ANGEL ON THE MOUNTAIN

When God Breaks Through….

Sunday Chronicles #303 June 19, 2022

During their missionary career, Gerald Johnson and his wife Donna lived on Mindanao, one of the largest islands in the Philippines. Here is Gerald’s story.

My wife, Donna, and I live on Mindanao, an island in the Philippines. I had concluded several days of ministry in a major city and planned to drive home that afternoon. I estimated the trip at three to four hours. I wanted to be home before dark because the road I traveled led through mountains that were a rebel stronghold. It would be dangerous to be in that area at night.

I got off on time, but after I had been driving about 45 minutes, my van suddenly died. Not being a mechanic, I had no idea what might be wrong.

I prayed and in a few minutes a man walked across the street and said, “You are out of gas.” I assured him the gauge read full. He stuck a bamboo stick in the gas tank. It came up dry. So much for trusting gauges! He offered to go get gas for me, and I was grateful for his help. By the time the van was filled up and ready to travel again, darkness was approaching. Should I continue into the mountains and risk running into rebel activity? Donna was expecting me and would worry if I didn’t come. No telephone was available.

In my dilemma, I prayed for direction. About that time three trucks and a car passed me, heading toward the mountains. Elated, I shouted, “Thank You, Jesus” and pulled out behind them. Another car or two followed me. Everything was going well on the bumpy, unpaved road until about halfway through the mountains. At that point the road turned to thick, gooey mud. Monsoon rains had hit just ahead of us. The caravan moved cautiously through the darkness. Buses, trucks and cars have been known to slip off this road and down the nearly perpendicular slopes into deep ravines.

On a steep incline, a vehicle in front of me started slipping and came to a stop, blocking the road. When I stopped, the van died and would not start again. A few minutes later, the first vehicle got going, and, along with the others in front of me, disappeared into the night. The cars behind me managed to pull around me and go on. I was alone on the mountain, deep in rebel-held territory. , With no people or houses nearby, I knew I was in danger. I turned the key one more time. Nothing happened, not even a clicking sound. I had no tools with me and no idea what to do.

I learned a long time ago to call on Jesus when I don’t know what to do. I prayed, “Jesus, thank You for some help. I need help!” My prayer was hardly finished when I heard a knock on the van door. A man with a toolbox was standing there! He said, “I see you need help. I think I know what is wrong.” The van’s engine is under the middle front seat. Without any instruction from me, he raised the seat and went to work. In less than 10 minutes, he said, “Now give it a try.” In one click the engine purred like a kitten.

Immediately, I turned to thank the mechanic. But no one was there!  Thank God for the guardian angels He sends when we pray.

Gerald and Donna Johnson were faithful missionaries in the Philippines.. They ministered in evangelism crusades and media broadcasts and assisted in church planting and compassion ministries. Gerald passed away in 2017. To the best of my knowledge, Donna Johnson lives in Las Vegas.

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Personal Notes. A near perfect summer day in Springfield, MO. Temps in low 90s with breezes ruffling the trees. I’m still dealing with computer problems. A missionary friend with tech skills and my daughter set up a computer for me on Friday, but in trying to use it today, I got a message that I had no internet connection. Please pray that I can master the learning curve. Thanks to Bev Graham for posting for me and to readers for your prayers, notes, and cards. There are a blessing. Peace, jwb

Participating in His Work

From Failure to Reconciliation

Sunday Chronicles # 302 June 12, 2022

Today, let’s talk about the end of one of the greatest, most important, weeks in human history.

We’re going to look in on the disciples on a Sunday night. The portrait is recorded in John 20:19-23. They are gathered, perhaps in the same room where they had celebrated the Passover with Jesus on Thursday night. Think of it! This is Sunday night of Resurrection Day, but you’d never know it by the behavior of the disciples.

They’re meeting in something akin to terror. Fear is tormenting them. Why? Let’s go back and look at the week they’ve just passed through.

A week ago on Sunday, Jesus had entered Jerusalem in a triumphant procession. Things were looking up for the disciples. The crowds were crying “Hosanna” and seemed ready to proclaim Jesus King. And of course, if Jesus set up His kingdom, His faithful friends would receive prominent places in His cabinet. In fact, on Saturday night at the supper in Bethany, they had been arguing about who among them would be the greatest. Jesus had persisted in talking about morbid things, such as dying, but they turned away to their own ideas. Only Mary, Lazarus’ sister, seemed to understand. She anointed Jesus with expensive perfume, an act that some of the disciples considered wasteful. But Jesus defended her…something about preparation for His death. But on Sunday, death seemed far away. A parade, flowers, palm branches, a happy crowd, prophecy fulfilled…the disciples saw only happiness in their future.

  • Monday—Cleansing the temple. Surely, the disciples thought, Jesus was getting ready to announce His kingdom.
  • Tuesday—More parables, more teaching, but little understanding. The disciples had their own scenario all figured out: Why was Jesus delaying His kingdom? THEY were ready.
  • Wednesday—Quiet. No activity recorded. Perhaps soon now?
  • Thursday—The Passover meal, the washing of feet, more bickering about their places in the kingdom, and finally Gethsemane. Jesus agonized and they slept. But by midnight their bubble had begun to burst. He’s arrested and taken to the high priest.
  • Friday—In a predawn trial, Jesus is condemned by the Jews. Peter denies Him. Jesus is taken to Pilate, the Roman governor, condemned, beaten, and finally…crucified. For the disciples, it’s over. Their hopes are dashed. NO KING, NO KINGDOM! NO CABINET! NO PLACES OF PROMINENCE. They’d risked all they had on Him and lost.
  • Saturday—Grief…guilt…questions…REGRET and FEAR. Would they be taken next?
  • Sunday morning—Babbling women, talking about seeing angels. Jesus’ body missing. Was this some new plot?

