Category Archives: Angels

Seek and Obey The LORD

We should pay close attention to the ups and downs in the book of Judges. Typically before the cycle down into difficult times, there is a clue for us as to why… such as in Judges 13, “Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”

When we as YHWH’s people turn from him and do evil in his sight, he will discipline us to help lead us back to him. Let us not be so hard hearted as to require such discipline before we humble ourselves and pray and ask for forgiveness and turn from our wicked ways. Let us look around us today and pray and seek righteousness. Our culture is in a significant spiritual war for the future of our nation. We must stand up for YHWH’s values and against the ways of men which continually draw us away from him toward depravity.

We can also see the LORD desires to bring us back to him because of his grace, mercy, and abundant lovingkindness. If we are so fortunate as to hear from his messengers directly then let us pay close attention. We can ask for him to repeat the message or to verify and he may accommodate as with Manoah below and with Gideon earlier in Judges. He may not choose to tell us all we want to know, but he will tell us what he wants us to know and we should accept and obey.

Judges 13

Philistines Oppress Again

      1Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.

      2There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. 3Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4“Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5“For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” 6Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. 7“But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”

      8Then Manoah entreated the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” 9God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, “Behold, the man who came the other day has appeared to me.” 11Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to the woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?” 13So the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Let the woman pay attention to all that I said. 14“She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded.”

      15Then Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you so that we may prepare a young goat for you.” 16The angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD. 17Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?” 18But the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to the LORD, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. 20For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.

      21Now the angel of the LORD did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. 22So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.” 23But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.”

      24Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him. 25And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Whom Does YHWH Choose?

The story of Gideon is remarkable, but sometimes we can focus on the broad picture of what is recorded about Gideon and miss some of the details. For example, let us not miss how dramatic it must have been for Gideon to come face to face with an angel of the LORD who delivered him a message from YHWH. We see also that Gideon went quickly to prepare a offering, without being asked.

Another key message I want to highlight today is that we should be very careful when we have a tendency to make assumptions about whom YHWH would choose to deliver a message or to give a spiritual gift (perhaps like prophecy). YHWH often chooses those whom people would not choose. King David (smallest and youngest of his brothers) is one example… and Moses (a murderer who had run away from justice) is another. We see in Judges 6 that Gideon is yet another that man would not pick.

Judges 6:11-24

Gideon Is Visited

      11Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites. 12The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.” 13Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” 14The LORD looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?” 15He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.” 16But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” 17So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me. 18“Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.”

      19Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. 20The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight. 22When Gideon saw that he was the angel of the LORD, he said, “Alas, O Lord GOD! For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face.” 23The LORD said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.” 24Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Let us be very slow in judging what type of person or what background they should have in order for YHWH to use them. Often he chooses those that man would not to better demonstrate his glory. Of course we should still test everyone and what they say or teach against scripture.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Messiah Came As A Man Rather Than An Angel

Hebrews seems to be very focused in the first two chapters about angels and the importance of Yeshua as higher than the angels. It would seem that some people were perhaps too focused on angels and not enough on Messiah. Perhaps they questioned why the Messiah would come as a man rather than an angel, thus doubting Yeshua as Messiah.

To be clear, angels are messengers for YHWH. Yeshua is over all things, even though we may not see it yet manifested in a way we expect. Yeshua is one with the Father.

He became fully man and fully god and walked among us. Hebrews 2 clearly refers back to Psalm 8, which celebrates YHWH’s creation and his putting man in charge over creation. Perhaps in this reminder about man’s position over creation, the writer intends to continue to make the case for why it makes sense that Messiah would come as a man rather than an angel.

Hebrews 2:5-8

Earth Subject to Man

      5For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking.

6But one has testified somewhere, saying,
“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?
OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?

      7“YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;
YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,
AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

      8YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”
For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

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Do you know for sure if you will go to heaven or hell when you die? Are you experiencing in your life the peace and joy of a personal relationship with our Creator and Father? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Lord, Purify Our Motives Even As We Submit To You

Numbers 22 and23 detail a fascinating historical account. After following the Israelites from their perspective on their journey out of Egypt, we suddenly have the opportunity to see part of their journey from another’s perspective. The Moabites are viewing the Israelites as a threat and desiring to defeat them. Fearing their numbers, they seek out Balaam, a prophet whose work is referred to as divination from their perspective.

