Matthew 10:16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.
The world is not a safe place for your soul, you better watch out for the intense warfare out there and for those that want less than the best for your eternal destiny. The world is full of wolves, those people that are working for the devil, they are ready to persuade you to leave the narrow way and join them on one of the many attractive paths that are leading to destruction.
Jesus tells us that we need to be wise and be harmless, to illustrate His point he uses a couple of animals to help us get the picture:
Snakes – I have killed a snake or two and I have learned that the snake is very evasive and can get away from his enemy pretty quick.
Doves – I have never seen an unpleasant, rude dove, they don’t usually inflict very much pain. Living as harmless as a dove requires that I avoid provoking somebody’s anger against me, it means that I have to be gentle and kind.
I need to keep my guard up against the devil’s tricks and be careful that I live my life full of grace and gentleness to those around me that need to hear the gospel so that I won’t turn them away from the truth that they need.
Thank you Lord for your word and for the truth that is there to keep us from harm.
What is the role of the faithful disciple amidst the political realm?
Of the numerous theological questions that are debated, there are few that seem to be more contentious than this one. Yet it hardly stands as a new issue or one that has only been faced in our present age. It has been one that has plagued the follower of Christ since the birth of his ministry and even before, one that even threatened to draw him in.
The irony of it lies in the inherent danger that comes through the misunderstanding of the faithful and vigilant disciples place amidst this debate. Consider, for example, the life of our blessed Savior himself. Knowing the people had intended to try and crown him an earthly king he would reject the concept himself and withdraw from them. (John 6:15) Yet, when he would stand before Pontius Pilate, he would stand accused of seeking to establish for himself an earthly kingdom with himself as the sovereign over the people. (John 18:33-34)
Though Christ himself did not confuse the two, the confusion that was reaped by others, it offers to us the reason why Christ himself taught to us that we need to “Render unto Caesar that which belongs to Caesar.” (Matthew 22:15-22)
You see, as with all things, it is a matter of balance. Though the church, and, at the most basic of levels, the faithful disciple need be more concerned with the Spiritual Kingdom and the welfare of the hearts and souls of all people, whereas the state need be concerned with the body and the orderly governance over it, this does not preclude the follower of Christ from participating in the civil offices of government. What it means is that though, as in all things, their character and their leadership should be an example of Christ and His love, (1 Corinthians 4:16) there is no case by which they should impose their spiritual belief on the legal ordinances that administer and preside over the citizenry.
In fact, as exemplified by Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego, the three who stood by their faith even as Nebuchadnezzar sought to force them against their conscience, (Daniel 2-3) the only place of civil disobedience against the laws of men are the acts that are forced because of the overstepping of Kings and Princes and States into the Spiritual Realm when they seek to, through any means, compel us to betray our faith. As we are not to force our faith on others, seeking to compel them to live by it, so can no government seek to force us to live contrary to it by their own acts and laws.
This is vital for the disciple of Christ to remember as it gives the primary means for us to successfully utilize ourselves and our faith in our understanding of the means by which God wishes us to live. After all, as C.S. Lewis would once observe, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this.”
Our focus, if we seek to preserve and defend the principles of love, faith, charity and grace, need be on how we, through our lives, our works and our deeds, give testimony to it. There is a fundamental difficulty with this when we focus our faith on the temporal through an earthly focus, failing to understand that Christ’s kingdom is not of this earth. Rather than being a vessel for the Spirit to win hearts and minds, we become intent on being a vessel for our own morality as a weapon to force others to live as we demand in the most self-righteous of ways.
Guided by hope and love be a force for change, for good in the world. Focus on personal charity rather than expecting government to legislate it or mandate it, focus on sharing a message of love to those who are hurt and wounded, the broken hearted and the downtrodden, rather than pushing for a law. Strengthen each other by what you have to give in hope to those around you, and let your life testify to a greater understanding of unity and peace. Each of us, on our own, through the power of the Spirit have the capacity to the greatest good for others while showing them the path to Christ, each day, rather than riling yourself up with current events, ask yourself how you might do that.
