On Wings Of Eagles

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Sunday, August 18, 2019

If You're Happy and you Know it

Proverbs 16:20 (ESV)
Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
    and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

Probably every one has sung the song, "If You're Happy." You know the one I'm talking about -- "If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it clap your hands. If you're happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it. If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands."

I wonder how that song would go if it were sung by a bunch of birds? Maybe it would go like this, "If you're happy and you know it, flap your wings. (flap, flap) " What do you think a dog would do to show that he was happy? Wag his tail? "If you're happy and you know it, wag your tail. (swish-swish) If you're happy and you know it wag your tail. (swish-swish) If you're happy and you know it, then your tail will surely show it. If you're happy and you know it, wag your tail. (swish-swish)"

I heard a story about a little puppy that noticed that whenever he was happy, his tail wagged, so the thought he had found the secret to happiness. One day he shared the secret of happiness with an older dog. He said, "I have learned that the best thing for a dog is happiness, and that happiness is in my tail. So I am going to chase my tail; and when I catch it, I shall have happiness!" The old dog replied, "I too, believe that happiness is a marvelous thing for a dog, and that happiness is in my tail. But I have noticed that when I chase it, my tail keeps running away from me; but when I go about my business, it follows me wherever I go."

The Bible has a lot to say about being happy. It doesn't say, "Happy are they who have a lot of money" or "Happy are they who live in big houses and drive fancy cars." It doesn't even say, "Happy are they who only have good things happen to them." What the Bible does say is, "Happy are the merciful, happy are the peacemakers, and happy are the pure in heart." The Bible also says, Happy is he who trusts in the Lord. Many of us are like that little puppy chasing his tail -- trying to find true happiness that is always just out of our reach. What we need to do is learn that if we will just go about our business and trust in the Lord, happiness will follow us wherever we go.

Dear Lord, help us to place our trust in You so that we may experience the happiness that only You can bring. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Saturday, August 17, 2019

The power of habit: Bible reading

2 Timothy 3:14-17 (ESV)
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it 15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

What if you were told you that you would die tomorrow unless you took one pill? Would you miss it? Probably not. You would probably set an alarm. You would do something to make sure that you always took that pill every single day, because you know it is a matter of life and death.

There are other things like that in our life, things that aren’t a matter of life and death, but still very important to us. We have daily routines and habits that are really important—brushing your teeth, taking a shower, doing your homework, or eating meals. These things have become part of your regular life, and you wouldn’t really consider cutting them out.

Let’s look at a disciplines that is important for your spiritual health. We need to be diligent about practicing this. If we don’t practice it we put our faith at risk. We risk falling from the faith and losing out on eternity. Jesus himself tells us to “watch and pray” so that we don’t fall into temptation.

The habit is Bible reading. It’s something that Paul tells Timothy to continue. He urged him, “Continue in what you learned and have become convinced of.” Paul wants to Timothy to make a habit of remembering what he had been taught. He wanted Timothy to keep Scripture on the front of his mind, continuing to remember it.

Then he tells him, and us, why.

The Scriptures make us wise for salvation. There is no better or higher reason than this. God’s Word rebukes us when we are wrong. It teaches us of God’s love for us. It points us to God’s forgiveness of our sins in Christ. It equips us for a life of righteousness. It gives and strengthens our faith in Jesus.

God’s Word is good for everything else in this life too. In short, God’s Word is also a personal trainer for our daily walk as Christians. It equips and trains us to live as God’s people in this world.

Would you ever skip brushing your teeth on purpose? Of course not! It wouldn’t be healthy. The same goes for daily Bible reading. Sustain your spiritual health and grow in it by including God’s Word in your daily life.

Dear Lord, we thank You for the many opportunities You give us to make Your Word a part of our daily routines. Strengthen our bond with You and help us realize the importance Your Word has on our daily lives. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, August 16, 2019

The power of habit: Prayer

James 5:16-18 (ESV)
16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. 18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Why we don’t pray more? I can only speak for myself, but I sometimes don’t pray more because I think I can get more done if I actually “do” it than if I pray about it first. I think that my thinking, my working, my worrying, and my planning are more powerful than actually praying about it.

When I write it down it sounds pretty foolish, doesn’t it? But our lack of prayer says just that. Our lack of praying says to God that our activity and our working is more important than asking him to act and work and do.

James inspires us to believe that prayer is a powerful thing. He tells us that our prayers are powerful and effective. Our prayers matter. Our prayers change things. Our prayers make a difference.