It is a truly fascinating account. Balaam is clearly not an Israelite, and yet he has a tangible and real relationship with the Lord. He knows from where the power comes and that he can indeed do nothing without the Lord. He even seeks the Lord’s permission before going with the Moabites to curse the Israelites. I find it worth lingering to consider why the Lord was so upset with Balaam, who asked the Lord each time before consenting to go with the Moabites.

Once again, I am drawn to conclude that those who have relationship with the Lord and hear clearly from Him are held to a higher standard than those who may not have as deep a relationship with Him. He knows they know better. The Lord told Balaam “no” the first time and it appears He did not appreciate Balaam asking again. Perhaps it is because of what was in Balaam’s heart in asking the second time… greed rather than submission to the Lord?  (refer to 2 Peter 2) It appears that Balaam’s motives were not pure in his submission to the Lord and that was upsetting to Him.

Balaam was rebuked, but not destroyed. The Lord could certainly have destroyed Balaam, but instead rebuked him, using a talking donkey and an angel. Once Balaam submitted to the Lord, the Lord chose to use Him to bless the Israelites (Numbers 23), which was certainly the opposite of what Balak of Moab had in mind.

Numbers 22

Balak Sends for Balaam

     1Then the sons of Israel journeyed, and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho.

      2Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. 4Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this horde will lick up all that is around us, as the ox licks up the grass of the field.” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying, “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they cover the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. 6“Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I may be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”

      7So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand; and they came to Balaam and repeated Balak’s words to him. 8He said to them, “Spend the night here, and I will bring word back to you as the LORD may speak to me.” And the leaders of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9Then God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent word to me, 11‘Behold, there is a people who came out of Egypt and they cover the surface of the land; now come, curse them for me; perhaps I may be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12God said to Balaam, “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13So Balaam arose in the morning and said to Balak’s leaders, “Go back to your land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14The leaders of Moab arose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refused to come with us.”

      15Then Balak again sent leaders, more numerous and more distinguished than the former. 16They came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor, ‘Let nothing, I beg you, hinder you from coming to me; 17for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you say to me. Please come then, curse this people for me.’” 18Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God. 19“Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me.” 20God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.”

      21So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab.

The Angel and Balaam

     22But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26The angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29Then Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now.” 30The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?” And he said, “No.”

      31Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. 32The angel of the LORD said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was contrary to me. 33“But the donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34Balaam said to the angel of the LORD, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” 35But the angel of the LORD said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word which I tell you.” So Balaam went along with the leaders of Balak.

      36When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border. 37Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not urgently send to you to call you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?” 38So Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come now to you! Am I able to speak anything at all? The word that God puts in my mouth, that I shall speak.” 39And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.

      41Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a portion of the people.

Let us be humble in our requests before the Lord and ask His help to purify our motives as we come before Him to ask His guidance and help.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Nothing Is Impossible With God

All things are possible with God. We need simply seek Him and submit to Him, then watch Him use us to His glory. Mary remains a glorious example of a humble servant submitting to the Lord.  Surely this was disruptive to her life. She was about to get married, and God’s plan on the surface would certainly seem to create potential disruption to that plan if Joseph were to think she had been unfaithful. She trusted in the Lord.

The Lord even gave her an independent sign that He was at work, by telling Mary about Elizabeth as well. I would think that being able to connect with Elizabeth provided moral support and encouragement for Mary at those times when perhaps her parents may not have believed it was the Spirit that impregnated Mary.

