Heaven’s Warriors – God’s Mighty Army of Angels

Little Church House in Woodburn, OR

Today I saw an angel. It was sitting on a bench in someone’s backyard under a flowering cherry tree. With wings fastened securely to his back and legs crossed, he was looking down at the grass below. He looked peaceful and serene and almost life-like except for the fact that this angel was made of cement.

But it made me wonder how many angels we pass by each day or who are standing with us and we are oblivious to them. For example, we have the angel of the Lord encamped around us and he delivers us from our troubles. (Ps. 34:7) And the Lord says that He has commanded his angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways; to lift us up in their hands, to keep us from harm (Ps. 91:11) Children have angels in heaven that have the divine attention of God Almighty (Matthew 18:10)! We have angels that are ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation (Hebrews 1:13). And haven’t we all heard the verse which tells us to not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels unaware (Hebrews 13:2)?

After seeing that cement angel, I passed by another house, seemingly empty. But was it? I looked at the front porch where it was still. If a bbeliever resides in that home, it is more than probable that there stands a mighty warrior at the door post, ready for battle should harm beckon at the front steps.

I love the verse in Psalm 91, where it says, the LORD says that HE has commanded his angels concerning us to guard us in all our ways; to lift us up in their hands, to keep us from harm. Did you get that? God Almighty, the creator of the heavens and the earth has commanded – commanded – his angels. There’s no choice. He has given an order and they are to carry it out. And it concerns us! He has told them to guard us in all our ways – in all we do, wherever we are. To guard us – to stand as a sentry and protect us, defend us, be a shield, to stand watch over us and be a shelter.

Can’t you just see that? Dangers, toils and snares – and there are the Lord’s angels, hovering over you, covering you with their mighty wings so that no harm will come to you. And what’s more, they are there to not only guard you, but to lift you up in their hands. Picture that!

I love the story in the Old Testament about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. He talks about how the wall is half built and then Sanballat hears about it and isn’t too keen on the whole idea. And neither are some other people who live in Judah or the Ammonites, the Arabs and more. Nehemiah hears about their plans to attack and so he stations people behind the lowest points of the wall. He encourages them to remember that God is great and to fight for their brothers, son, daughters – their families.

Nehemiah goes on to say that from that day on, the day that their enemies plans had been thwarted, half of his men did the work rebuilding the wall while the other half were equipped with every kind of weapon, ready for battle. Nehemiah tells the people that there’s a lot of work to be done but God would fight for them should the trumpet sound for battle.

That makes me think of heaven’s warriors. They are stationed at the lowest points of the walls around us. While they are encamped about us, we need to stand firm and remember that we are still called to fight as well. We are to stand guard, equipped with every kind of weapon (the armor of God). Our battle trumpet is sounding and God is fighting for us. There’s still much work to be done, but we don’t do it alone. We have mighty angels keeping us from harm in the palm of their hands. Children have their own personal angels, capturing the attention of God concerning them. We have angels who are sent to serve us. Ministering angels. Angels that are there to care for us, look after us, comfort, tend to and, again, to guard us.

Angels don’t sit out in the garden with their legs crossed, staring at the grass. They stand near us, ready to fight. They are heaven’s warriors, sent personally by God to care for us. Those whom they lift up in the palm of their hands.

Do you believe in angels?

The Chosen One

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Murray stood as tall as he could, which was difficult considering he was the shortest angel. The meeting was about to get underway. He found a spot in front where he wouldn’t miss anything.

A great announcement was made by the King and Murray wasn’t sure if he would be able to contain his excitement. As soon as the meeting was over, Murray rushed to find Gabriel, his mentor.

“Who do you think He’ll choose?” Murray asked Gabriel. “Do you think He’ll choose an angel-in-training? Do you think He might consider me? Do you think I have a chance?” he kept on, trying to catch his breath.

