Learning To Disconnect

It has been on my heart lately to disconnect from social media. Not for the sake of a trend but due to realizing my heart’s true state. My latest conversations with God and my boyfriend have been about covetousness, how frequently this sin is practiced in our lives, how much influence it has in the church, and the ill result of entertaining it. I have come to realize it is one of those “respectable sins” or sin of omission. Much like unrighteous anger, bitterness, doubt, and so on.  Meaning, many Christians (including myself) have failed to realize God’s opinion toward the matter and how detrimental it is to the life of a Believer.

“Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s.” Exodus 20:17

“You shall not covet” means that we should banish our desires for whatever does not belong to us. Never having enough money is regarded as a symptom of the love of money. Obedience to the tenth commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart.- Wiki

Almost anyone would conclude that social media plays a big role in forming covetous ways of thinking in someone’s life. This conclusion has led me to desire to permanently disconnect from Facebook and the like. As I’ve toyed with this idea the past few days, I have come to realize more and more how affected I was by covetousness when I log on to “scroll down my timeline”. This isn’t something I desire to entertain any longer. The desire to post pictures of a certain event/date or of a gift or a particular selfie has revealed itself to be rooted in covetousness and a desire to receive the approval of others. When I came to this realization and began to ask myself the reason for such actions, I recognized how much I was affected by a covetous way of thinking and how deluded it has made my unconscious way of thinking. On the surface I do not care for much glam but deep down, the root of my discontentment was not severed. Those faint thoughts of comparing my current life situation, relationship, and things I may not have, has caused me to see how deep and prevalent those symptoms have become. Due to this, I’ve “caught” myself posting or desiring to do things in reaction to my hearts discontentment so that I could feel better about my life in comparison to others. When I realized what this did to the heart of the God I serve, I decided to begin to let it go.

I believe the root of such issues began at an early age; which I presume most can relate. Watching TV shows, commercials, and movies that fill my mind with the idea that what I currently have is not enough. Due to the fact that my childhood wasn’t the prettiest and lacked godly teaching about being content and truly satisfied in what I had, my heart longing for more and what seemed better began to settle its roots. So as my boyfriend and I discussed this one night, I realized one of Satan’s tactics he has been using since the garden of Eden. Before Eve ate of the forbidden tree, she not only heard what Satan was telling her but also LISTENED. Meaning, she considered what Satan was offering her and the lack thereof. It was in that mental place where she found herself coveting over something God NEVER had planned for her. She looked at the surface, what she could currently benefit from that good looking tree and the possibility of being made like God.

Yet, the root of discontentment didn’t start there. The more you study the account of Adam and Eve being tempted, you see Satan’s demise to deceive God’s creation started with distorting their view of Him. If he could get them to second guess who God really is and what He said then his seed of discontentment would have a lasting root…..

BUT, the solution to such issues is realizing what God has for us is ENOUGH for your current situation and situations to come. Although Satan still uses those same tactics and have infiltrated almost every media stream and conversation, we don’t have to live in it and surely don’t have to tolerate it as being our norm.

“But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:14-15

As you can see, it all starts in the mind, what we consider, and hold as truth. Which is why the scripture describes believers as those who’s “understanding has been enlightened” Eph. 1:18 and those who reject the truth as those who’s “conscience has been seared with a hot iron” 1 Tim. 4:2. So as a beloved daughter of the King, I choose to submit myself to God’s pruning and cleansing truth so that the infectious ways of sin may no longer have any foot hole in my way of thinking.

Therefore, I’m thoroughly excited about what this journey holds and how much my focus will transform. As a woman and as a child of God, I see the deep necessity for this. I speak for myself on this blog but I am not going to act like other women in the faith don’t deal with this either. So I pray that this blog ministers to you and as you find yourself discussing this topic and many other issues with The Lord, I pray that you be obedient to whatever He tells you because the end will result in you truly living on earth as it is in heaven….

 “…Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-24

Written by Elena A Martinez

Justice (Clarity Series, Part 1)

We are in a world that is confused and in a society that has flip-flopped good for evil, and evil for good (Is 5:20).  However, the answers to what is right and what is wrong, and the clarity that is desperately needed in the world are beautifully illuminated in the scriptures.  Loving one another just as we love ourselves, doing unto others as we would like to have done to us, forgiving those who do us harm, and living with the moral compass God has given to us are remedies for the ills of society. We have the answers and are the answer that the world needs for these times.  

One of the most discussed and sought after topics in our world is justice; and for good reason.  Injustice is rampant and we are called to change much of that by engaging in the other side of justice. The side that is often overlooked. 

