ON WINGS LIKE EAGLES

Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them up and carried them safely on his pinions. [Deuteronomy 32:11 (NLT)]

He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! [Psalm 103:5 (NLT)]

bald eagleThe eagle is mentioned more than any other bird of prey in the Bible. References are made to its swiftness of flight, ability to soar high in the air, excellent vision, the way it sets its nest in high places, and the strength of its wings. The above two verses about eagles, however, are more figurative than literal and have no scientific basis. Although mother eagles do hover over their young, they cannot carry them. A bald eagle’s lifting power is only about a third of its weight. An eaglet ready to fly is as heavy as its parents. If Mrs. Eagle tried to carry junior, they’d both fall! The second verse about being renewed like an eagle is probably connected to an ancient belief that every ten years the eagle disappeared into the sun, dove down into the sea with the setting sun, and emerged young again. There’s a similar urban myth that at 30 years of age, the eagle flies to a high mountain top and makes the difficult decision between death or the painful plucking out of all of its feathers and the destruction of its beak and talons. After waiting several months for everything to grow back again, it will be transformed and the refreshed bird will be able to live another 30 years. Not so; like the rest of us, when it’s time to grow old and die, the eagle has no choice. Like other birds, however, when the eagle molts, old worn feathers will drop and new ones will replace them.

The Bible’s figures of speech have more scientific basis when they refer to the eagle’s wings and ability to fly. Isaiah tells us that trusting in the Lord will allow us to soar on wings like eagles. An eagle’s wing span can be over seven feet and yet those powerful wings weigh less than two pounds. Nevertheless, pound for pound, an eagle’s wings are stronger than the wings of an airplane! By using the wind and updrafts that come off hills and mountains, the eagle’s wings can carry it as high as 10,000 feet and move it faster than thirty-five miles an hour. During migratory season, those wings can easily carry an eagle over 125 miles in a day.

Isaiah is correct: trusting in God truly will allow us to fly like eagles. With faith in God, we will have strength and stamina and, like the eagle, we can rise to great heights. Just as the eagle uses the wind to propel himself up and through a storm, we can use God’s power to fly through the storms of life. When we trust in the Lord, we can soar like eagles. May you soar today!

You cannot fly like an eagle with the wings of a wren. [William Henry Hudson]

But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. [Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)]

For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease. He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection. Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day. [Psalm 91:3-5 (NLT)]

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NO REGRETS

Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever. [Revelation 21:3-4 (NLT)]

It is the same way with the resurrection of the dead. Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. [1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (NLT)]

tiger swallowtail butterfly on bergamotWhen writing yesterday’s devotion (“It’s Curtains”), I couldn’t help but feel a brief pang of regret because I never had those conversations with my parents before they died. The thoughts, “Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you,” may have been assumed but never were spoken. I was fifteen when my mother succumbed to cancer. I saw her that day in hospital but, when I walked out that afternoon, I was sure I’d see her again when I visited the following day. I never thought the next time I saw her she’d be lying in a casket. When people would say, “She looks so good,” I wanted to shout at them and say, “She doesn’t look good; she looks dead!” Five years later, I was in the same funeral home and surrounded by many of the same mourners. That time, it was my father’s body lying so still in the front of the room. Two day earlier he’d been hunting pheasants when his heart failed; he died in the middle of a corn field. I’d seen him just a few weeks before that and never thought our farewell was the final one. Did my parents know how much I loved them? Did they know how sorry I was for my failings? Did they know I forgave them for theirs? Did they know how thankful I was for the life they gave me?

If we’d had those conversations at that time, however, I’m not sure how satisfying they would have been. I was far too young to have any concept of what it meant to be a parent and make the difficult choices parents do. I was too immature to have a real appreciation of the sacrifices they made for me or to understand the depth of parental love and the pain that so often accompanies it. And, I was far too young to acknowledge how wrong I’d been in so many ways. I think of the Apostle Paul’s words, “I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child.” Indeed, I did. Now, more than fifty years later, I have the blessings of faith, maturity, perspective, and experience but those conversations cannot take place. Surely, like me, there are others whose final farewells were nonexistent or less than satisfactory. Nevertheless, they were final.

Although I expect to meet my parents in heaven, I think we’ll be too busy joyfully worshipping God to bring our regrets with us to the afterlife. What’s done is done and those last farewells, as unsatisfactory as they were, will have to do. The past is just that—passed! There really is no room in our lives for regret or looking backward. After all, we still have a race to run.