“Slow down there, young one. There is no need to be anxious. The Lord God will choose wisely the one needed for each task. He knows best.”
“I wish I could have been the one to tell Mary the good news – that she was chosen to be the Baby’s mother or even the one who was chosen to talk to Joseph about not getting all worked up over how things were going in his relationship with Mary.” They took a few steps and Murray continued. “I just hope He picks me to be the angel that sits on top of the stable where He told us He’s going to have the baby be born.” And as an after thought, he added, “I only wish it wasn’t a stable but something a little tiny bit more spectacular.”
Gabriel stopped and turned to Murray. “Son, if your heart is in the right place and you desire to serve for the right reasons, it doesn’t matter where He calls you – to a stable or a stage.”

Murray bent his head low. “Yes, sir.” His head was back up in an instant. “Mr. Gabriel, sir, can you tell me again what it was like to tell Mary the good news?”

Gabriel was amused at the littlest angel’s enthusiasm. He was sure to become a great addition to the army of angels. So much energy and such a willingness to serve anywhere, but still in need of maturity.

“It was humbling to be chosen.”

Murray only heard Gabriel’s story once. Gabriel never talked about it. If I was chosen, I’d tell everybody! Over and over again!, Murray thought to himself. But that was not Gabriel’s way.

“Come,” Gabriel motioned to Murray. “We have been summoned.”

Gabriel did not elaborate and flew with great intensity toward the throne. As he approached, his head was down and his wings fluttered slightly as he sang, “Glory and honor and praise to you, oh King of Kings. Holy are You Lord, my God.”

Murray didn’t need to be told to approach the Lord in worship and awe. No one needed to be told. God’s presence commanded nothing less.

Gabriel kept His head bowed as God spoke.

“Gabriel, it’s time for the multitude of angels to be assembled. Are they ready?”

“Yes, Lord.”

Murray glanced over at Gabriel. Why does he never look at the Lord? , Murray thought as he kept his head down as well, wanting badly to look up into the face of God.

“Have you appointed the stable angel?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“And the kings are taken care of?”

“Yes, Lord.”

“Well done, Gabriel. Thank you.”

“Yes, Lord.”

Gabriel stood and before taking flight sang, “Holy are You Lord God. Glory and honor belong to You alone.”

Murray and Gabriel flew to where thousands of angels gathered while waiting for orders. Gabriel immediately set about giving instructions.

“Michael, gather 40 to take with you to the stable. Put 10 at each post surrounding the manger and you stand center guard. Daniel, you take 5,000 and announce the good news to the shepherds. After leading them to the stable, join the other warriors who are already there.”

I have not even been chosen, Murray thought. What’s wrong with me?

Gabriel and Murray watched as the heavenly armies took flight. The force of air that moved at their departure blew Murray back and he caught his breath. How he wished he had been in their company. Just as he was about to question Gabriel, Gabriel was off once again.

“Come,” Gabriel shouted. Murray followed obediently. “We must tell the kings to warn Mary and Joseph about going home.”

“What kings?” Murray asked, somewhat annoyed.

“That’s what holds you back,” Gabriel interjected.

“What do you mean?” Murray asked, softening his attitude.

“Some of your self remains within your spirit.”

Murray flew silently. Gabriel slowed and then stopped in flight, looking at Murray.

“Do you understand what I’m trying to show you?”

Murray looked at Gabriel. Gabriel could see Murray’s eyes open wider.

Wanting to be the one atop the stable. Wanting to be the one to lead the multitudes in song before the shepherds. Wanting to be the one to give Mary the good news and tell Joseph not to fret. Wanting to be the one. Wanting badly to look upon the face of God instead of being content with basking in His glory. All these thoughts filled Murray’s mind.

“It’s been about me, hasn’t it?”

Gabriel nodded. “Self cannot serve for God’s glory.”

Murray took a deep breath. “Sir, I’m ready.”

Gabriel gave Murray an accepting nod and smile. “I know you are. Come on,” he said, “we’ve got work to do.”
Murray and Gabriel came to the Orient where the three kings were sleeping. Having gathered for political purposes, they were now all fast asleep after participating in the day’s gatherings.

Gabriel instructed Murray on what to do and Murray went inside the castle walls while Gabriel stood guard upon the highest peak of the castle.

