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“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’” (Luke 22:39-46).

On the eve before His crucifixion, Jesus knew each detail of the unprecedented suffering awaiting Him. Jeering pagans would scourge him until near death. The priests who claimed His Father as God would insist they strip and kill Him. He would drag a beam through the dusty streets, as those He suffered to rescue spat upon His battered body. His raw flesh nailed to rough wood, He would hang to suffocate in the blistering sun. And that wasn’t the worst of it. He would also bear the immeasurable weight of every sin from the advent of time until the distant end of all days. Incomparable physical, emotional, and spiritual agony.

Jesus foresaw all this as He poured the Passover wine. Three years of cherished moments with these men culminated in this final message.He ripped the bread and explained its secret meaning to blank stares. In conclusion, He handed the elements to the dear friends who would soon abandon Him.

The scent of roast lamb floated through the streets. Jesus led them beyond the hard-packed roads until the murmurings faded and lush grasses eased their steps. With the steep incline, His legs strained under the added weight of His coming journey. They settled under a favorite cluster of trees in the garden. Gentle breezes lulled His full-bellied companions into repose. Jesus offered a vital exhortation to his too-comfortable students.

“Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

He surrendered Himself in a crucial prayer. Angels responded to strengthen Him. Christ continued His fervent interaction with the Father. Until—

Every nerve and hair prickled as He recognized this moment. The time had come.

Jesus returned to wake his dozing supporters. Yes, He realized their frailty. But He must impress the concept of crucial prayer. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Christ’s insistence upon prayer at this moment renders it a crucial matter. The word ‘crucial’ derives its significance from its parent term, crucifixion. Though comprehension eluded the disciples until after the resurrection, we now benefit from Christ’s magnificent teaching delivered on Maundy Thursday. He

  • Forgiveness. He fulfilled the secret meaning of Passover as the Messiah Lamb Who redeems us from the consequences of sin. Despite impending betrayals and our continued undeserving nature, He demonstrated ultimate grace.
  • Service. He modeled the nature of a servant, explaining an additional impact of His coming sacrifice as providing inspiration for selfless living.
  • Submission. He surrendered Himself in prayer to the Father, Who strengthened Him to face unimaginable agony. During His crucial prayer, the Lord sent angelic support.
  • Crucial Prayer. He exhorted His followers to pray against temptation. He knew the trials awaiting them in the coming season. He knows prayer is our essential resource to fortify and equip us foll all that lies ahead.

This Maundy Thursday, as you reflect upon Jesus’ message to the disciples at the Last Supper and Gethsemane, will you join me in committing to a discipline of crucial prayer?

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:14-15).

Ever find a pair of kicks you couldn’t live without? If you love to indulge your tootsies, you’re not alone. Americans spend more than twenty billion dollars on footwear each year.  More astounding are worldwide athletic sales surpassing fourteen billion. And that’s just Nike products.

We buy specific shoes to enhance health, express personality, or elevate our stature. Shoes fit themselves into our psyche soon after we’re born. No recent obsession, since childhood tales of glass slippers, elvish cobblers, and ruby slippers resonate across the centuries. It’s no wonder we cherish our soles. Shoes inhabit our youthful dreams and grown-up wishes. We search for those ideal shoes, convinced their magic will take us places.

Instead of aspiring to take men places, ancient Roman military boots were designed to stay put. First century soldiers wore sandal-boots, with little attention to the visible parts of the feet and calves. Leather laced over the top of the foot and strapped around the lower leg. Reinforcements focused on the soles. Several layers protected the warrior from the earth. Cobblers drove hobnails into the outer soles to hold the boots together and offer traction.

Centurions knew the battle priorities didn’t lie in decorating ankles or comforting piddies. Modern combat trainers echo their philosophy. Digging in and holding the battle stance makes all the difference during a fight. A warrior must not be knocked off balance, or worse, to the ground. A downed opponent gives advantage to the enemy.

Scripture advises us to fit our feet with warrior boots. Divine soles ignore appearances, status, and comfort. We won’t acquire these powerful kicks from elvish tales or Famous Footwear. Boots that ready us for spiritual triumph come from the gospel of peace. Christ’s perfect footwear has nails driven through it. Jesus has already won the war, you see.  That’s the greatest story of all time. We don’t have to defeat the enemy all over again. We just have to stand firm on Jesus’ victory. What a relief! No need to go on the offensive and rout the devil. It’s done. And we can rest secure in the peace of Christ’s triumph. We win.

Trade in your footwear wishes. Trade up from glass and rubies. A slipper doesn’t prepare soldiers for war. Strap on the peace of Christ. Secure the laces, ensuring against a slipping heel or twisting ankle. Don’t let the snarls and temptations throw you off balance, no matter how close the circumstances seem to your face. Don’t slip on lies meant to grip us with fear.  No need to let the enemy knock you off that stance of peace. Dig those cleats into your triumphant position. Stand. Firm. And you’ll rock those readiness boots!

