The Soaring Eagle

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


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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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Now and Then

“I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened
in order that you may know ..
the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”
(Ephesians 1:18-19)

 

Reflection:
Paul’s prayer for us is not that we may know of certain things but that we may know them as true for ourselves. So He prayed that

  • We might know God better
  • We might know the Hope to which God has called us

Now he goes on to pray that we might know

  • The riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints
  • His incomparably great power for us who believe

His inheritance for us is that final inheritance of which the Holy Spirit is the guarantee (v14). Peter describes it as ‘imperishable, undefiled and unfading kept in heaven for you.’ (1 Peter 1:4) Paul also calls it both rich and glorious – finding words to describe that which is beyond our present capacity to see, to hear or to imagine.

As God children we are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ. (Romans 8:17) One day by His grace this inheritance will be ours and it will include everything that God has and has planned and prepared for his beloved children – us. Transformed into the likeness of the Lord Jesus we will be enabled to see and worship God as He really is, in all His glory, majesty, power and love  – and to live in His presence forever, freed from the imperfections, pain and burdens of this fallen life.

Only God’s power can fulfil the expectations which belongs to His call, and bring us safely to the riches of the glory of the final inheritance He will give us. So Paul writes of

  • His incomparably great power for us who believe
  • The working of His mighty strength

The resurrection and the ascension were a decisive demonstration of this divine power. There are two powers man cannot control and which hold him in bondage – death and evil. In Christ God has conquered both – and so is more than able to protect, rescue, liberate and transform us too.

Lord God,
enlighten the eyes of my heart
so that I may know
the riches of our glorious inheritance
in the saints
and Your incomparably great power
for us who believe.

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Because He did I will

“This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven,
will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”
(Acts 1:11)

Reflection:
Today the Church celebrates the ascension of Jesus Christ. It completes the journey of salvation that began with the Incarnation – when God in Christ entered into the world in a completely new and significant way. Having fulfilled God’s mission for Him in His death and resurrection Jesus ascension back to heaven and to ‘the right hand of God’ secures and seals for us all that He has done. Augustine put it like this,

“For unless the Saviour had ascended into heaven
His Nativity would have come to nothing
… and His Passion would have borne no fruit for us,
and His most holy Resurrection would have been useless.”

Indeed, if Jesus had not risen from the dead what hope would there be for us? And, likewise, if Jesus had not ‘ascended into heaven’ how could we hope that we would do so one day? Rather we see in the ascension the wonderful fulfilment of God’s promise that,

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11)

 The fact that He is now seated at the right hand of God indicates that His work of atonement has been completed. Seated there He continues to intercede for us as well as to prepare a place for us. (John 14:2). With His ascension He also opened the way for the promised Holy Spirit to come in a very real and significant way – which event we celebrate shortly at Pentecost.  And when God decides that the time is right Jesus will return to finally establish the Kingdom of God and for the final judgment.

 If Scripture teaches us one thing it is this – God can be trusted. Again and again He told His people what He would do, and He did it. Many did not live to see the complete fulfilment of His promise but they put their faith in Him – and it was not disappointed.

God has prepared a future and a place for us and it is there that we will find the true completeness, peace and fulfilment that we desire. Indeed it will be far greater and deeper, more beautiful and lovely, and more varied and extensive than we could ever grasp or imagine from where we are today.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”   (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Response:
And so our marching song as we journey onwards is this

Christ has died,
Christ has risen,
Christ will come again.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in You. Please deepen and strengthen this faith in me every day, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.

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Priorities

“When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes,
dividing them into four shares, one for each of them,
with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless,
woven in one piece from top to bottom.
“Let’s not tear it,” they said to one another.
“Let’s decide by lot who will get it.”
This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said,
“They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.”
So this is what the soldiers did.”
(John 19:23-24)

Reflection:
Who would have thought that the blood-stained garments of a convicted criminal would have had any value to a Roman soldier. Yet they obviously did. When they came to the undergarment instead of cutting it up with a piece for each of them they drew lots to decide who would get it.

John is strangely specific in his description at this point – “This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom.” Barclay tells us that “this is the precise description of the linen tunic which the High Priest wore.” So here is a quiet reference to the high priestly ministry of Jesus – the perfect High Priest through whom people could come into the presence of God themselves. John starts His Gospel with the Word made flesh and draws it to a close with the eternal High Priest ministering to both God and man and enabling them to come together.