JusticeEven the sound of the word feels right and needed around the world.  Like a fresh cup of water to a desert wanderer, justice is the desire of every oppressed person and people group to receive and to taste.  It’s also the very desire of God to grant.  God desires that everyone and everything on the earth receives justice.  God even sits on a throne of Justice and Righteousness (Ps 89:14, 33:5), highlighting how much that He loves and values justice.  In fact, justice is far more important to God than it is to any organization, political party, judicial system or disenfranchised individual or group of people on this planet. Justice is so much a part of God’s desire, that He dispatched His Son Jesus to the earth two-thousand years ago to give justice to the unjust and righteousness to the unrighteous.  When Jesus returns to earth in the near future, He will complete justice for every person as He judges the world.  Corruption will end and the kingdoms of this world will become His kingdom – He will reign over all of the earth.  This perfect justice will not come until He returns, but it will come.

While we wait for perfect justice to come to everyone, God has invited us to be a part of something more than just waiting to receive our personal justice.  There is action to take while we wait, and we are a part of the solution:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

This passage, along with many others throughout the scriptures, show us that there is another side to receiving justice.  God desires for us to “do justice” for others even more than we may fight to receive it for ourselves.  He knows and hears our cry for justice just as He heard the cries of Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt, and sent Moses to help.  He desires that we partner with Him in being a part of the solution for others - that we become actively engaged in the business and activity of doing justice for others wherever we are.  We are supposed to be the “Moses’s” of our time, standing up and bringing freedom to others.

However, if the driving force of our efforts and our long term focus is on obtaining justice for ourselves rather than ensuring that others receive it through our love, voice and actions, then we will miss our calling and join the throng of millions of people dressed in victimization.  Justice is what we should look to give to others, not become the religion or cause of our lives, because we were created for more than receiving personally.  We were created to give. 

“Freely you have received, freely give” – Jesus (Matt 10:8)

As a remarkable example of someone who championed justice for others, consider the hero, Harriet Tubman.  Harriet was born in 1820 in Maryland.  Those before her were brought over from Africa during the Atlantic Slave trade.  The Atlantic Slave trade was one of the darkest periods in American history as over five hundred thousand slaves were brought to our country to be used and abused.  Although enslaved herself, Harriet was also a sincere believer in Jesus.  She was enslaved outwardly, but inwardly her independence day had come already come. She was free on the inside.  Then, after multiple attempts, Harriet escaped and entered freedom in the land North of her.  Having obtained freedom that she had never experienced previously, Harriet didn’t just enjoy it herself or dwell upon the injustices inflicted upon her during her captivity.  She didn’t grow bitter.  At great risk, she began making dangerous trips back to the land of her slavery to free others under the cover of night.  Over the next 10 years, the “Moses” of the South made 19 trips, leading over 300 slaves to freedom.  Harriet had obtained her own freedom, but she never received full justice in her lifetime.  However, she didn’t dwell on the injustices that she endured or the justice she never fully received. Instead, she focused on the freedom she could give others - and she gave it.  

There will never be “perfect” circumstances where we are perfectly treated by all, and then after finally being well treated in every way – by our government, neighbors, family, spouse, employer, employees, etc., we begin to finally “do justice” for others.  That world doesn’t exist currently.  It is idealism and a mirage that will keep us from fully engaging in our calling.  However, what we can do now is leverage the love and freedom we have in Christ and touch people’s lives in our current condition – whether slave or free. 

As another example, Raymond Nonnatus was imprisoned in Africa during the 1200’s after ransoming his life so that other slaves could be freed.  He took their place in prison.  Raymond was a lover of Jesus and a remarkable man.  While in an African prison and ill treated, he began sharing the love of Jesus with other prisoners and with his captors.  They were struck by his love and spirit.  Many of his Muslim captors came to faith in Jesus and he impacted everyone around him.  His inner freedom and the justice Christ gave him was not bound.  It leaked through the bars and into the hearts of those around him.  Raymond didn’t wait for justice to arrive for himself before being a help to others.  He didn’t lash out in anger at his unjust, smelly and rat infested condition.  Instead, he began the work of “doing justice” for others in the station he found himself in, and lives changed.   

All colors and ethnicities who have received freedom in Jesus have the invitation and a mandate to freely give freedom away, both naturally and spiritually.

