The Soaring Eagle

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


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Sheltered

“In the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by”
(Psalm 57:1 ESV)

Reflection:
Jesus warned us that there would be faith-challenging times in our lives. But His promise to be with us always built upon the promise of God to His holy people.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:1-2)

This is a magnificent promise but it too reveals the reality of testing periods in our lives. When such times are upon us they can appear as violent storms that threaten to play havoc with our emotions, our minds and our spirits. Whether large scale national events, local community events or very personal and individual experiences they may result in turmoil within us.

Elijah knew something of this when, having fled from the threat on his life to the mountain of the Lord, he experienced what seemed to be earth-shattering events as he hid in the cave.

“Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire.” (1 Kings 19:11-12)

It was then, after all this had taken place, that there came a gentle whisper to which he could relate.

Sometimes the only response we can have in the storms of life is to turn into the Lord and to wait there until the tempest has played itself out. Whatever the particular challenge we hold onto Him in prayer whilst striving to remain faithful to our daily duties and responsibilities. At some stage the storm-clouds will break and the rays of the sun will appear. The time may be right for us to hear the gentle whisper of God speaking into us – and speaking words of love, encouragement and guidance.

Response:
Hold on to the Lord – he will see you through life’s storms

Prayer:

Lord save us in the time of trial and deliver us from evil. Amen.

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Nothing to fear

 

“And now, dear children, continue in him,
so that when he appears we may be confident
and unashamed before him at his coming”
(1 John 2:28)

Reflection:
John reminds us of what we know but are inclined to treat lightly – Jesus Christ is coming again.  He will come in glorious power and majesty and we will see Him as He truly is. Whether our bodies have already died or whether we will still be living here when it takes place it will be an unimaginably momentous occasion.

When it happens we do not want to be amongst those who try to flee in terror – nor do we wish to be amongst those who are nervously hopeful. Instead John holds out to us the possibility of our being ‘confident and unashamed’. Not fearing for ourselves we can enjoy the breath-taking spectacle of His glory and worship Him with tears of joy and wonder. This is our Lord and God – He is ours and we are His and everything is beauty, wonder, love and joy.

The way for this to be our response is for us to ‘continue in Him’ here and now – for every moment of our earthly lives. This of course picks up what he records Jesus as saying in his Gospel.

“Remain in me, and I will remain in you”
(John 15:4)

When we come to Him as our Saviour and our Lord we become a part of Him – like a branch being grafted into a vine. From then on we draw our life from Him and He expresses His life through us. Both Jesus who calls on us to ‘remain in Him’ and John who urges us to ‘continue in Him’ are talking of an ongoing and personal relationship which, having started, is to have no separation or end. The way to develop and express this new relationship is quite clear – we are to take Jesus and His teaching and increasingly make them a part of our lives as our Way and Truth and Life.

“If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love,
just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love”

(John 15:10)

Note that we do not earn His love by our obedience for we have already entered into it.  Instead we express our love, gratitude and faith though our subsequent obedience and trust. As we become used to living in this intimate and life-giving relationship with the Lord His second coming can hold for us no fear – only the promise of an even closer and more wonderful life with Him in all its completeness and fullness.

Response:
Stay close to the Lord in this way and He will stay close to you

Prayer:

Lord You have made me a part of Your Life – help me to live in such a close and trusting relationship with You that neither death nor Your coming again can hold any fear for me. Amen.

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All I need

“But he said to me,
“My grace is sufficient for you,
for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

Reflection:
All my life I have lived in an environment of work and rewards, failure and consequences. A poor self-image did not help, and left me vulnerable to either fearing the worst or willing to believe the tempter’s whispers that I was not good enough. Any success or popularity surprised me and I could imagine that it would not last. Always there was the thought that I had not done enough to earn or retain God’s love. Sin devastated me – not just because of what it was, but because I felt that I might now be cast off by God. Why should He love me, and continue to love me, when I knew how unlovable I was, and how unworthy.

