Author: Melanie Newton

September 11, 2017 Melanie Newton

Angels, feathers and needing comfort for grief. When you hurt, trust Jesus to give you comfort. MelanieNewton.comDuring our weekly Bible Study, I listened as a woman shared about her Christian friend whose godly mother had recently died. This sorrowing woman was grieving and needing comfort. To help with her grief, she drew from something she had heard in the culture—that her mother had now become an angel and was present with her, communicating with her. As we talked about this, looking into what was true or not and how to help someone grieving like that, our discussion encompassed three different issues. 1. Do Christians become angels when they die? 2. Can our loved ones in heaven see what is happening in our lives on earth and communicate with us? 3. When grieving, how do we turn to Jesus for our comfort rather than traditions that make us feel good but draw us away from Him?

Though very emotionally charged, these are not heavy doctrinal or denominational issues. They deal more with practices and the outworking of our faith. How we deal with grief can make us draw closer and more dependent on our Lord as the supplier of our needs, or it can draw us away to other things that are emotional substitutes for Him. Since a life of faith is a life of dependence on the living Christ and His Spirit in us, we should consider graceful, biblical responses to these three issues that crop up when a loved one dies.

As we do this, we will go through the 3-step process: 1) Dwell in truth you can know, 2) Humbly accept what you can’t know or don’t understand, and 3) Discern using the Word of God to determine truth from error and to respond graciously when someone is grieving and needing comfort.

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Do Christians become angels when they die?

Blame this popular idea that people become angels when they die on the classic 1946 American movie It’s a Wonderful Life, in which a guardian angel named Clarence occasionally refers to events of his life (and death) as a human being on earth. Actually, it goes further back than that—to an 18th century Swedish mystic and philosopher named Emanuel Swedenborg who taught that all angels and demons were once humans.

What is the truth? The Bible is adamantly clear in the distinction between angels and human beings. Never will you find any verse saying that good humans become angels when they get to heaven. Angels are beings created by God (Colossians 1:15-17) and are entirely different from humans. They are God’s special agents to carry out His plan and to minister to the followers of Christ (Hebrews 1:13-14). There is no indication that angels were formerly humans or anything else—they were created as angels.

Our greatest confirmation of this is Jesus Himself. When Jesus was raised from the dead, He did not appear to His followers (all 500 of them who saw Him at once 1 Corinthians 15:6) as an angel. He appeared in His glorified human body. The same kind we will receive after we die. After we die, we go to be with Christ (2 Corinthians 5:8), then we get a new human body.

  • Philippians 3:20-21 — “…we also eagerly await a savior from there [heaven], the Lord Jesus Christ,who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.” His body, not an angel.
  • 1 John 3:2 — “…we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.” We will be like Him, not like an angel.

One more strong evidence: Elijah and Moses were recognizable on the Mount of Transfiguration as themselves to Peter, James, and John (Mark 9:2-8). They had not transformed into angels. And, if anyone would have, it certainly would have been Moses, right?


Can our loved ones in heaven see what is happening in our lives on earth and communicate with us?

Let’s take the first part of this concept to its logical conclusion—a dead parent, sibling, child, or other can see what you are doing on earth. Most of the time when this is said, someone is referring to the public things that you don’t mind people seeing. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want my parents in heaven to now see me in the bathroom, having an argument with someone, or during intimacy with my spouse. It’s hard enough knowing that God sees those things.

The Bible doesn’t clearly tell us if people in heaven are able to observe what happens on earth. Some passages given as proof that they can are speculative but not a clear teaching of truth.

  • Hebrews 12:1 —The great cloud of “witnesses” are the people whom God commends for their faith in chapter 11 who are now in heaven. They are witnesses not in watching us but in the value of living a life by faith, especially faith in Jesus. Their lives bear witness that they did it. Therefore, we can do it, too.
  • Mark 9:2-8 — Moses and Elijah were prophets of God during their earthly lives, meaning they delivered God’s messages to His people. In this instance, they are delivering a message of encouragement to Jesus about what would soon happen to Him in Jerusalem. There’s no other indication that they were aware of anything else happening on earth.
  • Luke 16:28 — Though this is a parable not a historical narrative, in it the rich man referred to his brothers whom he had known before death were unbelievers. The passage never says that the rich man could see his brothers.
  • Revelation 6:10 — The tribulation martyrs ask God how long will it be before He avenges their deaths. They remembered what happened to them. It doesn’t say they could see people on earth. It simply says that they knew they deserved justice and desired the Lord to take action.