Mary Magdalene even claimed she had seen Jesus. How silly. He was dead…gone…done for. Hadn’t the women watched Him die? Hadn’t Mary followed Joseph and Nicodemus to the garden and watched as they bound Jesus in grave clothes? How could she be so foolish as to think He was alive?

  • On Sunday night the disciples are together—bewildered, disbelieving, scared. The doors are locked, and they’re still afraid. Then suddenly, Jesus is in their midst! And what does He give?

“PEACE BE UNTO YOU!” Ordinary greeting, but more than that. Jesus said it a second time….

1.   Peace—Into the worst hours of your life, His gift is peace.

When you doubt,
When your plans have all fallen flat,
When you’ve messed up, failed, totally missed what God is doing,
When you thought God was getting you ready for some prominent position, but then you’re knocked down and stomped on?

There’ll be weeks like that, and you’ll retreat in confusion, lock your heart in fear, let doubt take over. But Jesus said, “I’ll never leave you or forsake you!”

Following Jesus in a fallen world can produce stress. You need peace more than anything else. Only Jesus can keep you in peace. The storms will come, the weeks that dash your hopes, the times when God seems to have forgotten you.

But when you’re at your wit’s end, He’ll be there and He brings peace.

2.   Recommissioned—Those carnal guys who were always fussing about “Who’s the greatest?” Peter denied Him; others deserted Him. After three years of seeing miracles, hearing His teaching, they panicked when the test came. Here they were in a room, the doors locked for fear of the Jews, and Jesus comes in and He RECOMMISSIONS THEM TO MINISTRY. No sermons, no I-told-you-sos, just commissioning.

Gives us hope, doesn’t it?

3.   Holy Spirit—His second gift. When you’ve been wrung out by life, seek the refreshing of the Holy Spirit. He’s your trump card! He’s the power that enables you to win over the devil; don’t leave Him to the sanctuary. Let Him be your daily companion, comforter, helper, healer of hurts.

4.   Proclamation—When we’ve been afraid, when we let fear tie us in knots, we stop proclaiming. We deprive others of their chance to have sins forgiven. We are the ministers of “reconciliation.” He has committed that ministry to us, to bring men to God and God to men. “…God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”  2 Cor. 5:18. What greater gift could He give us?

Let Him use you this week to participate in his work of reconciling people to Him.

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Personal Notes: After a cool, wet spring, summer has arrived in Springfield, MO. Temps this week are predicted to be in the mid/high 90s with NO rain.

Thanks to Beverly Graham for posting the blog on WordPress and Facebook. My computer has crashed and a replacement is not yet available.

Thanks for your comments on Facebook, the cards you send, and your prayers. My knees are untrustworthy, making braces necessary. Please ask our father to strengthen them and my right shoulder. My prayers are with you. Peace, jwb

FAITH IN THE MIDST OF LIFE’S STORMS

Note: We didn’t number last week’s blog, but it is a milestone: No. 300! Thanks to all of you who follow the blog and stand with me in prayer.

Sunday Chronicles #301 June 5, 2022

Our story opens near Passover time in first century Israel—the roads are crowded with people going to Jerusalem  to celebrate Passover, an important Jewish holiday.

This year there’s an added attraction. The crowds had heard about Jesus, who healed the sick and even raised the dead. They hope to find Jesus, some to be healed, others to see a miracle.

Jesus and His disciples are on their way, too.

For Jesus, it has been a bad day. First, early on, He learned Herod had beheaded John the Baptist.

Second, He had worked hard all day, teaching the crowds and healing the sick. Late in the evening, He had multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed 5,000 men besides women and children. This act of compassion resulted in a political surge to make Jesus king.

The crowd had totally misunderstood His teaching. They wanted to make him king NOW!

Would His disciples, His best friends, have accepted this plan? Would they ever! They had been itching to get this kingdom going for months now!

Jesus is weary and sad, and the devil’s ultimate temptation—the one Jesus had successfully dealt with in the temptations in the wilderness at the beginning of His ministry—comes again: to take a shortcut to power and go around the Cross. THIS IS THE CARNAL ROUTE. No suffering, only acclaim.

To keep the disciples from getting caught up in a political rally to make Him king, Jesus insists they get in their boat and start across the lake… He dismisses the crowd and goes further up the mountain in the darkness to pray.

The disciples start out—without Jesus, probably more than a little peeved—and they run into a storm on the lake.

Winds blow and waves rock the boat. Three of these disciples, Peter, James, and John, are professional fishermen. They know this lake like the back of their hands, but they’re scared!

It’s never too dark, too bad,
too hard for Jesus to come.

The first point of this lesson is:
1. Storms WILL COME! If you don’t have a storm now, get your boat in shape….

Some say storms mean you’re out of God’s will. That can be true if you are rebelling—like Jonah.

Some people say a storm that a believer faces is sent by the devil…and that’s sometimes true too, as with Job.

Sometimes we bring storms on ourselves by our bad choices… when we spend too much (bankruptcy) or eat too much (health concerns). But JESUS had sent these disciples into this storm.

You may ask, “You mean God sometimes deliberately sends us into a storm?” and the answer is, He does. I don’t know that I can give you all the reasons, but one of the big ones is that He needs us to change our course, to look more to the spiritual and eternal and less to the material and earthly.

That’s one thing He’s trying to do for these disciples. When the storm hits…no matter what its source, ASK GOD what He wants you to learn.

  1. Point 1—STORMS WILL COME
  2. Point 2—Jesus sees and knows right where you are…you are not alone!

While Jesus is back on the mountain praying, the disciples’ boat is in the middle of the lake. Mark tells us “He saw the disciples straining at the oars; for the wind was against them” (Mark 6:48).

