Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Angels Among Us

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak at a women's breakfast held at my church. My senior pastor's wife had messaged me on Facebook and asked if I would consider creating a short devotion to share with the ladies at the beginning of this month. I was pretty surprised to be asked - especially after she said she got the idea to ask me after reading this blog! I guess God can do some pretty crazy things with something as simple as writing on the internet. 
The theme was Angels Among Us, and I knew right away what I wanted to write about. Every year around this time, pastors go into overdrive creating sermons about angels and their huge relevance to Christmas, as well as other significant events in the Bible. It's been overdone, really. I knew I didn't want my devo to be like all the others about that topic, so it got me to thinking - what other kinds of angels are there?
I started digging around in my Bible, looking for angels. There were several different angels at key scenes in scripture, like when Jesus rose on the third day. Mary rushed to the tomb and encountered a real deal Lucille angel, who told her that Jesus was no longer there, that He had risen. The same thing happened with another Mary in a another major scene regarding Jesus - His birth. Angels led shepherds and wise men from far away to a humble little stable in Bethlehem, where they found the Savior. In both of these cases there are actual angels in the scene. There are other angels, though, too.
Mary was at the tomb first - before any of the men, any of the disciples, even before any of the Roman guards could come back and see what had happened. She knew what she saw - or rather, didn't see - and ran back to tell the others. She was an angel to the disciples. She really followed Jesus and trusted Him, trusted that He really would come back from the dead even though it was impossible. She was an angel to Him.
Jesus' mother Mary sacrificed her entire life, reputation, future, and faith all to birth a child before she was married. She didn't question it, ask whether or not she was the best fit for the job, nothing. She just calmly accepted the huge task God had asked her to undertake and that was that. She was an angel.
After seeing this, I realized how many other angels there were in the Bible that didn't have the "technical" status of angel. They don't need the wings, halo, or flowing dress that everyone seems to figure them to have. They can be simple, everyday people. Everyday women. (Sorry guys - remember this was written for a women's breakfast, so you're outta luck here. Sorry!)
Angels can be mothers. We've already seen how Mary dedicated her entire life for God's plan, for His son. It says this in Luke 1:38 -
"And Mary said, 'Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.'"
She was completely willing to drop everything she had plans for and become a mother, even though she wasn't married so it would potentially cause her engagement to end, her reputation to ruin and her future to completely change. But she did it. 
Angels can be sisters. In Luke 10 we read about Mary and Martha - two sisters who had completely different views on what serving Jesus was about.
"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who say at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to come help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'" Luke 10: 38-42
Martha is so concerned about preparing a meal, a clean home, and a good image for the Lord that she isn't focused at all on what he is doing or saying. Mary sits at Jesus' feet, listening and learning. Mary has become an angel for Martha, who learns a lesson from her sister that would end up being the most important one she would ever learn.
Angels can be friends. Mary Magdalene had a crazy past - all sorts of pain and hurt had been a daily part of her life for a long time. She fully relied on God to take away all of the demons that had had a hold on her, and she freely trusted him to do all he said and more. That's a true friend - and an angel. Another great example of this is Lydia. Lydia was a businesswoman - something that, in those days, was extremely uncommon. She dealt in purple cloth, a very prestigious trade. Purple cloth was only for royals and the color literally meant royalty, so the people she worked with were not the average people out on the street. Lydia also had a house in a town that the Israelites were supposed to take over. She opened her house to the spies they sent in, promised them a place to stay for as long as necessary, and covered their existence when questioned by people in the town. She put her life on the line, as well as the lives of the spies, her family, and possibly all of the Israelites just by talking to the spies, forget about befriending them, keeping them safe, and helping them take over the town. She was a friend, and an angel.
Lastly, an angel can also be a mentor. In my own life I have several mentors - unfortunately, they too often know better than me. I can be very, VERY hardheaded sometimes. (Can I get an amen?) I don't like listening to other people regarding different things and situations in my life. I want to make my own mistakes. But more than once have my mentors guided me to something better for me than what I had originally wanted. They're angels in real life for me. In the Bible, there's a great example of this found in the book of Ruth. Ruth was married to one of Naomi's sons. When both of her sons and her husband died, Naomi's other daughter-in-law left for home in an attempt to find someone else to marry. Naomi tried again and again to get Ruth to do the same thing, but she refused. In return, Naomi gave Ruth sound advice in several things - including advice which lead Ruth to marry Boaz. While Ruth was an angel for not deserting Naomi and still being her friend and daughter even though her husband was gone, Naomi was an angel for helping mentor Ruth and leading her to Boaz - which would put Ruth in line for being one of Jesus' ancestors. 
Each of us have own angels in our lives that are like the examples here. Each of us have an angel in the form of a mother, sister, friend, or mentor whether we realize it or not. These women and men are placed in our lives for a reason - to help build us up, strengthen our walks with God, and become the woman or man of faith that God has called and created us each to be.
"A person standing along can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken." - Ecclesiastes 4:12
The angels in our lives have our backs - God has placed each of us where we are for a reason: to strengthen each other, and to strengthen ourselves. 
In the Christmas season, many times we get so worked up finding the gifts and making sure everything is perfect to really reflect on the reason and the blessings we have. We need to step back and think for a second - what do I really have?
Your NR challenge is this - take a moment to find the angels in your own life. Do you have a mother that is willing to give up everything for you? A mentor who is there to talk to at all times? A friend who stands by your side no matter what? A sister who always has your back? They're there. Take a minute from the craziness of the season and count your blessings. You're surrounded by angels; they're all among us. Do you see them?
Are you in?


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