Here the Lord when he says, “Be quiet and rest, silent and still, listen and reflect.“ But his people would not. Elsewhere it says, “[God] will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on him” (Isa 26:3). “Ask for the ancient way and walk in it. Travel that path and find rest for your soul. But his people would not” (Jer 6:16). “Come to me and I will give you rest“ (Mat 11:28). But God‘s people, we, who always have something to say, fill the silence, his quiet rest, with our own babbling.
Someone once said, “Blessed are those who have nothing to say and cannot be persuaded to say it.“*
God’s people disregarded God’s Word as trivial, nonessential and elementary. They boasted the great plans made of men. They, so liberated and free, will find God‘s Word to be the stone upon which they will stumble, fall and be broken in pieces. It will be the snare that traps them. Oh Lord, like Job, I have nothing to say. I have everything to gain by closing my mouth and waiting on you to speak (Job 42:1-6).
*Dobie, J. Frank, Cow People, University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas, (1964, 1984 – pg. 85)
Whatever the judgments of God on a people, there will always be a remnant. They often go unseen and unnoticed during times of spiritual squalor. While kings and priests and prophets and judges are lost in their filthy lifestyles, reel and stagger in their vision of self aggrandizement and judgments, the remnant of God stand watch.
While the nation falters, God’s remnant goes to battle in prayer and righteous living. The Lord is their pride and joy. He is their justice and their mighty courage. They are to God a “highway of holiness” a flowing “stream in the desert.” For God’s remnant, sorrow shall forever flee (Isa 35:1–10). Oh Lord, you give this old sentry hope in the worst of times.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Upon the island, near where Paul was ship wrecked, lived a man named Publius. He was a chief official of the island. He hosted Paul and the others in his villa – another gracious provision of God.
Publius’ father was sick with dysentery. Paul was used by God to heal him. The result was that many on the island came to Paul and we’re healed. Paul ministered healing by God’s power to these islanders for three months. They showered Paul and Luke with much love and affection.
God chose Paul and called him to be his voice to the ancient world. Paul was a man surrendered to God. Another such man is Billy Graham of the 20th century. God could reveal himself in these men in powerful ways. Here, because of Paul’s surrendered life, I see yet another display of God‘s presence, provision and power.
Lord, you call each one to serve you in many different ways. Oh, how you love to bless through chosen ones surrendered to you. Lord, may this sentry’s heart know such surrender.
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.”
The ship in which Paul sailed was driven aground on a shoreline shoal. It was being smashed to pieces by furious breakers. Soldiers, fearing the consequence of losing their own lives if any prisoners escaped, wanted to kill them. Julius, the Roman soldier in charge, stopped them. Julius trusted Paul and wanted to spare him. Ultimately every prisoner swam safely to shore (as did the entire ship’s company).
God had a plan. He can and will bring deliverance from the most unlikely of sources. When God’s plan and mission is at stake he will use any and all resources at his disposal. Lord, it has been my experience of almost 75 years of life (whether family, parenting, ministry, relationships), you have seen me through every mission to which you have called me.
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.
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.
Acts 27:1–12 describes the beginning of Paul’s journey by sea to Rome. Dr. Luke and Aristarchus accompany him. The journey is recorded by Luke, the author of Acts. The pronoun, “we,“ gives us that clue. Paul and some other prisoners are put under the charge of a Roman officer named Julius.
At the first stop on their journey, Julius allows Paul, his prisoner, and the two travel companions to leave his charge. They were allowed to go ashore, meet with friends and pick up things Paul will need for the journey. This is truly amazing, because Julius put his life and career on the line for Paul to leave his charge in such a way. What a tribute to the character of Paul. Father, may the life of this sentry in your service be characterized by such honor and trustworthiness. In this, even those who oppose me will trust me.
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.
At the conclusion of Paul’s defense, Governor Festus blurts out, “Too much study has made you crazy [Paul].” Paul says, “Not really. It’s just the truth.” Paul then turns to King Agrippa and presses him for a decision, “Do you believe the prophets? I know you do.” Agrippa says, “Do you think you can persuade me to become a Christian so quickly?” Paul says, “Yes, I really wish I could.” The two sarcastic remarks (Festus, v24 and Agrippa, v28) are designed to cover how they really felt. Paul was getting through.
Sarcasm can reveal a whole range of emotions (interesting field of study*). Sarcasm is usually a cover for how someone really feels. The best response to sarcasm however, is to focus on the content of a sarcastic statement and not on the tone. Paul’s response to their sarcasm is neither mean-spirited nor defensive. Paul is genuine, self-confident and understanding (vv25,29). Lord, may I possess such sincerity and compassion in my witness for Christ.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
Acts 22:1-23:10 is an account of Paul’s testimony before an angry Jewish mob in the temple of Jerusalem and before the Jewish high Council. At this point, Paul is in the custody of a Roman cohort because he was the subject of a rioting mob of Jews. In the midst of all the confusion of a riot, that nearly cost Paul his life, his arrest and inquisition (Roman and Jewish), Paul must have wondered, as we often do, “Okay Lord, what do I do now?”
Then comes Acts 23:11, “The Lord stood at Paul’s side and spoke plainly to him – ‘Have courage, you have faithfully witnessed to my cause in Jerusalem, so you must do the same in Rome.’ “ Here’s the sentinel takeaway: When you are in the center of God‘s will, he will not fail to speak courage and purpose into your life. So Lord, when life gets difficult, I will trust you to lead and guide me. You are my “Extremity Remedy.”
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.
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.
In the movie, “The Guardian,“ Kevin Costner plays Coast Guard Senior Chief Ben Randall. He is the legendary “Guardian,“ one who protects those lost at sea. His protégé, Jake Fisher (Ashton Kutcher), asks Senior Chief Randall, “What’s your number?“ (How many did you save at sea?) Randall replies, “22.” Not many for the legendary guardsman. Then Randall says, “That’s how many I didn’t save. That’s the only number I kept track of.” In the end, Randall gave his own life to save one.
The Apostle Paul was an ancient “guardian“ of the lost souls of men in a sea of humanity. Used of God, he would give his all to save some. Paul is a real life legend who has inspired believers through the ages to give their all for Christ, that none should perish (2Co 9:22; 2Pe 3:9). Lord, I am inspired in my life by your word to give all, that I might save some. May I not fail at that task.
Inspiring notes follow on Paul, as a “guardian” over the lost souls of men: