A Story Of Contentment

Prayer: Be filled with the joy and contentment of the Lord (Phi 4:11-13). #KnowJoyKnowContentment https://www.bible.com/116/php.4.11-13.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

“I have learned how to be content…“ This is a parenthetic statement given in the midst of a gratuitous statement of deeply felt thanks to the Philippian church for their financial provision to Paul. Paul’s joy (expressed so often and so well in this letter) informed his sense of contentment.

Joy is detached from circumstances. It comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. So contentment is detached from other inner desires for more and for abundance. It comes from the One who alone gives us strength and courage every day. Therein lies the secret of joy and contentment. Fully rely on God for EVERY need. Lord, fill me with your joy and contentment today.

I learned this lesson long ago from, Beggar At The Banquet, the story of Hong, Woo Joon. He, his parents, brothers and sisters were severely and unspeakably persecuted Korean Christians as communism took over Korea in the 1920s-40s. Hong’s story is told by Donald B Sheley.

The book opens with this quote from Hong. “Life is like a banquet in a strange land. Great expectation preceeds some of the [banquet] dishes while caution hinders the complete enjoyment of others. As the guest, one is expected to taste and experience each course. Some of the courses are delightful, and others are not, but all are given by a concerned host [the Lord] and must be received and appreciated. That is my philosophy of life, a philosophy which I have been practicing at life’s banquet for 52 years. Some of the courses have been wonderful, others have been bitter.”

Walk In Faith

Prayer: Hold fast to faith and joy in Christ (Phi 4:4-5) #FaithWalk https://www.bible.com/116/php.4.4-5.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

I always want to hear what the Holy has to say to me directly. But this morning the New Living Translation Bible study notes ring the bell: “Ultimate joy comes from Christ dwelling within us. Christ’s coming is near, and when he comes we will fully realize his ultimate joy.“

In the meantime, “We are to be considerate (reasonable, fair minded and charitable) to those outside the church as well as those inside. This means we are not to seek revenge against those who treat us unfairly, nor are we to be overly vocal about our personal rights. [Christ] who lives within us will fulfill his final purposes for us“ (NLT study notes).

The years teach much which the days never know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Lord, may the faithful sentry be always mindful to walk by faith and not by sight (2Co 5:7).

The Joyful Place

Prayer: Cling to “JOY in the Lord” in turbulent times, in all times (Phi 4:4; Neh 8:10). #Joy #RejoiceInTheLord https://www.bible.com/116/php.4.4.nlt

Joy In The Storm

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Having noted several divisions and disagreements in the church at Philippi, Paul moves to some more practical instruction. “Joy“ being a major focus of this letter, Paul begins there. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; again – rejoice!”

“Joy” is not happiness with no gloom. It is the victory of faith, the confident assurance of the soul secure in Christ Jesus. It is often related to and/or out of times of affliction.

Joy “In the Lord“ – God himself is the ground and object of the believer’s joy (Neh 8:10). This joy is like a storm cellar in the midst of a storm; safe, secure, from the tempest outside. Lord, be my joy, my source of strength in turbulent times; at all times.

Brighten Your Corner*

Prayer: Allow your light to shine brightly for Christ (Phi 2:12-19). #LightUpLife #BrightenYourCorner https://www.bible.com/116/php.2.12-18.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Paul pleads with his dear friends in Philippi to “live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.“ He could easily have been speaking to Christians in the 21st-century (2021).

Christians today ought to hold firm to the word of life and live clean innocent lives. We ought to pour out our lives in faithful service to God. Then we may rejoice to you know that out light shown brightly all the way to the end. Father, I pray that my light will shine brightly for Christ in all that I do.

__________________

*This simple song, written many years ago, challenges Christians to Brighten The Corner Where You Are!

Do not wait until some deed of greatness you may do,

Do not wait to shed your light afar;

To the many duties ever near you now be true,

Brighten the corner where you are.

[Refrain]

Brighten the corner where you are!

Brighten the corner where you are!

Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar;

Brighten the corner where you are!

