The Other Side

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” –The author of the Hebrews (13:2) in the New Testament
Halloween is quickly approaching in a few days on October 31st, and the entire month of October is when several TV stations announce “31 days of Halloween” movies, and new spooky movies show up at the theaters. Of course, on Halloween children dress up in costumes and go door-to-door trick or treating just as I did when I was a kid. My mom always had to ration out the goodies so I didn’t eat too many sweets at any one time. Spooks and goblins and Harry Potter type stuff, along with The Addams Family who first showed up in 1991 and they are still quite popular today, proliferate during this month. However, when I woke up this morning I got to thinking about “the other side” of the spirit world–Angels–as they appear in the Bible many times including their association with us human beings. In fact, Hebrews 13:2 states:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Imagine entertaining an angel and not even knowing it. Obviously, according to this Bible verse they are able to take on human form. Most likely if we think of angels at all it is sort of like this picture as being “bright, glowing, ethereal, winged messengers or guardians” (quote source here). However, the angels of the Bible are described as follows:

Superhuman or heavenly being who serves as God’s messenger. Both the Hebrew  malak and the Greek angelos indicate that these beings also act decisively in fulfilling God’s will in the world. But these two terms also apply to human beings as messengers (1 Kings 19:2 ; Hag 1:13 ; Luke 7:24 ). “Angels” are mentioned almost three hundred times in Scripture, and are only noticeably absent from books such as Ruth, Nehemiah, Esther, the letters of John, and James.

From the beginning, angels were part of the divine hierarchy. They were created beings (Psalms 148:2 Psalms 148:5), and were exuberant witnesses when God brought the world into being (Job 38:7). By nature they were spiritual entities, and thus not subject to the limitations of human flesh. Although holy, angels could sometimes behave foolishly (Job 4:18), and even prove to be untrustworthy (Job 15:15). Probably these qualities led to the “fall” of some angels, including Satan, but the Bible contains no description of that event [Note: see “The Devil” on History.com at this link]. When angels appeared in human society they resembled normal males (Genesis 18:2 Genesis 18:16 ; Ezek 9:2), and never came dressed as women. (A full explanation including some Old Testament and New Testament examples along with the quote source above is located here.)

In a four-part series on angels by Greg Laurie, senior pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship, published on Harvest.org, he states the following:

INTRODUCTION

Angels have been the featured subject of national news magazines, countless books, many movies, and several television shows. They have even surfaced on the Internet. You can find them on postcards, T-shirts, calendars, and sunglasses. In fact, entire seminars, newsletters, and boutiques have been devoted to these beings. There’s no doubt about it, America is experiencing a wave of angel-mania.

Polls have shown that most Americans do believe angels exist. Many people also believe that they have personal guardian angels, or that they have felt an angelic presence at some time. Even most teenagers say they believe there are angels.

WHAT THE BIBLE SAYS ABOUT ANGELS

Our word “angel” comes from the Greek word meaning “messenger.” Angels have superhuman intelligence and powers. People today often describe angels as kind, non-judgmental, wise, and loving beings. But do they take into account that there are also fallen angels who may not be so nonthreatening and loving? In many cases, the answer is no. Let’s examine what the Bible teaches us about these angelic beings.

Angels are beings created by God

“For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Colossians 1:16).

Angels generally operate undercover

They are God’s secret agents, not seeking to draw attention to themselves, but to do God’s bidding. One of the reasons we may not be personally aware of angels in our life is because they are doing their job properly. The Bible cites a limited number of instances when God has given people a glimpse of these beings at work.

Angels have a special work and ministry in the lives of Christians

Angels are all around us, taking care of us and ministering to us even when we are not aware of their presence. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are sent by God to deliver us from our troubles. “The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them” (Psalm 34:7). God also sends angels to bring His messages to guide us in our own ministry (Acts 8:26).

Angels are intelligent, powerful, and invisible spirit beings

Angels are not visible to us, with the exception of those occasions when God sends them on a special mission or clothes them in human form (see Hebrews 13:2). The descriptions of angels in Scripture are certainly awe-inspiring. If we could remove the veil that blocks our view of the unseen spiritual world, we would see that there are angels all around us. That happened to the servant of Elisha the prophet in the Old Testament. Seeing his servant’s fearfulness of the vast enemy army surrounding their city, Elisha prayed that God would open his servant’s eyes to see the invisible hosts protecting them. “Then the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha” (2 Kings 6:17).

Angels do not seek our worship

If an angel were to appear to us right now, we might be tempted to worship it. This happened to the apostle John. “Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God” (Revelation 22:8–9). The angel would not accept John’s worship.

There are not only holy angels, but also unholy ones (fallen angels or demons). If an awe-inspiring angel were to appear to us right now, we would be inclined to believe just about anything he said—even if it were a different gospel! That is why Scripture tells us to test any so-called angel’s message with what we find in God’s Word. “But even if we, or an angel from Heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

Angels are numerous

The world of angels is mysterious and, to a large degree, unknown to us. The Bible does not precisely say how many angels exist. It was a “multitude” of the heavenly host that told the shepherds of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:13). Daniel 7:10 tells us, “A thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him.” That would mean there are more than 100 million angels—a number almost too vast to imagine. Perhaps that is why Job asks, “Can His forces be numbered?” (Job 25:3 NIV).

THE ORGANIZATION OF ANGELS

Let’s consider some of the distinctions in the angelic realm. In the Bible, we are given the names of two angels in particular: Michael the archangel and Gabriel (there are three named angels, if you want to count Lucifer, who once was a high-ranking angel in God’s service, but is now in rebellion against God, and is now called Satan). The Bible also mentions the cherubim and the seraphim.

Michael, the Archangel

The term “archangel” occurs just twice in the New Testament (1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9). In both instances, it is used in the singular and is preceded by the definite article “the.” This would indicate that there is only one archangel. It would appear that Michael is the top-ranking angel in God’s heavenly host. He will play a special role in the rapture of the church:

“For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17)

As powerful as Michael is, he does have his limitations—as well as a healthy respect for his adversary, Lucifer. “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 1:9). Ultimately, however, Scripture says that Michael and the angels will prevail over Satan and cast him out of Heaven forever (see Revelation 12:7–9).

Gabriel

This high-ranking angel brought special messages to God’s people.

    • He appeared to Daniel and revealed the future to him (Daniel 8:16; 9:21).
    • He appeared to Zacharias regarding the birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19).
    • He appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus (Luke 1:26–38).

The Cherubim

The Bible depicts these beings as powerful and majestic angelic creatures, servants of God, which surround God’s throne (see Ezekiel 1:5–14; Psalm 99:1). They appear as winged human-animal forms (Revelation 4:6–8). God sent them to guard Eden after the expulsion of Adam and Eve: “So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24).

The Seraphim

These angelic beings seem to hold a special position of worshiping and praising God. The prophet Isaiah vividly describes them in his vision of God:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! (Isaiah 6:1–3).

ANGELS IN ACTION

Angels have many duties to carry out for God. They protect, guide, encourage, and assist people. They bring messages from God. They interpret God’s Word and carry out God’s will for His people. They sometimes punish God’s enemies. Here are some examples in Scripture of how angels work.

Angels in the lions’ den

One of the most dramatic and well-known stories about angels in Scripture is the story of Daniel in the lions’ den (see Daniel 6:16–22). The aged prophet found himself in this dilemma because God had raised him up to a position of honor in the kingdom of Darius. His enemies scrutinized his every move, but they could find no inconsistency in his life. So they baited a trap. They had the king unwittingly sign a decree that no one could pray to any god but him. Daniel prayed to the true God, as his enemies expected, and his punishment was to be thrown into a den of hungry lions. Just when it appeared that all was lost, God dispatched one or more of His angels to deliver him by shutting the mouths of the lions.

Angelic activity in Daniel’s prayer

Daniel chapter 10 gives us a rare glimpse into what happens behind the scenes when we pray. In that story, Daniel’s prayer is heard in Heaven, and an angel is dispatched with a special message for Daniel. The angel encountered opposing forces, and he became engaged in supernatural combat, delaying the message for 21 days! Michael, the archangel, was finally dispatched to help the other angel, who then gave the message to Daniel. This incident makes it clear that delays in God’s answering of our prayers are not necessarily denials.

