Watch and Pray

Let us look at two passages of Scripture for today, both dealing with the command to “watch and pray.” The first is a warning Jesus makes to Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane. The next passage is from Peter as an older man, a mature servant of Jesus Christ. Pay attention to what Jesus told Peter in the Garden and what Peter the elder apostle is advising Christians to do decades later. It is the exact same advice!

Watch and Pray

Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Mark 14:37-38)

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world (1 Peter 5:6-9).

Peter was warned that his spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak. Hence the dire need to watch out for the Devil’s attack, and an even more pressing need to pray! That is precisely what Peter learned over time and he is sharing it with his brethren. Why did he fall that night of Jesus’ arrest? It is no surprise…he did not watch (he was sleeping) nor did he keep praying.

Even though the command “watch and pray” is not in the above passage from Peter, the teaching is clearly there, isn’t it?

Watch

“Be sober, be vigilant.” Keep your eyes open spiritually at all times. The Devil, the roaring lion, is always lurking. Don’t go asleep at the wheel, men. Our roads have rumble strips to warn us when we are swerving, but the Devil is not so kind to us when we doze off.

Pray

“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” God cares. Jesus knew that in the Garden as He poured out His soul to the Father. Peter came to learn this beautiful truth and we will be better for it if we truly believe it. God cares for us. He wants us to pour all (not some) of our care upon Him. He has big shoulders and an even bigger heart. His ears never grow heavy and weary from listening to His children talk to Him.

Watch and pray, men.

Peter, if you want to honor Jesus, listen to Him!

Six days later, Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John, and brought them up on a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them; and His garments became radiant and exceedingly white, as no launderer on earth can whiten them. Elijah appeared to them along with Moses; and they were talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three tabernacles, one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” For he did not know what to answer; for they became terrified. Then a cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!” All at once they looked around and saw no one with them anymore, except Jesus alone (Mark 9:2-8; see also Matthew 17:1-9 and Luke 9:28-36).

Just imagine how overwhelming this sight and experience must have been for Simon Peter. Not only did Jesus reveal His divine glory to Peter, but the great prophets, Moses and Elijah, also appeared. Mark records that Peter “did not know what to answer, for they became terrified.” Luke’s account states that Peter made his suggestion about the 3 tabernacles, “not realizing what he was saying.”

So, Peter was overwhelmed, naturally. Who wouldn’t be? They all three were terrified. Who wouldn’t be? What I love about Peter is that he did not know what to say, yet he talked anyway. I can most certainly relate with that!

Can you blame Peter for making such a suggestion? We make memorials for far less significant events than this! It makes perfect sense to me that you would want to honor Jesus, Moses and Elijah. “Let’s forever commemorate this awesome moment,” is how we might say it.

God did not share Peter’s sentiment. In fact, Luke tells us that while Peter was still speaking, God moved a cloud over them and spoke from the cloud. “This is My beloved Son…listen to Him!”

What valuable principle was Peter taught that day? If you want to honor Jesus as the Son of God, then listen to what He has to say! Peter had his ideas for how to show respect to Jesus, but they came from within his own mind.

Do you want to honor and show respect for Jesus as the Son of God? Then what would the Father in heaven say to you today? Anything different than what He told Peter? Nope. Just listen to Him.

Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68-69).

A Different Spirit

A Different Spirit: Thoughts inspired by a sermon by Mark McCrary.

You may be familiar with the account of the 12 spies sent by Moses to investigate the Promised Land (See Numbers 13 and 14).  We know that 10 of the spies came back with the report in Numbers 13:31, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.”  In contrast, Caleb told the people “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”

Why such different reports?  Caleb saw the same thing as the other 10 spies.  He saw the fruit and the bounty of the land.  He saw the fortified cities and the descendants of the Anak.  He saw the same land but had a completely different response.

In chapter 14 the Lord is explaining that the people will not enter the land because they “have not listened to My voice” and in verse 24 He says, “But My servant Caleb, because he has had a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land…”.  What was it about Caleb that was different?

