Angels: Are They for Real?

I had a conversation recently with someone who asked me if I believed in angels. This person was questioning if God uses angels in our present day, to provide comfort and care for believers. That conversation led me to a book by Bill Graham that I had read many years ago about angels. In his book, Angels: God’s Secret Agents, Rev. Graham says, “I do not believe in angels because I have ever seen one- because I haven’t. I believe in angels because the Bible says that there are angels; and I believe the Bible to be the true Word of God. I also believe in angels because I have sensed their presence in my life on special occasions.”

There is a story from 2 Kings, Chapter six, where Elisha traps a group of soldiers sent by the king of Aram. Aram was at war with Israel and the king of Aram was enraged that the prophet Elisha seemed to know his every move.  The king of Aram then sent out his fighters to Dothan in order to capture Elisha. The next morning when Elisha’s servant got up and went outside, he saw that an army of horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked.  Don’t be afraid, Elisha answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed for the Lord to open the servant’s eyes so that he may see. When the Lord did this, the servant looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. God had sent protection for his prophet, but only Elisha could see what was unseen to everyone else.

Billy Graham tells a similar story of the Reverend John G. Paton, a missionary in the New Hebrides Islands. This story also involved the protective care of angels. Hostile natives surrounded his mission headquarters one night, intent on burning the Patons out and killing them.  John Paton and his wife prayed all during that terror-filled night that God would deliver them. When daylight came they were amazed to see the attackers unaccountably leave. They thanked God for delivering them.

A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Mr. Paton asked the chief what had kept him and his men from burning down the house and killing them. The chief replied in surprise, “Who were all those men you had with you there?” The missionary answered, “There were no men there; just my wife and I.” The chief argued that they had seen many men standing guard – hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station so that the natives were afraid to attack. Only then did Mr. Paton realize that God had sent His angels to protect them. The chief also agreed that there was no other explanation.  Could it be that God had sent a legion of angels to protect His servants, whose lives were being endangered?

The Bible states that angels, like men, were created by God. At one time no angels existed; there was nothing but the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Paul, in Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible.” Angels indeed are among the invisible things made by God, for all things were created by him, and for him.

Hebrews 1:14 calls them ministering “spirits.” Essentially, they do not possess physical bodies, although they may take on physical bodies when God appoints them to special tasks. Furthermore, God has given them no ability to reproduce, and they neither marry nor are given in marriage (Mark 12:25).

Rev. Graham says that if you believe the Bible, you will believe in the angel’s ministry. They crisscross the Old and New Testament, being mentioned directly or indirectly nearly three hundred times. David recorded 20,000 angels coursing through the skyways of the stars (Psalms 68:17). Ten thousand angels came down on Mount Sinai to confirm the holy presence of God as He gave the Law to Moses (Deuteronomy 33:2). And in the New Testament John tells us of having seen ten thousand times ten thousand angels minister to the Lamb of God in the throne room of heaven (Revelation 5:11).

In my earlier mention of the story of Elisha, we can learn an important lesson, which may aid us in our understanding of the work of angels in our world today. There is Elisha at Dothan, seemingly overwhelmed by powerful enemy forces. If we, like Elisha, had spiritual eyes that were open to the unseen power of God, we would see not only a world filled with evil spirit and powers – but also powerful angels with drawn swords, ready for our defense.

At Dothan thousands of soldiers surrounded the city and intended to do Elisha harm. Yet he had peace. His servant, however, did not, and needed his eyes opened.  Billy Graham says that “we must not get so busy counting demons that we forget the holy angels. We are encompassed by a heavenly host so powerful that we need not fear the warfare of Satan – the battle belongs to the Lord.

Source used: Angels: God’s Secret Agents, Doubleday and Company, Inc. Copyright 1975.

 

When God is Silent

Psalm 102: 1-7: Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry for help come to you. Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly. For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers. My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food. Because of my loud groaning I am reduced to skin and bones. I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins. I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.

We live in a world where there is constant noise and very little silence. Noise is something that we are accustomed to and when there is silence, we become uncomfortable. When the pastor asks the congregation to pray in silence, before the pastoral prayer, I take notice of people moving around uneasily. Even in the middle of a church service, we are anxious when it comes to silence.

Silence is especially painful when it is the silence of God in our lives. And it seems that when we are going through a painfully long period of silence from God, there are many people that want to tell us about how God has “spoken” to them. That tends to trouble me, because I begin to wonder why God is speaking to them and not to me. The silence that I am feeling becomes agonizing and then uncertainties begin to settle in my mind, and I pray really hard for some kind of answer, and it seems that all I get from God is silence.

When God is silent we can simply become upset with God, we become confused, we start to doubt. The truth is that we just don’t know what to do with God’s silence. There is some sort of anguish in my life, I am suffering and in pain like the psalmist. And it seems that I have been praying to God for a very long time, to help me with my problems, and all that I am met with, is silence from God. Then I begin to question if God has given up on me or has stopped listening to me and my prayers.

