It’s not just a book. It’s an experience. I know it sounds like the tag-line for something Disneyesque, but that’s how Joel J. Miller’s latest book Lifted by Angels: The Presence and Power of Our Heavenly Guides and Guardians made me feel.
I didn’t just read it, my soul felt mystically reawakened by the ancient truth of these angelic hosts that surround us each day and night. I know that sounds a strange statement coming from an Evangelical raised in Fundamentalist circles who’s supposed to fear anything that sounds like Roman Catholicism, but there it is.
Joel makes the persuasive case from Scripture and the first seven centuries of church history, that we ignore a careful study of angels at our own foolish peril. He lifts the “gossamer veil of this material life” to show us a realm of darkness and light, wonder and worship, power and humility — the realm of angels that mystically intertwines with our own.
Joel calls Lifted by Angels a “meditation.” Rightly so. As I read, I felt as if I’d been transported to a secret garden just outside an ivy covered, stone church, hand-hewn and weathered by the centuries. There beneath a leafy bower, as I meditated on fresh perspectives and pithy reminders of these ancient celestial brothers, I felt a growing sense of ease. It was as if I had thought the odds good for a Kingdom win prior to reading. But now my eyes had been lifted to see countless, flaming warriors behind, above, and beside who ensure that our Lord’s Kingdom cannot fail.
Lifted by Angels itself lifted my soul and gave me courage to continue forward regardless the darkness that threatens to block the way. We are not alone, nor ever can be. Throughout the book, I often felt as if I were being reintroduced to my “eager, older brothers.”
Lifted by Angels reawakens a sense of the mystical so often lost in Western Christianity, confined as it is by the scientific method, step-child of the Industrial Revolution. In my parents’ era, if they couldn’t measure it, it failed to qualify. In today’s Information Age, if we can’t Google it, we view its existence as suspicious. Yet Joel’s book reminds us that angels not only exist, they are often segueing between our physical and their spiritual realm with an ease that at once humbles and terrifies.
As in Joel’s other books, there is a precision in his writing, evidence of a careful thinker and a diligent and talented wordsmith. There’s something comforting in Joel’s straightforward style. It’s elegantly written prose that pricks the heart at the will of the Spirit – and, no doubt, through the hands of the angels.
Artistic readers will appreciate his appeal to ancient iconography and artistic representations throughout early church history to illustrate how those closest to the time of Christ perceived the presence and function of angels among us. He manages to unify what is usually a stodgy study — church history — with a vibrant, experiential theology that reverberates to the core of our soul’s daily existence.
The many references to ancient Church fore-bearers outside my usual purview left me appreciating the richness and diversity within Christianity. Evangelical readers will find the following topics especially stimulating for thinking outside their theological boxes:
- The connection between the Eucharist and the Divine food of the Angels.
- The credence early Church fathers gave to testimonies of angelic activity.
- The image of the good angel and bad angel perched on our shoulders — there’s more Biblical support than you might think.
- The possibility that our guardian angel is assigned to us based on personality and our spiritual needs, perhaps even resembling us in appearance and voice:
Our angels are not randomly assigned. They are matched with us because they are the best match for us. (110)
My greatest takeaway from Lifted by Angels was the reminder of the very real relationship that I have with a very real and specific angel. I, for one, can’t wait to meet him. If not in this life, then in the one to come.
We have a real relationship with our angels. They are not abstract ideas; they are persons, and persons can be harmed and offended by sin. (117)
Thanks to Joel’s final chapter “Final Companions” I’m actually excited about encountering those who wait to take me through to the other side. Maybe not in a rush to get there, but eagerly waiting. It’s safe to say that after reading Lifted by Angels, I’m a little more excited about eternity. It’s not often a book other than Scripture itself can do that.
Not only is our death the end of our journey here; it’s the final milestone in their [angels] service. The angels rejoiced when God entered our world, and they rejoice again when we enter his. (146)
Pick up a copy of Joel’s insightful book Lifted by Angels: The Presence and Power of Our Heavenly Guides and Guardians today for personal reflection or suggest it as an intriguing study in your church or small group setting. I can’t guarantee you’ll feel what I did, but it will change you.
But what else would you expect from being Lifted by Angels?
(The FCC requires me to tell you I did get a copy of this book for free from which I wrote this review. I am pleased to inform you that no opinions were actually harmed in the making of this review by the free copy that I received.)