Watch and Pray

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 26:41 Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”

Ephesians 6:18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.

James 1:14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

Jesus gives us the best strategy that we could possibly use to keep us from giving into temptation and he kept it simple too, that is important because we don’t need a plan that is hard to implement when temptation is so easy to fall for, we have to have something that is very doable.

Step one: Keep watch

Remember that your body is so weak and that it is easily enticed by the desires of our sinful nature. We have to keep a constant guard up because we are just one stupid decision away from doing something that will haunt us for a very long time. One decision away from wrecking our family, our homes and our testimony.

Step two: Pray

While it is good to be physically prepared and keep up your guard it is even more important to deploy the strategy of prayer to fight against the enemy. Jesus said that our spirit is willing but we have to overcome that weak body that is so ready to compromise. The only way to reinforce that wimpy body is to stay in prayer constantly, asking God to give us the strength and protection that we need everyday.

Lord Jesus thank you for providing a way out from every temptation. Help me to stay vigilant and praying at all times. I need to rely on you to help me to overcome.

Wounded Yet Not Slain

There’s an old poem, I think it was by John Dryden, that I’ve heard used, recited over and over at the end of a hard fought battle, at the end of a loss that has one damaged and hurt, that left them wondering and in pain. It goes a little something like, “I am sore wounded, but I am not slain, I’ll lay me down to bleed a while, then I’ll rise to fight again.”

I always liked that verse. In a life that is filled with trials, where triumph and victories are never quite assured to us, where they are never really promised to us, something about it always spoke to me. It always seemed to say that whatever life throws, whatever challenges it may have, it may damage us a little, but in the end, we are not dead until that moment when we are put in the ground or our ashes are spread around us. In a sense it becomes a question of how much fight is left within us when the moments of adversity hit.

After all, as Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places. But those that will not break it kills. It kills the very good and the very gentle and the very brave impartially. If you are none of these you can be sure it will kill you too but there will be no special hurry.”

This is something that our Heavenly Father, looking down on the lives of His precious children, understands all too well about this world, isn’t it?

It begs the question, what struggles are leaving you wounded in your daily life? What challenges are you facing? What is leaving you wounded amidst the hardships that you face? Does it seem like it is just too much for you to face? Is it seeming like it is more than you can handle as you lay to bleed, lacerated by the deeper perils of this world?

As disciples of Christ it seems like they are there, lurking around every corner: temptations, trials, tribulations that push on us with a force that bears down on us with a crippling weight. As we struggle not to be crushed, there are moments when we wonder if we can even go on. After all, everything seems to be changing around us and we can’t see the world in the same way again.

It’s in these moments when we need to draw on the comfort and the assurances of a God who loves us. After all, He isn’t just a distant figure who tells us that, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 11:1) No, He goes further than that, reminding us that, through Christ, all things are possible for us regardless of whatever challenges may be there. (Philippians 4:13) We just need to lay our burdens at the feet of our blessed Savior to find the miracles of hope, (Matthew 11:29-30) that hope that abides in faith to give us the perseverance to go on day by day.

Perhaps it may seem like it is too much. Perhaps, left wounded and bleeding, we can’t help but weep, wondering to ourselves how we can go on. We are not alone in those moments though, we never have been, regardless of how it may feel. Even as our troubles mount and we feel at times like nobody could ever understand what we are going through, the truth is that God has, through the lives of His saints, seen it all. Job, David, Paul, Stephen, and countless others, even our Savior, Christ Jesus, have faced the deepest and most powerful of pains, and found their comfort in God to move forward even when it seemed as if all had been lost and the burdens were too much for them. As the Apostle Paul put it, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

As the world wounds you, dear disciples, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, find a place of quiet rest and lay down in the peaceful mediation of the Lord, remembering the words of David, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-4) Faith, and a deeper understanding of it, a deeper trust in it, will let you abide in hope in the wonders of God’s blessed love and comfort, healing even the deepest of hurts and the most painful of scars, so that, with endurance, you shall have the chance to rise again.

Take that promise, take that love, and let it guide you in the wonders of the miracles that it offers you. In this world, with all of its battles, it is the surest weapon you have to protect you, the surest of medicines to heal you.

Forgive the Offenders

Commands of Jesus Series


Matthew 18:21-27, 32-35 Then Peter came to Him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

22 “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!

23 “Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.

24 In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. 25 He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold–along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned–to pay the debt. 26 “But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ 27 Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.

32 Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. 33 Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ 34 Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt. 35 “That’s what My heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers and sisters from your heart.”

