Angels Beside Us

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me. Acts 27:23, NIV

Be careful about using the word angel carelessly. Have you ever watched someone render an act of kindness and said of her, “She’s just an angel.” Or perhaps you appreciated a medical worker who helped you through a crisis. You might say, “He was God’s angel to me.”

Remember, angels are not human beings. They are a special species created by God—living beings that are not humans though they may at times assume human form. The book of Hebrews says, “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14, NIV).

During our Lord’s life on earth, angels helped Him at many points, announcing His birth, comforting Him in the desert, strengthening Him in Gethsemane, and being ready to rescue Him from crucifixion if He had only asked (Matthew 26:53). They rejoiced in His resurrection and moved the stone to reveal His empty tomb.

Angels played a role in Christ’s earthly life, just as they do in ours. They work to fulfill God’s purpose. They are not human; they are super-human and closer to you today than you realize.

It is a whisper-thin veil that separates the nature from the supernatural, meaning divine activity is all around us. Jack Graham


Acts 27 Skip Heitzig

The Greatest Symphony

We were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:13

When BBC Music Magazine asked one hundred fifty-one of the world’s leading conductors to list twenty of what they believed to be the greatest symphonies ever written, Beethoven’s Third, Eroica, came out on top. The work, whose title means “heroic,” was written during the turmoil of the French Revolution. But it also came out of Beethoven’s own struggle as he slowly lost his hearing. The music evokes extreme swings of emotion that express what it means to be human and alive while facing challenges. Through wild swings of happiness, sadness, and eventual triumph Beethoven’s Third Symphony is regarded as a timeless tribute to the human spirit.

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians deserves our attention for similar reasons. Through inspired words rather than musical scores, it rises in blessing (1:4–9), falls in the sadness of soul-crushing conflict (11:17–22), and rises again in the unison of gifted people working together for one another and for the glory of God (12:6­–7).

The difference is that here we see the triumph of our human spirit as a tribute to the Spirit of God. As Paul urges us to experience together the inexpressible love of Christ, he helps us see ourselves as called together by our Father, led by His Son, and inspired by His Spirit—not for noise, but for our contribution to the greatest symphony of all.

By:  Mart DeHaan

Reflect & Pray

Where do you hear the dissonance of conflict in your own life? Where do you see the symphonic harmonies of love? 

Father, please enable me to see what I can be with others, with my eyes on Your Son, with reliance on Your Spirit, with a growing awareness of what You can do with a noisemaker like me.

Results of Yielding to Culture

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

There are many committed followers of Jesus Christ who are focused on pleasing God and growing in faith. But others who identify as Christians don’t concern themselves with spiritual matters at all and instead retain a carnal mindset. This can happen when people start compromising their convictions.

When a believer loosens his grip on God’s Word, he may disobey a command or refuse to believe a certain truth. Or he may simply stop reading Scripture. Sooner or later, something in society will appeal to him, and as he fixates on it, his time and resources are consumed. Slowly this “new love” wins his affection away from the Lord.

After a while, other aspects of the culture that once appeared detestable don’t seem so bad—the believer may dabble and eventually indulge in them with abandon. Inevitably, his witness will be undermined because neither his conduct nor his character is fitting for a man of faith.

It’s important that believers resist giving themselves to things that can never bring lasting peace. If you have yielded to the world’s mindset in some area, repent and return to your first love—the God who saved you. Peace and fulfillment are the reward of those whose sole focus is to please the Lord.

Our Advocate in Heaven

“Also now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high.” (Job 16:19)

It is significant that here, in what is probably the oldest book in the Bible, two vitally important New Testament truths are anticipated. Job somehow knew that he (and, by implication, every other person as well) has a “record” in heaven. This is the only occurrence of this word (sahed) in the Bible, but it basically means that our works, good or bad, have been recorded by God in heaven concerning how we have used or abused our stewardship here on Earth.

And the record inevitably testifies against us, “for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). At God’s throne of judgment, when “the dead [are] judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works,” then “whosoever [is] not found written in the book of life [is] cast into the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:12, 15).

But how can we know that our names will be in God’s book of life in that day? Thankfully, even Job knew, in his long-ago time, that “my witness is in heaven.” Here the word (Hebrew ed) speaks of a formal personal witness who can testify on our behalf, one who “might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor!” (Job 16:21).

Job somehow knew that such a witness was there, for he could also say, “I know that my redeemer liveth” (Job 19:25). In the light of the New Testament record, we know that this Redeemer and Witness is none other than the Lord Jesus. “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 2:1-2). That is, He is the “sacrifice” for our sins and thus can redeem us from sin’s penalty and thereby serve as our defense witness in heaven. Our record of sin and guilt has been washed clean with the precious blood of Christ. HMM

When a Man Comes to Himself

Luke 15:11-24

IN the fifteenth chapter of Luke, our Lord gives the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the lost son. It has been pointed out that the coin was lost and did not know it was lost; the sheep was lost, knew it was lost, but did not know the way home; while the prodigal was lost, knew he was lost, and knew the way home.

The lost sheep illustrates our Lord’s concern for the straying soul. The lost coin illustrates the joy “in the presence of the angels” among the redeemed over one sinner recovered.