What if we as individuals and the body of Christ took up the words found in Micah and began looking for ways in which we can “do justice” for others?   What if we began leveraging our resources on dangerous missions to set people free, strategized on how to bring light to dark areas of our city and the world?  What if we leveraged our creativity to come up with new ways to free the nearly 30 million sex slaves that are currently living in our world?  We would become the “light of the world,” the “Sons and Daughters of heaven” who continue the work of Jesus on the earth.  It’s our invitation to receive freedom from Jesus and it’s our mandate and calling to “do justice” in the earth.   

 

 

Matt is the Lead Pastor at Awake Church, as well as the founder of the water supplying organization Hydrating Humanity. Matt lives in North Carolina with his beautiful wife Debbie and their five sons. He is an avid storyteller who often shares his own adventure-packed history as well as stories of others that have inspired him.

 

Let's Dance

This morning, I was reminded that today marks the beginning of the summer solstice. It's one of my favorites!  I love the heat, sunshine, and fruitfulness of the summer months. We've been picking blackberries, harvesting vegetables, and visiting area parks and swimming holes.

Today, I'm especially thankful for this restful week. We traveled a long twelve hours to Florida with dear friends. There's just something about sitting on the shore of vastness, watching the neverending as it ebbs and flows.

We're watching life here, invading the sanctuary of the sacred spaces, and breathing in all that is fresh and pure. There's a gathering of people here from many different places. I hear Italy, Spain, and lots of good ole southern dialects. We have converged in this one spot. The crystal clear water and spotless white sand beckon the heart of many to visit every year...tradition.

I'm drawn to the water. The waves crash and offer countless hours of solitude, entertainment for families, and glimpses of marine life.  But there's so much more.

I love this gathering...a common ground for all people.  The Father, the good, good Father, beckons us to the water. He wants to love on us, lavishing our hearts with a reassurance like no other can give.  It's the greatest to come down to the water together, to pray, play, or just be still.  He tells the water how far to come, when to drift back, and when to cease raging. He speaks to me on the wind of the seas. He comforts me in my unknowing. He wraps His loving arms around me with each wave that laps across my skin.  When I drift too far, he reminds me where I started and reels me back in to a focal point.  As I return, we go through the same dance all over again.  He shows me the steps, and we practice daily, this dance of a Father and daughter.  He whispers the most important words to me each day.....you are worthy and I love you.

 

If you get a chance today, go sit and let the world melt away. Get in a still place, close your eyes, and breath in the fresh wind. Allow His presence to invade you.  Be loved by the beloved.

 

 

This week's blog post was written by Awake Church member, April Pendleton. 

Dawning Lights

During this season of trials, both personal and global, when even our country seems to have slipped down into the confusing darkness, we have this promise: 

Arise, shine, for YOUR light has come, and the glory of the Lord rises upon YOU. See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the Lord rises upon YOU and his glory appears over YOU. Nations will come to YOUR light, and kings to the brightness of YOUR dawn.    Isaiah 60:1-3 NIV

Yes, for a season of despair you have laid upon your bed of languishing,

Cursing the darkness.

But God calls out:      

Arise! Wake up o' Sleeper!

His Glory rises like the dawn, rays reach out and unlock your slumbering heart.

Though choking darkness smothers the earth,

He speaks,

A spark ignites.

Holy breath fans the tinder of your parched heart into a flaming torch.

Yes, your own heart,

Light Bearer,

Illuminates the fearful blackness.

Awake o' sleepers, arise from the the dead, and break your earthen jars.

Let your lights shine

And the signal fires blaze;

Drive darkness into despair.         

And the people walking in darkness will see the great light

As the Light Bearers unite.

On the land of deep darkness dwellers

The light has dawned.

 

 

 

Pj Lancaster lives in the sweet community of Pfafftown, North Carolina, where she is currently navigating new waters as an empty nester. An educator in Old Salem and actress with the Children's Museum of Winston Salem, she stays in touch with her playful, out-of-the-box side. 

As a result she finds herself in a variety of artistic endeavors, all for the purpose of connecting people to God and each other. Whether it's working the local film festival, encouraging Bible study through Bible art journaling, joining interdenominational prayers across the city or writing her blog, she finds creative ways to share God's light. Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing included one of her poems in the 2015 Stone & Bones edition. 

Friend/ship

I’m learning that friendship is rarely found on the convenient aisle. We are often asked to go out of our way, to stay up past our tired eyes, or to even go to restaurants we don’t particularly like. This is the deep and rooted part of friendship I’m just now getting to.

Much like building community with people around me, building friendship with the Lord surprisingly doesn’t look very different.

One day a few summers ago I was doing things around my house when a friend called me to see if I could come meet them at a gas station, they didn’t have any more cash for the week and were out of gas. I jumped in my car and was there in a few minutes. Afterwards we walked to a near by grocery store, bought some sushi and sat on the sidewalk outside.

