The Soaring Eagle

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


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Who Am I?

“Our Father in Heaven”
(Matthew 6:9)

Reflection:
There are some quite amazing titles conferred upon people by God – descriptive of a special relationship with Him.

  • Abraham was honoured by God who called him His friend.
    • ” you descendants of Abraham my friend” (Isaiah 41:8)
  • Moses was also privileged to be known as the friend of God
    • “The LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Exodus 33:11)
  • Joshua was referred to as the servant of the Lord.
    • “ After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten” (Joshua 24:29)
  • David was known as a man after God’s own heart.
    • “After removing Saul, he made David their king. He testified concerning him: `I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do” (Acts 13:22)
  • John the Baptist was known as the forerunner of Christ – and as both the greatest and the least.
    • “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him” (Luke 1:76)
    • “ I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11)
  • Jesus was known as the Son of God
    • “And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”  (Luke 3:22)

When it comes to us we find to our astonishment that some of them are applied to us as well. For once as His disciples we were the servants of Jesus, then we became His friends, and finally and fully we became His brothers and sisters and co-heirs as the sons and daughters of God.

  • “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15)
  • “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but 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)
  • “Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17)

However the world may treat us or think of us, as Christians this is who we are and always will be in the sight, mind and reality of our Father – the Lord God Almighty. It is the way we need to think of ourselves.

Response:
Recognise, accept and acknowledge your God-given identity

Prayer:

Father you have called me to You and are pleased to call me Your daughter/son. Help me Lord in all humility to acknowledge, receive and accept this honour and blessing and live within it. Amen.

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Running on Empty

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
(Matthew 5:3)

Reflection:
Jesus said,  “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:23) That is because those who value highly their material, intellectual and social wealth see little need for a Saviour. Similarly the safety demonstrations at the beginning of an air flight have no value whilst we believe the plane will not let us down.

However the kingdom cannot be acquired through wealth or status. It is instead given to those who acknowledge their spiritual bankruptcy – and therefore their great need.

Jesus drew towards Himself those who knew that they were so poor in a real and spiritual sense that they could offer nothing and claim nothing – the publicans, prostitutes and social outcasts. All they could do was to appeal to God for mercy, and He heard them. The publican in Jesus parable cried out with downcast eyes, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.” As Calvin wrote, ‘He only who is reduced to nothing in himself, and relies on the mercy of God, is poor in spirit.’ And so here we also find Peter – a different person after the resurrection from the one who had boasted beforehand. Their understanding is that ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Your cross I cling.’

To acknowledge our spiritual poverty before God is to be emptied completely of self-importance, achievement, our dependence upon material things and our comparison of ourselves to others.  Emptied completely of self, and turning to put our trust in the Lord, we open the way to the real fullness of the Spirit.

The glorious wonder of it all is that He does have mercy. And, through the wonderful sacrifice of Jesus, He changes our rotten garments for the robes of salvation, our exclusion as outcasts for the intimacy of sons and daughters, our poverty for His richness and our death for His eternal life, love and joy. It is His Kingdom instead of our imaginary one, His all for our nothing. How blessed we are indeed – and when we see and accept the reality it becomes a shout of wonder and joy!

Response:
Decide to step increasingly away from worldly attitudes and values into the freedom of Christ.

Prayer:

Lord, help me to not look for excuses or exceptions but simply to acknowledge my truth before you and allow You to reveal Your Truth to me. Thank You Jesus. Amen.

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Checking me out

“The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away”
(Matthew 13:47-48)

Reflection:
Jesus is referring in this parable to the present and future aspects of the kingdom  and to the time when the true character of the people will be revealed and judged. It is similar in meaning to that of the sheep and the goats which also refers to a judgement and a separation.

However it is also pertinent to our present day situations. As we have journeyed through life our nets have scooped up many associations, influences, beliefs and activities. Some will jostle for position and recognition with those things that are of God and the fruit that the Holy Spirit is seeking to produce. We may, or may not, be aware of them. However they will have an effect upon us and will take up the space and time that could better be used by other thoughts, words and activities.

If we are taking both God and our Christian life seriously then now is the time to begin to take an audit of our lives and living, asking God quite simply to show us the associations, habits and other things that are not of Him, that do not honour Him and that get in the way of the good stuff!

What we prune out with His help He will replace with good and wholesome fruit that will become a blessing to Him, to others and to us.  And we will feel much better about ourselves too!

Response:
Set aside some time now – when you will be able to meet quietly with the Lord and have a look at you.

Prayer:

My Father I want to be holy just as You are holy, and to bring honour and pleasure to You. Please draw my attention to those areas and things in my life that are not good or helpful – and strengthen me to deal with them as I surrender them to You. Amen.

