Harmless as serpents?

Mt. 10:16: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”

Jesus sent out his twelve disciples to preach that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  He instructed them to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons, and to freely give of what they had been given.

But He warned them that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of wolves.  Doesn’t sound like the safest scenario to me. 

He said there would be persecutions coming.  But He also said that the disciple is not above his teacher, so if they have called Him the master of the house of Beelzebub, how much more would they call those of His household.  It makes sense.  Persecutions do take place.

Now, what did He then tell them?  “Go out there and speak your mind!  Let people know how it is and set them straight!”

I’m sorry, but no.  That’s not what He said.  Now, Jesus wasn’t one to sugar coat things, but He spoke what the Father told Him speak.  And in verses 19-20, He said, “But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak.  For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.”

Who is speaking?  Us?  Uh-uh.  The Spirit of our Father.

There is a lot of speaking around us and unfortunately, all too often, it seems that it is not coming from the Father.  Jesus told His disciples to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  I’m afraid that these have gotten mixed up.  I see and hear words that strike out at others, just as a serpent would do.  I see words that are meant to cause harm or injury.  I hear words that have poison dripping from them.

In contrast, doves truly are harmless.  Do you know that the male and the female both produce milk for their young?  They’re nurturers.  Did you know that doves can adapt to almost any environment on the globe?  This reminds me of the way Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.

Doves have also been a symbol of peace, globally, for thousands of years.  I recall Jesus saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” (Mt. 5:9)

We can be the ones that are the peacemakers.  We can be the ones that fulfill the great commission as wisely as serpents, but as harmlessly as doves.  We weren’t asked to strike out at people.  Yes, be wise.  I’m not ignoring that part.  We are being sent out as sheep among wolves.  We need wisdom.  But Proverbs is full of ways to use wisdom with regard to our words, and when we are supposed to be sharing the “Good News” about Jesus with others, it sure helps if it actually sounds good and doesn’t feel like a slap in the face.

-jamie

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What if you’re called a fool?

This morning I read 1 Cor. 4, where Paul is talking about the apostles being fools for Christ’s sake.  Vs. 12 says, “And we labor, working with our hands.  Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat.”

I’ve been reading a lot about martyr’s lately, both past and present.  Because of this, it was so striking for me this morning to think about Paul’s words.  These aren’t just words on a page.  These are the true thoughts and facts about a human being’s life.

The apostles were truly reviled.  They were left homeless and poorly clothed, spat upon, and condemned, and yet they continued to bless.  For God’s sake, they continued to bless and offer the saving truths of the gospel of Christ.

The apostles were actually persecuted.  They were beaten, threatened, jailed, and killed, and yet they endured.  Looking forward to the reward of serving Jesus Christ, they were able to continue to pour out to as many as possible until the very end.

The apostles were defamed.  They were falsely accused and imprisoned time and time again, and yet they continued to entreat those around them to accept Jesus as their Savior.  They continued to speak the gospel, even in the presence of their accusers, so that anyone whose heart may be open to hear would receive salvation full and free.

I think of the bad days I have, when I can’t get my eyes off of myself.  I think of the times I’ve been hurt, when I’ve allowed my pain to shut me down.  Then, I look at what so many have gone and are going through for the cause of Christ and I know that I still need to mature.

The apostles were the ultimate example of doing all things to the glory of God.

While our individual talents, gifts, and callings may be a little different in description, we are all part of the body working towards the same goal:  to preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

In Christ, we have so much to offer those around us.  Even if the time comes when, like the apostles, we are looked upon as fools, it will have been worth it.  There is a great reward awaiting us and those who believe because of our own endurance.

We cannot keep God’s grace and His gifts all for ourselves.  They were meant to be shared.  His sacrifice makes our own sacrifices worth the price.

The song I’ve attached today reminds me that instead of wasting my time on things that don’t matter, I can give everything in my life for Him.  He’s worth it!

Stirred,

jamie

 

Establishing a plan

Pr. 20:18:  “Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war.”

In Acts 13:1-4, we find 5 prophets and teachers ministering to the Lord and fasting.  As they did so, the Holy Spirit instructed all 5 that Barnabas and Saul should be separated for a work to which the Lord had called them.  vs. 3, “Then, having fasted and prayed and laid hands on them, they sent them away.”

Paul and Barnabas had a hard road ahead of them, but being connected to the Lord gave all 5 men very clear instruction about the fact this was His plan.  After fasting and praying together, they obeyed in faith.

The best way to receive counsel from the Lord is to be connected to Him, just as these 5 men were.  Receiving counsel from the Lord is the best way to live in peace, believing that God will be with you through the journey.

Knowing clearly God’s plan, Paul and Barnabas were able to endure the persecution, abuse, malice, and misfortune they later faced on their journey.

When our plans come from the Lord, we can embark on our journey knowing that those plans are not only for good, but come with the guarantee that He will never leave us nor forsake us.  Establishing plans from any other source is a risk we don’t need to take.

