A View from the Wall
(With Founder Scott Townsend of I Am A Watchman ministries)
Dec. 20, 2018, with co-host Dillon Burroughs.
Interview with Joe Kerr based on his book, The Watchman’s Journal: 99 Days on the Wall
(JK= Joe Kerr, WM= Watchman Interviewer)
WM: I Am A Watchman ministries founder, Scott Townsend, with Dillon Burroughs, bringing you a fascinating discussion regarding the importance of Bible prophecy in Christian living today as it relates to our responsibility as believers to be watchmen. This is A View From the Wall.
WM: Welcome to A View From the Wall. I’m Dillon Burroughs with your host, Scott Townsend, founder of I Am a Watchmen Ministries. And today, we have the special opportunity of talking with Joe Kerr. He’s the managing editor of I Am a Watchman. He has written several Bible studies and books including his newest release which is a collaborative work called The Watchman’s Journal: 99 Days on the Wall. We’re excited to talk with Joe today about his passion for Bible prophecy and how he is equipping others in this area. Welcome to A View from the Wall.
JK: Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to do this today. I want to give glory and honor to the Lord, but also thank those who made it possible for this ministry to take off.
WM: Now Scott, we know Joe well from his work with I Am A Watchman and appreciate his insights in this area. But for our audience, they may be unfamiliar with his background. So Joe, as we start today, we want to give you a chance to tell us a little bit about how you came to serve at I am a Watchman and how you grew to have such a passion for Bible prophecy.
JK: Well, Bible prophecy has a long history in my family. I was involved in a number of other projects, doing some editing and writing. Scott contacted me through a Christian job placement board, and we discussed doing some writing, and it kind of evolved from there. When he found out I had done some editing before, [he gave me] the opportunity to become the managing editor and help grow some other writers. As a result of that, we now have contributions from, goodness, about 24 writers, I think, for various blogs and parts of the devotional and articles that we have posted on the website. So, it’s been an opportunity to follow my other passion which is teaching. It’s always more gratifying as a writer and an editor to grow another writer than it is to produce something of your own.
WM: Hey, Joe, when you write about watchmen, you do so from the Nehemiah 4:19-20 perspective. It says there, “Then I said to the nobles, the officials, and the rest of the people, ‘The work is great and extensive, and we are spread out far from one another along the wall. Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.’” What’s special about that passage for watchmen?
K: That passage has always spoken to me because community and associations with other watchmen strengthen you, and they build you. And that sense of being connected to the same purpose around the world is a huge part of what we do. And the outgrowth of that has been the relationships that we built with now over 800 watchmen around the world that have connected with us through our site. And a lot of people quote the references to watchmen and the responsibilities in Isaiah and Ezekiel and other places that are familiar verses.
This one has always spoken to me because it is that connection point. Nehemiah also understood and made the watchmen aware that they had more than one job. It wasn’t just to watch. If you read the same chapter, you find out that he made the great comment that with one hand they held a sword and with the other hand, they held a tool to help build the wall. So watchmen have responsibilities beyond just focusing on End-times or just what we think of as watching. They also have everyday jobs. They have families. They have careers. They have responsibilities and service opportunities with their church. So being a watchman isn’t all about focusing on that one narrow stream of End Times messages. It’s living out the gospel in your everyday life. And that verse reminds me of that.
WM: And the other thing that the Nehemiah reference speaks to me, Joe, is the fact that we’re in community together. And so often, it is the case that watchmen feel isolated and alone, and this verse is the one that really speaks to our fellowship as watchmen together. And that’s one of our core principles of the I Am A Watchman ministry. Don’t you think?
K: Absolutely. The last part of that says, “Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.” We are separated far from each other, and there’s nothing we can do about that. But we have the tools of internet and connection through various mediums and social media to be able to connect with those watchmen around the world. I talk regularly with watchmen in other countries as part of what we’re doing, and I have the opportunity to be connected to other people and to know what’s going on. The name of this program is a perfect example: A View From the Wall.
The view in Jerusalem or the Netherlands or the Philippines is completely different from the view in coastal Florida or Tennessee or California or any of the other places we work with watchmen. So knowing that we’re all connected, even though we see what’s happening in the world from a different perspective, is a huge encouragement. And it’s part of the reason why we stay moving forward in this because it’s a burdensome, heavy subject, and it can get overwhelming, you’re right. So that sense of community is a huge part of keeping that focus and being able to get up the next morning and do the right thing and continue serving in that calling.
