Maturity in Christ

You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food…

So let us stop going over the basic teachings about Christ again and again. Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding. Surely we don’t need to start again with the fundamental importance of repenting from evil deeds and placing our faith in God. You don’t need further instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And so, God willing, we will move forward to further understanding.

Hebrews 5:12; 6:1-3 (New Living Translation)

At some point in the Christian life, one must move past the basic teachings of the faith in order to mature. The writer of Hebrews tells us that there are meatier lessons for us to learn if we could only move past the foundations of the faith. So much of the church in America is still stuck on the basics and this has stagnated its spiritual maturity.

So why haven’t we moved on to the deeper things of God?

I think it is because we’ve lost trust in God’s revelation, His word. Instead, we have made our reason and experience our primary authority. Our rational understanding can only take us so far. We can only “make sense” of so much, then we reach our limit. The only way to go deeper is to trust that what God has revealed in His word is wiser than human wisdom. Trusting God’s revelation takes us further into the mind of Christ than simply trusting our own understanding.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:5-6

The Wesleyan Quadrilateral is one way to think about the four main sources of truth we use as we process our faith. Scripture is the first and primary authority for faith and practice. Picture a pyramid with scripture at the very top point. Experience, Reason, and Tradition are the other three (the three points at the bottom of the pyramid). These three are used by God to help us bring greater understanding, but they never supersede God’s revelation in scripture. God’s wisdom is different and better than human wisdom.

When people get stuck on the basics of the faith, they start arguing about silly theological minutia. Because they haven’t moved on to maturity in their relationship with the Lord, they participate in a kind of imitation of maturity, a counterfeit maturity, by arguing about things that don’t matter. Paul warned Timothy about this. He said, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels” (2 Timothy 2:23). Paul warned Titus of the same thing only with stronger language.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.

Titus 3:9-10

It’s one thing to raise questions because you are curious and want to learn. This kind of person has a posture of teachability. But there is another kind of posture that is obstinate. This person raises questions not because they want to learn but because they want to raise doubts, look smart, and feel important. If too much of this is in a church community, the church is never allowed to move beyond the basics and into the deeper things of God. Like the writer of Hebrews says, by this time, a person with this much theological knowledge should be a teacher and, instead, their lack of spiritual maturity still has them drinking milk.

Spiritual maturity isn’t about the acquisition of knowledge but about intimacy with the Lord the application of revelation. It’s less about how much one has “figured out” and more about how much one has surrendered their mind, will, and emotions to the Lord. It’s less about theology and more about trust. And trust will take you much further than your reason and understanding. Reason can only take us so far, then we must trust God’s revelation of Himself to us. And the embrace of revelation comes from intimate time with the Lord, time in prayer, time reading God’s word, time listening to the promptings of the Spirit, and obedience to God’s direction.

Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3

Sometimes we read Psalm 23 and we can think of the Lord as a gentle but weak shepherd. Can you picture it? He’s guiding the sheep along quiet waters and gently caring for them as they lie down in green pastures. It’s a very calming picture, but we might not immediately call this kind of shepherd “powerful.”

Yet, as we continue to read the Psalm, we run into the next verse which says, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” And since we don’t come from a shepherding culture, we may have no idea what it’s talking about here. The rod was for the protection of the sheep. It was used to fight off predators. The staff was meant to corral the sheep. The hook at the end of the staff was used to pull sheep back into the flock.

A modern, modified way to read verse 4 would be, “I will fear no evil, for You are with me; Your shotgun and Your cattle prod, they comfort me.” In other words, the Psalmist was comforted by the Shepherd’s power to protect him and power to correct him. This kind of power is comforting. It means we don’t have to try to muster up strength that we don’t have. In John 10:11 Jesus identifies Himself as the “good shepherd.” And the only way for a shepherd to be a good shepherd was for him to be a powerful one.

We see this truth in the early life of David before he became king. David was about to fight Goliath. King Saul told David that Goliath had been a warrior from his youth. David proceeds to give King Saul his resume. And the only thing on his resume was “shepherd.” David went on to explain that his training as a shepherd was as good or better than Goliaths training as a warrior.

But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:34-37

In order to be a good shepherd, David had to be a powerful one. You can’t be a good shepherd and a weak one. They are incompatible. John 10:11-13 goes on to explain that a hired hand will run away when a predator comes after the sheep, but a good shepherd will stay and be willing to lay his life down for his sheep.

