I’m a retired minister; past the 3/4 century mark. I’m a member of a great church with a truly missions and discipleship heart. I heard a young minister preach not long ago in our pulpit. He closed his message with a terrific illustration having to do with sports. He said that many sit in the boxed seats and stands and cheer their team on. But they are not in uniform and they are not in the game.
For some time now I have been sidelined for reasons I shall not get into here. They are things that have committed me to be at home pretty much 24//7. While I’m happy to fulfill this particular call, I have felt at times like I’m not in uniform, not in the game like I used to be. So, as the young minister was closing the service with his sports illustration, I struggled with what he was saying. I was thinking, “Lord, I’m unable to play the game (carry the ball, run the bases, interact with the players) like I used to do.” I felt conflicted.
Then the Lord reminded me that I have had, for many years, a heart for intercession (this blog speaks to that). The Lord spoke to me and said, “Dude, you’re still in uniform and you’re still on the field, in the game. You’ve been carrying the water in prayer for decades. That desire has intensified in recent years. You’re carrying the water in prayer now more than ever.” I felt affirmed by the Lord.
My final thought in that service was this: Every team has a “Waterboy.” The waterboy is in the game, part of the game and he wears the team jersey. He carries out his role like the rest of his teammates. What the Lord was saying to me was this: I, like the waterboy, am carrying the water (intercession) for my team (God’s team). I’m in uniform and faithfully doing the job I was asked to do.
I walked out of that service thinking, I am on the field, honored to be a waterboy. No box seat for me. I’m still in uniform and in the game. So, “Thank you Lord, for my job. I’m honored to be Carryin’ The Water.”
What brought down a 40 year old 12 story apartment building in Florida killing over 100 sleeping victims? The “core corrosion” of its foundation.
Isaiah prophesies that a once jeweled nation (Babylon) will be shamed and brought to ruin. Why? Her “core corrosion.” Having been used of God to chastise his people, Babylon was arrogant toward God and his people. She concluded that she was unstoppable, and without shame for her brutality and rejection of God. Any nation or people blessed of God who prostitutes that blessing and tramples on God‘s grace will come to ruin.
There is not a single god, not might, power, fame, wealth or any magic bullet that will save a corrupted nation or person. Like straw in a fire they will be unable to save themselves from God‘s judgment. Every friend and ally will turn a deaf ear to their cries for help. So says the “Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the Holy One of Israel.” Lord, press upon me the need to always be casting and eye toward heaven for affirmation of my walk before you.
* How can America do a much needed check on her “core?” She must come one by one, neighbor by neighbor, church by church, leader by leader to a place of humility before God. She must humbly cast an eye towards heaven for affirmation or conviction of her walk before God. She must humbly seek God’s forgiveness for her individual and collective “core corrosion.” It starts with me. May the Lord lay bare the heart, the core, of this old sentry. Start with me Lord. Revive me first, then my neighbors, my church, the leaders of my church, the leaders of my community, state and nation. Revive me Lord. Revive and awaken my beloved nation Lord.
“I [God] create good times and bad times.” Am I to understand here that God is the author of evil in the moral sense of sin? No! No! No! This statement is made in relation to the providences of God. He raises up prosperity, peace, pure religion and the like. He also calls forth adversity, calamity, ignorance, et all…but not evil, in the moral sense of sin. He gives us light. Darkness ensues because the light is withdrawn.*
When God withdraws his hand, bad things happen. But when God puts his hand of blessing on something (as here with Cyrus) good things happen. God’s point here is his complete and absolute superiority over all the things in heaven and on earth. He providentially works in the affairs of men. This is as true today as it was in the days of Cyrus.*
America may not want to hear this, but God says, “[I am he who] builds up nations, and [I am he who] destroys them. [I am he who] expands nations, and [I am he who] abandons them” (Job 12:23 NLT – see vv 13-24 for context https://bible.com/bible/116/job.12.13-24.NLT).
Lord put it into the heart of every prayer sentry to seek truth and learn from you in the good times and in the bad times. May every sentry standing on the wall speak with conviction and with compassion. May your Spirit not be withdrawn from our midst.
Sad to say, though God makes his case for his love and mercy, still Israel rejects his call to return to him. Do the words RECALCITRANT, DELETERIOUS, mean anything? Instead of offering sacrifices of praise to honor God, they offered the best of their sinful trash. They flaunted the worst of their disobedience before God. Shameful. Am I any better Lord?