In doing this, our concern must be more for the spiritual welfare and edification of others. It must be to uplift them in the true messages of Christ, of which the primary is the freedom of the spirit and the liberty of the soul. By understanding, by living this we can do more for the truest forms of hope and change in this world.
How then, as a disciple of Christ do you see yourself doing the most good? How do you strengthen others? How do you edify them? This is our mandate and it comes from the truest authority over us, our God, as a personal calling to each of us as Christ’s followers. How will you live in it today?
Matthew 9:36-38 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Jesus had good news to tell to everybody that he came into contact with, he didn’t stay home and keep it to himself, he was out there sharing with the crowds. He even taught his message inside the church, after all the good news that he had to share was so different than the message that was being preached in the synagoge that he had to go there too.
Jesus had a lot of concern for the lost sheep, they were everywhere, people that needed the gospel message presented to them. People that know that they can’t measure up, people that were tired of legalism, people that needed hope, people that needed purpose. They were everywhere, and they still are, all of those “sheep without a shepherd” are still out there, there is still a lot of work to be done.
There are not very many people doing the work, there are not enough people that are walking the narrow path to heaven and out of those that are following this path there are too many that are not sharing the good news.
We ask you Lord to employ more laborers, may we get serious about the work that you have called us to.
Matthew 6:19-21 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
Accumulating wealth is a great idea, go for as much of it as you can get, in fact let’s be greedy about it. Well that is if you are thinking about the treasure that you are storing away in heaven.
I need to let go of my earthly treasure and use it to help me accumulate treasure in heaven. I must not be proud of how well I can provide for my needs or place my trust in my earthly wealth, instead I need to be generous and willing to help those that are in need that I have the ability to help. That way my treasure will be stored in the right place to prevent suffering any loss, there isn’t any access for thieves and the stock market won’t crash, this treasure is made to last.
1 Peter 1:4 and we have a priceless inheritance–an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.
Help me Lord to remember that my money belongs to you, help me to know how to use it for your purpose.
There are a lot of teachings that our blessed Savior espoused that, for the faithful disciple, reflects a hard path, and a tough road to go down. Yet, even as we consider that, there is one that stands out with a sense of difficulty that is perhaps the most challenging: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
Contemplating it even now one has to wonder exactly what Christ meant. After all, we live in a world of struggles and adversity, one where so often, it would seem at least, when one challenge fades another arises to strike at us. As warriors for Christ (Ephesians 6:10-18) we are not meant to be doormats, to be the ones who are walked all over. To run the race with endurance (Hebrews 12:1) we have to be strong, and to assert ourselves in a world where the wisdom of God is so often viewed as foolishness.
How then can we properly love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? How can that be the ground we stand upon and find that we maintain our integrity?
Perhaps our best understand comes from the story of Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:1-19)
The great persecutor of the early church, there were few names that reached as far or struck as much fear as his. Any disciple who wished to preserve their life knew he was a force to be avoided. There were few who could be viewed as a greater enemy than him. Yet, on the road to Damascus, with a hatred in his heard, it would be the same man who would hear the thundering voice of God shake the earth around him, calling out to him.
The point is we never know who God is going to call, nor do we know the miracles that He is going to work. Yet what we do know is that if God truly is love, (1John 4:8) then there is no greater weapon against Him, nor any more powerful tool to be used against His will than our hatred and our fear. It breeds an animosity, a scornful tongue and a self-righteous spirit that does nothing more than hinder His plan and His design.
The disciple is called to love their enemy and to pray for those who persecute not because it is an easy task or a simple one, but because it is the right one. By failing in this teaching we let thoughts and ideas into our hearts and minds that have no rightful place there. We allow ourselves be tempted in a way that prevents our spiritual growth as we trust our own understanding more than that of God’s. After all, to hate is to believe that one is beyond redemption, beyond salvation and thereby of little value or worth. It is to dehumanize God’s creation when the truth is we need to hope on their redemption all the more, with a greater sense of purpose.