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Stop the Poison

“For if you forgive men when they sin against you,
your heavenly Father will also forgive you”
(Matthew 6:14)

Reflection:
Jesus made it quite clear here and in other places that we are to forgive the sins of others. He taught also that if we do not forgive others then the forgiveness of God will not reach us. The reasoning is quite clear – If God has forgiven us everything there is absolutely no justification for us refusing to forgive others – for withholding from them the grace that we have received. To withhold forgiveness is to place a barrier between the Lord and us.

There is also a another very practical reason involved, and that is the consequence of an unforgiving attitude in our own lives. Marianne Williamson has expressed it very clearly,

Unforgiveness is like drinking poison yourself
and waiting for the other person to die.

Unforgiveness is a poison that seeps into our lives and brings with it bitterness, unhealthiness and anger that can end up destroying both us and our lives – and which may have no effect whatsoever upon the person whose actions have given rise to our feelings. To change the picture, a spirit of unforgiveness is like a hook within us which jerks every time we are reminded of the person concerned. Healing will only take place when the hook is removed – and we need to remove it.
To forgive another is not to say that their actions do not matter – sometimes they matter very much indeed. It states instead that we refuse to be their victims as well and to live in suffering. Instead we hand them over to the Lord to Whom they will in due course need to give an account.

It is not always easy, and it may involve prayer, practice and even the counsel of a wise person. It is however a journey to freedom and worth taking.

Response:
Choose to forgive – say it aloud – ask God to make it real within you. If necessary keep doing so until it is complete.

Prayer:

Lord God, You have forgiven me for everything in my life – please help me to forgive those who have offended me, and enable me to live in Your freedom of spirit. Amen.

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Living Word

“Man does not live on bread alone,
but on every word
that comes from the mouth of God”
(Matthew 4:4)

Reflection:
At the beginning of His ministry Jesus was baptised by John in the Jordan River. Immediately thereafter the Holy Spirit led Him into the desert where He was subject to three major challenges or temptations. It was here that the foundations were laid for His ministry over the next three years.

In going into the desert immediately after He had enjoyed the presence and recognition of God He was associating Himself with fallen humanity.  After the first sin they had been expelled from God’s presence in the Garden of Eden and forced to fend for themselves in the harsh barrenness of the world outside.

“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17-19)

 In His desert journey Jesus was engaging with the physical and spiritual condition of fallen men and women. Three major areas were revealed:

  • A continuous hunger and thirst for more
  • A desire for recognition, identity and significance and
  • A tendency to avoid honest endeavour and to settle for easier options

Jesus avoided these temptations Himself. His future ministry would include providing deep and spiritual healing and solutions in these areas. Key to the process was the truth that man does not – in fact cannot – live on bread alone. He cannot find or enjoy true life by merely focussing on his physical needs and desires – which so many try to do. He needs the God from whom he was separated.

The God who had spoken His word into their lives now comes to them as the  Living Word, the Word made Flesh. Jesus is the Word of God. He came for our salvation and to feed us in spirit and soul with all that He is – which He expressed so powerfully in the Last Supper,

“This is my body given for you”  (Luke 22:19)

Our healing, fulfilment and peace is found nowhere else than in Jesus Christ our       Saviour and Lord.

Response:
Continue to seek (more of) Him who will be found

Prayer:

Come to my heart Lord Jesus, there is room in my heart for You. 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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Believer or Observer?

“Some of them said, “Could not he
who opened the eyes of the blind man
have kept this man from dying?”
(John 11:37)

Reflection:
Jesus was standing outside the tomb of Lazarus. Deeply moved by the situation and the tears of Mary and the others “Jesus wept.” Some of those present said “See how He loved him!” However others were more critical and remarked “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

This criticism reveals something that was common at the time and is still with us today. Some people acknowledge and submit to the Lord, trusting Him in all situations. Others, whilst seeming to follow Him, are in fact observers rather than disciples and believers. As observers they judge Him from their own situations and standpoints instead of surrendering everything to His. We might find something of this in ourselves from time to time when we wonder and even complain that He does not intervene or act the way we would like to see.

Peter revealed something of this when almost immediately after saying “”You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) he went on to rebuke Him for talking about His suffering and death. He was in turn strongly rebuked by the Lord.

“Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:22-23)

Jesus then went on to talk about the need for each disciple to “deny himself.’ One of the ways in which we do this is to surrender our own judgements and viewpoints and to entrust ourselves to His.

In this particular case Jesus had not hurried back to prevent Lazarus from dying. He knew that instead there was a greater work for Him to do – that of raising Lazarus from the dead and in doing so revealing more of the power and glory of God.

When we pray in the Lord’s Prayer “Your will be done on earth as in heaven” we are acknowledging again that it is God’s will and way that is important and not the way we feel at the time. We exercise our faith in trusting His love and will – believing that it will turn out to be greater, better and more love-inspired than ours. That is why in some situations it is important for us to ask the Lord what it is that He wishes us to pray for.

Response:
God’s will is better and more love-filled than mine

Prayer:

Lord help me to pray for what is on my heart – and allow You to lead me into what is on Yours. Amen.

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