Coffee, tea, and Jesus please

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How do you feel about coffee? I tend toward ardent fan. I’m totally on the bandwagon for the coffee memes that proclaim it’s wonderfulness.

“Come here you big beautiful cup of coffee and lie to me about all we’re going to get done today.”

“All this girl needs today is a little bit of coffee and a whole lot of Jesus.”

“First I drink the coffee, then I do the things.”

Perhaps you are more Captain Picard, and a little less Captain Janeway. Is tea your bag? What gets you going in the morning? What ignites your energy for the day?

What wakes you up?

God tells us that we all need something to wake us up. We all were once sleeping through life, but He had a better plan. A better way.

Metaphorically, the Bible talks about sin as our sleep drug. Look at Proverbs 6:9-11.

How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

Sin makes us sleepy. It closes our eyes to what is right and good. It’s surprisingly cozy and comfortable, lulling us into a complacency that leads to more sin. We love comfort so much that the light around us dims and we don’t even notice until we are standing in utter darkness.

This kind of thing happens when we disrespect our husbands and lash out at our families. We feel better for an instant, but then the darkness comes.

It happens when we skip church or avoid our Bible study group over and over again, for other things that sound fun or for the busyness of life. It feels good for a second to sleep in or not have to chit chat, but then the darkness comes.

It happens when we have a juicy conversation with the girls at work. It feels good to talk about someone else and know that your own shame is not the topic of the meaty conversation. It can’t hurt her if she doesn’t know, right? Then the darkness comes in.

It happens when we roll our eyes at our husband’s attempt at communication. We slam a cabinet and walk out of the room to get his attention. Then the darkness comes in.

Sin doesn’t wear a bright sign that says beware. Instead, it wraps us up slowly like a cozy blanket and then attempts to strangle us at the last minute, when we’re all tucked in.

Ephesians 5:7-14 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture and it’s about being awake. It is practical and bears the truth of the relationship between light, darkness, sleeping and being Awake Children of God –

Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10 and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. 13 But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, 14 for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,

“Awake, O sleeper,
    and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”

At one time you were darkness…

Can you hear the grace? We are no longer darkness! We are light in the Lord. That means we are Daytime and Sunlight. We are not third shift, 3am, sluggish and sleepy children of God, trapped in sin.

We are Awake.

How do you wake up in the middle of a gossip session, especially when it feels so good? How do you wake up when the words of disrespect pour out of your mouth?

Do not become partners. (v.7)

Some people were meant to be avoided like the plague. This is not you being hurtful or failing to eat with tax collectors. This is you knowing your own limit. This is caring for others, but knowing when you aren’t at the place to resist the temptation. Don’t make your closest friends those who partner with darkness.

Don’t speak of shameful things. (v.12)

I know it’s the worst when everyone else knows what happened in the royal marriage that was shameful and catastrophic (Sorry royals, I know you have kept the marriages pretty stellar as of late), but if it’s someone else’s shame, it’s not our business to speak of. This goes for the divorce of the couple next door, or the mental illness that befell someone’s child. If it’s not our story, it’s theirs to share.

Let Christ Shine. (v. 14)

Brightness is His name. When we let go of what we want, the light of His glory is so bright that we can’t help but live Awake. Let the Spirit out, my friends! Let Him out. Tea and coffee, even a triple mocha espresso double skinny dark, have nothing on a real and living God inside of us. Pray – Lord shine through me. Let my life shine of only You and always You.

Ephesians 5:16, just a couple verses later leaves us with a good Awake reminder –

…making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Our time here is so short. I want to live Awake. I am Awake in Him. Why would I want to go back to that darkness, even for a brief stroll? Gag. No, thank you.

Awake, O sleeper…

Awake, precious Child…

Awake, daughter, brother, friend…

Grab your giant mug, inhale the scent of forgiveness, take a moment in prayer, and let Christ Shine.

Exploration:

What gets you going in the morning? Coffee, tea, exercise, more sleep? 😉

What does your morning routine look like?

What do you do in when gossip or disrespect from your own mouth seems imminent? Do you have a way to tamp it down and let light out instead?

How can you let Christ shine today?

