The nation of Israel had fallen to Assyria. A captive priest of Jehovah God was sent to teach the new settlers how to worship God in the land. But they did not worship Jehovah God alone. They continued to worship their own gods as well. Israel had done the same and left many pagan shrines in the land that the new settlers used to worship their pagan deities. Makes me wonder about the heart of the priest who was sent to teach them of Jehovah God.
Today I am mindful of the Country & Western music I hear. Country & Western singers have no problem mixing Jesus, barstools and neon lights, like they all just go together. Get drunk on Saturday night, repent on Sunday morning. To call the name of Jesus is not the same as believing in Jesus (Mat 7:22). Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of true Jesus followers in country music. But Lord, this ol’ sentry don’t want no “country song Jesus” to command his life. Give me the real McCoy.
The Book of Acts does NOT conclude with the words, “Paul welcomed all and boldly proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught them about the Lord Jesus Christ.“ It moves forward on these words from the first century to the 21st-century and beyond. The Book of Acts does not end as abruptly as it seems. It is just the beginning of the faith story still being written today.
My life as a witness for Christ is “Chapter 29” in the spread of the Gospel. There are new chapters to the Book of Acts being written every day. There are chapters yet to be written. It is as the Apostle John said of Jesus: Jesus did many more unwritten works. [He continues his mighty works among men today and] “the whole world could not contain the books [the chapters] that would be written.” (Jhn 21:25).
Thank you Lord for including my story in your Gospel story. It is my story to share, that others may also be included. “Believe on the lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved [included]” (Acts 16:31).
The Scriptures predicted the response of the Jewish community to the Gospel (“Hearts would be hard, ears would be deaf, and eyes would be closed” – Isaiah 6:9-10). A late friend of mine, mentor and elder in the faith had a saying, “There are none so blind as those who won’t see and none so deaf as those who won’t hear.”
I can’t imagine the sorrow in Paul’s heart for his own disbelieving countrymen. After teaching and pleading with them over the Gospel from morning through evening, only a few listened. Many refused to listen and receive. Paul’s example to me is that it is not about how successful I am that moves me to share the “Good News.” It is about my obedience to share it. Lord, may I never stop pleading and praying the Gospel over my friends, neighbors, community and the world.
A time was set for Paul to explain this “movement“ of Christ followers to Jewish leaders in Rome. A large number of them showed up at Paul’s lodging place. Paul spoke to them from the Old Testament Scriptures explaining the gospel, that the expected Messiah, Jesus, had come. He spoke from morning until evening. Many argued and reasoned among themselves regarding all that Paul said. Some were persuaded, but others not.
Many there are who will hear the gospel and not believe. They may reason within themselves, or among themselves, over one point or another. They want to reason their way out of believing. Until, at last, they can reason no more. It is the Spirit upon whom we must rely to bring people to faith in Christ. Reason alone will not convince. Lord, use this aged sentry in taking every opportunity to share a careful and thoughtful witness of how Jesus has changed my life.
Within three days of his arrival in Rome, Paul calls together a meeting with local Jewish leaders. His goal? To get acquainted with them and explain why he has been incarcerated by Roman authorities. He wishes to share with them what he believes is the hope of Israel – Messiah has come.
They know nothing of Paul’s trouble with the Jews in Judea. What they do know is that “the movement,” Christianity, is “denounced everywhere.“ There are many in Rome who have believed in Jesus. There Faith is denounced – “CANCELED.” These Christians were seen as a threat, as they believed in God as a higher authority, higher than Caesar.
Under Nero many Christians were murdered, tortured and burned alive. Today in many parts of the world Christians are tortured and murdered. Father, I pray for persecuted Christians around the world. May I have courage myself to stand for Christ if and when called upon to do so.
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.
When things began to look their worst, the crew on board Paul’s ship of distress were ready to abandon the ship. But when the officers found out, they stopped the exodus (vv30-32).
Then Paul called the ship’s company together. He reminded them that because of worry and survival activity they had not eaten. They should eat. Paul blessed the food. He told them not to worry – not one of them would perish. They ate and all on board were encouraged by Paul’s words.
In times of trouble men and women of God can be a stabilizing force. Listen to God. Don’t abandon the ship. Remain nourished for the struggle. Lord, may my life offer hope and encouragement to others.
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.
Paul’s last words to the high court hearing his case for bogus charges: “I pray to God everyone here in this audience might become the same as I am [free], except for these chains.” Paul came to this court a prisoner in chains, but totally free in Christ.
All those in the hearing came into the court free of any physical chains, but wrapped up in the chains of a spiritual kind, in bondage to sin and Satan. King Agrippa and all those in attendance could have been set free (as Paul was), if only they would make their appeal to Jesus. Enable me Lord, to make the gospel clear through my life and witness.
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.
Paul’s example and appeal is clear. When faced with an opportunity to share the gospel be respectful, tell the truth and share your personal story. These will be your best defense of the gospel. Explain that Jesus came to save those who would turned to him. He died and resurrected that men may have forgiveness of sin and eternal life.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are irrefutable facts in history. A personal testimony is an irrefutable fact in history. Simple truth and reason will bring men and women to a point of decision. The rest is up to them to accept or reject. Lord, lead this sentry to speak the message you give, when you give it. The rest is up to you.
(Ezk 3:27) But when I give you a message, I will loosen your tongue and let you speak. Then you will say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Those who choose to listen will listen, but those who refuse will refuse, for they are rebels.
