Monthly Archives: August 2015

On Eagles’ Wings

Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall.
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall rise up on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary;
they will walk and will not faint
– Isaiah 40:30-31

The other day, I was listening to the prayer and song on ‘Lift Him Up’ (previously published on this blog) where Ron Kenoly quotes that scripture and they then sing the song ‘We will wait upon the Lord’. And I felt the Spirit speaking to me about the verse speaking of ‘rising up like eagles’.

It’s used as a metaphor for several things: being able to take a heavenly perspective; being able to go up where ordinary humans cannot; rising above the circumstances of life; and similar things relating to the context which describes how believers gather their strength from God.

Now, the ‘rise up on wings like eagles’ (which is how Ron quotes that verse) is often translated as ‘soar on wings like eagles’; certainly in my favourite Bible translation, the 1978 NIV, it is translated like that. Of course, you can see that there’s going to be an aviation analogy in here, can’t you? But actually it’s more than a simple analogy; as an ex-glider pilot I have some inside knowledge that is of help in getting more out of this verse!

The principles of soaring work in exactly the same way for gliders as they do for eagles. I’m sure God knew, when Isaiah wrote this verse 800 years before the time of Jesus, that pilots like myself would understand more about this passage than the average ground-dwelling reader!

So, what is soaring? Soaring means climbing up and up into the sky with very little effort. Gliders can stay up in the air, despite having no engine, for (sometimes) hours at a time, by using soaring techniques. And the thing with soaring is that it’s effortless. Like I said, there’s actually very little energy expended at all. The eagle does not have to flap his wings; the glider needs no engine. The header picture for this post says it all; the eagle simply spreads his wings and soars. Notice how  the eagle in the picture is simply gliding on his outstretched wings, catching the ‘lift’. He’s not flapping his wings (the equivalent of using an engine). It’s completely free energy; neither aircraft nor eagle needs to burn any fuel or food to gain height.

How does this work? The trick is to find what pilots refer to as lift, or rising air – air that is moving upwards, and the glider or eagle is carried upwards in the surrounding rising air as long as the aircraft remains within the zone of lift. Lift can be found in several discrete and quite localised places; the chief three ways of finding rising air are as wave lift, slope lift and thermals. Each of these types of lift has certain signs associated with it, and certain places in which it can be found, by the discerning glider pilot or eagle. You have to be really on your toes to find the lift before gravity takes over – and stay within the lift – but when you know what to look for, it’s not all that hard. For example, thermals tend to have a certain type of cloud above them. If you can get under one of those types of cloud, there’s a good chance you’ll find lift there. Finding the lift is therefore crucial to staying up high and not having to come down.

Now, the parallel for the person of faith is quite apparent from all this. We need to find God’s ‘lift’. As you can read on my title graphic, John 5:19 is where Jesus said, ‘I do what I see the Father doing’; He was about His Father’s business. The thing is to see what Father is doing and work with Him – this is your ‘lift’. You need to learn how to discern Father’s current business in your life. Learn the ‘signs’. Learn where Father can be found. Soar on the ‘lift’ of Father’s will. It’s working within Father’s will that makes it so effortless – soaring in your faith – because all you need to do is to ‘do what you see the Father doing’. You need to stay within God’s will in the same way as the eagle needs to stay in the lift zone.

Because waiting on the Lord is where you will find your lift.

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Lift Him Up!

Here’s the video of the classic 1992 Hosanna! album ‘Lift Him Up!’, led by Ron Kenoly. This album was one of the best recordings Hosanna! ever made.

Great instrumentals and vocals make up just over an hour of heartfelt praise and worship; especially spectacular are the vocals in the spine-tingling ‘Anointing Fall on Me‘ and ‘All Honor‘, and notably the anointed instrumentals from Justo Almario and Alex Acuña, culminating in Abraham Laboriel’s stunning bass solo in ‘Ancient of Days‘, in the instrumental section at about 28mins.