Murray entered the rooms where each king slept. He stood beside each bed and as the men lay sleeping, Murray told them they must follow the bright star shining in the night sky to where the holy, baby King lay. They would hear of King Herod’s wicked plan and warn the holy Baby’s parents.

When Murray finished his task, he joined Gabriel.

“Did you speak to them in their dreams?”

“Yes, sir.”

Gabriel took a deep breath. “Good.”

“Do you realize what part you have played in God’s plan of redemption?”

“No, sir.”

“You’ve instructed the three kings to find the Holy Baby, and on their way they will learn of King Herod’s evil plan to destroy all baby boys. Murray, you have played a part of saving the Chosen One.”

Murray looked at Gabrielle and smiled. “And that way, He can save the world.”

“Exactly, Murray. Exactly.”

Made to Praise

Lord God,
Heavenly Father,
Holy Spirit

Trinity –

I cannot begin to understand,
comprehend,
fathom the depth of this mystery 

which is

You.

I cannot comprehend Your beauty
the intricate details of Your creation

I can stand in one of the most prestigious museums of art
and not one painting –
no,
not even one

can do justice to what you have painted with your hands.

The waves of the seas, the peaks of the mountains –
were shaped by the tips of your fingers.

The bark on aspen trees,
a sunset in the haze of fire’s sky,
the glistening of leaves during a afternoon breeze
were fashioned in you mind
and put to life.

Every detail of a mushroom,
every line on the zebra’s back,
every spec of pollen in the workings of a flower
and every spot that dots the ladybug’s wings –
each was thoughtfully created
for your glory.

When you shaped the earth round
and made it spin in the sky as it circled the sun,
you positioned it just so
to gather the light and warmth of the day
and take part of the slumbering peace and the cooling of the night.

“How majestic is your name in all the earth!” David exclaimed.
He considered your the heavens,
He considered the works of your fingers –
the moon and the stars
that You set into perfect place
and had to ask,
“Who is man that You care about him?
Who am I – that you think about me?”

And yet, you made us
just a little lower than the angels
and have crowned us
with glory
and honor.

You molded the calf with your hand –
the lamb
the slithering snake –
octopus and eel
each for a purpose
each to bring you glory.

And upon your potter’s wheel
you molded me
shaped and fashioned
as a reflection of You.

My eyes don’t just see
but take in the shadows, the shapes, the sizes
send all the information to a brain
that prints out a beautiful picture
in my mind.

My ears don’t just hear
but listen to sounds and tones –
they capture melodic symphonies
that play the songs of the sparrows
and the crashing of the stormy seas.

My hands do not merely move about without purpose
but were fashioned to extend outward
to help the homeless
love the unloveable
and comfort the lost.

My heart is not merely an organ that beats
but was made to feel
and grieve for another
rejoice with one who is rejoicing
and give thanks in all things.

My lips were not for pouring forth of noise
but for singing Your praises
uttering Your truth
proclaiming Your salvation.

How majestic indeed, oh Lord God
is Your name
above all.

 

Bound for My Freedom

lilies.JPGOn an assumed cold, wintry night, approximately 2,000 some years ago, a little baby was born. His mother wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a feeding trough (more commonly known to all as a manger), somewhere in a little town called Bethlehem, located in what is known as the West Bank of the Middle East. A tiny, little baby in a big part of the world.

As his mother slept and his father tried to figure out what they were going to do next, the little baby cooed. All wrapped up in his swaddling cloths, he was quite content and happy enough for just being born. And besides, Asher, the shepherd boy who had listened to what the angels had told him, sat right at his side in awe of this little miracle.

Asher straightened the baby’s cloths. He had an inkling to loosen them, seeing that they bound him from moving about. How he wished he could hold him. Why did mothers wrap their babies so tight, anyhow? It was a practice he never understood. All those strips of cloth, binding his limbs still, all to ensure that this little man would grow strong and his arms and legs straight? Oh well. For now, Asher just traced the little baby’s face with his index finger, softly following the baby’s brow line and then down his baby nose, over his baby lips and then up to the other brow, repeating the process over and again until the newborn fell asleep.