Now the second part—can they communicate with us? The Bible does teach that we on earth are not to communicate with the dead (Deuteronomy 18:10-12). Doing so is going against God’s will. People in heaven are without sin and will not do anything against God’s will. Your dead loved one will not try to communicate with you. We are also not told in the Bible that they can act on our behalf.

Those things that you may have heard someone refer to as “signs your dead loved one is communicating with you” (seeing a white feather, a penny, stopped clocks, phones ringing once, etc.) are simply normal events. Attributing these signs to a loved one communicating with you are just superstitions, not truths. The danger is they can draw you away from Jesus and toward seeking such “signs” during your grief.

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.”

HERE’S THE “I DON’T KNOW” WE MUST HUMBLY ACCEPT — WE CANNOT KNOW IF OUR DEAD LOVED ONES CAN SEE ANYTHING HAPPENING ON EARTH. That is a secret thing the Lord has not revealed. We can know that our dead loved ones will not try to communicate with us from heaven because they will not disobey God.

When grieving, how do we turn to Jesus for our comfort rather than traditions that make us feel good but draw us away from Him?

Our God claims to be a God of comfort, promises it and fulfills that promise.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5 — God is “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” We are to turn to Jesus first for our comfort and let Him choose how He does that for us.

What does Jesus use to comfort us in our grief? He uses people, reminders, memories, and His own love in our hearts (Romans 5:5). People gives us hugs, listen to us as we share about our loved one, cry with us, and help us when we are weak. They do this on Jesus’ behalf.

Memories of our loved ones can be stimulated by sounds, sights, places, smells, and many other reminders associated with that person in our lives. We can take comfort from those stimulated memories and thank God for them. The Holy Spirit pours out Jesus’ love in our hearts so we can inwardly feel loved by Him during those times of grief. Counting on being loved by our God gives us comfort.

Jesus can also use His angels who are servants of God and described by the author of Hebrews as, “ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14). Angels are present around us and can influence things happening so as to minister to us. They have that authority under Jesus. If you feel someone close to you, it’s not your dead loved one’s spirit. It is likely an angel Jesus has sent to be near you at that time. Give the credit to Jesus, who is Lord over all. Giving that credit to someone or something else is only looking to a powerless substitute for Jesus and His Holy Spirit living inside of you, the greatest power in the universe who loves you dearly. When Lazarus died, Jesus personally went to be with Martha and Mary, cried with His friends, and then did something to help them in their grief. He will do the same for you.


Responding graciously when someone needs comfort for grief

If you are with someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one who is now in heaven and tries to gain comfort from thinking of that person as now an angel helping them and communicating with them, how do you give comfort without perpetuating the lie? That’s tough. You do it graciously, affirming their grief and pointing them to a true source of comfort. Something like this:

“I feel how much you are hurting since your mother’s death and how much you miss her. While you loved your mom so much that thinking of her as an angel gives you comfort, the Bible teaches this truth that God is giving her a wonderful resurrected human body like Jesus has, not an angel’s body. You have wonderful memories of your mom that will crop up through places, smells, sights, and other reminders of your life with her. And, Jesus will comfort you in your grief through those memories, through people He sends to cry with you and help you, through His Spirit pouring love into your heart, and through true angles who will be near you to minister to you in amazing ways during this sad time. Stay focused on the comfort you will receive from Jesus and let your heart just be completely hugged by Him.”

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Angels, God’s Ministering Spirits

Do we become angels after we die?

Can people in heaven look down and see us?

August 10, 2017 Melanie Newton

Taming the Look-Imagine-See dragon method of Bible Study.

I have been so saddened in recent months as I’ve seen prominent respected Christians pronounce their interpretation of certain scriptures based on a “look-imagine-see” method. What do I mean by “look-imagine-see?” Someone looks at a verse or passage, imagines what they want it to say, and then sees in their mind what they have imagined through twisting word meanings and interpretations. The result of their teaching feels a lot more comfy and cozy with the prevailing cultural views but is not intellectually honest. And, it really boils down to basing truth on someone’s opinion.

Cultural influence on Bible interpretation feeds this “look-imagine-see” method. You look at the passage, imagine a way for it to fit a particular cultural slant, then you see what you want to see. Look-imagine-see. Many types of false teaching through the years have started with this kind of “look-imagine-see” method. Once it starts, it’s like a fiery dragon burning truth in its path. The “look-imagine-see” method leads to error in any discipline based on truth. The brave thing to do is tame the dragon, at least as far as our own approach to Scripture is concerned.