Slowly I began to learn that it was not all about me. It was about God. It was not a question of what I was like but of what God is like. It was not a test to see how much I loved God, but a revelation of how much He loves me. It was not even a matter of how much I achieved for Him, but of what He can achieve for me and through me and around me. That’s the trouble with insecurity and sin, it makes us the centre. The wonder of love is that someone else is the centre.

God’s grace at work – not telling us that sin does not matter; not telling us that our weaknesses are good. Just loving us, accepting the tiny amount of love for Him and faith that we have, and pouring out His smiling, laughing, thrilling, loving and forgiving Grace all the time. And, calling us always forward and closer to Him into the life that is truly Life, the way that is the only Way, the Truth that is beyond all truths.

Hear these words:

  • “I have loved you with an everlasting love”  (Jer 31:3)
  • “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:10)
  • “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor 12:9)
  • Nothing “in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:39)

Response:
Just trust Him – His love, His sacrifice and His grace. Ask Him to help you. Stop looking at yourself – look at Him instead.

Prayer:

Father, Thank You for a love and grace that is beyond understanding. Please help me to allow You to fill me with Your love and grace and to live in their reality. Amen.

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Press On

“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,
 let us throw off everything that hinders
and the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us”
(Hebrews 12:1)

Reflection:
We are not alone in this life. We know from His promise that the Lord is with us, and the Holy Spirit within us, at all times. But there are more. There are the living memories of those who before us were faithful witnesses to the truth and glory and salvation of God. Some of them suffered enormously but they held on to their faith and trust in God to the very end.

However it seems that the writer also presents them as being now witnesses to our lives and living. He portrays them as former athletes filling a great stadium and cheering and urging the present athletes on as they strive with every fibre of their being to successfully complete the race for which they have been selected. It is a magnificent picture and one that should fill us with hope, faith and encouragement.

Then of course there are also our fellow athletes. Life is not a competition against them but alongside our fellow believers against the distractions and prejudices and participants in a fallen world. The encouragement we receive along the way from someone running next to us, and the encouragement we can give to others by our words and example, are of inestimable value.

So as you face the future don’t give up or ease off. No matter the dark clouds around you or the sense of isolation that comes and tempts you with hopelessness – keep going. Lift you head to the whispered encouragement of the Lord, turn your ear to the calls of encouragement from Abraham, Joshua and David, Mary, Mary Magdalen and Peter and press on.

There is no going back, your starting point does not exist anymore. You are a pilgrim well into your journey and the goal gets closer every day.

Response:
With God’s help I can

Prayer:

Lord help me to be aware of you as I run my race, to know that You are always with me and that You will give me the strength and encouragement that I need and can pass on to others. Amen.

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Don’t waste it

“Mark a life of discipline and live wisely;
don’t squander your precious life”
(Proverbs 8:33 MSG)

Reflection:
I was very struck by these words this morning. As I reflected on them so I was reminded that life is precious. My life is precious. The minutes and hours go by in a steady pace and, once having passed, there is no bringing them back again or changing the way in which we filled or did not fill them.

Each one of us lives in a different context and with different pressures, challenges, burdens and opportunities. It does not help us to moan about our situations, to wish that we were like somebody else, or to pass the time with private day-dreams. At this moment in time we are who we are in a very real situation and in very real relationships.

It is also not merely a question of filling our time with activities or passing pleasures. Somehow these things often provide us with only a temporary satisfaction or sense of achievement. Often they leave us with an urgent need for more.

“The psalmist underlines our deepest need for us when he exclaims,

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God”  (Psalm 42:1)

In turn Jesus answer Him when He calls out,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest”  (Matthew 11:28)

This rest that He talks about is not primarily a rest for our bodies or minds. It is the deep rest of the spirit that transforms everything else. It is the rest of being in His presence, trusting His love and depending upon His power to carry us through the hills and valleys of life and bring us safely home again. It is the belief that no matter how we see things at any moment in time He will achieve His purpose in and through us and make good our short-comings.

Then, as we let go of the pressure to make our lives count in terms of the world’s ways, we can focus instead on how God may be wanting us to live, and on what He may be calling us to do, right where we are and how we are. He invariably amazes us with what He can do with us, in us and through us when we let Him in more intentionally.

