Archive for category Alarm Clock Devos
Some will still protest, saying: “I tasted the morning coffee only to have it turn bitter in my mouth! I jumped up at the first breakfast call only to find stale cereal and sour milk waiting on the table! The sweet song of the morning bird was quickly drowned out by the loud ruckus of life’s screaming concert.”
To all who have shared a similar frustration, crawling back into bed is an appealing option. Yet, there is good news for these tired and weary souls. The cycle of life affords us this very luxury. The sun eventually sets on even the gloomiest of days and it always rises on the coattails of the darkest night.
Many of us struggle with “today’s regrets.” Repeated failures. Blown chances. Missed opportunities. Regretful conversations. Sad partings. Poor decisions. Bad luck. You fill in the blank. Whatever it may be, there are few gifts in life more valuable than a fresh start. We all need an occasional second chance at life…and third and forth and fifth.
The good news is that we have this gift, and it is renewable every twenty-four hours! Every morning is a new beginning. Yesterday’s slate has been wiped clean and today’s white canvass is awaiting our paintbrush. Things look strangely different. Yesterday’s storm clouds have been replaced with today’s sunshine. Today’s a new day!
The message of the Gospel is the same. Though today may be ridden with pain and sorrow, and the night dark and long, we have God’s promise that “the joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5). Whatever sins held us captive yesterday have been thrown into sea (Micah 7:19). “His mercies are new every morning” (Lam 3:23). Yesterday’s regrets are eclipsed by today’s new opportunities. So, with the Psalmist, we confidently sing: “Let the morning bring me a reminder of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. I lift my prayers to you; show me the way I should go” (Psa 90:14).
I still remember my first year of college, living on a dormitory floor with some thirty other freshmen. Every morning as I walked to the shower, I would pass through a symphony—or cacophony!—of alarms all ringing, chiming, buzzing, and beeping to their own tone, tempo and volume. Some even began softly and gradually grew louder until they became so unbearable its victim was forced to react.
My roommate Peter, however, brought with him a high-tech stereo that would wake us up to any song we chose the night before. Instead of being jolted from a peaceful slumber by an aggravating alarm, we could drift slowly back to consciousness to the pleasant ballads of James Taylor or the soothing melodies of Enya. There is no question which type of alarm I would rather have welcoming in the new day.
Again, we find a ready parallel in the writings of Paul. Read the rest of this entry »
Business marketing strategists have even capitalized on the power of the olfactory sense. Fast food joints located within close proximity to other businesses are rumored to pump their deep-fried smell into the parking lot in hopes of drawing in hungry shoppers for a bite. Coffee shops grind their own beans, filling the air with that fresh blended odor. When you leave you instantly become a walking billboard for their product as people catch a drift of your coffee-scented clothes.
Odors also betray where we have been and whom we have been with. My wife works at a local coffee shop, and I know exactly when she steps into the house. Or, consider the man who comes home late from the office one night, having told his wife he had some last minute paperwork to finish up. His lie is quickly exposed when she smells the bar smoke and liquor on his breath.
During his ministry, Jesus was always drawing large crowds to himself. While the wondrous miracles he performed certainly added to his attraction, most of the people were simply following their nose. Jesus smelled of mercy and grace, love and forgiveness and it attracted large hoards of desperate people. In a society where the least and lowly, the sick and lame, sinners and outcast were all considered the burnt toast of the meal only to be thrown to the dogs (Matt 15:26-27), Jesus invited them to become a part of the main course at God’s messianic feast. Jesus was hosting a great banquet, and everyone was welcome (Matt 22:9). Everywhere he went, people caught a whiff of what God was doing through Jesus, and the smell was irresistible.
As God’s awakened ones, we are called to exude the same irresistible fragrance of God’s saving grace to those who are still asleep, drawing them into the kitchen to become partakers of God’s breakfast buffet.
1. Does your smell give you away? Are you trying to act like a genuine Christian but you’re heart is still quite smelly inside?
2. Pray again that our lives would smell like Jesus and others would catch a good whiff of His irresistible love and life!
