Longing Angels

America’s latest outrage is the messy mid-term election.  Both sides hurl charges of fraud. Nobody is proud of the process.  Os Guinness, a social and cultural critic, might say this is but more evidence of “a heaving sea of problems” that has weakened America.

In his recent book, Last Call for Liberty, he pulls no punches.  He sees our problems as “hollowed-out beliefs and weakened ethics; declining trust in institutions and leaders; self-enriching elites; cancerous racism; pay-for-play politics; politicized criminal justice; crony capitalism; blinkered higher education; collapsed civic education; biased mainstream press; politicized corporations; crippling national debt; a surveillance state; porous borders; failing inner cities; fractious culture warring; talk of secession; social stress, anxiety, and loneliness.”  America is way more pluribus than unum.  We are fractured, and that’s dangerous for a country founded on a united definition of freedom.

A wise, old fisherman once wrote to another distressed people that various trials can test and prove your faith.  In the light of eternity, the things of earth grow strangely dim.  Today we endure botched elections and a fractured citizenry, but tomorrow we will be delivered from all this, “obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls” (1 Pet. 1:9).

The contrast between the troubles of today and the promise of eternity can fill you with hope and joy, especially when you consider the extent to which God communicated these things to us.  “The prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow…things into which angels long to look” (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

One of those prophets was Isaiah.  Over 2700 years ago while his nation suffered its own fractures and threats, he wrote, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…for a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us…and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Is. 9).

If I was an angel, I would want to see this too!  A great drama unfolds on the earth, with mankind as both the antagonist and victim.  A Rescuer appears, not armed for battle, but as a babe in his mother’s arms.  He grew up not to conquer the world, but to love and die for it.  He didn’t stay dead, but lived again, offering escape and eternity to all who believe.  What a marvelous mystery of Divine authorship!

By faith you can experience something no other creature can: redemption, which means reclaimed by your Creator.  To be distressed by sin is to be human; to be redeemed is to be touched by God.  It leaves you rejoicing and the angels longing.

Surprise of Gratitude

Please allow a personal anecdote from my new pastime, beekeeping. These critters and their colonies are so intricate, with much to teach us about the Creator.

It is possible to split a colony such that the new one produces its own queen. Every healthy colony has an effective queen. So I started the process, and waited a period of time to see if it worked. I didn’t see positive evidence, so I bought and installed a queen. I took a painful sting in the face for my effort. Alas, that queen did not survive.

I pondered my next move for a few days and considered introducing another queen. I decided to inspect the colony one more time. I immediately noticed new larvae. Then I saw the queen as healthy as you please! The colony had done its job after all, despite my interference. The memory of my pain dissipated, and I was so surprised that I looked to the sky and laughed with God!

I wondered, if I could be so delighted over an insect, what other surprises of gratitude might I be missing? We are grateful for the big things like family additions, material blessings, and physical healing. But even so, it is human to overlook reasons to be thankful. People who know God can still refuse to honor Him or give thanks (Rom. 1:21). Jesus healed ten lepers but it was only the thankful one that received additional blessing (Luke 17).

The Bible says, “In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thes. 5:18). This is your challenge to look beyond the obvious reasons for thankfulness, and seek the surprises, the hidden blessings of thankfulness. You can be thankful for small things, not just the big ones. You appreciate the colors of autumn across the mountains, but what about the red dogwood and yellow maple leaves in your hand?

You are thankful for things that happened, but what about the things that might have been that were not? You are thankful for good and happy things, but doesn’t “in everything” forge a way forward in the face of evil, suffering, and sadness? “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance” (James 1:2-3). If you find no other reason for thankfulness when life is hard, at least be thankful that this is not all there is, that sickness, tragedies, and politics do not have the final word.

When you are thankful to God, you become teachable to Him. You acknowledge His sovereignty over all of life, and admit that you are not in control. Look for reasons to give thanks in everything. You might be surprised how blessings abound. “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving” (Psa. 95:1-5).