A Different Spirit

  1. Caleb had a different perspective. The 10 spies looked at the inhabitants of the land and in 13:33, “became like grasshoppers in our own sight”.  They saw all the reasons they couldn’t take the land.  Caleb wasn’t looking at what he could do but was focused on what God could do.  Chapter 14:8, “If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us”.  What is our perspective?  Do we look at our lives and see financial issues, and health issues, and family issues, etc., etc.?  Or do we look at our lives and see a God far bigger than any of our problems?
  2. Caleb had a different goal. The Israelite’s goal was to get the land of Canaan and to gain the land by serving God.  Caleb’s goal was to serve God and, in so doing, he would gain the land of Canaan.  Do you see the difference?  Israel focused on what they got out of the relationship with God, while Caleb focused on God.  What are our goals in life?  Do we want happy marriages?  Do we want successful children?  Do we want a thriving business or a successful career?  Do we serve God in order to get the life we want?  Are we living our life and trying to “fit” God in?  First and foremost, above all else, our goal should be a relationship with God.
  3. Caleb’s perspective and goals drove different actions. The actions of the children of Israel were rebellion.  The actions of Caleb were obedience.  We can fake it for a while.  We can go through the motions, we can say the right things, and give the appearance of faith but eventually our actions will reveal our perspective and our goals.  The world is watching and, in the face of the Anak and the fortified cities of our lives, they will see our rebellion or our obedience as a testimony to the God we claim to serve.  What do our actions teach those around us?

In Numbers 14, two very different destinies were spelled out.  The Israelites who listened to the 10 fell in the wilderness and were forgotten.  Caleb was able to enter the Promised Land and he lives on as an example for us.  We also have two different destinies to consider.  It will be the kind of spirit we have that determines our outcome.

The All-In Mindset of Simon Peter

There was nothing “moderate” or lukewarm about Simon Peter. Today, we continue our Monday series on Peter by considering “the all-in mindset of Simon Peter.”

If you were going to select someone who was going to be the chief and leader among the apostles, Peter was your guy. Of course, we can see that in retrospect by reading Matthew through Acts, but Jesus knew it beforehand.

Peter was the one who got out of the boat in the midst of a violent storm and walked on water to Jesus (Matthew 14:22-33). The others stayed in the boat.

When the mob came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter was the one who stood to fight. He was the one who took the sword and swung at Malchus, a servant of the high priest (John 18:31-32). If you will notice Luke’s account of this, the others asked, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” (Luke 22:49-51). They asked, but Peter acted.

Even when Peter denied Jesus, he did it with all his might, cursing and swearing (Mark 14:71)! The sorrow he felt for denying Jesus once again displays his all-in mindset; he “wept bitterly” (Mark 14:72).

“We have left all to follow you…”

In order to be a great leader, men, you must first be a great follower. I’ve met a lot of men who want to be “in charge,” but they will not be good leaders because they don’t follow very well.

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

Peter had this character.

Now as Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who was called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-20).

I do not want to leave the impression that the other apostles did not have the right mindset, because they all left everything to follow Him (Matthew 4:21-22; 9:9). Peter just seemed to have an extra-special dose of this “all-in” mindset.

Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” (Matthew 19:27).

So, men, are we truly “all-in” for Jesus? It is something for us to meditate upon and seriously contemplate. Jesus doesn’t want lukewarm followers (Revelation 3:16-17).

“Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).

In next Monday’s MDB, we will look at how Jesus worked to refine and shape this all-in mindset of Peter.

Simon Peter Had a Teachable Spirit

We continue our Monday series on the training and character development of Simon Peter. Today we will reflect upon the fact that Simon Peter had a teachable spirit.

If you are an employer, or are in the position to hire people, let me ask you a question. What qualities are you looking for in a potential employee?

Certainly you will look for someone who has the ability to do the job you are hiring him or her to do. There are certain amounts of training and experience that will be necessary, no doubt. But what I am encouraging you to consider is, what kind of attitude and heart are you looking for in a person who will work in your company?

Would you want to hire someone who has all the pedigree and highest qualifications but has an arrogant attitude? Do you want someone in your organization who does not have a teachable spirit? What is it like at work when someone always has all the answers and never admits he or she is wrong? I know I would rather have someone who may not have the most stellar of resumes but has a teachable spirit.

Simon Peter Had a Teachable Spirit

That, my friends, is what we see in the man that became the apostle Peter. The man who was the leader among the twelve apostles who helped turn the world upside down was a fisherman. He was not seeking the position. In fact, his first encounter with Jesus was because his brother Andrew brought him to Jesus (John 1:40-42).