“The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup.” Who can forget this classic coffee jingle? Before there was a Starbucks on every corner, there was Folgers. I can still picture the fake smiles of the actors in the ads as they enjoy their first sip of the morning. For many, coffee is the best part of waking up. For some, coffee is the only way to wake up—and stay awake for that matter!
I did not grow up in a coffee-drinking family. I still don’t care for the stuff. But even I can appreciate the smell of a freshly brewed pot. Perhaps you prefer instead the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls or French toast in the morning. Meat-lovers will go for the greasier smells of sausage, bacon or hash browns. No matter your preference, it is a universal fact that a good aroma seems to ease the waking process. There is just something about a sweet-smelling aroma that softens our senses and draws us to its source.
We should not be surprised then when Paul describes the task of evangelism—sounding the alarm of the gospel—in terms of becoming a sweet aroma to awaken the spiritually dead. Consider Paul’s words to the Christians in Corinth:
“God uses us to make the knowledge about Christ spread everywhere like a sweet fragrance. We are like a sweet-smelling incense offered by Christ to God, which spreads among those who are being saved and those who are being lost” (2 Cor 2:14-15).
It is a bit disturbing when we first realize that we all carry with us a particular scent. The body odor Paul refers to can’t be covered by deodorant or expensive cologne. Paul speaks of a particular attitude, mindset or way of life that reeks of the same attitude Christ Jesus had (Phil 2:5). It smells like love and acceptance, healing and grace. It smells of forgiveness and reconciliation, new life and hope.
1. What’s your favorite smell to wake up to? What breakfast gets you to the kitchen table fastest?
2. How does it make you feel that the way you live your life gives off a certain “scent” or “aroma”? Is your life a sweet smelling aroma that attracts others to Christ? Or do you reek of something more foul?
3. Ask God to apply a sweet smelling deodorant or perfume to cover your smelly sins and make you a sweet-smelling aroma that points people to God’s love in Jesus Christ.
Most morning people I have met take great pride in this particular quality. They even have signature phrases to promote this special trait. “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise.” And we all know “the early bird gets the worm.” Yet, have you ever heard of a bird starving to death for sleeping in?
My father is the hard working early bird of my family. I remember well the line I always used to get growing up when I would come to the table at noon for breakfast to find him finishing his lunch. “”Are you just getting up? You’ve already missed the best part of the day!” Even years later, I still feel guilty sleeping in. Well, anyways….
All of this is to say, there is a certain danger that comes with being one of the early risers. The “awakened ones” can easily grow prideful and begin looking down with scorn on those still tossing and turning. When it comes to spiritual wakefulness, this temptation is even more dangerous. Those of us who have been so graciously awakened by the Spirit, already enjoying the early hours of God’s new day, must always remember that it is only by God’s grace that we ourselves are awake (Eph 2:5).
Furthermore, we have not been roused from our beds for the self-serving purpose of enjoying a private sunrise. To the contrary, we have been awakened for the very purpose of becoming God’s alarm clocks, bringing a soft and loving “poke” to those spiritually asleep (1 Pet 3:15-16; Eph 4:15).
1. Do you know any morning people? Are you one yourself? How do you feel around “morning people”?
2. How early in life did God’s love awaken you? Five years old? Fifteen? Maybe 25 or 50? Some of us are early risers and some us get up later in life. Whenever we happen to come to faith in Jesus it is still a gift from God so none of us should be proud.
3. Do you struggle with the “pride of the early bird”? Ask God to remind you that you didn’t wake yourself up? Ask for patience and love toward those who haven’t responded to the Gospel alarm yet.
In Sunday school we used to sing a song that went, “I’m alive, alert, awake, and enthusiastic <clap-clap>.” Even if we were half asleep, or didn’t like singing, we would move our lips along to the song just to avoid drawing attention to ourselves. Similarly, many churchgoers are spiritually lip-sinking to the right tune, looking like enthusiastic disciples of Christ. Yet, beneath this vibrant exterior there lies a slumbering spirit, a mind still conditioned by the night (Matt 23:27-28).
