Jesus

“You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

Did you catch that? What’s Jesus saving His people from? Their sins; not necessarily the effects of them here on earth. I feel quite uneasy when I hear anyone say the Christian life will be easy. Jesus never promised that. “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus has ultimately overcome, but as long as I’m in this world, I’m not immune to suffering. “If we are God’s children, we will get the blessings God has for His people. He will give us all that He has given Christ. But we must suffer like Christ suffered. Then we will be able to share His glory” (Romans 8:17). It seems suffering is the prequel to our future.

“But you must resist the devil and stay strong in your faith. You know that all over the world the Lord’s followers are suffering just as you are. But God shows undeserved kindness to everyone. That’s why He appointed Christ Jesus to choose you to share in His eternal glory. You will suffer for a while, but God will make you complete, steady, strong, and firm” (1 Peter 5:9-10). I can see from these verses that as Christians, we’re not on our own. God is there to strengthen us, like the angel strengthened Jesus before His arrest. You can call on the name of Jesus for strength in your suffering. “Father, I don’t ask You to take My followers out of the world, but keep them safe from the evil one” (John 17:15). Jesus doesn’t want the sufferings we go through in this world to damage us; He wants us protected, until that amazing day when we’re taken to be with Him. “After I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back. Then I will take you with Me, so that you can be where I am” (John 14:3). Jesus is preparing for us to have a home in heaven – somewhere that’s not just better than this life, but perfection itself! He’ll save His people from their sins.

Angels

There were angels throughout Jesus’ life. Gabriel visited Mary before He was conceived; a heavenly host bedazzled the shepherds at His birth; He was cared-for in the wilderness; strengthened at Gethsemane; an angel told of His resurrection, and maybe angels are with us in our lives more than we appreciate.

Several months before she died, my friend’s grandmother had a beautiful encounter. It was the middle of the night and there was no one else in the house, but she heard music. She got out of bed and stood in the hallway, thinking my friend had left a radio on that would disturb their neighbour. She was about to go upstairs when she realised it wasn’t earthly music at all; it was angels singing. She recognised the hymn, but couldn’t remember it later. All she knew was that angels had come to her.

I was honoured to be asked to sing at her funeral, and as I said in the song:
My hope is that one day in heaven we’ll meet,
And my hope is, forever we’ll be
With the angels, singing Your praise
.

As you can probably tell, Dilys (or ‘Nanna Dil’, as I called her) is very much-loved and will never be forgotten.

“Jesus Talked to me Today” Book-Review

“Jesus Talked to me Today” is a collection of over 40 short accounts of God moving powerfully in children’s lives. I was very glad to review this for Bethany House; there are some lovely stories in here. My favourites are the ones about the giant angels and the pink vanity set, but if I read it again, I would probably change my mind!

You’ll like this if you’re the sort of person who’s uplifted by other people’s stories of what God’s done for them. As you read, you could feel one of two things: Thankful and encouraged to ask God for similar displays of His power in your own life, or sad and discouraged about your situation. This book leaves the impression that even at your most broken, God is willing to come in at the eleventh hour and turn things around.

31 Jesus-Benefits: Surrounded

At first glance, you might say today’s benefit is similar to yesterday’s:

His protection.

“The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him” is a verse that’s come to mean a lot to me since I’ve started travelling on public transport. Standard procedure is for a member of staff to take me to a seat, and leave me there until it’s time to board my next train. In an unfamiliar station, it sounded like there were a couple of drunk guys nearby. They were pretty loud and I felt vulnerable, but with just my white cane and not a clue where to go, I couldn’t walk away, and into my head came that verse: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him.”

I thought about it more afterwards – this being surrounded: In front, behind, to the left and to the right.

What’s that?

It’s a cross-shape. The LORD surrounds us with a cross for our protection.

The Languages of Angels

Speech/language/words.  This week’s prompt from Kirsten gives me an excuse to tell you something I’ve just picked up on.  A bit of background:  I’ve read “The Five Love-Languages” before.  I didn’t see anything wrong with a single person reading a book about marriage, because I thought the lessons I learnt from it could be helpful in other relationships, such as friendships.  The author obviously agrees because he’s now written editions specifically for men, single adults and parents.  I haven’t read those, but the book “God Speaks Your Love-Language:  How to Feel and Reflect God’s Love” intrigued me.  I thought:  How can we express our love to God in the language of physical touch, when He’s not physically present with us?  So I read the book, and the small-group study guide at the end pointed me to 1 Corinthians 13:

“I may speak in different languages of people or even angels” (verse 1).  I wondered:  If God speaks our love-language, is it possible that angels speak the five love-languages, too?  Suddenly, into my mind came these examples.

* * *

Words of Affirmation:  These were spoken to Gideon.  “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!” (Judges 6:12).  The angel Gabriel also used them when he visited Mary.  “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God” (Luke 1:30).

Quality Time:  In Genesis 18:1-22, angels spent quality time with Abraham before their visit to Sodom.  He even washed their feet and gave them a meal!

Gifts:  In 1 Kings 19:5-8, an angel came to Elijah with gifts of bread and water at a time when he was weak and tired.

Acts of Service:  Hebrews tells us that angels are serving spirits, and they served Jesus in the wilderness when He’d finished being tempted by the devil.  In one of my favourite books, “Appointment in Jerusalem”, an angel carries Lydia’s toddler to safety.

Physical Touch:  In the garden at Gethsemane, an angel strengthened Jesus.  In my other favourite book, “The Shaming of the Strong”, an angel calms five-year-old Amelia when she’s lost in a storm.  An angel appeared to two of my friends when they were struggling financially.

* * *

Can you think of Biblical or modern-day examples of angels speaking the five love-languages – words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, or physical touch?  Have you ever thought which of these makes you, or someone close to you, feel most loved?

Finished Work and an Empty Tomb

12:06 am and I’m having a feast – of Easter egg.  I start my Easter egg-eating a couple of days early, as I don’t like hot cross buns.  Some traditions can be fun!  Don’t invent them for yourself if they’re not.  “Do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” – Galatians 5:1.

Anyway, back to Easter eggs.  I unwrap my egg, take out that first big piece of chocolate (doesn’t it smell so good?) and suddenly where the chocolate was, there’s emptiness.  I heard someone talk earlier this week about how when you crack open an Easter egg there’s nothing inside, and it reminded me of the empty tomb – the tomb where once Jesus’ body had been.  An angel rolled away the stone that first Easter Day – for us, not for Him.  In His new, resurrected body, Jesus could come to His followers through locked doors.  He could have broken out of that tomb with the stone still at the entrance, but Peter, John and the women couldn’t have gone in.  They saw the sheet His body was wrapped in as just an empty shell, and the burial cloth from His head folded in such a way as to say:  “It is finished.”

Remember the cross this weekend.  Remember the work that Jesus has finished.  God loved and wanted to be with us so much that He sent Jesus to do everything needed to make us acceptable to Him.  And when you crack an Easter egg to see the hollow inside that first piece of chocolate reveals, remember the empty tomb – Jesus, alive again … and have a happy Easter.