WM: Joe is actually the person on our team responsible for naming the show A view From the Wall. So Joe, that’s amazing that you did that. Let’s talk about the Watchman’s Journal project. You describe the Watchman’s Journal as a collaborative effort. Can you amplify that statement please?
K: Well that is another project that grew quite literally out of the set of verses in Nehemiah 4:19-21. We wanted to be an encouragement to watchmen. The more watchmen we connected with over the last year, the more we found the same story; that because of the weight of that calling, because of the intensity of the message, and because of the fact that they’re talking about a subject that, let’s face it, not everybody wants to hear about, they can get very isolated. They can become very introverted, and the message gets shushed by people who don’t want to hear it. So, as we connected with watchmen, we found out, you know what, these guys and gals need some encouragement. They need somebody to just lift them up. They need to spend some time not thinking about End-time subjects but to be able to just rest and come down off the wall, if you want to stick with that analogy, and hear from God, get some refreshing and some encouragement and some energy to go out and do that job again today.
So that is where we got the idea. And then the Lord opened doors for us to connect with some of those other watchmen around the world. Not all of them are professional writers. Many of them are just average, every day, you know, folks, housewives, and some of them are ministry leaders. Some of them are not. But they began to contribute parts of that, and we collected those responses and edited some of those personal testimonies, and they are spread throughout the book from watchmen and watch women all around the world.
WM: Joe, this is such insightful information regarding the Watchman’s Journal and your ministry. And we’re going to take a break and come back with more on this topic. So stay with us for more on this topic on A View From the Wall.
WM: We’re back at A View From the Wall. This is Dillon Burroughs with I Am A Watchmen founder, Scott Townsend, and we’re talking with I Am A Watchman managing editor today, Joe Kerr, about a unique collaborative work called The Watchman’s Journal 99 Days on the Wall. And Joe, it’s been fascinating to hear about some of the people involved in it. Tell us a little bit about some of the stories of people you came across in the process of this.
K: Well, we have a number of authors who have contributed from around the world. Some are from Israel, others are from the Netherlands. There’s an entire family of folks there who are descendants of Holocaust survivors, one that a lot of our listeners and ministry friends would recognize, Joanne Arnott. She is Ministry Coordinator for Behold Israel and has written some for us, as have a couple of other staff members at Behold Israel. One of the ladies who wrote for us, who is associated with Behold Israel, is Ivana Jerkic from Croatia. Ivana has such an amazing heart for her country. You talk about the view from the wall. That’s a lady who is actively involved in her church and ministry in her country and, obviously, the international ministry with Behold Israel. I did the translation for her piece into the English version thanks to Google translate. I don’t speak Croatian. But she has such a passion for the gospel in her country that we decided in the journal to actually print her devotional in both English and Croatian. That way, when she shares that book with friends and relatives and neighbors and people from her wall, they can understand it exactly the way she wrote it so that her heart comes through in both languages.
Another one of the authors is Pastor Dan from the Philippines. Pastor Dan was actually imprisoned in Sudan and tortured as a pastor there for sharing the gospel. It is an amazing story. He actually was able to get out of the prison by leading one of the prison guards to Christ. And he has written for us. And a number of other people who are just average, every day watchmen and women who don’t have necessarily fantastic tales but something that God’s done in their life.
I think of one gentleman, Rick Hernandez, who wrote about hearing God’s voice, not just asking for God’s blessing, but truly developing that relationship and getting to know God. He is a volunteer at a church here in the Tampa area. And other people like him have contributed to various parts, but it’s been amazing to see God pull so many different people from so many different places together and give us one consistent message to the watchmen. That is, keep going, keep serving, keep hearing from God and encouraging each other unlike anybody else could do because only a watchman completely, fully understands another watchman’s calling.
WM: 99 days is such an unusual number for a devotional, Joe. Many follow a 30 or 40 or, in some cases, even a yearly format. How did you decide on 99 days?
K: Well, part of it is practical. We are developing a 365-day version, but that’s a big book. 99 days sort of just came to my heart one day. We needed to produce some of this and get it moving and get the word in people’s hands, because, as watchmen learned of the project, they started asking for it. So we really felt compelled to get a short version of it out and 90 days, 30 days, 40 days. I’ve written a 40-day spiritual journal devotional as well, and that is very common. So part of the 99 days was just to do something different and get people’s attention.
