Paul tells us we are to resist the temptation to feel condemnation for how we express our worship of God; the things you do or don’t do in worship. How we worship is not as important as who we worship. For all the traditions of worship are mere shadows that point to Christ himself.
Those who condemn us for how we worship are just not honoring God in Christ. They are too loud and too proud. Their worship practices have become the ends not the means of worship. They have totally missed the point and are certainly not surrendered to God in any way. Lord, may always exalt you and not the rituals of worship.
The land taken captive by Assyria was God’s land, the land of Israel, the land of promise to God’s people, his “covenant” people. Genesis Chapters 12-15 tells the story of Abraham‘s covenant encounter with God. God chose Abraham through whom to deliver his messianic redemption. God chose Abraham, not because Abraham was so special. God chose him because he needed an instrument through which to reveal his grace.
The covenant spoken of here is a reminder of God‘s unilateral, unconditional love and grace. This covenant bound God alone to his plan of redemption. Men could never nullify God‘s plan of redemption by their lack of commitment. God seeks for men and women to come to him of their own free will and worship him. Lord, I come freely to offer you my love and devotion, imperfect as it is. I give you thanks for the blood you spilled at Calvary for my sin.
The nation of Israel had fallen to Assyria. A captive priest of Jehovah God was sent to teach the new settlers how to worship God in the land. But they did not worship Jehovah God alone. They continued to worship their own gods as well. Israel had done the same and left many pagan shrines in the land that the new settlers used to worship their pagan deities. Makes me wonder about the heart of the priest who was sent to teach them of Jehovah God.
Today I am mindful of the Country & Western music I hear. Country & Western singers have no problem mixing Jesus, barstools and neon lights, like they all just go together. Get drunk on Saturday night, repent on Sunday morning. To call the name of Jesus is not the same as believing in Jesus (Mat 7:22). Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of true Jesus followers in country music. But Lord, this ol’ sentry don’t want no “country song Jesus” to command his life. Give me the real McCoy.
When pagan, godless Assyrian settlers took over the land of God (Israel) they dishonored him by worshipping other gods. God sent a judgment of wild animals on them. It was recognized as such. When the Assyrian king heard about it, he sent one of the captive priests of God back to Israel to teach the new settlers how to worship the God of the land, Israel.
This would not qualify as full on repentance to God. But it does qualify as a step toward God. It shows that the temporal, remedial judgments of God can get the attention of even a pagan King. But, unlike the nation of Israel, he sought to find peace with God. Reconciliation with God is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus (Rom 5:1,2). Father, give me a heart to know that any temporal, remedial judgment in my life is your loving call, you talking to me, to repent.
Because of the nation of Israel‘s persistence in worshiping other gods, following the way of pagan nations and stubbornly refusing to listen to God‘s warnings of disaster, God “swept them away from his presence” (vv18,22). Assyria resettled the people of Israel by removing them from their land as captives. The Assyrians then re-populated the land of Israel by moving their own godless people into that territory.
But because these pagans did not worship the God of this land, the Lord [Lion of Judah] sent lions among them. Many were killed. The message was, they gained the land of God by his hand, they will live in the land of God by his hand. The desecration of what belongs to God will be met with disastrous consequences. Our provision and possessions gained by God’s hand are a sacred trust to respect. Father, I give you thanks and glory for all I have from your hand.
ANOTHER WORD: I just met a young warrior, Wesley, who will enter the United States Navy in about 6 weeks. I will be standing watch for him, his safety and the careful maintenance of his relationship with God. Bless you bro.
Once again Paul finds himself caught between Jewish tradition and the new Christian faith. Again he is confronting the Jerusalem church elders steeped in Jewish tradition. Both Paul and these elders had come along way from the Acts 15 conflict. They all seemed more prepared to yield to each other as being sincere in faith. Everyone seemed confident that various traditions among believers and between church bodies were acceptable. As long as they understood that traditions are not the means of salvation.
The fundamental issue is faith in the cross of Christ for the atonement of sin, as the solitary means of salvation. What follows after that is a matter of choice and conscience. It is a matter of threading the needle between relationships and religious tradition.