This was an an incredible moment for me, of all the people this person could’ve called they chose me (which I wouldn’t have guessed). But to them I was safe, I was dependable. In return I felt needed, like I had a purpose, and made our friendship feel like a two way street.

This isn’t the way I’ve been approaching friendship with Jesus though. It was very much a one way street. It made me want to ask the Lord when was the last time he felt needed? When did I act on his dependance, on his safety?

Walking with the Lord, for most of us, will be the longest friendship we invest into our whole life. This entails many different seasons and levels of depth that we’ll go through on our journey. Here’s the beautiful thing though: this rarely comes without a good mess and he is not at all scared of it. You are choosing to trust and following trails you’ve never been on before, believing he will be present in the journey, show you the way, and encourage you when the terrain looks beyond your skill set.

Friendship with the Lord is a day in and day out process. I have believed that saying “yes” to the Lord looked like getting on a roller coaster and clinging on with white knuckles until the end.

“This scares me a lot, but I’m just going to keep trusting you”

“I dont’t understand why this lap bar is so far from my lap but I’m just going to keep trusting you.”

“This other kid just threw up all over me, but I’m just going to keep trusting you!”

This, does not build relationship with the Lord, and is actually fracturing trust with him instead of solidifying it. When he asked us to begin the journey we’re on he did not ask us to harbor our screams, and hard days. We believe that by “deflecting” the difficult we’re clinging to trust of his plan but instead we’re hurting our friendship. He wants to be present and involved in our process, just like our community does. With us on the days we don’t understand. When he asked you to say yes to following him, he did not intend to meet you on the other side of this season.

John 15:12

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

 

Shaina is doing the young adult thing, her normal week consists of working on her latte art, cooking meals, and spending as much time as she can in her garden. Shaina is a depth promoter and believes fully in the power of our authentic stories, no editing needed.

Gut Honest

I have been afraid of being real at times.  Afraid of honestly saying how I felt when I was angry, really frustrated or ticked off at God.  I’ve felt let down, passed over, mistreated and not supported at times.  Things haven’t gone my way at times, I’ve felt mistreated at times - from God and people.  I’ve felt like punching something, kicking something, yelling at something, quitting everything and going away, finding something else to do and others to live life with.  I’ve yelled at God through my sunroof, frustration spilling over into a rant of blame cast into the sky at the invisible and silent God.  I’ve then waited for lightning to strike.

I’ve read the complaints of David that became scripture.  Read the whining, sometimes faithless cries of heroes in weak moments. I’ve also seen the stressless ease of the wicked, watched the godless have incredible favor and promotion.  I’ve scratched my head at the success of those who do wrong and the struggle and difficulty of those who do right. 

David had the same observation:

Behold, these are the wicked; And always at ease, they have increased in wealth.  Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure.  And washed my hands in innocence; For I have been stricken all day long. And chastened every morning.”  Ps 73:12-14

Jeremiah, that prophet with a very thankless mission, complained.  After being thrown in pits, imprisoned and mistreated for simply doing what God asked him do, he had had enough.  He said to God:

Why is my pain perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will you indeed be to me like a deceitful brook, like waters that fail and are uncertain?”  Jeremiah 15:18 AMP

Jeremiah felt that God was uncertain, not to be trusted.  When he had been obedient and done right, he was not listened to, mistreated and suffered.

Both David and Jeremiah complained (sometimes called prayer) to God about what they observed and how they felt.  They said it honestly, and there was no lightning.  No piano falling from the sky crushed them.  They complained and were honest.   God listened, and He answered.  To David, God revealed the reality of the plight of the wicked who were temporarily successful, but devastated in the long term. God adjusted David’s perspective to see with big eyes and elevated view, not glimpses of a moment in time.

For Jeremiah, God spoke and answered His question audibly:  “Therefore thus says the Lord [to Jeremiah]: If you return [and give up this mistaken tone of distrust and despair], then I will give you again a settled place of quiet and safety, and you will be My minister; and if you separate the precious from the vile [cleansing your own heart from unworthy and unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness], you shall be My mouthpiece. [But do not yield to them.] Let them return to you—not you to [the people].

And I will make you to this people a fortified, bronze wall; they will fight against you, but they will not prevail over you, for I am with you to save and deliver you, says the Lord.

And I will deliver you out of the hands of the wicked, and I will redeem you out of the palms of the terrible and ruthless tyrants.”  Jeremiah 15:19-21.

