Friday, April 30, 2010

A Better King: Josiah – the Best King: Jesus

“Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him.”

~2 Kings 23:25 (NRSV).

Anyone who might think the Old Testament is irrelevant due the sparkling Word of the Lord Jesus heralded in the New is sorely mistaken when we grasp this king, Josiah.

If we want a model of near-on perfection we could easily look to him.

The boy king was only eight when he came to power, but his reign was momentous for the Israelites and the discovery of the book of the law swung history—Josiah’s catalyst—as the later reforms would commend (2 Kings 23:1-20). Josiah was ruthless in his one-eyed obedience to the Lord his God.

And Israel’s then momentary stay-of-execution, and any sense of God’s forgiving mercy, was entirely because of him who acted sweetly for his God.

And we find in this incessant obedience to track long and hold fast after the words and intent of God, a love that gives an undivided allegiance. Indeed, this “reminds us that love is more than emotion, for the praise of Josiah does not come until he persevered in removing all sources that encourage worship of other gods.”[1] We could easily see cause for him to be praised much earlier, but it’s not over until it’s over! We’re praised for enduring faithfully—that is love.

And this definition of love is found, at last, in Jesus of Nazareth. All of Jesus’ true praise comes due his nailing and dying on the cross and his resurrection—his devoted and complete allegiance to the Father—notwithstanding his godly and anointed-from-heaven ministry. ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain’ is the golden imperative the many thousands of heavenly angels sing in very (μέγάλη) loud voices in Revelation 5:12.

Josiah was an incredibly faithful king but he doesn’t compare to the Lord Jesus.

And Jesus is the better and Supreme King for the lasting legacy of the New Covenant in his blood—the covenant of grace—and not merely the blood of an animal—the symbol of a conditional and “legal,” but insufficient, covenant. It is not insufficient from God’s perspective but it is from our sinful human perspective.

There is much, however, we can learn from the young and tenacious king, Josiah. I wonder how we might be similarly characterised in our obedience in turning toward God with all our heart, soul and might as Josiah was.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] John Olley, First & Second Kings – Then and Now (Eastwood, Australia: Morling Press, 2001), p. 129.


“In the morning, O LORD, you hear my voice;

in the morning I lay my requests before you

and wait in expectation.”

~Psalm 5:3 (NIV).

Expectations are both funny and cruel things. We routinely expect too much, and still at times we expect far too little.

We need balance. But, we also need our plan “B’s” in life.

Many times life simply doesn’t work out as we anticipated it to. We march to the beat of a drummer who’s not always adequately informed or positioned emotionally to withstand the wiles of the day. We say, ‘Oh, not another one of these days!’

And, of course, frustration sets in... for a short time, or a season.

Half of the best life is knowing what we should focus on and the other half is doing it.

It sounds easy when we put it like that but it’s really no more complicated. Prayer is important. For what we continually pray for—that which is good—we will eventually receive.

Having a sort of detachment that allows for a Plan “B” in all our deliberations is a gorgeous concept enshrined in a godly wisdom that’s been known through all the ages—it attends to the laws of life that God constructed... the ones that never change.

Do we ever conceive of the following idea?

“The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.”

~Romans 8:19 (TNIV).

This thought has many potential revelations—not the least of which is the spiritual ‘coming of age’ of us who call Jesus our High Priest, our covenant Saviour. We’re now being revealed—and so what do we look like? Creation has her own hopes for what she might see in us; the picture she actually sees, however, is very much up to us and our will to accede to the God-on-High.

The supreme Plan “B” is to wait on God. When we’re routinely doing this and found gladly doing it, we’re right in the lap of his will—at the centre of the great godly divide where nothing of life (or death) can harm us.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


“Without recognition of wrongdoing, there could be no mercy... True mercy goes on [past the wrongdoing], and with eyes wide open forgives anyway.”

~Iain M. Duguid.

The greatest love is the merciful kind. And yet, mercy is not softness.

Think about the last time someone really wronged you. You felt perplexed in how to handle the situation and were probably tempted to issue them two full barrels of putrid vengeful feedback at the earliest opportunity—but then you resisted in faith (at least that was the hope).

This is God’s ideal and it is ours also if we’ll only try it. Jesus said:

“Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.”

