Watchman at the Door

Watchman Nee

In 1920, while attending high school in China, Nee Shu-tsu dedicated his life to Jesus. “From the evening I was saved,” he wrote, “I began to live a new life, for the life of the eternal God had entered into me.” Later, he adopted the English name, Watchman and the Chinese name To-sheng, “the sound of a watchman’s rattle.”

A watchman’s duty is especially important at night. God gave Watchman Nee the responsibility of sounding a warning to the spiritually dark world he lived in. He did this by teaching and preaching about the Lord Jesus and establishing churches.

It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” Mark 13:34-37

Watchman Nee suffered loneliness, poverty, loss of friends and sickness yet he remained faithful to God and to his calling. After the communist take-over of China in 1947 life became dangerous for Christians. Nee was arrested in 1952 for preaching and sentenced to a lengthy prison term. He died in custody in 1972.

Watchman Nee’s many books are still read by Christians around the world. His book on Ephesians, Sit, Stand, Walk, is one my favourites.

Our Lord Jesus, when he ascended to Heaven, left a project for each of his servants – to watch for His return. What does it mean to watch? It means to be on guard, alert, aware of our surroundings, listening to the Spirit and recognizing the signs of His return. It also means to remain vigilant in prayer, study of the scriptures, learning, obeying and fasting. It means to be found in faithful to Christ in life and in death.

We don’t know when Jesus will return, but if ever there was a time to be vigilant and alert, it is today. This warming from Paul is more urgent in 2020 than in the first century when he wrote it: “It is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).

As we enter 2020 mindful that this could be the year of Christ’s return, let us not become immersed in self-indulgence, but standing at the gate watchful and prayerful, doing our part to spread the good news about Jesus.

Prayer: Lord, as I go about my life today I remember you’ve commissioned me as a watchman. Like Watchman Nee, make me brave and eager to give my best to You.

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A New Star and its Connection to Daniel

The Magi (wise men) who followed the star belonged to an ancient monk-like caste possibly descended from Seth. These philosophers and sages from Babylon caused a stir when they arrived in Jerusalem. When questioned about their business, they answered with a question of their own: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him. (Matthew 2:2).”

Their enquiry led to an appointment with King Herod and a handful of Jewish scholars. The scholars told the Magi that their prophets believed the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, a small town eight kilometers south of  Jerusalem.

A brutal and cunning despot, Herod pressed the visitors for more information and learned the star they were following had appeared at least a year prior. (This bit of information led to the slaughter of thousands of Jewish babies under two.) After promising Herod they’d tell him what they learned about this mysterious Messiah, The Magi, continuing to follow the star, travelled to Bethlehem.

Why did these mysterious strangers follow this particular star?

The answer can be traced to a Jewish boy taken captive by the Babylonians six centuries earlier – Daniel.  Like Joseph before him, he became a leader in the land of his captivity. And like Joseph, he remained faithful to God while living amongst idol-worshippers. In God’s plan, Daniel was elevated to a position of authority as one of the King’s closest advisors. As such, he was respected as a scholar, wise man and leader of the Magi. Daniel understood that the twelve constellations of the zodiac encircling the sky like an open scroll told the story of God. He taught that –

starsThe heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows and proclaims His handiwork. Day after day pours forth speech, and night after night shows forth knowledge. There is no speech nor spoken word from the stars; their voice is not heard. Yet their voice in evidence goes out through all the earth. . .” Psalm 91:1-4 (AMP)

 We know from Johanne Kepler, a seventeenth century mathematician and astronomer, that in the year preceding Christ’s birth, Saturn and Jupiter aligned in the constellation of Pisces, also known as The House of the Messiah, three times. Since this phenomenon usually occurs only once every 800 years, it alerted star-gazers that something big was coming.

That something big was the appearance of a new star.

Ignatius, Bishop of the church at Antioch (AD69) wrote: “At the appearance of the Lord a star shone forth brighter than all the others.”

Coma

Coma

This new star arose in Coma, a small constellation in Virgo. The stars in Coma present the outline of a male child on his mother’s lap. A prophecy, traditionally attributed to Daniel, foretold that a new star would appear in Coma when the One it represented was born. Shakespeare referred to Coma when he wrote in Titus Adronicus of  “shooting an arrow up to the good boy in Virgo’s lap.”

The star led the Magi to the exact house where Jesus lived with his parents. Their search ended when their silk robes brushed the dust as they knelt at the toddler Messiah’s feet. Soon after, God warned them in a dream not to report back to Herod. The wise men slipped away by another route, choosing to obey God rather than the Roman ruler.

The teachings Daniel left in the hands of his captors remained long after he was gone.

Take heart. Be faithful to God today. He will take your faithfulness and make it matter to future generations.

Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is the faithful God who for a thousand generations keeps his promises and constantly loves those who love him and who obey his commands. Deuteronomy 7:9

If this subject of God’s message revealed in the heavens fascinates you, read the book, The Heavens Declare, by William D. Banks.

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Rose McCormick Brandon’s books are available here.

