May your spiritual passion for relationship with God be restored (Acts 2:42–47). #PassionForGod
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The new Christians in Acts DEVOTED themselves to the teachings of the apostles, fellowship, worship, prayer and witness. They were DEVOTED, PASSIONATE, in these things. These are the things I too ought to be passionate about. But somehow I lose my passion. I get complacent and/or apathetic. I lose my passion when the things I do become rote or mechanical. Things become all too familiar.
What is passion? Passion means “to be moved,” by something. “Spiritual Passion” means to be moved by God. To lose my passion is to no longer be moved by God. I become distracted by all the mechanics and preparations to teach, fellowship, worship, pray or witness. Or, I am just distracted by all the mechanics of life and living. Lord, I desperately need a recalibration of my focus on knowing you. I need to focus on you, not as a means to an end, but focus on you as the end itself.
Lord, reignite the flame of spiritual passion in this old sentry.
I have often wondered at the success of my call and work when everything around it may seem to have failed – at least according to the measure of men; when things fell short of my expectations. Well, here I learn that my friend and Redeemer – Jesus, felt the same way about his ministry. He says, “To what purpose have I come Lord? My work seems useless. But, I leave it in your hands Lord, Jehovah.“
Jesus’ mission, ending in a criminal crucifixion, may have seemed like a failure by men’s standards. However, Jehovah God was/is pleased with Christ’s work. But for a much different reason. His work would ultimately bring salvation to all men. Lord, my acceptance with you is based on the finished work of Christ on the cross and my faithfulness to your call on my life.
If you need me Lord, I’ll be here at my sentinel’s post as ordered.
Every now and then one has to stop and take stock of all God is doing; take into account the bigger picture. It enables the prayer sentry to pray with understanding. I had one of those days yesterday. Here is what God showed me.
The story of Israel, the Jewish race, is the story God’s redemption. God chose to reveal himself to mankind through the Jewish race. They would be the chosen seed, the chosen light pointing men to God. However, they failed to do that as a people. They were persistently disobedient and rebellious toward God. Yet, God seems somehow to always be the protective father, letting his favored child continue in disobedience. Why does God continually protect them? I find myself wondering, “Why does God seem to always put up with Israel’s waywardness and incorrigibility?” “Why did he choose them?”
The Old Testament reveals that God does discipline his chosen people throughout the course of their national life. But Israel, as a whole, never seems to get it. They just seem to be a constant disappointment to God. At one point God does seems willing to start over. But then Moses steps in to protect them. He asks God not to destroy Israel completely and God relents (Exodus 32:1-14).
The questions to me seem to be: why did God choose Israel? Would there not have been another people group who would have shown themselves to be more faithful? The answer to that questions is, “Probably not.” Why did God find it necessary to choose some outlying race of people anyway?
Certainly, greater minds than mine have pondered these questions for, no doubt, ages. But here is my simple and feeble assessment. I think the answer to why God chose Israel, the Jewish race, as his chosen people, lies in the omniscient plan, character and love of God. In the beginning God set out to redeem mankind from their fall into sin. God’s omniscient plan called for a Redeemer and a sacrifice for sin. This is seen in the first blood sacrifice of an animal out of the Garden of Eden. God performed the first sacrifice. Instead of killing Adam for his sin (for the wages of sin is death-Rom 6:23), God took the life of an animal (shed its blood as a substitute, propitiation for sin) and used the skin as a “covering” for Adam and Eve. Thus, God covered the sin of man (Gen 3:21).
Back to the nation of Israel. God didn’t choose the Jewish people because of their superior moral character or their religious devotion. In fact, God never chooses any of us because we are so righteous or so good. In fact, to the contrary, Scripture says there is no one righteous, not one (Rom 3:10). But I digress.
The Jewish race was chosen because God is sovereign not because they were superior. He could have chosen any people group. Through this chosen seed, God would institute and implement symbols of worship, sacrifice and redemption. This structure in the Jewish sacrificial system would be, has been and is, sufficient to forecast or foretell God’s Redeemer and the sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice would be the ground of redemption for all who would believe.
Israel was and is no different from any other people group. They were, we all are, sinners. But what God needed was a human ancestry, a lineage, a seed from which a Redeemer-sacrifice would emerge, from which his GRACE would extend to all men. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was that Redeemer–sacrifice. Jesus would be the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption. He would be God’s sacrifice, God’s instrument of GRACE to all men for their sin. The Jewish nation was selected by the sovereign plan of God to bear witness to and be the seed and instrumentality of that redemption. She was not selected not because she was perfect but because God is sovereign.