If you believed that something was powerful, would you do it? Of course. If you thought something would make all the difference in the world, you would make sure it happened. If you thought something mattered, you would make time for it, intentionally, purposefully, regularly. That’s what we do for things that make a difference and matter to us.

James gives an example of an effective prayer. He reminds us of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17 and 18. Elijah prayed that it would not rain—and it didn’t rain. God withheld rain for three and a half years because of Elijah’s prayer. Then Elijah prayed again that it would rain—and God sent rain.

Prayer works. Prayer matters. It is powerful and effective, not because of the person who is praying, but because the person praying invokes God’s powerful name and humbly relies on God’s gracious promises and saving will. The story of Elijah—and many other stories throughout the Bible—show us that this is true.

So pray. Make a habit of it. Your Father in heaven loves you. He has forgiven all your sins, and he now invites you to call on him in prayer. In his love for you, he hears your prayers and works powerfully for you and for the world.

Dear Lord, You teach us that prayer is a powerful thing. In Your grace, Father, you invite us to pray. Help us to understand how powerful prayer is so that we make it a part of the very fiber of our life. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

We need to be really connected

Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

These are the days when we are more connected and yet more disconnected at the same time. We are more connected on our phones, more connected through social media. At the very same time, we are also quite disconnected as we live life. We’re connected thumb-to-thumb but not face-to-face and not soul-to-soul.

That can be a dangerous thing. Social media can lead us to be fake with other people. We easily filter the way life is really going. We can easily hide what is really going on with us. We can easily isolate ourselves from the Christ-centered community that we so desperately need. The truth is: The lone wolf gets picked off. That’s who the devil goes after because there is no one around to help when tempted.

God’s people need each other. We need other people in our lives. That is precisely why the writer wrote these words to us. He knew that we needed a Christ-centered community around us.

On the one hand, we need each other to see the blind spots in our faith and the sins that hide in the corners of our lives that we can’t see. We need other Christians to show us our sins. Even more than that, we need them to show us Jesus’ forgiveness. We need a Christ-centered community around us to keep us close to our Savior.

On the other hand, other people need us just as deeply in their lives. They need us to lovingly show them the blind spots of their faith, the sins that hide in the corners of their life. They need us to show them their sins and even more than that to tell them that Jesus has forgiven it all! They need us to spur them on with gospel encouragement!

We all need the family of believers, the community of Christ-followers, around us. In fact, they are God’s gift to you to keep you close to Jesus until he returns. And in the very same way, you are God’s gift to them to keep them close to Jesus.

Dear Lord, thank You for blessing us with many wonderful friends. Be with our friends and me. Help us to encourage each other to grow in Your Word. Keep Christ as the center of our lives and bring us closer to each other by bringing us closer to You. In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Who is the witness?

Acts 1:8 (ESV)
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

When I was in high school and college, I had to give speeches. Everybody did. Some speeches were better than others. You could always tell who had taken a speech class, because their speeches were just better. I was never that good, because I had never learned the art of delivering a speech.

That’s what it is. Delivering a speech is an art form that takes years of experience and training. A good speech is one that draws the audience in so they are interested in the topic. It must be ordered properly. It must be logical and interesting. The speaker should be prepared, confident, and even convincing. These things make giving a good speech so difficult. It’s what makes public speaking difficult and fear inducing for so many people.

And now Jesus wants us to talk about our faith? That’s what he says here. He told his disciples (and us too!) that this is who we are. We are witnesses of who he is and what he has done. We are his witnesses here, there, and everywhere. We’re supposed to talk about Jesus and share our faith?

But what will we say?
How will we say it?
How will we know what to say?
Will people listen?
Will they agree with what we’ve got to say?

Jesus doesn’t ask us to figure that out. Being a witness is not at all like delivering a speech.

Did you notice what he says? First, there is this amazing promise that we’ll receive power when the Holy Spirit comes. Jesus is promising here, and in other places, that he’ll give us the Holy Spirit so that we’re confident, so that we have words.

Then, he says, “You will be witnesses.” Jesus isn’t asking us to say it just right or to win the argument. Jesus isn’t asking us to put together a “good speech.” Jesus isn’t even asking to convince anybody about anything. He’s asking us to be witnesses. A witness doesn’t have to convince. A witness has to tell the story. It is the job of the attorney to do the convincing. Jesus is asking us to tell the world about the good things that He’s done. His Holy Spirit will do the rest.

You are the witness. Witnessing is not like giving a speech. It’s simply telling the story of Jesus. This is who you are. The Holy Spirit will be with you.

