Give us hearts to serve the destitute, discouraged and disenfranchised (Psm 68:5,6). #GodIsFatherToTheFatherless #GodIsDefenderOfTheDestitute #GodIsComfortToTheLonely #GodIsJoyToThePrisoner
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Reading Psalm 68:5-6, I think of the ministry God has called me to (spanning some 53 years). I have served in the church as well as Christian and civic organizations. Many of those years (some 36 years; about 70%), were spent serving the last, the least, the lost and the lonely – especially jail/prison inmates, their wives and children.
Serving alongside many dear Christian friends, I have seen firsthand God’s fatherly touch in the lives of the fatherless, the lonely, the widowed, abandoned wives and mothers, the prisoner. This is who God is (v5). Lord, thank you for the joy I have observed on so many faces as I have been witness to your multiplied deliverance in so many lives.
A dear friend txted me this message after he read my blog yesterday, “Burden Uploaded.” He said, “[Your post yesterday was a good read]. I’m so sorry you are walking this road my friend.
I thought about what he wrote. These were my thoughts shared with him:
“I’ve got plenty of Jesus men & women in my circle. I get to see Jesus acts on a regular basis.
I’m thankful. I could have lost my girl to cancer in 2003, again in 2017. Instead God gave us 20 more years together…and counting.
My post describes what happens when I get overly focused on the “road” before me. Best thing is, God knows that. He was already waiting for me in that tight spot in the road. Jesus people were in line to minister to my need.
I’m a Jesus guy and now I know how to minister to others out of my difficulties. I’m refreshed and ready for the road ahead.”
Stand fast in your faith; encourage the faithful (Jud 1:17–21). #StandFastInFaith #EncourageTheFaithful
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
So, what are the sentry’s standing orders in these “last days,“ in the face of those who make a mockery of biblical values and live a hedonistic lifestyle, who create division and who do not live by the Spirit of God? Jude answers: Be strengthened in the faith (have a “Gibraltar“ sized faith).
Build one another up who do follow God faithfully. Be prayerful for each other (and those who deny the faith). Look forward to the merciful coming of Christ and eternal life. Thus you will stay safe in the saving, keeping grip of God‘s love. Lord, make of this old sentry a Gibraltar of faith to my friends and family. May I work tirelessly to encourage the faithful in my orbit of influence.
Yesterday I was speaking on the phone with a dear friend from California. He was telling me about several mutual friends who were and are facing life threatening and debilitating illnesses. We spoke of our compassion for them; what long time friends they have been. But my friend who is normally pretty positive seemed troubled in his soul.
Our conversation then slipped into a brief discussion of the direction of our beloved nation. Of course, how one feels about America today depends entirely on one’s perspective and persuasion. The problem however, is not perspective. It is that there is so much animosity and vitriol between neighbors. We do not trust one another. So, whoever is in the minority becomes TERRIFIED of what will happen to us as a nation if the “other side,” the antagonists if you will, have the power.
one or the other of us is
The whole conversation haunted me all day yesterday and into the night. This morning I awoke with a lingering pain in my heart over our conversation. Over dear friends who are facing dyer Illnesses. Over my friend and his deep compassion for other troubled souls. Over our beloved nation that is so divided.
“Lord, I need a little healing balm this morning, a little comfort.”
This is what God said to me:
The common enemy in all our devastation, whether it is sicknesses or political ideology, is the ruler of this world. It is Satan himself. He is the enemy of the body. He is the enmity between men. He is the perpetrator of sickness and the source of all our division, fears and terror.
This verse came to me. “My enemies [Satan is the real enemy] trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly [sickness may attack me without mercy]. [BUT] When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I SHALL NOT BE AFRAID. What can flesh do to me?” – Psalm 56:2-4
The Lord spoke to me further…
…“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”
“And do not fear those who [or that which] kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.”
“Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 10:26-33
So, this morning I am taking my stand against every weapon of Satan that might be fashioned against me, my friend, our other mutual hurting friends and my “neighbor” who may think differently than I.
I am declaring that the enemy of every man, woman and child is Satan. I will pray for the sick and bereaved. I will pray for my neighbor – no matter what the ideology, race or gender. I can declare that Satan is a liar and a deceiver of all men. He may even deceive the very elect of God. But let it be known today by the word of God that the enemy is exposed for who he is. May one prayer set thousands of Satan’s emissaries in this world to flight. May many prayers of the Saints set hundreds of thousands to flight.
Enlist and heed the words of mature godly voices (Zph 1:1). #GodlyVoices #ListenForGod’sVoice
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The young Josiah takes the throne as King of Judah. He was eight years old. The country is in terrible spiritual decline. There was much complacency and no sorrow for sin. A prophet, Zephaniah, appears on the scene.
Zephaniah is an older relative of Josiah. He was a descendent of Hezekiah, Josiah’s great grandfather. Not sure exactly when Zephaniah ministered, but he helped to fan the flames of religious revival during Josiah‘s reign. He was no doubt a tremendous help and influence on the young king. Lord, this old sentry is always in need of mature godly voices to speak into my life.
Surrender the best of yourself to bless others (2Ti 1:3–5). #BeABlessing #LiveASurrenderedLife
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Of whom could I say, “I thank God for you; night and day I pray for you; I want to see you again; I remember your tears as we parted – it will be my joy to see you again; I remember your genuine faith and heritage of faith, that continues strong in you“?
Better yet, could such sentiments be said of me? What kind of friend and encourager am I? What do I surrender of myself to others that is a blessing to them? Lord, what a beautiful challenge is mine to share; may I be a Timothy in the lives of others.
Be an influence for Christ in your world (1Ti 4:6–10). #ImpactYourWorldForChrist
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
It is not a waste of time to patiently study and teach the truths of God’s word to those in your orb of influence. For sure, this will also nourish your faith as well. It is a waste of time to argue over other philosophical issues and empty rhetoric.
Train yourself, discipline yourself, to follow a path of godliness. That will have far better results eternally. Stay faithful to the living God in whom is our hope and salvation. Lord, use me to impact my orb of influence for all of life and eternity.
May your heart be right with God and men as you pray (1Ti 2:8). #AttitudeMattersToPrayer #BeRightWithGodAndMen
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
How we come to God in prayer is as important to effective prayer as the prayer itself. Nothing will hinder our prayers more than praying with an unholy attitude – full of sin and self-righteousness (Psm 66:18; Mat 6:5).
Another hindrance to prayer is broken relationships with others – harboring anger, bitterness and unforgiveness towards others (Mat 5:23,24; 1Pe 3:7). Lord, may the heart of this old sentry be right with you and with others as I come to my post in prayer each day.
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.
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.
Jesus Christ is the supreme example of humility. He was the Son of God. He did not surrender his deity to become a man…He set aside his rights as deity. He willingly put the needs of humanity for salvation ahead of his own rights as deity. Paul says we ought to have this same attitude towards others.
To set aside our rights in favor of another’s is not looking down on ourselves as somehow inferior. It is to simply put others first, out of genuine love for them and NOT demand our rights first. It is a choice we make. [What would America look like if everyone did that?] Father, may I honor you in my choices to serve others.
“There is a way that SEEMS right to a man, but the end leads to death“ (Pro 14:12). Christ offers another way. His way is the narrow way, a way less traveled. It ends in life, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
When one applies the new robes of Christ and his righteousness it will result in giving deference to others; forgiving their offense – doing for others what Christ did for me. I let unconditional love and the rule of Christ’s reconciliation (peace) govern my actions towards others. I should always be thankful – a thankful heart is a humble heart. Lord, I cannot but pay back your love for me by showing love to others. This is how I show my gratitude. This is how I pay it forward.