However, whilst these tremendously important events were taking place above their heads the soldiers were concerned only with their plunder and their gambling. Although they were professional soldiers in a foreign land they still in a way represent to us the indifference that exists in the world today.  It bends its heads to the business of accumulation and is blind to the awesome expression of the love and grace of God which rises before us at this time.

This whole incident is made all the more pertinent by the value attached to it as a fulfilment of prophecy (Psalm 22:18). In all that was happening God’s hand can be discerned – even down to the disposal of the Saviour’s clothes.

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Taking His Yoke

“For if men do these things when the tree is green,
what will happen when it is dry?”
(Luke 23:31)

Reflection:
And so they placed the cross on Jesus shoulders and led Him staggering towards the place of execution. On the way they met Simon of Cyrene and, because the weight of the cross was almost too much for the Lord, they made him carry it for Him. Simon might not have been too happy at the time but afterwards may have counted it his greatest privilege.

A large number of people followed this grim and slow procession including ‘women who mourned and wailed for Him.’ These must have included those who had followed Him in His ministry and helped to support Him and His disciples. There would have been Mary His mother as well as Mary Magdalen and possibly the sisters Martha and Mary. With them could have been many of the women of the city as well.

At one point Jesus turned to them and gave a prophetic warning of the terrible times to come – times so bad that the women without children to suffer would be counted the more fortunate.

And then He gave a final warning. If men to these things even to Him whilst He is in their midst what shocking things may they do when He is gone. Indeed we can see it in ourselves. There are things we would never contemplate whilst in church on Sundays. However from Monday to Friday they may well become a part of our lives and living.

Lent gives us an opportunity to ask of ourselves – “Do I walk all day and every day with the Lord, or do I merely walk behind Him and watch?”

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(Picture: Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary, Raphael)


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Weeping over me

“Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified,
“I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me”
(John 13:21)

Reflection:
How that must have hurt You – the knowledge of what was to come.

One of Your close and trusted team about to sell You into the hands of those waiting for an opportunity to kill you. Another of them – in fact the leader of the group – about to deny even knowing You. And most of the others soon to flee into the darkness, re-appearing only as onlookers in the great and naked tragedy of Your crucifixion.

Soon You would be quite alone. Having faced and prayed away Your tempter in the Garden of Gethsemane Your arrest and trial would begin.

We only get glimpses of Your feelings. We know You wept outside the tomb of Lazerus. We know You wept again looking over Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Now we are told only that You were ‘troubled in spirit’ and the rest is left to our imagination. But it must have been agony – a deep, soul-baring emptiness, bathed in the soundless rain of heart-wept tears, and the silent echoes of the empty words of the crowds and of Your friends around You.

Down through the ages You have watched us come and go, and come back and go, and come and go. We do it so easily and with such little concern – forgetting that You watch and wait. Some will return and stay whilst others will disappear into the darkness of the world. And so many play games with the unfaced reality of eternity – and confuse legalisms for relationships. It’s easier that way – for the law doesn’t weep when we ignore it.

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The King

2016-12-08

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father,
Prince of Peace.
(Isaiah 9:6)

Reflection:
The Messiah would be a descendant of Eve, of the line of Abraham, a prophet like Moses who saw God ‘face to face,’ and also a king like David whom God referred to as ‘a man after His own heart’ (1 Samuel 13:14).

David was the greatest of the kings of Israel. After him, with a few exceptions, the kings became corrupt and the nation suffered. It was eventually carried off into exile. However the coming Kingdom of God would be different.

God’s Kingdom would be righteous and the Messiah would rule with justice.

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land” (Jeremiah 23:5)

God’s Kingdom would be peaceful. David’s kingdom had known seemingly endless wars but God chose as David’s successor his son Solomon whose name means peace or peaceable. He was the one whom God chose to build His temple and God gave him peace from his enemies.

“But you will have a son who will be a man of peace and rest, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. His name will be Solomon, and I will grant Israel peace and quiet during his reign. He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever” (1 Chronicles 22:9-10)

God’s Kingdom would be stable and would last forever.

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations” (Psalm 145:13)

God’s Kingdom would know no boundaries.

“He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10)

The Kingdom of God would be a glorious kingdom because of the nature and character of the Lord Himself – His supreme majesty, authority, power, righteousness, faithfulness and love.

“God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honour and might forever. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:15-16)

Question:
Has my will bowed to the Lord’s?

Response:
There cannot be two Kings

Prayer:

Lord may Your Kingdom come in me and on earth even as it is in heaven, Amen.

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