~Matthew 5:7 (NIV).

We see in the parable of the forgiving debtor (Matthew 18:21-35) this principle observed; he forgives his servant the massive debt he can’t possibly repay—as God forgives us ours. But then the servant forgiven for such a huge debt requires absolute penance from someone owing him much less. Hearing of this the forgiving debtor is furious; he cannot believe that the man he’s only just given a fresh financial life to can be so heartless in such a similar situation. And so the unforgiving servant gets the book thrown at him—the exact opposite of mercy.

Mercy is something we generally cannot truly know until we’ve been at the receiving end of it. This is why it’s a fantastic thing to know the saving act of God in Jesus, dying on the cross that mercifully he becomes “payment” for our sin.

And there’s a practical note to this issue of mercy inbound on forgiveness. When we refuse to forgive we enter a real life hell—no mercy is shown us via the spirit of our consciences, no matter how much we try to justify it to ourselves and others. We go a row, stepping around and trampling all over the peace we could have in knowing we forgave when we didn’t have to. And in forgiving thus is grace: forgiving as a choice. But wisdom knows that holding a resentment and bearing unforgiveness is injurious only, in the final analysis, to ourselves.

For the person who can shrug their shoulders—no matter the transgression—forgiving from the heart, letting the caustic stuff of pain just simply go, they are blessed with mercy themselves. Their pain of loss, hurt, embarrassment etc often simply evaporates in this peace that transcends understanding. This is the ultimate mercy of Jesus to engender our spiritual freedom! We were merciful and the Spirit of God is then hence showing us mercy.

The wilful act of mercy in forgiveness is both an act of surrender and an act of obedience to the Lord of life. We need to know this never fails, provided our act is made full and complete.

And best of all is what God gives us for the other person who perhaps doesn’t deserve the mercy but gets it anyway. Try it and you shall see! This can only be of God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unquenchable Love – Stronger than Death

A SONNET TO LOVE, IT’S ALL WE CAN DO. But how on earth can it come close? Let’s look at the power of love:

“... love is as strong as death,

its jealousy unyielding as the grave.

It burns like blazing fire,

like a mighty flame.

“Many waters cannot quench love;

rivers cannot wash it away.”

~Song of Songs 8:6b-7a (NIV).

Love is beyond life itself. Five minutes of its power says more for life than all the accessorising under the sun. This is where the sum of all its parts pales into insignificance regarding the sole value of love.

There is no hyperbole in this description of love. We know the pungent tug of betrayal—and who hasn’t been betrayed in love? Oh, how crushed we are, unrequited in state. Left “owned” and emotionally marooned. And yet, there still is the issue of the jealous lover; “jealousy arouses a husband’s fury... a man who commits adultery... destroys himself.” The offended husband “will show no mercy.” (Proverbs 6:30-35)

The strength of love, like almost no other, has sparked many a crime. Criminals not, people are “found” suddenly in prison, because of their ‘crime of passion,’ a lover who strayed, a family member betrayed, and so on. And for their unrestrained anger they live with an element of society that is far gone psychologically and morally. That’s a tragedy!

The good news from all this, however, is the “holding” power of love. Love commits us. And it’s this commitment which sees us stay just a little longer, beyond the storms that come.

And such too is God’s love...

Because God’s love is better than life (Psalm 63:3) we see the Divine love as the powerful and anointed food of life. His love is also a jealous love as we see when he fights for our souls; the backslider always must contend with the disciplining love of God in their venturing far from him. This is seen most powerfully in retrospect.

And yet this love of God’s is never far from any of us. His depth of passion and concern is stronger than we could even know. He never lets go.

Jesus is our passionate lover. Such is his love he’ll never forsake us, not the last living one. With a sharp divergence of passion, his love—displayed on the cross—is the symbol of eternity and a caption of eternal love, redeeming us from disconnection from God himself.

His love is an unquenchable, inexhaustible love.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Faith-Wisdom Continuum Meets Truth


These three placed together can be seen holistically as the very meaning of life; they all point to God, individually and collectively.