Matthew 5:7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, it never wears out or goes out of style, the one gift that we needed the most. As much as we love this gift we are also supposed to re-gift it and let others have some.

Forgiveness is our greatest need, the desperate situation that we are in if we do not receive this gift through Christ. We have been pardoned by the king of the universe, his mercy to us is overwhelming and it is a great example of how we are to treat the people around us.

How can we understand how miserable our condition was without forgiveness and then we decide to withhold forgiveness from those that hurt us? When we see ourselves for who we really are and realize how much mercy that was bestowed upon ourselves, we will have no other reaction that to extend mercy to the ones that offend us.

The Bible is very clear that if I do not show mercy in the same measure that it was given to me then I am in a very serious situation, maybe I didn’t really get it when Jesus forgave me, I need to always remember the best gift that I ever received is the gift that I need to re-gift.

Help me Lord to always remember that debt that was canceled for my benefit and help me to extend that same mercy to those around me.

The end of all things

Revelation 21:6 And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

Do you ever fear the future? Are you afraid to give any thought to what will happen to this world when the end comes? Are you thinking right now as you read this that the end times already have come?

The Bible has a lot to say about how things end, some of them may seem a little unnerving because of their unfamiliar nature (flying creatures with eyes on their wings and whatnot), but there’s great news about it all. God is the author of all things, from creation to His appointed end time.

There’s nothing to worry about! Nothing ends apart from the way God wants it to come to completion. None of it ought to scare us. Even though there’s talk of earthquakes and the sky becoming dark, wars, and famines, we know who is in control of it all. We know who wrote the ending before the beginning.

God is good, He is in control, He is perfect in all His ways. He will bring all things to their necessary completion for your life, for my life, and for the world as we know it. Keeping in mind the nature and character of the Father alleviates fear of the future.

Feed My Sheep

Commands of Jesus Series

John 21:15-16 After breakfast Jesus asked Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love Me more than these? ” “Yes, Lord,” Peter replied, “You know I love You.” “Then feed My lambs,” Jesus told him.

16 Jesus repeated the question: “Simon son of John, do you love Me?” “Yes, Lord,” Peter said, “You know I love You.” “Then take care of My sheep,” Jesus said.

John 10:9-11 Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.

10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices His life for the sheep.

Lost animals are very sad to see, most of the time in our society we see lost dogs instead of lost sheep but the look is the same, they have a desperate look and seem about ready to panic.

Jesus saw the crowds of people that were under the care of the religious leaders and he had to sympathize with the lost sheep of Israel, they were desperate for a shepherd. They didn’t have a leader that would tend to the flock and protect it, instead the religious leaders were exploiting the sheep and watching out for their own interest. (Matthew 9:36)

Just before Jesus left this world he told those of us that are leaders in the church to be his hands and feet while he is gone. The Great Shepherd took care of his sheep, he laid down his life for the sheep and then after he rose from the dead he told us to carry on his work and feed, guide and protect his sheep until he returns.

1 Peter 5:2 Care for the flock that God has entrusted to you. Watch over it willingly, not grudgingly–not for what you will get out of it, but because you are eager to serve God.

Jesus transferred the responsibility to us, I need to be found faithful to my duty and be a better shepherd than the ones that he found the last time he was here.

In Opposition

It’s hard at times, isn’t it? For as hard as one may try to live that good life, that example that is given in love and honesty, strengthened by the teachings of Christ, the truth is that it almost always seems as if someone somewhere is going to take exception to you. It’s one of those frustrating truths that sort of always seems to come out.

But then, can one really be that terribly surprised? If the perfect Son of God found Himself amidst the challenges of those who opposed Him (Matthew 22:15-22) despite all that He was and that He meant for humanity, suffering even unto His death, (Mark 14:53-65, Mark 15:21-41) then, in our own imperfect nature, what chance does any one of us have? If Christ Himself couldn’t please all of the people all of the time despite the fact that He had come to save all humanity, than how can we expect ourselves, in trying to live our lives, to find that we have any more of a chance?

No, the real challenge of Christian living, of being a disciple of Christ is not a question of if we meet opposition in our lives, it is not a question of whether or not we are challenged by those around us, if we are liked by those around us. The real question is a matter of how we meet them. It is a matter of how we respond when it seems as if we are overwhelmed by the burdens of dealing with those who do not like us, who, for one reason or another, have taken exception to us.