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Bethlehem is Good News for Nobodies (like us)

A professional events coordinator would never choose Bethlehem for Christ’s birth. That tiny town off the beaten track was hardly fit for a king. Royalty without overnight accommodations? A pink slip first thing Monday morning for the secretary in charge of hotel reservations.
A planner with credentials would contract an army of cleaning specialists to disinfect, scrub and polish the most suitable building in the country for the birth of God’s Son – the temple, Jerusalem’s jewel. If not the temple, then another impressive building in Jerusalem. How is it that Jerusalem, the royal city, the city of prophets and kings, was overlooked?

Imagine the planning and ceremony if someone in-the-know had arranged the circumstances of Christ’s birth. Needle workers fashioning quilts of delicate down. Craftsmen designing Messiah’s gilded crib. The high priest supervising, clipboard in hand, noting the names of exceptional workers for an upcoming awards night.

Instead, the parents of God’s Son scrounged the streets of Bethlehem, that no-account town, searching for lodging. They finally settled their weary bodies into one corner of a smelly stable. How inappropriate.

Bethlehem was chosen for the birth of God’s son – that insignificant town whose name means, “house of bread.” Plain, ordinary bread. Not even the finest building in the plain bread town was chosen. Even a homely inn was too deluxe for Him. He preferred a stable, a fitting birthplace for someone who would never care about keeping up appearances.

Attention is reserved for cities large, lofty and beautiful, like Jerusalem. It takes a special eye to notice what isn’t flaunted. God has an eye for the unpretentious, the quiet and simple. Not only in locations, but in people.

We can accept the plainness of our lives and the ordinary places we come from – smelly paper towns, fishing villages, rough mining towns and steel cities – because someone whose affection isn’t swayed by glitter, fame, smarts, power or cash loves us.
Christ’s birth placed Bethlehem on the map. And His birth in our common hearts erases our insignificance.

God could have a chosen the jewel, instead He chose the plain bread town of Bethlehem. Crowning the ordinary with His extraordinary presence is God’s way. His choice of Bethlehem is good news for nobodies like you and me.

Isn’t it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women that the culture overlooks and exploits and abuses, chose these “nobodies” to expose the hollow pretensions of the “somebodies”?  I Corinthians 1:27 (The Message)

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Rusty’s Miracle

On a Friday night visit to inmates on death row, Bob McAlister, tired after a long week, and having seen all his regulars, peered into one last cell. On the dirty cement floor sat Rusty Woomer surrounded by garbage, filthy walls and smelling like a sewer.

Rusty was the color of death and unresponsive. Cockroaches swarmed the cell, crawling over his matted hair and dirty clothes. He didn’t even try to swat them away. Gazing at this sight, Bob felt the strong presence of evil. He called Rusty’s name. Rusty’s lips moved, but no sound came out. It seemed like he wanted to talk, but couldn’t.

Bob called on Jesus to break the evil presence in Rusty’s cell. Then he said, “Rusty, just say the name of Jesus.” Silence. Then a whisper, “Jesus. Jesus.”

At the whisper of Jesus’ Name, a door cracked open in Rusty’s heart. A tear appeared. With encouragement from Bob, he bowed his head like a little boy and said, “Jesus, I’ve hurt a lotta people. Ain’t no way that I deserve You to hear me. But I’m tired and I’m sick and I’m lonely. Please forgive me, Jesus, for everything I’ve done. I don’t know much about You, but I’m willin’ to learn, and I thank you for listenin’ to me.”

When Bob returned to the prison a few days later he was in for a surprise. Rusty’s cell was scrubbed clean, garbage removed, roaches gone. Standing tall, Rusty said, “I spent all weekend cleaning my cell because I figured that’s what Jesus wanted me to do.”  Overwhelmed, Bob said, “It took you all weekend to clean your cell, but it only took Jesus an instant to change your life.”

Rusty Woomer in his prison cell was transformed by the power of the name of Jesus.  He lived in God’s peace and forgiveness for several years until April 26, 1990, when at age 35, he died in the electric chair and went to be with His Savior.

The name of Jesus is a powerful tool. We use it at the end of our prayers, almost robotically, forgetting what power resides in His Name.

Rusty Woomer’s transformation reminds me of these words from Charles Wesley’s hymn, Can it be that I Should Gain:  “My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth and followed thee.”

Because of Jesus’ Name, it’s possible to live in freedom while on death row because real freedom has nothing to do with cells and bars. “You are out on the streets,” Rusty said to an unbeliever, “but I am the one that’s free. I’m behind bars, but I can lay down at night and sleep.”

When evil surrounds like a black cloud, call on Jesus. There is no more powerful tool to fight spiritual darkness than the name of Jesus, the One who has already defeated Satan and all spirits of darkness.

Quotes from Being the Body by Charles Colson, published by Thomas Nelson. 