Ok, the hair and clothing styles are a bit dated, but the worship is just tremendous. The standard of musicianship is extremely high, but this does not detract from the worship in the way that today’s ‘clinically-perfect’ recordings often do. I simply wanted to share this with you in order to bless you.

Here is the track list:

Lift Him Up
Mourning into Dancing
Righteousness, Peace and Joy
The Solid Rock
Let Everything that has Breath
Prayer
We will Wait upon the Lord
Ancient of Days
Hallowed Be Your Name
Anointing Fall on Me
All Honor
Going Up to the High Places
Whose Report will You Believe
Worship the Lord
Call Him Up
Can’t Stop Praisin’ His Name

So, find an hour or so, find somewhere quiet to sit, plug in your best headphones and let this video and its message flow over you. Soak in it. Drink it in. There is so much truth in this video that the music and stuff somehow become secondary:

Whose report will you believe? We shall believe the report of the Lord!

If you confess the Lord, call Him up!

Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto the Ancient of Days!

Enjoy!

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Oceans – Revisited

A couple of months ago, I posted a link to the song ‘Oceans’. At the time, I commented that the song was profound; lately, I have increasingly come to realise just how profound, and indeed I am still hearing God’s Voice through it.

Here are the lyrics once again:

You call me out upon the waters
The great unknown where feet may fail
And there I find You in the mystery
In oceans deep
My faith will stand

And I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Your grace abounds in deepest waters
Your sovereign hand
Will be my guide
Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me
You’ve never failed and You won’t start now

So I will call upon Your name
And keep my eyes above the waves
When oceans rise
My soul will rest in Your embrace
For I am Yours and You are mine

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

I will call upon Your name
Keep my eyes above the waves
My soul will rest in Your embrace
I am Yours and You are mine

(Oceans by Crocker, Houston & Ligthelm)

When we are completely out of our depth in life, when everything is too much, when fear and horror surround us, God is there. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds us, He’s never failed, and He won’t start now.

‘ Walking on the water’ is not simply something that St. Peter did 2,000 years ago on the Sea of Galilee. Figuratively, it’s something we all have to learn to do if we want to weather the storms that life throws at us. Granted, in our own strength, we can try to do this, and I’m not saying that it’s not humanly possible. But why not tap into the immense, unlimited reservoirs of God’s peace and grace as we navigate life’s storms? He walks right by us, holding us up.

How to do this? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Remember, it’s all about Jesus! He’s the One Who has already been there; He’s the One Who has borne all our burdens – all our burdens! in His Body on the Cross. He’s borne our sickness, our grief, our strife, everything (as prophesied in about 800BC in Isaiah 53:4ff) – all our burdens. Keep your eyes on Him, and you will walk on the water of the storms of life without going under.

And this bears fruit in your Christian walk. Let’s look at the lyrics again:

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Savior

Read that again and again. I can’t add anything to that lyric; I will let it speak for itself. This is why that musical passage is sung over and over in this rendition of the song. This is the core of the whole thing. Holy Spirit, lead us where our trust is without borders. Unlimited trust.

You only need trust like that when you are completely out of your depth. And that’s where you learn to trust Him completely – and that trust will not be in vain.

Here is the song again. Sit down, plug in your headphones, ignore the cheesy graphics (preferably by closing your eyes) and just soak. Let the Spirit of God soak your life with His security and His peace, no matter how deep are the waters He’s having you walk on at the moment.

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It’s All About Jesus!

For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.… – Col 1:16-17

It’s easy to get sidetracked from preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom.

What we’re supposed to be doing as the Church is to be proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Bringing it forward from the future, into today’s society. Making disciples. Healing the sick. Feeding the hungry; visiting the prisoners, clothing the naked. Doing the things Jesus did. ‘Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did’ (1 John 2:6). It’s all about Jesus! He’s the reason for, and should be the centre of, everything we are doing.