Faith and wisdom reside at opposite ends on an unconventional 3-dimensional continuum. Faith is that ability to take risk and live riskier as far as we’re personally concerned. Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to foresee and reduce risk. Faith is living diligently and trustfully. It is spiritual and relational shalom. Wisdom is living prudently and respectfully. It is spiritual and relational balance. These are both considered thus using a biblical model from Proverbs.

Taken further, real wisdom is the combination of faith and wisdom toward the amelioration of risk i.e. its improvement. This is the co-existence and use of ‘the best bits’ of both risk-taking and risk-avoidance—both on the moral stage.

The final result we’re after in our living is we learn quicker and better taking risks, yet we astutely leave well enough alone. We know what risks to take and what to avoid, from the moral compass of our being. Again, the norths and souths of our compasses are diligence and prudence, and secondarily, trust and respect are our easts and wests.

Shalom and balance are the outcomes of this, the above—an otherwise beautiful life.

Now, this is when the model gets interesting.

I mentioned an unconventional continuum. Upon most continuums we simply land at ‘a place’ and are hence characterised. With the Faith-Wisdom Continuum we start notionally at points close to the centre of the continuum (i.e. in the middle [low-faith and low-wisdom, where we’re afraid of taking risks, yet we make common mistakes showing we don’t know what risks to avoid]) and we’re seeking to grow to the outskirts of both ends simultaneously.

We want our faith to be strong—we’re taking wise risks. And we want our wisdom to also be fervently operant—we’re avoiding traps, which are always morally-based traps for the best of living.

Truth only enters the equation as we imagine this flat-lined continuum is actually a disc. We turn the line over on itself about 30 degrees to see a “pie” (as in a pie chart) and find that there lives on top, a circle of truth—the ever-expanding circle of truth.

This is an outstanding vista. With faith and wisdom both engaged maximally, we’re realising exponential spiritual growth as the rising of the gaze meets this disc of truth; a bird’s-eye view.

Looking down upon this disc of truth we see both faith and wisdom growing ever outwardly—contingent on God’s Presence with us—and this ever-expanding circle of truth is the absolute highlight of life, besides God himself. Indeed, God is truth.

Our job in life is to become so in amid with the truth that we will always die to ourselves and therefore always give way to the truth—no matter the personal and relational costs. Only this way can we continue to grow in both faith and wisdom at the same time.

If we’re able to sincerely achieve this i.e. always be conformable to the truth, we will find that we will have everything we will ever need.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Caramelised Spiritual Transfiguration

“The remnant of Israel will do no wrong;

they will speak no lies,

nor will deceit be found in their mouths.”

~Zephaniah 3:13a-c (NIV).

Smells like honesty to me.

Our day of hope—even in these days—won’t come until we’re found honest to the core.

And the rendering of “no lies” is singular; ‘a lie’ “is something that pretends [and is] not merely contrary to the truth.”[1] This means not only is it a lie, it knows it’s a lie—this acknowledged lying is far from the Remnant. The lie that masquerades as truth was rampant in Zephaniah’s day—as it is in our own.

The truly steadfast will always remain. These who’re not swayed by the winds of change and the desires of their hearts—indeed, having conformed them—will enjoy all their glorious food in keeping with true repentance and no one will make them afraid (3:13d). They will enjoy perfect peace.

Moyter marks out for us five characteristics of the Remnant from Zephaniah’s viewpoint in 3:12-13c. They’re humble. They’re intimately aware of “their own beggarliness,” and are never too far from a critical self-awareness of their sinfulness, and God’s gracious response despite this. They see in this their dependence on God; they “fly to him constantly for refuge,” believing in the saving nature of his Name. They concern themselves to be the redeemed remnant of Israel—this is their unshakable identity. Finally, as they utter no wrong they do not deviate from the law of their God. They create for themselves very little cognitive, emotional or spiritual dissonance. If they do breach God’s code they repent of it immediately they become aware, so vibrant is their sense of the fear of the Lord.[2]

We are the Remnant, if we want it so.

And as the Remnant, saved and sanctified in God, we can take hold of a liturgy of holiness such as Psalm 15 and begin to enter into living it as our mantra for life.

This process started and endured, comes to some point of completion; we gaze into a reflective soul-mirror and wonder how much like God we truly have become.

