Another Delay

I’m sorry to say, but there will be another delay of perhaps a week before a new Gem is published. I am having back surgery tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 29). The recovery time will be quick, and a week should be enough. Please keep me in prayer.

Chip Norton

Christ’s Deadly Command!

Luke 9:22-26

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

A few months before Jesus was crucified, He focused His attention to preparing His disciples for their ministry after His return to heaven and the sending of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It was not to be an easy task for His followers to follow in the Master’s footsteps! As the Jews rejected the ministry of the Lord Jesus, so they would not accept those who would come in His name! Jesus warned them of the cost in Luke 9:22 through 26:

     “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by 
     the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and 
     be raised the third day.” Then He said to them all, “If any-
     one desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take 
     up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to 
     save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for 
     My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he 
     gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For 
     whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man 
     will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His 
     Father's, and of the holy angels.”

Yes, following Jesus Christ entails obeying a Deadly Command – That one is to…take up his cross daily, and follow…the Lord!

  • What this command is not: Having been a pastor since 1972, I have counseled many, many people who come to me with a diverse array of problems. I have often heard a husband or wife say something like this, “My spouse is an alcoholic. When he [or she] drinks too much that one gets abusive. But I still love my spouse. I guess it is just the cross I am destined to carry.

This may be a burden a person has to bear, but it is not the cross they are called to carry as a Christian! By the way, Jesus does give us the solution for such burdens that can weigh us down – Matthew 11:28 through 30 (I will quote these three verses from the New International Version):

     “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and loaded down with 
     burdens, and I will give you rest. Place My yoke on you and 
     learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble, and you will 
     find rest for your souls, because My yoke is pleasant, and 
     My burden is light.”

The Lord is inviting us to share His yoke, not His cross! And if you can picture a pair of oxen under a yoke, that yoke is a wooden device that fits across the oxen’s shoulders with another bent piece of wood going under each oxen’s neck, so they can equally pull the load assigned to them. But Jesus’ yoke is very lop-sided! His side is large and our’s is small! In other words, He carries by far the heavier part of our burden!

  • What the command as given by Jesus Christ in our featured Scripture means: A cross was the instrument of a cruel death! If you saw a man in the days of the Roman Empire struggling to carry a cross through the streets of Jerusalem, you would know that man was going out to die! He had no future except facing suffering and death!

The Lord is saying, If you are going to be My disciple and follow Me, you must follow Me all the way to Calvary – even dying to yourself so you can live for the glory of God!

You see, we all have a common problem…….and that problem is sin!

  • It started with Adam in the Garden of Eden, when he disobeyed God’s command found in Genesis 2:16 and 17:
     And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree 
     of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the 
     knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the 
     day that you eat of it you shall surely die.

Adam ate, and Adam died! Oh, he did not die physically for many more years, but his spirit – that which vitally connected him to his Creator – died immediately! This was evidenced in Genesis 3:8:

     And they [Adam and Eve] heard the sound of the LORD God walk-
     ing in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his 
     wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among 
     the trees of the garden.

Their sin, now vitally a part of their nature, made them shun the presence of God in His purity and holiness! So how does this affect us? Romans 5:12 (Lexham English Bible) tells us, “…just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death spread to all people because all sinned.” Again, it is not just physical death that affects mankind, it is spiritual death – separation from our holy God! And if that separation is not repaired in a person’s lifetime upon earth, it will become permanent upon physical death – eternal death, separated from God forever in hell! As it says in Revelation 21:8 (shortened from God’s Word to the nations): “…sinners…will find themselves in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.

But Jesus came to fix this deadly situation!

  • Here is what is written in I John 5:11 through 13:
     ...this is the testimony that God has given us eternal 
     life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son 
     has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not 
     have life. These things I have written to you who be-
     lieve in the name of the Son of God, that you may know 
     that you have eternal life....
  • But eternal life is not just heaven someday! For we are told in II Corinthians 5:17, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things are passed away, all things have become new.” God, by His Holy Spirit, gives us a new and godly nature – a Christ-like nature, one that here and now wants to obey and please the Lord all the time!

The problem is that we still have that old sinful nature! Paul calls it the flesh several times in Galatians 5. He writes in verses 16, 17, 24, and 25:

     Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of 
     the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the 
     Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one 
     another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
     ...And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with 
     its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us 
     also walk in the Spirit.