The Old Testament story of Job, is a reminder of crying out to God for answers and receiving silence. Job cried out to God for the first thirty seven chapters of the book of Job and God finally answered him in chapter 38. God said, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?” (Job 38:4-5). That is God’s way of reminding us that God continues to be in charge of this universe.

The psalmist, in our scripture reading today, seems to be asking, “God, are you even listening to these prayers of mine that I am pouring out to you?” I’m hurting Lord, I’m in deep anguish God, please hear my prayers. The psalmist is reminding us that it’s allright to complain to God. We don’t have to hide our feelings from God because He knows what they are already.

It could be that God is not silent after all; it’s possible that we are not tuned into hearing God. We are surrounded by background noise and countless distractions. God is trying to communicate with us, but we can’t hear God because we have blocked him out. Our minds are tuned into the internet or the television instead of reading our Bible daily or a few moments of quiet prayer with God. It is in those moments that we can hear that still, small voice of our creator God. And it is in those moments that we can receive answers to our worries or concerns.

1 Kings 19:11-12: The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. This is why it is crucial to have a daily quiet time with God, so that through reading the Bible, or through prayer, God can speak to your heart through the Holy Spirit, in that still, small voice. Don’t allow yourself to be too busy that you don’t take the time to listen.

There is a story that you may have heard about a man who once lost his valuable watch in an ice house. All of his fellow workers diligently searched the ice house looking for the watch. They combed every inch of it, but they couldn’t find it. A little boy, hearing about their search, slipped into the ice house and quickly emerged with the watch. All of the men were amazed and they said, “How did you find it?” And he said, ” Well I simply went to the ice house, closed the door, laid down quietly on the floor, and then I began to listen. After a while, I could hear the tick, tick, tick of the watch.” Are you training yourself to listen for that still, small voice of God?

What happens when prayers seem to go unanswered or not answered in the way that we wanted them to be? For me, it’s continuing to have faith and trust in God and His plan for my life. I have struggled lately with my calling and why things have not worked out in the time frame that I have wanted them to. I feel that I have been faithful to God and sometimes I just can’t understand why opportunities have passed me by and doors have been closed on me. Someone told me several weeks ago that God closes one door in order to open up another one. I don’t know about you, but I am getting tired of all those doors slamming shut in my face.

However, I continue to have faith and hope, and I trust in God’s promises. I pray that you will continue to have faith and seek out some quality, quiet time with God. I believe, that it is in those quiet moments, that we have the opportunity to experience God revealing himself to us and making clear His will for our lives. We must train ourselves to be quiet, and to listen, and then respond, to our creator God.

Helping out those in need?

Scripture Reading: 1 John 3:17-18: If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Yesterday morning, as I arrived at work early, I was approached by a woman in a truck that had pulled up beside my car in the parking lot. As I got out of my vehicle, she said, “Sir, I’m sorry to bother you but I need some help.” She gave me a well crafted story of how she gave an acquaintance, a ride to a local grocery store. She said that as the other woman was getting out of her car, the passenger snatched her purse that was on the seat between them, then got into another car and sped off. She said that all of her money was in that purse.

The woman told me that she needed some gas money to get back to Winterville (a small town a few miles outside of Athens) because her car was just about out of gas. I looked and saw that the needle was almost on empty but I was skeptical of her story. I asked her if she had any friends or family that could bring her some money or gas. She said that she had just moved down from Michigan and she only had a brother that lived in Winterville, however she was unable to reach him on his phone. I asked her if she had called the police to report the theft and she replied that she did but that she would have to go to the police station and file a report.

I told her that I couldn’t help her and that I needed to go inside my store. She said that if I could just give her a few dollars so that she could get some gas that she would come back and repay me before the day was over. So I said, ok, here’s a few dollars, that’s enough for you to make it back home. She said, “God bless you sir, you don’t know how much I appreciate this. I’ll be back later on today and repay you.”

I have to admit that as I walked into my store, I began to judge the woman. I knew that her story was fabricated and I assumed that she was probably going to use the money to buy drugs. I felt certain that she had been approaching people all morning until she had scrapped up enough money to buy her drugs. Over the next few minutes, I became somewhat angry and upset with myself for being duped by such a fairly obvious lie. I wondered how I could be so stupid as to fall for a scam like that.

Then, all of a sudden, I had a moment of revelation. Up to this point, it had not occurred to me that I had helped out someone that was supposedly in need. God made me realize that I did the right thing by helping this lady out. If she was lying about her need for the money, then that was on her and she would have to answer for that. I said to myself; let it go, if this lady lied, it’s on her. And suddenly all of my anger and resentment just went away. It was as if God was saying, just let it go.

Society, and most of you would say, how could you fall for a story like that? And that’s exactly what I said to myself until God helped me to realize that I had goodness in my heart and I just needed to let it go. I am beginning to realize that God is at work more often that I realize in my life. There are many areas in my life that need work and I believe that this was another moment that God used to teach me a lesson about forgiveness and compassion. Thanks be to God!

