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Watch and Pray

Saturday, February 05, 2022

Watch And Pray

Wade Webster

When we think of prayer, we usually think of heads bowed and eyes closed. From a young age, most of us were taught this approach to prayer. We may even remember a sibling ratting us out for not having our eyes closed. Of course, they were unknowingly revealing as much about themselves as they were about us. After all, if their eyes had been closed, they would never have known that our eyes weren’t. Now that we are older, we realize that it isn’t an unpardonable sin to pray with our eyes open. In fact, it is sometimes the prudent thing to do. For instance, if you are praying while driving, I highly recommend keeping your eyes open. Not only is praying with our eyes open sometimes the prudent thing to do, it is also sometimes the prescribed thing to do. On a couple of occasions, Jesus instructed His disciples to watch and pray. The first occasion was in anticipation of his second coming. We read, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is. It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch. Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning— lest, coming suddenly, he find you sleeping. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mk. 12:32-37). Four times in six verses Jesus told His disciples to watch. Rarely, if ever, do we see one thing mentioned as much in one section of Scripture. The second occasion when Jesus told His disciples to pray was when He was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane in preparation for His death. We read, “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). Simon’s head was bowed and his eyes were closed. However, I doubt that his mom or his dad or his siblings would have been proud of him. He wasn’t praying. He was sleeping. Jesus lovingly instructed him to open his eyes (watch) and pray. Satan was lurking as a lion (1 Pet. 5:8). He had already claimed Judas and he was now stalking Peter (Lk. 22:31). Peter should have been watching for temptation and praying for God to deliver him from it (Mat. 6:13), but he wasn’t.

The Greek word that is translated as watch means to give strict attention to something, to be cautious, to be active, to take heed lest some calamity overtake you. You might think of watching in connection with the work of a shepherd. At night, a shepherd would gather his sheep into a fold. He would then sit in the doorway and watch over them to protect them from predators (lions, bears, dogs, etc.) and poachers (John 10:7-16). David, who spent his early years as a shepherd, wrote, “I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O LORD! I will keep Your statutes. I cry out to You; Save me, and I will keep Your testimonies. I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word. My eyes are awake through the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word. Hear my voice according to Your lovingkindness; O LORD, revive me according to Your justice” (Psalms 119:145-149). David spent his nights watching, praying, and meditating on God’s word. You might also think of watching in connection with the work of a soldier. Soldiers were routinely assigned guard duty. They were to be awake and alert at all times. It was a serious offense to fall asleep at your post (Mat. 28:11-15). In the epistle to the Ephesians, Paul employed the image of a soldier in connection with watching. He wrote, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints“ (Eph. 6:10-18). Paul spent his nights watching and praying over the brethren (2 Cor. 11:28).

As we get ready to worship this week, let’s watch and pray. It really is okay to pray sometimes with our eyes open.

Prayer and Fasting

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Prayer And Fasting

Wade Webster

Prayer is one of the prescribed acts of our worship. It should be noted that prayer is not more important or less important than any other act of worship. The five acts of worship are equal in importance, just as the five steps of salvation are equal in importance. Baptism is not more important than faith and faith is not more important than baptism. In like manner, prayer is not more important than the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Supper is not more important than prayer. Faith and baptism are equally essential in salvation and prayer and the Lord’s Supper are equally important in adoration. Our focus in this lesson is simply going to be on prayer.  Specifically, we will be looking at prayer and fasting.

The Bible repeatedly connects prayer and fasting. They are linked in both testaments. They were practiced by both the children of Israel and the church (Neh. 1:4; Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 7:5). Sadly, we rarely connect them in our culture today. We likely think of fasting as a relic of the past or a Jewish custom. Fasting is strange to us in the States. Yet, it is still practiced by many of our brethren around the world. In this area (fasting), and in perhaps other areas (hospitality), brethren in other countries are miles ahead of us, even though we have had the gospel longer than they have. As much as fasting (skipping meals) would do most of us some good physically, and all of us some good spiritually, I am suggesting a different kind of fasting. Rather than foregoing meals, I am suggesting foregoing media. Most of us spend too much time on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and too much time in front of the television (Netflix, Prime, Disney, ESPN, etc.). Giving up media, or greatly reducing it, will free up hours for prayer and allow us to focus more clearly on it. For sure, it won’t be easy. Habits are hard to break. I suggest starting small. Take a day off. Take a night off. Take an hour off. Redeem or buy back some time (Eph. 5:16). Use the time that you free up, or a portion of it, for prayer. Less screen time and more prayer time will bless all our lives tremendously.