Ever feel like you’re putting forth all your effort and getting nowhere? In the dark—in the storm—in the hard times and rough places, HE SEES, He knows how hard it is, He cares.

Maybe you’re in a bad job, or in a painful relationship, or have a desperate financial need… It doesn’t get too dark, too late, too bad…FOR JESUS.

Point 1—STORMS WILL COME
Point 2—Jesus sees and knows right where you are…you are not alone!
Point 3— He will not leave you alone: HE WILL COME.

Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water…Did they expect Him? No, they had a hard time believing and thought He was a ghost.

When it looks impossible…when you can’t see an answer, when it looks like your ship is going under…He Comes!

Perhaps through the Word…
Or His Spirit…
Or another believer…
Or in a vision …
Or He sends an angel…

For Jonah He prepared “A great fish” though Jonah was running away from God. For Jacob, a vision of angels. For Moses, a burning bush. For Job, He gave great faith that lifted Job back on His feet and enabled Him to declare, “I KNOW that my Redeemer Liveth!”

It’s never too dark, too bad, too hard for Jesus to come.

His message is: “Don’t be afraid.” IT IS I. The Greek term is “I AM.” This goes back to Exodus 3:13-14 where Moses tells God, “These Egyptians have many gods. When I tell them God sent me, they are going to ask, ‘What is His name?’ What do I tell them?”

God said, “Tell them I AM sent you.”

He’s the same today….I AM. Everywhere present, HERE, now, with you in the storm.

  1. Storms will come
  2. Jesus sees and knows the storm you’re in
  3. He will not leave you alone: HE WILL COME.

His message is: Don’t let fear overcome you. I AM is here! No matter how bad it is, I AM WITH YOU. He doesn’t say He will stop the storm or take you out of it. He says, “I will be with you. Don’t be afraid.”

To read the full account of this story
John 6:15-21
Mark 6:45-52
Matt. 14:22-27

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No personal notes this week. Maranatha’s internet is still not repaired, and Joyce now has computer problems as well. Your prayers are appreciated.

‘I heard God walking!’

The burly police lieutenant’s earwitness

Personal notes:
A Chamber of Commerce day in Springfield, MO, with a soft blue-grey sky and fully-leafed trees waving in the breeze. My internet has been out all week, due to changes in the Maranatha system. I’m not sure when it will be on again. Editor-friend Bev Graham is posting for me today…an article written for the Pentecostal Evangel in 1988 and updated some this week. Hoping I can be back with you next Sunday. Thank you for your prayers…peace, jwb.

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The halls and waiting rooms on the second floor of St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, were crowded that late September day in 1981. Word had gone out that Rick Gail, a policeman injured in a high speed chase, had only hours to live. Rick had lain in a coma for over a week, since the night the patrol car in which he was riding had been broadsided by a truck traveling without lights at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour.
The impact spun the patrol car around twice, then sent it 80 feet down the street. The truck bounced against a tree, went through a chain link fence, and demolished an 18-inch-square brick pillar before coming to rest partially under a porch.
The first officers to arrive found Rick pinned in a 6-inch space between the steering wheel and door. He had no pulse. They worked to revive him and to free him, but neither effort had succeeded when another officer arrived. “Rick’s dead,” they reported.
The arriving officer, Sgt. Mike Birmingham, was a Spirit-filled Christian and a close friend of Rick’s. “Oh, Jesus, no!” he cried, as he got into the car on the passenger side. As he worked with Rick, he prayed in the Spirit. Soon Rick began breathing, and after about an hour the officers were able to get him out of the patrol car and into the waiting ambulance.
At the hospital doctors found that Rick had a split sternum, crushed rib cage with all ribs on the left side broken and all but one on the right, a broken collarbone, and a massive concussion. His lungs looked like ground meat. The doctor could not understand how Rick could be breathing, yet he was. It was the first in a series of miracles.
Miracles were not new to the Gail family. Rick’s father, Pastor Neal Gail (now deceased) of the First Church of the Open Bible, had brought up his family in a home and church that believed in the power of God.
Only 6 months earlier Rick had experienced a miracle of protection when a criminal surprised in a warehouse robbery had tried to kill him. Three times the robber shot at Rick at close range, missing each time.  This capture brought Rick the highest honor given by the local police force, the Medal of Valor.
 
