The Soaring Eagle

Only your body is limited. Your spirit can 'mount up on wings like eagles'


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Who am I?

 

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit
that we are God’s children”
(Romans 8:16)

Reflection:
Our identities are very important to us. They help to establish who we are to ourselves and to others. They can give us a sense of belonging and of value as well as of purpose. They also give us a place in history. And then they are key in establishing our relationships with others.

Jesus identity was established a number of times. Before He was born the angel informed Mary that He would be God’s Son. Then at His Baptism in the Jordan the Spirit descended on Him and the voice of God was heard to proclaim,

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:22)

At the beginning of His ministry this must have been a wonderful endorsement and encouragement to the Lord. Again at His transfiguration as He was preparing to face His own redeeming exodus from the world the voice of God was heard by the three apostles to say,

“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

This too would have been a wonderful affirmation to the Lord as He faced His greatest trial.

We have grown up with our individual human identities. However in God’s great purpose and plan He has a new identity for us – one which would have been beyond our wildest imaginings.

  • “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:4-5)
  • “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (John 1:12-13)

As He did with the Lord Jesus God wishes us also to know and to be secure in this – for us – new identity and relationship with Him.  He has therefore provided for the Holy Spirit to witness to it and affirm it to us.

“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

So we have the word of God that testifies to our becoming His sons and daughters as we turn to Him in repentance and faith though Jesus Christ. We also have the added blessing of the Spirit of God who is our constant assurance and reminder of this enormous privilege and great truth.

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession–to the praise of his glory” (Ephesians 1:13-14)

Clearly God wishes and intends that we should both know and be secure in our new and eternal relationship with Him. And as with the Lord Jesus it will be our great security and encouragement through the trials, temptations and terrors of life. We do need to believe and accept God’s word and provision for us and to own this new identity in our everyday life and living – for the world would try and steal it from us.

Response:
In Christ I am a daughter/son of the Lord God Almighty both now and throughout eternity.

Prayer:

Father help me to believe and receive my new identity in You and to trust the witness of Your Word and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Pentecost

“Be filled with the Spirit”
(Ephesians 5:18)

 

Reflection:
Pentecost is essentially about life. It is not just about the same old person with a new opportunity. It is all about a new person commencing a new life with a new focus and a new life force within them – that of God Himself.

Jesus spoke about our being born again of the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit would live within us in an intimacy of relationship beyond that which was possible with Jesus in His earthly ministry. He explained too that when the Holy Spirit came He would bring to God’s people a new strength – a new power – that they had not enjoyed before.

The absolute importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives is put very clearly by Paul.

  • “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “You received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:15-16)

It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to the Lord Jesus, who opens our understanding to the forgiveness and salvation to be found only in the Lord Jesus, who guides us to open our lives to the Lord and who then helps us to live out the life that God has purposed and planned for us.

We cannot ask the Holy Spirit to come into our lives to co-exist with the life of the world which is already there. We are asking Him to come in to be the Lord and Master of our lives and to show us how to live, equip us for that life and give us the strength and faith to live it. We also ask Him to identify, cleanse and heal us of any evil and its consequences that He finds there. It is all a part of His establishing His complete Lordship in and over our lives and clearing us out and cleansing us for the new life God has given us. The Holy Spirit does not come to help us to live our lives but to help us to live the life God has planned and prepared for us.

This Life in the Spirit is a life of following Christ and that is what’s vital. Any experience of being baptized in the Spirit and of our own Pentecost is an important beginning but not an end in itself. Different people will have different experiences at different times for a whole variety of reasons – including the fact that God treats each of us as an individual and not part of a mass production line. Our greatest danger will be that we ignore the Holy Spirit or relapse into our old default setting of the way of the world – trying to live in our own strength, slowly closing in on ourselves and losing contact with the Spirit.

Because we are human, and because all this is a process that having begun continues for the rest of our lives we will need to keep turning to God for a ‘fill up’ or fresh release of the Holy Spirit – because on the one hand we ‘leak’ and on the other we cannot avoid becoming clogged now and then by the dirt of the world in which we live. We will need forgiveness when, not if, we sin, and healing of the pains and hurts that we will encounter on the journey. However ‘in Christ’ and with the Holy Spirit our end is certain and secure and no one can change that.

