Monday, February 16, 2015

Ministering Spirits- Hebrews 1:14

Original Picture by Ablipintime and obtained under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

My wife is reading a fictional novel right now about angels helping different people in different ways. The angels look just like anyone else and have different jobs and positions and therefore, people think that they are just ordinary humans. I have just gotten a very brief description of the book from her, but because she is reading it, it has caused her to think a little differently when she meets someone she doesn't know. Just yesterday, she came home from the store and mentioned a gentlemen that asked how she was doing and was very friendly. And as she walked away, she ruminated about whether or not he could possibly be an angel.

What an incredible way to live! We know the scriptures say "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2). We also know that God sent angels in the past to talk with men and give messages and by all accounts the angels appeared just like any other men. 

The reason I want to point to this verse as a promise is because we tend to see only the things that are immediately in front of us. Satan does a great job of helping us focus only on those things that are here and now and that we can see, hear, taste, touch or feel. The problem with only focusing on those things is that we lose sight of true reality! None of those things will last! The things that will last are not the things we can see, hear, touch, taste or feel at all! But what difference does it make if that's what we focus on and forget about the spiritual realm?

Well, for starters, if I'm in the middle of a crisis and I'm the only one I can see in the crisis, then I begin to feel pretty overwhelmed! But what does the Hebrews writer say!? He says that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation! That's me! If I am understanding this scripture correctly, then God has appointed celestial beings to serve me and aid me in inheriting my salvation! That's not because I'm such a great person (I'm not!), it's because God is such a great God!

The second reason we need to remember the spiritual realm is because, when we do think about the spiritual realm, we tend to only think about God and Satan. And, once again, because Satan does a great job of helping us focus on the tangible, we often feel distant from God even if our feelings are misleading. When that is the case, even when my mind is thinking about the fact that there is a spiritual realm, it is easy to feel defeated because I can't feel the presence of God right now in the middle of the spiritual problem that I am facing! But what does the scripture say!? It says that angels are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation! That's me! Even when I can't feel it, God has not left me alone in this world. He has gone to infinitely great lengths to adopt me as His son, and He promises that nothing can separate me from his love or destroy my inheritance! 

So take courage from the fact that God has sent angels to serve you as you are inheriting salvation. Take comfort that you are not in this alone even when other Christians fail you. Take joy in knowing that God has a plan to protect and keep you.  Live with the wonder and the awe that recognizes that there is more to life than what immediately meets the eye. Look with joy for the places that God has planted His servants that we might never know for sure about.There is an incredible story in 1 Kings 6 in which the Aramean army has surrounded Elisha in order to take him captive. Elisha's servant is terrified as he sees the vast army. But Elisha tells him, "Don't be afraid,...those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And then he prayed that the servants eyes would be opened to see the reality of the situation which included God's greater army between Elisha and the Aramean army!

I pray that our eyes might also be opened to see the incredibly protection of our God that surrounds us every day!
But do you know what is even more impressive about this promise about ministering spirits in Hebrews? The whole point of the passage in Hebrews is that Jesus is infinitely greater than the angels! "So he [Jesus] became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs" (Hebrews 1:4). You have angels who are sent to minister to you! But so much more than that, you have the Son of God Himself who has promised to never leave you or forsake you! Just as Elisha said that those who are with us are more than those who are with them, John says even more powerfully that "the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4)!

Live, and love, and rejoice in that knowledge!! And then go out with confidence to do what God has called you to do in and by His power!

Monday, February 2, 2015

God's Promise to you 2,000 years ago- Acts 2:38-39
Yesterday, the sermon was about our faith. Ed posed the question of whether we felt like our faith would be increased if we could just see some of the miracles that they saw in the first century. We get frustrated sometimes when we read the book of Acts, don't we? We long for the excitement and the wonder that seems to have pervaded the church. We sometimes wish the Spirit still fell on us the same way it fell on them. In ways that no one could deny.

Wouldn't you love to have seen the tongues of fire and heard the languages spoken at Pentecost? Wouldn't you thrill to see the lame man jumping for joy after Peter healed him? Wouldn't you live with more purpose and direction if you heard the voice of the Spirit the way it seems Paul did when Luke records Paul's travels and where he was led and not led by the Spirit?

And yet, here at the very beginning of the church...the very first invitation that was extended after Jesus ascended to a promise that there is no mistaking whom it is for.

"The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off - for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Pay attention to that! There is no "Well if we just had what they had..." There can be no, "I would do better if only God gave me what He gave them..." God, through Peter, specifically spoke down through the centuries to make absolutely sure you would hear the message today...right now! The promise is for you!

It's incredible to me that with thousands of people who responded that day, God looked past the excitement of the day and inspired Peter to speak not just to the thronging crowd in front of him, but to their children and to all who are far off! Indeed to anyone whom God would call!

That's me! That's you if you've answered God's call!

So what is the promise?

"You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit!"

We sometimes tend to focus on the front half of this passage. The part that we are supposed to do. Once we are convicted of the truth of God's message, what do we do? Peter says, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. We drill that...and with good reason. It's the only proper response of faith. But in focusing on what we are to do, let's not lose what God promises to do in addition to the fact that He already killed His addition to receiving the forgiveness of sins. That should be enough but God doesn't stop. The real promise is the gift of Himself! He gives us the gift of the Spirit!

There are entire books that try to cover what exactly that gift is. I can't, and won't, try to cover that wouldn't keep reading if I did! But for now, I want you to meditate on the fact of the truth of the gift itself. I guarantee we could spend the rest of our earthly lives figuring out new things that the gift of the Spirit entails. How fun would it be to wake up every morning knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that because God has called me down through the ages, I can go through the day in possession of the gift of the Spirit!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how that would change your day. What has the gift of the Spirit done for you? How have you seen it in your life? If you have no idea what the gift of the Spirit is, then I challenge you to spend the day...and the week...and the month...and the rest of your life pondering that question and learning! And then live with the love and the excitement and the thrill and the purpose and the joy that the early Church did because we have all been given the same gift of the Spirit.