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).
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.
Paul greets his Philippian readers with the words, “grace and peace.” The New Living Translation Bible study notes say, “Inside the tiny package marked ‘grace and peace,’ we find an inexhaustible treasure of God’s daily presence in our lives.” Grace and peace are at the source of all joy.
Everything I read as an introduction to the epistle of Philippians leads me to reflect on the subject of “joy.“ Yet, it is not joy that I seek as an end in itself. No. But it is the Giver of joy unspeakable whom I seek. Joy is the by-product. First Peter 1:8 underscores this appellation as descriptive of the experience of knowing Christ. I do not strive for joy. It it is a surprise gift that comes naturally as I strive to know Christ in all of his fullness. Father, may I know first hand the depths of grace and peace in relationship with you.
*Title of a book by CS Lewis; the story of his conversion to Christianity
After you have prayed in private it is time to live your Christian life publicly. So, Paul says, Get Practical. Be prudent in your actions before a watching world…for the sake of the Gospel. Do not waste any opportunity to speak for Christ. And when you do speak, strive to flavor every conversation with grace (Eph 5:15,16).
Listen carefully to what people say so that you might give the best most appropriate response (Eph 4:29). Lord, fill this old sentry with your Spirit, that I may be prudent, alert, attentive, gracious and relevant. Enable my best sensory responses to those around me.
Now, having put on this new life in Christ, some things will change. You will notice that with a renewed heart will come a radical change in attitudes and conversations (Note Mat 15:18; Luk 6:45; Eph 4:29). As one grows in Christ, attitudes leading to ugly words will fall away: anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language and lying are examples. These are shed like an old dirty smelly coat.
The new nature is put on like a new suit of clothes. You will find yourself growing accustomed to the new suit more and more every day. Soon old attitudes and words towards others will become Christ’s attitudes and words in us. Lord, may my attitudes and words never dishonor your Spirit that lives in me, and in my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Someone has said, “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said ‘nuff.”
When Paul declares that Jesus was/is the supreme, preeminent one in life and in the universe (v15) he meant clearly that Jesus was the head, the first. He existed ahead of the beginning (v15). So everything begins with Jesus (v18), and it ends with Jesus – he is the author and finisher of our faith.
God himself became the God-man. “He was pleased in all his glory to live as a human in Christ Jesus” (v19). By this glorious manifestation he was able to reconcile men, make them right with him. What God chooses to do that? None. Only Jehovah God. My God. Lord, I exalt you as my Supreme and preeminent Leader in life. I owe all to my redeemer God.
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.
Your faith is affirmed by God’s word and the testimony of others (Col 1:3–6). #GodsGraceForAll
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
The Apostle Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with an affirming tone. Paul is genuinely prayerful and thankful for these believers. Why? Because of their faith in Christ and their love for all God’s people. He affirmed the root of that faith and love: a confident hope in the coming kingdom of Heaven; a certain assurance that comes with the Good News (the gospel of Christ).
These are the truths in which they believed and by which their lives were changed. This Good News was spreading to everyone everywhere, even to this very day. It was then, and is now, bearing the same fruit in the lives of many. It changed my life too. God’s grace is for everyone. These words affirm my faith in Christ too. Lord, may I use every opportunity to affirm the faith of others.
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.
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.
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.
When Paul’s Jewish countrymen refused to accept the Gospel he was compelled by God to move on to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15;Rom 1:16; 11:13,14; Gal 1:15, 16). The Jewish leaders left Paul’s company greatly disturbed by his words. The Gentiles were far more receptive to the Gospel. They were far less infected by religious formalism.
For the two years Paul stayed in Rome under house arrest (presumably awaiting trial). He welcomed all who came to him. He boldly proclaimed to them the Kingdom of God. He taught and explained to them about Jesus, the Messiah, who came to offer forgiveness and salvation to the world. “No one tried to stop him.” Lord, lead me daily to those who are open to the Gospel. Give me boldness to proclaim the “Good News.”
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.
A time was set for Paul to explain this “movement“ of Christ followers to Jewish leaders in Rome. A large number of them showed up at Paul’s lodging place. Paul spoke to them from the Old Testament Scriptures explaining the gospel, that the expected Messiah, Jesus, had come. He spoke from morning until evening. Many argued and reasoned among themselves regarding all that Paul said. Some were persuaded, but others not.
Many there are who will hear the gospel and not believe. They may reason within themselves, or among themselves, over one point or another. They want to reason their way out of believing. Until, at last, they can reason no more. It is the Spirit upon whom we must rely to bring people to faith in Christ. Reason alone will not convince. Lord, use this aged sentry in taking every opportunity to share a careful and thoughtful witness of how Jesus has changed my life.
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.”
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.
Paul’s last words to the high court hearing his case for bogus charges: “I pray to God everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am [free], except for these chains.” Paul came to this court a prisoner in chains, but totally free in Christ.
All those in the hearing came into the court free of any physical chains, but wrapped up in the chains of a spiritual kind, in bondage to sin and Satan. King Agrippa and all those in attendance could have been set free (as Paul was), if only they would make their appeal to Jesus. Enable me Lord, to make the gospel clear through my life and witness.