As we get ready to worship this week, let’s fast and pray. I believe that we will find that this combination will make our week and our worship better

You'd Better Watch Your Mouth - God is!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

You’d Better Watch Your Mouth--God Is!

David Sproule

Words are just words.  Right?  How is it that some words can be classified as “acceptable” to speak and other words are “unacceptable” to speak?  How can most words in the English language be normal, ordinary words but a select few be pulled out and deemed “vulgar” or “profane”?  If God does not specify which words are appropriate and which ones are not, how can I know the difference?

Obviously, with words having different meanings in different languages around the world and in different cultures throughout the centuries, the Bible could not possibly list all profane words for all languages in all cultures for all time.  But, God does categorize, in principle, words that He deems unacceptable, and with careful and honest study, “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable” (Prov. 10:32).  You know words that fit the following.

God condemns “corrupt” words (Eph. 4:29). These are words that are rotten, “bad, evil, unwholesome, in a moral sense.”  You know words like this.

God condemns “foolish talking” (Eph. 5:4). These are words that are “foolish, dull, stupid.”

God condemns “coarse jesting” (Eph. 5:4). This denotes a “risqué wit” that utters vulgar or off-color jokes.

God condemns “filthy language” (Col. 3:8). “Filthiness” is condemned in Ephesians 5:4 as a “behavior that flouts social and moral standards, shamefulness, obscenity.”  In Colossians 3:8, the focus is on “speech of a kind that is generally considered in poor taste, obscene speech, dirty talk” that is considered shameful.

God condemns words that “allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness” (2 Pet. 2:18). These are words that paint pictures and lead to thoughts of “unbridled lust, indecency, wantonness” and illicit sexual desires and conduct.

God condemns “malicious words” (3 John 10). These are words that are “morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, vicious, degenerate.”

Knowing that God is aware of every syllable that proceeds from my tongue and that I will be judged for every word I speak (Matt. 12:36), my prayer should be, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psa. 19:14).  God can and will help you!

But Baptism Isn’t Mentioned in John 3:16

Saturday, January 15, 2022

But Baptism Isn’t Mentioned in John 3:16

David Sproule

How many friends have I had over the years who denied the essentiality of baptism for salvation by claiming that whoever “believes” has “everlasting life” in John 3:16, and baptism is not even mentioned?  Numerous.  And, on the one hand, such an argument may seem legitimate, as the verse certain says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” and baptism isn’t there.  But, does that really prove that baptism is not essential?

If such an interpretative strategy was sound, then one cannot deny the conclusions demanded by that approach.  If baptism is not essential for salvation because it is not mentioned in John 3:16, then anything else not mentioned in John 3:16 would also not be essential.  Loving God is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (1 John 4:7; Gal. 5:6).  Repenting is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Confessing one’s faith is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32-33).  Calling on the name of the Lord is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).  Obeying the Lord is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21).  Hope is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Rom. 8:24).  Do you see the point?  Sound hermeneutics must be applied consistently to be sound!

Now, take that same reasoning and apply it in reverse to see if it applies.   What about a verse that says repentance leads to salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:18) but does not mention believing at all?  Is believing not necessary?  What about a verse that says baptism leads to salvation (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) but does not mention believing at all?  Is believing not necessary?  It is obvious that belief is not excluded just because it is not specifically mentioned in a verse that teaches about salvation.  Thus, Scripture obviously is not excluding baptism in John 3:16, simply because it is not mentioned.

The only way to know what the Bible teaches on a subject is faithfully gathering “the sum” of what the Bible teaches (Psa. 119:160) and “handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Failing to do this can make the Bible mean anything you want (including even, if someone desired, to teach that faith is not necessary to salvation).