As family and friends gathered at the hospital following the accident, they knew another miracle was needed. Still in a coma, Rick was placed in intensive care and hooked up to numerous machines. One machine was to pump fluid from his lungs, but for nearly 8 days nothing had happened. Now doctors called in the family; they believed Rick’s death was imminent.
With the family came scores of friends from the Open Bible Church. In the waiting rooms and halls they were praying quietly.
In a separate waiting room about 50 off-duty policemen had gathered. After being told Rick had only hours to live, Rick’s father went in to talk with the policemen.  
He told them how Rick loved them. “He talked about each of you. Although I have never met most of you, I can identify several of you by Rick’s descriptions and anecdotes about you. He would be pleased if he knew you were here.
“Only one thing would please him more and that would be to know you were praying for him. I realize you are from different religious backgrounds, and I do not wish to embarrass any of you; but if you feel you could, I’d like to ask you to stand in a circle, join hands, and pray for Rick.
“If some of you do not wish to participate and want to slip out, I’ll understand. But I know how Rick loves you, and I know he would want you to pray for him.”
The policemen stood quietly and formed a circle. One muscular lieutenant watched them carefully. He had decided that any man who left would have to answer to him. Later he told what happened.
“I had been raised in a more formal church. I didn’t know anything about this standing in a circle and holding hands to pray, but I knew I could do it for Rick. So I watched to see if anyone was leaving.
“But no one left. The room was very still, and Rick’s father was praying. I heard a rustling sound like someone moving quietly. I thought one of the guys was trying to sneak out, so I looked around to see who was moving, determined he’d settle with me. But everyone was standing still.
“I closed my eyes. The pastor was still praying quietly. Then I heard the sound again, like someone walking softly. I looked, but no one was moving. And suddenly I knew. God was there. I had heard God walking! I looked around to see if anyone else knew He was there. Guys I’d never seen cry were weeping and hugging each other. A spirit of love enveloped the whole room.”
The prayer was hardly finished when a nurse came out of Rick’s room and asked for his brother. The family thought the end had come. But she took the brother close to Rick’s bed and showed him the tube coming from the lungs. Bubbles were forming in it.
I think it’s a good sign,” she said. She was right. Soon liquid was being drawn out of the lung cavity, and healing started.
Rick remained in a coma for 2 more weeks. Even when his condition continued to improve, his doctors gave guarded reports. He would never be able to return to police work; he would probably always need oxygen.  
After 28 days in the hospital, Rick left weighing 70 pounds less than he had when the accident happened. He could walk only with assistance. But he began working out, and nine months after the accident he passed the stringent requirements and returned to the work he loved.
But soon Rick found his police work was over. When he and a fellow officer were called to a burning building to rescue children trapped by a fire, Rick’s damaged lungs failed under the pressure of inhaling smoke. He passed out, and his partner had to drag him from the building before he could rescue the children.
Rick realized his injuries might bring danger to others, and he would be a handicap to the men he loved. He knew he had no choice but to change careers.
Since his teen years Rick had known God was dealing with him to be a minister, but he had resisted, telling God he would work for Him on the police force. Now God’s voice was clear and insistent. Working as a policeman was over, but working for God in ministry was only beginning.
Other miracles came as a result of Rick’s miracle. The two officers who reached him first the night of the accident became active Christians as a result of seeing Rick live after they found him dead. They served in various church ministries.
And the conviction in the lieutenant’s voice when he says, “I heard God walking!” leaves little doubt that God visited Rick Gail’s room that night when death gave way to life.

Rick Gail attended Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, and later returned to Cedar Rapids for ministry in the church.

THE ‘DARK’ ANGELS: A Revolt in Heaven

Sunday Chronicles # 299. 5/22/22

Last week I wrote about ‘good’ angels whom God sends to help us. At that time, I did not intend to write more about angels, but yesterday I felt impressed to write about angels who joined a revolt against God and were cast out of heaven. Here’s what the first three chapters of Genesis teach about creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and their disobeying God.

(1) After God created the heavens and the earth, He made humans “a little lower than the angels” (Ps. 8:5; Heb. 2:7,9). He gave them the opportunity to be His friends. God came down to the garden “in the cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8) to walk and talk with Adam and Eve.

At some point in early history, Lucifer, one of heaven’s three powerful archangels, decided to lead a revolt in heaven to make himself greater than God. One-third of the heavenly angels joined Lucifer’s plan. They were cast out of heaven, and under Lucifer’s leadership, became what we call “demons.”

(2) No one lured Lucifer “son of the morning” into sin; his evil intention arose from within; Jesus called him “the father of lies” and “a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). When Jesus’ disciples returned from a ministry trip rejoicing that even the evil spirits were subject to them in Jesus’ name, Jesus replied, “I was watching Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18).

(3) After Satan was cast out of heaven, he still made appearances there. In the book of Job, Satan appears before God and challenges God to take down His wall of protection and blessing around Job. Satan believed that if Job was no longer prosperous and healthy, he would turn against God. God agreed to allow Job to be tested, with one restriction: Satan could not take Job’s life. Job stayed true through illness, loss of his children and fortune, and the criticism of his wife and “friends.” He gave the ringing testimony: “I know that my Redeemer lives!” (Job 19:25).

When Jesus was on earth, He delivered many demon-possessed people who came to Him. On one occasion Jesus and His disciples landed their boat across from Galilee on the shore of Gadara. A naked, demon-possessed man met them on the shore. When he saw Jesus, the demons within him cried out: “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7). The demons begged Jesus to let them enter a herd of swine that was nearby, and Jesus gave HIs permission. As the demons left the man, they went into the swine and caused them to run down the slope in the sea and drown.

The swine keepers ran back to the city and told what had happened. When a crowd gathered, they found the once demon-possessed man clothed and in his right mind, listening to Jesus. The citizens asked Jesus to leave, and the now-sane man wanted to go with Him. But Jesus told him to go home and tell others what great things God had done for him. This story is recorded by Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39; and Matthew 8:28-34.

Demons are not a play thing. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” Jesus says in John 10:10. A Christian girl I knew was invited by friends in her office to stay after work on a Friday and play a new game that was supposed to tell your future. She thought of it as harmless fun. The game began with the leader asking a question. When the needle on the board began to move with no one touching it, the Christian girl became frightened and ran down six flights of stairs in high heels to get out of the building!

Do not attempt to cast out demons unless you are sure the power of God is with you. Acts 19:11-16 tells about seven sons of a Jewish priest who attempted to cast out devils by using the names of Paul and Jesus. Here’s their story:

“God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

“Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.”

Demonic power is growing stronger in our nation. Some of it comes through the use of mind-altering drugs and alcohol; other sources include entertainment and social media which romanticize dark power to our youth. Schools were once safe places; now school shootings have become common. Remember Jesus words’ that demonic powers “come to steal, kill, and destroy.” But Jesus said He came to give abundant life (John 10:10).

Today’s message is not a popular one, but we as a Church need to teach Bible truths to our younger believers. If mature Christians live the abundant life that Jesus offers, filled with peace, joy, and love, this will influence our youth more than anything we say.   

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Personal Notes:

A breezy, cool day with a little filtered sunshine and a somber looking grey sky in Springfield, MO, today. We’ve had huge rains in the last few days and winds strong enough to bring down tree limbs.

