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:
Day 40 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, may my friends and family always choose to serve God alone.
In Joshua Chap 24, Joshua recounts the many ways that God, not idols made of their own hands and minds, delivered Israel from Egypt, lead them through the Red Sea on dry ground, delivered them from the hands of enemy kings and gave them a land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord God of Heaven did all that.
Joshua then asks, in essence, in light of all the evidence for God, why on earth would you choose the idols of the pagan nations that God destroyed? The choice is clear. He says, “As for me and my house, we will serve the lord God of Israel.” Lord when I consider all the battles you have won for me, all the provisions you have made on my behalf, the choice is clear…I choose to serve you.
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 29 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Father, put it on the heart of family members and friends to be authentic in their love of and service to others.
When it comes to others I need to be real and be ready, focus on genuinely loving others. I need to be enthusiastic in my service to God and others. I should work on being authentic in my compassion for others, even those who are hard to love or want to abuse me.
Lord, I want to work towards a harmonious outcome with people. I never want to be that “know-it-all guy.” I strive to be a humble participant in the lives of others. I’d be honored to be some small part in turning someone’s life around. Thank you Lord, for “Smitty.” He was a sentry teammate to me in Vietnam. One humble sentry showed me how to love you and love others.
Be available to God as his messenger of the light (Acts 28:17b,18).
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
Day 24 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, lead those believing family and friends to be messengers of the gospel.
I am certainly no Apostle Paul. Still, I have a responsibility to be a witness for Christ (Mat 28:19,20). I am to, “do the work of an evangelist, to fulfill [whatever] ministry [to which I am called]” (2Ti 4:5).
Like a blooming rose in winter, I am to be pointing others to the light, turning them from the power of Satan to God; that they might receive forgiveness of their sins and find their place among God‘s people, set apart by faith in Christ.
Lord, it is my honor to be a messenger for you. May I be on the alert to opportunities every day to share the gospel.
Day 12 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends find courage in faithfully reading and applying God’s Word.
In the preface to the book of Joshua (New Living Translation) it says, “To be a strong leader like Joshua, we must be ready to listen and to move quickly when God instructs [Oh, the lost opportunities that sloth and indecision do bring]…”
“…Once we have God‘s instructions, we must be diligent in carrying them out.“ Strong, courageous men and women of faith do not deviate from God‘s Word; they study it, meditate on it (digest it), pray it and obey it. Lord, may I consistently and persistently be a student of your Word; then move with courage
Day 7 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends walk in the light of Christ. The god of this world has thrown a blanket of darkness over the hearts of men. In the dark there is ignorance, fear, evil work and sin (rebellion against God).
But for those who seek enlightenment, courage, good works and deliverance from sin, the promises of God are on full display. His light penetrates the darkness. He exposes the hearts of men in the light of the knowledge of the glory of God, in the face of Jesus Christ. Father, may my life courageously reflect the light of Christ.
Day 6 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lead my family and friends to walk in the Light. Our days are numbered on this earth. Every day is an opportunity to dispel darkness wherever we may go. May we choose to walk in the light of knowing Christ.
As a children of the Light [Jesus] we can bring hope and courage to those we meet along the way. We can be a Charlie Brown “Pigpen,“ living in doom and gloom. Or we can be a “Peppermint Party,” spreading joy, light and hope. Choose to walk in the Light. Lord, a sentinel command on the watch is to give those around us hope and joy in Christ.
Day 4 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, surround my family and friends with a spirit of love and good deeds. Who does not need a regular word of encouragement? “Spur one another on“ (NIV). The idea in this Scripture is to stir up, encourage, provoke, motivate others around you. Especially strive to “spur on” those with whom we share faith in the Lord Jesus.
“Spur On” [motivate] to what? To do love and good deeds. Today our country is experiencing much provocation toward cynicism, skepticism and distrust. We need to hear, in a big way, from those in the faith who express genuine encouragement of others. Lord, I want to be the kind of friend and brother that motivates others toward love and acts of kindness. I want to get my “Spur On.”
Paul is about to leave the leaders of the church at Ephesus. He will entrust them with the great message of grace. He tells them, “GUARD yourselves…feed and care for the flock – the church. “WATCH OUT!“ Be alert to false teachers and prideful men who seek only a following for themselves. Such people will divide and create disunity in the church.