The truth is that sometimes it is harder than others, sometimes it hits us harder than others. Sometimes it seems to pile up on us until finally we wonder exactly what is going on as we feel the pressure and the weight of it all. We don’t want it to affect us but, in a way, we just can’t seem to help it. After all, we are made to be social creatures, to exist with companionship, whether it is marriage or relationships, friendships or acquaintanceships, with others. (Genesis 2:18)

God knows that we are going to have confrontations. Then again, it doesn’t take the Almighty, Omnipotent and Omnipresent sight of God to understand and to see that. Yet He also knows that, for as much as they may affect us, they aren’t what defines us. What defines us, what defines the love, the hope and the beauty of our souls is the way that we react to it. It is why, each and every step of the way, He seeks to show us the path towards righteousness, telling us that, though the race may be long, we need to run it with endurance, living with patience and love even towards those who have shown nothing but malice and hatred towards us. (Matthew 5:43-48)

You see, life is hardly going to be fair and there are times when it isn’t going to be right. It is during these moments when the only thing that can be done is that we live according to the people that God intended us to be, realizing that even though we are in this world we are not of it. (Romans 12:2) In other words, as the great Reformer Martin Luther once put it, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair.” For as negative as it may become, only you can let it have any power over you. Only you and you alone can let it wear you down or affect your mindset.

That doesn’t mean that you should not respond when you are attacked, or when the opposition you face comes to meet you head on. What it does mean is that the Disciple need to remember that whatever worries or stress it may cause, God is the one looking out for you, He is protecting you from trouble that it may be bring and, as such, it makes no sense in giving yourself grief over it. (Matthew 6:25-34) In the end it is going to be as it needs to be, for better or for worse, even as the Disciple comes to understand that the worst will always end up giving way to the better if they trust in the wondrous and divine nature of God’s grander design.

What opposition do you face in your daily walk? What challenges from others burden you? Lay them at Christ’s feet, go to God’s throne and kneel, praying that the hearts of those who may dislike you are changed, but also praying that your own heart is changed so that you are able to look past to the brighter future God has in store for you, realizing that sometimes life is just full of opposition but that is life and other people’s problem, not yours, even when they try to make it yours.

It is then that the peace that you seek will not be far behind as you focus yourself on the things you can change and trouble yourself not with those that you cannot.

Don’t Despise The Little Ones

Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 18:1-4, 10 About that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?”

2 Jesus called a little child to Him and put the child among them. 3 Then He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

10 “Beware that you don’t look down on any of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels are always in the presence of My heavenly Father.

This is probably one of the easiest commands for most of us. After-all how could you not like children?

Jesus loves the little children and he told us that we need to be like a child in order to inherit a place in eternity with him and yet we spend so much of our time pretending to be so grown up.

We want to appear to have it all together and to be self sufficient, we want people to see our strength and we will go to great lengths to hide our weaknesses.The problem is, Jesus didn’t want his followers to be that kind of people, he wanted simple, obedient child like followers that would rely on him and would trust in him to take care of our weakness.

I need to be willing to do what ever my heavenly father ask of me.Increase my faith Lord that you will provide the strength and the guidance for anything that you ask me to do.

Baptize My Disciples

The Commands of Jesus Series

Matthew 28:19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

You can easily see the importance of the first part of this well known verse, the command to go and make disciples, that is obviously important, but we may not consider the second part of this verse to be such a big deal. Why is it so important?

It is through baptism that we testify to the world that we know that we are in need of getting cleaned up, it says that we have found the only way to get rid of the stain that sin has left on our soul, with baptism we acknowledge the fact that we cannot wash ourselves of our sin and that we needed someone else to take away the eternal penalty of our sin.

Romans 6:4-5 For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives. Since we have been united with Him in His death, we will also be raised to life as He was.

It is important to make it clear that baptism cannot make anyone right with God. It is only a testimony to the fact that I have already been cleansed and it tells my friends and neighbors that my life is now to be associated with my Savior who did the ultimate for me when I wasn’t even his friend.

It tells everybody that for now on I have a new way of living that for now on I will be striving to look like my savior, selfless, kind, patient and all of those other traits that we have been commanded to live by.

It is an oath by which we renounce the world and the flesh, as rivals with God for the throne in our hearts; and an oath of allegiance by which we resign and give up ourselves to God, to be his, our own selves, our whole selves, body, soul, and spirit, to be governed by his will.

Help me to always live for you Lord. I want to always keep fresh in my mind that you gave it all so that I could have it all. Thank you for loving me to the extreme before I was even your friend.