Mother Duck on Saturday, May 21

I looked out to check on Mother Duck this morning, and she’s gone! She was there yesterday, and I thought maybe she had gone to find food. But a later check revealed three eggs still in the nest; one is cracked a bit as through the duckling tried to come out but couldn’t. But no shells are there!

We think she had 9 or 10 eggs this year. Did some animal run off Mother Duck and eat the eggs? I don’t know.  If so, why leave three eggs in the nest? I will miss her in the long days when I’m alone.

Thanks for your prayers. Please ask God to strengthen my knees. The rainy, cool weather has not helped them. I appreciate all the kind things so many of you do for me. Praying God’s blessing on each of you…Peace, jwb

Under the Care of Angels

Sunday Chronicles #298. 5/15/22

In the past few weeks, I have read several books about angels and their ministry among us. My interest was sparked by stories in the Old Testament book of Daniel as I noted the appearance of angels in bringing God’s messages to Daniel and his friends. I also learned that in both the Hebrew and Greek languages, the word for angel has the root meaning of “messenger.”

Once in my life I experienced what I believe was help from an angel. It happened in the early 1950s. My dad was pastoring a small church about 40 miles east of Tulsa, OK. I was living with my sister in Tulsa and working as a bookkeeper at Spartan Aircraft. My dad liked to have my help with Sunday church services, so he and my mom often came to Tulsa to get me on Saturday. One hot summer Saturday, we were going back to their home, when Dad decided to take a “shortcut” on a gravel road. He was experiencing heart problems in the heat (the car had no air-conditioning), and neither my mom nor I could drive.

On the gravel road, one of the rear tires went flat. Dad pulled to the side of the road. Mom and I got out of the hot car and sat on the ditch bank. Dad began work to change the tire, but he was sweating profusely and could not get the lug bolts loose. Mom and I tried to help, but the bolts refused to budge. About that time a red pickup came over the hill and parked behind us. A man got out and asked if we needed help. He took over, removed the lug bolts easily, put on the spare, put the flat tire and the tools in the trunk. My dad offered to pay him, but he wouldn’t accept anything. He got back in his truck, turned around and went back over the hill in the direction from which he came! We went on our way wondering if God sent him because we needed help. Was he an angel? I don’t know but he could have been.

Angels were created before humans (Job 38:4-7), and guardian angels are assigned to each of us (Matt. 18:10-11). God uses angels to guide and protect us. While the Bible gives us the names of only a few angels, there are thousands of them (Mt. 26.53; also Heb.12:22). Righteous angels live forever; they don’t die (Lu. 20:36). Neither do they marry or produce off-spring (Mt. 22:30).

The Bible lists only two angels by name: Michael, leader of the heavenly armies who helped God cast Lucifer (Satan) out of heaven when he led a rebellion against God (Jude 9 and Revelation 12:7); and Gabriel, the angel who announced the coming of John, the forerunner of Jesus (Lu 1:19,20) and who visited Mary of Nazareth to give her the news that she was chosen to be the mother of Jesus, the son of God (Lu 1:29-33). Other ancient sources list an angel named Raphael, but there is no mention in the Bible.

The first mention of angels in the Bible is Gen. 3:24. After Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s orders and were sent out of the Garden, “the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the garden,…and he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Gen. 3:24 (NLT) Cherubim are an order of angels usually below the seraphim, sometimes linked with them.

Other Old Testament appearances of angels include those sent to Hagar (Gen. 16:7-14) ( see blog #213, Sept. 13, 2020); in Gen. 18, angels visited Abraham and Sarah to tell them that Sarah would bear a son. Other Old Testament characters who interacted with angels include Jacob, (Gen. Chapters 28 and 32); Balaam, whose donkey saw the angel before Balaam, and the donkey spoke to warn Balaam (Num. 22).

My favorite Old Testament story of the ministry of angels is that of Elijah running from wicked King Ahab who wanted to kill him. Elijah ran until he was completely exhausted, and fell asleep under a bush. Twice angels awakened him and fed him “bread baked over hot coals.” After the second meal Elijah had enough strength to continue running until he reached Horeb where God met him.

God understands that these human bodies wear out and when we run to Him, He provides nourishment in our hour of need.

Thank God for guardian angels watching over us to comfort and protect us.

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Personal Notes: A dreary day with heavy clouds and bouts of rain showers in Springfield, MO, today. But I have a bit of good news:

Mother Duck has returned to the same area she chose for her nest last year and now has 8 or 9 eggs in it! Her nest is in a quiet place next to the foundation where it is protected from the weather. She is hidden from people passing along the sidewalk by a large flower pot. I’m not sure when the eggs will hatch.

My son is coming later today to help with business and for him and my daughter Melinda, along with caretaker Becky, to discuss how best to take care of me! Pray for God’s help in making wise decisions.

Please continue in prayer for our nation. We are in a time of turmoil and change, with demonic power on the rise. Keep praying for peace in Ukraine and for Christians living in nations where they are suffering for their faith. Join me in asking God to send a revival, and let it begin in our own heart. Peace, jwb

Hannah and Elkanah: A Mother’s Day Love Story

Sunday Chronicles #297, May 8, 2022

Hannah crossed the Bibical stage only once, briefly, but her influence reached across centuries. She was a woman of exceptional love who endured great pain, but by prayer and devotion to God, she turned that pain into praise.

Hannah was married to Elkanah, a man she loved and who loved her deeply. In a culture when marriages were usually arranged by parents, love was not always present. But the love Hannah and Elkanah had for each other increased their suffering. More than anything in the world, Hannah wanted to give Elkanah the gift that every Jewish woman desired to present to her husband—a son. But months turned into years, and still Hannah did not conceive. Elkanah tried to solve the problem by taking a second wife, Peninnah, who promptly bore him both sons and daughters. This only added to Hannah’s distress because Peninnah taunted her about her inability to bear children.