Crucify the flesh! That is why we, if we are going to follow Jesus Christ, are commanded to…take up…[your] cross daily, and follow Me.Count your old sinful nature, moment by moment, to be crucified and dead so your godly nature can shine through! Earlier in Galatians 2:20, Paul wrote of this concerning himself:

     I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who 
     live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now 
     live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who 
     loved me and gave Himself for me.

So again, what does it mean to …believe in the name of the Son of God…?

  • It means to follow Him! It means to…deny himself [or herself – yourself], and take up his [or her – your] cross daily, and follow…Jesus!
  • It means to daily (even moment-by-moment) die to self so you can live for God!

One more thing. Jesus showed us the best way to die to self.

  • In His humanity, even His perfect humanity, He did not want to experience the extreme physical suffering of the final hours of being manhandled, beaten, and crucified!
  • And He, having never tasted sin or separation from the Father because of sin, did not want to bear the sin of the world ! (see John 1:29; Matthew 27:46).

But as He prayed so intensely in the Garden of Gethsemane that He sweat blood, Jesus spoke these words to His Father: “Father, if it is Your will, remove this cup from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).

“…nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.”
That, whether repeated aloud
or having this prayer as a constant state of mind……
It is the best way to

…take up…[your] cross daily, and follow…Jesus!

The Miracle of My Mother’s Salvation!

Malachi 3:10 (Good News Bible)

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

Here is how Malachi 3:10 is translated in the Good News Bible :

     Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that 
     there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and 
     you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour 
     out on you in abundance all kinds of good things.

You may be wondering…

  • What has this Old Testament passage that encourages tithing have to do with my mother’s salvation?
  • Then there is a photo of a man cutting up a downed tree. What connection does this have to someone’s salvation?

Here is the story, but with some necessary background:

As far as I can tell by genealogical research, I was the first Christian in my family in generations! My two older brothers and I were regularly dropped off for Sunday school at The first Congregational Church in Sharon, Connecticut. Neither of my parents were church-goers, so that weekly one hour of Sunday school was my only Christian training. I really don’t remember much being said about “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved….” (Acts 16:31). Perhaps I wasn’t a good listener, or maybe personal salvation was not emphasized.

I was 18 years old when I joined the Air Force. I became close friends with Jerry, who had converted to Roman Catholicism from some Protestant faith. His family objected, and Jerry received quite a bit of static from them concerning his decision. As we talked, I admired his courage, and since I did not have close ties to a certain denomination, I decided I also would become a Roman Catholic! I started attending Mass with Jerry, studied the doctrines and practices of the Church, and although I never actually converted, I was, for about three years, a sincere practitioner of the Roman Catholic faith!

But I also began reading my New Testament that was issued to incoming Airmen. I didn’t understand a whole lot about the Christian life, and I couldn’t describe my faith the way I can now, but I discovered three things back then:

  • Jesus Christ was real!
  • Jesus Christ was alive!
  • Jesus Christ loved me!

…and I fell head over heels in love with Him!

It wasn’t until I met and married my Baptist wife Hope, and we became active in a conservative Baptist Church in Torrington, Connecticut, that in my mind God’s plan of salvation began to come together (as so beautifully put in Titus 3:4 through 7):

     ...the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared, 
     not by works of righteousness which we have done, but ac-
     cording to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of 
     regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He 
     poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Sav-
     ior, that having been justified by His grace we should 
     become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 

It was also then that I began to pray for my family members – my mother (then in her sixties) and my two brothers – to put their faith in Jesus and be saved.

God began to lead me into the pastoral ministry, and I enrolled at Baptist Bible Seminary in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. One day, Hope and I determined to make the three-hour trip to Connecticut to visit my mother – and not just to visit her, but to share with her the good news of Jesus Christ suffering, dying, and living again to give us eternal life!

We drove to Sharon, Connecticut in our 1946 GMC panel truck for a weekend visit. That Saturday evening we sat with Mom and shared from the Bible:

  • We are all sinners under God’s eternal condemnation because He is totally righteous and hates sin! (see John 3:36).
  • But the Father loves us so much …that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).

We explained it to Mom as best we could and asked her if she wanted to put her faith in Jesus as her Savior. But she told us, “I have to think about it.” So we let it drop.

Sunday we were getting ready to leave to drive back to Pennsylvania. My brother Neil had come an hour or so earlier to cut up a tree that had fallen in the yard – a promise he had made our mother some time before. Hope and I packed up our old truck, and were about to say our ‘goodbyes’, when Mom called us into the kitchen where she was sitting.

I’ve decided to do it,” she said.

I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I asked, “What did you decide to do?

