Men may think that they must have fame, wealth and power to have influence. At times men may feel they deserve to be heard. That is pride and arrogance speaking. But when one comes to God, listens to God and follows God‘s counsel, that one, whether great or small, from humble beginnings or advantaged beginnings, may have great and godly influence.
Why is this so? Because God is the one who exalts the individual, in his way, in his time (1Pe 5:6). He does so in meager surroundings and in sufficient to substantial surroundings. For God, it is not about being the best IN the world. It is about being the best FOR the world. I must examine first the one standing in the one square foot of space I occupy.
Lord, you have allowed this old sentry opportunity for godly influence; first in my family, then in my circle of friends and associates; in my realms of life. I could ask for nothing more.
Isaiah Chapter 55 flows from Redemption‘s story (Ch 53) through the assurances of Redemption‘s victory (Ch 54) and into a grand and glorious invitation to Redemption‘s offer of God’s free gift of life everlasting (Ch 55). Isaiah says, “Anyone thirsty? Come drink freely. Are you hungry? The finest food is available, free.”
Jesus probably had these verses in mind when he said, “and from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (Jhn 7:37,38).“ John the Apostle writes from exile, “He [who sits on the throne] said, ‘I will give water of life to the thirsty…freely’“ (Rev 21:6). So The thirsty soul may drink long and often from the well of perpetual life giving water (Jhn 4:13,14). Lord, there could be no clearer invitation in the Old Testament for this thirsty sentry to bring his unquenchable thirst/hunger to you. You will not fail to abundantly satisfy.
Just as God predicted and delivered Israel from 70 years of captivity in Babylon, he will deliver his church from the grip of this world. There will be a new world order when Christ returns. There will be a glorious new City of God, the New Jerusalem, from which he will reign.
The City of God will be constructed of precious stones. Children will learn and live in righteous peace under God’s tutelage. Any who take up arms against God’s people will be crushed. No weapon forged against his people can or will prevail against them. No charge will be brought against his people. God has said it. It shall be!
Lord, you have given even the weakest watchman the spiritual armor to stand against the evil one (Ephesians 6). No spiritual weapon used against me will succeed, because of your might.
Unlike me, the Redeemer–shepherd, Jesus, always listens to God. He is obedient to the Sovereign Lord (note Jhn 5:19). He seeks God‘s wisdom. He awakens to God’s call and understanding. He hears God’s voice because he puts himself in a position, in a mindset to listen.
So when the Redeemer’s humiliation comes he is able to stand steadfastly. His face is set to do God‘s will. The Sovereign Lord will sustain him in his hour of need. The Sovereign Lord is on his side and will put to shame those who mock his Redeemer. But those who put their trust in the Redeemer will walk in the light (1Jn 1:6,7). Lord, awaken this sentry early to your word and your will. I eagerly wait for you to speak.
Jesus, my redeemer–friend, wonders in his humanity at the outcome of his earthly work and ministry, as perhaps ineffective. (He also stopped and prayed three times over the certainty of God’s plan in the garden before his crucifixion – Mat 26:36-47.) He has no hesitation in trusting his life’s work into the hands of Jehovah God (v4). Isaiah 49:5-7 explains why.
Our Redeemer is confident in the source, strength and certainty of his life call and work (v5).
He is assured that nothing he did on earth will be lost. It will ultimately be used to point ALL men to God (v6).
Finally, he is assured that “rejection,“ or apparent failure, is not the measure of success in God’s eyes. God is faithful (v7 & 25:1).
Lord, I can learn lessons from Jesus in trusting you completely with the outcomes of the work to which you call me.
These final words in Chapter 45 are all at once magnetic, arresting and captivating. These words draw us inescapably into God‘s plan of mercy and righteousness.
Whom God chooses (here, the Persian king, Cyrus) he empowers for the task (v14). God moves in powerful and mysterious ways (vv15-17). What God says and does he does out loud, for all to hear and know. Following God is not the result of some “secret path.” He has said, “If you seek me, you shall find me“ (vv18,19). What God says he will do (vv20,21).
