“Gethsemane – Keep Watch with Jesus”: Guest blog post by Dr Steve Kinnard

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 53

I’m very privileged to bring you a post on prayer by my friend Dr Steve Kinnard. We’ve known each other a few decades now, and I have benefitted significantly from his lessons, conversations and reading his books.

This blog post originally appeared on Steve’s site, November 7, 2016.

The Garden of Gethsemane is a special place for my family. When we lived in Jerusalem, we often had family devotionals in Gethsemane. Our daughter Chelsea adopted an olive tree that she would climb.  Chelsea would lay upon one of its branches and pray. We called that olive tree–The Chelsea Tree.  We visited the tree on our recent trip to Gethsemane. It is still a strong, healthy tree. And our daughter Chelsea has grown into an amazing woman of God. We are blessed.

Let’s meditate on the story of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-ff.

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Luke 22:39-46

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus asked his disciples to perform one task–Keep watch with him. Stay awake with Him.

Stated in the negative this is–don’t fall asleep on Jesus.

Stay awake. Stay awake and pray. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

One task. KEEP watch. Stay awake.

I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples. Luke, who was not one of the original disciples, informs us that the disciples were exhausted with sorrow. I get that. When I’m sad, full of sorrow, I want to sleep. Sometimes when I see a really depressing movie, I say, “I need a nap after that.” I sleep hoping that while I’m sleeping the situation will change, and I won’t have to be sad anymore. But so far, sleep has never caused the situation to go away. So I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples because I understand what it means to be exhausted with sorrow. And they had had a long, difficult week with Jesus.

At the same time, I also realize that if a really good friend asked me to stay awake while he prayed, I’d find a way to stay awake. Especially if there were three of us who were fighting to stay awake. We could help each other stay awake.

Let’s say my good friend Troy Baker asked me to pray with him. I’d be honored to pray with Troy. Troy says, “Steve, just keep watch for me while I pray.” That’s risky leaving me alone to keep watch. But then Troy invites another friend Mike Santorio to join me. Ain’t no way Mike Santorio is going to allow me to fall asleep. He would have me doing push ups if I began to look sleepy. Then Troy invites another friend Lance Sarincino to join us. Lance is an amazing guy. But, at times, Lance can be a little scary. And I’m pretty sure Lance likes it that way. So I wouldn’t fall asleep because Lance might tie me up and dangle me from a cliff. I’m sure pictures of me dangling from that cliff would be posted on Facebook the next day. My point it this–it only takes one person who is invested to make sure the others stay awake. Be that person.

I think Peter, James, and John could have kept each other awake. If one of the three had been intentional about keeping watch, then he could have kept the others awake.

But that’s not where there minds were.

They failed to Keep Watch. They failed to stay awake with Jesus.

If you are going to keep watch with Jesus, you have to be intentional about it. Staying awake with Jesus doesn’t happen by accident.

And here’s the thing:

If we aren’t careful, we can easily sleepwalk through our spiritual lives. We get up in the morning, have our routine quiet time, rush off to work or to school, rush back home after work, have a quick dinner with the family, perhaps run out to a regular midweek Bible study, come back home, go to bed, and wake up the next day for the same routine. We aren’t intentional about growing to be more and more like Jesus, so we don’t grow spiritually. We maintain the status quo, but we don’t grow.

We might think about growing with Jesus, but we don’t do the things that Jesus did to be the person he was. Like getting up early, while it was still dark, to connect with the Father in prayer. Or, memorize large portions of scriptures so that when we are tempted we have scriptures on our hearts to use against Satan. Or, develop the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the needy, and the hurting. Or, be willing to go person to person and village to village to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to those who are lost. Or, pray the Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

So we must decide to Keep Watch with Jesus. We must decide to stay awake and not to sleep walk.

The older I get, all I want to know about, learn about, focus on, think about, meditate on is Jesus.

Because Jesus is THE difference maker in life. He gives me energy. He gives me purpose.

When I’m selfish, I think about the selflessness of Jesus.

When I’m lazy about pursuing God, I think about how Jesus would get up early to pray with God or stay up the whole night in prayer.

When I’m struggling with love for neighbor, I see the way Jesus touched lepers and spoke with outsiders like the Samaritan woman and cared for people with a selfless, agape love.

I know one of the most special aspects about being in the Holy Land is knowing that you are walking where Jesus walked. On our tours, we love to focus on the spots where we know Jesus walked there. You don’t see signs in Aramaic that read “Jesus slept here,” but you do have places where you know Jesus was.

