Nov. 7 thru Nov. 13, 2021


Balancing Wisdom with Gentleness, Sheep,
Wolves, Serpents,
and Doves





William S. Epps, Sr. Pastor
Sunday, November 7, 2021
What does the cross of Jesus mean? / It's more than songs we sing,
Much more than that emblem on your chain / But it means I'm free, yes from the chains of slavery / And the blood that shed won't let my sins remain,
Upon the cross my Savior died, the Lamb was crucified / Showed us love that this world had never known / Oh what love, so divine, true a love you'll never find
So that we might live, love came and died alone, Hallelujah
Well the Cross will always represent the love God had for me / When the Lord of glory, Heaven sent gave all on Calvary / He did it just for me, just for me, Hallelujah
Jesus came and did it just for me, helplessly / Well the Cross will always represent the love God had for me / When the Lord of glory, Heaven sent gave all on Calvary
Just for me, just for me / Jesus came and did it just for me. ~Donnie McClurkin  

We observe Communion each first Sunday as a reminder of the sacrifice Jesus made for our redemption and salvation.  

Consider what the cross of Jesus means to you.  
Monday, November 8, 2021
Matthew 10:16-20
 
I want to focus your thoughts on the phrase, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.” 
 
Jesus used similes and metaphors in relating to people about what the kingdom of heaven is like. He realizes that people tend to think in terms of comparisons of objects, people, and concepts. When Jesus said, "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field,” the Lord allowed His audience, who largely lived off the land, to understand and gain greater insight into how what He is saying relates to them.  

Jesus uses metaphors as a figure of speech to describe, illustrate and clarify to those listening how what is being said applies to them. Jesus masterfully communicated truth in a creative way so that His listeners would understand and remember His teachings. For example, Jesus used many objects as analogies to clarify, entertain and stimulate interest on a variety of occasions. The Lord spoke to them in parables saying what the kingdom of heaven is like. He uses stories with which His hearers can identify about life. The gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, has a few of them:

The kingdom of heaven is as a farmer who sowed good seed in a field (v. 24)
The kingdom of heaven is as a grain of mustard seed (v. 31)
The kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea and gathered of every kind (v. 47)
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking goodly pearls (v. 45)
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast (v. 33)
The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a person which sows good seed in his field (v. 24)

Jesus knew that people often learn best when they are able to move from what is familiar to embrace and understand what is not familiar. By using metaphors Jesus showed that He was a master teacher, comparing and contrasting things that were familiar to His audience. He made the complex simple and easy to understand.

Jesus was a master at helping people to retain what was taught. By using metaphors, Jesus knew how to help people gain a solid grasp of what was being taught. The Lord gave people truth that could be transmitted throughout the network of their associations, affiliations, and activities. Jesus wanted people to know the truth because as it says in John 8:31-32, “the truth sets you free.” Given the level of disinformation that promotes such enormous dysfunction in our world, God knows we need to know the truth that sets us free from the burdensome bewilderment that plagues our society today which distracts from truth with disinformation about what is real. 

Consider what it means that metaphors and similes add clarity to understanding what is being stated. 
Tuesday, November 9, 2021
Matthew 10:16-20

Chapter 10 opens with Jesus calling the twelve He has chosen as disciples. The twelve are named, Peter, Andrew, James and John sons of Zebedee, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot.  He equipped them by giving them the power they would need to accomplish what Jesus intended them to do.  They were given power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of diseases. 
 
Jesus empowered his disciples to accomplish what He expected of them. They were given power to work. Their work as outlined was to have power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, heal all manner of diseases.  He equips them with the power they need to purge what perverts people and what distorts their perspective about reality.  You know people seem to be possessed at times by something sinister that is destructive and disruptive. I am sure you have heard it said at times when people are acting out in ridiculous ways: "I don’t know what’s gotten into him, her, or you?" 
 