Peacemakers

Scripture Readings:
Matthew 5:9: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
2 Thessalonians 3:16: Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way.
James 3:18: Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

The term “peacemakers” is used only twice in the New Testament, in the Sermon on the Mount from Matthew Chapter 5 and from James chapter 3. Jesus said that blessed are the peacemakers, in other words, blessings on the ones who are making peace. This making peace could take place in your home, your workplace, your neighborhood, your city or county, your state, or even in the world at large.

The word Shalom is a Hebrew word which occurs about 200 times in the OT – it means peace or wholeness. It also can be understood to relate to health and both physical and spiritual wholeness. We recognize this sense of well-being, of being complete, there is harmony involved. We are at peace with ourselves and those around us.

The Jewish Rabbis spoke of peace in terms of love, humility, and self-denial. In the Gospels, we see Jesus as a model of a peace maker: He talked of love for enemies and he also embodied this peace. Jesus was a peacemaker to his disciples – when they quarreled. When faced with Roman oppression, Jesus talked about going a second mile, turning the other cheek, forgiveness, and compassion of one’s enemies. This peace is
something that Jesus held in high regard, but in our world today, true peace is harder to find.

This week I have dealt with a lot of people that do not have peace in their lives. Many of these people are angry, hurting, unforgiving, mean-spirited, and just unhappy with life in general. As a human being, it is difficult sometimes to follow the teachings of Jesus about turning the other cheek, forgiveness, and especially compassion. Jesus commanded us, as his followers, to practice these qualities in our daily lives, but it is difficult to do that sometimes. To be honest, it is difficult to do that any of the time.

I dealt with a woman today, who used numerous profanities in front of her three small children, all over a very insignificant matter. I was shocked (not sure why) at her sudden outburst and I was equally shocked that she would talk like she did, with her being a role model for her three young children. I can promise you that compassion and forgiveness were not the first thoughts that crossed my mind.

Many people that I encounter are on edge, they are short tempered and many are just plain mad at the world and everyone in it. The temptation is certainly there for those of us on the receiving end to retaliate and give them a dose of their own medicine. After all, that is what they deserve, right?

Jesus tells us that as his followers, we are to be peacemakers. We are to practice compassion, especially in those moments when that is the last thing that we are contemplating. Why is it important to be a peacemaker? Why keep turning the other cheek when it is bruised enough already?

As believers, we continue to promote peace, because in doing so, we reflect the character of our living heavenly Father. In James 3:17 we read that: The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. By promoting peace and compassion to those that we encounter, we are helping others to see and experience our loving and compassionate God. Hopefully, we can help others who don’t know God to get a glimpse of his kindness, love, and compassion. And there are many people out there that sure could use a little love, understanding, and compassion.

I leave you with these words of Jesus from the Gospel of John, chapter 14 and verse 27: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

May the peace of Christ be with you as you go out into the world.

Treasures in Heaven

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

We live in a society today that can’t seem to stop buying “stuff.” We buy items that we don’t really need for the simple reason that “they are on sale.” We see a really good deal and we just can’t pass it up. Never mind the fact, that we will probably never use that “As Seen on TV” item that we just had to have. We tell ourselves that “it’s not our fault”, it’s the advertising and marketing people that trick us into buying all this stuff. They push these items on us and make us feel like we will not be successful or relevant until we buy their product. And now we have extreme couponing which encourages more and more greed.

We live in a world that judges us on what kind of house we live in or what type of car we drive or what designer label clothes we wear. We go into tremendous debt just to keep up our appearances and to make ourselves feel good, at least temporarily. Success is measured in terms of how much “stuff” we manage to accumulate. How do we manage to make the shift away from what society views as important and focus on what is important as followers of Christ?

In our scripture reading today, Jesus is warning us about being consumed with storing up treasures here on this earth. Jesus is not telling us that we should be ashamed of earning a good living or providing a good home for our family to live in. It is the greed and the hoarding of money and material possessions that Jesus is warning us about. When we are focused on money and the things of this world, we are less focused on God and doing His work in the world that we live in.

We should be devoting more of our time and resources to doing things in this life that have eternal value or significance in the next life. I have had people tell me that it is a waste of time helping the poor and homeless. Our society does not look favorable upon those who are destitute and are reduced to begging for their daily needs. And there are many people who are judgmental towards those that are homeless or that stand on the street corner begging for money. Remember what Jesus said about judging others?

Jesus reminds us that as his followers we are to be a light unto the world. We must show compassion to those that are less fortunate and to those that need a kind word spoken to them. We should be out in the world looking for ways to make our society a better place to live in. By sharing the love and compassion of Christ with others, we are helping to bring the good news of our faith to those that do not know about God.

Then in eternity, you will receive your reward for being a good and faithful servant of Christ. And you will store up for yourself, treasure in heaven, that cannot be lost or destroyed.