Like the Sea of Galilee.

Or, Caesarea Philippi.

Capernaum

Nazareth

Bethesda

The Garden of Gathsemane.

The steps of the southern Temple Mount.

It’s exciting to be in those places. I love those spots.

But I think the question we each need to ask is, “Am I going to walk in the steps of Jesus every day of my life wherever I might be in life?” Because the steps of Jesus lead to the needy, the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. The steps of Jesus lead to great relationships within his kingdom–helping, helpful, encouraging relationships. The steps of Jesus lead to keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. The steps of Jesus lead to building up the kingdom.

So keep watch with Jesus. Keep watch by obeying his commands. Keep watch by getting into his word and letting the word change your heart. Keep watch and pray. Pray that you will not give into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Be intentional. Have great times in the word. Have inspiring pray times. Decide to be with positive people who build you up and don’t drag you down. Flee temptation. James says that if you flee temptation, the devil will run from you. When is the last time you made the devil run?

Will you stay awake with Jesus? Will you stay awake and pray? Will you stay awake and pray so that you will not to fall into temptation?

Keep Watch With Jesus

Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus in Caperaum

Jesus in Bethsaida

Jesus in Chorazim

Jesus in Caesarea Philippi

Jesus in Nazareth

Jesus on the Temple Mount

Jesus on the Mount of Olives

Jesus in Gethsemane asking his disciple

Keep watch, stay awake, pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Jesus on a cross at Golotha

Arms outstretched

Breathing his last breath

Jesus in a tomb

But not for very long

Jesus rose

Up from the grave-Jesus rose

Keep watch

Stay awake

Pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

Keep watch with Jesus.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Three ‘S’s for super communions”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 123

1. Presentation

  • Short
  • 1 Scripture
  • 1 point
  • Story – emotionally engaging, but not emotionally overwhelming
  • Avoid jargon

2. Focus – 1 Cor 11, Lk 22

  • Jesus
  • Proclaim his death
  • Relevant scripture
  • Why taking bread and wine – what is the connection?

Conclusion

  • Feedback please
  • Feel free to disagree, but not to be disagreeable!
  • More material on the website and YouTube playlist

The three “S”s….

  • USE ONE SCRIPTURE TO ..
  • REFRESH MY GRATITUDE FOR MY SAVIOUR TO GIVE ME ..
  • STRENGTH FOR THE DAYS AHEAD

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website.

Thanks again for watching. Have a terrific Tuesday, and a wonderful week.

God bless, Malcolm

“For God Alone”, Class 3.

Dealing with boredom and bewilderment

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Sometimes the most basic things in the Christian life suffer. Either because we forget their significance, or we lose inspiration. This class series is designed to refresh our desire for a daily focused time with God – something that is often called a “quiet time”.

The FGAClass3 Handout and FGA3 Slides for the third class are attached.

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

God bless, Malcolm

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: tvcochrist@gmail.com.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

“The antidote to chaos”: Psalm 62

A sermon for the Thames Valley churches of Christ

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

I spoke on what Psalm 62 has to teach us about what to do with the chaos in our lives. We looked at how Jesus has the rest, salvation and hope we need because of the power of his resurrection and the evidence of his love shown us on the cross.

 

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Thanks again for watching and listening. Have a super day.

God bless, Malcolm

“For God Alone”. Class 1.

Thames Valley churches of Christ

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Sometimes the most basic things in the Christian life suffer. Either because we forget their significance, or we lose inspiration. This class series is designed to refresh our desire for a daily focused time with God – something that is often called a “quiet time”.

The handouts for the first class and the class series are attached below. The pdf of the slides is here.

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

God bless, Malcolm

“What to do when you are stuck with God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 47

In last week’s episode (number 46) we looked at more reasons why we need a specific place for study. Please let me know how you’ve been getting on with your own study.
 
This week, let’s talk about what to do when you are stuck in your relationship with God. We’ve all been there. I have many times. I will be again, and so will you. What is it that will get us out of our rut?
 

Neither shallow, nor introspective.

We cannot stay shallow. Equally, we dare not become introspective. Perhaps a change of perspective will help. We’re not really trying to go deeper into ourselves, right? We’re attempting to go deeper into God. As Richard Foster puts it,
 
“I do not mean to turn inward by becoming ever more introspective, nor do I mean to turn inward in hopes of finding within ourselves some special inner strength or an inner saviour who will deliver us. Vain search! No, it is not a journey into ourselves that we are undertaking but a journey through ourselves so that we can emerge from the deepest level of the self into God.”*
 
Yes, that’s right. We emerge into God. In other words, we take action and discover that the faith involved in that action brings the reward of a renewed connection with God. It’s so important to remember that a relationship with God is not, in its essence, a concept or a feeling. It is something built by our faithful actions.
 

