The Soaring Eagle

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


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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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Lasting Treasure

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moth and rust do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
(Matthew 6:20)

 

Reflection:
My eldest daughter once brought me a copy of a magazine from my old school. I was sitting there quietly looking at it and saying, “I remember him – and him – and him.” Intrigued, she peered over my shoulder and then cried out, “Mom, Dad’s reading the obituaries!”

I was indeed – and was surprised at how many of my school acquaintances had died at what was a relatively young age. For them the journey of life was over and everything they may have hoped for or achieved or accumulated was left behind them. All that remained was their final meeting with our Lord and God.

It is very easy to get caught up with our wants and needs, our passions and fears, our occupations and past-times, our treasures and joys, and all the things into which the world tries to seduce us. No matter how important they are now, and how necessary and worth-while they may seem, they have one great thing in common – they will all be left behind us when we go. Some of them may even have been lost, stolen or turned to ashes before then.

Jesus encourages us to keep a proper balance and not to become obsessed with the things of this world, nor to strive to obtain, experience, accumulate and hoard its treasures. There are other things, He tells us, which have a greater and eternal value – things that cannot be measured in monetary or emotional terms.

Essentially our one and only treasure – incorruptible, unstealable and unbreakable – is Jesus Himself. He is our Life. He is our Righteousness. His is the Relationship which makes us known to God as His eternal sons and daughters. If Jesus is our supreme treasure everything else will begin to fall into place. If He is not we may well be serving something other than Him.

We cannot take anything with us when, sooner or later, we leave this world and go onto the next. All we will have is what we have become in our relationship with the Lord and the fruit developed in us by the Holy Spirit.

Live for the Lord – He is our Way, our Truth and our Life. He is our Light, our Love and our Joy. He is our Beauty and our Peace. He is our Purpose and our Fulfillment. He is our Today and our Eternal Tomorrow. He is our God, our Saviour and our Friend. He is our Everything.

Response:
Keep responding to His call. Never give up no matter how many times you fall. Trust Him always.

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the midst of the worries, concerns and temptations of this life, please help me to focus on You in all things and at all times. Amen.

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The Dream

“An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:20-21)

 

Reflection:
In all that God was doing He did not for a moment forget a man called Joseph, whose life also was to be changed forever. When he found out that Mary was pregnant Joseph could have publicly broken off the proposed marriage and exposed Mary not only to shame and ridicule but to the harsh provisions of the law. Because he did not want to do this he considered divorcing her quietly.

It was probably too much to expect that Joseph would unquestioningly accept Mary’s account of what had happened. It had never occurred before in the history of the world and would undoubtedly never happen again. He must have been bitterly disappointed and hurt at what he saw to be a terrible betrayal of their relationship and a rejection of their planned future.

God did not hold this against him but instead sent an angel to him in a dream. So vivid was the experience and so real the message that Joseph, on waking, seems not to have hesitated but to have believed and obeyed God immediately. We can read these words very easily – but perhaps need to ask ourselves what sort of a dream would cause us to both change our minds and our planned course of action so dramatically. The question would arise again when we ask what sort of a dream would cause us to wake the next morning and immediately set about taking our family to live in Egypt – as Joseph was to do later.

God was working powerfully and specifically, and was ensuring that His word was received, understood and obeyed. He had also chosen His man very carefully. Joseph and Abraham are just two examples of people who heard and obeyed the word of God. The fruit of their obedience would turn out to be far greater and more important than they could have imagined at the time. Each one of us is also called to the same commitment and obedience. We may not all receive such startling and consequential messages but there is more than enough of God’s direction in the Gospels and Epistles for us to be getting on with in our daily lives.

He does call each of us to a particular ministry and work and equips us with specific gifts suitable for this ministry. We too will find our fulfilment and joy in doing what God calls us to do, and not in asking Him to help us in what we might want to do! The ministry starts right where we are, with our accepting and trusting God’s call and word.

Question:
How open are we to God’s call on our lives?

Response:
What will be my legacy?

Prayer:

Father it is difficult to say at times but – Your will be done on earth (in my life) as it is in heaven, Amen.