 I’ve realized two things.  One, God is fine with honesty, with the expression of what is in our hearts.  He knew it was in there anyway – it wasn’t a secret when we swore internally.  Secondly, I’ve realized that what I often feel about God is a deception on my part.  The truth is that we may get passed over, we may be mistreated, may suffer, may not get our way.  That is actually the plan.  The calling for anyone who follows Jesus into the adventure of the unknown is not easy, and not supposed to be.  We were actually told this would happen and it happened to Jesus.  While Jesus suffered on throughout the crucifixion process, there were many rich men at peace, eating well, surrounded by pleasure.  But we were also told that unlike the wicked, we can house the Spirit of peace, comfort, truth, life and power in the midst of every mistreatment and treachery, and we get to be counted in the company of the saints that have gone before us who rejoiced when they were mistreated. We have an eternal residence built by our Savior and He will never leave us or forsake us. 

Like Jeremiah, we must jettison our ‘mistaken tone of mistrust and despair’ and evict all ‘unwarranted suspicions concerning God’s faithfulness’ because He is faithful to a thousand generations and always will be. 

The truth is that God is ok with gut level honesty, but He is also one who will help expose the deception, selfishness and lies that we have bought into because He came to set us free, to heal our hearts, to renew our minds and give us eagles eyes to see from way up high, where the sun shines, the air is clear and our future is beautiful and lasting.

(For more on this topic, I’m happy to give you “Hope Restored” at no cost.  You can request it through Awake Church)

 

 

Matt is the Lead Pastor at Awake Church, as well as the founder of the water supplying organization Hydrating Humanity. Matt lives in North Carolina with his beautiful wife Debbie and their five sons. He is an avid storyteller who often shares his own adventure-packed history as well as stories of others that have inspired him.

Scoreboard

Come, my dear
Unplug the ever-changing scoreboard
Burn the list of “better-thans”
Let the whispers of inferiority be drowned in love once and for all

Spring cleaning!
Hurl the weights, the scales, the balances from your second story window
They’ll never do you any good
You don’t need them

There is no game at all.

 

Hannah Riggin is the oldest of four, an ISFJ, and the administrator at Awake Church. She was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio but currently resides in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Hannah is an avid lover of hiking, tacos, writing, and music. One of her greatest desires is to see others encounter the kindness, goodness, patience, and safety of God - that they would come to find, over and over, that He is better than they ever imagined.

 

Go Low

I saw a short vision of a “Dutch door.” We have three similar doors at Awake Church. Dutch doors are doors that inhibit children from escaping out of the church nursery. They are doors with two half doors hanging within a single doorframe. There is one door on top that is usually open, and one door on the bottom that is usually closed to keep the kids inside.  

However, in the vision that I saw, the top door was actually closed and the bottom door was wide open.

Matthew chapter 18 records a question posed by the disciples of Jesus that asked who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?  Jesus, astonishing His followers, called a small child to Himself, set him before them, and answered, “Truly I say to you unless you are converted and become like children, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

According to the words of Jesus, the door to the kingdom of heaven is kind of like a Dutch door with the bottom one open, and the greatest of all adults are the one’s who humble themselves, bend low, become child-like and enter new places. 

As adults we teach kids, but Jesus says here that we should also be learning from our Children if we want to enter His kingdom. My wife and I have 5 children and here are a few things I’ve observed from our kids:

They don’t over-think things.

They rarely worry.

They dance wildly and don’t care what others think.

They implicitly trust that their parents will provide for them.

They forgive quickly and don’t hold onto the past.

They laugh as much as they are serious.

They don’t judge others.

They have as much fun as humanly possible.

They are not complicated. 

They spend zero time looking in a mirror at themselves.

They love being around their father.

Just taking these few things and applying them to our lives would create not only entrance into the kingdom, but days full of joy and peace. 

Jesus modeled this same child-likeness while being the most manly-man that ever lived.  He bowed low and entered through every low door presented to Him.  He set aside all of His glory in heaven and actually entered as a child (baby) into the world.  He came to serve rather than to be served. He followed His Father into every adventure He led Him into.  He cared more about what His father thought than anyone else did, and He so enjoyed His Dad that He often slipped away from the crowds to be with Him.  Even in His final day on earth, Jesus stripped his garments off, bent down and washed the dust from the feet of those following him; hours later becoming the Door whereby all who dare to bow low would enter and be saved (John 10:9). 

 

Matt is the Lead Pastor at Awake Church, as well as the founder of the water supplying organization Hydrating Humanity. Matt lives in North Carolina with his beautiful wife Debbie and their five sons. He is an avid storyteller who often shares his own adventure-packed history as well as stories of others that have inspired him.