In Paul’s defense before Herod Agrippa, he admits to being a “cancel culture“ practitioner. Like the media, big tech, divisive politicians and oligarchs of our day, Paul lead out in silencing the Christians of his day.
BUT GOD – God arrested Paul, quite literally, in his tracks. He was on his way to Damascus to hunt down and punish those Christ followers. Those who did not tow the party line. Paul saw Jesus. He was changed. He became the compassionate Christian preacher/pastor for the ages.
God can turn any “cancel culture“ on its ear. He can save completely the worst of all oppressors in any society. Lord, it is incumbent upon me, and my honor, that I should pray for oppressors in my culture. I must pray for flashes of God’s light and glory to shine stunningly on their Damascus road to salvation. This is my sentinel duty.
“Cancel Culture“ is nothing new. Jesus was a victim of “Cancel Culture.” Weak politicians enable a culture that seeks to silence whatever does not fit their agenda or narrative. Two Governors, Felix and Festus, sought to appease the Jews of Palestine (a religious special interest group). They sought to “Cancel” the apostle Paul. Now King Agrippa would join in to silence, to cancel, the claims of Christianity. The goal was to shut down Paul’s revolutionary message of grace.
What does the Christian do when politicians and special interest groups seek to silence the gospel message? The Christian does what Paul did. He was relentless in sharing the message of Christ. No “Cancel Culture” will stamp out the gospel message of Jesus. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2Co 3:17). Lord, enable sentries in the watchtowers to always, in every way, rise above the “Cancel Culture” of the day.
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.
Once again Paul finds himself caught between Jewish tradition and the new Christian faith. Again he is confronting the Jerusalem church elders steeped in Jewish tradition. Both Paul and these elders had come along way from the Acts 15 conflict. They all seemed more prepared to yield to each other as being sincere in faith. Everyone seemed confident that various traditions among believers and between church bodies were acceptable. As long as they understood that traditions are not the means of salvation.
The fundamental issue is faith in the cross of Christ for the atonement of sin, as the solitary means of salvation. What follows after that is a matter of choice and conscience. It is a matter of threading the needle between relationships and religious tradition.
It would seem that relationships over traditions would be a small matter when it comes to the all important mission of taking the gospel to a lost world. Yet, if the world is to see faith in action among believers, then relationships must always trump ritual and religion.
Father, may the faithful sentry seek to find common ground with sincere believers who worship different than they; who have different backgrounds than they, but worship the same Jesus.
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 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 34 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray my family and friends would find their delight and joy in the counsels of your Word.
To be in the counsel of the ungodly, the godless, is to be in apposition with them. That is, to throw in with them, to join in wholeheartedly with their godless philosophies. That necessarily means being in opposition to the counsel and delight of God’s law, God’s word.
I come away from this Psalm asking myself, “To what drumbeat do I march?” Do I march 100% in line with the beat of this world’s drum, and enjoy it? Or do I step out 100% in sync with the Word of God? Lord, may I find my delight in you alone and in your Word. I choose to march to the drumbeat of your Word.
Day 33 of 40 days of prayer for family and friends. Lord, I pray that the seed of the Gospel take deep root in the hearts of my family and friends.
When the gospel seed is sown, spread, broadcast, it will fall where it will. Some will not get it (vv18,19). Some will join, then lose interest (vv20,21). Some will be too busy, too involved, to stay connected (v22). Some however, will truly receive the gospel message with much enthusiasm – they will go on to produce much good fruit (v23).
Those who truly receive the gospel seed, live by its message, will continue to grow and be energized by it. They will, through the years, influence many others for Christ. Lord, may the seed of the gospel continue to take root in my heart and produce good fruit.
Father in Heaven, America is in great need of the Gospel seed to take deep root. She is in deep need of embracing the message of the Gospel. I pray she not reject, ignore or overlook your message of grace and forgiveness. May she let that Gospel seed go deep into rich fertile soil. May she yield in repentance. May that seed then sprout forth in a bountiful harvest of good fruit.
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.
It is imperative that followers of Christ speak in plain understandable language and terms to a world without Christ, without understanding. Even the use of “tongues“ requires an interpretation to follow, that there may be understanding. The gospel of Christ must be made plain and clear.
When Scripture is spoken clearly people will be convicted of sin. They will fall on their knees and worship God…declare that the presence of God is in that place. I am thankful to attend a church like that. The gospel, Scripture truth, is made clear through many avenues of ministry. Lord, open the mouth of this sentry to speak the truth of your word, that conviction and repentance might follow.
Day 8 of 40 Days of Prayer For Family & Friends – Lord, may my family and friends show enthusiasm for obedience to your word. The apostle Paul issues five sentinel orders; five imperatives that some up his message in First Corinthians:
1) BE ALERT (awake, vigilant, on guard and alive) to the Evil One’s strategies. 2) STAND FIRM (planted in, anchored in) the truth of the gospel – trust in God‘s truthfulness. 3) BE COURAGEOUS (mature, confident) to speak truth in love and conviction. 4) BE STRONG (as in well fed) nourished and growing in the truth. 5) BE LOVING; love moderates all the attitudes and actions of the sentry on duty.
“HOOAH!” – YES LORD!
* According to Stars & Stripes (military news paper) – “HOOAH” (or “huah”) is unique to the Army. Some say it stands for “Heard, Understood, Acknowledged,” but it is often shouted to express determination and Army spirit. “HOOAH!”
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 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.