Dear Lord, thank you for Your Holy Spirit. Remind us that we are your witnesses and all you ask us to do is share the message. You will give us the words. You will give us the confidence. And You will do good things through the Word we share; You promise it. Make us Your witness in all that we do and say today. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Numbers don't count

Judges 7:15 (ESV)
As soon as Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshiped. And he returned to the camp of Israel and said, “Arise, for the Lord has given the host of Midian into your hand.”

Everyone loves underdog stories. We all want to see the scrappy team from the small town win the state championship. People love to root for the underdog. But nobody wants to be the underdog. When it gets down to it, we would definitely prefer to be the top dog with no one to challenge us.

Gideon didn’t want to be the underdog either. He was given the job of rescuing God’s people, the Israelites, from the invading Midianites. Israel was outnumbered badly. From a military point of view, their best course of action would be surrender and hope they were treated well as prisoners. Gideon knew that, but he still tried his best to muster the best fighting force he could, a little over 32,000 men. He was as ready as he could be to face the enemy. The opening whistle of the most important match in Gideon’s life was about to sound.

But God had a lesson to teach Gideon.

You see, God had already promised to save the Israelites and to help them defeat Midian. And God wanted them to trust his promise to the win that victory for them. So, what did God do? He commanded Gideon to dismiss almost his entire army. At the end of that day, Gideon was left with less than one percent of his original force, only 300 men! You can’t even fill a large gym with 300 men, but that was Israel’s entire army. This meager army was up against an enemy so large that you couldn’t even count their camels, let alone soldiers. Gideon was about to learn a lesson on trust.

Israel did win the battle that day. But they didn’t win because of numbers, or strategy, or ferocity. They won because God was on their side.

God wants us to know the same thing. God is on our side so power, might, wisdom, or numbers don’t matter. If God is for us, who can be against us? With our trust in God, we really have nothing to fear.

It is true that even Christians sometimes suffer during their lives. Does this mean they didn’t trust in God enough? Or maybe God doesn’t care about them? No.

We believe that God will protect us spiritually above all else. He has already won the greatest victory possible for us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, he suffered for every person through all of time. Jesus death paid the price for our sins. The battles against sin, death, and the devil have all been won for us. “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:31-32)

God may not help our team win every championship. In fact, we will face troubles in life, but that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that we can trust God’s promise that He has won the final victory for us and is waiting for us in heaven.

That inspires the same confidence in us as in Gideon to call out, “Get up! The Lord has given this into our hands!” If God is for us, who can be against us? He will for fight for us in life so that we might enjoy an eternity with him.

Dear Lord, thank You for fighting the battles we couldn’t. Thank You for watching over us and protecting us. Help us to remember Your promises and to always put our trust in You. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Back to school

Acts 2:46 (ESV)
And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts.

It’s game day, time to start school. You know what you have to do, so you get out on the court or field to face your opponents. Then you realize something’s wrong. You’re all by yourself. The other team is there, looming over you like a dark storm cloud from the other end of the field. However, not one of your teammates can be seen. Not on the court. Not on the bench. Nowhere. You have no one on your side.

Do you ever feel like that is your spiritual situation? Maybe you feel like the only Christian at your school facing the whole science department that teaches evolution as truth. Maybe you’re the only one at your job who doesn’t want to take a longer break than allowed.

In those situations, you may feel alone and unable to handle the pressure. You know his promise to always be with you, yet the present situation makes you question God’s presence.

That’s one of the reasons God surrounds us with the church and puts other Christians in our lives. God does not want us to be alone. He wants us to be together.

God equips your Christian friends to help you through all kinds of life’s problems, earthly or spiritual. Whether you have questions about the Bible or about your homework, whether you’re trying to pick a college or what to wear to school tomorrow, Christian friends can help because they (like you) know where to find answers to life’s critical questions. Christian brothers and sisters can remind you of God’s promises and give encouragement, comfort, or even correction from God’s Word. And not only do you get to enjoy these benefits, but to share them! God calls you to be that encouraging, supportive Christian friend to others too.

Most importantly, when you do crack under the pressure and give in to sin, your Christian friends are there to point you to Jesus. Your Christian friends are there to show and give you Jesus’s forgiveness. His perfect life and innocent death paid the penalty for all your sins. That’s the message you need to hear most of all. That’s also the message your friends need to hear from you most of all.

Do you have Christian friends? Thank God for them! Surround yourself with them. Then be one for them!

Dear Lord, thank You so much for blessing us with Christian friends so we can encourage each other to stay close to You. Forgive us for the times we haven’t been the friend You want us to be. Thank You for being the perfect friend. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.