They may recite the creeds, but inwardly doubt their veracity. They may pray the Lord’s Prayer but only as an empty ritual. They may speak of love and grace, but inside harbor much resentment and bitterness. They confess Jesus as Lord, but are still slaves to their own desires. “They honor God with their lips,” Isaiah says, “but their hearts are somewhere else” (Mark 7:6; Isaiah 29:13). They are walking as if awake, but they are still under sleep’s heavy spell. They are physically in the kitchen enjoying the breakfast buffet, but their spirit is back in bed sound asleep. They are religious zombies. Spiritual sleepwalkers.
The New Testament captures the essence of this split-reality—a world half-awake and half-sleeping. With the rising of the Son, the world found itself suddenly divided into two overlapping ages, or days. We find light and darkness, day and night, the old and new creation all coexisting. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the strangest memories I have from my summers at church camp as a kid involves a certain sleepwalker. At an early age Kristin had fallen in love with the television series The Little House on the Prairie. She owned the entire collection and had watched them probably two dozen times each. She knew every episode by heart and could answer any trivia question related to the show and its actors. Kristin’s mind was so saturated with Little House that she would relive actual episodes in her dreams, with herself assuming a particular character—usually the eldest sister Carrie. Even more fascinating was how she would narrate what was happening out loud, so anyone near her could listen in on her dream.
Now, as junior high campers sleeping in a communal bunkhouse, this was prime entertainment! One night, we all waited quietly for Kristin to fall asleep and begin her usual antics. Then we quietly surrounded her and listened in on the action. She began to talk about a fire in the barn, about the animals in danger, about Pa and his efforts to quench the flames and so on. We were even able to talk to Kristin without waking her—so long as we played a role in the plot! (If we changed the subject, or asked her something unrelated to the dream, she would awake.) When the fire grew close to the house in her dream, Kristin rose up from her bed and ran out of the bunkhouse to flee the fire. Ruthless adolescents that we were, we just watched her wander outside in the dark for a while before she finally awoke and went sheepishly back to bed.
This story vividly illustrates how a person can speak, act and function as if alive and awake to the world; but all the while they are still very much asleep, inhabiting an entirely different plane of consciousness. The church is filled with its own kind of sleepwalker. You cannot always tell them apart from the wakeful just by looking at them. They may attend church weekly, tithe faithfully, and volunteer regularly. They are involved in all the ‘right’ activities, going through all the religious motions, and talking the Christian talk. All the while their spirit slumbers on.
1. Have you ever known a sleepwalker? Isn’t it strange how awake they can appear?
2. Do you agree that many Christians are spiritual sleepwalkers? They act like Christians, speak like Christians but their Spirit is still asleep.
3. How can we make sure we aren’t spiritually sleepwalking through life?
I am not a morning person. I both envy and secretly resent those early bird types. A typical Sunday morning not long ago about sums it up. I had stayed up late the night before getting some late night reading in. When Sunday morning arrived more quickly than expected, my wife had already showered, dressed and had a warm breakfast waiting for me in the kitchen. Keri yelled two or three times, as I tossed and turned, trying to catch a few more minutes of shuteye. As breakfast grew cold, she began to lose patience and decided it was time to rise and shine. She threw open the bedroom door, flipped on the light and began jumping up and down on the bed yelling, “Get up, get up, get up!” The light was blinding. Her voice was deafening. The bed shook like an earthquake. I wanted to cover my head and plug my ears. But after Keri gave me “the look,” I wisely but reluctantly rolled out of bed, and with squinted eyes and stiffened joints, stumbled toward the kitchen.