Hannah’s desire for children was not only for herself. Because she loved Elkanah, she wanted a child as an expression of that love. At religious festivals, when Elkanah served food to his wives and children, he always gave Hannah the best part. When the hurt of her rival’s taunting became so intense that Hannah could not eat, Elkanah tried to comfort her by saying, “Hannah, why are you weeping? Why don’t you eat? Why are you downhearted? Don’t I mean more to you than ten sons?”’ (1 Sam 1:8).

Elkanah did not understand a woman’s emotions. Hannah knew Elkanah loved her, and she yearned to give back to him a gift of her love: a son. Her despair became so intense that after the meal she slipped away to the tabernacle. In bitterness of soul, she wept and prayed, asking God for a son and making a vow that she would give him to serve God all the days of his life. Eli, the high priest, saw Hannah’s lips moving, but not hearing any sound, he assumed that she was drunk and reprimanded her. Hannah assured him that was not the case; that she was pouring out her anguish to God. Eli then blessed her, saying, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him” (1Sam 1:17).

Within a year, Samuel was born. Hannah explained her vow to Elkanah, and he proved his love again. By the law, he could have voided the vow (Num. 30:6-8) but his joy in her love was so great that he allowed the vow to stand. As soon as Samuel was weaned, possibly by age 3 or 4, they took Samuel to the tabernacle to serve under Eli. For a mother to leave a child so young would be hard, but Hannah’s faith prevailed, and she gave Samuel back to God’s service with great joy. (Read her song of praise, 1 Sam. 2:1-10.) Perhaps the separation was tempered somewhat by the fact that Hannah was now bearing more children. She eventually was the mother of 3 more sons and 2 daughters.

Meanwhile Samuel grew up in the presence of the Lord. Each year when Elkanah took his family to observe the religious festival, Hannah took Samuel a new robe as a token of her love. She set an example for Samuel to become a man of pure and noble character. He served Israel as a prophet, priest, and judge; he also anointed its first two kings, Saul and David. Both of them, though chosen by God, had blotches of sin in their lives; but at Samuel’s farewell (1Sam. 12:1-5) no one could bring any charge of wrong doing against him. What a testimony his life was to his mother’s love, her prayers, and her giving into God’s hands the deepest longings of her heart.

Hannah’s example teaches us to take the desires of our heart to God and trust Him to work His will. Pain will be involved, but God can turn that into ultimate good. “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom. 8:28). Our part is to love God; His part is to work for good on our behalf.

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Personal notes

Dear Readers: The internet here in Maranatha Village went out May 3, last Tuesday. Since I had no internet connection, I could not use my computer to write a new Sunday Chronicles for today. I got the connection back about 2 hours ago. While my internet was out, I asked Beverly Graham to look up articles from the past that could be recycled. We selected this one to repeat on this Mother’s Day. It was first printed in 2018. If you read it then perhaps you will enjoy it again.

Thank you for your prayers for me. Health issues continue to be a struggle. Also, the suffering of people in Ukraine and those living in nations where Christianity is forbidden weigh on my heart. Please continue to pray for them….that their needs will be met and for continued strength to honor God.

Spring rains this week have kept puddles in our lawns. Birds, including one pair of cardinals and one of doves, along with robins and others that I don’t know by name, are busy building nests now that the trees are more fully in leaf. They are a joy to watch except when they fight over a favorite place at the feeder.

I appreciate your cards, e-mails, and your comments on Facebook. May God continue to bless and keep you in His loving care. Peace, jwb

Doing Right in Times of Change

Sunday Chronicles, #296. May 1, 2022

Change has been happening since Adam and Eve disobeyed God – but the speed of change has accelerated. Digital communications have made the dissemination of information, whether true or false, almost instantaneous. For those of us who are older, any change can upset our schedule; I’ve even had difficulty adjusting to the spring time change!

I often heard my mother tell about when my dad drove his first Motel T Ford home. He yelled at Mom to open the gate so he could drive the car under the shed on the side of the barn where he had kept his wagon. She stood holding the gate and watching as he pulled under the shed and began to yell: “Whoa! Whoa!”

Apparently, the Model T didn’t understand horse language because it kept going until it ran through the back fence. Finally, Dad thought to turn the motor off. It took him a while to get used to change.

In my Bible reading, I am now reading the book of Daniel. As a young man Daniel experienced drastic change: being taken from his home in Jerusalem to Babylon, headquarters of King Nebuchadnezzar, ruler of a large empire.

Daniel is a descendant of David. In 605 B.C., God’s chosen people Israel, had turned away from Him. They followed false gods, offering their children on altars of fire. After a horrible siege when many Jerusalem inhabitants starved to death, God allowed Jerusalem to be taken over by King Nebuchadnezzar, the powerful ruler of the Babylon empire.

King Nebuchadnezzar also took young men of the royal family to serve in his court (Dan. 1:3). They had to be good looking and well educated. Those chosen included Daniel and his friends Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.

Can you imagine what change was like for these young men to be taken from their homes, go to a strange nation whose language they must learn, and serve an ungodly king? Could they be true to the God of Heaven in such a drastic change of environment?

Here’s how Daniel records his first problem: “The king told Ashpenaz, head of the palace staff, to get some Israelites from the royal family and nobility—young men who were healthy and handsome, intelligent and well-educated, good prospects for leadership positions in the government, perfect specimens!—and indoctrinate them in the Babylonian language and the lore of magic and fortunetelling. The king then ordered that they be served from the same menu as the royal table—the best food, the finest wine. After three years of training they would be given positions in the king’s court.