It would seem that relationships over traditions would be a small matter when it comes to the all important mission of taking the gospel to a lost world. Yet, if the world is to see faith in action among believers, then relationships must always trump ritual and religion.
Father, may the faithful sentry seek to find common ground with sincere believers who worship different than they; who have different backgrounds than they, but worship the same Jesus.
Day 40 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my friends and family always choose to serve God alone.
In Joshua Chap 24, Joshua recounts the many ways that God, not idols made of their own hands and minds, delivered Israel from Egypt, lead them through the Red Sea on dry ground, delivered them from the hands of enemy kings and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord God of Heaven did all that.
Joshua then asks, in essence, in light of all the evidence for God, why on earth would you choose the idols of the pagan nations that God destroyed? The choice is clear. He says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the lord God of Israel.” Lord when I consider all the battles you have won for me, all the provisions you have made on my behalf, the choice is clear…I choose to serve you.
Keeping covenant with my soul to maintain a righteous thought life requires more than deciding NOT to do this, that or the other thing. That is part of the equation. The other part is to be proactive with things I WILL do.
Paul tells me here to refocus my thoughts on things that are honorable, right, pure, lovely and admirable – things of excellence and worthy of praise. If I practice such things they will become my habit, making my thought life more righteously oriented. It comes with a promise: God will stand with me in securing for me a perimeter of righteousness.
What steps will help me secure the perimeter of my thought life? It’s like a three-legged stool: study God’s word, pray and worship together with other believers. Lord, as a sentry on the wall, I will take steps daily to secure my perimeter.
It is imperative that followers of Christ speak in plain understandable language and terms to a world without Christ, without understanding. Even the use of “tongues“ requires an interpretation to follow, that there may be understanding. The gospel of Christ must be made plain and clear.
When Scripture is spoken clearly people will be convicted of sin. They will fall on their knees and worship God…declare that the presence of God is in that place. I am thankful to attend a church like that. The gospel, Scripture truth, is made clear through many avenues of ministry. Lord, open the mouth of this sentry to speak the truth of your word, that conviction and repentance might follow.
Day 8 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends show enthusiasm for obedience to your word. The apostle Paul issues five sentinel orders; five imperatives that some up his message in First Corinthians:
1) BE ALERT (awake, vigilant, on guard and alive) to the Evil One’s strategies. 2) STAND FIRM (planted in, anchored in) the truth of the gospel – trust in God‘s truthfulness. 3) BE COURAGEOUS (mature, confident) to speak truth in love and conviction. 4) BE STRONG (as in well fed) nourished and growing in the truth. 5) BE LOVING; love moderates all the attitudes and actions of the sentry on duty.
“HOOAH!” – YES LORD!
* According to Stars & Stripes (military news paper) – “HOOAH” (or “huah”) is unique to the Army. Some say it stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged,” but it is often shouted to express determination and Army spirit. “HOOAH!”
9Behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” – Mat 2:9-11 (NKJV)
Plenty of places light a star atop their tree for the holidays. This is Alaska, and Anchorage does it a little bigger. The holiday tree lighting takes place in Town Square on the day after Thanksgiving, but the star everyone looks for is 14 miles away. You can’t miss it. The star is on the side of a mountain and stretches 300 feet across the slopes of the Chugach.
The star comes on every year in late November right about the day of Anchorage’s own tree lighting. Its 350 bulbs stay lighted [from late November] until the final musher [dog sled races] are finished. This is a widely observed tradition for many Alaskans when it comes to decorating for the holidays. [The star is also lit on September 11.] The lights that form the star are maintained by work crews of the Joint Air Force Base Elmendorf Richardson, which controls Mount Gordon Lyon and the land surrounding the star.
The tradition began in 1958 when an Army captain at the nearby missile site placed a modest, 15-foot wide star atop the guardhouse for Christmas. The missile site was decommissioned in the late 1970s. The star however, has been redesigned, relocated and enlarged through the years. Once just a single point of light in the mountains, the outline of the star near Arctic Valley is now clearly visible from downtown Anchorage, almost 14 miles away.