Here for all your talent you may surely find a need,

Here reflect the bright and Morning Star;

Even from your humble hand the Bread of Life may feed,

Brighten the corner where you are.

[Refrain]

A Hand Up

Prayer: Seek to encourage others as Christ has encouraged you (Phi 1:30–2:2). #TogetherWeStand #OneInChrist https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.30.nlt https://www.bible.com/116/php.2.1-2.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Dealing with life, especially in extraordinarily difficult times, is always more tolerable when someone else you know is struggling just as you. Paul relates well to those facing challenging, even perilous times; just as Jesus did. What could be better than to know that every follower of Christ is standing with each other, loving each other and working toward the common goal of making the Gospel known?

Paul is encouraged by his relationship with Christ. So too can any believer be encouraged. Paul was comforted by Christ’s love, the intimacies of Christ’s Spirit and the tender compassion of Christ’s heart that reaches out to those in need. So too, can any believer. Lord, there is never a need for encouragement that you cannot fill as I walk daily according to your Spirit.

Walkin’ The Talk

Prayer: Stand strongly united in faith; walk worthy of the Kingdom (Phi 1:27–29). #StandUnitedInFaith #WalkWorthyOfTheKingdom https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.27-29.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Paul knows his release from prison is possible, but not a “slam dunk” (v27a). So he encourages the Philippian church to make their conduct becoming, as they are citizens of Heaven. They represent the Gospel of Christ. No matter the circumstances, they should stand united in faith. They should not be intimidated by those who deride them and the entire cause of Christ.

Your life and witness is a challenge to the pagan culture around you. It serves to reveal that the enemies of the cross will be destroyed and believers will be vindicated, both by God himself. You can take that to the bank! So stand firm as Kingdom citizens. Lord, may This old sentry stand faithful and be found worthy of the Kingdom in the face of persecution and difficult times.

If I Live, If I Die

Prayer: Seek to exalt Christ in life or in death (Phi 1:19–22). #ToLiveIsChristToDieIsGain https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.19-22.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Paul Clarifies what he expects as his deliverance, his vindication, as a result of prayers and God’s guidance (may be quoting Job 13:18). Paul’s earnest, eager, expectation* and hope (ignoring all other interests, straining to see beyond his circumstance) is not so much his release but that he unashamedly continues to exalt Christ.

Prayer is not about getting my own way. It’s about getting God’s way, worked out in life. For Paul, God’s will is accomplished whether he lives or whether he dies. Even Jesus prayed, “Not my will, but thy will be done“ (Mat 6:10; Luke 2:42). To live is Christ, to die is gain. One is as good as the other. Lord, may I not be so preoccupied with my circumstances that I preclude the glory of Christ.

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* Martin, Ralph P., Philippians, Tyndale NT Comentary (1959), suggests this may have been a word coined by Paul himself.

The Malevolent Preacher

Prayer: Be motivated by genuine love (Phi 1:15-19). #DoNoHarm #MalevolenceCancer https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.15-19.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

What kind of person would be motivated to preach the Gospel to make someone else miserable? Who would be so malevolent as to use preaching as a cudgel to hurt someone else? Who would guess that ministers/preachers would be so jealous, so envious of another as to use their ministry to somehow cause harm to another minister and his/her ministry?Paul here identifies some as just that.

These jealous, envious preachers were standing in judgment of the apostle; using Paul’s imprisonment to cause him pain (we’re not told how) and advance their own ministry. Ecclesiastes 4:4,5 says the envy of others will only lead to ruin. In Philippians 2:3,4 Paul will exhort to do nothing out of envy. In the meantime Paul is content to lean on the prayers of others and the careful guidance of God.

Someone has said, you won’t make your candle shine brighter by blowing out somebody else’s candle. Father, give this old sentry a heart of genuine love.

“Those People”

Prayer: Look beyond circumstances and see the greater work God is accomplishing (Phi 1:15–19). #Rejoice #BelieveGod https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.15-19.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

We could spend all our time bemoaning our circumstances, thinking, we are better than this or that; thinking we deserve more, better. We sometimes compare ourselves to others. We ask God why “those people“ have all the good fortune.

