DISCUSS the Steve DeNeff sermon, Seen to Unseen, using the following questions as a guide.
1. Steve said that an “unseen world came alive” when the microscope was invented. Once it was seen, all sorts of new things became possible. What are we missing out on if we remain at the level of what is “seen”?
2. Jesus says to Bartimaeus, “Go, your faith has made you whole.” Steve said that you can’t really get the “eyes” to see the unseen realm until you believe. What does this mean?
3. Do you believe that God is at work all around you? Or do you find this hard to grasp?
4. “We move in and out every day of moments that are alive with the presence of God. And they become routine to us… God speaks to us, not from the sky over our head, but from the space
next to our face.” If this is true, how does it change the way you live your life?
5. “Faith becomes the microscope where we peer into things...that a moment ago were invisible to us.” Have you had times in your life where you’ve “broken through” to that unseen realm?
Talk about it.
6. What are some ways that the world where God reigns “next to your face” is different from the world we usually perceive? Which one are you headed toward?
7. Think about your home, your work, or your school. What might God be up to in those places? How might you start to pray in such a way that you gain eyes to see him working there?
8. Maybe you have no idea what this sermon is talking about. Perhaps you need to take Steve’s advice: to come to God every day and say, “I don’t get it.” Pore over the scriptures. Ask yourself
how what you’re doing aligns with what God wants to do. Either way, what might God be asking you to do right now? Pray together to close.
ASSIGNMENT: Read the Introduction to Awareness essay below, and then complete the Examen practice 5 days this week. Come ready to discuss your experience with your discipler at your next meeting.
Introduction to Awareness
By Megan Koch
Read 2 Kings 6:8-22.
Elisha is a prophet. Prophets listen for the voice of God, and help bring people closer to the heart of God. At this point in the story, Israel is in a conflict with the Arameans, and they’re outmatched. However, God is actually telling Elisha the enemy’s battle plans. That keeps Israel one step ahead, and the King of Aram is convinced there’s a spy in his army. The king realizes he’s not dealing with a spy, he’s dealing with a prophet— and now he’s out to get Elisha.
The Aramean army surrounds the city, intent on trapping Elisha. The text says,
“When the servant of the man of God got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, and chariots everywhere. ‘Oh, sir, what will we do now?’ the young man cried to Elisha. ‘Don’t be afraid!’ Elisha told him. ‘For there are more on our side than on theirs!’ Then Elisha prayed, ‘O Lord, open his eyes and let him see!’ The Lord opened the young man’s eyes, and when he looked up, he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire,” (2 Kings 6:15-17, NLT).
The king saw Elisha as a threat, and out of that fear, he pulled out all the stops to get rid of him. But the thing is, even if he did capture Elisha, he’d never be able to trap God. The king focused on what he could see with his eyes, but Elisha and his servant saw more. Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened to see a fuller picture of reality, and he did. In light of all those horses and chariots of fire, the Aramean army didn’t look so terrible. So we need to ask ourselves: where are we looking? And how are we looking?
We need to ask God to open our spiritual eyes so we can see the world like he does. The Apostle Paul prayed like this all the time. In Ephesians he writes, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe,” (Ephesians 1:18-19a). When our eyes are open, we can see God’s love and his power at work in the world, right here among us. God is with us, and he’s fighting for us. Too often we see one without the other, but we can’t separate them.
As disciples, we must learn to see everything through Jesus; the good and the bad. We live with confidence that God is making things right—no matter how things look on the surface. Disciples see hope where everyone else sees a lost cause. We see beauty in the ugliest places. We have a fuller perspective of what’s going on. Our sight and perspective motivate us to live by faith, not fear. We understand more than what meets the eye, because we see everything in light of Jesus. We see sunsets, work, play, people, social media, art, war, and our breakfast cereal through Jesus. Disciples experience everything through Jesus. He is here and we know it. That’s the power of awareness.
God is everywhere—but that doesn’t mean we always see him. If we want to see what God is doing, we’re going to need to put our whole lives into it. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me,” (Jeremiah 29:13, NLT). The New International Version (NIV) says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Here is the key: we often pray and ask God to show up, but the fact is, he is already here to be found. God gives us a wide-open invitation. If we don’t hold anything back, he won’t either.
We want God to help us with the battles all around us. We want him to show us what he’s doing, and take care of it all for us. We want God to be our protector. If someone is against us, we want God to work in their life and reveal the truth to them so they can have a change of heart—but we don’t always invite God to change our hearts first. How often do we seek divine help, without actively submitting ourselves to God?
You see, if we want God to take care of all the things going on around us, we’re going to need to let him take care of what’s going on in our own hearts. If we want God to guide us as we navigate the everyday circumstances of life, and we want him to fix what’s going wrong in the world, we need to first listen when he tells us what’s wrong with us. That’s the deal. When we can’t see God or hear what he’s saying, we are quick to say he’s distant and silent, when really, we’re the ones far away and closed off to what’s happening.