Asher wondered if his mother had wrapped him in linen such as that. In that way. Was he bound tightly so that he couldn’t move? Wouldn’t move? Was he constrained from stretching his fingers up into the air? Were his feet confined from layers of cloth wrapped around his legs so that he was unable to kick freely as he had done while in his mother’s womb? How was a little baby supposed to strengthen his muscles if constricted from movement?

Swaddling clothes seemed to be a form of bondage to Asher. Bondage that kept this little baby from being welcomed freely into the world. Perhaps it was a sign. After all, his route in getting here to this stable was a bit miraculous, if he dared to use such an explanation.

The baby’s father looked tired and his eyes bloodshot as his head rested against the wall of the stable. Asher felt pity toward him.

“Sir – I can guard the little baby if you fall asleep.”

The father moved his head from the wall and turned it slightly to face Asher. A weary smile crept over the man’s face as he contemplated Asher’s offer.

“Thank you,” the deep voice sounded. “I’m not sure if I can sleep. But what about you? Is your mother worried about you? Shouldn’t you get home?”

“Oh, no. The other two boys that were with me earlier – they were my brothers and it was our turn to tend the flock tonight. She’s not expecting me home tonight and they told me it was okay to stay a while when they went back to the field. But, I – I can leave if you want me to.”

The father smiled. “No – you can stay. I think he likes you here,” he said, looking at the baby. “Maybe I will take you up on that offer. You wake me up if he wakes up.”

“Yes, sir,” Asher promptly responded and with that, the baby’s father rested his head back against the wall and closed his eyes and the mother continued to sleep soundly, her head resting on the father’s lap, as the rest of her body lay on a mound of hay. As the father drifted to sleep, Asher heard him mumble, “Jesus. His name is Jesus.”

 Asher sat beside the feeding trough, looking into the eyes of that little one as the baby, now awake, stared back. Asher looked into the eyes of that little baby and chills ran down his spine.

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Jesus knew he wouldn’t see his next birthday. Things were moving rapidly now and heating up amongst the people and officials and he knew His time to do what He was sent here to do was now at hand.

As he knelt in the garden, he continued praying as he had been doing all night, except that now he was hearing voices coming from the front entrance of the garden. Within moments, Roman soldiers surrounded him on every side, death dancing in their eyes. Did they really think they needed hundreds of men to take him captive? Did they secretly believe He was who he said he was and think they couldn’t stop him unless they brought a battalion of men?

He went peacefully with the guards and some might say, He suffered peacefully. When it was over – the beatings, the mockery, the crucifixion, all of which he never fought– he died.

Joseph, a good and upright man in Jerusalem and having been granted permission to take Jesus’ body down from the cross, began preparing Jesus’ body for burial with the aid of his friend Nicodemus and his cousin Asher. For Asher, there was something familiar about this man who had been hung on a cross to die for no apparent reason. Something which Asher couldn’t quite put his finger on.

Having come to Jerusalem to merely visit his cousin, little did he know he’d be helping him with this task. The three men had removed Jesus’s body from the cross on which he was hanged and they worked together to remove the spikes that held Jesus’ hands to the timber, which were now splintered and coated with the stickiness of dried blood. With great gentleness and care, after each spike had been removed, they gently laid Jesus’ body beside the cross on which he had breathed his last breath.

Joseph untied a cloth bag and removed strips of linen and then the three men worked together in silence. Around and around the feet, methodically they wrapped Jesus’ body, moving up the legs. Then, positioning the stiffened arms straight against the sides of Jesus’ torso, they continued wrapping, overlapping layer after layer, until they reached the neck.

“Who was this man?” Asher finally sliced through the silence, a feeling of familiarity once again surrounding him. “What was his name?”

“They called him Jesus.”

Asher stopped. “They called him what?”

“His name was Jesus. I really believe, no matter how stupid it sounds, He was the Son of God,” Nicodemus stated.

Asher’s face turned white.

“Are you okay, Ash? You don’t look so good,” Joseph asked his cousin.

From swaddling cloths to grave cloths, this was no coincidence.

“Do you remember that story I told you about when you helped me that summer tending flocks when we were teenagers? The story about the angels and the baby my brothers and Id found at the stable when I was a little runt?”