Paul, writing from prison no less, for simply preaching the Good News, doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He doesn’t spend his time criticizing and judging “those people.“ Those preachers, whose egos are bigger than life, who are free to go where and when they want. No. Paul sees the bigger picture. He trusts God completely to care for, guide and use him. Lord, I surrender my circumstances to you. May I not complain, but stand in faith and rejoice in knowing that you are always at work for my good and your glory.

Fearless Faith

Prayer: Face each day with fearless faith (Phi 1:12-14). #FearlessFaith #BoldWitness https://www.bible.com/116/php.1.12-14.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

This is my free translation of Paul’s message in these few verses. “I’m in prison but everything that has happened to me here is helping to spread the Gospel. Everyone here in prison knows my mission to spread the Gospel…even the prison guards. Believers here with me in prison are emboldened to share the Gospel message – WERE WINNING! NO FEAR!“

Never underestimate the power of your influence for Christ. Your voice, your countenance, your message, your encouragement, your passion for sharing Jesus can help others to face their troubles and fears. What great opportunities to share the Gospel await me every day. Lord, may I face every situation, not with fear but, with fearless faith.

Sacred Ground

This is my comfort in my affliction, That Your word has revived me and given me life. (Psalm 119:50) https:www.biblegateway.com/passage?search=Psalm%20119:50&version=AMP

I always think of those who gave the last measure of sacrifice when I place Memorial Day remembrances around my house.

I always think as well, of those families who endure the daily absence of a loved who will never be at the breakfast table again. This is the ultimate sacrifice a family may pay. All others owe prayers and remembrances to them for our freedom and liberty.

This home is secure because of the blood spilled for our freedom. Wherever these colors fly is SACRED GROUND.

Where Last I Saw Him

PRAYER: Be always mindful of the Lord’s presence (Song of Solomon 5:2–6:3). #SeekTheGreatestLove https://www.bible.com/116/sng.5.2-7.nlt https://www.bible.com/116/sng.6.2-3.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

I have been for a week in sickness, forced by bodily frailties to separate myself from time with the great Love of my life. In The Song, the bride has slipped out of sight into her bedroom. I too am sequestered to my bedroom. But for me it is to my bed of illness. Yet the Love of my life does not leave me. He beckons to come in to me. But I am weak and undone in my body, unable to respond (v5:2,3).

Yet, my heart longs to be with the One who loves me. I try and try to rejoin Him but I am unable. I desire to be again in His presence (v4,5). I am beaten by the ill-tempered watchmen of sickness in the night (v7). But I know that the One who loves me may be found again, in His garden, where last I saw Him. “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine” (6:2,3) “If you seek me, you shall find me“ (Jer 29:13).

Lord, I have missed my time with you while illness raged in my body. But I am being renewed in that body. Healing comes. I long now for renewal of my spirit. You lord, are never far from me. I always know where to find you. In that place where last I saw you.

Powered By Jesus

Trust God to deliver unto you patience, endurance, and joy (Col 9:11). #PoweredByJesus https://www.bible.com/59/col.1.11.esv

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

When Paul prays for the strength of the Colossians, coming from God’s power to them, he expects to see three results:

1) Their PATIENCE – the persistence to pursue the goal of following Christ in spite of any difficulty;

2) Their ENDURANCE – the virtue of quiet determination in the face of vitriol. It will not retaliate, but shows mercy and forgiveness;

3) Their JOYFULNESS – joy fuels patience and endurance. Joy is often seen In contrast to afflictions. It is the confident assurance of the soul, a state of mind, that rests fully in Christ. Even in the worst of circumstances.

Lord, the duty sentry depends fully on you to deliver unto him/her the patience, endurance and joy I need for every circumstance of life.