 

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Gravity sucks us to the earth. The weight of our flesh drags us through the grime of this world. We expend all the energy we consume in the effort to sustain ourselves. At the end of the day, we collapse with exhaustion with nothing more to look forward to than another day of survival. Breaking away from the dust attraction seems impossible. In the natural course of survival, tomorrow carries no more hope than today.

Sin imprisons the earth-bound in despair. An ever-loving God extends us a way to rise from captivity. Like all freedom, ours comes at great cost. Christ suffered torture and death to pay our way free from the spiritual forms of both. He rent His body to craft wings for our souls.

We need more than a “thing with feathers” to break the gravitational pull of sin. Christ offers us wings of divine hope, which lift us from the natural pull of our depravity. Why should we live any longer as if our only means of living is a trudging through slime dragging tons of baggage? He invests His Spirit in us to lift our souls away from earthly prisons. No longer mired in addictions, bitterness, or greed. No more snares of fear, rage, or ambivalence.   We have a great deal more to look forward to than these dusty trails, today and in the eternal future. Let us set our focus higher, on things beyond this dirt at our feet. Let’s take wing and live free.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,  because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2).

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1).

“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17).

in the day of salvation I will help you… to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
    and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’” (Isaiah 49:8-9)

 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Hedonism flooded our nation. It surged from the eastern and western shores, with cyber-rivulets stretching inland across the plains. The moral decay reeks more of death’s stench with each passing day. Its mire snares billions of citizens who sojourn through life with inadequate protection for their souls. Many have grown so accustomed to the devastation that their senses don’t recognize it as a disaster zone. 

A remnant crowd of disciples can still smell the rancor. We sift through the rubble, grieving over lost treasures. Sanctity of marriage, childhood innocence, religious freedom for Christians–the list of our tragic losses seems endless. A nation founded upon divine truths now worships pleasure. Some pause to leverage blame or question how such a thing could have happened. As if the tsunami crashed through overnight. 

These decades of apostasy began, as such things tend to do, with small concessions. A pathway of brick-sized allowances paved the way for our country to believe Hugh Heffner’s revolution offered freedom. Long before schools forbade prayer, we stood by and let other things distract us from the significance of God’s protection. Culture denies scientific evidence of cannabis-related brain damage and encourages us to legalize gambling in order to fund our schools.

“‘You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said…” (Genesis 3:4).

Despite America’s widespread deception, hope remains. We can pray. Not as a last resort, or the one small effort available to us. Prayer offers access to world-changing power and stands alone as our wisest first response. America thirsts for darkness-shattering light and fear-conquering love, but these can only be obtained by reaching for the Light and Love Himself. In the midst of these ominous shadows, Christ is never far away.

We need not believe the slithering lie that God has forgotten us. Our Heavenly Father waits, with eager heart and searching eyes, to hear us call upon Him. The Lord longs to restore our relationship with Him, as has always been His nature. 

As the Lord advised His people long ago, our united prayers can affect transformation throughout the country. May each day become a national day of prayer. Will you join me to pray for America? 

“If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land... my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayers offered in this place” (2 Chronicles 7:14-15).

A fawn strays from its sheltered bed toward the creek. It bows to sip without waiting for parental guidance. A flouncing bit of fur catches its eye. The fawn abandons the water and bounds into the tall grasses to investigate. Deep inside the cool maze of reeds, the game darkens. A delightful tail reveals its other side, brimming with sharp teeth. Unless a wiser deer comes to its rescue, the tempter will devour its prey.

Gullible. We’ve all found ourselves fooled by something, our faces soiled with varying degrees of regret. One ruse might result in laughter, while the next leads to a dark labyrinth with sinister teeth at its center.  Survivors resolve to avoid further deception. How do we protect ourselves against the guile? Against our own folly?

1. Remain sheltered. Straying from the fortress of God’s presence and the influence of Truth opens our vulnerable minds to the enemy lurking outside.

2. Wait for parental guidance. Do not take steps beyond the Father’s leading. When we prance off ahead of God’s will without asking for His guidance, we ask for trouble.

3. Beware of distractions. Beautiful, delicious, promising thoughts lead us astray one day, while negative attitudes draw us off course the next. Any focus taking God’s place devours the soul.

4. Resist temptation. Submit notions to the Holy Spirit. The earlier we surrender an urge, the easier our journey back to true satisfaction. For those deep in the thicket as well as those sniffing at its edges, Living water awaits to quench our desires for joy.

5. Keep wise friends close by. Stay in touch with the Wonderful Counselor, and with those who remain intimate with the Wonderful Counselor. Retain security in your faith by surrounding yourself with seasoned believers who have a personal relationship with the triune Lord – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.” — James 5:19-20