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I Forgive You

“But I tell you: Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you”
(Matthew 5:44)

 Reflection:
Jesus instruction for us to love our enemies is a great challenge. Our normal reaction is to do anything but that. However, His words and life leave us in no doubt.

There are three very good reasons for us to hear what Christ teaches us. Firstly, we were once ourselves “God’s enemies” and He reached out to us in forgiveness and love, so that we could be reconciled to Him and enjoy the blessings of His eternal love. Secondly, God loves the people who might fall into the category of enemy to us and would want us to love them for His sake and out of our love for Him – even if we are offended by their actions.  And thirdly, for as long as we do not forgive the anger and pain live like an open sore within us, eating away at our life and peace and relationship with the Lord. Forgiveness can be a great healing for us as well and sets us free from the influence of the perpetrators.

There will be many who have been terribly hurt or harmed through the violent or careless actions of others. For them forgiving and loving their enemies may be a longer and more difficult road to walk. The most important thing is then to openly acknowledge our emotions and reactions to the Lord. Ask for His healing and strength within to enable us to begin responding more fully to His command. As we do so our own inner healing will begin to be liberated. On this journey of forgiveness it will help if, every time our emotions rebel at the memory, we say deliberately and even out loud “In Jesus Name I forgive ….”

Never think for a moment that in this God is implying that our pain does not matter. It matters to Him very much but He does not want it to cripple and destroy our lives and relationship with Him. When we forgive we are placing the matter back in God’s hands for Him to deal with – which He will.

The best response that we can all make towards our enemies is, as Jesus taught, to pray for them. It is what He did – even from the cross. To pray that God will bless them with love, and healing and truth. Then we need to pray for ourselves, that we will decide to forgive them and, with God’s help, not stoke the fires of hurt and anger within us. We also need the love and healing of our Father – and can ask for it.

Response:
Don’t hold on to hurt. Pray it out. Speak to a counsellor if necessary.

Prayer:

Father You have forgiven me so much, and never stopped loving me. Please help me to be more prepared to forgive and to love others – for the sake of Jesus who died for us all. Amen.

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Get up!

“Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
(Matthew 9:2)

 

Reflection:
Not all paralysis is caused by the sin of the person. However sin can paralyse us in certain ways and in some areas of our lives. Anyone who is in bondage to a way of life, a way of thinking and a way of acting may find themselves unable or unwilling to change into a different and better way.

The first step towards healing is to recognise the problem and the second is to do something about it. Many people would love to be healed but are not really willing to go through the process or to abandon their relationship with the problem itself – which may have become their escape route from emotional pain. Some receive healing but fall back again. They may either give up or go through a period of despair, self-loathing and fear of the displeasure of God before re-trying.

There is absolutely no doubt that God wants us to be set free and is prepared to help us. Jesus first words to the paralysed man are filled with compassion, life and love. He did not belittle or condemn him, but said,

“Take heart, son.”

He then freely forgave him and offered him healing.

“Your sins are forgiven ……
Get up, take your mat and go home.”

The ball was now in the man’s court. He had to respond by getting up off the ground. The story does not go further but, in effect, the man would have to keep doing the same thing every day. He would have to stand up and walk in newness of life. He could no longer rely on others to cart him about or to provide for him. He was free now to live life himself, and to take responsibility for himself, if he would.

For many of us the process is rather like a child learning to walk. We try and fall a number of times before we begin to stay on our feet. Then we can find that not only are we walking in a new way but running and dancing with a wonderful and glorious freedom in areas and ways that we would never have believed to be possible. It is all because of the love of God, the salvation in Jesus and the help of the Holy Spirit.

We need God if we are going to be set free – for our strength and will are often inadequate. We may need others as well – just as this man needed his friends – to help, encourage and support us along the way. We may even need the professional help of those gifted and with experience in our areas. However more than anyone else we need the Lord. The one Who says to us, and does so as many times as is necessary,

“Take heart, your sins are forgiven, get up and walk”

It is His power that enables us to respond to His words.

Response:
Ask God to show you where you may need healing. Ask Him for forgiveness and help. If you fall don’t give up – go back to the Lord!

Prayer:

Lord, please forgive me, heal me and help me. Please renew my vision, strengthen my faith and give me the courage to carry on with You in newness of life. Amen.

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