Temptations

There is no greater challenge for the disciple than the internal conflicts that they can face, nor is there a greater stumbling block than the ones that we put up for ourselves. For as strong as the Devil may be, for as much as he comes to us “like a roaring lion” seeking to devour (1 Peter 5:8), the truth is he needn’t do much considering his are but temptations but ours is the rebellious nature willing to take temptations and beyond to whatever next levels there may be.

But then, as the old saying goes, as our blessed Savior Himself reminds us, “The spirit is willing but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41b)

Consider some of the greatest warnings of the Bible. They are not warnings against the Devil. After all, the old Adversary, he did his part in Eden to corrupt the nature of mankind. (Genesis 3) Even there he never quite tells Adam and Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit of God. All he does is plant the idea in their head to question. Everything else is up to them as Eve partook and Adam watched to see the results.

If there is one thing the story of man’s fall to sin and temptation proves, it’s that even those who know of the presence of God, who have seen it first hand, have stood in His light and heard His voice calling to them, need nothing more than a gentle push and the worst of their nature comes out. Sometimes that push comes in the form of a want or a desire, sometimes it comes with a snide or hurtful comment, other times it comes from the best of intentions just gone terribly wrong.

The question for the disciple is, if it is such an easy snare about their feet, if it is such a simple trap to fall into, how do they guard themselves from it in their everyday life? How do we make the flesh stronger to match the nature of a spirit given to the love of Christ and the blessings of our Heavenly Father? How do we avoid the temptations that are there?

Quite simply put, we can’t. This side of Heaven, the imperfect side of Heaven given to the more base nature of the flesh, temptations are always going to be there. For as much as we may try to steer clear of them, as soon as we turn from one, another one is always going to be there staring us in the face. The true nature of Christian living, the true nature of faithful devotion to God isn’t the avoiding of temptation, it is not falling into temptation. It is meeting it head on with a heart and a will given over to God with the truest understanding that through Him who makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:36), we have the power to overcome if we choose to use it.

This does not mean, as they may say, go out and look for trouble so you can exercise a Christian will and strength to demonstrate a power that you may have over temptation. The more we put ourselves in the line of fire, the more prone we are to be hit when we least expect it. What it does mean though is that just because we face temptations and inner conflicts does not mean we are any less the disciples that we should be, or any less on the road that God intended for us.

Faith is about understanding that even through the temptations of the flesh and the weaknesses of our nature God has a divine and holy plan for us, a wondrous design for our lives. Yes, it is true that there will be time when we don’t live up to it and other times when we do better. Yet we cannot live in those weaker times of our lives, and we cannot believe that just because temptations are present we are weaker than we should be, as it is a way of letting self-doubt in, and with it doubt about the nature of our salvation.

Pray and be vigilant. Look to the challenges that are there for what they truly are, a way of proving that you are led not of yourself but through the power of the Spirit to be a better and stronger person. Do not put yourself in a situation where you will be tested but do not shrink from the tests when they are unavoidable. This will tell you not only more about your own character but the character of your faith, showing you where you have been made strong and where you still need to pray for strength, knowing that if you come to God with a pure heart, desiring to do better and to be more, He will give you what you need.

In the end this is how we show ourselves to be the most faithful of His disciples, of Christ’s followers, as we meet the self-conflicts and challenges with the power of His might through the love that He has for us.

The cross

John 19:16-18 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus,17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them

Oh the cross. The symbol we uphold as a wonderful sign of God’s love for us was viewed as a symbol of torture for the people of Jesus’ day. What we wear around our necks as a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice was used by the Romans as a reminder of who was in control. Or so they thought they were in control.

The beauty of the cross is that it was not forced upon Jesus. He knew full well when He stepped out of eternity into time and space that He would face the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, the denial of Peter, the abandonment by the rest of the twelve, the scourge of the whip, and the torture of the cross. He knew it, and He chose to come anyway. His love for mankind compelled Him to do so. God’s plan of redemption from the beginning was completed in Jesus’ act of willingness to go to the cross.

He endured every moment of pain for you and for me, that we might be reconciled to God. There’s no greater gift ever given in all the world that God becoming a man to die for our sins. We so often look to Jesus for what He can do for us – and not what He DID for us. We look to Him for what He can give us – and not what He GAVE us. He gave us himself, and there is nothing that compares.

We don’t need treasures. Jesus is our treasure. We don’t need pleasures. We can delight in Christ. We don’t need respect and position, the humble, suffering servant bought and paid for our standing with God. He is our gift. If we accept the offer.

Equipping believers to follow Christ and make Him known