If we want some of God’s help, but not all of it, if we’re holding anything back— something is in the way between us and Jesus. We can’t see clearly until we hand it over. We can’t ask God to help us see what to do about something outside ourselves if we want to stay blind to what’s going on within us. It just doesn’t work that way. Perhaps we only see a little because we’re only surrendering a little. Remember: we will seek God and find him when we seek him with all our hearts. If we want God to show up in our lives, we have to want to see everything he has to show us.
In a way, our level of God-awareness is linked to our desire for self-awareness. We say we want to hear God’s voice, but do we really want to hear everything he has to say?
Disciples live connected to Jesus and they know it. Jesus is not only near us, but with us. As we submit ourselves to God, his light wins over our lives. Jesus has always been present, but we haven’t always seen him. He has always been speaking, but we haven’t always heard his voice. God is here to be found. We don’t need to seek mountaintop experiences to see and hear him. In fact, we experience God most easily within the events of our everyday lives. That is the essence of awareness: Opening up our eyes to see him at work in the most unseemly of places.
In his book, Hearing God, Dallas Willard writes, “God is not looking for a holy place. Places are holy because God is there”. This place where you are, right now, is a holy place. God is here, and he’s eager to meet with you. Are you eager to meet with him? Are you willing to see everything he has to show you?
By Megan Koch, Jesse Skidmore, & Jake Thurston
“For it is not knowing much, but realizing and relishing things interiorly, that contents and satisfies the soul.” ― Ignatius of Loyola
The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius is a classic Christian text compiled from the
16th century. Ignatius created this strategic, practical journey out of his own ministry as a priest and church leader in the Jesuit order. These practices were created as a practical "pathway" to encourage priests to encounter Christ and become more like Him. These exercises are an invitation to be formed and perfected by interaction with Jesus. It is only by doing something with Jesus that we move from knowing about Him, to knowing Jesus Himself.
When we know Jesus, we come to know ourselves rightly. He shows us who we
really are and who we are meant to be. A disciple who truly understands who he or she is will never settle for less than the full life in Christ they are offered right now. Disciples live in alert understanding of the present Kingdom of God right here, right now. It’s about becoming in tune with the thoughts, decisions, and actions that lead toward God. This sounds very grand, but it is indeed possible, and even expected of you as a follower of Jesus. This kind of life is rooted in the regular practice of becoming still, quiet, and obedient to the promptings of the Holy Spirit throughout your days. When Jesus speaks, respond. When Jesus gives you a command, do it. When Jesus invites you to enjoy your life, take Him up on it. You’re a disciple who’s aware of his presence and promptings.
The Ignatian Prayer of Examen is an ancient, five-step exercise in observation, awareness, and orientation. Any form of examen prayer is a pathway toward greater awareness of God and yourself. Prayers of examen are regular “checkups” for your soul, so try to make a habit of this!Traditionally, the Prayer of Examen is practiced twice daily; at midday, and in the evening, and only takes 10-20 minutes. As it is with most holy habits, the power and effectiveness of this exercise is found in simple, daily repetition. For now, begin by practicing the examine nightly before bed, or another designed time during your day. If it helps you to journal throughout the exercise, do it. Otherwise, just talk this out with God. Keep the following exercise on your phone or write it on a note for your nightstand.
NIGHTLY PRAYER OF EXAMEN
TURN ON THE LIGHTS. Become aware of Jesus in the room with you. Close your eyes and see him there. Invite him to light up your day and guide you through it however he wants.
NAME WHAT’S GOOD. First, practice gratitude. What are you immediately grateful for? Where did you see Jesus today? Name it. Get creative. There’s more than you think.
REVIEW THE DAY. Ask Jesus to walk you through the main points of your day, from the moment you woke up until right now. Invite Him to reveal it to you from His perspective. Pay attention, and don’t skip over the parts you’d rather not revisit. If it helps you keep track, make quick notes of the events in your journal or notetaking app.
OWN IT. Did any part of that review trigger hurt, confusion, anger, or regret? Own what wasn’t good. Offer it up to Jesus. Ask Jesus why you did what you did, or why that thing bothered you so much. Where was God during all of this? Once you think you have an answer, pause for a minute, in case Jesus wants to show you something under the surface. Do what you need to do to hand over control, forgive others, and get forgiveness yourself. Text an apology if you need to. Don’t leave it for later. And remember: not all problems can be resolved by the end of the night, but they can be surrendered. Do that now.
LOOK FORWARD. Look ahead to the next day in light of Jesus. Anticipate the coming challenges or the things you’re excited about. Remember that tomorrow night you’ll return here again to review the day. How will you want to have lived it? Decide to live that way right now. Surrender the coming day to Jesus before it’s even happened, ask Him to be present, and go to bed, or continue with the rest of your day.