Further, God chose the Jewish race knowing full well in advance that they would be prideful, disobedient, obstinate, stiff-necked, rebellious and hard hearted. God knew in advance that this people would break his heart over and over again. God would discipline and or punish their sinful rebellion, but he would not completely destroy the ancestry, the lineage, the seed from which his Redeemer would eventually emerge. In fact, God would go to extravagant lengths to protect his people…even if it was only a small remnant.
So, the story and history of God’s chosen people is really the story of all men. Just as God showed mercy and grace to a sinful, stubborn and rebellious people of Israel, so he shows mercy and grace to all people. The story of God’s longsuffering with me is reflected in the story of God’s longsuffering with Israel. They deserved nothing. He gave them everything. So, it is with me as well.
All men everywhere are indebted. Not indebted to the Jewish race, but to God, for choosing a people (a people like me, no different from me) to reveal his Redeemer, Jesus Christ. There were no perfect people from which to choose. There are still no perfect people. Never has been. What we do have is a perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ, whom God was pleased to sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Just as Israel was chosen by GRACE, sustained by GRACE and saved by GRACE, so we to are chosen, sustained and saved by GRACE.
There are none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
But God demonstrates is own love for us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Next time you think that God is unfairly and forever longsuffering with the Jewish race, his seed of redemption, think about how longsuffering he has been and is with you as well. So we should be towards others.
Men with fleshly attitudes will always rail against God’s plans. It is true from time immemorial. Man stood in opposition to God in the garden and in the days of the Kings of Israel. They stood against Christ in his birth and in his life. They stood against the spread of the Gospel. They have stood, times without number, against revivals led by the Holy Spirit. How’d all that work out?
Men of the flesh act like clay in the potter’s hands telling the potter, “You don’t know what you are doing. Your hands have no skill.“ No matter, God continues his program of mercy and Redemption. There will be no refuting God’s work among men. Those who refute God will be dishonored. “The Lord of Heaven‘s Armies has spoken!“ Lord you are my Creator, my Deliverer, my redeemer. Mold my life according to your will – I yield to your skilled hands.
God clearly explains why he summoned, called and equipped the Persian, Gentile, pagan king, Cyrus. Because he knew his people would need 1) a deliverer from the coming Babylonian captivity, 2) a hope in the midst of tragedy and darkness (God is the God of both dark times and good times – v7) and 3) he would use this prophecy to later reveal himself as the One who fulfills his redemption promises. The entire world would know that he is God.
Lord, it is clear to me that you are always working behind the scenes on my behalf. Nothing happens by accident. You give me hope when all hope seems gone. I am never without hope.
Someone has said, “When you pray, pay attention to what happens next.” In other words, God will answer. Be alert to circumstances around you. Don’t be oblivious. The same is true of prophecy, the prophetic word of God. When God’s prophets speaks, pay attention to what happens next.
God says, “Pay attention, O Jacob.” Your sins are swept away. God has paid the price to redeem you. “Return to me,“ the Holy One says. Shout for joy…break into song, for it is done. The Lord predicted it. He says, “I will rebuild my Holy city. I will restore the ruins.” The prophets of God do not lie. Father, knowing your history of redemption, knowing the price you paid at Calvary for my sins, I have every reason to be secure in your future redemption.
Such a beautiful picture of the Lord’s Messiah (vv1–9). He will bring justice. He will not crush the frail reed or snuff out the last flickering light of a candle. He himself will be a light to guide the nations. He will open blind eyes, deaf ears and set free captives held in bondage to the enemy, the evil one.
God’s chosen Messiah, Jesus, is worthy of praise (vv10-17. He will lead blind Israel on a new path, smooth their road. He will not forsake them, though they have failed him time and time again. Lord, you deal justly with my sin, but you do not crush me. Though I so often fail you (vv18-25), you never fail me. Grace is greater than all my sin.
The Lord is calling me to temporarily step away from my post as a prayer sentry.
For many years I have come daily to my Morning Watch post, to read God’s word, to consider His ways and his message. Then to write, to journal my thoughts and to pray in earnest for the many souls in my books of prayer.
“My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” – Psalms 45:1 NKJV
Although I struggle to set aside the duty of my post, the Lord reminds me that he himself had to take times away from the crowds to find refreshment. “But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.”–Luke 5:15-16 . This is not the first time the Lord has led me in such a way.