This is the purpose of life... to become like Jesus. Life is the learning ground to this end. We need to get to a place where this concept sticks. It caramelises over us and “sets” us in our spiritual transfiguration.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] J. Alec Moyter, The Minor Prophets – An Exegetical & Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), p. 954.

[2] Moyter, Ibid, p. 953.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Remember Your Creator

“Remember your Creator

in the days of your youth,

before the days of trouble come...”

~Ecclesiastes 12:1 (NIV).

Troubles come to every home. And the only effective preparation against the troubles of life is faith. For faith will help us see truth; better still it may motivate us to seek it.

It is bad enough to complain when there is little to complain about. This, however, is the common flow of life—we complain far too much, as a sweeping generalisation. And then when something truly horrendous occurs what can anyone who usually complains about the superficial things in life do then?

The odds are something truly horrendous will occur to all of us at some stage.

The Creator has designed a life for us that might not quite circumvent the troubles of life, but it does make them largely irrelevant, for we have a God for eternity and we have him now, in the midst of our at times chaotic lives.

And if we didn’t choose for God in our youth, we’re still youthful enough to do it, so far as he’s concerned—we can do this, with effect, at any age. We can choose for him now and our troubles do not then need to either crush us into spiritual death or force us to run the other way. We can meet them head on with God and with the support and love of those around us who might encourage us.

We have time to prepare now before the trouble hits. Or, if it has already hit, we take spiritual solace in God—he helps us backfill the spiritual void toward resilience.

This simply resonates the wisdom of Proverbs 1:23; 33... Woman Wisdom is speaking: “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you... but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.” Woman Wisdom is simply speaking as God’s superintendent over the human race; wisdom structures command the status quo of life.

Life does warn us. Wisdom protects us most of the time, if we invest in it, and then our faith in God covers the rest of the equation—for when the trouble comes.

If we don’t provide for ourselves a pathway to wisdom—which is simply a firm-enough obedience to God in terms of realised understanding via acts of diligence and prudence—and we don’t grow our faith in God to provide for us both in the good times and hence, for practice, the dark times, we will always fail to reap the best life has to offer us.

For both wisdom and faith we must look to the Creator—both, which come intrinsically from truth, come from him and him alone.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Heavenly Hospital

“Jesus said to [the Pharisees], ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

~Mark 2:17 (NIV).

“In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

~Matthew 18:14 (NIV).

God cares for every single being he creates—all equally. God doesn’t care if our names are Obama or Fred or Tiger or Dorothy. All are equally important so far as his Kingdom is concerned.

God has come into this world, incarnate in Jesus, and now via God the Holy Spirit—sent to be our Helper—such that he might be with us willing us to him. He seeks us with a love that defies human understanding.

How is it that those seeing their particular ailments, and caring for themselves, get themselves to the doctor and do not resist hospital and the necessary treatment to become better, and yet many, many others refuse the truth, continuing in their insanity apart from God—and all his existent and delicious living fruit? It’s a question many of us ask, for this fruit is freely available unto physical, mental, emotional and spiritual blessing.

We know who’s to blame; it’s the adversary of God who has blinded all, conditional on faith—or lack thereof.

God is not particularly partial to the ninety-nine occupied hospital beds. These are tended by skilled nurses (God’s Spirit and his angels) and they have the antidote to their sickness (belief and the forgiveness of sin, discipleship via God’s Word and prayerful communion with God, fellowship, ministry etc). They know they have a lifelong condition requiring lifelong treatment. God’s glad they’re there, but it pains him that there are others out there who, in their spiritual blindness, are captive to the devil and crimes against God—which are, at last, crimes against their very selves!

Who would’ve thought much about the Jesus’ passion to mix with ‘the other side’ of humanity... the people who really needed a Saviour? It just seemed bizarre and preposterous to the Pharisees.

But we all need this Saviour, Jesus.

And God’s purpose, through his church, and through his Spiritual Presence with us, is he gives us his heart on this matter. We must so desperately want those who don’t know the peace and love and grace of God to come to know it that we deal ever-so-patiently with them, always acceding to them as to the Spiritual will of God.

We don’t even bother them with Christian platitudes. We just “be” love, be grace, be forgiveness, be peace, be understanding... be the advocate standing up quietly for the underdog, empathising with the broken and weary.

