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Made To Soar

Made To Soar

When I visit the zoo, I skip the eagles’ cage. I can’t stand the pain of seeing those majestic birds sit there on their perches day after day, their burnished brown wings draped over them like an ill-fitting old coat. They were created for the heights, to dance among the clouds, not to be prisoners in a cage. Those birds were made to fly.
Many people who profess that they are Christ’s men and women are like those caged eagles. They are made to live as free citizens of heaven, but they are imprisoned by their own sin. Their condition must break God’s heart. He knows what they could become, but they have put themselves in a cage. And the irony is that it is a cage with open doors.
The apostle Paul said that we who have put our trust in Christ have died with Him to the sin that confined us in our old life. And we are now alive in Him. We are not the person we used to be. Therefore, we must stop facing life as we used to face it.
Think long about those truths. Remind yourself of them often. Through Christ, you have been set free! You were never meant to be imprisoned in a cage. Confess your sin and trust God anew. You were made to soar.
Lord, I thank You for salvation,
For Your mercy, full and free;
Take my all in consecration,
Glorify Yourself in me. —Codner, Elizabeth
Christ is the open door out of the cage of sin.

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Never Too Old

Never Too Old

Look at what some people have accomplished despite advancing age. When Grandma Moses was 100, she was still painting. George Bernard Shaw wrote a play at 94. Arthur Rubinstein gave a great recital at Carnegie Hall when he was 89. And at 82, Winston Churchill wrote A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.
The Bible tells of many godly people who didn’t let the advancing years stop them—Caleb and Moses, for instance. At 85, Caleb (one of the men who had spied out the land of Canaan) entered the Promised Land and drove out the Anakites (Josh. 14:6-15). And Moses continued to lead the people of Israel faithfully until he was 120 (Deut. 34:5-7). The secret of their success was faith in God and an attitude of steadfastness until God called them home.
There are many people who have lived far beyond the 70 years mentioned in Psalm 90:10. They are still bearing “fruit in old age” (Ps. 92:14) by encouraging others and using their energy in God’s service. Others, however, far younger, have decided to coast home.
As long as we have strength, we need to dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s service. Then, no matter what our age, we can “rejoice and be glad.”
Growing old but not retiring,
Lord, the battle still is on;
I’ll go on without relenting
Till the final victory’s won. —Anon.
To stay youthful, stay useful.

Saved By His Blood

SAVED BY HIS BLOOD

Heb. 5:7-9; Ps. 30; John 19:25-27

“Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
Today is the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, when we commemorate the pain of the mother of Jesus who stood at the foot of his cross and watched him die in agony for the salvation of the world. He was perfected by his suffering, and God saved him from death in his resurrection, making him the source of salvation for all who obey him.
Now he is exalted in glory in the heavenly sanctuary, seated at the right hand of the Father as the source of eternal salvation for all who believe in him. “For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf” (Heb. 9:24). “He entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption” (Heb. 9:12).
This is the mystery of our salvation. It was accomplished by the death on the cross of the Son of God made man. He took our sins upon himself (2 Cor. 5:21) and suffered for them (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 2:24) to make just reparation for them that satisfied divine justice for all who believe in him (John 3:36). So Christ has become the source of eternal salvation for all who believe in him.
“He has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb. 9:26). “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). He was punished instead of us for our sins, and his suffering and death count as though they were ours in just punishment for our sins. “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5 KJV). Because he was punished for our sins, serving our sentence for us, we who believe in him have peace and salvation. This is the meaning of “the chastisement of our peace was upon him” (Isa. 53:5 KJV) in its fulfilled sense in the death of Jesus.
Today’s liturgy celebrates our redemption by the blood of the cross of Christ. Today’s Sequence, the Stabat Mater, beholds Christ’s saving death on the cross through the eyes of Mary his mother who watched him die in torment in reparation for our sins: “For the sins of his own nation/ saw him hang in desolation/ till his spirit forth he sent … Let me share with you his pain,/ who for all our sins was slain,/ who for me in torments died” (Stabat Mater). “It has pleased the Father to reconcile all creation in himself through the blood of Christ” (Ant. Lauds). “Through his cross, Christ our peace has reconciled us to God” (Ant. Vespers). “In Christ we have redemption through his blood” (Ant. Vespers).
It was God’s will that Jesus Christ “might taste death for every one” (Heb. 2:9). “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). So “now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:13).
Through our faith, all this is applied to us, especially through the sacrament of reconciliation (John 20:22-23) that personally channels the merits of Christ’s death on the cross to us in a deeply experiential way.