So, next time you read Psalm 23, remember that the Lord is our shepherd, and though He is gentle with us, He is not weak. Our Good Shepherd is powerful! Part of what it means to be a good shepherd is to be a powerful one. His power to protect us and His power to correct us brings us rest and comfort. We don’t have to live in fear because He is near.

Full of Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…

…The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Luke 10:1, 17-21

Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go ahead of him, town to town, doing the same ministry He was doing. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had arrived and was well within their reach. They were to heal the sick and cast out demons. Then they were to report their experiences back to Jesus.

Don’t forget who Jesus is sending to do this. These are fishermen not Pharisees. These are not experts in the Law. These are not theologians and Bible teachers. These are farmers and stay-at-home moms. These are tax-collectors and women with questionable backgrounds. These are blacksmiths and shepherd boys.

When they return, did you notice that they return with joy. Doing ministry in the power and authority of Jesus was not burdensome to them. Though they didn’t take a purse or bag, though they were like sheep among wolves (Luke 10:3-4), they still returned with joy! And they were completely shocked that demons submitted to them in Jesus’s name.

Demons didn’t submit to the religious leaders and teachers of the law. Demons didn’t even submit to the high priest. Demons didn’t submit to the magicians, mediums, or fortune-tellers. And yet, in the name of Jesus, demons submitted to these no-named, low-status disciples. It was astounding! And it wasn’t because of them, but because they were given the delegated authority of Jesus.

Jesus reminds them to keep their focus in the right place. He doesn’t want them to be enamored with the reality that they can cast out demons. Jesus knows that focusing on the enemy is just a waste of time. He’s not worth that kind of focus. Instead, Jesus wanted their focus to be on the Lord and that they walk in His authority because of their salvation.

And notice how excited Jesus is for the 72 disciples returning from ministry. Scripture says Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” Can’t you just see the huge smile on Jesus’s face as each of them tell their stories of healing people, delivering people from demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He would have been beaming like a proud papa.

Then Jesus turns toward heaven and thanks the Father that He made all of this possible. The Father had revealed the power and authority of His Kingdom to bankers and bakers, wine-makers and carpenters, and not to the religious elite. The Father was pleased to have the enormous power and authority of heaven flow through people of low status, people with little more social status than children, instead of those the world considered learned and wise. And this reality brought Jesus so much joy!

And it still brings Him so much joy today! He’s still doing this very thing today!

As a follower of Jesus, you were designed to carry the authority and power of Jesus. You were created to see the impossible become possible. God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Before Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, Jesus talked about how joy would come when their prayers were answered.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

That is how prayer was designed to work. We ask in the name of Jesus–the delegated authority of Jesus–and we receive what we asked. When that prayer gets answered right in front of us, we are filled with joy by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus was. We were meant to proclaim the Kingdom in the authority of Jesus. We were meant to see the sick healed and the oppressed set free from the demonic. We were designed to operate in the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

And when we see people come to know Jesus, when we see people healed, when we see people set free, we get filled with joy! There is so much joy in seeing God’s Kingdom break through on earth as it is in heaven. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, joy is also a fruit of supernatural ministry. It’s the fruit of seeing God move powerfully through our prayers.

Recovering from Discouragement

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9

Joshua had just been given the job of trying to fill Moses’s shoes. Anyone want that job? Joshua was assigned the task of leading the Hebrew people into the Promised Land. This land was flowing with milk and honey, but it was also filled with giants and armies. The Lord tells Joshua to be strong and courageous, to not be afraid and not be discouraged. The reason? God will be with them wherever they go.

And this reveals a secret to bouncing back from discouragement.

Have you ever hit the wall of discouragement? Maybe work became overwhelming. Or someone spoke a harsh word to you. Or you got into a fight with your spouse or family member or friend. Something was supposed to go right and instead it went horribly wrong.

Discouragement is like the brick wall that you don’t see coming. You’re just cruising along, enjoying life, and then you slam right into it unknowingly. Discouragement feels like a weight around your neck. It is demotivating and de-energizing.

So how do we recover from discouragement?

Sure, there are all the normal bits of advice. Exercise. Get outside. Go do something fun. Other people try to combat discouragement by using their favorite escape. They escape into video games, food, alcohol, etc. But I have found that these are only temporary in their relief.

Next time you feel discouraged, I want you to try this. Go to God in prayer. Describe to Him the situation that is so discouraging. Lay it all out. Then conclude with something like this: “Father, I feel discouraged right now, but I know You are with me. I know that I am Your son/daughter and You love me. I know what You say about me is true. And right now I need encouragement. Would You send me some encouragement today/this week?

