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.

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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
 

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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.”

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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
 

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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.

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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!

 

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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

 

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Considerations of: A Turd with a Veil on It

Considerations of: A Turd with a Veil on It

This pastor, he dresses too hipster, so I don’t like him. His priorities are whack.

This other pastor thinks that God will provide for all his needs. Doesn’t he know it’s wrong to ask God for a car? Especially a nice car?

And then there’s this guy who has more than 10,000 people in his church and mega churches, they're just gross. 

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Dear Adults: A Word from Your Local Youth Pastor

Dear Adults: A Word from Your Local Youth Pastor

My birthday is just around the corner. 

Now, I’m not that old, but the older I get it feels like the faster the world becomes. 

I’m a child of the 80’s. I can still remember using my grandmother’s rotary phone (if you don’t know what that is click here. haha.) to call home as a kid.

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Battle Born: Fighting the Funk of Depression

Battle Born: Fighting the Funk of Depression

The irrationality of fear first gripped me when I was young. 

I was in first grade…and the thought of school terrified me. 

But that’s normal, right? Its culturally common for kids to hate school and who, at some point, hasn’t ever seen a young child screaming bloody murder when getting dropped off to their first day of school?

Then came middle school, where at age 12, I was so distraught with anxiety, that I walked in one night to tell my Mom I no longer wanted to live. I told her I had been having thoughts of ending my life with my Dad’s shotgun. 

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If We Truly Are Vigilant...

If We Truly Are Vigilant...

Here we are. All of us together.

We have come to a point in history where we find that our desire to do good is thwarted by an acute case of self-obsession.

We are in slavery, our taskmaster, comfort. We dare not make way to the promised land knowing full well that between us and that place lies wilderness, lies difficulty, lies hardship.

Who am I to say such things?

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Is There Anything for this Generation to Declare?

Is There Anything for this Generation to Declare?

Churches everywhere are working to maintain relevance in this post-Christian nation, scrambling to survive.

Church attendance in many places is steadily declining as people go outside the church walls for spiritual fulfillment or people have just stopped caring about church altogether.

"One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts."

- Psalms 145:4

Let me ask you, is there anything for this generation to declare?

 

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The Minister's Manifesto

The Minister's Manifesto

I don’t know how to be something I’m not. 

Most of us don’t.

Since I can remember I’ve loved 2 things: ministry & art. 

In the same way you like unique foods and your own manner of doing things, I can’t imagine not having a passion for these pursuits. 

For me, it’s a peculiar combination. 

Most of my life I’ve felt too “Christian” for the art world and too “artsy” for the local church. 

And so, finding a space to call my own has been a pursuit of discovery.

Its also been an intentional pursuit to carve out more space for others like myself...maybe for someone like you too.

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The Best Thing to Believe

The Best Thing to Believe

Right now, my eyes are heavy and sweet sleep is calling my name.

I am writing this on a borrowed laptop, as we camp out in a nine year old's room while he sleeps on the couch.

This is life on the road for the Shirleys. 

The past couples weeks have been filled with incredible experiences, really good food and even better company. 

But as our time passes Matt and I find ourselves praying about the future and endeavoring to hold all things loosely. 

This time is conjuring in me a belief that grows more firm with each passing day. 

Jesus is enough. He is sufficient.

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How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?

How Do You Know When It’s Time to Go?

Many of our friends and family already know this, but we wanted to share it here too.

We’re moving.

You know it’s God when your husband comes home and says, “I think we should move in with your mom”.

That’s exactly what happened a few months ago.

Immediately we both knew it was what we were supposed to do.

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9 Critical Things Learned After Stepping Away from Ministry

9 Critical Things Learned After Stepping Away from Ministry

A couple years ago my husband and I made a transition out of our jobs at a church and ministry.

Out of this transition we entered one of the most challenging seasons of our lives.

This often left us asking ourselves if we did the right thing. I think that’s a question anyone would ask. When you move on, especially in ministry, there is this belief that things are supposed to be newer, brighter, shinier, that opportunities are supposed to pour from the sky and everything is going to be A-Okay.

There are many reasons we encountered some of the hardships we did and then there are some things I really can’t explain, and that’s okay. But we aren’t going to talk about that right now.

What I do want to talk about is what we learned over the past two years and what we were maybe tempted to question but we are now convinced of beyond a shadow of a doubt.