Failing to do this does nothing but harden our own hearts and the hearts of those who need love, who need to be guided by it all the more against us and the guidance they may need.
The truth is not all may have the road to Damascus conversion of Saul. Some may stand steadfast in their ways, guided in the belief that where they stand is right. That does not mean that we should hope any less, understanding where hope and love are, that is where faith begins. In doing this we show a greater trust in God and a better understanding of what his plan is.
Do not rejoice in the fall of others, nor hate any. It blinds you to love and charity, to hope and to faith. In doing this we create for ourselves a stumbling block that ensnares us in the challenges it offers. Be strong and courageous, realizing that, through Christ Jesus, there is no greater power that we possess in our lives than the power we have to love. It is then, and only then, that, as a disciple of our blessed Savior, Christ Jesus, we become the imitator of him that we were intended to be.
The First Letter of John
1 John 2: 18-27 18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.t21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth.22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.25 And this is the promise that he made to ust—eternal life. 26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you.27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.
There is nothing harder for the Disciple than the feeling that God, He just isn’t listening. When we put our trust in verses that tell us “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) there are few stumbling blocks like the sense that our prayers are going unanswered. After all, isn’t this the Lord who promised us that He would never fail us or forsake us? (Joshua 1:5) Why then, in our hour of need, do we struggle, wondering to ourselves if we are alone in our plight?
How can we trust the promises, the assurances of our blessed Savior, ones that tell us, when we are weak and heavy laden, to lay our burdens at his feet to find peace, to find comfort through him (Matthew 11:28-29) when it seems as if our Heavenly Father is so far from us?
That though, for as much as the thought runs through our mind, isn’t the question. Rather, the more dominant question we need to ask ourselves is who is God to us, and who are we to Him?
Through Scripture we learn that we are children of a Heavenly Father. (Hosea 1:10) This is a relationship that we have to consider carefully as we come to God, as we ask of Him, seeking His divine grace and His wondrous love in our lives. Are we the humble who wait in patience and reverence for all to be revealed or are we the spoiled children demanding of God, asking for signs and miracles that are not part of His plan, impatient to the point where when it is not as we would like we question His love for us?
Since the moment of our conception God has known us and has had a plan for our lives. (Jeremiah 1:5) Sometimes it’s a plan that is one that we don’t necessarily understand, one that takes us on a road that is different than anything we had planned. There are moments when it is going to be confusing, where it seems like it is going to be harder than it should be. These are the times when we pray and, yes, it is going to seem as if our Heavenly Father is far distant from us, far removed from our lives. Yet just because we don’t comprehend doesn’t make His presence any less real, any less viable in our lives.
Yes, like Saul of Tarsus, we would all like the ground to shake, the earth to move, and the heavens to open with the voice of God cutting through to show us the way. The truth is though that God often chooses subtler ways to move us, we need only then to watch for the signs and to let ourselves be open to the gentle guidance that comes through His hand.
You see God’s timing, God’s wisdom, His direction, it may not be perfect to us, but it is perfect nonetheless. It takes into account our strengths, our weaknesses, our hopes, and even the battles we know not yet we are going to face in the trials of life. What that means is that sometimes we have to wait on an answer, hearing what we want not to hear, that we don’t need to know right now, or this is not what we need. Every loving father who cares for his children needs to say no now and then, not because he can’t but because he knows it is not right for them. God, our Heavenly Father, is no different.
Trust in faith that abides in the knowledge of the love of God, dear disciple of Christ. It may, at times be hard, in a world wrought with challenges, one day longer is not necessarily what we want to expect in the troubles or the struggles that we face. Yet God never allows us to face anything more than we can handle in the journey we are on. Perhaps, at times, it may feel as if He has and like we have been left. Yet this is our attempt to understand the trials before us, rather than a firm understanding of the true nature of God’s grace and love for us.
Whatever the struggle is, whatever the question may be, God is there to listen, and to answer. Open your heart to it, and you will find the answer you are looking for.