Mama said there’d be days like this – when awake just isn’t working…

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Ever had the day when you’d like to just go back upstairs, put on your pajamas, crawl back into bed, and hide from the world around you? Yes? So this was my day last Tuesday. It took everything I had to leave my clothes on and walk around out where the people live.

These are the kind of days that we are reminded of a hard truth – we are sinners, living in a sinful world. Life isn’t always sunshine and roses, but it certainly is worthwhile. As much as I want to slip on my pajamas and hide under my covers, He calls me out for more.

Israel in the Old Testament had plenty of pajama-and-under-the-covers kind of days. Some were their own fault. They chased other gods, let lust have its way, and set aside the opportunities to worship for whatever seemed good at the moment. Sin creeps into our lives in ways we least expect as well.

We think we’re pretty good people, we go to church, we do alright. The Truth: Not one of us is without sin. We have blunt and obvious sin – hurtful words and anger, ignoring our neighbor, the chitter chatter of gossip, and more. We also have the secret sins – hate in our heart, lust, discontentment, thinking highly of ourselves.

Look at Isaiah 26:16-19

O Lord, in distress they sought you;
    they poured out a whispered prayer
    when your discipline was upon them.
17 Like a pregnant woman
    who writhes and cries out in her pangs
    when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18     we were pregnant, we writhed,
    but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
    and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
    and the earth will give birth to the dead.

As we read, we hear the Israelites proclaim their allegiance to the Lord and the Lord alone. They recognize their sin and the mess they’ve made, while looking around and seeing the sin and mess of the nations around them. They recognize the goodness and necessity of the Lord’s discipline. Consequences happen, but in this instance, instead of sneaking away, they cling tightly to the promise that only the resurrection can offer – life eternal and an eternal life perspective.

Sometimes God not only gives me grace, He also gives me excessively practical advice for these exact situations in my own life. Isn’t it nice when it works out like that? What can we learn for life from Isaiah 26?

They pray:

…they poured out whispered prayer…

He wants to hear our sin. He knows it, why say it? Why confess it aloud?

Hearing it from our lips and poured out from our hearts, gives Him the opportunity to pour in.

He pours into us forgiveness and life. He pours tenderness and healing. Do you have past sins that sit on your heart like a boulder? Do you ever feel like if people found out your real story, they would never look at you the same way again? God says, No. I heal. I restore. This sin, let me use it for my testimony. I have a plan.

“pray without ceasing…” 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray unceasingly also means pray about all of it, even the ugly. God invites us to pour out every last sin and temptation to Him.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

 

They rise:

(v.19 ) Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
    You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!

God invites us to confess, not to make us sit in the dust, but to pick us up out of our shame and pour Himself into us.

“…my cup overflows…” Psalm 23:5

This exchange of pouring is part of the overflowing cup – Him filling and filling and filling some more, releasing us from the burden of our own incapabilities and inadequacies. “Let me take that,” He says, “I already carried that cross.”

When faced with our sin, we can look to Jesus, or we can look away. We can crawl back into our jammies and hide under the covers, or we can let Him give us a New Day.

Pour it out to Him. Let Him pour in.

My cup overflows with mercy and grace. I pray you know the truth of this today. Forgiveness and grace, poured on you for every last sin, every last fail, for pajama days and rockstar days and every day in between.

fontcandy-42Exploration:

When was the last time you wanted to crawl back into your pajamas and hide under the covers? How did God tend to your heart?

Read John 17:1-5 Identify the following:

Who is praying?

Why?

What does he identify as eternal life and how does this perspective change each of our days?

 

*background images courtesy of Pexels.com, memes always sharable`

 

 

The Night before Christmas or What’s the proper time to start playing the Christmas tunes?

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So, which one are you? Are you a its-99-days-until-Christmas! kind of person or a wait-until-Thanksgiving-please kind of girl? Do you rock to the Christmas tunes with little abandon in mid July or do you avoid the home and garden section of Walmart and Target in October because instead of fall foliage and ferns, you feel stressed as they push the fake evergreens and strands of twinkly lights out onto the floor? Should we use Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Is there one right way?

I’m not so sure. Let’s remind ourselves of a familiar passage in Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 and hear it in a different context. Today it’s time for an advent devotion –

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.