Think of the attitude that Simon Peter displayed during the 3 1/2 years of Jesus’ ministry. Consider for yourselves Peter’s teachable spirit. He was always asking Jesus to explain something. Yes, there were times that Jesus said he should have already understood this by now, but at least Peter was humble enough to ask. See Matthew 15:15-16; 18:21; Mark 13:3-4; Luke 12:41; 15:15.

Peter may have put his big foot in his big mouth a thousand times like we all have, but he was willing to admit when he was wrong (Luke 5:8). You simply cannot put a price tag on that quality. When he saw his guilt of denying and forsaking Jesus, he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:61-62). With God’s help, he came back stronger for it (Luke 22:31-32).

Do we truly have a teachable spirit? Are we that stereotypical guy who never asks for directions? Do we willingly admit when we are wrong?

A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel (Proverbs 1:5).

From Simon into Peter

Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter or stone).
(John 1:42)

You are Simon…but you shall be called Peter. Simon did not know what this meant or what it would require of him. Jesus, however, saw the man he would be one day. Jesus looked at Simon and saw Peter.

Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter… (Mark 3:16).

Transformed men…transformed names.

God is good at name changes, and when He does that, it always involves a growth process. For Jacob to become Israel, he had to wrestle with God. Jacob limped for the rest of his life because of that experience, but he became Israel (Genesis 32). The Jewish persecutor of Christians named Saul became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. Before Christ, Saul had his own righteousness and did everything in his power to fight Christ (Philippians 3:9; Acts 26:9). Paul had the righteousness of God and walked with Christ. Abram meant “father,” but Abraham meant “father of a multitude of nations” (Genesis 17). Abram had great faith, but God grew an even stronger, unwavering faith in Abraham.

God is seeking to transform us, men. God gave us all a new name when we came to Christ…Christian. That means we belong to Christ, we are followers of Christ. With that name change comes wonderful blessings, but we will also be transformed. In order for the Potter to turn the clay into a vessel for honor, He will have to get His hands dirty molding and shaping you. It will be uncomfortable at times, no doubt, but is it worth it?

We are going to spend several weeks, Lord willing, on Mondays, looking into the life of Peter. As men seeking to follow Christ and lead others, I believe we will be greatly benefited by considering his life.

I do not run aimlessly

I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:23-27).

Running aimlessly…that certainly does not apply to Usain Bolt. He just won his third Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter dash. He runs with a purpose and a laser-like focus on winning the prize. That is precisely the kind of mindset that Paul is saying we as Christians need to have.

Aimlessly is translated in other versions as “uncertainty.” Living without certainty is a sad life indeed, but for the Christian it is dangerous. We are not shadow-boxing, we are fighting the Devil. This isn’t tee-ball, this is a spiritual battle against the hosts of darkness.

We need certainty, men. We need to fight and run with a purpose.

Let us run this race with certainty…

Run this race with certainty in the promises of a God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Our hope in His promises is an anchor tied directly to heaven, both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:17-20).

Fix your eyes on the One, Jesus Christ, who ran this race before you (Hebrews 6:20; 12:1-2).

Focus on the prize, the eternal reward before you (Hebrews 10:35-39).

As you run, be certain of the truth of God’s word (Luke 1:4; 2 Timothy 3:14).

Remember where you came from, and the Savior who brought you to where you are now (1 Corinthians 15:10; John 9:25).

Run with endurance; do not give up, and do not give in, because it is worth it (1 Corinthians 15:57-58)!

Speak truth each one of you with his neighbor

Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another (Ephesians 4:25).

How would you define a “lie”? On the other side of that coin, how would you define the “truth”? How do I know when I have told the truth?

There is no such thing as a “little white lie.”

Minimizing dishonesty is never good. We have to appreciate the fact, men, that God hates lying. God loves truth. In our hearts and in our conversations, we must begin with those assumptions.

Omitting details that make you look better is a lie.

You may have heard the phrase, “A half-truth is a whole lie.” We can manipulate how someone responds by only giving them certain details. For example, a car dealer can tell you all the great things about the car, but he may not tell you that it was in a flood last year. I may want to tell you my sob story about how someone mistreated me, but in telling you I leave out how I misbehaved in that situation and provoked that person to say hurtful things (Proverbs 18:17). Another example is how I may try to minimize my behavior by leaving out some of the more sordid details.

When we exaggerate and inflate details we are being dishonest.