Seeking counsel,

jamie

 

 

The good path

Pr. 2:9:  “Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path.”

Not all paths are equal.  In order to understand the good paths, we must encounter God.

Saul is an amazing example of this.  He is found in Acts 9 “still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.”  He had already wreaked havoc of the church, imprisoned men and women, and consented to the stoning of Stephen.  He is now found journeying on a path to Damascus prepared to bind and bring back to Jerusalem any he found that belonged to Christ.

Interesting path.

However, as he journeyed a light suddenly shone around him from heaven and He encountered the Lord.  The Lord pointed Saul to a different path.  Of this man who had persecuted the Lord (vs. 4), the Lord said, “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.”

And that is just what Saul (later called Paul) did.  If you follow Paul’s path after his encounter with the Lord, you will find that he preached the name of Jesus Christ far and wide, and trained others to do the same.  In addition, 14 books in the Bible are letters written by Paul.  He is still preaching the name of Jesus Christ today!

Encountering God certainly enabled Paul to understand and keep to a good path.  When we are looking for the good path, we needn’t look any further than the Lord.  As God’s chosen vessels, I wonder what we’ve been chosen to bear?

Amazed,

jamie

Know in whom you have believed

Pr. 3:25:  “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;”

Being honest, I’d say this is probably sometimes easier said than done.  Is your sudden terror a terrible car crash that leaves someone unable to walk or see?  Is it cancer or dementia?  Is your trouble from the wicked being harassed or constantly pestered for your beliefs?  Is it being threatened with death if you do not deny God, or threatened with prison if you do not go against your beliefs for man’s laws?

There are many different troubles or terrors that we can face.  I recently read about a 3-year-old who was walking home from church with his Bible in hand.  Some soldiers entered his village, chased him down, and demanded that he give up his Bible.  The 3-year-old refused and they took it from him, and threw it in a nearby fire.  Instead of running away, he ran to the fire and tried to retrieve his Bible with a stick.  While he was trying to get his Bible, one of the soldiers pushed the 3-year-old into the fire and they left him for dead.  (He survived and is being cared for)

How is that we are not to fear?  How is it that a 3-year-old was able to refuse a band of soldiers when they demanded that he give up the Word of God?

This morning I read Ps. 112 that says, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; he will be in everlasting remembrance.  He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord.”

He will be in everlasting remembrance of what?  Of God’s righteousness, His faithfulness, His might, His promises, His peace, His sovereignty, His miracles, His comfort.  He will remember who His God really is.

In this sin-cursed world, we will all face sudden terror or trouble from the wicked at some point.  How can we not be afraid?  With a steadfast heart that trusts in the Lord and remembers who He is, always has been, and always will be, we can know that no matter what we face, He will give us the grace to endure.

That is why it is critical that we remain in the Word.  In order to remember, trust, and keep our hearts steadfast, we have to know the Lord.  We cannot neglect our time or relationship with Him.  Getting to know Him is more important than any other thing we can do.  When terror or trouble come upon us, we need to know in whom we are trusting and believing.

Knowing the true living God allowed a 3-year-old to stand up to grown men with guns and refuse to give up his Bible.  The same God can equip us to stand in the face of cancer, death, or any other trouble we face, but we must KNOW Him.  Spend time with Him today, before the terror strikes.  He will prepare you to stand.

Believing,

jamie

 

Sowing while we wait

Ps. 126:5-6:  “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.  He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bring his sheaves with him.”

While we are waiting for Christ’s return, we are living in a fallen, sin-cursed world where there is indeed pain and suffering.  Here we still experience sorrow, death, and tears.  So, in the midst of our trials, how does our trust in God come forth?

We know God’s universal law of reaping and sowing:  whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.  Gal. 6:7.  This Psalm tells us something even more.  When we sow in tears we will reap in joy.

If, in the midst of our sorrow and weeping, we continue to sow the seeds of righteousness, we will reap a harvest of joy.  Gal. 6:9 promises that, “in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.”

Trials are common to us all.  Suffering is a sad result of sin that affects each of us.  Christians, in particular, suffer further persecution at times that can cause even more heart-ache.  The promise we have; however, is that even in the midst of the trials, the tears, and the weeping, our faithful sowing will reap joy and we will have a harvest to show for it.

In faith, we can continue to sow seeds around us, even through our tears.  Actually, doesn’t it seem sometimes that the best seeds are planted when tears are present?  Our experiences give our testimony of faith more weight.

Our trials and painful experiences are like fertilizer that gives the seed the extra nutrients it needs to grow strong.  If we can still plant seed and walk in faith even during trials, it gives others the proof they need that God is faithful and mighty; and this can help them to grow strong in the Lord and in their own faith.

I encourage you today, while you are waiting, to continue trusting in God’s faithfulness and to continue sowing seeds.  Water the seeds with your tears, if need be, but continue to sow.  You will reap joy and come back rejoicing, harvest in hand!

Keep trusting.  He is coming again!

jamie