Luke 1:26-38

Jesus’ Birth Foretold

     26Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 30The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. 31“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” 34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37“For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

What is the Lord asking you to do that you may be hesitant to obey? Seek clarity from the Spirit, confirmation in the written word, and ask God’s help for you to obey boldly and with strong faith. Remember, when Mary accepted the Lord’s will and plan, she had no way of making it happen on her own. She was fully trusting in the Lord. We should strive to do likewise.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Find the Treasure Hidden in the Detail of Scripture

Some elements of scripture are so familiar that we already know the story, but it can be all to easy to gloss over the magnificent detail and meaning within. I find the record of the birth of John the Baptist to be one of these. I am familiar with the story, but there are details throughout that are worth pausing to spend time considering.

  • The Lord chose to use Zacharias and Elizabeth, a married couple who “were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
  • Despite both Zacharias and Elizabeth being righteous and wanting children, the were very advanced in years and had not had any. Living righteous lives before God does not mean life is easy and we get all we want, but rather we find our joy in the Lord and what He provides.
  • The fact that the scripture states “Elizabeth was barren” implies she could not have children, but God opened up her womb so to speak for His glory and in answer to their prayer.
  • Zacharias heard from the Lord’s messenger while coming before God in His service as He was instructed by the word.
  • Angels are often depicted as pretty young women, but this is clearly not aligned with scripture. The most typical response when even a righteous person meets an angel is fear. Clearly angels are more powerful and intimidating that that.
  • What an incredible report to hear about your child to come… that he will be “he will be great in the sight of the Lord”.
  • The angel also provided instructions to them that the child will be named John and he will not drink alcohol.
  • All these plans were set by the Lord for this child who had not even been conceived yet! Our Lord clearly is present in the past, present, and future with full knowledge of all that is , was, and is to come. He is in control of all. (By the way, they all come true as prophesied.)
  • Note that John”will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb”. Another example of a person being truly alive even while in the womb, every bit as real as after birth. A person is a person from conception and should be treated as such.
  • It is after mention of John’s being filled with the Holy Spirit that we find more about what John will do… “And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” It is the Spirit working through John that enables this to happen… not John on his own effort.
  • Zacharias was a righteous man. He served the Lord. Even he was overwhelmed by this encounter and all this news. He essentially asked for a sign, in spite of the angel standing in front of him talking to him. He got one… I am sure he second-guessed that conversation a few times before John was born and he could talk again. It is interesting to ponder, however, as Gideon under similar circumstances asked for a sign twice and received it. Gideon, however, had a different history with his relationship with the Lord than did Zacharias and he was called for a different mission. The signs Gideon received were not as difficult for him as what Zacharias received. Both were likely helped by the signs in following the call God had given them.

Wow! There is a lot of stuff packed into this collection of verses.

Luke 1:5-25

Birth of John the Baptist Foretold

      5In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. 7But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.

      8Now it happened that while he was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, 9according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering. 11And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. 12Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. 13But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. 14“You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb. 16“And he will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. 17“It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, TO TURN THE HEARTS OF THE FATHERS BACK TO THE CHILDREN, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

      18Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 19The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. 20“And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”

      21The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. 22But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. 23When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.

      24After these days Elizabeth his wife became pregnant, and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, 25“This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”

I hope this can encourage you to dive in deep to every scripture you read. Challenge yourself to explore the treasures hidden in the details and not just skim over chapter after chapter taking in only what seems to be the main story or summary. Then, as always, ask the Spirit to help you apply it to your own life.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? Are you living today filled with the peace and joy of truly knowing and following Jesus Christ? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Keep Cool Under Pressure And Shine God’s Light

When the going gets tough… the faithful trust in God, everyone else tries to manage on their own.  When we keep our cool and turn to God in the face of death and suffering we allow God to shine through us as a powerful light to draw others to Him. Let’s read a dramatic example of how Paul did this while facing shipwreck in a powerful storm… on his way to Rome for a trial!

Acts 27

Paul Is Sent to Rome

      1When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, they proceeded to deliver Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan cohort named Julius. 2And embarking in an Adramyttian ship, which was about to sail to the regions along the coast of Asia, we put out to sea accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian of Thessalonica. 3The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul with consideration and allowed him to go to his friends and receive care. 4From there we put out to sea and sailed under the shelter of Cyprus because the winds were contrary. 5When we had sailed through the sea along the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, we landed at Myra in Lycia. 6There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy, and he put us aboard it. 7When we had sailed slowly for a good many days, and with difficulty had arrived off Cnidus, since the wind did not permit us to go farther, we sailed under the shelter of Crete, off Salmone; 8and with difficulty sailing past it we came to a place called Fair Havens, near which was the city of Lasea.

