The Soaring Eagle

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


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God of Love 1

“For this is what the LORD says–
he who created the heavens, he is God;
he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it;
he did not create it to be empty,
but formed it to be inhabited–
he says: “I am the LORD, and there is no other”
(Isaiah 45:18)

Reflection:
God is a God of Love. When He created He made a world which was beautiful, abundant, full of variety and wonder, and ‘good’ in every detail. He made it in a way that pleased Him. Then He created us to be like Him so that we could appreciate and enjoy it as well as live within it. And He gave it to us to care for, develop and fill with our descendants – also to be like Him.

Because of His love and the relationship that He wished to have with us He gave us the gift of free will. We were not to be puppets or slaves but free to acknowledge Him, love Him and live within His love in the way that He showed us – or not. His way or our own way. Life or death.

Even although the world has proved unfaithful God has remained true – and we still have the freedom to choose our personal and corporate response – God and His way or me and mine.

Response:
Which road do I really walk?

Prayer:

Lord Jesus You called us to come to You, follow You and stay with You – forgive me if I have turned it around, and please help me to get it right. Amen.

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Lent

“They would have repented .. in sackcloth and ashes.”
(Matthew 11:21)

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In the West Lent starts on Ash Wednesday
which this year falls tomorrow – 14 February 2018.

Good Friday is on 30 March and Easter Sunday on 1 April.

The ‘40 days’ of Lent are associated with the 40 days of Jesus fasting in the desert.
The 6 Sundays are excluded in the calculation as they are said to represent either the day of rest or the day of Jesus victory over death. 

In many churches there will be special services on Ash Wednesday to mark the beginning of the Journey to Easter. The theme is Penitence. Ashes will be blessed and used as a symbol of repentance. Many people will go forward to be marked with the sign of the cross, in ashes, on their forehead. These ashes are normally prepared from the Palm Crosses used on Palm Sunday the previous year. As they receive the cross of ashes they are exhorted to

“Turn away from sin and believe the good news.”

Lent is very significant. In its steady and purposeful build-up to Good Friday and Easter it ensures that they do not arrive and pass almost without notice. Here is the opportunity to reflect on ourselves and the world around us – to see the worldliness and sin that contaminates, separates and brutalizes and which prevents us from living to the potential of the daughters and sons of God. Repentance is importance for us and our world for it recognises that we need help – we need saving from ourselves, from each other and from the consequences of our actions. For unless we recognise sin we don’t recognise the need for a Saviour or understand what it is that He is about.

In many ways what is known as the Lent fast has been trivialised The true significance of Lent is not what we give up, even for God, but the awesome sacrifice that Christ made for us, and the self –denial and suffering that was involved. Any sacrifice of ours should be a reminder of, and association with, that greater sacrifice, and not a source of personal satisfaction. Scripturally our sacrifice is between God and ourselves and should be kept private.

For as much as we recognise the darkness of sin Lent can also become a wonderful opportunity. For we must reflect also on the holiness and love of God, the enormous blessing of knowing Him – and the great need for Him in our lives and the life of the world in which we live today.

This Year

  think of giving God an extra 10 minutes every day
to pray the Lord’s Prayer slowly and deliberately
for someone.

On the first day adapt it and pray for yourself. On the next day/s pray it for individual members of your family. Then pray individually for the people with whom you work and associate every day. After that choose someone in the news who is suffering in some way .. and so on. Devote each day to a different individual. And if you travel on public transport pray the prayer for someone near you. 

Prayer:        

Father – please help me to accept this opportunity to journey with You every day, and in so doing to draw closer to You. Please shine Your light into my life and into the lives of those for whom I pray. Amen.

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Revelation

 

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

Reflection:
I walked outside one night and looked up. It was a cloudless night and, even in our suburb, enough of the sky was visible to make me pause in awe and wonder. The stars shone out from the dark depths of space like diamonds on the deep blue cloak of God. I stood in stillness and let His glory touch me for those precious moments. How great is our God indeed,

 “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,
their starry host by the breath of his mouth.”

(Psalm 33:6)

It is a mighty and marvellous act of creation – by an almighty, beautiful and loving God. They sing His praises in sounds and words that we cannot hear and reduce us at last to the silence of true worship and adoration. I found myself longing for less of me in my life and more of God – more than I knew I could handle but not more than I could desire. I have a longing sometime to just disappear into His love and glory – like a wave on the beach slips back into the vast and all-embracing ocean.