Have you noticed how many things the prodigal “came to” before he came to himself? He came to his father, to the far country, to riotous living, to want, to degradation—all before he came to himself. Sin is a state of departure from God, a spending state, a wanting state. The famine always follows the far country.

This youngster didn’t know when he left home that he was headed for a hogpen. He started for pleasure and ended in the pigsty! And what degradation it was for a Jew to be forced to feed hogs!

But he came to himself. The longest road in life is usually the road to one’s own self. We come to everything else first. We do everything possible to avoid meeting “old number 1.” The jails, asylums, hospitals are filled with people trying to get away from themselves. But around some corner we must run into ourselves.

The prodigal came first to consideration: “How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” He realized that he was in a dissatisfied state: “He would fain have filled himself.” He was in a disappointed state: “No man gave unto him.” He was in a dead state: “This my son was dead.” He was in a demented state—for if he “came” to himself he must have been “beside” himself.

He came to conviction: “I have sinned.” Others in the Bible have said that, but only David and the prodigal really repented. He came to a decision: “I will arise and go to my father.” He did something about it. He could have sat among the hogs the rest of his life feeling sorry, but he decided and then acted upon it: he arose and came home. He made confession in all humility and was willing to be made a hired servant. “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou will not despise.”

So he came home, and “when he was yet a great way off his father saw him.” The prodigal did not even finish the speech he had prepared. He was restored and reinstated. The robe speaks of the garments of Christ’s righteousness, the ring of our adoption, the shoes of sonship (for slaves went barefoot), the fatted calf of the rich satisfactions of the gospel. “They began to be merry.” We do not read that it stopped. There is joy over the sinner come home, and it goes on through all eternity! Take care that you are not a sour, Pharisaic older brother who grows bitter over the joyous delights of others when sinners come home to God.

Clinging to Unforgiveness

Give me an undivided mind to fear Your name.—Psalm 86:11

A friend of mine who is a minister and Christian counselor shared with me about a woman who told him that she spent thirty to forty-five minutes every day asking God to take away from her an unforgiving spirit. She told Him that what she wanted more than anything in the world was the ability to forgive those in her family who had brought her hurt.

The minister joined her in prayer, but the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart and showed him that deep down, the woman did not want a forgiving spirit. The minister waited for the Spirit to show more, but nothing came. Realizing that he had enough information to pursue the matter, the minister invited the woman to explore the possibility that what she was asking for with her lips was not what she was asking for in her heart.

At first the woman seemed annoyed and upset by the suggestion that deep down she might not really want what she was asking for, but gradually she agreed to take an inside look. In the hour or two that followed, this came out—despite her claim that she wanted to forgive, deep down in her heart she clung to an unforgiving spirit. This gave her the justification she felt she needed when she was the cause of hurt to someone else. In other words, she was saying to herself: “Other people have hurt me, so it won’t matter so much when I hurt them.” When she saw what she was doing, however, she immediately surrendered it to God and found inner release and freedom.

Prayer

God, I am deeply challenged by this yet deeply relieved to know that whatever might elude me can never elude You. I open up my heart right now for inspection and examination. Search me and make me whole. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Lk 17:1-5; Mk 11:25; Eph 4:32

How did the apostles respond to Christ’s challenge?

How did Paul admonish the Ephesians?

A Tribute of Love

John 20:21

In November 1910, we were ushered into the Founder’s study, as he had expressed his wish of having a last word with us before we were sent forth to the Army’s distant battlefield of India. Slowly feeling his way to where we were standing—his eyesight having become impaired—he sat down saying: “Come right near to me, my children.”

Then, sitting quite close to him, his hands holding ours, he began, “You are going to India, and we are sending you to a very hard part of it, too, and I feel that it will mean to you hardship and sacrifice. I want you to be brave like unto that noble, heroic woman, Colonel Yuddha Bai, who has fought so brave a fight in that very part of India, and who has now laid down the sword.”

And on went our grand old leader, speaking words of counsel and warning, comfort and encouragement, in accents of a father’s concern and compassion concerning his two officers about to depart. Then he knelt in prayer, his hands still clasping ours, when he poured out his soul in yearning, passionate appeal for India, for “these girls, who were now going out to hardship and loneliness.” One more long look at our grand old General standing before us as the prophet of God, yet so tender in the task entrusted to us, so buoyant in his faith for us, could we ever disappoint such trust? Out we went, our eyes blinded with tears, but in our hearts the fixed determination to go and carry out the sacred charge to our fullest ability.

It was far inland in India, in the land of Marashtra, a year or so later. We had left the great high road and were trudging miles and miles over the wild, barren countryside, leaving civilization and comfort far behind. How long the way seemed, how merciless the sun’s rays over our heads.

At last we reached our longed-for destination of our weary journey. The question arose in my mind, whether it had been really worthwhile, wise too, to undertake such a hazardous, fatiguing journey to reach this village. I learned to look at the matter in a different light the following morning.

Great excitement of interest and joy was manifest on all sides among the villages, and a demonstrative welcome given us. What was the meaning of all this? Ah, we understood when we learned the story. Many years ago an English lady, the first that ever was looked upon by these people, had come to be one of them, teaching them of Jesus, caring for them in their sicknesses. And this lady was Yuddha Bai, and her memory was still fragrant and revered in spite of the lapse of time between.

Catherine Bannister, The Practice of Sanctification