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“…when we learn to regard it (prayer) as the highest part of the work entrusted to us, the root and strength of all other work, we shall see that there is nothing that we so need to study and practise as the art of praying aright.” 

~ Andrew MurrayWith Christ in the School of Prayer(preface)

 

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I was in the Texas Big Country, an area famous for its annual Rattlesnake Roundup. My one measure of protection was a pair of plastic chaps, hard enough to deflect the fangs of a rattler, worn over my jeans. But the chaps weren’t enough to take me off my guard. Like my childhood hero Indiana Jones, I hated snakes (still do!), and I never knew when a rattler would cross my path. One time I came within about two feet of stepping on one. That experience made me vigilant: I watched where I stepped, listening for any faint hint of a rattle, ready to jump at any sudden movement. Danger felt imminent, and I was watchful.

Spiritual Vigilance

Vigilance is an essential component to the spiritual discipline of watchfulness. To be vigilant is to be on guard. The sentinel of a city is vigilant. He watches for the approach of the enemy. Warriors are vigilant. They’re watchful and wary of their antagonist’s every move. People become vigilant when they realize they’re in jeopardy. As soldiers of the cross, we are surrounded by enemies.

In the words of an old hymn:

Christian, seek not yet repose,
Cast thy dreams of ease away;
Thou art in the midst of foes:
Watch and pray.

Watchfulness, therefore, is as necessary to a healthy spiritual life as meditation and prayer. Jesus tells his disciples to “watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation” (Matt. 26:41). The letters of Paul, Peter, and John sound the same note, urging us to exercise moral vigilance and watchful prayer (1 Cor. 16:13; Gal. 6:1; Col. 4:2; 1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Pet. 4:7; 2 John 8). And Hebrews commands mutual watchfulness and exhortation while also reminding us to obey those leaders who keep watch over our souls (Heb. 3:12; 13:17).

Yet despite this biblical emphasis, watchfulness is one practice that rarely gets mentioned in contemporary manuals of spiritual disciplines.

That hasn’t always been the case. In fact, the 17th-century Puritans wrote often about watchfulness and its practical outworking in our lives.

Richard Rogers, for example, was an early Puritan who published a substantial book called Seven Treatises in 1602. Divided into seven parts, the 900-page compendium on Christian living explores the full spectrum of religious life and experience. In the third treatise, Rogers discusses “the means whereby a godly life is helped and continued” and divides these helps into two categories: public and private. The private means include things you might expect, like meditation, prayer, and fasting.

But first on Rogers’s list of private helps is watchfulness, “which is worthily set in the first place, seeing it is as an eye to all the rest, to see them well and rightly used.”

The implication is clear: neglect watchfulness and you will hinder other spiritual practices. Watchfulness is the whetstone of the spiritual disciplines, the one practice that keeps the other habits sharp.

Guard Your Heart

The discipline of watchfulness includes both negative and positive aspects. Negatively, we’re to ruthlessly guard our hearts from sin and temptation, making no provision for the flesh (Prov. 4:23; Matt. 26:41; Rom. 13:14).

This requires the cultivation of self-examination, where we take regular inventory of our personal tendencies towards particular sins, what the Puritan Isaac Ambrose called “Delilah sins.” Delilah sins, like Samson’s Philistine mistress, like to sit on our laps and whisper sweet nothings in our ears, but they will betray us to our foes in a heartbeat and cut off our moral strength. These are the specific sin patterns we’ve cultivated through willful and habitual sin. Like deep ruts that furrow a muddy road, these vices are etched into our lives through daily routines, self-justifying rationalization, and continual repetition.

Having identified these sin patterns, we then need to persistently protect the points of entry to the heart. John Bunyan, in his allegory The Holy War, refers to these entry points as five gates to the city of Mansoul: “Ear-gate, Eye-gate, Mouth-gate, Nose-gate, and Feel-gate.” When we fail to watch, temptation clambers into our hearts through an unwatched gate. This means we can’t tend our hearts without considering the websites we visit, the books we read, the shows and movies we watch, the places we frequent, and the music and messages that fill our ears.