 

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The Rebellious Son and the Father who Kissed Him

 
A man had a rebellious son who squandered his inheritance on prostitutes, drugs and gambling. Hungry, homeless and friendless he headed for home, a rehearsed speech in his pocket about how sorry he was and how he only wanted to come back as a hired hand on the family ranch.
If anyone deserved a rebuke it was this foolish son. Great men have shunned sons for less.
This father welcomed his son with a tearful embrace and a kiss . . . a kiss for one who had shamed him and wished him dead.
The father kissed his rebellious son . . . before he confessed his sins, before he went to counseling, before he went into rehab, before he proved himself worthy. He kissed him without first asking him to sign a waiver to any future inheritance. He didn’t get in his face and demand to know what he’d done with his inheritance.
The father’s kiss humbled the son. He threw away his rehearsed speech and accepted the father’s love and forgiveness. Jesus told this story to show the quality of our heavenly Father’s love – unconditional, eternal, free and without bias. We are loved by One who doesn’t choose his friends by the size of their bank accounts, their pedigree, IQ, beauty, origins or accomplishments.

Immediately before He died, Jesus spoke these words from the cross: “It is finished.” In that moment, the Father kissed the world with salvation. Because of that kiss, every useless, undeserving, wicked child – every one of us – can come home to the Father.

“God is love” (I John 4:16).

Note: Read Luke 15. Jesus tells of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. What message is He giving you through these stories?

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A Roaring Lion

 

The apostle, Peter, reminds us to be aware of our adversary for he is wily and dangerous. A good intellect and quick wit won’t suffice in a spiritual battle. Ignoring the battle won’t make it go away.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. I Peter 5:8

These wise words came from Jonathan Edwards: “For God has appointed this whole life to be all as a race or a battle. The state of rest wherein we shall be out of danger and have no need of watching and fighting is reserved for another world.”

The subject of spiritual warfare should not be unnecessarily complicated, as some have made it. First, prayer. Jesus taught his disciples to be on guard and constantly in prayer (Lk. 21:36). Second, Jesus confirmed the value of fasting (Matt. 17:21). The early church practiced fasting and so must we (Acts 14:23). Third, Jesus bequeathed to his followers the right to use His name. When they did they rejoiced because “even the demons” obeyed (Lk. 10:17).

Crowning these three elements is the power of the written Word. Jesus quoted scripture during his temptation (Matt.4). The Bible is not a book with ordinary words. Its words are alive, effective and powerful (Heb. 4:12). Wield the Word like a sword.

These weapons, prayer, fasting and the name of Jesus used together, or individually, are not only useful, but indispensable for spiritual battle. Make no mistake. There is an enemy. There is a battle. And every follower of Christ is engaged.

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.” C. S. Lewis (The Screwtape Letters)

These opposite errors lead many Christians to avoid the topic of Satan and anything connected to him. Others talk of nothing else but satanic power and deliverance. Both are misled. Both do harm.

Since we are in this battle, and there’s no getting out of it, let us yield to Christ and do battle His way.

 

 

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Storm Clouds

Jesus replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘The weather will be fair, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but not the signs of the times. Matt. 16:2,3

Cumulonimbus Clouds

Storm clouds are created by powerful air currents that create cauliflower-like cloud formations that rise thousands of feet into the sky. When we see a “cloud tower” forming rapidly, we know there’s a threat of severe weather. The taller the cloud formation, the more severe the storm.
A large and ominous cloud is forming in the spiritual world. Three things contribute to the cloud’s magnitude: hatred of Christians, lying preachers and the unprecedented spread of evil (Read all of Matthew 24).

Read the signs of the times. Read the signs of the times. Children learn about deviant sexuality, but are forbidden the Bible and prayer. Look up, black clouds are forming. Christians are slaughtered, their bones piled into mass graves and not a whisper about it from Western media. Listen. It’s thundering. Many of our nation’s top leaders believe the killing of unborn babies makes us a progressive people. Lightening etches d-o-o-m in the sky.

Another sign will be the rise of fake Messiahs. Their impressive credentials and the miracles they will perform will convince many. While obvious storm clouds form, they prophecy peace and prosperity, like the false prophets of Jeremiah’s day. Reject their message.

Study and live by the Bible. Cherish its words. The Bible is a fresh spring of water in a sea of sand and dirt. Drink from it.

While sincere followers of Christ suffer around the world, lying preachers who promise money and other rewards, flourish. Desperate and gullible people believe the lies of imposters who twist the scriptures to fit their message. No one with a true heart for Christ lives like a hedonist. Their mansions, jets and automobiles will decay and disappear. What a price they will pay for leading people from the truth. Have nothing to do with them.

Jesus says to us today, “You know how to read the signs of an impending storm. Read the signs of my coming and pay attention to them.”

Jesus prayed for us – “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15).

As storm clouds thicken, we must immerse ourselves in God’s Word and follow Him. When Jesus returns, we will be glad we did.

A thought to ponder: Everything Jesus said will come to pass.

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Ending Well

This gallery contains 3 photos.

From beneath him, Wiesel heard a violin playing a Beethoven concerto. The music came from young Juliek. During years of persecution, he’d protected his treasured violin. Continue reading

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Jesus, Faithful One

If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown himself. II Timothy 2:13 The prodigal phase of my life began soon after I graduated from Bible College. Unable to find my niche, I drifted away from God. … Continue reading

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The End

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Revelation 22:13 The first chapter of Revelation introduces Jesus as the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8). As John’s writing began, so it ends, … Continue reading

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