Although this “look-imagine-see” approach to Scripture has been around for centuries, giving rise to heresies left and right, Darwin introduced the “look-imagine-see” methodology into scientific thinking as he invoked imagination into evolutionary scenarios. He visualized a bear evolving into a whale and human embryos reenacting their reptilian past. When looking at the lower portion of the axial skeleton and seeing this as the place where the embryo is yet to grow during spinal development, those who followed the “look-imagine-see” methodology would “see” a transient “tail” in their imaginations to reinforce their evolutionary bias. But there never is a tail. The embryo grows down to its coccyx, which begins anchoring developing muscles of the pelvic floor.1

But, evolutionary science is not the only modern user of the “look-imagine-see” method. Bible teaching Christians are using this as well to fit in with culture, to please academics who want to “improve” what the Bible teaches with their own ideas, or to apologize for Christians’ bad behavior and make it better by making Christians wrong in their moral stance. Using the “look-imagine-see” method of Bible interpretation can quickly become a fire-breathing dragon.

So, how do you tame the dragon?

1. Avoid the “look-imagine-see” method.

Well, the best way is to avoid the “look-imagine-see” way of looking at any verse in the first place. You do that by following the inductive process of Bible Study: observation (what the text says), interpretation (what was the author’s intended meaning—to him and to his audience that would read or hear it), and application (how to live this out in your life). That is the best way to study the Bible. Look at what’s there. Learn what it means and teaches you. Then, live it out in your life.

Actually, a long-time friend of ours who is now with Jesus used to say there were five steps to the inductive process: observation, observation, observation, then interpretation and application. We can get very lazy in the observation part. We begin to read into the Scriptures what we want to see there instead of making sure we see what IS there.

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2. Approach the Bible as sufficient, not needing our “improvement.”

The second way to tame the dragon is to approach the Bible as the breathed out Word of God as God intended it to be and not subject to human “improvement.” In it, we find what our God considers right and wrong across all nationalities, time periods, cultures, and levels of civilization. As Paul writes in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “all Scripture is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work.” Not liking what it says about any particular issue does not give us license to change it to be more comfy for everyone to accept.

I don’t know about you, but I want to make sure I am basing my faith on what IS in God’s Word, not something I have heard before and not something I am imagining to be there. So, approach the Bible as sufficient, not needing our “improvement.’

When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart’s delight, for I bear your name, Lord God Almighty. (Jeremiah 15:16)

3. Discern truth from error by using the whole Bible, not just pieces.

The third way to tame the dragon is discern what we read and hear by comparing it with the complete revelation of God’s Word (the whole Bible). We can’t extract pieces of it (that is, a verse or group of verses) and build our foundation on that. Nor should we build our faith on experiences and feelings. There’s junk out there about God and “what He thinks” so it’s important to really get to know the God of the Bible and how to live our life in Christ truthfully. The Holy Spirit uses the Scripture we read and study to teach us about our God so we can know truth and dwell in that truth. Dangerous teaching comes from picking and choosing what you consider to be “truth.” All false teachers through the centuries have taken advantage of people who were not dwelling in the truth portrayed in the whole Bible.

Taming the dragon

Tame the “look-imagine-see” dragon. Don’t let yourself approach the Bible with that mindset. Stop listening to others who do. As Paul instructed the Colossians, “See to it that no one…” (Colossians 2:8) and “Do not let anyone…” (Colossians 2: 16.

Just say, “NO!”


1 Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E., M.D. 2016. Major Evolutionary Blunders: Haeckel’s Embryos Born of Evolutionary ImaginationActs & Facts. 45 (11).

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Truth—the Prescription for Healthy Living


July 30, 2017 Melanie Newton

Satisfied By His Love. Let Jesus satisfy your heart with the goodness of His love. Graceful Beginnings books for anyone new to the Bible

My daughter and I were talking recently about the quest for satisfaction that drives women in our culture and how it is becoming painfully clear that achievement and success have not delivered the payoff of personal satisfaction that women seek. In the brief reflective spaces sandwiched between their frenzied commitments, women are now realizing that external accomplishments do not satisfy their deepest inner longings. That may be your experience. So, the search for satisfaction continues.

What many women don’t realize is that they are created by God with a built-in spiritual thirst for a relationship with Him. This spiritual thirst is as real as physical thirst, but the way to have it satisfied is not as obvious. Yet, the desire to satisfy this thirst draws women toward the spiritual arena. I was that woman when I was invited to join a small women’s Bible study group. There, I met Jesus in the pages of the Bible. As my relationship grew with Him, I recognized a deep sense of being satisfied. My longing to know God was being fulfilled. It still is.

