Tag Archives: angel

Glimpses Of Paul

GLIMPSES OF PAUL

“I plead with you, brothers and sisters, become like me, for I became like you. You did me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you and, even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel from God, as if I were Jesus Christ Himself. Where, then, is your blessing of me now? I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me. Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” Galatians 4:12-16.

A tiny glimpse behind the scenes! Paul does not tell us much about himself in his letters. However, it is in times like these, when he is contending for the very souls of his converts, that we catch glimpses of the heart of this man.

It seems that he visited the area in Asia Minor called Galatia during a bout of sickness. In those days there was no such thing as a diagnosis. Conditions were lumped together according to their symptoms. His illness may have affected his eyes, hence his reference to the compassion of these Galatian people who would have given him their eyes if they could.

But Paul did not allow illness to rob him of the opportunity to preach Jesus to a new group of people. He did not shut himself away and feel sorry for himself. He used every opportunity to give away the message of Jesus even if it was through painful and infected eyes. Perhaps his very vulnerability made the gospel even more appealing.

Here was a man who could have been at home, taking care the needs of his family instead of facing the rigors and dangers on the road and at sea, traversing the Empire to tell people about Jesus. They listened and responded to Paul’s message, grateful for a man who was willing to risk his life for people like them. They tenderly cared for him and nursed him back to health and rewarded his suffering by joining the empire-wide community of faith.

But now? What had happened to them that they were so easily swayed by a bunch of false teachers? Had Paul not grounded them in the truths of the gospel? Were they not securely enough anchored in their faith in Jesus? It must have been extremely difficult for these new converts to stand firm against the onslaught of wickedness and religious bigotry that would have surrounded them in their society.

They had no resources to feed on as we have today; no Bible on their bedside table or bookshelf; no theologically well-educated pastor to turn to; no Google search engine to find answers at the click of a mouse. It would have been easy for them to succumb to the persuasive arguments of these false teachers.

It was up to Paul, with his clear understanding of the gospel and his ability to explain it to his readers, to draw them back to the truth in the face of the barrage of lies they were subjected to from every quarter. Paul was wise. He set out, not only to explain the Scriptures to them but also to appeal to their experience to convince them that their faith in Jesus was not a fantasy. When he preached the gospel to them, what happened? They believed the message. And then what happened? They began to change from the inside.

The Holy Spirit in them brought joy and peace to their souls; He formed the love-bond of unity and fellowship they experienced; He did miracles through them and among them; the presence of Jesus was real among them. All their old beliefs and practices began to fall away as they embraced this new life in Jesus.

But now? Somehow their attitude to Paul had changed. Paul felt it and he grieved. What had been a beautiful relationship had turned sour. They were no longer warm and friendly towards him. The atmosphere had turned hostile. It was as though they had become his enemies. Is this what the truth does when people embrace lies – turns them against Jesus and His church?

How often it happens that a spiritual leader begins to move away from the truth of the Word and entices people to follow him instead of joining them to Jesus. They insist that they are the only ones who know the truth. They twist the message of Jesus and inject just enough lies to lure people away from grace. Families and friends are divided; there is suspicion and hostility where there was once unity because the Holy Spirit is no longer active to bear witness to Jesus.

Believers beware! Never trust a spiritual leader who entices people to follow him, and who insists that he is the only one who is right. Dangerous!

Acknowledgement

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

 

Heaven Invaded Earth!

HEAVEN INVADED EARTH!

“There were sheepherders camping in the neighbourhood. They had set night watches over their sheep. Suddenly God’s angel stood among them and God’s glory blazed around them. They were terrified. The angel said, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody worldwide. A Saviour has just been born in David’s town, a Saviour who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.’

“At once the angel was joined by a huge angelic choir singing God’s praises.

‘Glory to God in the heavenly heights,

Peace to all men and women on earth who please Him.'” Luke 2:8-14 (The Message).

Why these shepherds? Why not Herod in his palace? Why not the ubiquitous Pharisees?

Why did the angel choir not rouse these important people from their sleep to tell them the marvellous news? After all, weren’t the religious people eagerly awaiting their Messiah? Why not the whole city of Jerusalem?

Imagine the front page article in the morning Jerusalem Herald? “Alien being announces birth of a Messiah! Last night an alien appeared to a group of shepherds on the hills outside Bethlehem with the story that a special child has been born in the town. Apparently this child, according to the angel, is alleged to be the long-awaited Messiah. A vast crowd of similar beings appeared to confirm the story with an eerie song in praise to God; so reported the shepherds.”

In keeping with the baby’s birth in a kitchen cum animal shelter, the only people to witness the angelic announcement were shepherds, men who did the most menial and despised job in Israel. Why? Think of it this way: Had the announcement been made to the wealthiest and most important people in Israel, everyone else would have been excluded. Tell the shepherds and, automatically, every class and level of society would be in.