Now, of course, you get people’s attention, because, if you type in “99 days on the wall” on Amazon you’ll find that book, but the only other thing on that page is a beer calendar. So, those of you who know the song will get that, those of you from other countries may not, but it’s just an opportunity to use a little bit of humor and get people’s attention and get them to read it. And the beauty is, you don’t have to just read for 99 days. You’ll find some of these that you want to go back and read that story again and let God speak to you in a different way. And that’s our hope that people will use it over a longer period of time. But we are developing the 365-day version which will be out next soon.
WM: Joe, it’s interesting to me how the average watchman is actually using the journal. Can you speak to that a little bit?
K: Some of them are using it as just a simple devotional. They are written deliberately short. It was a challenge for some of the writers to hit that word count, but they are written in a very short, very simple fashion. We take one Scripture verse and dissect that and make a simple application to their life. You can read the entire thing including the prayer at the end in probably 3 to 5 minutes. We didn’t necessarily put the prayer there anticipating that people would repeat that prayer verbatim. It was an opportunity for us to draw a conclusion and kinda make a point. But given that these are being translated into a number of languages, we do expect some people will find a voice there and may pray those prayers that sincerely.
So I believe the watchmen wrote them with God’s heart that way so they can be incorporated into everyday life. Some of them, two of them, have actually been taught at home Bible studies, so they are something that could be expanded. There’s enough meat in there. Even though it’s written in a short format, there’s enough content that somebody could easily teach the subject from it. So they’re being used in a number of ways.
WM: Joe, one of the things that really is remarkable about the Journal resonates with me in this one regard. And that is, when I read the heart and passion from watchmen and watch women from around the world, the biggest takeaway I have, aside from just the inspiration of that, is just the understanding that I’m not alone. There are other people out there that speak and think the way that I do, and that when I hear their thoughts in the form of the journal entry there, it really uplifts me. It makes me energized and really willing to tackle the burden that we all share. So in your writing to watchmen, you just described many different characteristics or essentials—the watchman’s balance and vision, for instance, or the watchmen’s walk and others that you mention. Talk about the characteristics of a watchman. In fact, what makes a watchman a watchman.
K: To answer that question, you have to start at the beginning, and you have to understand that first and foremost, God is the ultimate watchman. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch over the wicked and the good.” That’s a Hebrew term that’s actually repeated 14 other places in the Old Testament using that same phrase—keeping watch—and it’s everything from the doorkeeper of the Temple to the watchman walking the wall as we think of watchmen in military status and that person who is just giving a warning. God is the ultimate Watchman.
WM: Joe, let me jump in here. We have to take a break, but this is fascinating. We’ll pick back up on this in just a moment. So stay with us here on A View From the Wall.
WM: We’re back at A View From the Wall. Dillon Burroughs with managing editor of I Am A Watchman, Joe Kerr, about being a watchman. And as we wrapped up the last segment, we were in the middle of this fascinating discussion of the characteristics of a watchman. So pick up where you left off last time, Joe, and tell us more about what Scripture says about being a watchman.
K: We know God is the ultimate watchman, and Psalm 139 is probably the watchman’s chapter of the Bible. David describes not being able to flee from God’s presence because God’s eyes are in every place, beholding the good and the evil. “Where can I escape your spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” And it gives examples. I can go to the highest heights. I can go to the deepest steps. There’s no place to escape God’s presence.
What strikes me in that is that God isn’t just digging through your trash looking for the evil. It says he’s looking for the evil and the good, and as watchmen, we need to keep that in mind because it can be easy to focus on what the enemy’s up to and there’s plenty to see. If you watch the news, you can tell what the enemy’s actively doing, but we also need to be actively talking about what God is up to. And one of the things that you see through Scripture with the watchmen is that they had direct access to the King, and we’re the same way. There are several places where you see conversations recorded in Scripture between the watchmen and the king as if they could walk right onto the wall and talk to each other and have lunch together. And as watchmen, we, and any Christian, have direct access to the throne room.
We can go in prayer and speak to the Lord about anything that’s on our heart, any problem we have, anything that we see. We are responsible to address that in prayer. God brings things to our attention so that we can actively participate whether that is through service or just praying about that incident that we saw. And God can be involved in that. We are watchmen in the sense that we are actively watching everything that’s going on, but it’s our responsibility as carriers of the Holy Spirit of God to introduce God into those situations not to just see Him and warn people and talk about the evil, but to make sure that we are God’s hands and feet and voice introducing His Spirit and His purpose into those situations.