      9When considerable time had passed and the voyage was now dangerous, since even the fast was already over, Paul began to admonish them, 10and said to them, “Men, I perceive that the voyage will certainly be with damage and great loss, not only of the cargo and the ship, but also of our lives.” 11But the centurion was more persuaded by the pilot and the captain of the ship than by what was being said by Paul. 12Because the harbor was not suitable for wintering, the majority reached a decision to put out to sea from there, if somehow they could reach Phoenix, a harbor of Crete, facing southwest and northwest, and spend the winter there.

      13When a moderate south wind came up, supposing that they had attained their purpose, they weighed anchor and began sailing along Crete, close inshore.

Shipwreck

      14But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; 15and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along. 16Running under the shelter of a small island called Clauda, we were scarcely able to get the ship’s boat under control. 17After they had hoisted it up, they used supporting cables in undergirding the ship; and fearing that they might run aground on the shallows of Syrtis, they let down the sea anchor and in this way let themselves be driven along. 18The next day as we were being violently storm-tossed, they began to jettison the cargo; 19and on the third day they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. 20Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.

      21When they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst and said, “Men, you ought to have followed my advice and not to have set sail from Crete and incurred this damage and loss. 22Yet now I urge you to keep up your courage, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. 23“For this very night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood before me, 24saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you.’ 25“Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. 26“But we must run aground on a certain island.”

      27But when the fourteenth night came, as we were being driven about in the Adriatic Sea, about midnight the sailors began to surmise that they were approaching some land. 28They took soundings and found it to be twenty fathoms; and a little farther on they took another sounding and found it to be fifteen fathoms. 29Fearing that we might run aground somewhere on the rocks, they cast four anchors from the stern and wished for daybreak. 30But as the sailors were trying to escape from the ship and had let down the ship’s boat into the sea, on the pretense of intending to lay out anchors from the bow, 31Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “Unless these men remain in the ship, you yourselves cannot be saved.” 32Then the soldiers cut away the ropes of the ship’s boat and let it fall away.

      33Until the day was about to dawn, Paul was encouraging them all to take some food, saying, “Today is the fourteenth day that you have been constantly watching and going without eating, having taken nothing. 34“Therefore I encourage you to take some food, for this is for your preservation, for not a hair from the head of any of you will perish.” 35Having said this, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of all, and he broke it and began to eat. 36All of them were encouraged and they themselves also took food. 37All of us in the ship were two hundred and seventy-six persons. 38When they had eaten enough, they began to lighten the ship by throwing out the wheat into the sea.

      39When day came, they could not recognize the land; but they did observe a bay with a beach, and they resolved to drive the ship onto it if they could. 40And casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea while at the same time they were loosening the ropes of the rudders; and hoisting the foresail to the wind, they were heading for the beach. 41But striking a reef where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground; and the prow stuck fast and remained immovable, but the stern began to be broken up by the force of the waves. 42The soldiers’ plan was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim away and escape; 43but the centurion, wanting to bring Paul safely through, kept them from their intention, and commanded that those who could swim should jump overboard first and get to land, 44and the rest should follow, some on planks, and others on various things from the ship. And so it happened that they all were brought safely to land.