“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.”

(Psalm 42:1-2)

How much more precious were those moments and the thoughts and feelings that they prompted, than everything that the world has to offer in terms of pleasure, wisdom and achievement. How much more to hold onto in the times of pain, sin and sorrow.

God speaks to us in so many ways, not least in and through our everyday exposure to His creation. It is a message worth perceiving, believing and receiving. It is worth our deepest response.

“O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
Consider all the works Thy hands have made;
I see the stars, I hear the mighty thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
How great Thou art, How great Thou art.”

Response:
Look, Listen, Worship

Prayer:

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)

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Blessing God

 

“Bless the LORD, O my soul:
and all that is within me,
[bless] his holy name”
(Psalm 103:1)

Reflection:
Worship is a response to God that needs to be practiced to be set free within us. To begin with it may seem awkward and artificial. However as we become used to it, and allow it to rise spontaneously within us, it becomes perfectly natural and as it should be.

David was great at expressing himself to God and some of his psalms are eloquent in their praise and worship. We can use them ourselves as a starting point – relying on his words or changing them to make them more personal, or even homing in on a particular phrase and allowing it to touch our own hearts as we offer it to God. (e.g. Psalms 19 and 103)

I have always been deeply moved by the words “worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 96:9) As I have said them over and over I have allowed my mind to imagine the awesome holiness of God and the flood of beauty and light that flows from Him in brilliant streams of sparkling life. At other times I have allowed Him to draw me into that holiness – and as I have begun to experience the ‘beauty of holiness’ within me to lift my spiritual voice in unending torrents of praise and worship until at the last I am bowed before Him in a living silence.

Paul tells us that,

“Since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1:20)

Creation is therefore both a revelation of the glory, majesty and beauty of the Almighty Father and a platform from which we can turn to Him in praise and worship.

Most people are exposed to this creation in some form or another every day. The quiet beauty of a sunrise; the glorious colours of a sunset where the artist’s brush has swept across the sky and reached out to touch the clouds with splashes of brilliance; the majestic stateliness of trees with their softly rippling leaves – or bending humbly before the mighty waves of wind; the gentle grasses and the cheeky daisies; the velvet roses and the dancing fuchsias; the blue skies hung with tumbling masses of immaculate clouds; the rumbling thunder rolling across the heavens and the flashes of lightening shocking the darkness; the star-studded night; a single flower or fern in a small jar; shadows on the wall; the song of a bird; the haunting cry of a fish eagle, the darting flash of a dragonfly; valleys and hills and towering peaks; delicious fruit; spouting whales and surfing dolphins; and so much more.

If we will pause to look and to see we may sense the Lord’s delight as we say involuntarily “O God, that’s wonderful.” And “Thank you for showing it to me and making me able to see it and appreciate it.” “You made it Lord and it is ‘very good!’” And simply, “You are so wonderful Lord!”

When it comes from our heart it touches His heart and for those moments our hearts are joined in love. And then at a deeper level our faith in this God of Love begins to grow. However your life is at this moment let God direct your attention to something near you that He has made. Contemplate it fully – let Him speak to you through it – and then respond to Him.

Response:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands”
(Psalm 19:1)

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God of Glory

“Glorify your Son,
that your Son may glorify you”

(John 17:1)

Reflection:
In one of His final and most significant prayers Jesus makes it clear that His overriding purpose was to glorify God – to honour Him and bring glory to His Name.

What was a priority for Jesus must therefore also be a priority in our own lives and relationship with God. This is why worship is so important. In it we remember before God His glory, majesty, grace and love and the awe-inspiring deeds that He has performed – from creation to salvation. We remind ourselves of who He is and what He has done, and honour Him as the One who has revealed Himself in these ways.

However, as Jesus Himself showed so clearly, worship is not merely the words that we speak but the lives that we live as well. For us the worship that proceeds from our mouths needs to both come from lives that have begun to be lived in honour of God as well as inspiring us to carry on and live such lives in the future.