Her answer, “I’ve decided to ask Jesus to be my Savior.

We prayed right there, and as my brother was making a racket outside with his chainsaw, Mom opened her heart and life to the Lord!

I didn’t find out until later, but my mother had challenged God to a test!

     You know that Neil has been promising to cut up that tree 
     for a long time, and he hasn’t done it! If he will come 
     here and cut it up today, then I will know You want me to 
     do what Chip and Hope says I should do.

Neil wasn’t all that reliable in fulfilling his promises…

…but that Sunday, he didn’t have a choice!
God gave him a shove,
and brought my mother into His kingdom!

I know in Malachi 3:10, our featured Scripture, we are challenged to test God concerning His faithfulness if we tithe! But I couldn’t find another Scripture where the LORD invites us to challenge Him! But even if Mom’s challenge was not about giving a tithe (10% of our income)…

…God honored my mother’s test!

Encounters With Angels — IV

Hebrews 1:13, 13:2

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

This will be perhaps the shortest Gem of all that I have written! But what happened seems like a true encounter with an angel – at least there is no other reasonable explanation!

Brown is a member of the church I attend, Macedonia Baptist Church in Newnan, Georgia. He is also a friend. A man in his sixties, he is physically fit and a hard worker on his horse farm. Often he rides his bicycle at a quick pace on a several-mile circuit. One day as he negotiated a turn, he failed to notice loose gravel and tar on a newly paved road. The back wheel skidded out and the bike and rider went down – hard! Brown scraped flesh off his arm, his shoulder, and his face, and he cut his forehead above his eye. But he didn’t know the extent of his injuries until he put his hand to his face, and then looked with shock at the blood covering his hand! He was bleeding profusely from the gash above his eyebrow!

All this happened in an area where there were no houses close by. But Brown heard someone say, “Do you need some help?” He looked up and saw a man he did not recognize standing nearby with a bunch of paper towels in his hand. He offered the towels to Brown who used them to mop the blood off his face. When he looked up, the man was gone! Looking around, Brown saw no car, nobody walking away, no sign anywhere of this man who had offered him the paper towels!

Brown made it home where his wife helped clean and bandage the wounds. When I stopped by the farm a day or so later, he told me of the mystifying account of the disappearing man! I said, “It sounds like you were helped by an angel!” He replied, “It could have been!

Here is what is written in Hebrews 1:13, our featured Scripture:Are…not [angels] all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? Sometimes God bids His angels to hurry to minister to a believer in need……….like Brown!

Encounters With Angels – III

Hebrews 1:13; 13:2 (Modern King James Version)

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

We shall use the same featured Scripture for this Gem as for the last, Hebrews 1:13; 13:2 (Modern King James Version):

     Are...not [angels] all ministering spirits sent forth to 
     minister for those who will inherit salvation? ...Do not 
     be forgetful of hospitality, for by this some have enter-
     tained angels without knowing it.

The thing is, I don’t know whether I interacted with an angel on my cross-country trip, or not!What cross-country trip?” you may ask. I’m glad you did!

I finished my four-year stint at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, Connecticut in June of 1964. Yes, I graduated, but I didn’t receive my diploma that June. I failed Trigonometry because I didn’t put any effort into it. I later studied on my own, passed Trig, and received my high school diploma around the first of September!

However, I got into a little police problem earlier that year. It was a heavy snow in late winter and I dropped off a friend who needed a ride to a house about a mile from ours. In turning my 1956 Plymouth around, I backed into a 1957 Ford, loosening the headlight rim. I reasoned, “I’m not going to stomp through eight inches of snow fifty yards to the house without my boots! I know who owns the Ford, a fellow high schooler, and I will call him in the morning to settle up.At two o’clock the later that night, I was aroused from sleep by a Connecticut State Policeman knocking on our door. I was arrested for hit-and-run, escorted to the Canaan police barracks, and thrown in their basement clink! My mother bailed me out the next morning.

We hired a lawyer who said we could beat the charge, since I had planned to call the next morning about the accident. But by police procedure, I had my driver’s license pulled……….and I kept on driving my Plymouth! …until that day a couple of weeks later when I was arrested again, this time for driving without a license! I was fined by the judge and lost my driving privileges indefinitely!