“But Daniel determined that he would not defile himself by eating the king’s food or drinking his wine, so he asked the head of the palace staff to exempt him from the royal diet. The head of the palace staff, by God’s grace, liked Daniel, but he warned him, “I’m afraid of what my master the king will do. He is the one who assigned this diet and if he sees that you are not as healthy as the rest, he’ll have my head!”

“But Daniel appealed to a steward who had been assigned by the head of the palace staff to be in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: “Try us out for ten days on a simple diet of vegetables and water. Then compare us with the young men who eat from the royal menu. Make your decision on the basis of what you see.” The steward agreed to do it and fed them vegetables and water for ten days.

“At the end of the ten days they looked better and more robust than all the others who had been eating from the royal menu. So the steward continued to exempt them from the royal menu of food and drink and served them only vegetables. (Dan. 1:3-16, The Message).

This was the first hurdle, successfully passed. But more change was coming– all the captives had to pass a 3-year course in Babylonian language and literature, but Daniel and his friends were found to be 10 times wiser than all the experienced magicians and enchanters in the whole kingdom put together (Dan. 1:20). Daniel had already proven himself to the king by telling him his dream and giving him the interpretation, when all the Babylon wise men had failed.

Daniel’s adaptation to change continued: he opened his window toward Jerusalem and prayed for his home city and nation three times each day.

His enemies concocted a plan for the king to sign a law that forbade praying to any god except the king for 30 days. Punishment for disobeying was to throw the offender in a den of hungry lions. When the king learned that Daniel was the guilty party, praying to the God of heaven, he was distraught, but a law signed by the king of the Medes and Persians could not be changed after it was signed. He spent a miserable night, and early the next morning went to see what had happened to Daniel. He called out to Daniel, and Daniel answered:  “My God sent his angel, who closed the mouths of the lions so that they would not hurt me.” (Dan. 6:21).

By After Briton Rivière – intaglio-fine-art.com, Public Domain

Daniel navigated change by holding fast to God’s Word and depending on God to be faithful. Nothing will come your way that God, in you, cannot handle. May we follow Daniel’s example.

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Personal Notes: A cloudless sky with bright sunshine in Springfield, MO …The kind of day my mother would have loved. Much of my younger years we lived in “Tornado Alley” — an area of Oklahoma where tornadoes come through on their way to Kansas and further north. Mama liked the song:

Oh, the land of cloudless day,
Oh, the land of an unclouded sky,
Oh, they tell me of a home where no storm clouds rise,
Oh, they tell me of an unclouded day.
(by Josiah K. Alwood, ca.1885)

Spring rains have made the grass green and lush; mowers can’t keep up. Dandelions are blooming in my postage-stamp size lawn. The birds continue to visit and hop on the patio. They help keep the lizards away.

I’ve felt your prayers this week. Thank you for helping me through rough days. I have another medical appointment on Tuesday, May 3, and friends from Alabama planning to stop by on Wednesday, May 4. I pray the peace of God will be with you and that May will be a good month for all of us.

Reports from inside Ukraine say Ukrainians continue to put up strong resistance. Pray for food supplies and other needed items to reach them. Pray for the Russian troops to withdraw and go home! Remember also Christians in nations where they are being persecuted and killed for following Jesus. Peace, jwb

Giving: The Route to Joy

Sunday Chronicles # 295. April 24, 2022

I first saw the little girl on the playground of the school where I was teaching. On my way into the building one morning I noticed her standing forlornly to one side watching a game of jump rope. The neatly dressed girls running the game would not let her play. Her hair was uncombed, her shoes minus the laces, and her dress several sizes too large. I concluded that she had probably got herself ready for school.

Feeling sorry for the child, I stopped and spoke to her. My arms were loaded with books and visual materials to use in my classes. As I talked to her, I dropped my purse. She picked it up and offered to carry it to my classroom for me. I accepted her offer and thus began a morning ritual.

Every morning she was waiting for me when I arrived at school. Rain or cold didn’t keep her from her post to carry my purse inside. I began to bring her little surprises – a stick of gum, a new pencil, a barrette to keep the hair out of her eyes…but whether I brought anything or not, her smiles welcomed me to school every morning.

One day near Christmastime, she met me at the car with a smile bigger than usual, and held out a grimy little fist. “Mrs. Booze,” she lisped, “today I brought you a gift.” She opened her fingers to show me a piece of hard candy, sticky from the warmth of her hand, and coated with dirt. Probably she had dropped it.

I tried not to take the candy. I told her I would like for her to have it, but one look at her face made me realize she would be hurt if I refused her gift.

Thinking I would keep the candy until later and throw it away, I took the sticky glob in my hand, and we began our passage through the halls. But I was not to get off so easily. In my room she lingered, waiting for me to eat the candy and tell her how good it was. Finally, I ran out of excuses, and there was no way, without devaluing her gift, that I could refuse to eat it. So I did, and I bragged on its flavor and sweetness. Contented, she went on to her class. Plainly, she felt better, more important, for having been able to give me something!

That morning I caught a glimpse of an eternal truth: We humans have a need to give. Giving is a growth process for the inner man, and when we fail to give, we stunt our spiritual development. Giving allows the promises of God to become effective for us.

Let me hasten to say that gifts are not always money. In fact, the most precious gifts take many forms: words of encouragement, smiles of acceptance, praying with someone who needs healing, watching the clouds with your child while he sees images of God. Giving is not just man’s way of raising money, but God’s way of raising men in His likeness. When you recognize that giving is a growth process designed by God to develop you into the person He desires you to be, you can appreciate opportunities to give. You’ll never be happier than when God permits your giving to meet another person’s need.