It is so easy for our prayers to resemble a shopping list of needs and wants rather than an intimate conversation with a Father who loves us and wants to be loved by us. When this is the case it can happen that fear is often our motivation rather than faith. When we make worship a part of our daily conversation with God it reminds us of who and what He is and is like. This then lays a foundation of faith which makes all the difference.

When worship becomes a natural part of our lives it can seem to open us to the very presence of God both within and around us – a holy of holies in which we become very still and quiet, full of the knowledge of the presence of the Almighty.

Response:

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty – who was and is and is to come.

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Intentional Growth

“But grow in the grace and knowledge
of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
(2 Peter 3:18)

Reflection:
Christianity is a relationship before it is anything else. This is highlighted by the facts that, as Christians, we become the sons and daughters of God, that the Church is referred to as the bride of Christ and that,

“Many will say to me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, `I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”         (Matthew 7:22-23)

To grow in our knowledge of Christ and the grace of God  we need to get to know as much about Him as possible and get to know Him personally ourselves – not just through the eyes or words of others.

The first step is to read one of the gospels which tell us His story. Then read it again to find out what it say about Him personally. Read it a third time to note and receive His teachings and instructions. Then read it a fourth time to find out what His teachings, actions and instructions say about Him. Record your impressions of Him and to Him as you go along.

As you do this begin to talk to Him about what you are reading and discovering. It is one thing to learn about someone and quite another thing to talk to them personally. Learn to chat to Him throughout the day. Jesus has not hidden Himself away from us but has made some exciting promises,

  • “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)
  • “Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23)

 “I will show myself to him” and “we will come to him and make our home with him.” Jesus is talking about a relationship that is real and experienced, not just the knowledge that comes through a book on a bookshelf. To know God is quite different from merely knowing about Him. It is when we take Him seriously that we begin to discover just how important we are to Him.

Peter is encouraging us to grow in a relationship with a very real and very loving Saviour. As does James.

“Come near to God and he will come near to you.”  (James 4:8)

Response:
Read God’s word and allow it to form your knowledge of Him.

Prayer:

Holy Spirit, please lead me into a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus, and open God’s word to me and open me to His word. Amen.

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Come and Drink

“If anyone is thirsty,
 let him come to me and drink”
(John 7:37)

Reflection:
This invitation occurs at different times in Scripture.

  • “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1)
  • “On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink” (John 7:37)
  • “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17)

When Jesus met the woman at the well in Samaria He recognised in her a great and unquenched thirst – something that all her different relationships had not been able to satisfy.  He did not then add His judgement to her own and that of her society – He offered instead a lasting solution in the living water of new life in the Spirit.

  • “Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14)

 Each one of us has carried within us a deep thirst for something – something that will give meaning, significance, purpose and beauty to our lives. And we are surrounded by people who have within them this thirst – which is really a thirst for love – that has never been satisfied.

People try to quench it in many different ways as they seek to give expression and meaning to this great craving. They can strive for power, wealth and status but it is not enough. They crave satisfaction for their lusts but nothing lasts. Others withdraw into an inner darkness and weep out the pain of their terrible loneliness and failure from which they cannot seem to escape. Some flee the pain for short periods in substance abuse which makes them feel even worse. Others exist from day to day.

Everywhere there are people consciously and unconsciously seeking a solution and a satisfaction. And no matter what level of society they inhabit there is nothing that lasts – it all turns to ashes.

Yet still this voice echoes down through the ages, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”  There is one and only one true and lasting solution capable of meeting every one of our deep longings and needs – and it is found in the saving love and grace of God expressed in the life, death and resurrection of His Son and in the intimate and free gift of the Holy Spirit.

“Come to Me” – not once but in every moment of our lives, in every situation, with every need and longing. “Come to Me” – not for what He can do but for who He is.  “Come to Me” – not to visit but to stay. “Come to Me” – not to beg but to ask. “Come to Me” – not to hope but to trust. “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

He is not a truth but a Person. He is not a concept but a reality. He is a beginning, and the end and every part of the journey. He is always and everywhere and everything. He is Love and Strength, Healing and Truth. And He is the most beautiful Life that it is possible to know.

Response:
The journey starts (again) now – reach out to Him.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus – I need You and I want You so much. Please pour Your Spirit into me and never stop. Please pour Your Love through Him without ceasing. Please help me to receive and to go on receiving forever. Amen.

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