But today we see Christians getting sidetracked from Him. Here’s a number of ways in which we waste time, resources and energy instead of doing the Kingdom:

  • Making a big issue out of the age of the Earth (it’s not only 4,000 years old!!)
  • Making it hard for hurting, seeking people to access the benefits of the Kingdom by making them jump through our hoops in order to ‘qualify’ for the ‘privilege’
  • Arguing Creationism vs. Evolution
  • Roping people into doing non-Kingdom stuff, like Church fetes and so on.
  • Persecuting LGBTQ people and other ‘unacceptable’ minorities.
  • Judging others, especially when disguised as being ‘loving’

And, because we’re not doing what we see Father doing (John 5:19), not only is the Kingdom not advanced, but we also spectacularly manage to alienate the very people we’re supposed to be reaching.

In our church, we have a principle that if it doesn’t advance the Kingdom, we don’t do it. Christians, stop wasting so much time and energy on the superfluous. Concentrate on what you should be doing.

Once people see the love of Christ, it’s difficult to advance a counter-argument; if indeed they should still want to do so having seen such love. This is the way to work around these pointless arguments and get the Gospel across. Jesus said ‘By this shall all men know that you are My disciples: that you have love for each other” (John 13:35) In this way, the ‘arguments’ become irrelevant.

Remember: it’s all about Jesus!

 

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Roddenberry’s Heaven

In the well-known television series ‘Star Trek’ – especially in its later incarnation as ‘Star Trek – The Next Generation’ – humanity has reached a Utopian state where there is no longer any poverty, want, sickness or corruption. Yes, there’s death: everyone eventually dies and, even in the 24th Century, they haven’t yet solved that problem; however, due to the incredible advances of medical science, in some cases people live to the age of 120-130 years – barring accidents or death in military service – and then die peacefully in the knowledge of a life well lived.

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Due to amazing advances in technology, everything that everyone needs is synthesised in a machine called a Replicator – a device foreshadowed by today’s 3D printers – food, items of clothing, tools, anything. So there is no need for money; instead of working for reward, the citizens of the time work towards bettering themselves.

Space for the expansion of the human species is now unlimited. Due to the interstellar propulsion system everyone knows as ‘warp drive’, the stars and their attendant planets are now accessible with only days’ worth of travel time. Overcrowding on public transport is unheard of because either everyone has their own personal flying transport or they use the matter-transporter for rapid point-to-point movement. All of this is generally perfectly safe.

Sure, there are enemies – everyone’s heard of the Klingons! – but these menaces are kept at bay by the deployment of advanced military technology aboard powerful starships, which are also used in peacetime for research and exploration, all for the good of humanity in general and not for profiteeering.

A Utopian paradise indeed. And many of the technologies envisioned by the creator of Star Trek – the late Gene Roddenberry (1921-1991) have indeed come to fruition in our time. gene roddenberry

Personal communication devices – very similar to our mobile phones. Intelligent computers that can hold conversations. Memory sticks. Laser-beam type weapons. 3-D Printers (Replicators), as I have mentioned above. There are even devices which he envisioned that are now obsolete even in our time, such as floppy discs. Roddenberry was a visionary who, interestingly enough, was also an atheist (in that there was a definite point in his life where he rejected the Judeo-Christian God) and believed firmly in humanism – the ability of the human species to better itself by its own efforts and without the help of any supernatural being.

And I love Star Trek. And, as with being a scientist (and actually the inspiration of Star Trek must carry a lot of the blame for that!), some who do not understand have asked me, “How can you be a Christian and love Star Trek? Surely the humanistic elements are anti-Christian?”

Well, let me say that as a Christian, I too believe in Roddenberry’s vision of a transformed humanity. I believe that there will be no more want, no more sickness, no more wars. I believe without a shadow of a doubt that this will happen.

But it will not happen through human effort, at least not by human effort alone. I believe that when the Kingdom of God comes in all its fulness, through Jesus Christ, that humanity will at last reach the perfection of Gene Roddenberry’s dream – and will indeed surpass it, and far beyond anything that Roddenberry ever dreamed.

There will be no more crying (except perhaps for tears of joy!), no more pain, no more sickness, and – beyond even Star Trek’s achievements – there will be no more death. The old order of things will pass away, ‘and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’. God will live with humanity! Check out Revelation 21:3-4 for more on this.