Quite frankly, I have never faced anything as dire as what Paul seemed to face on a regular basis. Praise God that Paul is such a wonderful and inspiring example to us. We do not have to hide in fear, but rather trust in God and allow Him to shine through us when we, and those around us, face terrible situations. God may or may not save us physically from any given situation, but whether or not He chooses to save us we know that He is able and we can trust Him either way.  Shadrach, Meschach, and Abed-nego demonstrated faith like this, not knowing whether or not God would choose to save them physically from the fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:16-18

   16Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. 17“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. 18“But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

Take courage and share the gospel at all times and in all situations.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Here’s Your Sign

There are many times in my personal walk with Christ that I have hoped for and even asked for a clear and dramatic sign to ensure I was hearing correctly from God.  However, the signs and wonders which accompany the instructions from God often reflect the magnitude of what He is asking you to do. There are a great many opportunities we have in life to honor God with our lives and obey Him that we should not require any additional sign or wonder. He already provided a detailed record of His instructions in the Bible, including many great examples of how those truly devoted to Him have lived out their lives in submission to Him. We do well to study and apply that in our lives daily.

However, there are times when God will provide an additional sign or wonder when He communicates to His people. Often this will accompany a particularly big challenge such as those given to Moses and Gideon. When God revealed His will to Moses through the burning bush, He was asking Moses to do something which was unthinkable for a humble shepherd.  God was directing Moses to go to a hard hearted Pharaoh, king of powerful Egypt,  and tell him to let God’s people go.

Exodus 3:1-9

The Burning Bush

      1Now Moses was pasturing the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2The angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed. 3So Moses said, “I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up.” 4When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6He said also, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

      7The LORD said, “I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. 8“So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. 9“Now, behold, the cry of the sons of Israel has come to Me; furthermore, I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians are oppressing them.

As we submit our lives to God and seek His guidance in our lives we are right to come before Him and prayer and ask for His guidance. We should also study and apply His word in the Bible. We can of course ask for a sign, but should not demand one as a condition of obedience. He has already provided great signs and wonders throughout the Bible, not the least of which was dying on the cross and coming back from the dead so that we can be forgiven of our sins when we repent. He did so with countless witnesses and then documented it for us to have for generations as reference.

Is there something in your life you feel God wants you to do, but you are holding back, waiting on a clear sign? Prayerfully consider applying what God has already revealed in His word to help guide your decision. You may ask for a clear sign, but you may not receive one so obvious as the burning bush. Be still and listen carefully for how God may be answering you in more subtle ways.

Learn more by reviewing other devotions about Hearing From God. Click the link and scroll down to review as many as you want.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Prayer For Him Was Being Made Fervently By The Church To God

Have you ever experienced some breakthroughs in your life in terms of living for God only to find that the resistance and obstacles increase? Indeed that is common. Often when Satan sees a Christian or Christians having a significant breakthrough or possibly on the verge of reaching many for Jesus, he steps up his opposition. So, too, do men who reject Christ. Sometimes you face both at the same time.

In Acts 11, the early church was growing, reaching out to Gentiles and receiving them in large numbers. Fellow believers were helping one another, even across different geographies… not just home town help. Then Herod stepped up his resistance to followers of Christ, much to the pleasure of the Jewish religious leaders of the time. Herod killed James, brother of John, and then arrested Peter.

The followers of Christ were not strong enough on their own to resist or overpower the government at the time. Instead, they turned to the power which God provided. The believers responded with fervent, intercessory prayer on his behalf. Prayer is a powerful weapon and brings about mighty things from God. Do not underestimate it and do not limit yourself to half-hearted, “when it is convenient and I have nothing else to do” prayer. Fervent prayer for a righteous purpose made by those who submit to Jesus can be very powerful.

Acts 12:1-19

Peter’s Arrest and Deliverance

      1Now about that time Herod the king laid hands on some who belonged to the church in order to mistreat them. 2And he had James the brother of John put to death with a sword. 3When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Now it was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4When he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out before the people. 5So Peter was kept in the prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God.

      6On the very night when Herod was about to bring him forward, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. 7And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, “Get up quickly.” And his chains fell off his hands. 8And the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9And he went out and continued to follow, and he did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10When they had passed the first and second guard, they came to the iron gate that leads into the city, which opened for them by itself; and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel departed from him. 11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I know for sure that the Lord has sent forth His angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12And when he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John who was also called Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13When he knocked at the door of the gate, a servant-girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14When she recognized Peter’s voice, because of her joy she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter was standing in front of the gate. 15They said to her, “You are out of your mind!” But she kept insisting that it was so. They kept saying, “It is his angel.” 16But Peter continued knocking; and when they had opened the door, they saw him and were amazed. 17But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison. And he said, “Report these things to James and the brethren.” Then he left and went to another place.