That’s it! Ask God to encourage you. Have you ever done this? I know it sounds too simple, but, I am telling you, it is powerful! I have done this over and over again and watched as God brought encouragement to me in the most unique ways. After asking God to provide encouragement for me, I’ll get a random email or Facebook message. I’ll get what seems like a random word of encouragement from a source I wouldn’t expect. And I believe you will too.

The Lord commands us, “Do not be discouraged,” because He wants to provide encouragement for us. He doesn’t want us seeking our own methods of soothing our wounded soul. He doesn’t want us trying to escape life. He wants us returning to Him in our need and trusting that He is our ultimate provider of everything…even encouragement.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 

James 1:2-5, 17

The toxicity of “mansplaining”

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

Romans 12:14-17

I am a strong advocate for women in leadership. My mom was raised to be independent, and my wife and sister are both strong leaders. I hope that my daughter follows in their footsteps. At my church, from the very beginning, we’ve had women in leadership. And our Sunday morning speaking team has women on it who we regularly hear from. Additionally, we as a church helped to launch an anti-trafficking organization that helps young women who are survivors of human trafficking.

Because of my strong advocacy for women, and because I am a follower of Christ, I will teach my daughter to never use the term “mansplaining.” This is one of those toxic terms that has been created by our culture recently. This made-up word came about because of the regularity of men speaking down to women. So when a man over-explains something to a woman simply because she is a woman, he is “mansplaining.”

But there are serious problems with this judgmental term. It is essentially an attempt by a woman who feels like she is experiencing condescension from a man to be condescending back toward him. It is fighting condescension with a kind of mocking condescension in return. It is a sort of weaponizing of perceived victimhood. As a follower of Christ, can you see the problem here?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” And the Bible is clear, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17, 21). Being condescending to someone who is being condescending to you doesn’t solve the issue. It only makes it worse.

Another major problem with this term is that if a man is over-explaining something to my daughter, there is no way for her to know the reason he is doing it. There is no way for her to know his true motivations. Unless there is hard evidence, she can’t know if he is over-explaining things simply because she is a woman, or because of a number of other reasons.

But what other reasons could there be? Let me offer a few:

1. coaching/teaching: when a person over-explains something to someone who is learning something new

2. correcting: when a person over-explains something to someone who is in error and needs coarse-correcting 

3. personality: when a person over-explains things to everyone around them simply because that is their personality

4. condescension: when a person over-explains something because they believe the person they are talking to is an idiot 

5. mansplaining: when a man over-explains something specifically because he is speaking to a woman 

I want to talk to my daughter about the fact that both men and women over-explain things for a variety of reasons. There could be reasons for over-explaining that actually come from a good place in a person’s heart. They could be attempting to coach, teach, correct, or it could just be part of their personality.

Even if their motivation for over-explaining is poor, they could be doing it out of a sense of intellectual superiority and not because my daughter is a woman. I have seen plenty of women speak condescendingly out of a sense of superiority. This kind of arrogance is not gender specific.

If a man over-explains something to my daughter and she immediately thinks it is because she is a women, that would be her reacting out of an insecurity and not from a place of emotional health. And from that insecurity can come judgmentalism in all its ugly forms.

My daughter is really smart. People will over-explain many things to her–things she knows better than they do–for the rest of her life. I want her to expect it and not be offended by it. I want her to respond to it with grace and humility, not assuming the worst about the person doing it (whether it is a woman or a man).

This is why the term itself (mansplaining) is toxic and really shouldn’t be used by followers of Christ. It is a judgmental term that is full of mockery and spite and too often comes from a place of woundedness and not from a place of spiritual and emotional health.

God’s Special Possession

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

1 Peter 2:9-10

If you are a follower of Christ I want to encourage you today that you are a member of a chosen people. You are a part of a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession. You are adopted into the family of God. You are a part of a Kingdom that is not of this world but that has started breaking out in our world. Now, you are the people of God. Now you live in grace and have received God’s mercy. You are a beloved child of God, a co-heir with Christ of this glorious inheritance in the Kingdom of God.

It is so easy to forget these truths. This is particularly true if we see life through the warped lens of rejection. If at a very young age we were rejected by friends or family, it can be particularly difficult to see the world clearly. We begin to see everything colored by rejection. Because we were once truly rejected, we now see rejection everywhere we look even when it’s not there.

A person who looks through the lens of rejection struggles to receive feedback because they assume they are being personally rejected. This kind of person can struggle to show grace to people around them, assuming that every mistake someone else makes is somehow about them being rejected. If someone forgets an appointment it suddenly means the worst case scenario; it means the friend intentionally avoided them. Everything that can appear as a small slight becomes a major issue.