Yet, still, God offers his absolute mercy and forgiveness for sins committed against him. Why? For his own sake. For the sake of his name, his love. God says repentance (getting rid of the trash) will lead still to the pouring out his Spirit on Israel’s descendants and his blessing on their children. The people of God will once again be proud to claim God’s name over them. Lord, put within this aged sentry a surrendered and willing heart.
America – can we not see with our own eyes and hear with her own ears what is right? How long shall we refuse righteousness and ignore what is right before our own eyes and ears?
If God did not withhold judgment on his own people, Israel, how will he not withhold judgment on the nations that reject and ignore him? America has turned her back on God. She, like Israel of old, is the target of God’s fury…yet she refuses to understand. She refuses to learn her lessons.
Consider just the past 18 months: COVID pandemic, “George Floyd “– riots, grotesque racial division among us, out of control forest fires, inflation that threatens our economy, earthquakes claiming thousands of lives, inept national leadership foisted upon us and the demise of our national/international honor, pride and global influence.
Father, open the eyes of this great nation to your love, mercy and forgiveness. May she repent while there is still time and turn back to you. Begin by breaking the heart of this old sentry, Lord!
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.
Prayer: Fear not dear people of America. No oppressor shall have power over you that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies does not allow (2 Kings 6:16-18). #BidenVsPutin
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
It matters not the weakness or strength of the leader of the free world; if God is for his remnant in America (or any other country), who shall stand against her? Do not be afraid of the enemy from Russia (or any where else). For greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world (1Jhn 4:4).
Lord of Heaven’s Armies, if the remnant of God in America shall be victorious open the eyes of President Vladimir Putin when he meets with President Joe Biden today, June 16, 2021.
No matter the state of President Biden’s mind, feeble or strong, when they meet, may Putin see what the servant of the Man of God saw as he coward in the face of the Aramean military might. [He saw that the Hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire – 2 Kings 6:16-18]. May Putin see that those who are with us are more and more than those who are with our him.
May the entire camp of Vladimir Putin be thrown into confusion as in the days of Judah’s King Jehoshaphat. The Lord of Heaven’s Armies caused three super powers of the day to turn on and destroy each other (2 Chronicles 20:20-24). So the Lord is able to do today.
World leaders and world super powers come and go. But the Lord of Heaven’s Armies will stand forever. May the Lord stand in the gap today as Joe Biden meets with Vladimir Putin. The Lord will stand with truth, justice and righteousness on the world stage. May the world be convinced today of the power of the Lord God.
What is the prayer, that “holy hug,” that Paul expresses for his beloved friends in Philippi? He prays that the love of Christ might pour out in abundance from them to others. He prays that they will continue to grow in their knowledge of Christ, that they might live moral upright lives. He prays that they will be filled with the fruit of salvation (the righteous character of Christ). The ultimate goal of all of this is that they will bring much glory, praise, to God.
So, following Paul’s example, I pray for my family, friends and nation that Christ love might abound in them, knowledge of Christ will continue to grow, that Christ-likeness will be revealed in them and that ultimately, God will be glorified in their lives. And Lord, may my love, Christian character and witness also bring glory to the father.
Paul continues his affectionate greeting. He communicates his prayers and encouragement to the Philippian believers. It his way of embracing those far away from him and giving them a spiritual hug, a “holy hug.”
So it has also become my joy to pray for and write to those for whom I pray – my wife, my children, grandchildren and spiritual adopteds; my neighbors, friends, leaders in my church, leaders in our nation, state, county and city; for all others whom the Lord gives a reason for me to pray.
This is the call of the prayer sentry, to search God’s word daily, to hear and receive from him my assignments in prayer. Then to pray for these beloved family, friends, leaders and others.
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.
Prayer is a constant focus of the apostle Paul. He always has someone, some church, some group of people on his mind in prayer. Thanks is another virtue of Paul. He is forever thankful…to God, to partners in ministry and for those who have given their lives to Christ. Paul never takes for granted the work of the gospel nor the partners and fellow workers in ministry.
A sure sign that one may be an intercessor is his/her thankful heart and joy in always being ready to pray for someone or some group. It is his/her delight to pray. That is the intercessor. This is the seminal work of the prayer sentry. Father, I shall never forget those days in which you called me to the ministry of intercession.