The angel and the donkey

In Numbers chapter 22, we read the story of Balaam, who was asked by the king of Moab to place a curse on the Israelites. When Balaam began his journey to the king, his donkey saw an angel standing in their path and refused to go on. After several beatings from Balaam, God enabled the donkey to talk and protest Balaam’s beatings. At that point, the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes to see the angel. The angel then explained that he had come to stop Balaam because he was headed for destruction.

ANGELS IN OUR LIVES

We probably will never know how many times angels have delivered us, gotten us out of tight situations, protected us from harm, or even directly spoken to us. Does that mean that each of us has a guardian angel? Matthew 18:10 seems to indicate that possibility: “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in Heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

God dispatched an angel to personally escort Peter from prison in response to the prayers of believers (Acts 12:5–11). Yet, it is unclear whether we actually have personal guardian angels. One thing is certain: God promises His protection to those who closely follow Him. In Psalm 91:1, God promises, “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The Hebrew word used for dwell literally means “in quiet and resting; enduring and remaining with consistency.The phrase shall abide literally means “to stay overnight,” much like someone being offered the protection and comfort of home. When we follow this condition, we are also promised angelic protection: “For He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

For our part, we are to stay as close to Jesus as possible. To “abide under the shadow of the Almighty” would indicate extreme closeness. Have you ever tried to walk in someone’s shadow? You have to stay very close.

We are not to test the Lord, but to trust the Lord. If we do our part, God will do His. His promise of angelic protection and guidance stands. (Quote source: Article starts here and each section can be located by clicking on the link in the lower right hand corner at this link.)

This gives us a view from “the other side” this Halloween season which is usually filled with ghosts and goblins and witches riding brooms. There are fallen angelsbriefly mentioned above that fit right in with the Halloween theme, but there are many, many innumerable angels still on God’s side.

I’ll end this blog post with this verse from Psalm 34:7The angel of the Lord…

Encamps around . . .

Those who fear him . . .

And he delivers them . . . .

YouTube Video: “Angels” by Amy Grant:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here
Photo #3 credit here

 

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

“Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow…” (from “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” by Thomas Chisholm (1866-1960), composer of 1,200 poems and hymns
I woke up this morning with a favorite old and much loved hymn playing in my mind. The hymn is Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Most of us can sing a few bars from it the minute we hear the title. Here are the words, and most likely you know the music (and if not, listen to the YouTube Video at the end of this post):

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father,
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not
As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be.

Chorus: Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Verse 2: Summer and winter, and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

Verse 3: Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!
(Quote source here.)

The song/hymn was written in 1923 by Thomas Chisholm, and he was inspired to write it from Lamentations 3:22-23 (KJV):

It is of the Lord‘s mercies that we are not consumed,
because his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning:
great is thy faithfulness.

The following background information on Thomas Chisholm is taken from Gaither.com (the author’s name is not mentioned):

You don’t need to be rescued from life-threatening danger or see God’s miraculous provision in the direst of financial crises to truly know the faithfulness of the Lord. God remains faithful day in and day out in the largest and smallest of circumstances.

Thomas Chisholm wrote “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life. Born in a log cabin in Franklin, Kentucky, Chisholm became a Christian when he was twenty-seven and entered the ministry when he was thirty-six, though poor health forced him to retire after just one year. During the rest of his life, Chisholm spent many years living in New Jersey and working as a life insurance agent. Still, even with a desk job, he wrote nearly 1,200 poems throughout his life, including several published hymns.

Chisholm explained toward the end of his life, “My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now.  Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.”

Just think, with each new day, God gives us the chance to prove His faithfulness. And throughout history, He’s never once been proven wrong, for His mercies are new every morning, no matter what. (Quote source here.)

To our modern ears, the wording of the hymn might sound a bit quaint. However, there is nothing quaint about the faithfulness of God. So how do we learn to trust in God’s faithfulness in our lives no matter what our circumstances might be? GotQuestions.org gives us the following answer:

Many places in Scripture extol the faithfulness of God. Lamentations 3:22–23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” So, what is faithfulness?

