Yesterday, I had the youth lesson (we’ve been alternating doing the lessons monthly). This week we talked about things Jesus said about himself:
I am the bread of life.
I am the light of the world.
I am the Good Shepherd.
Along the way, the conversation meandered quite a bit (as it always seems to with youth), and we ended up talking about heaven, and what it would be like. What we would do, and see, and feel. The conversation got a little loose–as you might expect. It reminded me why I started grad school–to be better equipped for those sorts of conversations. We reminded them that what we believers have to go on regarding Heaven is what the Bible tells us about it.
I remembered a description of Heaven and getting there I read in a book by Randy Alcorn a while back. It was called “Dominion.” It was a pretty interesting read, and was on the surface a suspense novel about the unlikely friendship that developed between a journalist and a detective when the journalist’s sister and niece are murdered in a neighborhood rife with drugs and gang violence.
The novel also explored Heaven and how things might be there between a person’s death and the return of Jesus to Earth. It also posited that each person has a personal protector in the form of an angelic bodyguard (of sorts). This protection does not always take the form the person protected might desire, but the angels depicted always do battle on behalf of the person under their care.
The book got me thinking about heaven, and angels.
Also that we spend much of our lives learning about Jesus on earth, why should we not expect to learn even more from Jesus once we reach our final destination?
And what about angels? The Bible talks about legions. But do we really have them around us all the time?
Do they really protect us? Do battle for us?
There is scriptural evidence they do—(Daniel 3 and 6, lion’s den and fiery furnace, respectively).
Angels also strengthen and offer encouragement (they strengthened Jesus after his temptation: Matt 4:11. They encouraged imprisoned apostles: Acts 5: 19-20. They told Paul he and his shipmates would survive the coming shipwreck: Acts 27: 23-25).
Angels are often used as answers to prayer by God (Daniel 9:20-24, 10:10-12, and in Acts 12:1-17)
And, I think most importantly, Angels care for believers at the moment of their deaths (as with Lazarus in Luke 16:22). That’s probably one of the most meaningful truths I’ve learned in my few years of studying.
It gives me hope, and even some solace for things gone by. I wasn’t with my mother when she died, but I heard her offering up prayers not long before, when she could still speak. It’s comforting to think of angels carrying her into “Abraham’s bosom.”
Yes, I did have to look up the meaning of that last part, after I read Luke 16. Luke is talking about the custom of reclining on couches or cushions while at table, which was something Jews at the time often did. This brought the head of one person almost into the bosom of the person who sat or reclined above them. So to be “in Abraham’s bosom” meant to enjoy happiness and rest, as in Matt 8:11 and Luke 16:23, at the banquet in Paradise. Sounds pretty good to me.
I haven’t personally had much experience (or any experience, really) with angels save one time, and that was only indirectly, courtesy of a comment made by someone I did not know. Allow me to explain.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was part of a slightly charismatic prayer ministry at my old church in San Diego, and my main function (and main gifting, as it turned out), was intercession for the people being prayed for. I have no idea why this turned out to be so, because never in my life had I been any sort of warrior.
Yet that is what I did, and it came to pass that in the course of my involvement with that ministry, I interceded for many prayer sessions where the people being prayed for were dealing with sexual brokenness issues of one sort or another, and my presence there seemed to often comfort or calm these people so they were better able to receive ministry, and a word from the Lord.
Occasionally, there would be observers who would come to our church to see what the ministry was all about, and if it was something that could be facilitated and done effectively in their churches and other places. Following the prayer sessions (there would be a person “leading” and “co-leading” the session, and often one or sometimes two intercessors seated behind the person being prayed for and…sort of watching over the prayer session. That was mainly my function.
At the end of the prayer time, we would sit in a circle and “debrief” the various prayer sessions that had occurred (no details specific to the person prayed for would be shared, only what God had led the people involved in the session to know. Sometimes this would come in the form of a comment, or the relation of a picture they’d seen, or sometimes a song or verse of some kind would occur to them).
Over the few days since I’d finished the Alcorn book, something I’d heard at one of these debriefs following a prayer session occurred to me again, and made sense like it never had before.
There had been an observer that night—a young girl of about twenty—and she had sat in on one of the other groups’ sessions–not mine. At the debrief, everyone was offered the opportunity to share something, if they so desired. When it came to her turn, she asked if what she shared had to be something from the prayer session she’d been involved in.
No, she was told. It could be anything God showed you.
Even right now, she asked?
She pointed directly at me, and said, that man…has wings.
Before you get your panties in a bunch, she was not saying (and I am not saying) I am any sort of angel. Clearly I am not. I think what she saw may have been my guardian—my protector and encourager, as in Daniel and Acts. Standing behind me.
It would certainly make my part as an intercessor make more sense. I’d never doubted God’s ability to equip any person for anything. It just didn’t seem like he’d want to equip me. I’d never been able to fight, or defend anyone, not even myself.
That man has wings.
Not my wings.
Anyway, yesterday made me think of that incident once again. Also came the thought it was good to think on things like Heaven. When I’m doing that, it’s harder to think about the earth, and all the shiny things that can steal my attention from the places it belongs.
I feel blessed and am very happy to be part of that ministry. I believe it’s where God wants me–for now, at least.
These kids (my 11 year-old son among them) make me think, and remember what it’s like to feel wonder, and to see the face of Jesus anew.
If you want to serve, really serve, and be both challenged and blessed–serve with the kids.
It’s worth it.