Hand Of Discipline

When God disciplines, humble yourself and seek him (Isa 27:8-13). #WhenGodDisciplines #TurnToGod https://www.bible.com/116/isa.27.8-9,12-13.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

God is not a compliant enabling father. He knows just when and how to discipline. He knows the limits of our ability to withstand testing and trials (1Co 10:13). Discipline is always an option (Heb 12:10,11). It is clear that God is always prepared to discipline his people to purge them from sin (though not every trial is for sin-Jas 1:12; 2Co 12:17; Rom 5:3–6).

In the end, like a loving father, God will come to his own and comfort them. You can count on that. The end result of God‘s discipline is to return to him, to love and worship him. Lord I have known your loving discipline and your comforting embrace. I look to you for the correction and reproof that I need.

This Is Tough Love

God‘s judgment of us is pure, right and just; full of mercy & grace (Isa 26:23-29). #Judgment #GodsMercyAndGrace https://www.bible.com/116/isa.28.23-24,29.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Even in punishment and judgment the God of Heaven’s Armies will not pulverize the weakest among us. No, Isaiah introduces the metaphor of a husbandman who ploughs his field, loosens the soil and meticulously plants various seed. Then he thoughtfully and wisely goes about the harvest, carefully threshing according to the heftiness of the fruit; heavy threshing for some, light threshing for others.

This is a picture of the gracious wisdom of God in his judgments. Ploughing is followed by benevolent planting. Then after the threshing, the harvest, there is rest. His punishments do not last interminably. He punishes that he might bless by grace. Lord, there may be weeping as the consequence of my sin, but there will be joy in the comfort of your mercy and grace.

Christianity, “CANCELED!”

Have courage to stand for Christ (Acts 28:17-11). #PersecutedChristians https://www.bible.com/116/act.28.17-22.nlt if I

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Within three days of his arrival in Rome, Paul calls together a meeting with local Jewish leaders. His goal? To get acquainted with them and explain why he has been incarcerated by Roman authorities. He wishes to share with them what he believes is the hope of Israel – Messiah has come.

They know nothing of Paul’s trouble with the Jews in Judea. What they do know is that “the movement,” Christianity, is “denounced everywhere.“ There are many in Rome who have believed in Jesus. There Faith is denounced – “CANCELED.” These Christians were seen as a threat, as they believed in God as a higher authority, higher than Caesar.

Under Nero many Christians were murdered, tortured and burned alive. Today in many parts of the world Christians are tortured and murdered. Father, I pray for persecuted Christians around the world. May I have courage myself to stand for Christ if and when called upon to do so.

Feel Hindered? No Problem!

Do not view whatever shackles you as a hindrance to God (Acts 28:11–16). #SailOn #TrustGod #NoHindranceTooGreat https://www.bible.com/116/act.28.11-16.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Following a ship wreck and three months delay, Paul and Luke, along with fellow prisoners, travelers and soldiers, left the welcoming island upon which they were stranded. Fairwinds delivered them to Sicily. Then up the coast of Italy to Puteoli. There they stayed a week, hosted by believers of “The Way.” Later, other believers met Paul in route to Rome – Paul was encouraged by them. When he arrived in Rome he was allowed his own private lodging – though guarded by a soldier. One would hardly guess that Paul was a prisoner, save the guard assigned to him.

Paul – falsely accused, incarcerated, shipwrecked and snake bit – so what hinders me? Whatever shackles appear to bind me will never impede the forward progress of God’s work. My circumstances do not dictate the forward movement of God. I can trust God to lead me on his mission for my life. Lord, I trust you to overcome the shackles, any hindrances in my life, to the progress of the gospel, the ministry of the word and the encouragement of others.

Preserved For Purpose

Certainly God will preserve you until your purpose in life has been fulfilled (Acts 28:3-6). #PreservedForPurpose #GodHasAPlan https://www.bible.com/116/act.28.3-6.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

The island in the Mediterranean Sea upon which Paul’s ship was wrecked was Malta. It was a populated island and Luke reports that the people (Phoenicians) were kind and hospitable towards the ship wrecked visitors (vv1,2). They assisted the survivors (in the rain), building a fire.