Response:
Spend time with God- He is with you right now. Talk to Him about you and give Him space to talk to you about Himself.

Prayer:

Dear Father, forgive me for my deep yearnings and dissatisfactions with myself and my life and living. Help me to find my purpose and value not in worldly achievements and involvements but in You and in the things that You have prepared for me. Amen.

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My Lifebelt

“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you
except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
(1 Corinthians 2:2)

Reflection:
In the early stages of my then new journey with Christ I encountered a very real period of darkness. My beliefs, and even the Scriptures themselves, were attacked by others. They took it upon themselves to show me where both I and the Bible were wrong. I did not know enough to debate with them, even although something within me said that they were incorrect. I felt myself foundering, as if my ship of faith had sunk, and I was drifting alone in a sea of doubt.

It was then that I ‘remembered’ this statement of Paul’s. I can so clearly recall thinking that if it was good enough for Paul then it was good enough for me. This Jesus who had died on the cross for us would not let me drown. The picture that formed in my mind was of these words painted on a red and white life belt – the sort that hung on passenger liners. I mentally hooked my one arm through it, grasped my wrist with the other hand, and determined to hold on to this Scripture until God did something. I allowed myself to float along spiritually – just waiting. I did not think about the issues that had been raised, I just focussed on this one verse, waited and trusted. I kept attending church, and ceased having conversation with the people who sought to torpedo my faith.

Nothing dramatic happened but, as the weeks and months went by, I felt as if in a real way the ‘ocean floor’ was rising to meet me. The water was getting shallower and shallower and, one day, I knew that I had walked out of the sea of doubt. I was safe again on firm ground. The Jesus Christ who was crucified for me had brought me through the darkness, loneliness and confusion, to the simplicity of it all – Jesus Christ, my Saviour and Lord. He was my sure foundation and belief. It was not just knowing about Him, but getting to know Him, that brought light, life and love. He was with me.

I came to realise too that I could look at Scripture in a new way – from His side, instead of from the side of men.

He had rebuked the people when He said,

“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

It was not their study that was wrong. It was that they had stopped short by focussing only on the words, and not on the God who gave the words. And they missed out on Him who was now come as the Living Word. This is always the first, and most important, step – to come into a relationship with the Living Christ. The vital Scriptures, which point to Him, then become alive in a new and vibrant way, as the Emmaus disciples found.

“For I resolved to know nothing …. except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

Response:
Wherever you are in life, look to Jesus and ask Him to help you to draw closer to Him.

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

Prayer:

Lord Jesus, in the darkness of this world, which so affects me, please shine Your light, life and love into me, so that I may know You, love You and follow You more nearly. Amen.

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His Strength

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength,
that he considered me faithful,
appointing me to his service”
(1 Timothy 1:12)

Reflection:
It is a sobering thought that in calling and appointing us God considers us faithful – faithful to Him and to the particular ministry and mission to which He has called us and in which we will serve Him.

Notwithstanding his past God had now entrusted Paul with a new focus, way of life and ministry – and he trusted Paul to live it out. It is not that God left Paul to get on with it but He also gave to Paul the strength that he would need. In fact what was happening was that God was confident that He could carry out through Paul His plan and purpose and that Paul would be faithful enough to co-operate with and trust Him.

What God did with Paul and the others He does also with us – whether he calls us onto the international and public stage or the local and private one.  Our response is to have faith in Him and to be faithful to Him.

By ourselves no person “is good enough, or strong enough, or pure enough, or wise enough to be the servant of Christ. But, if they will give themselves to Christ, they will go, not in their own strength, but in the strength of their Lord.” (Barclay)

With Paul then we can indeed say that,

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength”  (Philippians 4:13)

Response:
God will give me the strength today to deal with His purposes today

Prayer:

Lord I am weak – in body, mind and spirit – but You are strong and invincible. Help me to trust You for my today and tomorrows and allow You to work Your will in, through and around me. Amen.

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