[In an article attributed to Staff Sgt. Mike Campbell, 477th Fighter Group, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, it was noted in the ‘Anchorage Daily News’,that U.S. Army Captain, Douglas Evert, Commander of B Battery, Fourth Missile Battalion, 43rd Artillery, had his men construct the star at the end of the Cold War. It originally rested on the roof of the gatehouse of Site Summit, the location of the Nike Hercules missile battery.]
The five-pointed star is a beacon all winter long in Anchorage, one of the brightest of many Anchorage winter traditions. [Some say it can be seen from Google Earth.]
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy“
One final lesson learned from Isaiah’s Shebna/Eliakim prophecy. The office of Prophet often used real life situations to mimic future events (note Hosea and Gomer, Jeremiah and the Potter). God will always reveal to us what he expects and what will happen if we obey or not. The point? God honors his word. He keeps his promises.
God has been clear about man’s sin and the Messiah. He would come [has come] to take away all the sin of the world. Those who accept God‘s forgiveness will receive eternal life. Those who do not, choose for themselves eternal death and hell. The prophets have all spoken. Jesus, the Messiah, son of God, has come. He paid the price for sin on the cross. Yes, “the Lord, has spoken.”
Today if you hear God’s voice do not ignore him (Hebrews 3:15). Lord, I believe what you say is truth.
In the closing verses of this prophetic section of Scripture Isaiah finishes what he began to say in verse one. “What sorrow awaits you O destroyer“ of my people. The reference here is to Assyria, a pagan nation used by God to bring his people to their knees in repentance (vv7- 9,14,19).
When repentance comes, redemption and forgiveness comes. God encircles his people, his church, as if he were a wide river no enemy can cross. Ships of malicious intent will be permanently disabled, broken asunder (sails fall limp on broken masts with useless tackle). All the treasures of the enemy will become the possession of God‘s people. O Lord, you are the Mighty One; my judge, my king, my redeemer. All of this sentry’s devotion is due the God of Heavens Armies.
…that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man? Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod? When you kiss your little baby, YOU KISS THE FACE OF GOD…
[Child of God, do you know that you too, “kiss the face of God?” Every time you feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, are kind to a stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner, you too KISS THE FACE OF GOD – Because when you do these things with the last, the least, the lost and the lonely, you are doing it unto the Man-child, Jesus – Mat 25:40]
Isaiah continues speaking to the righteous remnant of Judah. For they have trusted in God. As in Isa 32:1, their eyes shall see a righteous king in great splendor and a vast land that stretches far into the future. Not only will Jerusalem be delivered from all her enemies, but the righteous remnant shall be delivered.
Those who put their trust in the Righteous One, the Messiah, Jesus, shall also know the deliverance of the Lord. As in Isaiah’s day, a great victory over the evil of the day shall be ours in Christ Jesus. Lord, my eyes are firmly fixed on that far land where joy and hope shall never end (John 16:22).
Dare I say that there is a moment, a slice of time in my day, when I come as close to perfection as humanly possible?
It is my Morning Watch, between the hours of 4:30 and 8 AM (or thereabouts). It is that time of day when I bring my broken and fallen self to the table of self-examination.
It is those moments when the Holy enters into my daily dialogue and from Scripture the Lord counsels me, comforts me and challenges me. He speaks perfectly clearly from his Word. His Spirit interprets perfectly clearly (Rhema) to my heart. His Son perfectly clearly calls me to obedience. These are moments unmolested by the trials and the challenges of the day which await me. They are crouching at the threshold just outside the closed door of sweet communion.
For these few unmolested moments I am free of sin (for the most part; I am human). Like a “storm chamber,“ to which one goes for protection and cover from the storm, I am sheltered from the elements outside which batter the humble shack above. I am free in these moments from the demands of the flesh. I am entirely focused upon my Heavenly Trio of Friends: Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
Ah yes. For these few moments, when things are perfect, I can hear clearly, perfectly. Then, having put on a new self, with a bound, full of grace and truth, I step out from the chamber, my cathedral of personal praise and devotion. Then, standing watch at the end of my driveway, I courageously answer the call to give my all for Christ another day.
At the center of the Jewish faith is the temple in Jerusalem and the worship of Jehovah God. At the center of the Christian faith is the temple of the Holy Spirit (my body – 1Co 6:19) and the collective worship of God by believers in union together with Christ (Jhn 4:23,24).
