“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.
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.
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.”
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:
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 26 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, enable my family and friends to encourage the heart of God by being a blessing and not a burden to others.
The way to grieve the heart of God is to be a bitter, angry, harsh, slanderous and malicious person. Particularly since we know that the Lord Jesus has made his followers one with him. These attitudes and actions should never be counted among those who follow Christ.
Instead, Christ followers should show kindness, compassion and forgiveness, times without number, toward others. They do this out of a heart of gratitude to God for how he has loved and forgiven them for their bad attitudes, words and actions. Lord, my debt to you is repaid in part when I am kind and loving toward others.
Only a foolish man or woman would take a know-it-all position towards life. Such a person looks despicably upon wisdom and knowledge – they cannot be told anything. But a wise person (who, by the way, may not be the most educated person in the room) will stop, look and listen. Then they will speak in measured, carefully spoken words.
The hallmark of a person who is wise is their reverence and respect for God. There in lies the foundation of all wisdom and knowledge. Father, may I be still and silent before you; the ears of my understanding open and ready to receive true knowledge.
Day 10 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends live free in Christ, no longer obedient to Sin’s mastery.
“There is no condemnation to those in Christ.“ Perfect example is Jesus confronting a bunch of self-righteous, religious zealots in Jerusalem. He confronts their hypocrisy as sinners, condemning another sinner. He exposes their sin first. Then he turns his attention to the one who was condemned.
“Where are your accusers?“ Jesus asks. “None of them can condemn you; neither do I. Go and sin no more“ (Jhn 8:1–11). Christ’s life-giving Spirit frees us from the power of King Sin. I am no longer Sin’s slave in rebellion against God. I am free to obey my new supreme commander, Jesus.