For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

In these verses, Isaiah is prepping the Israelites to live in 400 years of silence. God is giving them the promise of Christmas, a few hundred years early, so that they can muscle through the dark season to come. I’m not sure we can imagine a time likes this – a time when God stopped speaking through the prophets and hadn’t yet given the Word in its fullness to His people. We do know darkness, but we do not know the darkness of a silent God.

One night, a long time ago in Bethlehem town a child was born to us. The Word made flesh dwelt among us. The temple curtain torn. His canon of the Word completed for us. We no longer live in silence. We have daily Hope in a Living Spirit that chooses us as His dwelling place.

The message of this hope can so easily be lost in the banter of our beliefs about the right and proper time to put out decorations, the correct greeting, the proper placement of the wise men in the nativity, the Facebook opinions that attempt to drown out the other side.

We love to be right, so much so, that we sacrifice the meaning and its message.

The message of Christmas is the message of a God who is awake. There was a night before Christmas.

And then the World awakened to a Baby Boy.

There were a few thousand nights before Christmas when people were waiting and hoping and praying and all along God had a plan. He was awake and listening to the cries of His people. He plotted the proper time. He chose just the right moment. And one morning, Hope was Born.

The angels awakened in the skies…

The wise men awaken from their study, to find sure and solid Truth…

The weary world wakes up Christmas morning to find that everlasting Joy has dawned…

Isaiah doesn’t stop there. Look at Isaiah 9:6 again. Because God is awake and hears our cry, He invites us to –

Awaken to Mighty

Awaken to Wonderful

Awaken to Everlasting

Awaken to Peace

Where do you need God’s mighty help in your life? Where do you need a touch of wonderful counsel and care? Where do you need to know that this is not all, that something is Everlasting? Where do you need some heaven sent Peace?

Christ Jesus, born innocent and precious and tiny, has more power in His itty-bitty right pinky finger than we can imagine, but He deigns to bring hope to me, to my family, to my friends, to my church, to my world.

That night before Christmas was so dark, some seasons in our lives are dark as well. They feel like the night before and we are desperate just to get to the night after, but God is awake through all of it. He hears, child, He hears and never, never will we have to live without Jesus.

So whether it’s December or May, let’s live in the full knowledge and with thankfulness in our hearts, on our lips, that we have a God of Hope, a God who is Awake. Let’s drop the arguments, or at least set them aside for a wee bit and share this message with someone who needs it…

Wonderful Counselor

Mighty God

Everlasting Father

Prince of Peace

Our God is Awake.

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The Night Before Christmas by Brandon Heath

Exploration:

Let’s enter the no judgement zone! Which way do you roll – Christmas early and often, or do you like to hold it off a bit to keep it special?

How do you think the message of a God that is awake can impact the hurting world, the complacent world, or the sin-sick world?

Which title speaks to you in a particular way today – Our God is…a Wonderful Counselor? a Mighty God? an Everlasting Father? or a Prince of Peace? How and why?

Publish, Bring, Sing, Comfort, Awake

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Do you have to wake anyone up in the morning? Is it one of your tasks to rustle someone from the solid sleep to up-and-at-them? This is part of my morning routine in this stage of life. I get up, exercise, shower, and then begin making my rounds.

Round One – attempted wake up of all people under the age of 15 in the house. Round One is usually successful for 1-2 children, most often my boys and I am convinced this is only because they like breakfast. Food please, immediately please.

Rounds Two and Three – these rounds are usually successful for waking one more child. Jyeva is a reluctant waker, but can be dressed and ready within five minutes. She is the sleepyhead shuffling to the restroom absentmindedly mumbling “Good Morning, Mom” as she closes the door.

Rounds 4, 5, 6, 7, and I-give-up are for my eldest. Mornings are not her strong suit. We used to bring her to school in her pajamas and tell her to get dressed in the van. She would comply, but the next morning was more of the same. Nothing we have ever done has motivated her to rise up from slumber earlier than absolutely necessary and we have been creative!