You Matter

One way America recognizes its heroes is with the Congressional Medal of Honor. The award includes a citation which describes in detail what happened, including when and where. Last month, the President awarded the Honor to John Canley for his actions as a marine in Vietnam, 1968. Gunnery Sergeant Canley matters, and his name is etched into history.

History also documents a rather eclectic group of people who shared a common goal, to build a wall. It calls out scores of names, describing their actions and where they built. The account includes curious details. It notes the builders’ usual professions (priest, goldsmith, perfumer, government official). One man’s daughters helped with his section. Some worked beside their own houses. They undertook the work at personal risk, threatened with the accusation of sedition. (Neh. 3)

Why would the Bible record such detailed history? We know it outlines a grand narrative of God’s dealing with humanity, but it does so with stories of real people. In this story of the wall around Jerusalem, we witness what matters to God. People’s names, professions, and work locations are important. Where they lived mattered. The role of women mattered. God clearly cares about people, places, homes, and jobs because the details fill the Book.

The temptation is to think that in the grand scheme, you don’t matter much. You didn’t win a medal or make history. But let me assure you, dear reader, you haven’t escaped God’s attention, fortunately. Sure, there is an unnerving aspect of an all knowing God, especially if you are hiding something. Jesus said, “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matt. 10:26). Jesus knows your past, too. When Nathanael asked how Jesus knew so much about him, He answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48).

But there is a more profound level of knowing, beyond concealed things and fig trees. We see this when Jesus warned He would tell certain posers, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matt. 7:23). Love makes the difference with this kind of knowing. “If anyone loves God, he is known by Him” (1 Cor. 8:3). Loving God begins with accepting the truth about Jesus Christ, who loved you first despite your (ahem) details.

So be glad that God knows you. The Bible says, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (Matt. 6:8). When you sacrifice and serve, “Your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you” (Matt. 6:4). To you, He has revealed Himself as Immanuel, or “God with us.” You may never receive a medal of honor or write your name in history, but if the God of the universe loves you, knows you, and is with you, then you matter.


Perhaps you’ve heard of Russell Moore. Some know him as a commentator on politics, policy, and social issues. Southern Baptists know him as the leader of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.

What you may not know is that he’s the father of two adopted boys from Russia. This, along with being a theologian, gives him a unique perspective on adoption. In fact, he cannot talk about his sons’ adoption without talking about the meaning of adoption for Christians. In his book, “Adopted for Life,” he writes, “We believe Jesus in heavenly things – our adoption in Christ; so we follow him in earthly things – the adoption of children. Without the theological aspect, the emphasis on adoption too easily is seen as mere charity.”

The theology is clear. In the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, “that we might receive the adoption as sons,” and by His Spirit we can call God our Father (Gal. 4:4-6). The Spirit of God is called the “spirit of adoption,” and believers are “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:15-17). Of course, being a Christian is not a prerequisite for adopting a child, but it certainly packs more meaning into the human act of adoption knowing that we are all spiritual orphans needing a Father. He is the one “from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name” (Eph. 3:15). An adopted family is just as real a family as we are brothers and sisters in Christ.

Moore describes the horrifying conditions in his sons’ orphanage, and the agonizing, costly process of making them his own. The toddlers were unresponsive, deprived of human touch to the extent of causing developmental delays. After visiting with them weeks before the final action, the boys would groan and wail when the Moores would leave the orphanage. Those boys knew they had experienced something that they did not want to lose. They needed simply to belong, to be fully known and loved.

We see this theme several times in the gospels. A woman of ill repute anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and tears. The other men around were fairly disgusted with it. Jesus asked them a powerful question. “Do you see this woman?” (Luke 7:44). They were blind to this abused and ignored woman. A non-Jewish woman asked Jesus for help, but Jesus refused twice, as though to draw out her faith. The disciples wanted her gone. But Jesus said, “O woman, your faith is great; it shall be done for you as you wish.” (Matt. 15:28). Both women needed to be known and loved.

Jesus stepped out of his perfect home into the horrifying conditions of a fallen world only to endure the agonizing, costly process of making you his own. He knows you. He loves you. You are the apple of his eye, the one He adopts into his forever family.