I was a country boy who lived on Sharon Mountain (I like to tell people we were high-class on the mountain, we had a two-seater outhouse! A neighbor only had a one-seater!). I found myself stranded and at the mercy of my mother to drive me somewhere I needed to go, or one of my “friends” picking me up for a night out. (I put “friends” in quotes because they seemed to disappear, forgetting me after my license had been suspended). So I enlisted in the Air Force in November – the enlistment being much out of boredom! By the way, I appeared before the judge on my first leave, in October of 1965. And because I was then in the Air Force and my record was clean, I received my driving privileges back on my first leave home, in October of 1965.

But that summer after high school ended, I decided to entertain my driverless self with a cross-country trip. My friend Billy and I had been planning to go to Europe, working our way there on a freighter, and bumming around the continent for a year. But Billy fell in love with Linda, and our European travel plans were squelched! So I set out on my own adventure.

On an early June morning I packed a duffle bag and had my mother drop me off at the crossroads of Sharon, the intersection of Route 4 and Main Street, and I hitchhiked west! That evening I ended up in Elmira, New York, 245 miles away by road! I spent $4 for a room at the YMCA and, once in my room, I realized I had no idea (other than ‘west’) where I was going! So I did the logical thing: I spread a large mid-western map on the bed, closed my eyes, turned around once or twice, and plunked my finger down on the map! When I opened my eyes I was looking at the city of Pierre, the capital of South Dakota!

The next morning, I bought a bus ticket to Pierre (pronounced “Peer” by the locals) and off I went! I can’t remember how long the bus trip took, but by the time I arrived at this flat prairie city, so unlike the rolling Connecticut Berkshire Mountains, I was tired, bus-travel weary, and homesick! I was so homesick I immediately asked at the bus station when the next bus east was available! Not until tomorrow,” the attendant told me. So I was stuck in Pierre, at least overnight! I asked where a cheap hotel was located, and was directed downtown. I found the hotel, entered the lobby and went to the desk to sign in. As I signed the guest register, I asked the clerk if he knew of any work nearby I could do. He replied, “Sorry, no.And that was that……….or so I thought!

An older man approached me and began to question me: “Are you in trouble? Are you running from the police? Is there any warrant out for your arrest?” I said no to all his questions, and told him of my desire to see the country after high school and before I joined the Air Force. He introduced himself with an extended hand, and told me he was the retired chief of police of Pierre! He said, “I have a friend who might need some help on his ranch. I’ll call him for you and ask.” It was a long distance call (he paid for it) to Boots Gregg (Merrill Benjamin “Boots” Gregg) who owned “The Boots Gregg Ranch, the largest ranch at 50,000 acres in eastern South Dakota, 40 miles east of Pierre. I can’t remember the name of this former police chief, but he was there for me when I needed a friend! Or was he the former police chief? Could he possibly have been an angel who entertained a homesick young man from Connecticut, the teen completely unaware that this man was a heavenly messenger? Who knows? What I do know is that he was kind and friendly, just at the right place at the right time – and he sure came to the aid of a homesick teenager!

Boots Gregg hired me over the phone on the recommendation of that police chief! He hadn’t met me or even talked with me, but the deal was sealed! He drove into town the next day, and I hung out with this powerful rancher all day as he conducted business, drank a beer or two, and played poker with a few friends. I spent the next month working on that huge ranch, bucking hay or tearing down a tractor engine. One Sunday, the day off, I even got to ride a gentle horse named ‘Jack’ a couple of miles down to the Missouri River and back! Boots paid me $100 for the month (more than the going rate!), enough to purchase a bus ticket home with a little bit left over. I spent an afternoon at the World’s Fair in New York City, and I made it home with three cents in my pocket……and a lot of wonderful memories – perhaps even of an angel!

Encounters With Angels – II

Hebrews 1:13; 13:2 (Modern King James Version)

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

This photo of two boys was taken in Florida….and also appearing in the photo is what looks like a hazy image of an angel! (https://www.pinterest.com/sisiarnes/real-angels/). I have no way of knowing if this is an untouched photo or not. But I thought it is a good illustration of our two-verse featured Scripture for today’s Gem, Encounters With Angels – II.” Both are from the book of Hebrews (Modern King James Version) – the first is from chapter 1 and verse 13, and the second is from chapter 13 and verse 2:

Hebrews 1:13 – “Are…not [angels] all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?” This describes the purpose of angels: They are…all ministering spirits…!

  • The exceptions appear to be cherubim (singular cherub) and seraphim (singular seraph) – amazing and powerful created beings! I find it interesting that they are never in the Bible referred to as angels! Cherubim have four faces (ox, lion, man, and eagle) and four wings, and are associated with wheels (see Ezekiel 1:15-21) and the throne of God (see Revelation 4:1-8).
     The cherubim serve the purpose of magnifying the holiness 
     and power of God. This is one of their main responsibilities 
     throughout the Bible. In addition to praising God, they also 
     serve as a visible reminder of the majesty and glory of God 
     and His abiding presence with His people. (www.gotquestions.
     org/cherubim.html).