All men will look to him for eternal salvation. His promises are true and every knee will eventually bow before him. All will confess him and give praise to him. Those who have worked against him will be ashamed. His followers will boast in him alone (vv22–25). God’s plan of redemption is visible for all to see. Lord, I commit to remain open-eyed to all you say and do.
“I have learned how to be content…“ This is a parenthetic statement given in the midst of a gratuitous statement of deeply felt thanks to the Philippian church for their financial provision to Paul. Paul’s joy (expressed so often and so well in this letter) informed his sense of contentment.
Joy is detached from circumstances. It comes from a deep and abiding relationship with Christ. So contentment is detached from other inner desires for more and for abundance. It comes from the One who alone gives us strength and courage every day. Therein lies the secret of joy and contentment. Fully rely on God for EVERY need. Lord, fill me with your joy and contentment today.
I learned this lesson long ago from, Beggar At The Banquet, the story of Hong, Woo Joon. He, his parents, brothers and sisters were severely and unspeakably persecuted Korean Christians as communism took over Korea in the 1920s-40s. Hong’s story is told by Donald B Sheley.
The book opens with this quote from Hong. “Life is like a banquet in a strange land. Great expectation preceeds some of the [banquet] dishes while caution hinders the complete enjoyment of others. As the guest, one is expected to taste and experience each course. Some of the courses are delightful, and others are not, but all are given by a concerned host [the Lord] and must be received and appreciated. That is my philosophy of life, a philosophy which I have been practicing at life’s banquet for 52 years. Some of the courses have been wonderful, others have been bitter.”
This is not rocket science. If you always want to be full of joy (v4), contentment (v6) and know God’s peace (v7), do this: focus on the soon return of Christ (v5), spend time with God in prayer (v6) and exemplary living (v8) – enthusiastically embrace the truth and what is honorable; embrace what is ethically right and morally pure; embrace amiability and virtuous living; embrace an attitude of praise for all it is excellent.
Give attention to these things, study them, practice them. All of these things practiced consistently will lead to a life of joy and contentment and peace. It ain’t rocket science. Lord, I recognize that true joy, contentment and peace are not out of the grasp of even an aged old sentry.
Standing in apposition to those who have corrupted the Gospel are those whose lives clearly represent the kingdom of Heaven. They are ambassadors of Christ Jesus in this world. This is a temporary home and soon the savior from Heaven’s Kingdom, Jesus, will call us home.
Our mortal bodies will put on a immortality like that of Christ. He will, by his power, bring all things under his control and we shall be like him in our resurrected bodies. Lord, while I am in this world may my life be a true reflection of your Kingdom.
Paul reflects momentarily on his past. But he does not dwell there. He mentions some things for which he was ashamed. Are we not all dogged by shameful things? But Paul‘s point of view is that the past ought not haunt us today and paralyze our movement forward in Christ.
Paul strives for maturity. He labors now, not for salvation, but for knowing Christ more fully. Like a track athlete, he disciplines himself and pushes himself toward the crown of victory to which Christ has called him. Lord, this old sentry is encouraged by Paul to let go of my past failures and hold nothing back from fully knowing and serving Christ.
Not much will make the heart of the leader know more true satisfaction than for co-laborers in Christ to be “wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.”
The leader who can realize that, has found a path for personal engagement in the lives of others that most never seem to have time for. It’s not the easiest or most direct route, but it is the most satisfying. Lord, may I be a leader like that in my family, my church and my community.
Seated here in my quiet place, in the early morning watch, it is difficult for me to grasp the conflict in Paul’s spirit. Words and emotions escape me. I am challenged even to write. The brokenness of Paul’s thought patterns serve only to express his inward desire to glorify Christ, whether he lives or whether he dies. Such a deep state of faith I can only imagine.
Paul is in prison and will be on trial for his life. His thoughts move from his imminent martyrdom to emotions expressing great exultation (it cannot be exaggerated) and rejoicing that he will be released. That he will see these beloved believers again is not assumed but expected. When they see him they will be doubly encouraged in their growth and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Lord, may the state of my faith be deep enough to glorify you whether in life or death.