Similarly, when the floodlight of God’s truth bursts forth, illuminating every nook and cranny of our lives, we tend to shudder and draw back. We feel exposed. We want to hide under the covers and turn off the light. When faced with “the light of knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus” (2 Cor. 4:6), we can choose to open our eyes and let the rising Son illumine our path; or we can reject the light and remain in the darkness. The Bible offers us examples of both. Read the rest of this entry »
But an alarm is still an alarm. And sleep is still so alluring and peaceful. The covers are snug and the coolness of the morning breeze keeps us wrapped tightly in the sheets. And even the most dazzling sunrise hurts eyes so accustomed to the dark. So we often linger in our comatose state, ignoring the rooster’s call. Waking up is never easy.
In fact, when it comes to our spiritual life with God, the Apostle Paul tells us waking up is nothing short of rising from the dead. Sleep, in the Bible, is a common metaphor for the state of physical death, and waking therefore speaks of resurrection, or new life from the grave (Dan 12:2; 1 Thes 4:13-14). That’s why Paul, when announcing the arrival of God’s new day, declares: “Awake, O sleeper! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph. 5:14). Waking up to God’s new life is usually more difficult than just putting on your slippers and dragging yourself to the shower. New life bursting forth from the grave requires a miracle. Resurrection life in Christ comes only comes through divine grace and supernatural awakening.
Leaving the warmth and comfort of bed usually requires a long, difficult, and ongoing battle. We can ignore the alarm, draw the shade and pretend its still night, but the when the Son rose on God’s new horizon that first Easter morning, there was no turning back the clock. Morning has dawned. “It’s time to wake up and face the music,” as they say.
1. Today’s reading reminds us that we don’t rouse ourselves from spiritual sleep. Salvation in Christ is a gift from God, a supernatural miracle. God awakens us. Can you point to the day when God first began to awaken your soul?
2. Some of us seem to be heavier sleepers than others. Did it merely take a gentle nudge to bring you to new life in Christ? Or did it take loud, bullhorn to jolt you out of your spiritual sleep?
3. We can get quite comfortable living under the covers, apart from God and in the dark. Satan tries to make a godless life as cozy and alluring as possible so we never want to get out of bed and face the light. What sins and temptations of the world tend to draw you back under the covers?
The entire Christian life is, at its core, a wake up call. Here is the scene: The world was lost in the darkness of night, living in the shadow of death and anxiously awaiting a promised new day when God’s light would finally shine forth (Isa. 59:9). Isaiah’s watchman asked, “What of the night? How much longer will it last?” The night watchman called back, “Morning’s coming, but for now it’s still night. If you ask me again, I’ll give the same answer” (Isa. 21:12). At that moment, the world “sat in utter darkness, bound in painful iron chains” (Psalm 107:10). All creation tossed and turned, waiting to be shook from its never-ending nightmare.
The gospel sounded an alarm for those entranced in the long slumber of sin and death. The gospel signaled the arrival of God’s new day, the New Age of God’s saving grace. “He brought them out of the utter darkness, and tore off their shackles” (Psalm 107:14). “So wake up! Rub the sleep from your eyes! Up on your feet, Jerusalem” (Isa. 51:17).
Jesus has raised the shade on this gloomy scene, and God’s light has flooded the entire world. “Arise! Shine! For your light has come. The splendor of the Lord shines on you” (Isa. 60:1). “The people who sit in darkness have seen a great light, and on those who sit in the region and shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matt 4:16). “The true light, who gives light to everyone, has come into the world” (John 1:9). The morning birds are singing God’s New Song. Christmas morning has arrived and the gifts of God’s New Day are waiting to be opened!
The Bible is one long book. Yet, could it be that the one of the main story plots is all about a persistent Father who keeps trying to rouse his children from a form of spiritual sleep and join him in the great tasks of the day? Could it be that the whole story is about a God who refuses to give up on us lest we miss Christmas morning?
1. Think of all the Bible verses that speak about light and darkness. Do you think this is a major theme in God’s Story? What kinds of behaviors and attitudes are associated with darkness? How about light?
2. Where does Jesus fit into this “Awaken” plot in God’s larger story? How does he go about awakening others to God?
3. Has Jesus raised the shade on your life? Has God successfully opened your eyes? Or are you still hiding under the covers in the dark? What are you waiting for?