Confidence comes from action

Confidence with God grows as we take action. It has always been thus in the Christian life.
  • Jesus said, “Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17 NIV11)
  • The faithful of Hebrews 11 are commended for taking action, “By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family.” (Hebrews 11:7 NIV11)
  • Abraham is held up as the example of faithful action, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” (James 2:22 NIV11)
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God – take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often.

Experiment with the ‘examen’

One action you could take is what’s called the ‘examen’. Psalm 139 sums it up:
 
“Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)
 
The prayer of ‘examen’ consciously invites God to reveal truth in us. The revelation of truth is a startling stimulus to growth. We do not know what we will discover. As a result, we need to deal with the fear of what is turned up. Foster inserts this prayer at the end of his chapter on the topic:
 
“Precious Saviour, why do I fear your scrutiny? Yours is an examen of love. Still, I am afraid… Afraid of what may surface. Even so, I invite you to search me to the depths so that I may know myself – and you – in full measure. Amen”*
 
Why not pray this prayer, and then practice one of these four suggested methods for going deeper with God?
  1. Meditate on scripture – such as Psalm 62
  2. Pray the ‘Lord’s prayer’, Luke 11.2-4
  3. Pray through the ‘Ten Commandments’, Exodus 20.1-17
  4. Pray through and/or meditate on one or more of the ‘Beatitudes’, Matthew 5.3-12
If you want to grow in depth and intimacy with God - take action. Pray. Often. Read. Often. Click To Tweet

Conclusion

Try one of these suggestions for a period of time and note what you learn. What does God reveal? Let me know how it goes.

Question

What happened when you took action on one of these ideas? Were some easier than others? Why might that be?
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 
Get coached on Coach.me
 

“Why you need a specific place for study”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 45

Where do you go to engage in the spiritual discipline of study?

I’ve been thinking about this recently because of a podcast I listened to the other day. I like the Renovare podcasts, and enjoyed the recent one entitled, “Spiritual director and author Fil Anderson and lawyer Justin Campbell talk with Nathan Foster about how to study for transformation instead of just information.” If you would like to listen to it yourself, you can find it here.

One of the interviewees spoke of the helpfulness it was to him having a separate room in the house for study. The interviewer, Nathan, does not have space in his home for a separate room, but has a chair set aside for study. Nothing else happens in that chair except study. When he is in that chair he does not allow himself to have his phone within reach or any other device that might distract.

Why do we need a place free from interruption? We need it because intimacy and understanding are bred in a focused environment.

It is well known that Jesus took himself away in order to be with God. In Mark he, “went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35 NIV11). In Luke he, “often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16 NIV11)

Jesus may not have had a house with a study room, nor a chair for regular study. But that did not prevent him from being intentional about removing himself from people and other distractions in order to be focused on God.

To be honest, I’ve let this slip in my life. Therefore, here are my new resolutions. I would like to know what you think of these, and I’d like to know the practices which you have found helpful.

Here are the specifics of what I will do to enjoy more satisfying study:

1. Phone out of sight

The phone will go into my pocket, behind me on a shelf, or in a drawer. I have already disabled almost all notifications on my phone, but even the sight of it can be a temptation to distraction.

2. Noise-cancelling headphones

I have a really nice set of Sony noise cancelling headphones. I need to put them to better use. I already have a favourite piece of music I play when I’m doing my Bible study (Mozart piano concerto in D minor K466 if you’re interested). Now I will pipe it straight into my ears and allow the noise cancelling technology to keep me in my study-world.

3. Clear the desk

I don’t have much on my desk. I think better without clutter. However, I do have one or two things on the surface such as my Full Focus Planner and gratitude journal. These, and anything else I will remove from the desk surface.

Conclusion

I shall try these for the next month and let you know how it goes. Of course, this is not intended to create some new rule as if to say this is the only way to do it. Nor is ‘study’ exclusively connected to Bible study. This could apply to reading books, magazines and other materials.

Your study space might be a particular seat on the train, a park bench, the passenger seat in your car. It does not matter so much where it is. It matters more that we find and make the most of a special space for study.

Question

What do you need to put out of site? What do you need to turn off, or turn on to help you be focused? What else do you do to enjoy deeper study?

Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“What a drowning deer taught me about the heart of God”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 42

It was about 6:30 AM this morning. My customary prayer walk was taking me through Cassiobury Park and into the conservation area close to where I live. My mind and my prayers were centred on Psalm 130. All was well.
Approaching a bridge over the Grand Union Canal, I came across two dog-walking women in animated conversation. One of them saw me. She walked over and declared, “There’s a deer drowning. It’s fallen in the canal. I can’t help because my dog will scare it. Can you rescue it?”
 
Her face was contorted with worry. I could not say “no”. I had no idea how I was going to get a soaking wet heavy deer out of the canal. But I knew I had to try.
 
Annoyed, because she had interrupted my prayers and my walk, I trudged reluctantly into the undergrowth between the path and the canal. Soon I was surrounded by stinging nettles. I was wearing shorts. Not the best combination.
 
After multiple stings, I reached the canal bank. Now even grumpier. No deer in sight. No sound of a deer. No sign of a deer. The lady shouted at me through the undergrowth, “It looks like it got out. Thank you for trying.” I fought my way back through the stinging nettles to the path. Fully fed up now. Interrupted prayer time, interrupted walk, fruitless search, throbbing calves.
 
Then I considered this Psalm:
 
“Let me live that I may praise you, and may your laws sustain me. I have strayed like a lost sheep. Seek your servant, for I have not forgotten your commands.” (Psalms 119:175–176 NIV11)
 
The Psalmist wants to praise God. He has experienced God’s life-sustaining teaching. Yet he is aware of his tendency to stray. Many other Psalms talk about seeking God. But I love this verse. It is a plea for God to seek his servant.
 
And, of course, it reminded me of what Jesus said in Luke’s gospel:
 
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?” (Luke 15:4 NIV11)
 
In this wonderful parable, God is portrayed as the seeking Shepherd. The master of the flock is not grumpy about the effort, annoyed at the time involved, bothered about being interrupted, nor reluctant to seek. I have to confess that some evil thoughts went through my mind about that deer. If it was stupid enough to fall into the canal it deserved what it got. No, I know that’s not the right attitude. Sorry.
 

Conclusion

I’m so glad that God is not like me. I hope that deer did get out of the canal. As far as I can tell it did. What a relief. How much more of a relief it is that God doesn’t treat me as I deserve. He seeks me out to rescue me, take me home, and – He rejoices all the way.

Question

When you pray, do you reflect on the seeking nature of God? Could you meditate on Psalm 119 and Luke 15 in your next prayer time? What helps you to be grateful for the seeking Shepherd?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

 
Get coached on Coach.me

“How to talk meaningfully about the communion: Part 4”

Tuesday Teaching Tips: Episode 110

I have a passion to do my best to make sure that our congregation’s members can take a meaningful communion every week. I believe we can avoid dull repetition and boredom. And the opposite problem of going off-topic in such of creativity. The answer, as usual, is to go deeper. I have taught on the atonement a few times, and found this to be tremendously helpful in my thinking about the communion.

I share today about one of the models of the atonement – that called, “Healing”.

Let me know what you think of this model. In what way is it helpful? How could this view of atonement be brought to life in a communion talk?  What scriptures, images, stories would give people sense of being healed, as they take bread and wine, that they are restored, reconciled, adopted into God’s family?

Please leave a comment in the comment box below. We learn best when we learn in community.

Please pass the link to this recording on to one other person so that they may benefit.

Click like, and subscribe you haven’t already done so. If you have time, leave a review which will help us gain greater visibility for these recordings.

Thanks so much for watching and listening. I hope you have a terrific Tuesday and a wonderful week.

God bless, Malcolm

Scriptures referenced or alluded to in this recording:

“The atonement means that the relationship between humans and God is restored (healed). The central piece in this restoration is that God, through the Servant who personally takes on all our iniquities, grants forgiveness of sins….The punishment for our sins, which was often meted out in terms of suffering, sickness and calamity, has also been taken on by that Servant. His absorption of both the sin and its punishment is the means to our healing and restoration, by grace bringing us shalom or well-being in all its richness.” The Nature of the Atonement”, p130

“How to help the nearby needy”

Thames Valley churches of Christ Class

How can we help the nearby needy? We run through an overview of the Bible’s teaching on helping the needy from the Old Testament to Jesus, to the early church, and the Apostle Paul.

A discussion followed (not recorded) based on three questions:

i. Who are my nearby needy?

ii. How can I help my nearby needy?

iii. How can my family group help our nearby needy?

The handout is here.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

God bless,

Malcolm