Epaphras (likely founder of the church in Colosse) – Paul opens his letter to the Colossians with a note about Epaphras (1:7). He mentions him again in the closing (4:12,13). Epaphras is noted as a faithful servant and man of earnest prayer. It is said that he “always labors fervently for you in prayer…“ That is, on any and every occasion Epaphras was ready to pray.
Epaphras was not only ready, he prayed “fervently.“ That is, he prayed with painstaking accuracy and knowledge. He was an earnest and sincere intercessor. Epaphras was “moved” by God towards deep heartfelt prayer. This is the goal of the Prayer Sentry. Lord, may this sentry, every prayer sentry, take every opportunity to sincerely pray for the welfare of others, that they might stand mature in the will of God.
In the closing lines of Paul’s letter to the Colossians he speaks kindly of eight men who are standing with him in the call to preach the Gospel. Some are in prison with him in Rome. Some are ministering to him in his incarceration for the Gospel. But prison for Paul, rather than a place of doom, gloom and defeat, has become a busy center for flourishing ministry. (“What [men] meant as evil against me, God meant for good, that many people should be kept alive – Gen 50:20)
From prison Paul plans ministry and prays for many. He teaches, disciples, exhorts, sends others out and serves Christ from prison. No matter his circumstances he is “content” (Phi 4:11 – written from prison). For Paul the place is here and the time is now. He finds ways to continue to spread the Gospel message. Prison holds no bars for the man or woman of God. Lord, though limited in my elder years, this duty sentry is determined to be as engaged as ever doing what he can to pray, share the Gospel and to encourage the people of God.
Aside from the general need to be devoted in prayer, alert to any specific circumstances requiring prayer – pray with a humble and grateful heart. Paul also makes a request for prayer for his own efforts, even as he is in prison.
Paul requests prayer for open doors to share the gospel; that he might speak clearly for Christ and the Gospel message. How mindful am I of many ministries, mission efforts and church planting teams? It should be my goal to spend time praying for these organizations, the men and women who lead these efforts. Lord, give this sentry open doors to share the Gospel and be clear in the message.
Prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit as he speaks into my life. Each day I come to the Scriptures looking for, listening for, inspiration to pray – how to pray, what to pray, for whom to pray. When I read the prayers and exhortations to pray from Paul, I am inspired, moved, to do as Paul did (as Jesus did – Luke 5:16; as the apostles did – Acts 2: 42). STAY PRAYER CENTERED.
Prayer turns the focus from me and from my self-interests, from my perspective, to God’s perspective. This is how I learn to understand my true purpose and role in this world. Daily Scripture reading and prayer keeps the sentry centered on God‘s point of view and his mission.
Paul must have felt tremendous responsibility for the church in Colosse and Laodicea. He did not found these two churches. Others who had come to Christ through Paul’s ministry (Acts 19:10) found these churches (Epaphras in Colosse – v7). Paul may have thought, “I hope I have adequately discipled these converts and that they may stand strong in the face of adversity and false teaching.”
Paul agonizes for their steadfastness in faith. He encourages them and reminds them of the truth they believed in Christ. He does all he can to continue pointing them to that truth. Lord, I have felt the responsibility of mentoring others in ministry. I have agonized over ministry plants in places near and far. To train and disciple is a joy. It is also a weighty responsibility. Father, may I always take such work seriously.
Here is the second of three elements in Paul’s prayer for the believers in Colossae. He prays that they would be strengthened by the glorious power of God. To what ends does this second request lead us? Paul explains: that these believers might endure, have patience in their need and be filled with joy.
The nature of this “strength“ from God is it’s durative quality. It is not an initial gift given at regeneration that must last the believer for his/her entire journey. No, it is a continual flow that is new every moment of every day. My resources are not at the mercy of the crisis at hand. They are measured by the only power (κράτος-kratos) in the universe ascribed to God. Lord, the abundant supply of strength that empowers me (those I pray for) lies in the glorious, infinite and interminable power of the One who created the universe.
Paul prays for the believers in Colossae. His prayer is broken up into three parts.
1 of 3 – Paul prays that these believers would have a growing knowledge of God‘s will; spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then Paul explains how that would work itself out. [They did not have the advantage of the complete word of God as we do today] They would walk worthy of their call (honoring/pleasing God), they would produce good fruit in their lives (acts of service and goodness), and they would continue to grow in the knowledge of God (get to know God better and better).