The Pilgrimage of Lights

Those who are wise will shine as bright as the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.”    Daniel 12:3

 

Ada was five years old when she saw the Milky Way for the first time. She would later remember clearly the feeling of expectation. Sitting on the front step, bare feet in the clay, watching the storm clouds roll over the valley. The cool air was orange as the column of wind and lightning kicked dust against the screen door but it never rained. Three days later it snowed instead, pulling all the dust out of the air and revealing the clearest October sky she would ever recall. A snow so early in the year was downright unusual so it made it easy for Ada to remember. That was the night Daddy woke her up past midnight to see the meteor shower in the snow.

He put two layers of socks on her feet and made her put on a pair of Walter’s old long john’s under her nightgown. They tried to wake him up too but he only turned over and went back to sleep. 

“Teenagers need rest, I reckon.” Daddy shrugged. 

So he turned and took Ada, bundled her up in a cocoon of quilts, and carried her out in his arms to the rocking chair where they sat together in the crisp cold to adjust their eyes to the darkness.

At first her nose stung a little but she pulled up a corner of the quilt and soon her own hot breath allowed her the comfort to see the sky. She had never seen so many stars in her young life and never would again, even into her old age. It was as if Heaven had opened and she could see the glowing incense of the altar scattered across the darkness. Wherever she thought there was emptiness, she had only to look long enough and her eyes would grow to see a deep field of endless embers.

Within minutes, even her great child-like heart could not hold the sacred memory of each meteor that streaked across the sky. She lost count somewhere after fifteen and they all became a never-ending wheel of numinous wonder. 

This delight was only interrupted by the swing of the door and the soft crunching of snow on the front steps as Mama appeared with hot cocoa and settled into her nest on the wicker chair beside them. Ada looked over towards the sweet-smelling cloud that rose from the mug at Daddy’s elbow and caught a glimpse of something flickering against the screen door. 

“Oh!” said Mama. “A luna moth! Look, baby, she came to get a look at home too. Poor thing is trapped in the door.

“A luna moth?” Ada craned her neck over for a better look.

“Yeah, come see!” Mama moved to help Ada pull out of her blanket cocoon and they both crouched by the screen with the moth. It’s silver-green wings and long tails rippled with a soft reflection in the snowy light and it flicked lightly against the screen as Ada reached out. Her hands were about the same size as its pale sails.

“She belongs to the moon.” Whispered Mama -- answering an un-asked question, “Must have seen the lights inside and gotten confused on the way home.”

“She doesn’t live here?” Ada looked up.

“Oh no.” said Mama, gently pulling the screen away from the door. “This isn’t her home. She's only passing through. Here to reflect the moon and show the way when it’s dark out. And this time of year she’s probably here to lay eggs and leave little luna moths before she goes home.”

“But what will they do if she goes home?”

Mama delicately coaxed the moth to grasp her fingers as she pulled it out from behind the screen and lifted it up to the shimmering darkness.

“They will shine in the night just like her and just like the moon. And they will find their way back home after they leave little lights of their own. They might be born here but all luna moths know how to follow the light. They know home when they see it -- when they feel it calling. Nothing that shines can ever be lost in the dark.”

The moth sailed upwards, rowing its wings against the fog of frozen breath and into the clear night. Meteors continued their trek over the long path of lights and Ada now looked to the moon as she re-settled into the blankets on Daddy’s lap. She wondered what it must be like to live with the moon and the stars in the heavens. She wondered if all the stars were luna moths on the way home. She sighed a warm puff of smoke into the air just before she felt strong arms carry her back to bed and she nodded off to sleep.

 

Tara Lancaster is a middle school Art teacher and printmaker/illustrator in Winston-Salem, NC. She creates things that she believes ought to exist and she’ll try to trick you into doing the same. When she’s not befriending wild monsters, she’s planting things. And when she’s not planting things, it’s probably Winter.

Satisfied

In a single moment, the entire atmosphere shifts
And everyone standing before You begins pulling out their extravagant gifts.

I didn’t know that You would be here tonight.
I honestly didn’t think You were coming.

And then I realize that had I known, I too would have wanted to bring something brilliant to Your feet.

I run to my storehouse, desperate to find something of value.
I look around, scanning shelves, checking corners…
But all I have is ashes.

I let out a defeated sigh and anticipate the familiar embrace of loneliness, but then I hear your bright, warm, life-filled voice.

It couldn’t be. How can you sound so satisfied?