The call has always been to worship God in spirit and in truth. But we see here that rote ritual, rules and observances had supplanted sincere worship of, and devotion to, God. It was indifferent and deceitful. It happens today as well. This brings the holy ire of God on dead lifeless religion. Father, may this sentry worship & serve you with a whole heart, given in spirit and in truth.
Lord, would you bring America to a place of sincere worship and devotion to you. Would you intervene and give her a whole heart for you. Would you sweep our land in renewal, revival and spiritual awakening.
Here is the acknowledgment before God that in days past other lords have ruled our hearts (my heart). Now, in the present time, it is Jehovah God alone whom we (I) worship. There was and still is, a great spiritual battle going on for the souls of men. Invite the Lord into your fight.
Those in Christ can say, “The gods we served before are dead and gone, never to return!” The Lord himself fought those battles and destroyed the fiendish under-lords in spiritual realms. They once fought for control of our lives (my life). They are now long forgotten. Jesus has made of us a great nation (Spiritual Israel, the Church). Lord, my strength and hope is in you. You are my victory to the end.
The lives of men will not be changed by providing a good environment. Although, that may help enormously. But even the most gracious of divine kindnesses, which God may display, are ignored by many. They take no notice of God’s daily mercies. They are taken for granted.
Men seem far more likely to respond better to judgment then to blessing. Judgment brings me face-to-face with my own inadequacies; my need to surrender to God. To this aging sentry this becomes far more evident. So, for me Lord, it is in the morning watches, before the dawn breaks, that I will earnestly seek you. In you I will find peace and accomplishment.
“Thou, oh Lord, will keep him/her in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon/supported by God.“ This reminds me of the Apostle Paul‘s words, “What can separate me from the love of God? Absolutely nothing“ (Rom 8:36–38). My peace, my trust in God, remains undisturbed, no matter what the challenges to my life.
I will not be agitated by any hurt, sickness, bereavement or failure. I will not be moved by the affairs or persecutions of men. My faith will not be shaken, nor will it be pridefully exalted by the results of an election. My mind is steadfast and laser focused on God who is my Eternal Rock. Lord, the sentry will say with the Psalmist, “I shall not be moved“ (Psm 62:6).
“Only a remnant is left.” In judgment, none survive, except a remnant. Child of God, there is hope. Like a few stray olives on the tree or a few grapes on the vine, after the fury of the harvest, there remains some life. Solitary as they may be, a little fruit remains.
The remnants of God’s vine salute the Righteous One, the Lord of Majesty, the Lord God of Israel. The shouts of praise and songs of joy thunder through the earth and exalt the King of Glory. All praise to him who sits on the throne of heaven. Lord, with hands lifted, the sentry’s voice joins the choruses of heaven in praise of your glory.
Sacrifice, to be meaningful to God, must be preceded by sincere repentance and consecration (Psm 51:17; Pro 21:3; 1Sa 15:22). King Hezekiah led the priests, Levites (temple servants) city leaders and people to turn from their sin (repentance). Then he led them to set themselves apart for God‘s purposes (consecration).
Finally, came the offering (sacrifice) to God, to present a token of thanksgiving to God for atonement of sin (today, reconciliation through Christ to God). For Hezekiah (for all of us today) this results in an abundance of sacrifice; much joy, praise and worship. There is no greater sacrifice than that of a humble broken heart toward God and subsequently toward others. Lord, the prayer of this sentry is that men would find themselves right with you and with each other.
Reading Paul’s final words in the Romans epistle causes me to pause and reflect on my many weeks of journaling through this letter. H.C.G. Moule* suggests that these final words were written by Paul’s own hand as he sat quietly before the manuscripts. Imagine Paul sitting in silence, as all of his associates, friends, have for the moment, left him alone.
Perhaps Paul retraces the themes of this letter once more. Inspired again, he takes pen in hand. Then, with dim eyes and intensity in his soul, he inscribes a most wonderful closing hymn of praise to God. We leave Paul here, in his personal cathedral of praise to the Lord. I too, sit quietly in worship before this same Lord.