Paul’s example and appeal is clear. When faced with an opportunity to share the gospel be respectful, tell the truth and share your personal story. These will be your best defense of the gospel. Explain that Jesus came to save those who would turned to him. He died and resurrected that men may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are irrefutable facts in history. A personal testimony is an irrefutable fact in history. Simple truth and reason will bring men and women to a point of decision. The rest is up to them to accept or reject. Lord, lead this sentry to speak the message you give, when you give it. The rest is up to you.
(Ezk 3:27) But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.
In Paul’s defense before Herod Agrippa, he admits to being a “cancel culture“ practitioner. Like the media, big tech, divisive politicians and oligarchs of our day, Paul lead out in silencing the Christians of his day.
BUT GOD – God arrested Paul, quite literally, in his tracks. He was on his way to Damascus to hunt down and punish those Christ followers. Those who did not tow the party line. Paul saw Jesus. He was changed. He became the compassionate Christian preacher/pastor for the ages.
God can turn any “cancel culture“ on its ear. He can save completely the worst of all oppressors in any society. Lord, it is incumbent upon me, and my honor, that I should pray for oppressors in my culture. I must pray for flashes of God’s light and glory to shine stunningly on their Damascus road to salvation. This is my sentinel duty.
Two years after Paul had been accused of trumped up charges by Jewish leaders he had not been convicted. He was still in custody. A new governor, Festus, had been installed. He met with the same Jewish leaders that had accused Paul originally. They were still bent on killing Paul.
For two years Jewish leaders carried on in their vindictive murderous spirit against Paul and the “Way“ (23:12-14). A demonic spirit of religion* had consumed these religious leaders. They were desperate to save their “sacred traditions” from the freedoms of grace in Christ; that liberty in Christ which Paul preached. Lord, may we be free of any legalistic form of religion.
* A “spirit of religion” might be defined as any evil spirit that inspires a degree of commitment to religious traditions, works and practices in such a way as to oppose and perhaps even counterfeit the true work of the Holy Spirit. This is a work of Satan to turn people away from the freedom and liberty of grace in Christ.
My late friend, mentor and father in ministry of 30+ years, had a saying. “There are none so blind as those who won’t see and none so deaf as those who won’t listen.“ Such were those of the violent mob formed against Paul when, at the end of his missionary journeys, he returned to Jerusalem. When he showed up in the temple he was mobbed, treated like a rebel, and beaten by uninformed irrational Jews.
Like Jesus, Paul was accused of leading Jews to disown Judaism. Roman soldiers had to rescue Paul from the angry crowd. Paul’s best attempts at conciliation (vv 21-26) were met with deaf ears and angry hearts. At times my best good faith efforts at peace and unity may not be enough. Lord, if the sentry is called upon to suffer for Christ, may his/her resolve to stand faithful be strengthened.
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 38 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that a sincere spirit of generosity live large on pages of life among my family and friends.
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Oh the blessing of generosity. Generosity is a form of giving that expresses freedom from smallness of mind or character. It stands in readiness to give liberally. Generosity is itself a reward. This is, “The R.O.G. Principle” – Return On Generosity.
Scripture says, “The generous will prosper.“ “Those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.” “Giving freely will result in greater capacity to give“ (R.O.G.). Jesus said in Luke 6:38 that when one gives, it will return to that one many times over…running over, poured out into his or her lap (R.O.G.).
Lord, you have proven The R.O.G. Principle over and over again to this aged sentry. Thank you for the joy of giving.
Day 35 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my family and friends show genuine Christlikeness towards even their enemies.
All of Romans Chapter 12 is full with richness in regard to being a “living sacrifice;” being that one who is willing to lay his/her life down for another. This is the one who will unselfishly develop the character of Christlikeness – being authentic and ready, even eager, to help another.
This is nowhere seen more clearly than when I am willing to genuinely look for ways to be a friend and not just get even or berate an enemy. To do that I must stop, listen and try to understand their deepest needs. Then, as I apply Christlike goodness, I may conquer the evil that is intended toward me.
Jesus himself expressed at least three ways that we may overcome evil with good (Luk 6:28–36): 1) pray for your enemy, 2) love (by act of kindness) your enemy and 3) treat your enemy like you would like to be treated. Lord, you have show me how to conquer evil with good. Make of me that “living sacrifice,” willing to act in a Christlike manner towards even my enemy.
Day 33 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that the seed of the Gospel take deep root in the hearts of my family and friends.
When the gospel seed is sown, spread, broadcast, it will fall where it will. Some will not get it (vv18,19). Some will join, then lose interest (vv20,21). Some will be too busy, too involved, to stay connected (v22). Some however, will truly receive the gospel message with much enthusiasm – they will go on to produce much good fruit (v23).
Those who truly receive the gospel seed, live by its message, will continue to grow and be energized by it. They will, through the years, influence many others for Christ. Lord, may the seed of the gospel continue to take root in my heart and produce good fruit.
Father in Heaven, America is in great need of the Gospel seed to take deep root. She is in deep need of embracing the message of the Gospel. I pray she not reject, ignore or overlook your message of grace and forgiveness. May she let that Gospel seed go deep into rich fertile soil. May she yield in repentance. May that seed then sprout forth in a bountiful harvest of good fruit.