To dwell on the past simply causes failure in the present. While you are sitting down and bemoaning the past and regretting all the things you have not done, you are crippling yourself and preventing yourself from working in the present. Is that Christianity? Of course it is not. [Martyn Lloyd-Jones]

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. [Philippians 3:13b-14 (NLT)]

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YOUR HEART’S DESIRE

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust him, and he will help you. [Psalm 37:4-5 (NLT)]

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed. [Psalm 20:4 (NLT)]

oxeye daisy
What is it your heart desires? A photo safari in Africa or a river boat cruise along the Rhine? A paid-off mortgage or an enormous IRA? A private chef, personal trainer, maid or someone to chauffer the kids to their assorted activities? To be free of physical ailments or pain? A better paying job, longer vacation, or nicer boss? Better behaved children, a more loving spouse, or an abundance of friends? Are these the things our hearts desire or do we really desire the things that will accompany them—things like love, security, joy, serenity, a sense of well-being and peace? When we commit everything to the Lord, we will have those things, even without the luxury items, vacations, ideal situations, money or even the health.

Concentrate on counting your blessings and you’ll have little time to count anything else. [Woodrow Kroll]

Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. [Psalm 73:25 (NLT)]

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. [Psalm 145:18-19 (NLT)]

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FINDING THE RIGHT FIT

We must also consider how to encourage each other to show love and to do good things. We should not stop gathering together with other believers, as some of you are doing. Instead, we must continue to encourage each other even more as we see the day of the Lord coming. [Hebrews 10:24-25 (GW)]

Bar None Cowboy ChurchWhen people become dissatisfied with their houses, they don’t abandon the idea of living in a house again and move into a tent. Either they tolerate their grievance, remodel or go shopping for a house that better suits their needs. Yet, with our churches, when people become dissatisfied with their particular parish or denomination, they often stop going to any church at all.

Sometime remodeling a house can be a simple project and modifying a church may be as easy as suggesting a new small group or working with the worship committee to explore new avenues of worship. Our northern church, for example, responded to the changing needs of the parish by adding a contemporary worship service to its traditional ones. Sometimes, however, remodeling won’t do the trick and what’s wrong for us can’t be changed. Perhaps the house is two-story when we no longer can negotiate stairs or the church no longer corresponds with where we are in our faith journey. Whatever the reason, rather than abandon church altogether, it’s time to go house-of-worship hunting until a new church home is found.

Church hunting isn’t much different than house hunting, except that we’re less interested in the number of bathrooms or curb appeal. Like any other important choice, we start by taking our quest to God in prayer and then exploring the Internet to see what’s available. As with real estate, we may have to check out several possibilities and visit more than once before finding the church that can feel like home. Like people and houses, Christian churches come in all sizes and styles and each has its own personality. A good Sunday school could be important for a young family while opportunities to serve may be more important to retirees. Some people prefer mega-churches while others want an intimate atmosphere. Some people want the ceremony and dignity of traditional or liturgical churches while others want the free-flowing atmosphere, contemporary music and PowerPoint displays found in “praise and worship” churches. Others may even favor the more casual atmosphere of the “seeker sensitive” churches with their use of secular music and performance style worship.

Not every house is right for every family and not every Christian church is right for every Christian. Recently, our travels brought us past both the Free Spirit Biker Church and the Bar None Cowboy Church. While neither would be a good fit for me, they are for someone else! The important thing is to find the right balance of Scripture, prayer, preaching, music, evangelism, sacraments and fellowship for our individual needs. What we must never do is give up on Christ’s Church just because we’ve given up on a particular one! Like Goldilocks, we just have to keep searching until we find the church that is “just right!”

You received Christ Jesus the Lord, so continue to live as Christ’s people. Sink your roots in him and build on him. Be strengthened by the faith that you were taught, and overflow with thanksgiving. [Colossians 6-7 (GW)]

Also, let Christ’s peace control you. God has called you into this peace by bringing you into one body. Be thankful. Let Christ’s word with all its wisdom and richness live in you. Use psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to teach and instruct yourselves about God’s kindness. Sing to God in your hearts. Everything you say or do should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. [Colossians 3:15-17 (GW)]

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SETTLING THE ACCOUNT

Buena Vista, Iowa
Your wickedness will bring its own punishment. Your turning from me will shame you. You will see what an evil, bitter thing it is to abandon the Lord your God and not to fear him. I, the Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken! [Jeremiah 2:19 (NLT)]

One autumn day, the atheist farmer told the minister that he’d plowed, disked, fertilized, planted, cultivated and harvested all of his fields on Sundays. He bragged that he had the biggest crop ever while defying the Biblical command to rest on the Sabbath. Moreover, he’d cursed the minister’s nonexistent God the entire time he worked. “Explain that!” challenged the farmer. The minister calmly replied that God doesn’t always settle his accounts in October!