Jesus also gave them power to heal all manner of diseases. In other words, Jesus has given them the power to restore what people have lost in terms of health, strength, and well-being. We need the restoration of what we have seemingly lost. We need to restore a norm for fact and truth. We need to restore mutual respect for each other. We need to restore the value of human life by making available what it takes to maintain a reasonable existence. The caution is not to force yourself on those to whom you are sent, but simply offer what you’ve been given to heal life’s hurts. If accepted, well and good. And if not, you can only do what you can do. 
 
Consider what it means as a believer in Jesus to be given what you need to fulfill what Jesus expects of you as a follower.   
Wednesday, November 10, 2021
Matthew 10:16-20
 
After equipping them, He gives them specific instructions.  They were to preach the good news, to heal persons of diseases, to proclaim the kingdom of God. Jesus does not delude them about the mission, but informs them that they must be aware that they are being sent into a cruel world that is dangerous. (That definitely is the opposite of the way faith finds expression too often today; treating the relationship with the Lord as a quid pro quo proposition. You know, now Lord, I will do what you ask if you give me what I want. Too often we respond like the Lord is a cosmic bellhop. Lord do this and do that while ignoring what the Lord has asked you to do. If the disciples were going to survive and thrive with accomplishing the intent of their mission, they must be a kind of person who is like Christ himself, vulnerable but courageous, shrewd yet gentle. What a combination of attributes Jesus demonstrated with His life for those who would follow Him.  Exercising good judgement with kind gentleness in the midst of cruelty and danger.   
 
Jesus shares honestly with the disciples. Jesus prepares His disciples for their assignment and mission using the analogy of four creatures. There is the vulnerability of sheep facing the ferocity of wolves with the wisdom of snakes and the innocence of doves. 
 
In Matthew 7, Jesus called false prophets "wolves in sheep’s clothing."  Now Jesus sends out the twelve disciples – as sheep in the midst of wolves.  You see there were false prophets that infiltrated the practices and traditions of the way faith in God was expressed. The false prophets were controlling and domineeringly distressing rather than delivering people from the oppressive forces with which they were living. When false prophets infiltrate the faith traditions, they pervert the practice of the faith and tarnish the traditions with abnormalities and abuses. Faith is used to selectively help a few as oppose to everyone, thus diminishing and distorting the authenticity of the way faith in God finds expression in the world. When worldly prophets infiltrate biblical faith with their false notions, it's deadly. The sheep are in danger at home due to false prophets who have perverted the practice of the faith, diminishing it effectiveness. To add insult to injury, there are the wolves without. That is a double whammy (false prophets within and ravenous wolves without). There are wolves in the fold and wolves in the world.  Nonetheless, Jesus sends forth the sheep. We are those sheep today, who go forth in the Lord’s name. 
 
Consider what it means to exercise wise judgment with gentleness in the midst of cruelty and danger.  
Thursday, November 11, 2021
17Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. 18On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21“Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.
Matthew 10:17-23

Jesus warns them in advance. No soldier should enter battle unaware of the perils. No one ever heard a shrieking soldier say, "They’re shooting at me. I can’t believe they are shooting at me." Yet, many Christians go forth as messengers and are mortified that opposition comes their way.
 
The song writer says “...sure, I must fight if I would reign, increase my courage, Lord. I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, supported by Thy Word.”
 
Jesus does not want you to be deluded, ill, or unprepared.  And so His image depicts the reality which His believers and followers face. He asked his disciples to imagine some sheep trotting through the midst of a pack of wolves. That is the mission according to Jesus. To be sure that it was clear, Jesus spells it out.
 
Jesus says, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves."   
 
Jesus was clear about his mission and purpose: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Luke 4:18-19

He invites us to join with Him in continuing the mission as His disciples.
 
Sheep in the midst of wolves means being betrayed, defamed, and hated. Jesus is the original sheep among wolves; the innocent lamb of God among a whole world that tore Him apart. What did He do to deserve it?  He simply preached and procured salvation for the world.  And the world killed Him for it. Jesus endured the ultimate hatred, slander, betrayal, scourging, arrest, and death. He did not merely risk His reputation, freedom, family, health, and life – He gave them up.  He was a sheep among wolves. 
 
