Some six or seven years ago on Valentine’s Day I was duped. Our girls were younger then (5 and 3), and we enjoyed celebrating special days on the calendar, particularly those that helped us get through the long winter months. We still do.
This particular day we ate breakfast at Café Marie, where they offer delectable French toast smothered in whipped butter and topped with strawberries and powdered sugar. As if this confection weren’t enough, we skipped over to Krispy Kreme afterward, back before it closed down and became another indulgence—Del Taco—for a tasty treat, sort of an after-breakfast dessert. (I think every meal, not just dinner, should be followed by dessert.)
After Krispy Kreme and after much cajoling by the ladies in my life, I relented and agreed to a trip to the Humane Society, where a Hollywood animal trainer was performing. Now, I really don’t care much for animals of any type. Though I can appreciate God’s creativity and how much fun He must have had in forming them, I’m just really not interested in their proximity.
After the presentation, Cindy wanted to show me some dogs they’d apparently visited before. I suppose the Humane Society is a warmer alternative to the zoo in the dead of winter. About this time I began to realize I’d been entrapped by not only my beautiful wife but also by my seemingly innocent preschoolers. Well, despite that I don’t care much for animals, I became intrigued with a Doberman-hound mix aptly called, I would later discover, Duey.
So we brought Duey home that Valentine’s Day and he quickly became a part of our family. I hadn’t prior considered the benefit of a protective sentry, especially those evenings I had rehearsal or meetings. Though his ears aren’t cropped and he usually looks a little dopey, his presence and his ferocious bark can ward off any would-be intruders.
I hadn’t realized how accustomed I’d gotten to having a guard dog until the week he went missing, when he escaped from our backyard and moseyed up into Michigan. In scaling our five-foot wooden fence, he used a strong upper body I envied, but he didn’t usually go far. Though we lived in a reasonably safe neighborhood, I was hesitant that first night leaving Cindy without Duey.
We did get him back, although we no longer have him now. Last summer a couple we know adopted him from us; they would have more time and patience with him since we’d become busy with Micah and the boy we’re in the process of adopting. I’ll never forget the picture I received on my cell phone of Duey sitting shotgun on their boat on a lake near their cabin. Surely, Daddy Warbucks has erased any memories of Miss Hannigan’s home. (I’m not suggesting Cindy was Miss Hannigan, though from time to time she has related “Little Girls.”)
For someone who doesn’t care much animals, I just devoted quite a few words to one. Well, I’d been thinking about Duey since we began discussions about our Supernatural series at ECOB, knowing we’d be talking about angels. See, one of their responsibilities I most appreciate is protecting God’s people from danger.
If you make the Lord your refuge, if you make the Most High your shelter, no evil will conquer you; no plague will come near your home. For he will order his angels to protect you wherever you go. —Psalm 91:10-12 nlt
While Duey was certainly intimidating, a genuine force to be reckoned with are the unseen but very present angels posted at my house. Especially during my commute back and forth to Eaton from Toledo, I envisioned a squadron of angels protecting my wife and children at home, while a contingent accompanied me on the road. Even now as I sit in my living room and can see out my front windows, I’m aware of angelic hosts stationed both inside and outside. “No evil will conquer us; no plague will come near our home.” (It’s not that I can see them in an I-see-dead-people sort of way or even sense their presence as much as I’m convinced of God’s promise in Scripture.)
A couple of books were integral to my understanding better how angels defend believers against the onslaught of demonic tactics—and about prayer too, for that matter. Though Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness are fictional, his illustrations of warfare between angels and demons are scripturally sound. Since reading those novels, I have a heightened sense of the reality of evil in the world in which we live and the truth of valiant warriors commanded to protect us. Battles fought between angels and demons are not waged in the cosmos far from earth, as the U.S. conflicts on middle-eastern and near-eastern soil are—allowing most Americans to disregard the veracity of human causalities. No, we walk in the midst of the battleground: bombs exploding and machine guns constantly firing. There is no demilitarized zone; there are no safe bunkers. Yet we’re protected on every side by a heavenly convoy.
For our pastors’ retreat last weekend, we met at a large farmhouse somewhere in Indiana. (I’m not sure where; I just followed Google Maps’ directions.) I was remembering Guarding Tess, a hilarious movie featuring Shirley MacLaine as a widowed former First Lady who wants a particular Secret Service agent (Nicolas Cage) to head her bodyguard detail. Her guarded home was similar to where we retreated. Tess is a cantankerous woman who makes her detail crazy with all sorts of whims and demands, including a golf outing in freezing temperatures, and she particularly enjoys testing Cage’s character. At the house in Indiana, I imagined the legion of angels that swarmed the unsuspecting farm community. I mean, four pastors and their wives, not to mention the faithful prayers of so many on our behalf. (I’m certain God knows we need extra protection, since as spiritual leaders we, and our families, live each moment in the crosshairs of our enemy. That’s why we covet your prayers.) Whether it was for the coming together of minds to innovate strategies for reaching the lost and helping believers grow spiritually or simply the revitalizing promise of an overdue nap, angels had received their orders to protect us. And many were stationed at the houses where our children remained behind. I imagined as in the movie that when we caravanned into the city for dinner an angel captain uttered something like, “Hey, we’re on the move. You stay here, the rest of us will proceed to Olive Garden.”
I encourage you to be more aware of the angels surrounding you. Not in the sense of worshiping them, but to be grateful to their General for protection. He is, in fact, referred to as the Lord of Hosts, or as the New Living Translation frequently renders it: the Lord of the Angel Armies.
In the same sense we need to be more perceptive of other spiritual realities, including demonic troops that aim to penetrate our angelic defense not always by force but often by subtler means. See, we disarm our protectors when we personally escort evil into our home. We allow these special ops forces entry through our TVs and computers, through the books and magazines we read and music we listen to. There was some truth in that horror flick Poltergeist. But while ghosts entered through a flat channel on their set, we obliviously invite a host a terror through our active channels. The Apostle Paul reminds us to be vigilant.
Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. … Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. —Ephesians 6:13,18 nlt
When Micah was littler than he is now and he was just starting to smile, sometimes he would stare off towards the corners of the room and grin. We kept wondering what had transfixed him. Now, although there’s no scriptural basis that children are keener to the spirit realm, I often visualized an angel that looked like The Rock (Dwayne Johnson) squishing his face and making coochy-coo type animations for the pleasure of my baby. Surely angels are not indifferent mercenaries that serve begrudgingly—as Nicolas Cage’s character. They have a choice whether to serve. A third of them long ago chose otherwise. And the two sides have been battling it out ever since. We are the sons and daughters of the Lord of Hosts and are targeted for abduction. But God who is in us is greater than our enemy and those who are with us will ultimately prevail.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord … —Isaiah 43:10 esv