When Paul had laid wood on the fire a poisonous snake bit him on the hand. When Paul shook it off and did not die, the people thought he was a god. But no, he was just a man…a man on a mission for God. God once again delivered Paul, his man, carrying his message. God preserves safe those who love him and are called according to his purposes. Lord, you have preserved this old sentry for a purpose. You shall preserve me to the end.

From my watchtower you can hear singing in the Morning Watch, those aged words…

“Through many dangers, toils, and snares, I have already come; [His] grace hath brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”

Hope In The Storm

Live your life as a testimony of hope for others (Acts 27:33–37). #Hope #ShareHope https://www.bible.com/116/act.27.33-37.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

When things began to look their worst, the crew on board Paul’s ship of distress were ready to abandon the ship. But when the officers found out, they stopped the exodus (vv30-32).

Then Paul called the ship’s company together. He reminded them that because of worry and survival activity they had not eaten. They should eat. Paul blessed the food. He told them not to worry – not one of them would perish. They ate and all on board were encouraged by Paul’s words.

In times of trouble men and women of God can be a stabilizing force. Listen to God. Don’t abandon the ship. Remain nourished for the struggle. Lord, may my life offer hope and encouragement to others.

Listening?

Do not insist on doing things your own way; turn early and often to God (Acts 27:13–21). #ListenForGod https://www.bible.com/116/act.27.13-15,17-21.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

The consequence of ignoring the dangers of aberrant weather has now caught up with the crew of Paul’s ship headed to Rome. A dangerous storm of hurricane force engulfs the ship. The sun, moon and stars are no longer visible for navigation. They are driven some 300 miles off course. They will surely shipwreck. The crew works feverishly. They bind the hull with ropes for strength. They cast off all the cargo and ship’s gear to lighten the ship. All, to no avail. There is terror on board. All hope had gone out them.

When we find ourselves on the horns of a dangerous dilemma we will exhaust ourselves trying to fight our way through. Having ignored God from the start, we may continue to do all but listen to God…until finally, all hope is gone. Then, just maybe, we will stop, look up and seek God’s help. Oh Lord, may I be delivered from insisting on my own way and trust you sooner than later.

“Learne To Pray”

Come in prayer to the shelter of the Most High God in the midst of the storms of life (Acts27:29). #ShelteredInTheArmsOfGod #PrayHard https://www.bible.com/116/act.27.29.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

To understand the full force of this one verse, one must read the entire account of the typhoon at sea and the escape of the apostle Paul, the ship’s crew and its passengers from certain destruction (vv13-42). Then, Luke says, “Fearing the ship would be driven against the rocks of some shoreline, they threw out four sea anchors to slow the ship down and prayed for daylight.“ These seasoned sailors feared for their lives. They were terrorized by the tumultuous seas for 14 days and nights.

The Welch poet, George Herbert (1593–1633) wrote, “He that will learne to pray, let him go to Sea.” Here, at sea, one may encounter the ultimate in awe and terror. But thanks be to God, as the Psalmist explains in Psalm 91, “The one who lives in the shelter of the Almighty shall not fear the terror of the night.” Lord, you have delivered this sentry through many a terror in my own storm tossed seas of life. I have seen the glory of the Lord – I will sing of my redeemer God.

OH LORD, HOW I PRAISE YOU!

A Place Called Fair Havens

Will you learn to live and serve in the place God plants you (Acts 27:7-12)? #GrowWhereYouArePlanted #FindContentmentInGod https://www.bible.com/116/act.27.9-13.nlt

Fair Havens, Island of Crete

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Many a ship, crew and cargo have been lost because of decisions made by men to ignore the facts at hand. Paul pleaded with the ship’s officers to wait out the winter storms in a place called Fair Havens. But the ship’s company thought Fair Havens an incommodious place. They decided, against better judgment, to set sail for the more commodious port of Phoenix.