When Jesus sends forth, He does not do it from a distance. He is the suffering servant. This is a call to follow Him. Those sent forth in mission risk their reputations, freedom, families, health, and their very lives. What are these sheep doing to provoke such hostility? They are preaching Matthew 10:7-8: The kingdom of heaven is at hand to heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils, welcome the stranger and help the helpless. Our ancestors would say, “Treat everybody right.” “Do unto others as you would they do unto you. And do it first.” After all, we are an extension of what Jesus’ mission was and continues to be through you and me. 
 
How do we make sense of that?  Jesus – the sender – has himself been sent.  
Now He sends those who will be His disciples and followers. That includes you and me. We call ourselves Christians, believers in Christ. We believe that God was in “Christ reconciling the world unto himself.” II Corinthians 5:19  
 
We will never face the wolves the way He did. Remember we will never face our own wolves alone; for we will know Jesus in the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His suffering, through His abiding and constant presence (Philippians 3:10). Remember, Jesus said, “I will never forsake you or leave you,” as we continue to champion the cause of our priceless prince of peace, friend, redeemer, shepherd, and savior.  
 
Consider what it means to be a sheep among wolves within and without. 
Friday, November 12, 2021
Matthew 10:16-20 

Jesus says, “Therefore be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves."
 
Serpents and doves are held up as positive role models. How do serpents and doves relate? Serpents have the attribute of being cunning and wise. The serpent is known for his power of persuasion, though in the devil’s case it is wrought through deception. Christ persuades with transparency and truth, not deception. “What you see is what you get” with the Lord; a compassionate, forgiving, loving friend, redeemer and savior. The dove-like Holy Spirit is also known for wisdom. 
Remember the spirit of the Lord descended in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism. There is a cunning filled wisdom in the serpent and an honest and truthful wisdom in the dove. Jesus is emphasizing the need to be discerningly wise in dealing with shrewd persons who seek to undermine you with deception, disinformation, and distractions. 
 
Sheep wandering among wolves will need incredible wisdom, but not the cunning of the serpent which seeks to deceive and destroy. You need the honest wisdom of the dove which purifies the thoughts. The words in Handel’s Messiah get at this for the false prophets within as well as those without. “And he shall purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. Then they will present offerings to the Lord in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3
 
The wisdom of the dove purifies. Jesus tells them how this wisdom will work under fire in Matthew 10:19: But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what you shall speak: for it shall be given to you in that same hour. For it is not you that speaks but the spirit of your Father.
 
Consider what it means to be wise a serpent and gentle as a dove. 
Saturday, November 13, 2021
Matthew 10:16-20

Just as Christ is equipped by the spirit of His Father, so are Christians. Jesus’ disciples share not only His mission and suffering, but also His Spirit. As we suffer for His name’s sake, our fellowship with Christ will be profound. Under persecution we will experience even more dramatically our adoption by the Father and our anointing with the Spirit.  
  
Am I a soldier of the cross, A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause, Or blush to speak His Name?
Must I be carried to the skies On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize, And sailed through bloody seas?
Are there no foes for me to face? Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?
Sure I must fight, if I would reign; Increase my courage, Lord.
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain, Supported by Thy Word.
Thy saints in all this glorious war Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar, By faith they bring it nigh.
When that illustrious day shall rise, And all Thy armies shine,
In robes of victory through the skies, The glory shall be Thine.
~Am I A Soldier Of The Cross by Isaac Watts
 
Remember that you may be a vulnerable sheep facing ferocious wolves within the faith tradition and without; but you have been given all you need along with the power to respond with wisdom and gentleness.

Consider what it means for you to be a soldier of the cross. 
Gratitude Project

We are using this thanksgiving season to journey on our way through the month of November with scriptures and themes to lead us on a journey to thanksgiving with expectations of the Lord’s fulfillment of the Lord's intentional will in our lives. 
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