Joseph’s face was expressionless as he stared at Asher, except for the wideness of his eyes, which were staring back at Asher. “Yes.”

“I think this is him.”

“You told me he was born in Bethlehem.”

“He was, but his dad had said they had come for the census and eventually, I heard that they left. His father told me what I told you that night we were talking – that his was no ordinary baby and the angels that told us to go into town and that we’d find a baby in a manger – well – this is him. I know it.”

Joseph looked at the baby, now wrapped in linen except for the blood stained face and matted hair. A tear dropped from his eye and landed silently on a piece of cloth that he held in his hand.

“I remember watching him that night in the stable while his parents slept and for some reason, wished I could have removed the swaddling clothes and let him be free to wiggle around. And his eyes. I will never forget those eyes, Joseph. And now, here I am wrapping him up, making him bound once again.”

“You’re not going to bind him. Matthew the tax collector is a good friend and he told me that Jesus said after three days he would rise again. Even the Pharisees are afraid. You can bet they’re going to station guards at the tomb. But, nothing’s going to hold him back, Asher. Nothing. And that – I know.”

Asher sat and listened to his cousin, who was so confident that this man they tended to was the Messiah. Did he realize what he was saying? And yet, didn’t Asher himself believe that the little baby some thirty years ago, who he watched try to wiggle his way from being bound with the linens of long ago – didn’t he believe that little baby would change the world – just as the angels had said?

With sorrow, now mixed with anticipation, they finished what they had come here for. They wrapped Jesus’ face and then carried him to the tomb. There was nothing more they could do. They laid him down on the stone and with the help of the six soldiers already waiting at the tomb, rolled a large stone in front of the entrance as two women watched from afar.

Walking toward Joseph’s home, Asher asked, “Tell me again what he said about coming back to life after three days.”

 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

And so it was – the third day. Asher was heading back to Bethlehem and decided to take the path that passed Joseph’s tomb. A nagging curiosity had been his companion the last two days, while staying with his cousin Joseph. He was distracted from his thoughts and stopped upon seeing and hearing a commotion ahead.

Sliding off his donkey, he tied it to a nearby olive tree. He walked closer, seeing the two women who had been watching from afar just two days ago when he and Joseph and Nicodemus with the help of the guards had rolled the stone across the front of the tomb.

Three men were talking to them and suddenly the women gasped and ran into the open tomb, back out again, and down the road – right past Asher. As they passed, one of the women turned to him, excitedly exclaiming, “He’s alive!”

His eyes followed her as she ran off.

He turned back toward the tomb. The three men had disappeared. They hadn’t passed him. He turned to see if they were walking away from him down the road in the other direction. But no – they were just – gone. He looked all around – no one. Slowly, he walked toward the place where the men had stood while they were speaking to the three women. He could see the tomb.

It had taken nine strong men to roll that stone in front of the tomb. The women couldn’t have moved it, even if the three men he had seen with them just moments before had helped them. He and Joseph and Nicodemus could barely do it with the assistance of the six hefty built Roman guards who had been there to seal it.

Asher stood at the entrance of the tomb, took a deep breath and then stepped inside. It was dark, but bright enough with the light from outside streaming in behind him, to see what he needed to see. They body was gone. And, at that moment he was certain.

The body hadn’t ‘disappeared’. No one had taken it. He knew how he and Joseph and Nicodemus had wrapped that body. Carefully – oh so carefully. And there, on the stone where they had laid Jesus’ body, now lay only grave cloths. Neatly folded, in a pile, on the stone.

Asher was shivering, every inch of his body tingling with excitement. He picked up the top cloth and a strange peace coated every inch of his being as he held the cloth.

The little baby he had fallen in love with. The baby he wanted to set free. And though for burial he had helped to bind him in death, Asher knew in his heart that this man they called Jesus – this man who had hung on a cross – truly he was the Messiah. He had seen him wrapped in swaddling clothes as a baby and had bound him in grave cloths in death. But he knew the next time he saw him – this man called Jesus – it would be with an offering of outstretched arms, as Asher’s Savior, welcoming him Home, setting him free.