	✡   They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24. After 
             Adam and Eve fell into sin, God ...placed cheru-
             bim at the east of the garden..., and a flaming 
             sword which turned every way, to guard the way to 
             the tree of life.”

	✡   It is generally agreed by conservative Bible scho-
             lars that Ezekiel 28:12 through 19 refers to Satan, 
             the spiritual power behind the powerful king of 
             Tyre! In verse 14, the devil is described as “You 
             were the anointed cherub who covers....Lucifer 
             (the devil’s name, according to Isaiah 14:12) was 
             once one of the God-glorifying cherubim!

	✡   Ezekiel saw a vision of cherubim attending God in 
             Ezekiel chapter 1, and again in chapter 43. 
  • Seraphim are mentioned only in Isaiah 6:1 through 7. They are described as having six wings, “…with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.” (Isaiah 6:2). They, like the cherubim are also associated with God upon His throne: “And one cried to another and said, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is filled with His glory!’” (Isaiah 6:3).

Apparently, all the rest of the angels…are…ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation…” (Hebrews 1:13). Is this not a good job description of guardian angels?

Hebrews 13:2 – “…Do not be forgetful of hospitality, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it.” This Scripture recalls four incidents from the Old Testament:

  • In Genesis 18:1 through 22, Abraham was visited by what he thought at first were three men! The patriarch offered them hospitality, inviting them to rest from their journey while he and his wife Sarah prepared for them a meal. Abraham didn’t realize it at first, but it turned out that…
...two of the men were angels, sent to investigate 
             the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah! The sins were so 
             great,...the cities of the plain...” were destroy-
             ed by God with fire and brimstone! (see Luke 17:29).

        ✡   ...the third man was the LORD Himself! (see Genesis 
             18:16-22).
  • Lot also…entertained angels without knowing it….” In Genesis 19:1 through 29, Lot offered hospitality to what he thought were two men (see verses 1-3).
But themenwere the same two angels to whom Abra-
             ham had unknowingly offered hospitality the day be-
             fore! 

        ✡   In verse 15, the men are identified as angels! And 
             the angels provided protection to Lot, his wife (un-
             til she disobeyed – see Genesis 19:26), and their 
             two daughters! (see Genesis 19:16).

        ✡   Genesis 19:24 and 25 – “Then the LORD rained brim-
             stone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah....So He over-
             threw those cities, all the plain, all the inhabi-
             tants of the cities, and what grew on the ground.
  • In Judges 6:11 through 23, it seems that Gideon, one of the early judges of Israel, did not realize that the One who interacted with him was…the Angel of the LORD…” (Judges 6:11).
        ✡   When the definite article is used, the Angel of 
             the LORD......this Angel is the LORD God Himself! (see 
                 Judges 6:14 and 16).

            ➔   ...these manifestations are best described 
                 as theophany appearances of the pre-incar-
                 nate Christ!

        ✡   But, in Judges 6:22, when “...Gideon perceived that 
             He [the man with whom he was interacting] was the 
             Angel of the LORD...[he cried out], ‘Alas, O Lord 
             God! For I have seen the Angel of the LORD face to 
             face.’”

            ➔   Apparently Gideon thought he was going to 
                 die! He was most likely remembering what 
                 God told Moses when he requested of the 
                 LORD, “Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 
                 33:18). The LORD answered Moses, “You can-
                 not see My face; for no man shall see Me 
                 and live.” (Exodus 33:20). 

            ➔   But the LORD (the Angel of the LORD) assured 
                 Gideon, “Peace be with you; do not fear, you 
                 shall not die.” (Judges 6:23).
  • According to Judges 13:1 through 24, Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson, were visited by the Angel of the LORD…
...twice to the unnamed wife (see Judges 13:3-9), 
             and then to her husband (see Judges 13:8-11). But 
             although the Angel had a supernatural bearing (see 
             Judges 13:6), they did not know it was the LORD!

        ✡   Manoah offered their visitor the hospitality of a 
             meal (see Judges 13:15). But the Angel told him, 
             “Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. 
             But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer 
             it to the LORD.” (Judges 13:16). So Manoah did 
             just that. And according to Judges 13:20, “...
             as the flame went up toward heaven...the Angel of 
             the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar.”