This is my free translation of Paul’s message in these few verses. “I’m in prison but everything that has happened to me here is helping to spread the Gospel. Everyone here in prison knows my mission to spread the Gospel…even the prison guards. Believers here with me in prison are emboldened to share the Gospel message – WERE WINNING! NO FEAR!“
Never underestimate the power of your influence for Christ. Your voice, your countenance, your message, your encouragement, your passion for sharing Jesus can help others to face their troubles and fears. What great opportunities to share the Gospel await me every day. Lord, may I face every situation, not with fear but, with fearless faith.
The message here is to represent well the exalted Christ. Let your teaching, counsel [all your conversation] be ordered by the wisdom Christ gives. Let your worship and singing reflect a heart of thanksgiving to God for all he has done. In all you do (everything) honor the name of Christ. Lord, may I always bring honor to your name.
TRIBUTE: I used to tell my children, there were two rules in our house. One, you’re a Hollar you belong to me. Two, you’re a Christian, you belong to Christ. Honor both names wherever you go and in whatever you do. They are now grown, married and have three children each of their own. As far as I know they have always honored the Hollar name and the name of Christ. They still do.
Real life, real living, begins with life in Christ. Existence is not life anymore than a house is a home or a father is a dad. A house becomes a home when it is filled with love, devotion and relationships. A father becomes a dad when love, devotion and relationships are sought and found by intentional compassionate trial, error and growth.
Mere existence becomes true life, real life, when love of, devotion to and a relationship with Christ becomes the primary focus. We die to an old existence. We shed the old way of existing. We are awakened to a new way, where Christ becomes our life, our all in all. Thank you Lord for my new life that is secure and protected with Christ in God.
Paul shifts his thoughts in Colossians from what we know and understand about Jesus (correcting false teaching) to how we are to live for Jesus. So we, having “died” to our old sinful nature, transformed by the cross of Christ, are united with him in spirit and in life. Our perspective now is to “set our sights on Christ and the realities of heaven.”
This has to do with our gaining a totally new perspective on life; a “quantum foot view,”. The shift is from a previously base, banausic, and materialistic point of view of life to an honest, uncorrupted, exceptional and eternal perspective. Christ has given us a vastly expanded view of the scope, purpose and understanding of life. Lord, allow me to respond to the daily events of life always with your point of view in mind.
We came to Christ by trusting the truthfulness of God (that’s “faith”). So when we are confronted with all the philosophies of the world we reject them and continue to trust in him and his word. His word is true, it will lead and guide me.
We must sink our roots down deep into Christ. That is, we draw nourishment from him and let his teachings inform our way of living. We must not be derailed by human reasonings. Do this and the truth in which we believed/trusted God in the first place, will grow strong within us. We will be overwhelmed by thankfulness. Lord, this old sentry would never trade new life in Christ for the world of human reasoning in which he used to live.
My peace with God comes as a result of the blood Jesus shed on the cross for my sins. In the Levitical law it is shown that the bloodline of man was infected with sin through Adam’s rebellion (Lev 17:11). So now, the shedding of innocent blood provides renewal of the life of God in me. (In the Old Testament the blood of an innocent lamb was shed for the forgiveness of sin; in the New Testament Jesus Christ was that innocent lamb removing man’s sin [Jhn 1:29]).
Forgiveness and eternal life comes through Christ to all men and women who put their faith (trusting the truthfulness of God) in him to redeem them. Christ was/is the only means of redemption. Christ came in the flesh to shed blood for the remission of sin. Though I was alienated from God, I am now reconciled because I have received by faith new life through the blood of Christ.
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.
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.
Many a ship, crew and cargo have been lost because of decisions made by men to ignore the facts at hand. Paul pleaded with the ship’s officers to wait out the winter storms in a place called Fair Havens. But the ship’s company thought Fair Havens an incommodious place. They decided, against better judgment, to set sail for the more commodious port of Phoenix.
How often we wish to leave the Fair Havens of life, thinking to outrun the storms ahead. We look to the more favorable places to set anchor and harbor. We ignore the signs of tragedy ahead. We ignore the counsel of God. We leave the Fair Havens given by God and set sale for our own desired comforts. Lord, I pray this aged old sentry has finally learned to trust you and grow and serve where you plant me?
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.
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.