When a person looks through the warped lens of rejection long enough, they will find themselves hosting the spirit of rejection in their lives. The whole assignment of a demonic spirit of rejection is to make sure the person either is rejected or at least feels rejected as often as possible. A spirit of rejection will tempt a person to fold in on themselves in despair and depression. Or, it will tempt a person to lash out and reject others before they can be rejected again.

No matter how many times you tell a person with a spirit of rejection that they are accepted, loved, treasured, safe, welcomed, etc., they struggle to believe it. They usually have been listening to the lies that they are rejected for so many years, they struggle to believe the truth. This is when they must hear from the Lord and not just from people.

They need to be set free from a spirit of rejection not only through deliverance prayer but through a rebuilding of the truth. They need to be saturated in the truth of the Bible and discover how God sees them in order to tear down the lies that they so readily believe. It has to be more than just encouraging words. Nice words alone won’t breakthrough. It has to be encounters with Lord–truth encounters and power encounters.

Do you struggle with rejection? With feeling rejected all the time by most of the people around you? It could be that you are believing a lie. It could be that the rejection you experienced when you were young has warped the way you see the world. Maybe people aren’t rejecting you even when you feel rejected. Your feelings are lying to you, and the enemy is lying to you. Maybe it’s time to discover what God says about you and how He feels about you. Maybe it’s time to saturate your thinking with the Word of God.

Residential and Occasional Gifts

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11

There is some confusion in the church about the gifts of the Spirit and how they operate. One point of misunderstanding revolves around gifts of the Spirit like healing and miracles. The comment usually goes like this, “If someone has the gift of healing, why don’t they just walk around and go into hospitals and just heal everyone.” The logic is that if they have the gift, they should be able to use it whenever and wherever they want. People often think of “gifts” as no more than supercharged abilities that we can control at will.

But this shows a lack of understanding of how many of the gifts of the Spirit work. All spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit are not always fully controlled by the will of the person who has them. It is true that some gifts are “residential” in nature in that they are always able to be accessed and used by the person who has that gift. Examples of a residential gift would be the gift of mercy, gift of hospitality, or gift of teaching. In nearly every setting, a person is able to access this gift and use it for the glory of God. The gift seems to “reside” in the person in a way that doesn’t depend on a special request of God. The person is a kind of reservoir for the gift.

Other gifts are “non-residential” and are sometimes called “occasional” gifts by theologians. By occasional they don’t mean temporary or rare. They mean that these gifts show up in particular occasions and can’t be fully controlled by the person who has this gift. Examples of “occasional” gifts are gifts of healing, gifts of miracles, gift of prophecy, etc. Those who have operated in these “occasional” gifts usually have to request that the Lord move through them in that way for that particular situation. The gift is there, but it is not released automatically. It must be released by God through the person. Rather than a reservoir, the person is simply a conduit of the gift.

We could say that a person with one of the non-residential gifts has to wait on the Lord and has to invite the Lord to use them as a conduit in that moment. When we say they “have” the gift of healing or miracles or prophecy we don’t mean they own the gift and control it at will. We mean that we have seen the Lord regularly use them as a conduit of that gift. And as a person grows in a non-residential gift, they are used more and more often to be a conduit. It happens more regularly.

With a residential gift, a person can use it all the time. Growing in that kind of gift doesn’t mean that it happens more regularly but that, when it is used, it is used more powerfully. Meaning, the effect of the gift when it is used grows in impact.

We could use modern technology as an analogy. Having a residential gift is like having the song on your hard drive. Having a non-residential gift is like having to pull it down from the cloud. Either way, you have access to it, but it’s a different kind of access.

Knowing this distinction about the different gifts is important so that we can learn to cooperate with the Spirit in the operation of the gifts given to us. Different gifts require a different kind of cooperation. When we know this, we can wield these gifts for the sake of the Kingdom of God and for the glory of the name Jesus.

Hearing Clearly

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.

John 3:8

A common misconception is that as we grow in our ability to hear the Lord speak to us, He speaks louder. There is definitely a learning curve when it comes to hearing the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit. It takes time and it takes risk to step out in faith when we believe He is telling us to do something or say something. But as we grow in the discipline of hearing His voice, it’s not so much that He gets louder but clearer.

What I mean is that the volume doesn’t always get turned up. It’s more that the other thoughts in our head start to carry noticeably less weight. It starts to become more clear when it is the Holy Spirit and when it is our own thoughts.

