God does. His declaration over my life is final.

    Some seasons are really hard, but the difficulty you face does not negate the goodness of God. 

    Trials may endure, but so does His faithfulness. 

    In the times where life seems to suck, no hard season can overshadow His magnificence. There’s not a moment where any circumstance or emotion will outlast the enduring, constant goodness of God. 

    This realization, the understanding of this His inherent goodness, will set you free. In the end, nothing ever has or will ever defeat Him. He is unmatched in every way. 

    Looking back, I can see how unmoved God has been by any apparent crisis of mine. By comparison, all that has happened is so much smaller than His capacity to meet my need.

    He’s not standing outside of your present circumstance, He’s in it with you. Jesus is not waiting to meet you on the other side of whatever you’re going through. No, He’s by your side, walking with you at this very moment. He is more than able to meet your need (Phillippians 4:19-20; Romans 8:28). He is gracious, considerate, and able.

    If you would acknowledge His presence, and turn to Him, He will restore you.

    But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
    — Hebrews 11:6
     

    Dear Reader, 

    Thank you for taking the time to read this article. If this has somehow encouraged you, then I would ask that you please take a moment to share it with someone else. 


    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Fragile

    Since you have purified your souls by obedience to the truth, so that you have a genuine love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from a pure heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. For,

    “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like the flowers of the field;the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.”

    And this is the word that was proclaimed to you.
    — 1 Peter 1:22-25
    unnamed.jpg

    It hits me like a wave. That feeling of weightiness that goes something like this: 

    This is your life. Don’t waste it. 

    Your life on this earth has a beginning and it has an end and if you’re reading this right now you’re right smack in the middle of it. 

    There was a point this week where I felt like I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. Not because I was breaking any rules or using stealthy ninja skills that we all know I don’t have. But because I, in and of myself, did not feel like I deserved it.

    It was one of those moments that was bigger than me. Has that ever happened to you? Where you find yourself in the middle of a situation you know only the grace of God achieved. I just keep thinking, "Why, God? Why?" 

    Why would He do this for me? Why would He choose me for this? And then, why would He choose me for what's to come? Because if this moment is blowing me away I can't even fathom what He's got up His sleeve for me next. 

    There are always two things I feel in moments like those: fragility and gratitude. 

    Fragility because life is a vapor and sometimes we get glimpses of how exposed we really are. 

    Gratitude because I know that I am fragile but I am also deeply and intimately cared for by a sovereign Father God who holds me together by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).

    The same eternal word that stands forever is the same word that holds together my fragile life. 

    Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to encourage you to do things that feel risky for a cause that is bigger than you. You know why you can? Because you are loved. You are completely loved by the Creator of the Universe. Everything that’s of worth is found in Him and guess where we, as Christ followers, reside? In Him. (Colossians 2:10

    I don’t fully understand the nuances of this union. What I know is that it is so, and it is beautiful. And realizing that we belong to Him releases within us a freedom to feel the weight of our fragility and the immense gratitude that comes along with it. 

    Our only other option is fear.

    But ultimately, aren't most of our fears just our excuses? Let’s just admit that when we say we're afraid what we're really saying is we value whatever we’re afraid of losing over whatever God has called us to do. Be it status, title, or material possessions, if our identity is not secure in who we are loved by and found in, then our identity will be wrapped up in lesser, more fallible things. 

    My prayer lately has been, “Let my life have a far greater impact for your glory than it ever could by living on my own terms”. 

    God can exponentially increase the impact of our lives for His Kingdom. But we can’t do it ruled by fear. 

    We are complete and secure in Him and we have to live from that place, because then and only then will we experience the freedom to LOVE with authenticity and SERVE with sincerity - not preoccupied by who sees us or what anyone thinks of us. 

    That’s the kind of thing that draws people to Jesus. And that's why we're here. 

     

     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff!

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name

    Let's Try Honesty

    Honesty. Let’s try honesty. 

    I’m lazy. 

    Actually, no. I struggle with laziness. And yes, there is a difference. 

    I get up and read my Bible every morning, but even still, look for excuses to look at my phone. I’m just making my coffee. I’ll look at my phone. 

    Gah, I’m still not quite awake. I’ll look at my phone. 

    KC Window

    I can sense Him coming if I know what to look for. I hear the leaves rustling, I feel the breeze, and He calls. I see the sun rise and the colors change and He draws. 

    I don’t deserve it. His patience or His mercy and yet, because it is who He is, I will always find Him faithful. Even when I am not. 

    Doesn’t He know every thought in my head? How sometimes I go down roads I know I shouldn’t? Secret paths, dimly lit and forgotten. He does, and He waits. 

    He waits until I take those thoughts captive because He’s given me the responsibility and authority to do so. He waits until I’m ready to listen, but He’s not One to be manipulated. And when I’m ready to listen He speaks truth–love-soaked truth that cuts me to the quick and exposes my need for Him. 

    And yet there are times that I persist like a belligerent child who insists that she knows best and she knows what she wants right now but cannot conceive of more and can’t imagine better. 

    Pride is ugly. It doesn’t look good on anyone. And it comes in secret forms. Forms we don’t recognize at first. 

    Pride looks like my frustration when things aren’t going my way. It looks like when I’ve worked all day, dinner still has to be made, children still have to be cared for, and I feel the load resting on my shoulders rather than letting Him carry it. It looks like when I choose anger over love and I don’t invite Him in. 

    There is a kind of death that must happen for us to move forward. A death to that old self. You know, the one with all the demands. Can you see it? Demanding that I reach for the phone. Demanding that I think those thoughts. Demanding that I speak my mind or hold a grudge when things don’t go my way. Demanding that I carry the load.

    Why does it take so long to decide we are no longer slaves to who we once were? 

    Because it’s a choice. A choice that I will have to make time and time again. I will have to tell that old part of me, the part that is selfish, lazy, insecure and unloving to get back in the grave. And with every ounce of grace at my disposal I’ll let her know, “You’re not welcome here anymore."

    For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
    — Colossians 3:3-10 ESV 
     

    Like What You Read?

    Sign Up Here to Get the Good Stuff.

    (No Spam. Just Love.)

    Name *
    Name
     

    State of Mind: Managing the Madness in Your Head

    "In the beginning God created..."

    It's a familiar story. But what I want to know is if there was no one else around to hear God as He was creating the Earth, then who was He talking to?

    My best, educated guess is that He was talking to Himself. The way I see it, if God can talk to Himself then you and I can too. 

    State of Mind - Image Post.jpg

    I'll be the first to admit, I talk to myself all of the time. In the car, in the shower, when I'm working, mowing the lawn, etc. I live a healthy portion of every day in my head. And as someone who has struggled with social anxieties and even depression, I can tell you that learning to manage the madness in your head is a skill worth mastering. 

    Chances are, you talk to yourself too. Come on, now...you know it's true. I'm willing to bet that your brain is always turning. And there's a few of you reading this who never stop. The conversations in your head are constant. 

    (Alright, before we get weird on each other, let's dig a little deeper.)

    It's a healthy personal practice to make declarations over yourself. I'd venture to say that you, like most people, have an "inner coach" who is constantly scanning, reasoning, encouraging, and criticizing what you do. 

    But at what point do you draw the line on your internal dialogue? 

    Can you take it too far? And if so, how can you make your way back?