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Dear Pastor

Dear Pastor

Dear Pastor,

In the wake of recent events, I’ve penned this letter out of grave concern for your well-being.

It seems lately that some of your kind have fallen away.

It’s been said that where there is smoke, you can expect fire. For those of us watching, it was obvious in those circumstances what was going to happen.

Some of us have scattered, while others have stayed. Some of us are exiles, hoping that one day amends can be made for the injustice we found within the walls of the churches we once knew as home.

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Why I Waited 'til Marriage to Kiss My Wife

Why I Waited 'til Marriage to Kiss My Wife

I had a close friend once tell me that there are two times in your life where those you know will really show up to support you, at your wedding and at your funeral. 

When my wife and I were married, it was a party, but it didn’t come easy. We paid for most of it out of our own pockets. We had the right music, the right cake, and had waited for the right moment to kiss each other for the very first time. 

Yes, before our wedding day, my wife and I had never kissed. 

It wasn’t because we didn’t want to. Trust me, we REALLY wanted to. I certainly wanted to. I would consider myself as much of a man as any guy, so when I say I wanted to kiss the woman I loved, I really wanted to kiss her. In fact, there was plenty more I wanted to do too. (Cue Marvin Gaye music).

But before I say too much, you need to know something about our story.

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5 Ways to Spot Spiritual Junk Food

5 Ways to Spot Spiritual Junk Food

I like “Sour Patch Kids.”

You could even say I’m passionate about those little, chewy gummies. The sweet and the sour hit me with a combination that I really enjoy. Sometimes, I even experience a sudden rush of blood to my face when I eat them. My wife knows  these are my choice movie snack while watching a good film. I know for her, it’s “Milk Duds.” I’m sure in the proper setting you have your preferred snacks and “go-to” junk food, as well.

Junk food is like momentary fun, disguised as food.

It’s the stuff that’s high in calorie, but has no real nutritional sustenance. It’s the kind of food that hits you hard, but leaves you empty. For a brief moment, you get elevated and your glucose level spikes to provide a burst of energy, then the wave settles and you’re left just as empty as when you first consumed [insert choice junk food here], and aside from the short-lived high you discover that there was really nothing in what you ate to help your body long term.

So let me ask you, have you ever experienced this while sitting in church?

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Binge. Purge. Repeat.

Binge. Purge. Repeat.

Our culture is one of excess. We binge and purge. Everyone. There is really no exception. I’m not just talking about food. I’m talking about entertainment, spending, leisure, sex, social media, the list goes on. If you think you’re the exception then you can stop reading right now, I suppose I’m not talking to you.

I’m talking to people like me.

For example, someone might say (myself included), I don’t watch a lot of TV. Well, that’s nice. Neither do I. BUT when I find a show on Netflix that I like, I will watch it until there is no more to watch. Binge. I will deprive myself of sleep, I will shirk responsibility. When I have a bit of free time, guess where it’s going? And sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get your spouse in on the action and you waste your lives together. What does it matter? There are only a limited number of shows you can watch, so eventually you will come out of your entertainment induced stupor and once again embrace the light of day.

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Change

Change

First, I would like to apologize for our silence. Pregnancy and an odd combination of varying circumstances had put us out of commission for a while. But we're back and we couldn't be happier about it! 

I feel like a certain amount of responsibility comes with a name like "We are the Vigilant". You might be wondering why we picked such an intense name for a blog, ministry, etc. Why not pick something a little more palatable? A little more "vanilla," if you will? And all I can say is, it just clicked. It touched on something that was our heart's cry. Not that Matt and I would just be vigilant, but that people would be inspired to wake up, to be aware, to say WE are the vigilant. Anyways...since the name of the blog implies we are watching and looking out for what's coming next, I guess that means we should at least be ready for whatever that is. So, I guess that also means we get to be the first to change, the first to adjust. 

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Why the Message Still Matters

Why the Message Still Matters

The first time I ever stood in front of a crowd to speak, I made sure to dapper up. I slicked my hair back, put on my best sweater and pair of corduroys, made VERY certain to smell nice, stepped on stage, and then…

I totally forgot to hold the microphone close enough to my mouth so anyone could hear me. During my message no one bothered to say anything. It wasn’t until after the event when I asked a friend what they thought, that I actually knew what had happened. My friend’s response?

“It was good,” they said. “I just couldn’t hear you.”

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