The discipline of watching is like a home security system. An effective surveillance system includes several components, such as security cameras, motion sensors, floodlights, electric locks, and high-decibel alarms. All these components serve one purpose: protecting the home from dangerous intruders. In similar fashion, watchfulness embraces a variety of practices, such as self-examination, prayer, meditation, and accountability, but all governed by the single intention of keeping the heart.

Look to Jesus

But there’s also a positive dimension to watchfulness. We mustn’t only mortify sin and avoid temptation. We must also set our gaze on Jesus. To return to the city metaphor, we mustn’t only guard the gates of our souls from dangerous intruders but also store our hearts with the gospel. Our goal in keeping our hearts isn’t to keep them empty, but to make room for Christ to dwell in our hearts through faith (Eph. 3:17).

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“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” –Romans 12:2

The nation cannot afford a sidelined church, taken out by worldliness and confusion. The Apostle Paul commands believers to allow ourselves no longer to be conformed by worldly patterns, but rather to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Only then we will understand the will of God, not just for our own lives, but so that we can be a prophetic voice to our nation. Sometimes the best way to pray for our nation is to pray for revival in the church!

Pray for a transformation in the church through a renewing of our minds through the Word of God.

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On August 1, 1985, I began my ministry at First Baptist Church of Dannebrog, Nebraska

“Revival is the visitation of God which brings to life Christians who have been sleeping and restores a deep sense of God’s near presence and holiness. Thence springs a vivid sense of sin and a profound exercise of heart in repentance, praise, and love, with an evangelistic outflow.”

~ J.I. Packer

Truck driver in 2016 Interstate 80 crash that killed 6 sentenced to 180 days in jail

Tony Weekly Jr.
Tony Weekly Jr. speaks Friday at his sentencing in Keith County District Court.

OGALLALA, Neb. — As Cedrick Pals spoke in Keith County District Court on Friday, family members and others in attendance, including jail inmates, wiped tears from their eyes.

Pals’ son, Jamison, 29, died on Interstate 80 near Brule nearly two years ago, on July 31, 2016. So did his daughter-in-law, Kathryne, 29, and his grandchildren Ezra, 3; Violet, 23 months; and Calvin, 2 months.

But as Cedrick Pals spoke to Tony Weekly Jr., the truck driver convicted of six counts of motor vehicle homicide, he read Bible verses about forgiveness

In addition to the Pals family, from the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, the crash killed Terry Sullivan, 56, of Denver, who was in another vehicle.

In part because of Cedrick Pals’ words and the family’s request for mercy, Weekly was sentenced Friday to a combined two years’ probation and 180 days in jail on three felony and three misdemeanor charges, and an additional charge of misdemeanor reckless driving. He received credit for 30 days already served. He will begin serving the jail time in two weeks.

Weekly, of Florida, gave his own tearful statement, telling the court that the crash affects him to this day.

Some days, “I can’t go to work,” he said.

After the sentencing, Pals and Weekly hugged outside the courtroom. They and their families chatted before parting ways.

“I didn’t know grief could be so intense, so constant,” Pals said in his testimony. “I will never again hear Jamison say, ‘I love you, Dad.’ ”

“Despite the anguish, there are other words that come to me,” Pals said.

He listed “forgiveness” and “mercy” among them.

For the rest of the article…

“Revival is not just an emotional touch; it’s a complete takeover!”

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

“Real revival does not begin with joyous singing. It begins with conviction and repentance on the part of Christians.”     

~ Vance Havner

Vance Havner

“We talk of the Second Coming; half the world has never heard of the first”

~ Oswald J. Smith

Copyright © 1998 by Michael D. Clarke, used with permission.

“To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

~ Martin Luther

Martin Luther by Cranach-restoration.tif

August 2018
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