The Hebrew word translated “faithfulness” means “steadfastness, firmness, fidelity.” The opposite of being faithful is to be ever-changing or wishy-washy. Psalm 119:89–90 says, “Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens. Your faithfulness continues through all generations.” Here faithfulness is equated with God’s Word. God speaks never-ending truth. If God spoke something a thousand years ago, it still stands. He is faithful to His Word, because His Word is an expression of His character. The promises He made still hold true because He does not change (Malachi 3:6). We see this illustrated from a human perspective in a couple married for eighty years. When the wife lies on her deathbed, her husband sits nearby holding her hand. He won’t leave her, even though she no longer recognizes him. He is faithful to the promises he made to her. In the same way, God remains faithful to His promises, even though we are often unfaithful to Him (2 Timothy 2:13).

We learn to trust the character of a person by getting to know that person. We would not entrust our bank account to a stranger we met in line at the post office—we have no experience with him. We don’t know his character. Before we know God, we are afraid to trust Him. We don’t yet know who He is or what He may do. We learn to trust God by getting to know His character. There are three ways we can get to know Him: studying His Word, reviewing His working in our own lives, and learning to follow His voice.

When we study God’s Word, a pattern emerges. We learn that God never changes and never lies (Numbers 23:191 Samuel 15:29). We learn through Scripture that God has never failed in the past (Isaiah 51:6). He was always true to His Word as He worked in the lives of the ancient Israelites. When He said He would do something, He did it (Numbers 11:23Matthew 24:35). We begin to build trust upon His proven character. We can trust that God will be true to Himself. He will never cease acting like God. He will never cease being sovereign, being holy, or being good (1 Timothy 6:151 Peter 1:16).

We learn through our own history that He has never failed us, either. One command God often gave the Israelites was “Remember” (Deuteronomy 8:2Isaiah 46:9). When they remembered all God had done for them, they could more easily trust Him for the future. We need to intentionally remember all the ways God has provided for us and delivered us in the past. Keeping a prayer journal can help with this. When we recall the ways God has answered our prayers, it equips us to continue asking and expecting answers. When we come to Him in prayer, we know that He always hears us (1 John 5:14Psalm 34:15). He provides what we need (Philippians 4:19). And He will always make everything work together for our good when we trust Him with it (Romans 8:28). We learn to trust God’s future faithfulness by remembering His past faithfulness.

And we can also learn to trust Him by learning to distinguish His voice from the others that compete for attention. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them and they follow me” (John 10:27). We who belong to Jesus need to cultivate the ability to hear Him. He speaks primarily through His Word, but He can also speak through other people, through circumstances, and through the inner confirmation of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). As we carefully read and meditate upon Scripture, the Holy Spirit often quickens our hearts to a verse or passage and helps us claim it and apply it to our current situation. What the Spirit shows us in His Word is to be taken by faith as His message to us. We build trust by claiming His promises and applying them to our lives.

Above all things, God loves for us to demonstrate faith (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is trusting in the character of God before we see how He is going to work things out. He has given us His Word, and His promises still stand. As we see the ways He brings His promises to fulfillment, our trust in His faithfulness grows. Just as our trust in other people grows with daily interaction, our trust in God grows the same way. We trust Him when we know Him, and to know Him is to trust Him. When we know Him, we can rest in His goodness, even when we don’t understand the circumstances that seem to contradict it. We can trust that God’s plan for us will prevail (Proverbs 19:21). As a child trusts a loving father, we can trust our heavenly Father to always do what is right. (Quote source here.)

In an article published on April 28, 2016, titled, God Wants You to Stop Stressing Over Your Circumstances, by Jade Mazarin, contributor at Relevant Magazine, she writes:

There is a verse in the Psalms that really hits home to me: “My soul finds rest in God alone” (Psalm 62:1). It’s a statement that I remind myself often. Because, like many of us, it’s easy for my soul to seek rest in other places.

I want everything to run smoothly. And sometimes if I encounter a bump along the road of my plans or receive an outcome that’s unpleasant, I feel unable to rest until it’s fixed. Our circumstances can easily rule our emotions if we let them. But God doesn’t want us to be at the mercy of our varied life events, or the hopeless perspective we can sometimes have about them.

The Bible directs us to look beyond our circumstances. This is a recurring message throughout His word. Rather than getting swept up in the whirlwind of daily events, we should become rooted in the solid foundation of God. Practically speaking, this means leaning on God’s character and seeking after His perspective.