All the gifts we are capable of giving are like the lump of dirty candy—it does us more good to give them—indeed to have them to give—than the good they do the receiver. We’re the ones blessed when we give. God Himself said so! “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap…” (Luke 6:38). “God loves a cheerful giver…” (2 Cor. 9:7)

Stinginess turns the soul inward to focus on self. Giving is the true route to joy. We need each other, and we need to give. Look for ways to bless others and see how God blesses you!

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Personal Notes: A rainy day in Springfield, MO today. The grass, mowed about three days ago, already needs a repeat. Wildlife seems to be booming: visitors this week included a skunk, a huge turkey, squirrels, birds, and lizards! The skunk had the good manners to stay out in the green space across the parking lot; birds, squirrels, and the turkey came for food. The small lizards seem to think the patio is their property! Is there such a thing as a lizard repellent? If not, someone needs to invent one!

Thanks to those of you who write comments on FB. I appreciate hearing from you. I’d like to answer each one, but a painful right shoulder makes typing difficult. Please continue to keep me in your prayers.

A painful shoulder is such a minor thing compared to the war in Ukraine, persecution of Christians in many nations, and the increased lawlessness in our own nation. But our God is able to help in every situation.

The curtain in the temple in Jerusalem separated the Holy of Holies from the Holiest Place, which the Chief Priest entered once each year to offer blood of lambs for the sins of the people. When Jesus died on the Cross, that curtain was torn from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51, Luke 23:45). This opened the “Mercy Seat” to all of us. Let us make use of the privilege Jesus’ death made available to all of us. Peace, jwb

THAT OTHER DISCIPLE…First Witness of the Resurrection

Sunday Chronicles #294 – Apr. 17, 2022

The eastern sky was growing light that Sunday morning in Jerusalem. That meant the Sabbath was over and a new week beginning. Three women, dressed in dark robes, were walking quietly through the streets, whispering to each other. Their leader, Mary, was known as Mary Magdalene because she was originally from Magdala, a small fishing port on the Sea of Galilee. The Gospels do not tell how she met Jesus, only that He had cast devils out of her (Mark 16:9; Luke 8:2). That was likely early in Jesus’ Galilean ministry.

From the Gospels, we know Mary and a few other women traveled with Jesus and assisted in His ministry. Mary had control of her own money, a rarity for a woman in that time, and she used it to help support Jesus’ ministry (Luke 8:2-3). At the cross that Friday, she stood with Jesus’ mother and another woman named Mary. They were accompanied by John, the “disciple whom Jesus loved.”

We know these truths from the Gospels. Some non-Biblical sources say Mary had been a dancer in Rome, receiving good pay for her performances, until the devils controlling her ruined her career. I have not been able to verify that, but I do know that once the devil controls people, he seeks to kill them. Another woman, Johanna, the wife of Herod’s steward, is also mentioned as a follower of Jesus. It seems likely that Mary Magdalene and Johanna had met in Rome, since this detail is recorded only in Luke 8:1-3.

On Friday, the women had watched as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who first came to Jesus at night (John 3:1-21), hurriedly prepared Jesus’ body for burial. After they bound His body in burial clothes, with added spices, they placed their Lord in a new tomb. As Mary Magdalene and the “other” Mary watched, the men rolled the big stone in place to block the entrance to the tomb.

Once the sun went down, Sabbath rules were in effect and religious Jews could do no work. The women spent that Sabbath in mourning and questioning. Was Jesus not the long-awaited Messiah? Had they been deceived? How could one, who had raised others from the dead, die himself?

On Sunday morning at daybreak, they walked to the tomb, carrying more spices to place on Jesus’ body. They discussed how they could move the stone to get into the tomb. As they came closer to the sepulcher, they could see that the stone had already been moved. Mary thought that Jesus’ enemies had broken into the tomb and stolen His body. She immediately turned to run back to Jerusalem to tell Peter and John. The other two women, the other Mary and Salome, stayed at the tomb (Mark 16:1).

Peter and John rushed to the tomb, but all they saw was empty grave clothes. Mary Magdalene remained outside, weeping. She stooped down to look inside, and saw two angels. The angels asked why she was weeping and she replied, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him” (John 20:13). The fact that she was conversing with angels did not seem to register through Mary’s grief. She went back into the garden, lost in her sorrow.

Outside she saw Jesus, but she did not recognize Him through her tears. She assumed He was the gardener. “Sir, if you have carried Him away, tell me where you have laid Him, and I will take Him away” (John 20:15). Then Jesus spoke her name: “Mary.” It was the same voice she had heard when He commanded the devils to leave her, the voice she had listened to in Galilee as He taught about the kingdom of God. In awe, she answered, “Master!” and worshipped at His feet (John 20:17).

But Jesus had a job for her! The news of the Resurrection must be spread.

Mary, a woman, was commissioned to go tell the other disciples, who were locked in a room for fear of the Jews. She had honored her Lord by giving of her time and her money. Now she would carry the truth of His Resurrection to those who would take it to the world.

Last to leave the tomb on Friday, she was first to receive the Resurrection message on Sunday. Quite a disciple, this Mary of Magdala!

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Personal Notes: A cool, cloudy day on the outside in Springfield today —totally unEasterish. But inside, we have the joy of Jesus’ Resurrection to take the shadows away.

Birds are enjoying the feeder. I saw a dove yesterday, and I’m hoping that means something good…as my sister believed. A huge turkey came to eat what the smaller birds knocked out of the feeder. No sign of Mother Duck.

Thanks for the cards you send and your prayers. My physical condition continues to deteriorate; I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be able to live alone even with help. Please pray for God’s direction for future change.

Pray for wisdom for our leaders concerning the Ukraine war. May the God of the Angel Armies bring a peace settlement so the war will not turn into a nuclear disaster.

May God bless each of you and give you peace. The things you do for me are much appreciated! jwb