The mention of angels usually brings to mind images of wings, halos and flying creatures. Isaiah certainly saw that type of creature when he was in the temple in the year of the king’s death (Isaiah 6), and winged creatures of some sort are pictured in heaven around the throne of God (Revelation 4). Although those are interesting thoughts, the word of God presents other forms in which these fascinating creatures known as angels are portrayed.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2).” The words of the Lord to a disheartened group of Christians. No halos. No wings. Simply an encounter with what appears to be a stranger. Will we be aware of it when they cross our path? Can we identify them by a glow around the head? Will their shirts bulge in the back where their wings are tucked in? Clearly not. Our part is to show hospitality to people we do not know. Have we missed them in our moments of discouragement? Maybe, if we have failed to show them hospitality.
Angels abound through the unveiling of the events in Revelation. They are mentioned in connection with virtually every incident, and an apostle is so overwhelmed that he falls down in worship before one of them (Revelation 22:8). Even after all that he had experienced with the Son of God, John was thrown off track by the angel whose response was simple, “Do not do that. I am a fellow servant of yours and of your brethren the prophets and of those who heed the words of this book. Worship God (Revelation 22:9).” If they are fellow servants, what are they doing?
The Son of God faced the devil in the temptations of the wilderness and fought Him off with Scripture, then angels ministered to Him. Elaboration is lacking. In what seems to be His most stressful moments in the garden of Gethsemane as Jesus prayed and agonized, an angel strengthened Him (Luke 22:43). We are not provided additional details about that, simply that it did. It seems that angels, at the direction of God, do what needs to be done. And now?
“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:14)?” We have the same supernatural help that the Lord had, angels. We are not told specifically what they will do or how they will help, only that it is their job to serve the saved. They may come in the form of a stranger. We simple do not know, but what we do know is that God created helpers for us that we may never know about. Remember those strangers to whom we are to show hospitality? This provides a good incentive to do so. They just might be our angel.
He spoke before he thought, and the damage was done. His words were hateful, hurtful and ruined a beautiful relationship. There was no physical contact nor anything to see, but the deep-down-inside pain that was dished out is indescribable. It was an instantaneous verbal assault that leaves permanent scars. Most of us can identify with such an incident, perhaps from both sides of the issue. If we could only get those words back that were spoken in haste.
Of course, we cannot. They are forever embedded in the memory of the object of our momentary thoughtlessness. Apologies may be offered and fences might be mended, but it will never be the same again. It should not surprise us that words pack such a punch. God used them to put the creation into a functional form, and ours are potent, too. Scripture clearly tells us to use them carefully.
“Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (Colossians 4:6).” We do not live in an insulated environment. It would be nice if we did, but we are surrounded by a culture that is increasingly hostile to the Lord. A sign recently displayed in one of the protests read, “Keep God out of California.” Unfortunately, it is a growing sentiment in our nation, but we cannot sink to their level. We must prepare our minds to control our speech and meet their fiery rhetoric with gracious words.
It is particularly important to speak graciously to our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are blessed to be in the family of God, and that should influence everything that we do including the way we talk. As we study the instructions that are given to His church, we are guided into the beliefs we ought to hold and the behavior that we must practice. The speech of His children is not an insignificant sidenote but a core issue.
It is characterized not only by content but also by presentation. It must always be truthful. Lies originate with the devil and have no place among the saints. The church is the pillar and support of the truth and we must never deviate from that, but there is also the manner in which that truth is delivered. “…speaking the truth in love…(Ephesians 4:15).” Effective communication involves more than just words. Yes, they are critically important and we must present them in a loving, gracious way.
Tensions have escalated and dragged voices with them. It appears to be a competition of decibels; crank them up to win the argument. Ours must be different. We will not outshout them. We cannot compete by their rules, nor do we want to. Our goal is not the same as theirs. Their salvation is our objective. That is what the Lord wants. We should want that, too.
2020 has certainly been unique. We began the year with forty days of prayer for better spiritual vision, and the opening of our eyes has been profound. It is doubtful that we have reached 20/20 just yet, but hopefully we have improved in our perceptions. The Lord has surely provided ample opportunities for us to see our lives in a different light.