God gets creative with His people too. Let’s read Isaiah 52:1-2 and 7-8 –

Awake, awake,
    put on your strength, O Zion;
put on your beautiful garments,
    O Jerusalem, the holy city;
for there shall no more come into you
    the uncircumcised and the unclean.
Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
    be seated, O Jerusalem;
loose the bonds from your neck,
    O captive daughter of Zion.

How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
    together they sing for joy;
for eye to eye they see
    the return of the Lord to Zion.

In the space of a few verses God tries to wake up, to rouse His people with the topics of beautiful garments, circumcision…and feet. While these things seem to fit oddly together, they are all reminders of the covenant promise of our God, a reminder of who they are and what they were set apart for.

God wants His people to arise. My study Bible uses the term, “apparent unconcern” for where the people were at during the writing of Isaiah. We can find ourselves so entrenched in our own lives, our own struggle, our own busyness that we become content with sitting on the ground in the dust, just like them. Who wants a dusty life when we can have an awake one?

What does choosing to sit in the dust look like?

Sometimes it looks like apathy. Sometimes it looks like grief and pain. Sometimes it looks like the reaches of abuse inflicted by another person. Sometimes it looks like the weight of life and bills and decisions. It may look different for each of us, but each of our journey’s reflect this common thread…

God awakens our souls to Life.

Now, open your Bible to Psalm 57. Read the entire, life-giving Psalm, if you can. I will record verses 7-10 below –

My heart is steadfast, O God,
    my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
    Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
    I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
    I will sing praises to you among the nations.
10 For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
    your faithfulness to the clouds.

11 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
    Let your glory be over all the earth!

What are your circumstances? Where has the devil tempted you to sit in the dust? There have been times when God has let us sit, knowing we need a moment, but in Him, never in the dust. He invites us to truly Live.

You may hear “Awake!” as a command. What I hear is a God desperate to invite you in to the things that really matter.

Psalm 57 and Isaiah 52 fills us with the whole truth. Living looks a whole lot like getting up and going out. Raise your hand if you’re tired of apathetic. Raise your hand if you’re ready to go do life. Here is the invitation. The Spirit is in us. God gives us five ways to fight past complacency and ordinary in Isaiah 52:7-8. Let’s bullet point them. Choose one that God is calling you to embrace today:

We publish peace.

Maybe this looks like family communication, work communication, or mediating between the grouchy people around us. Maybe this means keeping your children from throwing each other under the bus. Our message of peace is something a hurting world needs. It looks like grace and forgiveness, instead of false security and broken promises. We can be the voice of peace in our households, in our workplaces, in our churches and our communities. We can honor one another by assuming the best of others and leaving stereotypes and generalizations at the door.

We bring good news!

I could use some good news. How about you? This world needs some good news. Good news starts with a little praise and thanksgiving in Psalm 57:9. We can share our thankfulness with God, but we can also share our thankfulness with others and bring some good into their lives. Send a note, share a meme, tell someone they matter. This good news is far too inconsistent and unexpected in people’s lives. We share LIFE when we share thanksgiving for and with one another. It is no mistake that we bring “good news of happiness”(Isaiah 52:7). You matter. You matter to me and to God. Can anything make us happier, more filled with life?

We publish salvation.

Someone needs our message of Love. Someone needs specifically the message of Loved Enough to Save. We have so many realms we can “publish” in – in person, over the phone, text messaging, on social media. Publish the message, friends. Publish this…

You are loved enough to Save. 

We sing for joy.

You can not stay asleep while singing. I’m pretty sure it’s a proven fact. One of my favorite ways to awaken my kids is by singing the song “Good Morning” from Singing in the Rain. A good show tune is always sure to arouse. They may grumble, but I know they secretly love it. Let the joy come out. Some days it will be more obvious and forth coming than others, but let it out. Rise and Shine and Give God the Glory, literally. His Joy is always knocking around in that soul of yours somewhere. He promises it as a gift unchanging, just let it out when it rises up.

We offer comfort.

I think this goes back to a world sitting in the dust.

How can we help? Who around you is desolate and hurting? As God tends to our own souls and we publish how that tending has changed everything that was black and grey and dusty into beauty and color, someone’s ears awaken within the Spirit and what they really hear is Life.