The Fellowship Of Faith

The fellowship of faith.
 

“The Lord is the strength of his people”.

Ps 28:8 NIV

 
Sometimes people speak and think as if God was their private possession. Christ is referred to as “My Jesus” and it is good and right that the intensely personal nature of the relationship between believers and God should be maintained and emphasized. However there is much more to the Christian faith than the personal relationship.

The writer of Psalm 28 expressed a very personal awareness of, and faith in, God. But he was also deeply conscious that he was not the only person in the world with whom God had dealings. God was, he said, his strength and his shield. But he knew he was part of a community of people as well, and that the Lord was their strength as well. The psalmist, “being a member of the community of the people of God … lives as such in the fellowship of faith and from that fellowship”
(A.Weiser, The Psalms p258)
. God had pledged himself to be the God and Lord of a whole community of people, not just of a few individuals.

We might say, to use a modern expression, that Jesus “globalized” the love of God. Previously the people of God had regarded themselves as a nation to be the objects of God’s love. Christians know that neither nationality nor race nor geography can confine God’s activity and love. He loves the world, and those within it who believe in Christ constitute the fellowship of faith. So whilst Christ may be “my Jesus”, he is also “our Saviour and Lord”. You receive from, and live your spiritual life within, that community of faith. Appreciate it, pray for it, rejoice in it and thank God for it.
 

Holding Your Breath

Holding Your Breath

1 Thessalonians 5:17 – Pray constantly, rejoice in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

So how long can you hold your breath? I can do it for a minute and ten seconds. You can hold your breath if you want, and turn a delicate shade of Presbyterian blue. But most of us don’t want to. As long as there’s air — we’ll breathe it.
So how long can you go without praying? An orthodox Jew should pray three times a day; a devout Muslim prays five times; how about a good Christian? Once a week and sometimes less in the cottage season? Before every meal but not before breakfast (no one’s that religious that early)? Prayer before meetings start, of course. Prayer by the bedside in a hospital, to be sure. But how often do you really need to pray to be a good Christian?
The answer is a single word — always.
Praying, like breathing is what life’s all about. We have a name for people who have stopped breathing. Dead.
Is there a different name for someone who has stopped praying?

Gracious God, we are so busy making a living that we have little time for real living. Forgive us for not speaking to you and even more for not listening. Create again for us those still moments when we may stop, consider, pray and give thanks that you are God.
It’s not long that we pray this day but it is our life as surely and as deeply as breath itself. Amen.

Jump For Joy

Jump for joy!
 

“Now I’m jumping for joy, and shouting and singing my thanks to him”.

Ps 28:7 EHP

 
Although a refreshing relaxation of the solemnity and formality of Christian worship has come about in the last thirty years or so, many people still associate Christianity with dullness, tradition and boredom. And some fear that if they “let go” even a little they will somehow be dishonouring God.
Well three thousand years ago the poet who wrote this psalm said that his heart leapt for joy. He knew that God had blessed him in answering his persistent prayer. He had found God to be the source of his spiritual strength and his defender in the presence of danger. So he had plenty for which to be thankful to God. Whether he actually jumped up and down or just used the language of exuberance to describe how he felt inwardly whilst outwardly showing restraint we shall never know. Maybe he knew no such tradition of being sedate, sombre and solemn as we do?
Don’t be afraid to give full voice to your joy nor to express your gratitude to God in words or actions that spring from your deeply felt gratitude to the Lord. If you were deeply sad you would in all probability shed tears and complain to God, so why allow convention to curb your thanksgiving if you feel really excited about something God has done for you? Joy is one of the component fruits of the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life and it is an expression of faith in him. In addition, by expressing joy outwardly you tell other people about what the Lord has done for you and make them want to know the same Saviour.
 