When I served in Vietnam it was required that every soldier take a time of respite. So a short leave from the rigors of battle was not just granted but required. The purpose was to refresh and renew.
So for the next month or so I will take this sabbatical time to seek the Father, to refresh my soul in Him who loves me and to find renewal for my sometimes weary heart.
I will not quit praying for my family, my friends and my country. I’m just temporarily stepping away from the regimens I normally follow.
With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK] the Lord your God…[your shepherd].“ Our God is holy, just and fierce against our enemies. But he is also a gentle pastor–shepherd to his people.
Men with all power tend to corrupt their power. But God, with almighty and eternal power will visit his people, not with the self-serving vicissitudes of power, but with compassionate, merciful and forbearing care. It is not just God’s self-restraint. He is holy yet “gentle and lowly” – that is just who our God is (Mat 11:29). Lord my feeble and wandering heart you mercifully embrace.
*For a beautiful impression of God as our shepherd see Barnes’ Notes on Isaiah 4:11.
With verses 10 and 11 Isaiah closes this prologue to the rest of his prophetic utterances. “Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See your God as coming. See him as coming to deliver you from your troubles. See him coming with magnificent power and strength. See him as the mighty ruler that he is.
“Behold [LOOK here], the Lord your God.“ See him as the restorer of that which was lost by sin and the devastation of captivity. See him also as Messiah who comes to save to the uttermost. See him as the reward of heaven itself. Lord, may I have a vision of you as mighty in power and able to save to the fullest; my reward of restoration.
How quickly public opinion changes. But God‘s word never changes. Men make promises and do not keep them. But God‘s word is true and he keeps his promises. Men are like grass that withers and flowers that fade when the heat and drought comes. But the word of the Lord stands forever.
God keeps his promises to deliver this ancient people. He kept his word to send a deliverer in Christ Jesus. He came to deliver men from the curse of sin. He will keep us until the day of our salvation. God’s word will never fail. Oh Lord, you are faithful even when we are not faithful. You are utterly reliable.
Here we enter into the preparations of a great Monarch to forge a path through hostile desert places, perilous/treacherous mountain passes and murky low places, serpentine pathways and impassable routes. Why? So that the Monarch may be with the people of his/her kingdom.
“The Voice?“ A crier, lowly and hidden by the royalty and glory of the Monarch. The crier leads a great procession, legions of crews and engineers, to remove every obstacle hindering access of said Monarch to the people. Jehovah God, the Monarch, will move to deliver his people from the baneful hand of Babylon.
Just so, John the Baptist was a “voice” in the wilderness crying out, “Make way [clear the way] for the Messiah [our Monarch].” He is the deliverer of all men from sin (Jhn 1:23). The Lord Jesus has come to deliver us in these modern times and epochs from the curse of sin. Open the highway to your heart. Lord, may I tear down every obstacle that hinders the work of the most high God in my life (1Co 10:5).
“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.”
The love and admiration between Paul and the Philippian church went both ways. He loved them and they loved him. They did not need coaxing to help Paul financially. It was and is what friends do. Help each other in times of need. They stood with Paul and his mission work like no other church.
Paul views their generous financial help as a sweet smelling sacrifice, pleasing to God. This same God will continue to supply all their needs, and his. We serve a God who is able to provide for every task to which he calls us.
Lord, I can never out give you. You supply my every need, allowing me to give generously to the cause of Christ. Thank you also Lord, for my church and it’s generous mission work.
This is not rocket science. If you always want to be full of joy (v4), contentment (v6) and know God’s peace (v7), do this: focus on the soon return of Christ (v5), spend time with God in prayer (v6) and exemplary living (v8) – enthusiastically embrace the truth and what is honorable; embrace what is ethically right and morally pure; embrace amiability and virtuous living; embrace an attitude of praise for all it is excellent.
Give attention to these things, study them, practice them. All of these things practiced consistently will lead to a life of joy and contentment and peace. It ain’t rocket science. Lord, I recognize that true joy, contentment and peace are not out of the grasp of even an aged old sentry.
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.
Paul turns his attention to two women in the church at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche. Their harsh disagreement comes as a bitter pill for Paul to swallow. First, because of his love for this church and second, because of their previous effective hard work sharing the good news with Paul and others.