“Perfect!” You say. “Do you know what you get in return for ashes like these? You stand ashamed, hands full of remnants of what used to be. Did you know that when all you have is ashes, all you gain is beauty?”

 

 

 

 

 

Hannah Riggin is the oldest of four, an ISFJ, and the administrator at Awake Church. She was born and raised in Chillicothe, Ohio but currently resides in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Hannah is an avid lover of hiking, tacos, writing, and music. One of her greatest desires is to see others encounter the kindness, goodness, patience, and safety of God - that they would come to find, over and over, that He is better than they ever imagined.

Miracles

One of the definitions of a miracle is “phenomena which appear to violate natural laws but reveal God actively moving,” or “a sense of awe that points to the presence of God at work in power.”  Miracles are a phenomena that inspires awe and awareness of God’s power.  I’ve personally witnessed them and you have too.

God has forever done miracles.  Everything that God has ever accomplished was first impossible to do, and He has never ceased being Himself, doing the impossible and performing miracles all around us - even to this moment in time.  Miracles and power are a part of the kingdom and whatever is touched by His Kingdom, the miraculous is present.  In fact, miracles are an ongoing gift that God has given to the church:

“And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.”  1 Cor 12:28

 In addition to the Bible being replete from cover to cover with miraculous stories, history and the world itself has a multitude of unexplainable mysteries, and I have personally witnessed things that could not be included in any other category except “the miraculous”:  People healed of many different ailments, a witchdoctor completely changed in moments after seeing me coming to him in dreams for decades before we met, signs in the sky that spoke clearly, dreams in the night that became reality soon after, unexplained experiences, demonic spirits thrust out of a person and peace filling their lives, prophetic revelation being spoken that no one knew about, money appearing at our doorstep or in the mail at the perfect time, a baby being born, and on and on. 

One thing that stands out to me as very interesting is that as I hear others share testimonies of what miraculous thing that God has done in their lives, with no two stories being the same, I do see a pattern emerging.  Most of the miracles and phenomena that violates natural law for individuals has come through the “touch” or actions of other people!   In other words, most miracles do not come as God working independently and unilaterally, but rather God choosing to work through His dependents – His children that rely in faith on Him and step out in love and compassion to take action and touch someone else.  

Jesus didn’t come to show off His power to impress, He came to show everyone who believes in Him how to do what He was doing and even greater things.  God has chosen to use us to work through.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do because I go to the Father.”  John 14:12

Consider for a moment the miracles you have seen or received personally.  How did most of them happen?  My guess is that many of them came through someone who gave, someone who prophesied, someone who placed their hands on you and prayed for you, someone who said something that altered your world, someone who God used to do the miraculous through.

What this means is that just as Jesus became the miracle for all of humanity by stepping out of heaven and coming near to people, healing them and releasing them from their bondages, we are here to do the same.  We are invited to step out of our own haven of comfort and give away what we have already been freely given.  It’s faith working through love, not power working through feelings.

     Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.” Matt 10:8

“Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived.” 1 John 2:6

When we step out of our safe environment and go to the people that we see in pain, those who need encouragement, those who are sick or depressed, we become a part of God’s provision and His miracle for another.  God has chosen to do it this way.  He is waiting for us to step out while we are often waiting for Him to do something.  He has already filled you up with the miraculous to give away. The reservoir of His Spirit inside of you holds the resources that sets others free (Luke 17:21).   God’s is looking for His “dependents” to send a check through – looking for armies of His own children that want to get in on doling out heaven’s riches.  Whether we realize it or not, our own life is a miracle and we are a transport vehicle of miracles to others.  

Matt is the Lead Pastor at Awake Church, as well as the founder of the water supplying organization Hydrating Humanity. Matt lives in North Carolina with his beautiful wife Debbie and their five sons. He is an avid storyteller who often shares his own adventure-packed history as well as stories of others that have inspired him.

Who He Is For You

This is a word that I received during service on March 13th, 2016 in response to the attacks and difficulties people in our congregation have been facing. I had the opportunity to share an abbreviated version of this word at the end of service. Here is a fuller version:

I feel like Jesus is saying to ask him who he wants to be for you right now. I first heard Graham Cooke talk about this a few years ago and began (sporadically) applying it in my own life. Last year, I began to have intense back and sciatic nerve pain, to the point where I couldn't sleep or function unless I was on corticosteroids. During that time, I was frequently telling Jesus that I wanted to know him as my Healer. But as I prayed for a few days, only one faint image came to my mind: Jesus asleep in a boat (see Mark 4:36-41).