How often we wish to leave the Fair Havens of life, thinking to outrun the storms ahead. We look to the more favorable places to set anchor and harbor. We ignore the signs of tragedy ahead. We ignore the counsel of God. We leave the Fair Havens given by God and set sale for our own desired comforts. Lord, I pray this aged old sentry has finally learned to trust you and grow and serve where you plant me?

Above “Cancel Culture”

Keep sharing the gospel even in a “Cancel Culture” (Acts 25:14-27). #AboveCancelCulture #LibertyFollowsGrace https://www.bible.com/116/act.25.14-15,17-18,23-27.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

“Cancel Culture“ is nothing new. Jesus was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” Weak politicians enable a culture that seeks to silence whatever does not fit their agenda or narrative. Two Governors, Felix and Festus, sought to appease the Jews of Palestine (a religious special interest group). They sought to “Cancel” the apostle Paul. Now King Agrippa would join in to silence, to cancel, the claims of Christianity. The goal was to shut down Paul’s revolutionary message of grace.

What does the Christian do when politicians and special interest groups seek to silence the gospel message? The Christian does what Paul did. He was relentless in sharing the message of Christ. No “Cancel Culture” will stamp out the gospel message of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17). Lord, enable sentries in the watchtowers to always, in every way, rise above the “Cancel Culture” of the day.

Tenacious Stand

Never fear to stand for what is right and just (Acts 25:6–12). #DoTheRightThing #StandForTruth https://www.bible.com/116/act.25.9-11.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

Politicians have more often than not pandered to the loudest voice, the largest contributor or the most powerful voting bloc. Just so, Festus, a new ruling Roman governor, panders to the interests of the Jewish ruling class in his territory. But there are those who refuse to bow a knee to injustice when truth and honor are at stake.

Festus tries to get the apostle Paul to agree to a trial that would certainly and unjustly condemn him to death. However, two years in Roman custody has not weakened Paul’s resolve to prove his innocence. To their chagrin Paul’s tenacity appeals to a higher authority. As a citizen of Rome, Paul appeals his case to Caesar. Lord, may this sentry always stand firm for truth and justice when called upon to do so.

Set-back, Flip-side, Up-side

Utilize your setbacks in life to point people to Christ (Acts 24:22-27). #FlipSideUpSide https://www.bible.com/116/act.24.24-27.nlt

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

After Paul had made his defense, Felix, the governor, stopped the hearing. He determined to delay his verdict. He put Paul back in custody. No evidence, no charges, no verdict. Paul was held in custody for two years before Felix was replaced (v27). Two years. We read no record of complaint by Paul. What we do read is how very often Felix, the governor and his wife Drusilla, a Jew, would call for Paul and talk to him about the “Way“ (v22).

Paul was forthright in his witness and did not back away from calling out sin. For two years it seems Paul was put on hold. But he used this time to witness for Christ to a Roman governor and likely many others. At times I may feel abandoned by God, set aside. Yet, God has a flip-side, an up-side, for every circumstance. Lord, may I always look for opportunities in life‘s setbacks to honor and glorify you.

In Defense Of Faith

Continue to stand for Christ in adverse circumstances (Acts 24:17-21). #StandFaithful https://www.bible.com/116/act.24.17-21.nlt

Paul’s defense before Roman governor, Felix. Ananias, Jewish high priest & Tertullus, the prosecutor, look on.

MORNING WATCH NOTES:

A plot by Jewish leaders to kill Paul was foiled, as Paul was in custody and moved to Caesarea. Five days later the high priest himself, a lawyer and other Jewish leaders traveled to Caesarea, to file their charges and have Paul killed. The charges were, 1) Paul was a troublemaker, 2) a ringleader of a “cult“ (Christianity) and 3) he attempted to desecrate the temple (vv1–9). Pretty weak.

These allegations were all trumped up charges and Paul refuted each point. Furthermore, there were no witnesses to corroborate the charges (vv10–13). Paul also managed to speak in defense of his faith in God (vv14-16). His words were well chosen and effective. Lord, may the steadfast sentry trust that you will always be his/her defense at times when faith is misunderstood or maligned.