Morning may not be your jam, but Life certainly is. You were made for it, girls. You were picked up from the dust by His Salvation, His Love. Now it’s time to publish it. Don’t waste a day, don’t listen to the devil’s schemes of tuning out what matters for what is momentary.

Awaken and truly Live.

 

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Exploration:

Who has the hardest time getting out of bed in your house?

Which one of the 5 exhortations from Isaiah do you feel calling to you today – comfort, publish, peace, sing, or bring good news? Why that one?

What creative ways have you tried to awaken yourself or others spiritually, with the Spirit’s help?

Wake up to love

 

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Who has an alarm song? Do you wake up to an annoying and persistent beep-beep-beep, or a duck quack, or does your alarm blast out one of your favorite tunes in the wee hours of the morning to motivate you to get out of bed?

My husband sets our alarm every night. It has been his job since we were newlyweds in our tiny studio apartment in St. Louis. I don’t know how he got this job. Every night he would flip a switch on our old-school clock radio, make sure it was tuned to a local rock station, and climb into bed next to me. At 6am our alarm would sound to a roll of the dice, either an alternative grunge rock hit or a loud obnoxious DJ with morning pizazz. You can see why we were really excited when the iPhone alarm transformed our lives and we could pick the song we wanted for our morning wake up call. It’s still my husband’s job, but now he picks a song, inputs it into the alarm settings and voila – praise music is our jam at 6am.

There are still limits to this set up. Dave picks the song, but at some point both of us are like, “If I have to wake up to Mandisa singing Good Morning one more time…” “If I have to hear the Sidewalk Prophets reminding me that He Loves Me Anyway for the fortieth time…” It’s a ridiculous reaction, but I bet many of you are as friendly to get out of bed in the morning as we are, and at some point you’d like to tell these sweet artists who offer their beautiful songs to zip it, simply because it’s 6am.

God thinks of mornings a little differently than I do. In God’s economy each day is fresh, not the repetition of a long ago set alarm. In fact, God, Himself, awakens us each day. He is our Dawn and our Bright Morning Star, bidding us to rise.

Let’s read Isaiah 50:4-7 to hear a new message this day.

The Lord God has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
The Lord God has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.

But the Lord God helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

This passage, again, like so many in Isaiah, is a prophecy of The Servant, aka Jesus. Jesus is the one who is never rebellious, who inclines His ear to the Father’s calling, not just once, not when he needed it, but every time. Because of His work for our salvation, we can have a relationship with God where His mercies are new to us. He wakes us every morning, the Father’s gentle breath of forgiveness on our face before we even roll out of bed. He makes us ready for our callings in the wee hours, whether that’s 6am, 11am, 4pm, or 11pm.

Scripture tells us that the Father, unlike my blaring alarm, is found in the gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:12), but sometimes he’ll use trumpet blasts to wake me up to His presence (Acts 16:26). However He chooses, He does awaken. Our passage in Isaiah reminds us that He is really the one who Wakes. He sustains our eyes to open, our breath to refresh us, our muscles to strengthen us for the day ahead.

We awaken because He determined that this day is for His work.

When I take that first cognizant breath in, that’s the Spirit, letting me know that God has designed this day for me as His child to go forth. He has plans for me. He’s not finished with me yet.

And what is the work of each new day?

“The Lord has given me the tongue of those who are taught that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary…”

Jesus in us, means that we wake up to love.

We wake up to say, “I am loved.”

We wake up to say, “Who needs His love.”

We wake up to reach His Hand into the lives of those who need His fresh breath in their lives.

We wake up to Love.

Christ woke up from the tomb. He did not stay underneath the covers of darkness and sin and shame. He rose up on that bright morning in the garden many years ago, and that bright morning lives in us to reach a weary world each and every day.

“He awakens my ear to hear…”

Wake up to Love today. You, yourselves, are so very much valued and treasured. Go and share it with a world who does not know morning, like we know morning. Wake up to Love.

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Exploration:

What time do you wake up most mornings? What is your usual morning routine?

What would or do you choose for an alarm song or sound?

What does the message of “Wake up to Love” speak to in your life?

AWAKE

AWAKE Scripture Engagement Tool