The Gift of Being Unseen

unseen

There’s something in all of us that craves to be seen, to be noticed, to be praised. That’s why we want to have the best-selling book, the blue check on Instagram, or the fancy title at work.

Your desire to be seen actually comes from God, because you were meant to be seen by Him. You have a longing in your heart to be important because God designed you to be important to Him. The reason you crave praise is because your Heavenly Father delights in you and sings praises over you.

I’m ashamed to admit that many times I’ve misused seemingly good and seemingly God things to try to make myself seem important. It’s astonishing, actually, how successful you can be by being a professional Christian—just turn on Christian radio or stop by a Christian bookstore and you’ll know what I mean.

I’m not at all attempting to slam those industries—the majority of people in them have very noble and pure motives. However, I’m learning that there’s something our generation of Christianity is lacking, and that’s the gift of being unseen.

There is something beautiful, and holy, I think, about pouring out our lives in private, surrendered service to God. It’s easy to build a personal brand. It’s much harder to die to yourself and kill your selfish ambitions. It’s easy to get a lot of Instagram followers while talking about Jesus, if you play the game right. It’s harder to take up your cross and follow Him for yourself.

There’s a reason I call it the gift of being unseen and not the curse of being unseen. You can have a million Instagram followers and all the influence in the world yet never feel content. But you can be known by no one other than your Heavenly Father and feel the peace that passes all understanding.

If the fire in you doesn’t burn brighter than the fire on you, you’ll be consumed by the heat.

God desires that we understand we’re known by Him before we attempt to make Him known to other people. That’s why so many people in full-time ministry can burn out so quickly and often. If the fire in you doesn’t burn brighter than the fire on you, you’ll be consumed by the heat.

Open His Word and let it fill your life without posting a picture of your devotional on Instagram (guilty.) Allow yourself to be hidden to the world and be seen by God alone.

If you’re in a season of being unseen, don’t fight it. Rest in it. He sees you, and He’s preparing you for something bigger than you can imagine right now—but first, you have to be willing to embrace the gift of being unseen.

The Simple Prayer That Helps Me Get More Done

time

On any given day, we all have a lot to do. You don’t need me to tell you that. In fact, Americans are more stressed out than ever before. Because of smartphones, we’re always connected to our email and notifications, a constant reminder that there’s still more to do.

Every day has 24 hours, and every week has seven days. There’s no changing this. No matter how much you wish for more time, there simply isn’t any. However, I’ve learned that when I honor God with my time, He’s able to do something miraculous with it.

In the Bible, there’s plenty of stories of multiplication. One of the most famous examples is the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000—multiplying just a few pieces of bread and fish to feeding thousands of people.

When I was thinking about this recently, I realized that the same God who can multiply fishes and loaves can do the same thing with our time. No, God isn’t adding a twenty-fifth hour to the day or an eighth day of the week, but He is able to multiply what we can do with the time we have.

That’s why I’ve started praying this super-simple prayer when I’m overwhelmed with what I have to do:

“God, stretch my time.”

And you know what’s crazy? He does.

Now, let’s be clear: God isn’t helping me get everything done. It’s not that my inbox is always empty or every chore is magically done. Rather, He gives me something even better: discernment. Discernment to know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. The more I pray this simple prayer, the more I end up saying “no” to things that don’t actually matter, and “yes” to the things that really do.

The best thing you can do for your productivity is stop trying to do everything. Instead, pray for discernment to know how you should be spending your time and strength to do the things required of you.

Do you know why God commanded that we take a Sabbath and rest? He intentionally designed us as finite beings who need rest, because then we have to rely on and trust Him. When I pray for God to stretch my time, I’m praying for Him to help me trust that He’s running the world and I don’t have to.

Broken Cisterns

My people have committed two sins: 
They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, 
and have dug their own cisterns, 
broken cisterns that cannot hold water
Jeremiah 2:13 NIV

When I read this verse recently, I realized the sins listed are two separate things—and you commit one and not the other. You can find the living water, but if your cistern is broken, you can’t fully contain it. Broken cisterns can never hold water that satisfies. 

For so long I’ve thought the broken cisterns in my life were the really bad things—like pride, anger, greed, or addiction. And they are, certainly. But seemingly innocent things can also be cracked cisterns—Netflix, Instagram, working out, dinner with friends, and perhaps even ministry itself. 

I’m completely convinced that if Satan can’t tempt you into destroying yourself with sin, he’ll try to destroy you with comfort. You’re reading your Bible, praying every once in a while, and regularly going to church. You’ve checked all the right boxes. But perhaps you’re getting just close enough to Jesus to think you know Him, but you haven’t experienced Him fully. We get comfortable. We get complacent. We settle for a mediocre relationship with our Savior, the One who gave His life for us. 

How often do I look forward to time with Jesus over watching another show on Netflix? Do I have more compassion for the characters on This is Us than the actual, living, breathing people God has placed in my life?

It breaks my heart to see this in my own life and the life of other Christians—getting the living water, but having so many broken cisterns we can’t hold onto it. This isn’t a salvation issue—you can be saved but never fully experience the presence of Jesus here on earth. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that. I want Jesus—here, now, every day. 

So here’s my challenge to you: find the broken cisterns in your life. Identify the things you’ve used to replace a fully devoted relationship with Jesus, and commit to not letting them control your soul anymore. 

2017: Living with Expectation

For the past few years, I’ve chosen a word and verse that would set the trajectory of the year for me. In 2014, when I moved to Oklahoma, I chose grow. In 2015, my word was focus. Last year, I chose present.