I mostly ignored this image for a few days, still asking for Jesus to show himself to me. Finally he made it clear that this image of him asleep in the boat was exactly what he wanted me to see. He explained to me that if I would just see him at rest in the middle of my storm, I could become like him and enter that same rest (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). I knew that this was about much more than just being comforted during this particular trial: it was about taking on part of his image (specifically, his rest). If I could see him at rest, I would be at rest in him through this storm, as well as any future storms I face.

We often want Jesus to be something in particular to us or just to give us some particular thing. When Lazarus died, his sister Martha was disappointed that Jesus didn't show up beforehand as his Healer. Instead, he showed up four days after Lazarus died and proclaimed himself to be the Resurrection and the Life, which was what Lazarus needed at that moment (see John 11:21-27). The Gospel of John records many “I am” statements from Jesus (I am the resurrection and the life; I am the good shepherd, etc.), but in none of those situations did the one(s) he addressed determine who or what he revealed himself to be. Martha didn't ask him to be the Resurrection and the Life; the Pharisees in John 10 certainly didn't ask him to be the Good Shepherd. It is our prerogative to present our needs to him; it is his prerogative to decide how he wants to show up in response, and how he shows up is always better than what we could have thought of asking him to be.

My back pain turned out to be the result of a benign tumor in my spinal canal, which was pushing my spinal cord off to one side. I had it removed surgically in June and have since been able to resume a normal life. While I certainly don't want any of the physical pain of that season to return, I do not look back on that season as a bad one. It was a tough season, but a good one. I got to know Jesus as my Rest and my Peace in a deeper way than I had known him before, and that was well worth the pain of that season!

Watchman Nee, a prominent 20th century Chinese church leader and Christian teacher used to say that “God will answer all our questions in one way and one way only, namely, by showing us more of his Son.” Everything we go through, good or bad, is an opportunity to see Jesus in a new way, an opportunity for him to be something to us, something we haven't known him to be for us before.

If you're going through a tough time, and just as importantly if you aren't, ask Jesus who and what he wants to be for you in this season. The more we see him, the more we're transformed into his image, and the clearer we can see him in the future (see 2 Corinthians 3:18).

 

 

Michael simply has a desire to hear Jesus' voice and to know him better. He and his wife, Amy, have a beautiful, adventurous daughter, Hallie. Professionally, Michael is a programmer and web developer, but he also loves to write, teach, cook and open his home to those desiring a good meal and good conversation.

 

The Great Orange Juice Quest

The Great Orange Juice Quest

“When you squeeze an orange, you don’t expect apple juice to come out.” This statement is the one that most echoes through my mind coming out of our phenomenal weekend conference. He then followed it by posing a sobering question to those in the room who were all nodding in agreement. “So when you squeeze a Christian, why would you expect anything but Jesus to come out?”

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A Note from Pastor Matt

Hello,

            My name is Matt Peterson and I’m the senior leader here at Awake Church.  I’d like to share with you about Awake Church – some of our story and some about what is going on in this fellowship.

           The Lord began speaking to me in 1995 about planting a church in Winston-Salem, a city rich in Christian history and purpose.  In 2002, we held our first Sunday service with the mission of uncapping the ancient wells of worship, missions and intercession - wells that spiritual forefathers and foremothers of the city had dug nearly 250 years earlier.

            Looking back at the journey of Awake Church, my wife (Debbie) and our five sons could not have imagined the incredible people that God would draw here, the friendships that we would make and the remarkable things that God would do in all of us along the way.   We have experienced God’s life-altering presence together, witnessed Him touch and change lives, heal bodies, and set many free.  We’ve gone from a small leased building, to setting up and tearing down in a school gymnasium for eight years, to now having a facility that feels like home and is being used to host events, training and hours of worship and prayer.

            Today, we are a growing church with a mission to know God even more and take action in the world by revealing His kingdom.  We place a high value on authenticity, freedom and the simplicity of personal devotion to Jesus and the power of His gospel.  We value and want to mine the treasures that are packed inside of each person that is a part of us, and see young and old walk in their God given purpose.  We desire to have a community of people that love one another and are changing the world around them.

            Our city is blessed to have many great churches in it - we are one of many pursuing God and His ways.  If you are looking to belong to a church community, you are most welcome to visit, worship with us and see if we are a good fit for you.  We would love to meet and connect with you at our Welcome Center during our Sunday morning service, and tell you more about us.

            You may also want to consider listening to our podcasts which are free and available for download on this site to get a feel for us, or visit one of our Get Together small groups listed on this site.  I look forward to meeting you in person and having you join our church family as we worship the King together.

            Blessings,

            Matt Peterson