Response:
One Lord of my life

Prayer:

Father thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit please come and fill my life – cleanse me and set me free from the sins and stains of the past and bring me into the fullness of the life that You have for me in Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. Amen.

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I will make you

“The LORD had said to Abram,
 “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household
and go to the land I will show you”
(Genesis 12:1)

 

Reflection:
There are two incidents in the life of Abraham that are of significance to each one of us today.

The first is God’s call. Essentially God was calling him to leave his past behind him and to travel with God to a place that God would reveal. It is very similar to Jesus call of His first disciples.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19)

We all have a past that we carry with us. It will contain successes and failures, pain and joy, hopes and fears. Jesus calls us into a life which is focussed on Him. It is a new life and not to be crippled by the things of the past. It is a life in which He forgives and heals us of the burdens of the past and opens to us the potential of the present and the future.

The second is God’s call to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. This was the more startling because Isaac was the child of promise. It was to be through Isaac that God’s promises to Abraham were to be fulfilled and the future nations blessed for all eternity.

In both cases God’s challenge to Abraham and to us is to let go of the shadow of the past (which we cannot change) and the vision of the future (which we cannot bring about) and to live only for God each day. Jesus put it like this,

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?’ or `What shall we drink?’ or `What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”  (Matthew 6:25-34)

He is not suggesting that we be lazy or careless but that we get our focus right and then live accordingly with God instead of for ourselves.

Response:
Who is really my priority?

Prayer:

Lord I know the truth and the Truth – please help me to surrender my past into Your forgiveness and my future into Your provision and live with You today. Amen.

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Exodus 1 & 2

“This is how you are to eat it:
with your cloak tucked into your belt,
your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.
Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover”
( Exodus 12:11)

Reflection:
The Israelites obeyed the Lord’s command in Egypt. They painted their doorposts with the blood of lambs and that night ate their first Passover meal. The Lord’s angel went through Egypt that night and the first-born of the land, except for the Israelites, died. Pharaoh summoned Moses and told him to take the Israelites with their flocks and possessions and to leave Egypt – and the nation began to move out.

Some thirteen centuries later Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples and instituted what we celebrate as The Lord’s Supper. Like the Israelites He then began His own Exodus. That night after the struggle in Gethsemane He was arrested and the following day died upon the cross.

It is no coincidence that these two events are connected by the same festival. God deliberately linked them to each other to give us a fuller understanding of what He is about and the fact that this is all in terms of His original and only plan and purpose. He continues to work it out in ways that He decided before creation and which to Him are ‘very good.’

He saved His people from bondage in Egypt through the death of the first-born and the blood of the lambs. He saves us from bondage to sin through the death of His Son and His blood as the Lamb of God.

As we see for ourselves these great links between the early and later Scriptures we are reminded of God’s great love and His supreme majesty, power and authority.

Response:
How great is our God that He can and does orchestrate these major events and over such time spans.

Prayer:

Lord I stand in awe of such power and authority and the wonder of such a love. I bow down to You in humility and in thankfulness. Amen.

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Always will be

“I am the LORD your God,
who has brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage”
 (Exodus 20:2)

 

Reflection:
At Mount Sinai God reminded the Israelites that He and He alone is the Lord their God – the One who liberated them from their bondage and slavery in Egypt and brought them through the waters of the sea to Himself. From there He took them into the Promised Land.

This foreshadows the mission of the Messiah about whom the prophet Isaiah was inspired to proclaim about the One to come,

“The LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1)

Here was the message of a freedom from the enslavement and suffering in a fallen world that would be brought about by the Christ to come. He would come as the Light of the world, as the Way, the Truth and the Life and as the Good Shepherd.  He would call and gather God’s chosen ones to Himself and lead them out of the world’s darkness, through the dark waters of death and on the other side into the Light and Life and Love of the Lord God Almighty in the place which He Himself has prepared for them.

This same God is the One who has said to us that

  • “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” ( Romans 8:28)
  • nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)
  • “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29)

As we recognise that God has had this plan for us from the beginning, and that He has revealed His love and commitment to us in so many ways, He urges us to hang on to Him and trust Him for the best – the glorious, eternal and full-hearted living love – is still to come. And it will come.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And so like the one man next to the Lord on the cross we can hold on just a little longer for we know that in a tomorrow we will be with Him in paradise.