Perhaps Paul recalls his own falling out with John Mark and Barnabas (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). When it comes to the Christian life before a watching world, it is time to mend fences and resolve to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14,15). Lord, lead me to correct any unresolved conflicts in my life.
This verse rounds out Paul’s previous discussion with the Philippian believers. They are encouraged to stand courageously as citizens of heaven (3:20,21). I am also reminded here of Paul’s enormous love of those in the church at Philippi.
Paul expresses his absolute delight in the people of the church at Philippi. He equates them to a victor’s crown given to the winning athlete competing in the games. Who could be happier than that? They are Paul’s “crown,” reward, in the service of Christ Jesus. Lord you have so blessed me with fruitful faith encounters, with folks I have grown to love deeply:
Michael S, Robert, Mark P, Marvin H, Kendall K, Ronda R, Larry B, Rulen & Rebecca C, Diane F, Randy K, Juan, Raquel G, Joe & Hope Canales & Hope C, Rodney G, James G, Jennifer M, Raye E, Mary A, Ronnie A, David A, Lori B, Derek & Beth P, Danya B. THE LIST GOES ON. I love you dear brothers and sisters in Christ. You are my joy and my reward.
Standing in apposition to those who have corrupted the Gospel are those whose lives clearly represent the kingdom of Heaven. They are ambassadors of Christ Jesus in this world. This is a temporary home and soon the savior from Heaven’s Kingdom, Jesus, will call us home.
Our mortal bodies will put on a immortality like that of Christ. He will, by his power, bring all things under his control and we shall be like him in our resurrected bodies. Lord, while I am in this world may my life be a true reflection of your Kingdom.
We have the written word of God to guide us. But faith is more than a book of code to follow. How that “Code“ is followed, lived out, is also important. Therefore, we have examples to follow. Paul says, “Follow my example” (follow me as I follow Christ – 1Cor 11:1). Paul says we may also follow the example of others (like Timothy and Epaphroditus).
I have had a lifetime of examples to follow – parents, teachers, pastors, mentors, associates, friends – many godly examples of the “Code,” the word of God. I in turn am an example to others of that “Code.” I have witnessed the “Code” at work In others. Lord, may I honor and live out the sentry’s “Code” for others to see.
Paul reflects momentarily on his past. But he does not dwell there. He mentions some things for which he was ashamed. Are we not all dogged by shameful things? But Paul‘s point of view is that the past ought not haunt us today and paralyze our movement forward in Christ.
Paul strives for maturity. He labors now, not for salvation, but for knowing Christ more fully. Like a track athlete, he disciplines himself and pushes himself toward the crown of victory to which Christ has called him. Lord, this old sentry is encouraged by Paul to let go of my past failures and hold nothing back from fully knowing and serving Christ.
Oh, precious dear friends, remember to always rejoice in the Lord, no matter what comes your way. It is a joy for Paul to remind his dear brothers and sisters in the faith to rejoice in every circumstance. It is a joy for Paul to keep on telling them of the things that will safeguard their faith.This is just good fatherly advice going forward.
Paul says, “I never get tired.” Every spirit-filled pastor, Bible teacher and evangelist is motivated by the joy of Jesus to come week after week to a podium to instruct, exhort and reprove the people of God. Father, it has been my joy, though often tedious, to teach others from your Word. Thank you for the privilege.
How very important it is to train/mentor/disciple others to continue the work of faith in Christ. It is the job of the elder to pull the younger up to a place on your shoulders where they can see the folly of youth, grasp the pertinence of wisdom and learn to make prudent choices. Then, when he/she is unaware, to slip out from beneath, leaving them to stand on his/her own. The elder shares their place of prominence without making the younger feel painfully inadequate. Such was the work of Paul with Timothy.
Like teaching a youngster to ride a bike. You hold them up, help with balance, run beside them and then let go as they peddle their way forward. They don’t even realize you’ve let go. Eventually you stop and just cheer the youngster on forward. Lord, may I never stop teaching…or learning.
Paul rounds out his charge to the Philippines for wholehearted unity, love for one another and working together with one purpose. One word, “humility.” That’s how you do it. He gives the quintessential definition of humility: just put others first.
Set aside selfishness, looking out for my own interests. Set aside pretension and rejoice to magnify others as more than or just as deserving of praise. Show an interest in the good of others. In other words, “put others first.“ This is humility according to Paul and to Christ (see Luke 14:8-11). Lord, may I strive to always put others first, ahead of my own interests.
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.