        ✡   It was then that ...Manoah and his wife...fell on 
             their faces to the ground ....And Manoah said to 
             his wife, ‘We shall surely die, because we have 
             seen God!’” (Judges 13:20, 22).

            ➔   They didn’t die! They went on to birth their son Samson, who 
                 was a great, but erratic judge of Israel!

And so it is today!
We may think we are entertaining fellow human beings…
…but we just might have entertained angels without knowing it!

Encounters With Angels – I

Psalm 91:11, 12

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

There is a lot of fascination concerning angels – much of it unbiblical misinformation about heavenly beings! We need a true perspective on angels, and that perspective is found in what Jehovah God has revealed in His Word, the Bible. This Gem is not a thorough study on the subject of angelic beings. But here are a few facts concerning angels:

  • Angels are supernatural spiritual beings, created by God, apparently before the world was brought into being. In Job 38:4 through 7 the LORD spoke to Job and humbled him. Here, in verses 4 and 7 is what God said to Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” It is thought by some Bible scholars that the morning stars and the sons of God refer to angels. If that is true, then angels were already created when God spoke the world into existence! (see Genesis chapter 1).
  • But sometime before the LORD placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Lucifer, a mighty angel (perhaps even an archangel) rebelled against the Creator, wanting to replace Him, and he was confirmed in his wickedness, now known as Satan! (see Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:13-15). In his rebellion he was joined with one third of the angels who became demons! (see Revelation 12:4, 9).
  • The holy angels and demons have been active in human lives since the beginning – demons to bring us down, and angels to build us up! Thank God, if you have trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, then you and other Christians, including myself…..we are on the winning side! Jesus has already defeated the devil! (see I John 3:8).

Our featured Scripture for this Gem is from the Old Testament, Psalm 91:11 and 12: “…He [God] shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone….

This Scripture primarily applies to Jesus, as He was being tempted by the devil. It is recorded in Luke 4:9 through 12 (see also Matthew 4:5-7):

     Then he [Satan] brought Him [Jesus] to Jerusalem, set Him 
     on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are 
     the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here. For it is 
     written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you, to keep 
     you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you 
     dash your foot against a stone.’” And Jesus answered and 
     said to him, “It has been said, ‘You shall not tempt the 
     Lord your God.’”

Notice something about this temptation; Satan left out a critical part of Psalm 91:11, which says, “…He [God] shall give His angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways.” The devil was tempting Jesus by saying something like this:

     “Yes, God will come to Your aid, but You don’t need Him in 
     this one little thing! Go ahead and jump, I’m sure the an-
     gels will come to Your aid anyway. And besides, You can use 
     Your own power to manage a soft landing!”

But Psalm 9:11 and 12 have a wider meaning for God’s children! We have guardian angels whom the LORD has …given charge over [us]…to keep [us]…in all …our ways.” Does every Christian have his or her own guardian angel? The Bible doesn’t answer that directly, but there would have to be a lot of angels for one-on-one guardianship!

  • By several estimates, there are over 600 million evangelical Christians in the world!
  • Are there enough angels to have one-on-one guardianship over all these Christians?
     Matthew 18:10 – Jesus, in instructing His disciples, 
         said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these 
         little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their 
         angels always see the face of My Father who is in hea-
         ven.Little ones do not necessarily imply children, 
         but also those immature in their faith. But this verse 
         does seem to be saying that each of these little ones 
         has a protective angel!

     Matthew 26:52 and 53 – When Jesus was arrested in the 
         Garden of Gethsemane, Peter lashed out with a sword, 
         cutting off the ear of the high priest’s servant. The 
         Lord told Peter:

             Put your sword in its place, for all who take 
             the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you 
             think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and 
             He will provide Me with more than twelve legions 
             of angels?

A Roman legion at full strength was six thousand soldiers! Twelve legions would be 72,000 angels! And Jesus said “…My Father…will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels…”! How many more might be millions or billions of angels!

     Hebrews 12:22 – “But you have come to Mount Zion and 
         to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, 
         to an innumerable company of angels....” According to 
         the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, innumerable means, 
         “Too numerous to be counted; numberless.Revelation 5:11 – John wrote, “Then I looked, and I 
         heard the voice of many angels around the throne...
         and the number of them was ten thousand times ten 
         thousand, and thousands of thousands....” Taking this 
         at face value...

         ➔   “...ten thousand times ten thousand...” equals 
              one hundred million!