In 2016, I got engaged, I got married, traveled outside the U.S. for the first time, and moved twice. After all of that, I realize now why present was supposed to be my word. So many amazing things happened that it would have been easy to not pause and enjoy them all had I not had present as an anchor for me.

When I look forward to this new year, I’ve chosen EXPECTANT as my word for 2017.

This year, I’m believing that God will give me more clarity, strengthen relationships, and work more in my life than I could ever ask or imagine.

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.
Ephesians 3:20 (MSG)

Here’s to 2017!

How I Realized I Didn’t Really Know Jesus

In Matthew 7, Jesus is talking to a crowd when He tells them that even though there will be people who cast out demons and prophesy in His name, He’ll say to them “I never knew you.” 

This seems rather harsh, doesn’t it? Because I don’t know about you, but I’ve never cast out a demon or performed a miracle—so if they can’t make it, what good am I?

Jesus, however, wasn’t saying that you had to do those things to make it to Heaven. He wasn’t even saying you had to do more than that. He said you need to know Him. And I can tell you from experience that you can do a lot of things in the name of Jesus without actually knowing Him.

I don’t want to get to the end of my life and realize I spent time on doing things for God but not actually knowing Him at all. I don’t want to realize one day that all the work I did will be burned up because it was self-serving instead of God-honoring. 

Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’
 —Matthew 7:21-23 MSG

I’m going to completely, 100% transparent with you. That verse terrifies me. Because if I’m honest, I know that I’ve missed the boat before. I know that sometimes I’ve let the idea of being a good person equate being a person who actually knows God intimately. I have, at times, used God to make myself important. Not anymore. 

I’m choosing private, unseen surrender over publicly applauded artificial service. I’d rather have no one ever know my name than realizing I never actually knew the only Name worth knowing. 

Whether you’ve been a Christian for a few months or a few decades, I pray that you will find Him again. I pray you’ll surrender everything, even if it means losing everything but Jesus. It’s worth it, I promise.

What Happened When I Didn’t Listen to God

It’s funny to me how we tend to rush seasons before their time. Starbucks releases the Pumpkin Spice Latte in early September now, and at least in Oklahoma, it’s still in the high 80s and nowhere close to autumn at that time.

Perhaps getting your PSL a little earlier isn’t going to harm anyone, but I think we do this in the seasons of our life as well. When you’re in high school, you want nothing more than to move on to college. When you’re single, you just really want to be married. Sometimes you’re supposed to be in season of focusing on your work. Other times you’re supposed to be in a season of resting.

I love the way Solomon writes it in the book of Ecclesiastes:

“Everything on earth has its own time and its own season.”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 CEVUS06

At times, you can feel an “itch” in your soul—a discontent that can’t be described with words. This feeling may be the sign of a new season that needs to begin and an old one that needs to be let go of. Recently, I felt this “itch” and assumed I needed to start something and do some new things. After just a few weeks, I found myself exhausted emotionally. Why? Because that’s not what I was supposed to do. I needed less, not more. I needed more rest, not more hustle.

So how did I get them wrong? To be honest, I didn’t seek God’s wisdom. I just did what I thought I was supposed to do, but I failed to actually ask the Holy Spirit to guide me during that new season.

Here’s the good news: it’s never too late with God. When I admitted that I had been living out of step with Him and rushing the season I was in, I experienced His overwhelming peace.

I thought it was best to add more tasks, but I’m realizing God wanted me to let go of some things instead. This season for me is meant to be a season of simplifying, not complicating.

It could look completely different for you, but if you feel that you’re out of step with God, I would implore you to ask Him what season you’re meant to be in right now.

Stop Being a Peacekeeper

 

“Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said in Matthew 5:9, “for they will be called children of God.” When I was reading this verse recently, I realized that the specific word Jesus used—peacemaker—has enormous implications. By default, I always assume that I’m a peacemaker. I don’t commit crimes or cause trouble or anything like that. But that doesn’t make me a peacemaker—that makes me a peacekeeper.

There are many times where I’m frustrated with a situation and I complain about it. After all, it’s always someone else’s job to fix it, right? I often feel like the youngest, not-as-educated, the mostly-here-by-accident person. It would be easy to go along with the motions, riding out the bumps, always expecting someone more qualified than me to fix the problems.

A peacekeeper is someone who goes through life not causing trouble but not really making any positive change either. A peacemaker, however, is someone who actively looks to bring light to the darkness.

It doesn’t matter what your position or authority is, you have the ability (and the responsibility) as a Jesus-follower to not simply be a person who doesn’t cause trouble, but someone who changes the culture of your environment.

If your work environment is toxic, it’s your responsibility not only to not participate in the toxicity, but to actively work to make it a better place. Instead of complaining about your friends not wanting to hang out with you, it’s your responsibility to actively work to be a better friend to them.

The condition that makes this more difficult—and the reason why we often slip into apathy and peacekeeping over peacemaking—is that we can’t always see the results of our peacemaking efforts. Sometimes things don’t change and the situation still goes unsolved. Was all that work for nothing?

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. — Matthew 5:9 MSG 

Jesus didn’t say that you would be blessed if you fixed everything. He said you would be blessed when you show people how to cooperate. It doesn’t say that you’re only blessed if you resolve everything.

No matter how difficult it is, we have a responsibility as followers of Jesus to make the situations around us better—not simply by keeping the peace and not causing trouble, but by actively working to bring light where there’s darkness.