Who else witnessed this other-worldly even? Apparently no one at this stage. No one else went running to the “maternity ward” to have a look at this new-born. In the middle of the night, while everyone else in Bethlehem was asleep, a group of shepherds and a young couple gazed in amazement at the sleeping child and wondered what the future held.

That’s how God works. The angels couldn’t keep their mouths shut in that holy moment. They exploded in an anthem of celebration, but only the shepherds witnessed the outburst. Then everything went quiet again. The little family was left to get on with the business of daily living and the parents the task of raising this boy to be an ordinary Jewish boy who had to grow up and learn like every other Jewish boy.

Luke doesn’t mention the drama of the visit of Persian astrologers who read the story in the star, and the subsequent escape to Egypt two years later. That was left for Matthew to fill in according to his purpose for his writing his story.

A strange mixture of the natural and supernatural in this amazing event! A pregnant woman goes into labour far from home and gives birth to a baby boy in a borrowed shelter.  An invasion of angelic messengers announces the birth to an unlikely audience, a group of sleepy shepherds accompanying their sheep on a nearby hillside.

Their story? ‘This ordinary child is no ordinary child! He’s actually God’s Son. How can you be sure? Check it out for yourself. You’ll find Him in the downstairs room of the hostel in Bethlehem, not in the maternity ward at the local hospital. He doesn’t even have baby clothes on. All they had to wrap Him in was a blanket. The crib Joseph made for Him is back home in Nazareth, so they put Him in the feed trough.’

That’s how heaven invaded earth!

 

Anchored In The Word

ANCHORED IN THE WORD

“‘Last night God’s angel stood at my side, an angel of this God I serve, saying to me, ‘Don’t give up, Paul. You’re going to stand before Caesar yet — and everyone sailing with you is also going to make it.’ So, dear friends, take heart. I believe God will do exactly what He told me. But we’re going to shipwreck on some island or other.’

“On the fourteenth night, adrift somewhere on the Adriatic Sea, at about midnight, the sailors sensed that we were approaching land. Sounding, they measured a depth of one hundred twenty feet, and shortly after that, ninety feet. Afraid that we were about to run aground, they threw out four anchors and prayed for daylight.” Acts 27:23-29 (The Message).

What a hopeless situation! Adrift on the ocean in a hurricane, no engine to carry them to safety, the wind too strong to power the ship anywhere but into disaster, the sailors were at the mercy of the elements. To crown it all, they were being driven onto land. They had no idea where they were; it was pitch dark, in the middle of the night and dawn was still hours away.

The best they could do was to throw out their anchors and hope they would hold until daylight. And they prayed! To whom did they pray? Most likely to their gods! They didn’t know Paul’s God. What good was that? Firstly, their gods did not exist; secondly they were deceived into thinking they did exist, but they were actually in Satan’s grip. What was his agenda? Drown them! He wanted Paul’s hide and the others didn’t matter.

Where was Paul? Praying! To whom was he praying? To the God he had served these many years! He knew his God. He had delivered him through many perils in the past. I can imagine that Paul was not praying for a miracle. He was praying for a word. It was God’s word that had steadied him in many a difficult situation. He knew that, when God spoke, he had an anchor.

Once again God came to him with a word. Not only was Paul still bound for Rome, but all those with him as well. Paul had his anchor, not a flimsy piece of metal that would try to grip a rock in a violent storm, but the sure word of God that would hold in the fiercest gale. Armed with this reassurance, he spoke what he believed.

How different is God’s way from the “name it and claim it” philosophy that is rife in some parts of the church today. God has not left the initiative to us to choose the “word” we want to believe. The devil tried to stick that trick on Jesus but He refused to buy it. ‘Jump!’ said the devil. ‘No way!’ Jesus fired back, “‘…Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” Deuteronomy 8:3b (NIV), He quoted.

God’s word is not a magic formula to get what we want. It’s His mandate for living life His way so that He gets what He wants. Paul knew that, and he waited on God for His word to guide them through this trial. When God had spoken, Paul had his instructions and his security, and could carry the message to the poor sailors who were frantically trying to get their non-existent god’s attention.

The tragedy is that so many believers have been taught this “faith” walk, and when God doesn’t respond to every click of their fingers, they become disillusioned and blame Him for not answering their prayers. But God is not obliged to do things our way. His way is submission to Him. He is telling the story, not us, and we are the characters in His story, not the authors.

Armed with the sure word of God, Paul was able to bring comfort and reassurance to the entire complement of people on the ship. Whether they believed him or not what up to them. God had spoken and Paul had given the “amen” to His promise. “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “yes” in Christ. And so, through Him, the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20 (NIV),

God Does Such Nice Thiings

GOD DOES SUCH NICE THINGS!

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin’s name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

“Good morning!
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.

“She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, ‘Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: you will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call His name Jesus.'” Luke 1:26-31 (The Message)

What a lovely way to announce his presence! Poor Mary did not know what to make of the angel or his greeting.