A relationship with another human cannot satisfy a thirsty heart. Only God can, and His plan to do that included coming to earth to take on a human body and to live as a man among us. Enter Jesus. As the radical rabbi, Jesus treated women as no man had ever before treated them. His warmth, personal attention, tenderness, sound teaching, and compassion toward women were revolutionary. He openly demonstrated His love for each individual He met—both men and women—for whom He would ultimately die. Jesus promises that a relationship with Him will satisfy a woman’s thirsty heart. Every woman can be satisfied by His love.

That’s the theme of Satisfied by His Love, my newly released “Graceful Beginnings” Bible study for anyone new to the Bible. A group of seven special women joined me in spring 2017 to work through this study and make it the best it could be. I am so grateful for their contribution and their confidence that this study will change the lives of many women as they get to know Jesus’ love for them.

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I love how the writer of Psalm 103 lists the many ways that God satisfies our thirsty hearts.

“Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all His benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” (Psalm 103:2-5)

Every woman who comes to Jesus will find that He satisfies her desires, her built-in spiritual thirst, with good things. Forgiveness. Healing. Hope for dire circumstances. Freedom from bondage. Assurance of being loved. Compassion. Add to those, the need for truth. Jesus does that and more! Here are some examples from the study:

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Compassion

When He met a widow whose only son died (Luke 7:11-17), Jesus knew and felt her deep hurt and fear about what would happen to her. He acted on her behalf and compassionately gave her son back to her.  She was crowned with love and compassion. To be crowned with compassion means to be surrounded with it so that you have a sense of God’s favor and protection. A satisfied heart senses God’s favor and compassion.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Truth

A Samaritan woman (John 4:5-42) grew up knowing only half-truths. And, because she was deficient in truth, she could not have a proper relationship with the true God. Her need for spiritual life remained unsatisfied, then Jesus entered her life. He satisfied her need for truth and love by giving her Himself. In a few brief moments, she was taught truth that changed her life forever. A satisfied heart can stand firmly on the truth that brings real life, real love and fulfilling relationships.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Forgiveness

Jesus took notice of a “worthless” woman of the town in Luke 7:36-50. Because she was held in bondage by her sin, she could not have a proper relationship with the true God. Her need for spiritual life remained unsatisfied. Jesus entered her life. He recognized her faith in Him, cleansed her of sin, and gave her a chance for a new life. Like this woman, we don’t just need a teacher. We need a Savior who comes in and does for us what we can’t do for ourselves—forgiveness. The complete and continual forgiveness we receive by faith in Jesus satisfies our thirst for forgiveness, which motivates us to want to live a life that pleases Him. A satisfied heart basks in being forgiven.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Hope

In Mark 5:21-43, Jesus stopped His public ministry to heal two women who were beyond human help and without hope. One was socially dead; the other was physically dead. One touched Him and was healed without a word; the other He touched and spoke to when she was healed. One was an outcast; the other was loved within her family circle. Jesus lovingly took notice of both of them. He satisfied their immediate needs and gave them hope for the future. A satisfied heart receives hope and comfort to go through what seems to be insurmountable odds.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Freedom

Mary Magdalene was once held in miserable spiritual bondage (Luke 8:3). Then, Jesus came into her life, satisfied her immediate need for freedom from bondage and gave her abundant life. Out of love and gratitude for His grace, she freely chose to travel with Jesus and care for His needs with money, effort and time. Mary followed Jesus to Jerusalem and was present at the cross. Responding to His grace out of love and gratitude, she was willing to love Him, obey Him, and serve Him with her life. God wants you to relate to Him on the basis of His grace, so that your obedience is based on His love for you, your love for Him, and gratitude for what Christ has done for you. You have been set free from whatever spiritual bondage you have experienced. A satisfied heart thanks Him for this wonderful freedom.

Jesus Satisfies Your Heart with Assurance of His Love

When Jesus met Mary and Martha, they needed neither healing nor a cleaned-up reputation. They weren’t destitute or in dire circumstances. Yet, they still needed assurance of His love for them. His love didn’t allow Martha to stay focused on the wrong things (tasks & choices) so He confronted that and gave new direction (Luke 10:38-42). His love defended Mary when she was criticized by His own disciples (John 12:1-11). His love gave her respect and commendation instead. His love allowed both of them to learn from Him. When Lazarus died, Jesus assured Martha and Mary of His love by going to be with them and then raising their brother back to life. He accepted their different ways of thanking Him. Their satisfied hearts based in the assurance of His love.

Being Satisfied

Do you need forgiveness? Jesus does that. Do you need healing and hope for dire circumstances? Jesus does that. Are you in bondage to something? Jesus frees you from bondage. Do you need assurance that you are loved? Jesus crowns you with His love and compassion. A satisfied heart can go forward with complete assurance that your God knows how to love you well!