The pandemic hit full throttle early in the year. A tiny, virtually invisible menace swept around the world stopping us in our tracks. It is certainly humbling to be driven into our homes by something so tiny. We imagine that we can handle anything. Our technology has advanced to the point of creating a misguided notion that nothing can stop us, but it can and did. Life behind a mask and closed doors reminds us of just how powerless we are.
That was followed, or actually joined by turbulence in our cities. Tempers and tensions flared. The United States broke up into not-so-united fragments. Frustrations reached a fever pitch. Legitimate demonstrations morphed into passionate confrontations. Two sides of a volatile issue both pointing fingers at the other, and peacemakers were nowhere to be found. It was the summer of the virus and the violent, and the heat was on.
The eye exam of 2020 was not finished just yet. There was more added to sharpen our vision. California exploded into wildfires consuming acreage and claiming forests with indescribable ferocity. Firefighters worked tirelessly around the clock as God’s beautiful creation went up in smoke. An ominous shadow fell across the western sky reminding us how quickly the material world can be reduced to smoldering embers. Eventually, it will all go up in flames.
Just when we thought that things couldn’t get any worse, the gulf coast was smacked by hurricanes. Destructive winds and battering waters wreaked havoc. Towns were flooded, homes were destroyed, lives were lost, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop it. Weather experts can forecast them and even tell us the likely path they will take. People can flee the area, but no one can stop it. It is beyond human control.
Now, we’re in the last quarter of 2020. What will be added to this uniquely memorable year? Only God knows but make no mistake about it, He does know. It will useful in His hands and eye-opening, whatever it is. We prayed for improved spiritual vision and there has been plenty to sharpen our sight this year.
Do we see things differently after all this? We have been shown that much of life is beyond our control. We have been knocked to our knees by an unseen virus which has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. We saw the violent destruction that results when the Lord’s designs for human interaction are ignored. We witnessed the devastation of fires and hurricanes. 2020 has offered it all. Now, do we see better?
Christians hang their hopes on the return of Christ. We look forward to the day that He will come to take us to our forever home. We gather on the first day of each week to remember His self-sacrifice to bring a new covenant to His people. We remember His body and blood; and will continue to do so until He comes again. Skeptics ridicule us for believing such a notion. That is nothing new.
Everything seems to be humming long just like always. We see little difference from day-to-day and year-to-year. Events vary but the world keeps spinning and the doubters keep mocking. A few televangelists distort the word of God, identify sure signs that the end is near and ask for your money. It is certainly an odd request from someone who is convinced that the Lord is getting ready to destroy us all. Their predictions miss and the calculations start anew as their hands reach for your checkbook one more time.
This creation is certainly going to go up in flames someday, and we don’t know when. All of that is in the mind of the Lord and not ours. This world is in the hands of an almighty God who is infinitely patient with His beloved creation. He does not want anyone to perish but to come to salvation. Thankfully, He gives second, third and fourth chances; more opportunities than we can count. It takes repentance for midlife corrections. We veer off course, and He is waiting for us to come back. The end will come in an instant and which instant that is remains a mystery.
What if it were right now or tomorrow? Would we handle things differently? Pray more? Study Scripture more? Draw closer to our Savior? How would our worship be different this morning if we knew we were going to stand face-to-face with our Lord in a matter of hours? The clock ticks, and one day it will tick for the last time and eternity will begin.
Days, weeks, months and years slip by and with them endless opportunities to repent. It was the message of John the Baptist (Matthew 3:2), Jesus (Matthew 4:17), Peter on Pentecost (Acts 2:38) and it should be ours, too. Hesitation on this fundamental will not do. We do no one a favor if we play down the importance of repentance when the consequences are so profound (Luke13: 3 & 5).
It is as challenging as any of the Lord’s commands. Rethinking matters and adjusting beliefs is as basic to being a Christian as breathing is to being human. A revamped mind brings about behavioral changes, and that is an ongoing process. The letters to the struggling churches of Asia (Revelation 2 and 3) consistently told the errant churches and their members to repent. The Lord patiently waits. Is there anything for which we need to repent?