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.
I always want to hear what the Holy has to say to me directly. But this morning the New Living Translation Bible study notes ring the bell: “Ultimate joy comes from Christ dwelling within us. Christ’s coming is near, and when he comes we will fully realize his ultimate joy.“
In the meantime, “We are to be considerate (reasonable, fair minded and charitable) to those outside the church as well as those inside. This means we are not to seek revenge against those who treat us unfairly, nor are we to be overly vocal about our personal rights. [Christ] who lives within us will fulfill his final purposes for us“ (NLT study notes).
“The years teach much which the days never know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Lord, may the faithful sentry be always mindful to walk by faith and not by sight (2Co 5:7).
Having noted several divisions and disagreements in the church at Philippi, Paul moves to some more practical instruction. “Joy“ being a major focus of this letter, Paul begins there. “Always be full of joy in the Lord; again – rejoice!”
“Joy” is not happiness with no gloom. It is the victory of faith, the confident assurance of the soul secure in Christ Jesus. It is often related to and/or out of times of affliction.
Joy “In the Lord“ – God himself is the ground and object of the believer’s joy (Neh 8:10). This joy is like a storm cellar in the midst of a storm; safe, secure, from the tempest outside. Lord, be my joy, my source of strength in turbulent times; at all times.
Paul turns his attention to two women in the church at Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche. Their harsh disagreement comes as a bitter pill for Paul to swallow. First, because of his love for this church and second, because of their previous effective hard work sharing the good news with Paul and others.
Perhaps Paul recalls his own falling out with John Mark and Barnabas (Acts 13:13; 15:37-39). When it comes to the Christian life before a watching world, it is time to mend fences and resolve to be at peace with all men (Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14,15). Lord, lead me to correct any unresolved conflicts in my life.
Paul greets his Philippian readers with the words, “grace and peace.” The New Living Translation Bible study notes say, “Inside the tiny package marked ‘grace and peace,’ we find an inexhaustible treasure of God’s daily presence in our lives.” Grace and peace are at the source of all joy.
Everything I read as an introduction to the epistle of Philippians leads me to reflect on the subject of “joy.“ Yet, it is not joy that I seek as an end in itself. No. But it is the Giver of joy unspeakable whom I seek. Joy is the by-product. First Peter 1:8 underscores this appellation as descriptive of the experience of knowing Christ. I do not strive for joy. It it is a surprise gift that comes naturally as I strive to know Christ in all of his fullness. Father, may I know first hand the depths of grace and peace in relationship with you.
*Title of a book by CS Lewis; the story of his conversion to Christianity
I have been for a week in sickness, forced by bodily frailties to separate myself from time with the great Love of my life. In The Song, the bride has slipped out of sight into her bedroom. I too am sequestered to my bedroom. But for me it is to my bed of illness. Yet the Love of my life does not leave me. He beckons to come in to me. But I am weak and undone in my body, unable to respond (v5:2,3).
Yet, my heart longs to be with the One who loves me. I try and try to rejoin Him but I am unable. I desire to be again in His presence (v4,5). I am beaten by the ill-tempered watchmen of sickness in the night (v7). But I know that the One who loves me may be found again, in His garden, where last I saw Him. “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine” (6:2,3) “If you seek me, you shall find me“ (Jer 29:13).
Lord, I have missed my time with you while illness raged in my body. But I am being renewed in that body. Healing comes. I long now for renewal of my spirit. You lord, are never far from me. I always know where to find you. In that place where last I saw you.
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.
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?
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.
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 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.
Day 5 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, lift my family to a higher plane of life. Alert them to what the thief does. A thief will break in when you’re not looking; in the dark, at times when it is most advantageous to him. The thief is no respecter of people, property or life. He will steal kill and destroy. This is life on its lowest plane.
But Jesus offers life on a higher plane. He comes in full view. He comes in the light. He offers his goodness. He offers life in the fullest. His purpose is to give not take. He gives forgiveness and life eternal, life at its highest and best. Thank you Lord, for delivering me from the evil one and his destructive purposes. You gave me life in its fullest.
Day 2 of 40 Prayer For Family – Father, defeat in my family the desires to walk according to our sinful nature (that which is defiant of God) resulting in sexual immorality, impurity, lust for pleasures, idolatry, sorcery (occult), hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outburst of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, hedonism, et al. Such will not inherit the Kingdom of God (Gal 5:19-21).