Satisfied by His Love-New Testament women study-let Jesus satisfy your heart with His goodness.


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July 24, 2017 Melanie Newton

5 Questions to Ask about Video-Driven Studies. Choosing a Bible Study series.

You are now at part four of the 4-part “Choosing a Bible Study” series. In this series, I’m showing you how to choose the next Bible Study for yourself or for your group. If you missed the other posts in the series, then you best be catchin’ up. You can check those out here.

1. How to Choose a Bible Study

>>In this post, I showed you some questions to ask and some general things to consider as you choose a Bible Study for yourself or for a group. I suggested that you choose a scripted Bible Study, not someone’s popular book, and that you make sure it uses the inductive method: observation, interpretation, application. You also need to choose a study that matches your familiarity with studying the Bible and that interests you so you will want to do it.

2. Select Your Next Joyful Walk Bible Study

>>In this post, I described the Joyful Walk Bible Studies available from my website. Details included the Bible content covered by each study, the theme of each study, what you can expect to learn, and the number of lessons included.

3. New to the Bible? Start with Graceful Beginnings

>>In this post, I spoke to anyone who is new to the Bible—whether or not you have been a Christian for a while.  The whole thought of reading and studying the Bible won’t be as daunting if you start with studies designed especially for anyone new to the Bible, like the Graceful Beginnings books.

Now, onto today’s topic!

Are you still feeling a bit hesitant about leading a study?

Is the temptation to get a video-driven study strong because it sounds so much easier?

But, is it the best thing for your group?

Wonderful gifted teachers have made their messages available through Bible Studies that have accompanying videos. You can always learn something from gifted Bible teachers. But, when it comes to choosing a Bible Study for yourself or for your group, here are some questions to ask and things to consider before choosing a study that requires watching a video to complete it:

Question #1: Does the study lead everyone to dig into the Bible for themselves?

If a video-driven study depends on you getting most of the “truth” through viewing the video, the accompanying lessons may lack adequate questions covering the passage or topic. This kind of study makes it easy for anyone to become lazy at personal Bible Study and just depend on getting spoon-fed by a gifted teacher.

So, look at the personal study portion to see if it covers the passage well. Is the personal Bible study time actual study of the Bible according to the inductive process? Or, does it contain mostly thought and reflection questions?

Can someone learn from the Bible passage through the study without watching the video at all? If yes, sounds like it might be a good study. If no, avoid it.

The video should be like “icing on the cake” not the cake itself.

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Question #2: Will the cost for purchasing the videos and books be easily shared by the group members?

Video-driven studies are convenient but can be expensive. You must still purchase a workbook for every participant plus acquire access to the videos.

Question #3: Will the technology be a frustration for you?

You must depend on technology to work perfectly every time to watch videos. Will that be a challenge for you? Will it fluster you if showing the video doesn’t work during your group time?

Question #4: Will watching the videos limit group interaction if time is short? Or, can group members watch the videos on their own?

It is very hard to find a video-driven study that can be used in an hour or less during a typical lunch hour at work or during an evening study at the end of a hard work day. The videos are generally too long to allow for much group discussion at all.

It’s hard to build community when you are just watching someone else talk. And, watching a video together is not a good substitute for interaction within the group.

Can the group members watch the videos on their own time through an app or website and then share what they learned during group time? This is the better way when it comes to building community within the time limits that you have.

Question #5: As leader, will you feel restricted to focus your discussion on whatever is taught in the video?

You will learn a lot more about the Bible and God by digging into a lesson yourself and preparing it to lead others in discussion. You can also focus on what your particular group needs the most from the study. Again, look at the personal study portion to see if it covers the passage well.


One Final Caution

When your group becomes dependent on video-driven studies, you no longer have motive or incentive to give opportunity and training to your own women to become Bible study leaders and writers or to become speakers themselves. We need to constantly grow new leaders in our churches.


So, go for a Bible study that will encourage the group members to feed themselves from the Word of God, that will build community within the group during the time allowed, and that will help you to become more dependent on Jesus to lead them. It’s a win-win for everyone—you, your group, and Jesus.

Yes, leading a group of women through a Bible study is hard and scary. But, that’s a good thing because you will depend on Jesus more. It’s okay to say, “Lord Jesus, I do not feel confident leading a Bible study group. But, I will let You do that through me. I am willing to learn from You and depend on You as I do this.” Then, watch what He does!

Remember to ask Jesus to help you choose a Bible study for yourself or for a group. Depend on Him to show you what to do. He is faithful!

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