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Daily Devotion for October 17, 2013

'Be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves'|Matthew 10:16



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lessons and scripture

Lord's Prayer

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


The uncredited singer on this pretty hymn is Jessie Lee Campbell.

Prayer of St. Patrick

Lord, be with me and all who love you, this day:

Within us to purify us;
Above us to draw us up;
Beneath us to sustain us;
Before us to lead us;
Behind us to restrain us;
Around us to protect us.
In Christ's name we pray,


For Wisdom

Almighty God, I pray for wisdom in these times of uncertainty. I look deep into my heart and soul to find your truth. I pray for comfort in times of spiritual restlessness — as I journey through the murky waters of sin and self-doubt. Lord, I pray for your word to enrich my life and bring me to a closer relationship and understanding with you, through your Son, Jesus Christ. And may all your children be granted the same wisdom, comfort, and the promise of your word throughout their daily lives, that we all can gather in your house and praise you more lovingly and faithfully from this day forward. In Christ's name,



O  God and Father of all, whom the whole heavens adore: Let the whole earth also worship you, all nations obey you, all tongues confess and bless you, and men and women everywhere love you and serve you in peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, I pray,


Think of the day ahead in terms of God with you, and visualize health, strength, guidance, purity, calm confidence, and victory as the gifts of His presence.

<i>Apostle with Folded Hands</i> by Anthony van Dyke, ca. 1620.
Apostle with Folded Hands by Anthony van Dyke, ca. 1620. The rugged hands and sturdy, weathered features of this apostle are a brilliant celebration of his working-class origins. The vulnerability of his exposed neck implies his realization of his violent death; yet his features, although they show fear, are beaming with faith. It is utter genius - critics call van Dyke one of the “old masters” for good reason. See Full-size.

Proverbs 12:18 (NIV)

Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Blue Latin Cross

Matthew 10:16-23 (ESV)

Persecution of Missionaries

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Notes on the Scripture

Jesus doesn't pull his punches when he warns the apostles of what they might expect as they travel about, preaching the good news: Persecution from the state, persecution from religious organizations, persecution from even their own family members. He once again uses sheep and wolves metaphorically, this time to describe the faithful facing an evil, hostile, and murderous world.

This disconcerting description is modeled on the life of Jesus himself; and really, it informs the entire relationship of Christians to society. We have somehow come to expect to be a majority, to be in power, and to control the government and society; but this was an anomaly. The attempts of well-meaning Christians to bring morality to the world, as compulsion, is rapidly slipping. And face it: the struggle for popular or political control may be a battle God intends us to lose. (See, e.g., John 14:30; Luke17:26-30.)

two turtle doves needlework

Christ sends the apostles out, not to change Israel, but to save the souls of individual human beings. The second temple will be destroyed and, unlike Christ, never rise again. Christ knows that the world will be a hostile and dangerous place for his disciples; the powers of this world do not want to see people saved. Yet, in the midst of an evil dominant in the secular world, we, like the apostles, are told to be “innocent as doves” — like Christ himself.

As to the hostility, however, he tells us to be as “wise as serpents”. The apostles, and we, are instructed to use our wits to avoid danger. In this, we are different from Christ. His fate, to give up his life on the cross, was ordained and necessary; but we are to try to avoid martyrdom. This is illustrated later in the Bible (especially in Acts) when we will see Paul (and others) try to avoid imprisonment and death, time and time again.

The passage, in its entirety, sounds like the speech of a great general to troops before a battle or war, where the enemy is powerful and will take many lives. Think of Winston Churchill promising “blood, sweat, and tears”. Garibaldi, the liberator and consolidator of Italy, told his army,“ I have nothing to offer you but hunger and thirst, hardship and death. But I call on all who love their country to join with me.” Washington offered much the same advice to his army at Valley Forge.

This is the hard edge of Christianity. Have no doubt that we are at war; and unlike the men of Churchill or Garibaldi or Washington, we cannot carry a rifle or sword; we cannot harm others. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17) They fight for the body, seeking conquest and domination; we fight for the soul, seeking peace and purity. And we must live the life we preach.

endless knot

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Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

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