It is important that we read and study God’s word. But not to accumulate or pile up more and more facts (we could pass a test). No, we read/study God‘s word to get to know him better and better. Knowing him, his ways and his will, we will be better able to honor and please him. We will know how to produce gracious acts of service in his name, that achieve good results. Finally, knowledge of him begets more knowledge, more honor, more good fruit…and so it goes.
I may not pray this specific prayer each day. But it is my desire that every prayer I pray over family, friends and country has the effect of their growth in the knowledge of God‘s will; spiritual wisdom and understanding.
When Paul says, “We have not stopped praying for you…“ he is not making some impromptu, casual remarks. He intends with all earnestness to point the Colossian church to the great God of all creation. Prayer is not a bargaining chip, an after thought or a therapeutic exercise in meditation. Prayer is the means by which God achieves his purposes in this world.
Paul speaks in the tradition of Jesus who instructed his disciples to “pray earnestly” (Luke 10:2); who taught that “men are always to pray and not faint” (Luk 18:1). Lord, prayer and the reading of your word is essential to sentry’s growth and effectiveness as a follower of Christ; to the advancement of the Gospel in this world.
I have been in many jails and prisons in my ministry from God. But only as a minister, not as an inmate. Paul writes as an inmate. He writes to believers in Colosse from a prison cell in Rome (likely under house arrest, probably chained to a soldier). Young Timothy is there to assist (perhaps he lived in the house).
I have known and do currently know inmates and former inmates who have trusted Jesus as Savior. These men and women write inspiring letters from prison. They have had much time to focus long and hard on God‘s word. They often write lofty thoughts and phrases. So Paul writes soaring lofty thoughts. He is inspired by his Old Testament learning, his apostolic calling from God and under the direction of the Holy Spirit,.
I’ve been a soldier in war. I’ve been a minister in jails and prisons. Now, as a long tenured prayer sentry, I am ever more compelled in my “watch” hours to listen to God. I am compelled as a believer to pray, write and witness. Oh how I thank God for the place to which he has brought me in my life with him.
Oh the beautiful valley in which the city of Jerusalem sits; it is now filled with enemy chariots of war (vv6,7). Why? Because the people of God rejected him. Judah trusted in her own self-made plans. She built her war chests against the Assyrian enemy. She ran to her armories. She sought to shore up her breached walls. She stored up her reservoirs for war. She did everything but ask God for his help.
Today, I hear much rhetoric from politicians, educators, corporate, media and activist leaders, yea, even the citizenry. There is much talk of war against their perceived enemies. Like Jerusalem against her Assyrian enemy, America runs for her political arsenals, she seeks to shore up her walls of political advantage. She works furiously to fill her political reservoirs. But defeat on all sides will be as swift and sure as was Jerusalem‘s. Why? History teaches us. Because, like Jerusalem, in all of America’s self made plans, her leaders have abandoned the people (v3). She arrogantly pursues her own interests. She never stops to ask for God’s help. He is the one who sets her back on her heels; and though rejected by her, loves her and would save her. If she would only ask.
All of this presses this old sentry to his knees in prayer and mourning for my beloved country. Oh that she might seek for God’s help.
Be alarmed and turn your wayward heart back to God (Isa 28:18-22). #TurnToGod #RepentTowardGod #ForeWarnedIsForeArmed
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
It ought to cause the people of God to shudder, to hear and to know that God is willing to trample his own when they continue headlong into sin and the rejection of his word. Instead they think they have outsmarted the coming judgment. But God will strike out, cancel, the deal his people have made with pagan forces to avoid judgment. The bed his people have made to lay in securely is wholly inadequate. The bed blankets are too narrow to cover them.
Just as God defeated the Philistines (Jos 10) and the Amorites (2Sa 5), so he will deliver a defeating, crushing blow to his own people. God’s people ought to be jolted into a repentance and surrender to Jehovah God. But they are not and time has run out. Oh Lord, awaken your people (awaken me) to the disaster ahead if we continue to trust in our own schemes and ingenuity. Bring this old sentry’s heart into alignment with your will and purpose.
Father, would you bring the heart of America into alignment with your will. Would you send revival into the church of America. May your people be alarmed and jolted at the high stakes at risk when there is no humble repentance toward God. I pray your Spirit to awaken the sleepy heart of America from her long slumber. May we we see a sweeping renewal of hearts toward God.
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.
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.