         ➔   “...thousands of thousands...” could be even 
              greater than “...ten thousand times ten thou-
              sand...!  

I believe that there are at least enough angels
for one-on-one guardian angel relationships!

We will continue with this study in the next Gem.

A delay

Dear readers of Gems for Living,

I had knee replacement surgery last Tuesday, and this is the first time at my computer since then. I don’t know how long I can be here at one time, due to pain. Please keep me in prayer, and be patient for a week or so while I recuperate. I don’t know when the next Gem will be published, but I will return to my regular schedule as soon as I can.

In our Lord Jesus Christ,

Chip Norton

The Stolen Duck!

Ephesians 4:29-32

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

It happened 39 years ago, when I was pastoring my third church, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. I preached a sermon that I called, A Portable Altar, based on the Exodus 27 description of the altar of burnt offering. It was a fairly large altar, about eight feet square and made of bronze. It was made in two pieces, the inner bronze grating had four metal rings protruding from the four corners through the bronze outer layer. Those rings were for two strong poles slipped through the rings so the whole altar could be carried by four to eight strong men! It had to be portable because the Israelites were on the move. They left Egypt and wandered for forty years in the Sinai desert – most of that trek because they had grievously sinned against God!

The main point of the sermon was that we can ‘construct’ an altar of offering at any time and anywhere! It is when we are engaged in something for God’s glory! It can be anything that is done with Him in mind – an offering to the Lord! I preached that sermon on May 1st, 1983. I’m sure of the date because I still have all my sermon notes in my four file cabinets. Here is where you might be placing your portable altar:

  • We might be sharing some encouraging Bible verses with a friend….That’s an offering to God on an invisible, but portable altar!
  • It’s when we bring a meal to a shut-in….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • If we serve with dedication as a deacon or teaching a children’s Sunday school class….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • If we pass an accident on the highway and feel led to pray for those involved….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
  • When we feel led to give extra to a visiting missionary for his or her ministry….That’s an offering to God on our portable altar!
        You get the idea!

In the middle of my sermon that day, I departed from my notes when I said, “There is a duck on the back porch of the parsonage next door!” Well, that got people’s attention! Here is the story about the duck…

The evening before, April 30th, my wife Hope and I decided to go for a walk. It was a beautiful Spring evening just before the sun went down, and we drove over to McDade Park to walk the park paths. At the entrance a young couple, who were the park caretakers, were just getting ready to close the park for the night. We asked if we could walk for a bit on the trails. They graciously said, “Go ahead, we still have about half an hour of work before we leave. So off we went, hand-in-hand, strolling into the park!

We came to a pond where there were several ducks swimming or waddling on the grassy bank. They were of a dark color – wild ducks, I surmised. All of a sudden, a white duck (much like the one in the photo above) waddled right up to us, quacking away! It wouldn’t leave us alone! We would try to walk away, but it would waddle/run after us, still quacking!

We finally ‘escaped’ and went back to the gatehouse where the young couple were still at work. We told them of our experience with the white duck. Concerned, they said, “That duck was someone’s pet. It was dropped off here two days ago. But it won’t survive. The other ducks won’t accept it, and it will soon die.” I offered a solution. “I have a friend who has pet ducks. That friendly quacker will fit right in! Do you mind if I run back and get him?They were happy to accept my offer! So I trotted back, picked up the willing duck, and made it to the park gate just as the caretakers said they had to leave.

But here is where the portable altar comes in! Hope stayed with the couple at the gate while I went on my ‘duck-fetching’ operation! In the ten to fifteen minutes it took me to rescue the duck, Hope had the opportunity to share Jesus Christ with this young couple…who were not Christians, but open to Hope’s witness! Herportable altarwas erected right at that McDade Park gate!

That was the point of my impromptu sermon illustration!…………….However, things can go astray!

I was talking to Glenn, one of my parishioners, a couple of days later. He told me, “What were you preaching last Sunday? I wasn’t there, but I heard something you supposedly said that just didn’t sound right!

I asked him, “What did you hear, Glenn?

…that you broke into McDade Park after it was closed…..and stole a duck!” was his reply!

I was shocked! And I set the record straight in quick order! I had no idea who said this, and I really didn’t need to know. But I corrected the lie from the pulpit the next Sunday.

Now here is where the featured Scripture comes in, Ephesians 4:29-32:

     Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but 
     what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart 
     grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of 
     God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let 
     all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be 
     put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one anoth-
     er, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in 
     Christ also forgave you. 