In fact, growing in our maturity doesn’t mean the Holy Spirit speaks louder but that we will obey even when He speaks softer. Maturity is when we will obey even the most gentle impression from the Spirit without needing a loud, booming thought interrupting our own thoughts. We become like a highly sensitive weather vane, easily moved and directed by the slightest breeze of the Spirit.

This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Acts 8:27-29

When we think about a child listening to the direction of a parent, the same principles apply. If a parent has to repeat the directions loudly, multiple times, it means the child’s obedience is lacking. Yet, if the child responds quickly with a simple and soft request from the parent, it is clear that child has developed the discipline of obedience (and likely has a good, loving relationship with their parent). The child doesn’t need the parent to be loud. Even through the noise of a crowded room, that child can clearly discern the voice of their parent making the request. It’s not about volume but clarity.

Explosive Power

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…

Ephesians 1:18-20

If you’ve been watching SpaceX launch their experimental rockets, you’ve seen a mixture of success and failure. And the failures are spectacular explosions. Thankfully, no one is on the rockets when they explode. But they are good reminders as to the power and danger of rockets that launch us to the moon and to Mars.

Rockets that can send us into outer space are basically bombs. The only difference is that the explosion is funneled in one direction allowing it to press pass the force of gravity and into space. The goal is to control the explosion throughout the flight. Yet, we’ve seen SpaceX rockets explode on the launch pad, in mid-flight, and even just after landing.

As I watch these trial flights to space, I am reminded that the Holy Spirit has that kind of explosive power. And that power dwells within us. The power that raised Jesus from the dead is contained inside of us (Romans 8:11). You can see how that could be used for incredible good. It could also be used for incredible harm. Likewise, it can cause an implosion of someone’s life if the structure of their character is not sound. A rocket with insufficient structural integrity is a bomb waiting to happen.

The same is true for us. God has to be able to trust our integrity, the structural soundness of our character, before releasing too much power through us. All of the power is there, residing in the Holy Spirit who is in us. But all that power can’t be released all at once without creating damage. God must strengthen our character to be able to handle the release of power. When the structural integrity of our character is sound, all of that power can move in one direction allowing us to be a rocket launching to new heights.

If you want to operate in more power, it might not be that you need more power. It might be that you have plenty of power inside of you waiting to happen. But in order for God to release it without destroying you in the process, He may need your character to strengthen. And this happens primarily by full surrender of our life and quick obedience to His direction.

Aaron’s Birthday (Part II)

Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Hebrews 1:14

One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Acts 10:3

Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me.

Acts 27:23

I shared a little about what my family was doing on Aaron’s Birthday a few days ago, but I didn’t share everything. Missy and I took the kids over to my parents’ house and we had lunch together. The kids played with Teagan, Aaron’s youngest, and I visited the columbarium at the cemetery that holds Aaron’s cremated remains. Later, Missy and I took the kids to Washington Monument State Park just northwest of Frederick, Maryland. One of my favorite overlooks is there. Then we finished the day with good food at Black Hog BBQ and ice cream at Baskin-Robins.

But that wasn’t the best part of the day. God gave our family a unique gift the morning of Aaron’s birthday this year.

When Emily woke up that morning, she came downstairs, and the first thing she said to Missy was, “I saw my first angel!” When Emily woke up the morning of Aaron’s birthday, she saw an angel circling above her bed. She described yellow, shimmering wings, a long robe that covered down to its feet, and no face. She told me it was about as big as me. She could immediately discern that it was an angel and was not afraid of it.

Then, she spoke to the angel and said, “Go tell Jesus to tell Uncle Aaron ‘Happy Birthday!'” And as soon as she said that, the angel left. I believe the angel went and did just that. I love that Emily’s first thought when seeing an angel wasn’t about herself but was about Uncle Aaron. What a precious gift on such a sad day!

God was so kind to send an angel just for us as a sign of His comfort and faithfulness. And how kind of God to allow the angel to be revealed in plain sight to Emily. I believe it was there specifically to allow Emily to tell Uncle Aaron “Happy Birthday!”

And we have seen this over and over again when it comes to Aaron’s death. God has continued to show up in supernatural ways and has continued to speak clearly into this situation. Back when my brother’s accident happened, I wrote a blog post about how talkative God was. God’s kindness continues to amaze me in the midst of grief.

So now all three of my kids have seen angels at different times. And I pray that this only continues for them. That they would continue to know the reality of the unseen world right at our fingertips–the spirit realm that is so actively participating in our lives. Thank you Jesus!