Imagine a teenage girl suddenly being confronted by a celestial visitor with a shocking announcement that she was to become pregnant before her marriage! What would her fiancé’ and her family think of her? How would she convince them that this was none of her doing! Should she agree to this, she would run the risk of being stoned to death – the price of fornication.

The angel’s greeting was neither apologetic nor explanatory. What was he trying to do? Butter her up with sweet words? Not likely! He was a messenger from God, speaking words from God. He was conveying in simple human language exactly what God thought of Mary. Isn’t it amazing that he should have used words of lavish praise and appreciation!

Did that mean that Mary was perfect? No! Did it mean that God saw Mary as perfect? Yes! What was the difference? God saw Mary as she would be, not as she was. Isn’t that dishonest? No! God sees the end from the beginning, the finished product, and is able to appreciate His handiwork in advance because He knows that He will complete what He had begun.

“…Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV).

It was on this basis that God could entrust her with the task of bearing and raising His boy to manhood in a home where He would be taught to love and honour God. Seeing that Jesus was the Son of God, did He need that? Yes, He did because He had to learn to be human and He had to learn it in an environment of a loving and caring home where both His earthy parents honoured and obeyed God.

God chose well. Mary’s response reveals her heart attitude to Him. She did not know all the implications of her obedience, but she could trust Him to lead her through whatever came her way because she knew that He was faithful to His Word. She might have been caught up in the excitement and glamour of the moment, but she would soon learn what her commitment meant.

In her words of simple surrender, “‘I am the Lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said,'” Luke 1:38, she crossed the line in the sand and put herself totally at God’s disposal to do with her as He chose.

Are you willing to do the same?

Faith And Unbelief

FAITH AND UNBELIEF

“Still shaking his head, he went to Mary’s house, the Mary who was John Mark’s mother. The house was packed with praying friends. When he knocked on the door to the courtyard, a young woman named Rhoda came to see who it was. But when she recognised his voice — Peter’s voice — she was so excited and eager to tell everyone Peter was there that she forgot to open the door and left him standing in the street.” Acts 12:12-14 (The Message).

Peter was free but vulnerable. How long would it take for the Roman guards to rouse from their stupor and realise that Peter had disappeared? He had to get off the street and quickly. A lone man wandering around in the dark would be suspect, to be sure. Of course, there were no electric street lights and many dark corners, but daylight would soon reveal the fugitive when the soldiers were sent out to comb the neighbourhood, and they would be ruthless in their search.

Peter made a beeline for Mary’s house knowing he would be safe there for a short while. Although he did not know it then, many of his friends were assembled there, praying up a storm for his release. His urgent knocking was answered by a young servant girl who was obviously very much part of the praying.

Luke adds a human touch and a little humour to his story. Rhoda recognised Peter’s voice and was so ecstatic about the miraculous answer to their prayers that she left him outside and rushed into the prayer meeting with the news that Peter was free. Unlike the “holy books” of other religions, little incidents like these link us to the sheer humanness of the story. This is God’s story, but it is about people just like us.

“But they wouldn’t believe her, dismissing her, dismissing her report.’You’re crazy,’ they said. She stuck by her story, insisting. They still wouldn’t believe her and said, ‘It must be his angel.’ All this time poor Peter was standing out in the street knocking away.” Acts 12:15-16 (The Message).

It seems strange that the believers were praying for Peter’s release but, when it happened, they could not take it in. One wonders what they were expecting to happen. Perhaps they had some prescribed notion of how it would happen instead of letting God do it His way.

Aren’t we just like that? Instead of letting God be God, we tell Him what to do and how to do it and then we put our faith in our expectation instead of in God to do what He wants to do His way. So much of our disappointment with God is tied to our expectations of what He will do and the way He will do it instead of putting our trust in Him and His wisdom and love. How often I hear this statement: “I’m trusting God for….” instead of “I’m trusting God,” period.

Somehow we have the capacity to turn faith into unbelief when we limit God to our way of thinking and our way of doing things. What if, instead, our heartfelt confidence in the will of God frees Him to act when, how and where He chooses so that our insignificant concerns become a part of the bigger picture of His kingdom?

“Finally they opened up and saw him — and went wild! Peter put up his hands and calmed them down. He described how the Master had gotten him out of jail, then said, ‘Tell James and the brothers what happened.’ He left them and went to another place.” Acts 12:16-17 (The Message).

Having told his story and concluded their mission to pray him out of jail, Peter left Jerusalem, putting distance between himself and the murderous intentions of Herod. From here on, Luke turned his attention to Paul and his commission to take the gospel to the whole Roman Empire. Peter appears briefly in Acts 15, but for the rest, Paul and his companions are the focus of the missionary enterprise.

If we take a step back for a moment and take in the ebb and flow of the infant church, it’s a story of vulnerable human beings caught up in the cosmic war between God and His arch-enemy, the devil, with human beings the prize. There is suffering and victory, death and life, pain and joy, but all the while the church inches her way across the empire, person by person, city by city, through the courageous witness of men and women who were not afraid to pay the price for their faith in a living Saviour.