But may our family walk according to the Holy Spirit who produces a different result – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, truthfulness and self-control. Lord, fill us with your Spirit. May we all daily close the door on the influence to our sinful nature and walk yielded to the work of your Spirit.
Day 1 of 40 Prayer For Family – Father, I am standing in the gap for my family. I’m praying for them by name. It is not just a “happy“ life that I pray for them. I pray for their protection from the evil one, from all oppressive spirits that wish to dominate their lives. I pray that their obedience to God‘s word be pleasing unto him.
I pray that God‘s mercy and grace and compassion rain down on each one. I pray that they live in such a way as to bring God’s wholehearted approval. I pray the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension might follow after them. Lord, may this prayer reflect your desire for each one in my family.
I commit further, this prayer, to dear friends and beloved country.
One final lesson learned from Isaiah’s Shebna/Eliakim prophecy. The office of Prophet often used real life situations to mimic future events (note Hosea and Gomer, Jeremiah and the Potter). God will always reveal to us what he expects and what will happen if we obey or not. The point? God honors his word. He keeps his promises.
God has been clear about man’s sin and the Messiah. He would come [has come] to take away all the sin of the world. Those who accept God‘s forgiveness will receive eternal life. Those who do not, choose for themselves eternal death and hell. The prophets have all spoken. Jesus, the Messiah, son of God, has come. He paid the price for sin on the cross. Yes, “the Lord, has spoken.”
Today if you hear God’s voice do not ignore him (Hebrews 3:15). Lord, I believe what you say is truth.
You whose heart and life is right with God will have nothing to fear (Isa 33:13–16). #DoTheRightThing
MORNING WATCH NOTES:
“OMG!“ Fearful of judgement, the people bellow, “Who can survive the Holy?“ Isaiah gives the short answer. “Easy. Those who walk with the Holy and speak what is right and true. Those who do not extort by bribery or plot to do evil and violence. Those whose hands, ears and eyes are closed moral pollution. Those who do right in his sight.” These are those who have no need to fear the Holy One.
The Apostle Paul makes the same point. “Rulers hold no terror for those who do right.” (Rom 13:3). This is the man or woman who need not be alarmed, though the judgments of the Holy be all around them. Lord, you are ever before me. My refuge is in you.
The faithful prayer sentry declares with the Psalmist, “You who live in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress; my God in whom I trust’ “ (Psm 91:1-2)
It would be depressing if the words of Isaiah were ordered by an angry dispassionate God. But they are revealed by a God of love and compassion who is not willing that any should perish (2Pe 3:9). A day will come when God’s Spirit will be poured out on all men. Indeed his Spirit has already come and indwells every believer.
There will also come a day, at the end of time, when God’s Spirit will be poured out like never before (Joel 2:28f). The promises to Judah to restore justice and righteousness to the land, peace, quietness and confidence to the people of God, is also a promise for the coming kingdom of God. Lord, I stand in the promise of an outpouring of your Spirit on all men like never before.
Jesus called 12 men to himself. He had a plan for spreading the Gospel. He gave the 12 the responsibility and authority to carry out the plan. He gave them specific instructions on how to carry it out and a target at which to aim.
We could debate the instructions; basically he said go, preach, heal, cast out demons – do so generously. Travel light, stay as long as needed and then move on. Don’t worry about those who won’t listen. Their fate is in God’s hands.
Methods change but the sentry’s responsibility is still the same today. Be intentional about sharing the Gift, the Good News of forgiveness and eternal life through Jesus Christ. It’s free y’all. Jesus paid for it.
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.
“Thou, oh Lord, will keep him/her in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon/supported by God.“ This reminds me of the Apostle Paul‘s words, “What can separate me from the love of God? Absolutely nothing“ (Rom 8:36–38). My peace, my trust in God, remains undisturbed, no matter what the challenges to my life.
I will not be agitated by any hurt, sickness, bereavement or failure. I will not be moved by the affairs or persecutions of men. My faith will not be shaken, nor will it be pridefully exalted by the results of an election. My mind is steadfast and laser focused on God who is my Eternal Rock. Lord, the sentry will say with the Psalmist, “I shall not be moved“ (Psm 62:6).