This is the “big fish story” kind of talk. I caught a 7-inch bluegill but make it sound like it was a great white shark! We can exaggerate how someone treated us to set ourselves up to be victims and martyrs. In business, we are tempted to make things sound much better than they are in order to make that deal happen.

A trustworthy witness will not lie, but a false witness utters lies (Proverbs 14:5).

Continually promising to do things and not following up on them is a form of dishonesty.

“Like a bad tooth and an unsteady foot is confidence in a faithless man in time of trouble” (Proverbs 25:19). Jesus told us to let our “yes be yes and our no be no” (Matthew 5:37). Keep your word. Folks should be able to trust your word when you commit to doing something. Timothy was that kind of man for the apostle Paul; he was trustworthy (Philippians 2:19-22). David wrote that the person who will dwell with God is the one who “swears to his own hurt and does not change” (Psalm 15:1,4).

Tell the truth, and live the truth, even if it hurts.

By faith we understand

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).

Hebrews 11 – The Hall of Fame for Faith chapter as I often heard it described when I was growing up. We see faith both defined and demonstrated in this great chapter as we walk through the history of God’s people.

I’ve often looked at Hebrews 11 to see that action came through faith. When I see “by faith…” there is a verb attached to it. Those who believed in God and saw the unseen were moved to action. Abraham offered up Isaac. Noah built an ark. The Israelites encircled Jericho’s walls.

What I noticed recently in reading the chapter again is that it was not only their behavior that was inspired by their faith. Their beliefs, view of God, emotions, desires and their whole value systems were all formed and founded upon seeing the unseen.

My understanding is shaped by faith.

By faith we understand that the worlds are framed by the word of God (vs. 3). Sarah “considered” Him faithful who promised (vs. 11). Abraham, because of his faith in God’s promises, concluded that if he offered up Isaac, then God would raise him from the dead. Their faith was the basis for their reasoning and conclusions (vs. 17-19).

My desires are shaped by faith.

They “desire” a better, that is, a heavenly country (vs. 16). For most people their desires are shaped by looking at the visible things. For the Christian, our desires should be founded upon looking at the unseen.

My emotions are founded on faith.

Moses’ parents, because of faith, were “not afraid of the king’s command” (vs. 23). We all have emotions, that is normal. God even has emotions. If Moses’ mom and dad were walking by sight, they would most certainly have been afraid. But they walked by faith, and it shaped even their emotions.

My view of God is developed through faith.

Noah was moved with godly fear (reverence) because of his faith (vs. 7). His faith formed a reverence for the Almighty Creator within him.

My entire value system is shaped by faith.

Moses “esteemed” (considered) the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. What he valued and counted as important rested squarely on his faith in the unseen…he looked to the reward (vs. 26).

There are many other examples in this chapter so look for them today in your study and meditation.

By faith we understand…

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8).

Narrow Way

By Jason Starr

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

When we normally quote this verse, it’s to remind us that most of the world will follow the broad way because it’s easier. We also tell ourselves that the narrow way is difficult.

But is the narrow way really difficult?

It’s often difficult when I want, what I want, when I want it. There are “few who find it” because their desire is not for God’s ways, but their own.

When I “set my mind on things above” (Rom 12:16; Col 3:2), and when I tell God “not my will, but Your will be done”, our attitude changes. We allow ourselves to be molded by the master instead of trying to mold the world, our lives, or other people to what we want.

Jesus himself said, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matt 11:30). The only way to marry Matt 11:30 and Matt 7:13-14 together is to realize that it’s a question of my attitude toward following God’s will. It’s all about attitude! What is my attitude toward God and His word? Am I willing to bend myself to His will? If so, then the narrow way is easier to take.

In 1 John 5:3, it says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” So if there are commandments that are burdensome to me at the moment, why is that? The only reason is that I haven’t bent my will to my Father.

One way to bend your will the God’s is to make it the only choice. In Daniel 6:10, we see Daniel prayed three times the day the decree was signed making it illegal to pray. Was his spirit, “You’re not going to tell ME what to do”? Nope. That was always his custom since early days and there wasn’t another choice in his mind. That decision made it easy for him. It might seem a little stubborn to those who don’t understand, but maybe we need more of that nowadays.

Joshua also in Joshua 24:15 made the declaration, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He didn’t say “we might serve the Lord”. He made it so he only had one option. That left no room for any other thought, so it would be easier to follow it.

Have you bent your will to the Father today? It’s the only way to make the narrow road an easy one.