To the people of Colossae Paul writes, “You learned about the Good News from Epaphras.” All we know of Epaphras is found here and in Philemon 1:23. Paul calls him a “beloved worker…faithful servant”; Paul leaned on him to lead the day-to-day ministry founded in Colossae. He was a kindred spirit to Paul, same as Philemon, in whose house the Colossian Church met (Phe 1:1,2).
We also learn from Philemon 1:23 that Epaphras may also have been in prison with Paul in Rome for preaching the Gospel. The bond between Paul and Epaphras was deep and profound. I have been blessed through the years to know such men and women in ministry. Lord, my heart is moved even now with joy unspeakable to have forged new local church ministries with such dear friends. They always encourage the heart of this old prayer sentry.
The Book of Acts does NOT conclude with the words, “Paul welcomed all and boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught them about the Lord Jesus Christ.“ It moves forward on these words from the first century to the 21st-century and beyond. The Book of Acts does not end as abruptly as it seems. It is just the beginning of the faith story still being written today.
My life as a witness for Christ is “Chapter 29” in the spread of the Gospel. There are new chapters to the Book of Acts being written every day. There are chapters yet to be written. It is as the Apostle John said of Jesus: Jesus did many more unwritten works. [He continues his mighty works among men today and] “the whole world could not contain the books [the chapters] that would be written.” (Jhn 21:25).
Thank you Lord for including my story in your Gospel story. It is my story to share, that others may also be included. “Believe on the lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved [included]” (Acts 16:31).
The Scriptures predicted the response of the Jewish community to the Gospel (“Hearts would be hard, ears would be deaf, and eyes would be closed” – Isaiah 6:9-10). A late friend of mine, mentor and elder in the faith had a saying, “There are none so blind as those who won’t see and none so deaf as those who won’t hear.”
I can’t imagine the sorrow in Paul’s heart for his own disbelieving countrymen. After teaching and pleading with them over the Gospel from morning through evening, only a few listened. Many refused to listen and receive. Paul’s example to me is that it is not about how successful I am that moves me to share the “Good News.” It is about my obedience to share it. Lord, may I never stop pleading and praying the Gospel over my friends, neighbors, community and the world.
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.
While in the city of Caesarea the prophet Agabus foretold of the apostle Paul‘s imprisonment if he went to Jerusalem. Paul’s friends begged him with many tears not to go. Paul understood. He knew it would be an upstream battle. But he would not be deterred by loving friends.
Oh, how well-meaning friends and family may turn us away from any hard mission to which Jesus calls us. I thank God for a Spirit-filled wife who supported me in my departure from real estate in the 1980s, to enter into full-time ministry. In the 90s she stood with me again as I entered into prison ministry. Pity those who do not know such support.
Lord you have blessed this sentry with great and encouraging friends and family. May all who follow Christ be so fortunate in their mission.
Day 29 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Father, put it on the heart of family members and friends to be authentic in their love of and service to others.
When it comes to others I need to be real and be ready, focus on genuinely loving others. I need to be enthusiastic in my service to God and others. I should work on being authentic in my compassion for others, even those who are hard to love or want to abuse me.
Lord, I want to work towards a harmonious outcome with people. I never want to be that “know-it-all guy.” I strive to be a humble participant in the lives of others. I’d be honored to be some small part in turning someone’s life around. Thank you Lord, for “Smitty.” He was a sentry teammate to me in Vietnam. One humble sentry showed me how to love you and love others.
Day 26 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Father, lead my family and friends to honest trustworthy friends; may the be that kind of friend.
The theme of Proverbs 11 is “Godly“ living, that is, righteous, gracious and morally sound living. When the godly lead a people the whole city celebrates; upright citizens are good for a city (a nation)…leave a legacy of prosperity. But the wicked tear a city apart, leave a legacy of failure. When they are no more, the people rejoice (vv10,11,14).
The godless destroy friends with their words, they belittle their neighbors and gossip about them. But truth and knowledge will vindicate the godly. The godly hold their tongue and they keep confidences with friends.