WM: Joe, that’s just amazing. I love the heart that comes through in those comments that you made just now because I think we do lose perspective sometimes. And we heard from our last interview with Pastor Tom Hughes some of that sentiment coming through as well. Actually, that leads to my next question which is: some watchmen characteristics sound very familiar to the Bible description of a prophet or a seer. What is your view?
K: That is accurate. I’ve heard people describe that office in that way, but many of the characteristics that we see in the Old Testament prophet (and I’m cautious about the term “prophet”; I don’t subscribe to the idea of carrying around a business card that says you’re a prophet), but we do have, to a certain extent, that ministry as watchmen. Because watchmen, as part of their responsibility, see first, and they see more. I believe God gives them spiritual insight as part of that calling that other people may not share, so we are responsible for seeing and hearing more than other people do. And we’re not just given that information to collect it or create bombastic videos.
We’re responsible for giving a message to other people. And that is also what a prophet does. Now, we have some professional ministry people that are part of our staff and part of our audience. They are pastors who are sharing God’s Word. But as a prophet, yes, there are some analogies there. There are some places where that stops, but I believe that watchmen need to be thinking that way, studying what a prophet did and understanding that, yes, that is part of their role. One of the New Testament principles of watchmen is related to that Old Testament example that watchmen see, and because we see with spiritual eyes not just natural eyes, we see a bigger picture than other people may see. I would encourage all watchmen in our audience to be ready and to help other people be ready for the second coming. That means we are seeing with spiritual eyes like Ephesians 1:18 says: “the eyes of your understanding being enlightened that you make known what is the hope of his calling.”
It’s all about the hope of our calling. If we tell the world [about] all the great things that are happening and quote Bible prophecy backward and forward and know the daily current events, but we don’t give them any hope, as a watchman, we’ve not accomplished our purpose. So I would say to the watchman community, remember that in all of the End-times cataclysmic events, it’s still all about one thing. It’s the revelation of Jesus Christ. It’s all about the hope of the message of the gospel. Don’t ever walk away, back away, or forget about the gospel. In everything else you do, bring it back to Jesus.
WM: Joe, tell us something that stands out about your involvement with The Watchman’s Journal: 99 Days on the Wall.
K: I think probably the one that affected me the most was a section of pieces that I wrote called, “Who am I?” As a watchman, it’s a heavy calling and a big burden and a huge responsibility, and we carry that with great humility but also a great sense of passion that we have a mission to accomplish. But that idea of “Who am I,” or “Why me, God?” “Of all the people that you could have called to do this, of all the people that can speak more eloquently, know more Scripture, have more experience, have been more places and done more things, why me?” And that resonates, I think, with not just me, but every watchman, that it’s not about who I am, or what I’ve accomplished, or whatever list of ministry projects I’ve been involved in over the years. This is all about one message. Jesus is coming. People need to be ready. Time is short, and if we get that right as a watchman, we’ve accomplished what God sent us to do.
WM: That is so good, Joe, and I know you’ve had many excellent contributors to this book. People listening may include some writers who would like to contribute to I Am A Watchman whether it’s on the website or in the future books that we do. How can they get more involved? Just briefly, let us know before we wrap up our time together today.
K: Absolutely. There is a tab on the website on the main page that you can click on under MORE and there’s a place you can go in there. It has a breakdown of what type of content we’re looking for, and then an email that will get to my desk. I can look through content, and then, we’ll contact individual writers and ask for more input and give them opportunities to write. We want to include as many watchmen as possible in what we’re doing. That’s the whole project.
WM: That’s wonderful, and I know Scott and I fired up even more after this conversation about the work of I Am A Watchman and the podcast, A View From the Wall. If you’re listening, and you would like to be part of I Am A Watchman and contribute your own writing, Joe has told us he wants to hear from you. So please go to IAmAWatchman.com. Go to the CONTACT US section under the MORE tab on our website and let us know how you’d like to contribute. We want you to know, as we close today, that we appreciate you. Please leave us a comment where you listen to this broadcast, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the user name I Am A Watchman. Thank you again for being with us, and join us next time on our program, A View From the Wall.
WM: A View From the Wall, in association with I Am A Watchman ministries, exists to equip a worldwide audience with biblical truth, sharing it with others, and being prepared for Christ’s imminent return. The team seeks to encourage, inspire, and equip watchmen for such a time as this. For information about the ministry and upcoming events, visit iamawatchman.com. A View From the Wall is made possible by the team of dedicated pastors, editors, and the many contributors of I am A Watchman ministries.
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