And we don’t take pleasant company with the wantonly sinful or spiritually proud.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can God Be Failed?

READING THE STORY OF JENNIFER KNAPP, the renowned Christian recording artist who went walkabout seven years ago... she has now revealed she’s in a same-sex relationship. If there’s one thing that will always spark a lot of interest and discussion in Christian circles it’s the ethics of homosexuality, whether ‘in the faith’ or not.

Let me put it upfront; this article is not about a definitive answer to its title. It’s not even a comment or a view on homosexuality. It’s much broader. In some ways it’s an attempt at empathising with the sinner’s condition—one that’s alive and well in every person, and yes, every Christian too!

Christians are sinners too... yes—we’re apt to sometimes forget this though, aren’t we?

I don’t usually venture into specific ethical debates. I try and actively avoid these contemporary issues and the specifics of ethical Christianity because I find it’s too easy to polarise—people are expected to have a view—and that, in my experience, never usually glorifies God. If my views separate me from God I’m not being obedient. This is a sin. Having an opinion is more often than not being sinful. It’s not about sitting on the fence; it’s simply about not having a view on things that will often hurt people either way. It’s what we should strive for—not having a view, so we can “enjoy” the tension of the ethical argument.

Are some people charged with making decisions? Yes, they are. They have to have an opinion—God anoints them for this task. This is never an easy job, but it must be done. But, not many of us have this sort of role and certainly not arbitrarily.

So, let’s dig deeper into one of the issues for Knapp in all that’s gone down with her coming out.

She said,

“That’s one of the frustrating parts of my Christian walk, the scenario that if I don’t get it right, that I’ve somehow failed God and failed my faith.”

What a burden that is. Some would say it’s unfair. Others would say it comes with the territory of enjoying her level of success. Yet, I’m unsure Knapp would see her success—apart from being able to work in the area of her passion—and at least the costs of that success, as a blessing. In fact, I get the impression she feels at least somewhat cursed, and certainly now condemned, for it.

The burden Knapp is identifying with is too much a burden for a human being to bear—this is why Jesus came as our Saviour. And we believe that Jesus can forgive any weight of sin provided there’s an accord of repentance at hand. This is Knapp’s responsibility—as it is our own when it comes to us.

Knapp’s sin is none of my business; and mine is none of hers. It’s God’s business, and only with the person concerned.

The Christian music supporter base—like any supporter base—can be incredibly fickle. Legalism is the default human thought condition. Most people will not think diligently and prudently about emotive things; they’ll instead take the leap their lower brains tempt them with. This, of course, is a great sadness. Is God glorified in judgmental thinking? Of course he’s not.

And the real issue Knapp has wrangled with is the same issue most of us wrangle with—an issue we all have; an ongoing issue of sin (or issues, plural) that plagues us.

I feel I’ve spent years obeying God, eradicating “this” behaviour and conforming “that” practice, and still I have my issues where I could easily feel I’m failing God. I’ve long given up on thinking I could please him of my own “good” works—in how well I apparently (or not) obey him.

That’s why we have been blessed with his grace. We’ll never be perfect. This is not to say I’ve given up on spiritual progress. Spiritual progress is the very core to our purpose in life.

And for the short-sighted Christian, him and her with little vision of grace and love—the person forgiving little because they’ve been forgiven little, they will condemn the person practicing their homosexuality when truly it is only God’s role to acquit and condemn. How are we—mortal human beings—to apportion weight of judgment?

We are only to love.

Can God truly be failed? Well, yes and no. Does it matter, really, when we consider that sin will mark us all our lives? I don’t think it matters much so long as our intent is right and eyes and hearts are fixed on Jesus. Faith as this is a simple practice of looking forever inwardly, ensuring our vertical relationship with the living God is sound; that’s hard enough to maintain without getting self-righteous—and getting self-righteous is sure to spoil the task of remaining vertically right before it’s even begun.

We have all failed God in a game where quantification of sin is irrelevant. We have all sinned.

Should we love homosexual people unconditionally as we’re supposed to love “straight” people unconditionally? This is God’s test for us. The answer is an undeniable, “YES!”

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.


Mark Moring, “Jennifer Knapp Comes Out” in Christianity Today. 13 April 2010. Retrieved 21 April 2010.