Lord, may I always have honest, godly and trustworthy friends and advisors. May I be that kind of friend and advisor. May honest, godly and trustworthy men and women lead our cities and nation.
Day 27 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Father, may each of my dear family and friends roll every burden and care onto you today.
When the burden we carry is heavy and the load feels too much, come to Jesus, who alone is able to comfort our weary heart. He says, “I will give you rest. Let me teach you.“ How? Through his word, through the healing touch of a friend or minister, through worship and praise. Find comfort through the written stories of saints who have suffered many sorrows and found Jesus, more than able.
The Apostle Peter tells us we can roll our burden and care over onto Jesus, because he cares about us (1Pe 5:7). Who among us has not screamed out in agony of pain suffered in one form or another. I know that I have. Jesus you have never abandoned me. You have never ignored my anxious cries for help. You have never failed to rest the weary anxious heart of the sentry in need.
* THE BURDEN YOU BEAR
A troubled and burdened man prayed and prayed that God would lift his burden. Day after day he prayed that his life would be easier and he begged for God’s intervention.
One day, Jesus came to the man and asked, “My child, what troubles you?” The man replied that his life was full of turmoil and that it had become too much to bear. He again asked for help stating that he just couldn’t continue to go on.
Jesus, feeling the man’s anguish, decided help was in order. The man was so happy that his prayers were about to be answered that his burden already felt lighter.
Jesus took the man to a room and stopped in front of the door. When he opened the door, what the man saw was amazing. The room was filled with crosses; little crosses, big crosses, giant crosses. The man, bewildered, looked at Jesus and asked how this would help him. Jesus explained that each cross represented a burden that people carry; small burdens, big burdens, giant burdens — and every burden in-between. At this point, Jesus offered the man the opportunity to choose his burden.
The man, so excited that he was finally able to have some control over his life, looked around the room for just the right cross. He saw a tiny little cross way back in the corner. It was the smallest cross in the room. After a bit of thought, he pointed to the cross and said, “That one, Lord. I want that one.” Jesus asked, “Are you sure?” The man quickly replied, “Oh, yes Lord. Most definitely, yes.”
Jesus turned to the man and replied, “My child, [that is the cross you brought in with you]. It is the burden you already carry.” ~Author Unknown~
[“My yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Jesus]
Day 6 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lead my family and friends to walk in the Light. Our days are numbered on this earth. Every day is an opportunity to dispel darkness wherever we may go. May we choose to walk in the light of knowing Christ.
As a children of the Light [Jesus] we can bring hope and courage to those we meet along the way. We can be a Charlie Brown “Pigpen,“ living in doom and gloom. Or we can be a “Peppermint Party,” spreading joy, light and hope. Choose to walk in the Light. Lord, a sentinel command on the watch is to give those around us hope and joy in Christ.
Day 4 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, surround my family and friends with a spirit of love and good deeds. Who does not need a regular word of encouragement? “Spur one another on“ (NIV). The idea in this Scripture is to stir up, encourage, provoke, motivate others around you. Especially strive to “spur on” those with whom we share faith in the Lord Jesus.
“Spur On” [motivate] to what? To do love and good deeds. Today our country is experiencing much provocation toward cynicism, skepticism and distrust. We need to hear, in a big way, from those in the faith who express genuine encouragement of others. Lord, I want to be the kind of friend and brother that motivates others toward love and acts of kindness. I want to get my “Spur On.”
If you’re a leader, corporate or pastoral; if you’re a grandparent or parent; if you’re a front line responder, teacher or politician… Whoever you are, whatever you do, ask, “How might people remember me when I’m gone?”
Following Paul’s example, I would hope to be remembered as unselfish, benevolent, industrious and sincere. I would hope to be remembered as prayerful, loving, kind and fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus – that I gave more than I received. Lord, may I lay it all down to honor Christ with my life.