You see, unless the bad parts of the human nature are dealt with – greed, lying, deceitfulness, cold-heartedness, love of power, and so on – unless these are dealt with, we can never have a Utopian society like that in Star Trek. (The unlimited power, speed and resource given by advanced technology would still be controlled by large corporations with greedy people at their heads, and not used – at least not for free – for the good of humanity).

And Jesus is the One Who can – and does – deal with the human nature within each of us and transforms us into the people who can indeed form – and cope with living in – such a society.

I say ‘cope with’, because being part of such a society involves each of its members doing his or her part in keeping it that way. Those who have not allowed their attitudes to be changed would find it very difficult to live in a society of such selflessness. It’s not about living according to a series of rules, though; no, if that were the case, we’d have solved the problems of society long ago by the millennia-worth of rules and laws we have, both religious and secular. No, this isn’t the answer – and it still won’t be the answer by the time of the 24th Century! The only answer is a change of the human heart, and that can only be achieved through Jesus. The transformation (gradual or immediate) of our thoughts, our attitudes, our habits, by the continual work of Holy Spirit Who lives within all who love Jesus and call Him Lord.

This is how Roddenberry’s vision of the future will be achieved. A great visionary, and a man to whom I owe a great debt. And a man whom I will incidentally honour by becoming a part of that Utopian dream that he had – but just not in the way he thought it would happen! The irony of Gene Roddenberry’s atheistic standpoint is not lost on me, nor is it lost on God.

But I know beyond a shadow of any doubt that that society will happen – and then some! – through Jesus. Praise God!

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Big Name Ministries

I find it disturbing that in Christian circles we still suffer from the same ‘hero worship’ patterns that the World do. There’s this thing in human nature where we like to set ordinary humans up on a pedestal, to make them into celebrities, get involved in ‘personality cults’ and what have you. We have people we like to go and listen to, people with ‘Big Name Ministries’.

Sure, it’s fine to be fans of actors, sports stars and so on.

But when it comes to ministry, there should be only one Big Name in the Church, and that is Jesus. Everyone else is but a servant. And I’m sure the people with those ministries would be the first to agree; the problem lies with us, not with them!

Take for example the Church in Corinth in the first century. They had a personality cult thing going between Paul and another chap called Apollos. Paul had this to say about that state of affairs:

Are you not acting like mere humans? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?  What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task.  I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Cor 3:3-6)

The thing is, every believer has the Spirit of Christ. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, is living in each believer (Romans 8:11). That’s a pretty powerful statement! Indeed, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ” (Rom 8:9). So, because Jesus lives in the believer by His Spirit, every believer is capable of the same things Jesus did. It’s time we grasped this powerful truth: you have just as much power as the people with big-name ministries. I do understand that sometimes people seem to have a greater anointing for healing or preaching than others, and that people will flock to where Jesus is doing signs and wonders today. But you see that’s just the point; it is Jesus who is doing it, not the people He’s using.

Don Francisco puts it really well in his song ‘One Heart at a Time’, which I present below with his permission:

There are world-famous worship leaders and speakers who are revered by many Christians. Their names have been flogged by Christian publications – probably in an effort to make money, and also possibly without their express wish to be so ‘promoted’.

And yet, in a tiny housegroup of five people, I have felt the Presence of God at its strongest when led simply by a humble guitarist. I have seen people weeping with healing in God’s presence after hearing someone speak in a youth group of ten people. The time I felt God’s Presence most strongly was when it was just me and one brother praying together. I have friends who regularly see miracles on the streets in their street-evangelism ministry, and I bet you’ve never even heard of them. It doesn’t need to all be ‘big-time’ stuff, you know; all you need is a servant heart and God can – and will – work through you too!

And let’s leave all this personality cult stuff behind us. I wouldn’t care if Billy Graham, Smith Wigglesworth and Evan Roberts were all appearing together in one giant tent crusade; if Jesus was there, surely that’s all we’d need!

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