      18Now when day came, there was no small disturbance among the soldiers as to what could have become of Peter. 19When Herod had searched for him and had not found him, he examined the guards and ordered that they be led away to execution. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and was spending time there.

There is no about how Peter got out. There can be no credible “conspiracy theory” that someone bribed the guards or such. The guards surely would have revealed it and brought Peter back … they were led away for execution due to their failure!

Trust in the power of God to protect us. Of course we must also trust in God’s decision about whether or not He does so and how. Remember that James was killed at Herod’s hands.

Perhaps the principle lesson we should focus on from this scripture is the power of wholehearted, fervent, righteous prayer on someone’s behalf, especially when a team of believers come together in this prayer.  This is specifically highlighted in this scripture and is pivotal in the situation with Peter.

Do you know of some specific individuals or situations which could use the kind of help that Peter received in Acts 12 from God? Gather together with other followers of Christ and pray fervently for God to act in this situation for the glory of His kingdom! Expect Him to answer and keep praying. You just might be amazed by the response you see from our Creator and Lord.

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.

Righteous Prayer Helps Us Hear From God

Do you want to hear from God for specific guidance in your life? Do you believe that He communicates with His people on a personal basis? The Bible shows us many examples that He absolutely does communicate with those who genuinely and wholeheartedly submit to Him and transform their lives to follow Him.

Proverbs 15:29

      29The LORD is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.

Submitting to God to live according to His instructions (righteousness) and seeking Him in prayer are important parts in the life of a follower of Jesus to connect with God and hear His specific guidance for your life. We see both elements present in Cornelius and Peter as we read in Acts 10 as God provides specific direction to both men.

Acts 10:1-23

Cornelius’s Vision

      1Now there was a man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort, 2a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually. 3About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in and said to him, “Cornelius!” 4And fixing his gaze on him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. 5“Now dispatch some men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6he is staying with a tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” 7When the angel who was speaking to him had left, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were his personal attendants, 8and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

      9On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11and he saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.

      17Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. 19While Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20“But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself.” 21Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22They said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” 23So he invited them in and gave them lodging.

We see both Cornelius and Peter respond by receiving God’s instruction and trying to understand how to obey it. They expect to hear from God… they want to obey. So it is also with us. We must live according to God’s word, obeying Him in those things in which He has already instructed us, seek Him in prayer and expect to hear from Him. Why would God speak to someone who does not believe God will speak to them and will just dismiss it as imagination or coincidence? Why would God give more instructions to someone who is not obeying the instructions he or she already has received, either in scripture or in prior communications from God?

Challenge yourself… do you expect to hear from God? Are you already applying His word to guide the details of how you live your life… or are you just blending in with the world? “Going to church” and “Doing what others who call themselves Christian do” are not enough. That is the wrong standard. God’s scripture in the Bible is the only true, unchanging standard to measure against. Particularly the example of how Jesus lived and what He taught is a great place to start! (Hint: If you never meet any resistance or friction, you are either not noticeably living for Christ, or you are not bringing the gospel to non believers… which is to say not following the commands God has already given us.)

Ask yourself what specific, actionable changes you should make to your life starting today. Be honest and open to recognizing that you are not doing everything perfectly right already and there is more you can do for Jesus. We can all make adjustments to live more like Christ. None of us ever achieve that level of perfection that Jesus did during His earthly ministry, so if you can’t think of any changes to make you are likely fooling yourself.

As a side note, consider “Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be”. As we read further in Acts 10 we will confirm that the vision actually had nothing to do with what food God has instructed us to eat or not to eat as His people. The vision was a metaphor to tell Peter that it was good for him to share the gospel of Jesus with the gentiles. God’s instructions regarding what we should eat or should not eat are still relevant. For a deeper study, review Understanding the Law – What Does It Mean For Us Today?

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Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.