It’s Going To Be All Right

It’s Going To Be All Right!

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.

Four-year-old Debbie not only insisted that Grandpa read her a story; she would have no substitute for Hansel and Gretel. Repeatedly, Grandpa stopped at points where violence erupts: a hungry mother and father plan to solve the food shortage by taking their children into a forest and losing them; an evil witch puts Hansel into a cage to get fat so she can cook him and eat him. These hardly seemed to be the sorts of things a little one should hear just before she went to bed. “Are you sure you want to hear this, Debbie? Aren’t you frightened?” “No, Grandpa! I’m not scared! keep on reading! It’s going to be all right!” Debbie’s certainty that it was going to be all right shielded her from fear.
Whatever else the love of God may do, it assures the trusting believer that there is nothing to fear. God has promised that all things work together for good, for those who love Him. That means that our story will have a happy ending. No matter how dreadful it is at the moment, “It’s going to be all right!”

Lord God, show us clearly how You are working our lives out for the best, and give us Your grace to persevere until it does become clear. Amen.

The Lord Is My Strength And My Shield.

The Lord is my strength and my shield.
 

“The Lord is my strength and my shield”.

Ps 28:7 NIV

 
Today physical strength and fitness are highly prized attributes. People spend many hours and much energy developing their physique to make them both look and feel strong and powerful. Some go on special diets to promote physical development. Sadly, some sporting people also resort to drugs to build stronger bodies and so get an edge on their opponents.
The man who wrote this psalm, whatever his physical attributes, knew that there was another kind of strength which he valued much more than muscular development. His faith, nurtured on long years of recalling the mighty deeds of God and battling away at prayer till God answered, was the source of his true strength. Inner strength, of heart, of mind, of purpose had made him the sort of strong disciple God needed. And God was also his shield. The shield was to the warrior of old something he had always by his side to parry and deflect the arrows shot by enemies. He lived in constant awareness of danger, and God was his first line of defence, in good times and in bad.
Let your faith in Christ be to you what it was to the poet. Nurture yourself on the words and actions of Jesus Christ and the mighty acts of God. Soak your mind and heart with prayer and let your daily walk be one in which you set out with the Lord and journey with him through till nightfall. No matter what your personal circumstances let your faith be strong and let God make you mighty. However strong or weak you are physically, make sure that spiritually you are well equipped to face the world.

Lost And Found

Lost And Found

Luke 15:24 – “This son of mine was dead, but is alive again, was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.
I left the scarf on the Aberdeen to Glasgow intercity train. I was annoyed, it had sentimental value.
A few weeks later I called at the Lost and Found Office in Glasgow, and then in Aberdeen. It wasn’t there. I was amazed at the amount of stuff that was there! There were hundreds of scarves, umbrellas, coats, books, toys etc. All of them waiting to be picked up and taken home.
Lost and found. That describes the Prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 pretty well. It might describe us too!
If you are feeling a million miles from God today, and you are fed up carrying all that guilt, shame and mess, take what Jesus is teaching here to heart and come home.
There is no-one so lost that the Father’s love will not find them. God is not waiting with a big account which needs settling. God is not waiting with preconditions for talks with us. God is not holding back his love to see if we deserve it. God reveals his love for us in Jesus Christ. This parable is an encouragement to the “lost prodigal” inside each one of us to wise up and come Home.

Thank you that you have revealed that you are our Father, and that in you we have a home to return to. Amen.