Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Bethany Bullet - May 11, 2010

A man wanted to become a monk so he went to the monastery and talked to the head monk. The head monk said, "You must take a vow of silence and can only say two words every three years. "The man agreed and after the first 3 years, the head monk came to him and said, "What are your two words?" "Food cold!" the man replied. Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said "What are your two words?" "Robe dirty!" the man exclaimed. Three more years went by and the head monk came to him and said, "What are your two words?" "I quit!" said the man. "Well," the head monk replied, "I am not surprised. You have done nothing but complain ever since you got here!

The life of a monk is not all that it is cracked up to be. Some believe that the only way to have a devotional life is to join a monastery and live the life of a monk. But God does not call us to retreat from the world but to engage the world. How do we have a devotional life without becoming a monk?

Our text is the Gospel lesson from Sunday, Matthew 26:36-46, gives us some clues. It is a story that we are familiar with. After Jesus has the last supper with his disciples, he retreats to the garden to pray.

“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.’” (Matthew 26:36-38)

This is not the first time Jesus has gone away to pray.
  • From the book of Mark, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”
  • From Luke: “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (5:16) “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (6:12) Luke records the same story as our text and begins with the following, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him." (22:39)

Jesus regularly got away to spend time with his Father.

Our Gospel text continues, “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. "Could you men not 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 body is weak." (Matthew 26:39-41)

Jesus asked his disciples to keep watch with Him, but they were unable. The disciples were not able to stay awake and focused. As they drifted off to sleep, their weak bodies won the fight against their willing spirits. Sound familiar?

Jesus has called us to keep watch, but we have been lulled to sleep by sin. Our lives become filled with other responsibilities that time with God falls victim to the calendar.

We are reminded of the importance of a devotional life on Sunday, but by Monday or Tuesday we have fallen asleep to our responsibilities. Like the disciples, we are in need to hear the voice of Jesus again and again to wake up and keep watch.

Perhaps it was a New Year’s resolution to be more in the Word this year. How is that going? Not so good? Does that new devotional book have dust on it already? What about that new Bible that you were going to take to work with you and read on your lunch hour? How is that going? And that latest issue of portals of prayer you picked up a few weeks ago? How many have you read?

In our hurry up, man-centered, man-dependent world that measures success by activity, making big bucks, or how much we accomplish, finding time to hide ourselves alone with God for steady spiritual growth is a lost priority. It is viewed by many as a non-essential, as something for those who have nothing to do. The question people often ask is where is the practicality of time alone with God?

We have become so utilitarian that we find it extremely hard to look at time in terms other than ‘To Do’ lists and projects, performance and accomplishments. Others view time alone with God as a virtual impossibility. There are forces at work in our modern world that propel us into a whirlwind of activity or business. But perhaps more than anything else our society has been led into a dangerous mood of impatience. Eugene Peterson accurately captures this mood of our day and writes:

One aspect of world that I have been able to identify as harmful to Christians is the assumption that anything worthwhile can be acquired at once. We assume that if something can be done at all, it can be done quickly and efficiently. Our attention spans have been conditioned by thirty-second commercials. Our sense of reality has been flattened by thirty-page abridgments. There is a great market for religious experience in our world; there is little enthusiasm for the patient acquisition of virtue, little inclination to sign up for a long apprenticeship in what earlier generations of Christians called holiness. Everyone is in a hurry. The persons whom I lead in worship, among whom I counsel, visit, pray, preach, and teach, want short cuts … They are impatient for results …The Christian life cannot mature under such conditions and in such ways.

Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, InterVarsity, Downers Grove, IL, 1980, pp. 11-12.

King David knew his need of daily time alone with God and, though faced with trials and pressures that were pulling him in other directions, he vowed that nothing would keep him from meeting with God daily—especially at the beginning his day. In Psalm 5:3 David vowed: “Lord, in the morning you will hear me; in the morning I will present my case to you and then wait expectantly for an answer.”

No doubt it was this intimate morning-by-morning meeting with the Lord that developed David’s faith and made him a man after God’s own heart. Surely the Lord had this in mind, at least in part, when He said in Matthew 6:6 “But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.”

It may be tempting to live the lifestyle of a monk in order to have a devotional life. But we have not been called to retreat from the world to pray, but to pray for the salvation of the world while serving in the world. We don’t need to hide as a hermit in the hills, but we should be bold to bring the beautiful news of Jesus to the world.

Jesus did not retreat from the world, but He took on flesh and lived in the world. When we succumb to the sleepiness of sin, we need to look to the Savior who conquered sin so that we might be His. As we live as forgiven saints we have been called to spend time with our Shepherd. It is not something that will come quickly or easily and there will be times where we will need Jesus to rouse us from our sleep and remind us of our responsibilities.

So how can we have a devotional life without become a monk? I have four things for you today.

#1- Pace Yourself: Don’t make a bold claim that starting tomorrow you will devote three hours a day to the reading of Scripture and meditation on God’s word. Like in the parable of the soils we do not desire to be the plants that spring up quickly but do not develop roots. Perhaps you can use a tool like “The One Year Bible” to be in the word daily, or use “Portals of Prayer” to spend time with God. Pace Yourself.

#2- Reflect on the Word of God: I once heard a good tool to start a devotional life is the following, take 15 minutes each day to listen to God talking to you; take 15 minutes each day to talk to God; take 15 minutes each day to talk to others about God - Reflecting on God’s Word and Work.

#3- Abandon Bad Habits: It is easy to fall into bad habits and routines. Find time that works for you, get up 15 minutes earlier, look for times that you can get rid of something negative in your life and substitute time with God. When something is not working, change it up and abandon bad habits.

#4- Yearn for God’s Will to be Done: In your alone time, take a clue from Jesus and yearn for God’s will. Strive to have the same attitude of the Savior and pray, “Yet not as I will, but as you will Father.”

  • Pace Yourself
  • Reflect on the Word of God
  • Abandon Bad Habits
  • Yearn for God’s Will to be Done

    Pace - Reflect - Abandon - Yearn
    P + R + A + Y

In all things - pray. This is the key to our devotional life. It is the place to begin and the place to end today and all days so…let us pray…

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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