Go back to John 3:16.  It certainly teaches that one who “believes” can have “everlasting life.”  But is it teaching faith alone saves?  Did you know that baptism is mentioned in verses 3-5 of this chapter (but faith is not)?  Did you know that believing is paralleled with obedience in verse 36 of this chapter?  You see, Jesus gave the entire picture, even in this chapter.  Salvation requires faith, baptism and full obedience.  Put it all together and you have the fullness of truth.

Greater Than

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Greater Than

Wade Webster

Do you remember greater than and less than problems in math? You remember how it goes. Four is greater than two. Two plus two is greater than three. Three times three is greater than four times two. Throughout the gospels we have the concept of greater than/less than. Sadly, some really struggled with it. They repeatedly saw Moses, Abraham, Jacob, and others as greater than Jesus. You might say that they were really bad at math. However, John the Baptist got it. He declared, “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). Above all is another way of saying greater than. John understood that when Jesus was on one side of the equation and some other man was on the other side of the equation, Jesus was always greater. First, John realized this about himself. He knew that the bridegroom (Jesus) was greater than the best man (him - John 3:29). He knew that Christ must increase and he must decrease (John 3:30). He knew that he wasn’t worthy to remove Jesus’ shoes (Mat. 3:11). John was a great man, the greatest prophet until that time (Mat. 11:11), but he got it. Let’s make sure that we do too. Let’s make some comparisons:

Jesus Was A Greater Provider Than Jacob: The Samaritan woman asked, “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:12). Jaco was a great provider. He dug a lot of wells, including the one where they were talking. It has blessed people for thousands of years. However, Jesus was a greater provider. He could provide water that would quench man’s thirst forever. We read, “Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14; cf. 6:35).
Jesus Was A Greater Friend Than Abraham: The Pharisees asked, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53). They clearly thought that Abraham was greater than Jesus. Abraham didn’t agree with them. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). He saw the ram caught in the thicket that was provided by God and that took the place of his son (Gen. 22:13-14). Abraham was a great man -a great friend. As you recall, he was called the friend of God for his obedience (Jam. 2:23). He offered his only son. However, Jesus is a greater friend, he offered Himself (Heb. 9:14).

Jesus Was A Greater Lawgiver Than Moses: The Jews certainly thought a lot of Moses. They chose to be his disciples, rather than Jesus’ disciples. Consider their answer when the blind man who had been healed asked them if they wanted to also be Jesus’ disciples. “Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples” (John 9:28). Moses was a great man - a great lawgiver. He went up into the mount and came down with the commands carved in stone (Exod. 20). However, Jesus was a greater lawgiver and gave a greater law(Heb. 3:1-6; 7:22; 8:6; 12:24).

Jesus Was A Greater Preacher Than Jonah: The Jews esteemed the prophets, even though their fathers killed them. They were certain that if they had been back there, they wouldn’t have done so. No doubt, they also thought that the prophets were greater than Jesus. However, they weren’t. Jesus declared, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Mat. 12:41). Jonah was a great preacher. With a short message he brought a bloody city to repentance (Jon. 3:1-10). Jesus was greater. For one thing, he spoke with greater love (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 23:34). Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed and pouted when they weren’t (Jon. 4:1-4). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).

Jesus Was A Greater Sage Than Solomon: Every Jew knew of Solomon’s wisdom. It was legendary. Yet, Jesus was greater than him. Jesus declared, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Mat. 12:42). Solomon was given great wisdom (1 Kings 3). He could answer hard questions (1 Kings 10:1-7). However, Jesus could tell men everything they had done (John 4:29) and what they were going to do (Mat. 26:34).

Jesus Was A Greater King Than David: David was a hero of the Jews. He seemingly could do no wrong. Jesus disciples couldn’t pick a sheaf of wheat as they walked, without drawing criticism, but David could eat the shewbread without judgment (Mat. 12:1-8). David conquered enemy after enemy. He slew Goliath. Yet, even he acknowledged that Jesus was greater. Jesus was His lord (Mt. 22:41-46: Acts 2:29-36). Of course, Jesus conquered the greatest enemy of all - Satan (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16).

Perhaps, the greatest thought of all is that the one who is greater than all of these is in you and me. John wrote, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:4-5; cf. 3:20).

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