To “GUARD” and to “WATCH OUT” are a call to arms for the faithful leader in the church and in the family. Standing vigilantly requires him/her to, 1) teach God’s word well, 2) minister in truth and all sincerity, 3) counsel by prayerful insight, sought through tears and deep spiritual connections and 4) sound the alarm when danger approaches. Father, may this sentry effectively share the gospel and express the truth of Scripture by my words and by my example.
Paul had staked his life on the Gospel. He faces suffering and chains as he proceeds to Jerusalem. Here, Paul is challenging church leaders to give their all, as he has done, for the Gospel of Jesus. Tell others the good news of the wonderful grace of God. Faithfully carry out the mission to which you have been called.
To these elders of Ephesus Paul says, “Guard yourselves and God’s people – his church, purchased with his blood. Feed and care for God’s people over whom the Spirit of God has appointed you.” Nothing is more important. Lord, I could never give my life to anything greater than sharing the gospel with others.
There are friends, and then there are companions, for whom it may be said that they stick closer than a brother. That is my friend Mel Karger. He was closer to me than a brother.
Today, I will take part in a memorial service for Mel. He was my friend and partner in ministry for some 30 years. Our bond is inseparable. It is merely only shaded now by a vapor thin veil between heaven and earth. I sure do love you Mel. We’ll talk again soon.
God‘s deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrian king Sennacherib (701 B.C.) was a foretaste of what will come in the distant future. According to the prophet God will, “in that day,“ reign as king over the earth. It will come! The deaf will hear, the blind will see (metaphors of deliverance). Has been and will be fulfilled in Jesus.
The humble, not the proud, the poor not the affluent, will be filled with “fresh joy“ [ever increasing joy]. The scoffers, the arrogant, the evil hearted and perverters of justice will be destroyed. God’s people will remain and thrive and grow. Lord, your promises fill the weary sentry with fresh joy. Your mercies are new every morning.
At the center of the Jewish faith is the temple in Jerusalem and the worship of Jehovah God. At the center of the Christian faith is the temple of the Holy Spirit (my body – 1Co 6:19) and the collective worship of God by believers in union together with Christ (Jhn 4:23,24).
The call has always been to worship God in spirit and in truth. But we see here that rote ritual, rules and observances had supplanted sincere worship of, and devotion to, God. It was indifferent and deceitful. It happens today as well. This brings the holy ire of God on dead lifeless religion. Father, may this sentry worship & serve you with a whole heart, given in spirit and in truth.
Lord, would you bring America to a place of sincere worship and devotion to you. Would you intervene and give her a whole heart for you. Would you sweep our land in renewal, revival and spiritual awakening.
With the trip to Jerusalem foremost in his mind, Paul requests earnest prayer. He is headed back into the teeth of Pharisee country, his former Jewish party. To unbelieving Jewish countrymen He was not Paul the apostle, but Paul the apostate. He was also concerned that some Jewish believers might be offended by prejudices at the offering sent by Gentile believers to them.
Believers today may feel cornered by spiritual forces of darkness. These can only be defeated in prayer. So Paul asks friends, Believers, to “join in the struggle by praying.“ Praying for others is to take part in their battles of life and also ministry. “Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle” – (Ravenhill/Chambers).
Lord, may my sentry prayer be fervent and earnest taking every opportunity to consistently and eagerly contend for the welfare of others; that they might stand mature and complete in the will of God (Col 4:12).
Riots in Ephesus (Acts 19:23-41) had forced Paul (est 55-60 yrs old) to leave that city. He went to Macedonia. A plot on Paul’s life forced him to leave there. But before he left he took a benevolence offering for the poor believers in Jerusalem. He stopped in Corinth (Greece) temporarily. While there he wrote the Romans epistle.
Paul’s plan was to go on to Jerusalem (offering in hand). Then he would go to Spain to preach the gospel, stopping in Rome to meet these Christians. But first he must face opposition in Jerusalem by Jewish Christians who feel he is too influenced by Gentiles.
This Sentry’s prayer: Lord, may I be willing to face any hardship/opposition for the sake of the Gospel. Even if Christians misunderstand or wrongly attack my motives.