Response:
Keep your eyes on the Lord in the good times and the hard times.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, help me to keep my eyes and heart on You – and not to lose hope or faith, and not to become despondent about myself, but to hold on to Your hand as it holds on to me, even me. Amen.

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True Lamb

“Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
 “Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said,
“but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
(Genesis 22:7)

Reflection:
In response to God’s command Abraham was on his way to Moriah to sacrifice his son Isaac. One cannot imagine his feelings both with regard to the sacrifice of his only son as well as the fact that it was through this son that God had promised to fulfil His covenant promise to Abraham. Nevertheless his response to Isaac was the response of faith in his God. “God Himself will provide the lamb.”

As it turned out God stopped Abraham from sacrificing Isaac and provided a ram for sacrifice instead. Now both Isaac and Abraham speak of a lamb – which is quite different from the ram that appeared. It was not that a ram was as good a sacrifice as a lamb but that God had something else planned. This becomes clear years later when John the Baptist looking up and seeing Jesus said to his disciples

“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
(John 1:29)

Here was the lamb provided by God – the one who would suffer death as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. In this way the prophetic incident with Abraham and Isaac is linked to the real event involving God and His Son. The great difference of course is that there was no one to stop the hand of this Son’s executioners.

It is also believed by many commentators that this mountain of Moriah is in fact the same mountain on which Jerusalem is built (New Bible Dictionary). And it was there that Jesus was crucified.

God’s purpose and plan was not in response to the fall and sin of man. It pre-dated creation itself. There is one purpose and plan of God that remains unchanged and that He is working out and will bring to fulfilment. Again and again what we see in the New Testament has its beginnings in the Old. And what God started before Jesus appeared has its fulfilment and explanation in His life, death, resurrection and ascension.

Response:
‘Your will be done on earth as in heaven’’

Prayer:

Lord God thank You so much for the scale and detail of Your purpose and plan – which are being worked out in ways that we can see and at which we marvel and rejoice. What a mighty God we serve!

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We need You

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning,
with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast.
Everyone in the camp trembled”
 (Exodus 19:16)

Reflection:
When the Lord descended onto Mount Sinai to meet with Moses He did so in such a way that the people were terrified. They said to Moses,

“Speak to us yourself and we will listen.
But do not have God speak to us or we will die”
(Exodus 20:19)

This response stands in stark contrast to their reaction when the Lord led them out of Egypt.

“By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud
to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire
to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night”

(Exodus 13:21)

In the same way the cloud of the Lord’s presence settled on the Tabernacle.

“On the day the tabernacle, the Tent of the Testimony, was set up,
the cloud covered it. From evening till morning
the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire”

(Numbers 9:15)

At Sinai they were terrified but at other times the presence of the Lord in the cloud was a comfort and assurance of His presence.  It was also a guide for them as they moved when He moved and stayed when He stayed.

With the whole Christian Church we look ahead to next Sunday when we celebrate the Day of Pentecost. This is the day when the Lord, in fulfilment of His promise, gave to His people the great gift of the Holy Spirit. He came to be not just with us but to live within us, both collectively as the Body of Christ and individually as well.

This is the same God as the majestic and terrifying God of Sinai. However He now chooses to reveal Himself to us in a different way, a way in which He can work within us and through us – transforming us and reaching out to those around us in love, guidance and healing.

The Israelites could not have left Egypt and found their way to the Promised Land by themselves.  So too we cannot find our way out of the bondage of our own lives and into the place that the Lord has prepared for us. We need His help – His involvement, His guidance and His power. With it we need His forgiveness and His healing. This comes through the Holy Spirit who makes our union and relationship with the Lord real, and who gifts, guides and empowers us for the life which God calls us to lead.

Paul puts it clearly for us.

  • “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ” (Romans 8:9)
  • “those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God” (Romans 8:14)
  • “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Romans 8:16)

Response:
Ask God to help you to open yourself to the Holy Spirit more and more.

Prayer:

Lord God, thank You for the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. Please help me to open myself to His presence, guidance and ministry so that He may be released in ever increasing ways in my life and living. Amen.

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