There are several other Scriptures concerning gossip in the Bible. Some of them are here reproduced (these passages are from the English Standard Bible):

  • Exodus 23:1 – “You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.
  • Leviticus 19:16 – “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
  • Psalm 15:1-3 – “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? He who walks blamelessly and does what is right and speaks truth in his heart; who does not slander with his tongue and does no evil to his neighbor….
  • Psalm 34:13 – “Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.
  • Proverbs 6:16-19 – “…the Lord hates…a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
  • II Corinthians 12:20 – Paul writes to the Corinthian church, “…I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish…that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder.
  • II Timothy 2:16 – “…avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness….
        You get the idea......

Or do you get the idea?
Make sure you have your story straight!
Otherwise…
You can do irreparable harm!

The Same Way – A Different Way! Ezekiel 46:8-10

(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)

I was reading again the description of the Millennial Temple (often called The Third Temple) in Ezekiel chapters 40 through 48. One passage consisting of three verses intrigues me – Ezekiel 46:8-10:

     When the prince enters, he shall go in by way of the vestibule 
     of the gateway, and go out the same way. But when the people 
     of the land come before the Lord on the appointed feast days, 
     whoever enters by way of the north gate to worship shall go 
     out by way of the south gate; and whoever enters by way of 
     the south gate shall go out by way of the north gate. He 
     shall not return by way of the gate through which he came, 
     but shall go out through the opposite gate. The prince shall 
     then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and 
     when they go out, he shall go out. 

First, I want to emphasize Luke 24:25 through 27, which is what Jesus told the two travelers on Emmaus Road the afternoon of the Lord’s resurrection:

     Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to 
     believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the 
     Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His 
     glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He ex-
     pounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning 
     Himself.

What Jesus was saying is that all the Old Testament Scriptures testify to the incarnate, crucified, and risen Son of God! So Ezekiel is prophetically speaking of Jesus Christ and His work when he mentions the prince in the above passage!

Here is the first question that arises: Why do the common people who are worshiping at the temple have to go out a different way from where they entered?

  • Why was Jesus here upon earth? He stated His purpose in Luke 19:10: “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.The lost is us – all human beings through all time since Adam fell into sin! (see Genesis 3:1-6).
     As it is written in Romans 5:12 – “...as through one 
         man [Adam] sin entered the world, and death through 
         sin, and thus death spread to all men because all 
         sinned....Paul wrote in I Timothy 1:15 – “This is a faithful 
         saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ 
         Jesus came into the world to save sinners....✞   We are to come to Him in faith, believing... ...that He ...gave Himself for our sins, that 
              He might deliver us from this present evil age, 
              according to the will of our God and Father.” 
              (Galatians 1:4).

         ➔   ...that, according to Romans 10:9, “...if you 
              confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and be-
              lieve in your heart that God raised Him from 
              the dead, you will be saved.Jesus stated in John 5:24, “...he who hears My word and 
         believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and 
         shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death 
         into life.
  • This is a big change in the life of one who believes – from sinner to saint! (saint means one who puts his or her faith in Jesus Christ).
     Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17, “...if anyone is 
         in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed 
         away; behold, all things have become new.And in Galatians 4:6 the apostle wrote, “...God has sent 
         forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out 
         ‘Abba, Father!’”  (Abba can be translated ‘Daddy’!).”

     ✞   By that Holy Spirit within us, we are to...walk worthy 
         of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every 
         good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
  • And so, in Ezekiel’s vision of the Millennial temple, the common person approaching the LORD comes in one way and goes out another way!
     ✞   Initially – one comes as a sinner, and goes out a re-
         deemed person!

     ✞   Continually – the believer comes to worship in one de-
         gree of growth, and goes out a more mature follower of 
         the LORD!

So why does the prince come in and go out the same way?

  • The prince represents Jesus! And Jesus is pure, holy, perfect, and complete from the beginning – and forever!
  • Jesus is God, God the Son! (see John 1:1, 14). As it is written in…
     ...Malachi 3:6 – “...I am the LORD, I do not change...!

     ...Hebrews 13:8 – “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, 
         today, and forever...!

There is another precious truth about Christ from Ezekiel 46:10: “The prince shall then be in their midst. When they go in, he shall go in; and when they go out, he shall go out.As the prince shall be in the…midst of the common people, so Jesus, our Prince, our King…

  • …is…with you [His followers] always, even to the end of the age…! (Matthew 28:20).
  • …said in Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you…!

Read your Bible in a new way!
It all reflects Jesus,
Our Prince, our King!