For much of the year, I live in southwest Florida in an area with one of the highest life expectancies in the nation—83.5 years. That’s more than four and a half years longer than the average American and more than ten years longer than someone in Gasden, Alabama. Among other things, statistics show that the fatter our wallets and the thinner our bodies, the longer we’re likely to live. Nevertheless, no matter where we reside, how much we weigh, how well we eat, how many doctors we visit, or how wealthy we are, we will all say farewell to our life here on earth; life is terminal. We never know when God will settle his accounts but we do know that, someday, He will!

In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and the destitute and diseased beggar, we are warned about eternal judgment and that once we reach our journey’s end, there are no transfers. Hell is a real place and our final destination is final. When death arrives, and it will, what we’ve accumulated here on earth will mean nothing. Neither richness nor poverty is of importance; what matters will be our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Like the rich man in the parable, we are free to ignore the cries of those around us, but we’d better be prepared to do some crying ourselves. Like the farmer in my story, we are free to reject the message of Christ but, if we do, we must be ready to face the consequences of that choice. God is not to be disregarded or treated carelessly. Our loving God doesn’t send anyone to hell; He just honors the sinner’s choice. If we wish to live apart from Him in this world, He will be happy to oblige us in the next.

 If you board the train of unbelief, you will have to take it all the way to its destination. [Erwin W. Lutzer]

And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.” [1 Peter 1:17 (NLT)]

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. … Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it. [James 4:14,17 (NLT)]

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AN HONORABLE MAN

Jabez was more honorable than his brothers … Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked. [1 Chronicles 4:9,10 (ESV)]

great blue heronWhen doing genealogy research, the names and dates don’t mean as much to me as the tidbits of information that sometimes come along with them. From on-line sources, I learned that my great-grandfather, who started as an immigrant farm boy, “rose to business heights.” His business creed was “fair dealing,” and his great ambition was “to raise the standard of business honor, and his accomplishments and his methods through the years of his career stand as a monument to this creed.” An associate said, “He was the most considerate man I ever have known, and he had high ideals for everything, not excepting his business.” From family lore, I knew he was a successful businessman but now I know that he was an honorable man.

Admittedly, with the strange names and all those begats, the genealogy in the Bible is pretty boring. Every once in a while, however, we come across an interesting snippet and wonder why it is included. For no apparent reason, in 1 Chronicles, we learn that two brothers, Ezer and Elead, were killed trying to steal livestock, that Ulam’s sons were mighty warriors and expert archers, and that someone named Jabez said a prayer for a successful and pain free life and God gave him what he wanted.

When reading about Jabez, we might think that all we need for health, wealth and happiness is prayer! Some people say that God will always answer the prayer of Jabez as written in Scripture and I wonder, why that one? Why not one of mine? Why not the Apostle Paul’s when he asked three times for the removal of the thorn in his side? Why not Jesus’ when he asked (and so fervently that he sweat blood) that his cup of suffering and punishment pass from him? Did God love them less than Jabez?

Did Jabez have the right combination of words and, if we use those same words, will our prayers be granted? Let us never make the mistake of thinking the power of prayer lies in our words—it lies in God. Neither our thoughts or nor our prayers control reality; God’s the one in charge! While God will do what we ask if our prayer is in accord with His will, the problem is that much of what we want isn’t in His will. No matter how often we pray the prayer of Jabez, it just isn’t going to happen if that’s not God’s plan. God’s purpose is character building and salvation, not giving us a life without trouble or pain.

People sometimes miss the first part of the Chronicler’s description of Jabez—he was more honorable than any of his brothers. Honorable people are honest, compassionate, trustworthy and take responsibility for their actions. Honorable men don’t stand back and just pray for success—they work at it with dignity and grace! Like my great-grandfather and Jabez, they are men of God. While men of God believe in prayer, they also believe in hard work and fair dealing and, like my great-grandfather and Jabez, they will be remembered as successful. They may not necessarily have the blessings of wealth or a life free of trouble and pain; they will, however, have a rich life!

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!…Wealth and riches are in his house, and his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous. It is well with the man who deals generously and lends; who conducts his affairs with justice. For the righteous will never be moved; he will be remembered forever. [Psalm 112:1,3-6 (ESV)]

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