LEANING ON GOD’S CHARACTER

In order to be able to rest in God, we need to meditate on His goodness. Focusing on God’s love is the door to trusting Him. When we grasp that we are precious to Him, we will know He’ll take care of us. Combine this with the realization of His power—His ability to do immeasurably more than we can imagine—and we know we’ll be okay.

Unlike the unpredictability of life, Scripture comforts us with the fact that God is unchanging. “He is the same, yesterday today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is referred to as the “rock” (Psalm 62:2) on which to stand. While even close friends will change, we can depend on God remaining good. We can depend on His being continually loving and compassionate.

I love the way in the book of Isaiah talks about what it means to be confident in God. It gives an illustration of a tree near a stream. It says that even when heat comes, even during a drought, the tree continues to flourish. The reason for this is that the tree “sends out its roots by the stream.” It is constantly drawing from a life giving source. Therefore, “it does not fear when heat comes and its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought, and it never fails to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Drawing from the source of God, means shifting the focus of our minds and hearts to Him. It means awakening our awareness to His good and powerful presence.

THE GREATNESS OF GOD

We are first to see God as our friend who comforts us by His incomparable understanding. Then, we find comfort in knowing He is bigger than whatever is going on around us. Like the tree, our circumstances of “heat” and “drought” will come and go, but we have a stream near us.

The disciples must have been petrified when a huge storm rocked their small boat. But Jesus is unfazed as He says to them, “Why are you so afraid, you of little faith?” Perhaps if they knew at that moment who they were with, they would not have been afraid. We need to know who we’re always with. John Ortberg says, “Peace doesn’t come from finding a lake with no storms. It comes from having Jesus in the boat.”

When we know who God is, and truly believe we are in His hands, we are, as David said, “not shaken” (Psalm 62:5).

I like the illustration of flying in an airplane. When you simply know that the airplane will get you from point A to point B, you don’t really worry when you hit a rough patch. You know it’s just momentary turbulence, a patch that comes and goes. However, if you doubt the skill of the pilot, you might see that turbulence as a sign that any second you’re going to crash.

We can choose if we will believe in God’s character and trust He will take care of us. And if we do, our problems can be seen as merely turbulence on the way to His destination.

SEEKING HIS PERSPECTIVE

Along with grabbing on to His nature, the way for us to remain grounded in stressful times is to seek His view. God has a perspective for everything that happens in our lives. He has a purpose for allowing events, be it the desire for our growth, repositioning us for the future or bringing issues up in order to heal them (to name a few).

We may see a situation that looks hopeless or unfixable, but God sees the potential beneath it. Gaining God’s view, is looking beneath what circumstances look like, into what could be its a deeper purpose.

It is also recognizing that God will get us to the other side. God is the author of hope, and He wants His children to receive this medicine to their souls during trials. Sometimes this means He will turn an event around completely, and He wants you to anticipate that. Sometimes it means He will teach us something new to help you or a relationship. Perhaps He wants you to cling to Him, refine your faith and experience a new level of intimacy with Him.

So, while we may see something as pointless, horrible, or impossible to change, God sees it differently. And since His thoughts are always the truth, we should attempt to look for them.

TEACHING OURSELVES

We are invited to follow David’s example, and redirect our focus by speaking to our own souls. “My soul finds rest in God alone. He alone is my rock and my salvation … He is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (Psalm 62:1-2). Mind you, David said all this while being chased by Saul’s army. If he can train himself to take refuge in God, can we not?

Sometimes if I feel myself being emotionally overwhelmed, I will place my hand on my heart and focusing on each word, say slowly out loud, “My soul find rest in God alone.” It’s our choice. No matter the hardship of changing old habits, we can decide to practice new ones. We can deliberately start looking up “to the hills, to where our help comes from” (Psalm 121:1), even if we have to remind ourselves of it constantly. We can meditate on the truth of God’s character and then lean on it, as David did. (Quote source here.)

I don’t know about you, but I needed to hear that today. I hope you did, too. God is faithful, and we need to trust Him. Period. “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” Repeat….

Great . . .

Is Thy . . .

Faithfulness . . . .

YouTube Video: “Great Is They Faithfulness” by Israel Houghton:

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