Monday, May 31, 2010

Love God, Yet Hate Certain People?

“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.”

~1 John 4:20 (NRSV).

Those who claim they love God, yet via their actions they hate anything related intrinsically to the people right before them, are proven liars in this passage.

This passage highlights the intrinsic action-oriented faith we are compelled by within the circles of Christianity. Saved by faith by the grace of God we might be, but if we ‘convert’ our faith into reasons for blaspheming the holy God by hating our peers we dash the value of our salvation against the wall.

There is a challenge before the Christian.

Do they hate murderers, rapists, thieves—and shudder to put them into the same bracket—homosexuals, Muslims, divorced people, drug addicts, alcoholics etc, or even opposing sporting teams and political parties? In other words, the challenge before the person calling Christ their Saviour and God is this: can they love those mentioned just now—those loved by God as much as any believer is—like God does?

This is the challenge we must grapple with in love; we can only succeed these ways with God i.e. through God’s love. If we’re the slightest bit ambivalent towards anyone, we’re best to repent of it to God, seeking his help to love better.

When we let it in, hate becomes an insidious character flaw that slips more continually under our guards, to our very own spiritual demise. Relational hate is an atrocious pride-engineered millstone for us.

I’ve loved Rick Warren’s quote for some time. He said words to the effect, “Christians are not allowed to not love.”

It’s so poignant. Where we fail to love people we fail to show we really love God. The love of God—in these times—is not in us via our acts. Love is thus action-oriented. So, whoever came up with faith being a grace-alone venture that required not a single response from us but an initial “Yes” to Jesus, are sorely mistaken. Best they pore over their Bibles for some time longer.

What amazes me are some that insist on having a right of judging and condemning people when these people themselves stand ignorantly self condemned in their very acts—read, for instance, Matthew 7:1-6; 21-23. This principle is littered throughout the biblical corpus.

The biggest tests we ever face in our belief for God is how well (or not) we manage our horizontal relationships i.e. with people. We can never come intimately close to a right vertical relationship with God when our horizontal relationships with (any) people are in disarray, so far as it depends on us. (Of course, when we’ve done everything we can and we continue to love people who might despise us for some reason, we’re on God’s right track.)

We hold back our forgiveness to our peril.

Likewise, any hate in our hearts backfires so assuredly back through us; the saddest thing to see is the pride that never sees or feels this, and hence, never learns the grief it brings fundamentally to the heart of God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Optimisation of Desire

“You open your hand

and satisfy the desires of every living thing.”

~Psalm 145:16 (NIV).

There are many more negative references to the field of ‘desire’ in the Bible than there are positive. This we know personally because we all struggle controlling our desire. At the worst extreme is the criminal element that wantonly expose their ravenous desire to an onlooking world prepared to judge and condemn.

Many, many of us have been trapped by this oft-times sensual desire for the things of the world. Again, it’s a temptation saving none.

Self Discipline

We think of controls for this group of problems and we automatically think of self discipline. It has to come first. And so, therefore, we give it first place.

Then we wonder why it doesn’t work. “Why am I less self controlled than I want to be? I desire to control these temptations. So, why can’t I?”

This gets down to the most basic level of controlling what we eat, how often we shop, and even how often we watch television—disregarding for a moment substance abuse, theft, sexual assault etc, which are manifested pretty much in exactly the same ways, just pushed further into vast extremes.

Self discipline is vital, but there’s more behind it.

What Underpins Self Discipline?

This is a very good question. My mind is saying love for self; an appreciation of what is good versus what is not good; then, a dedication to this truth. There is probably more, but these are useful for the purposes of the discussion.

If we believe in God, i.e. we believe in him and that he has our best at his heart, we can believe that there is a place for us and our desire to co-exist with happiness and peace.

There is such a place.

God wishes for all his believers to experience this blessing of enjoying the fruit of the world, equally, in good proportion. God does not wish that we transgress ourselves or others in gratifying our desires. We need to know this implicitly.

What then underpins this power for self discipline?

It’s the correct belief in God, love for self, knowing right from wrong, and using the powerful will of the mind to simply agree with the foregoing. It is also fundamentally augmented by the Spiritual power of God, particularly in breaking down stronger cases of misaligned desire.

The Key to Controlling Desire

Leading on from the previous section, the key to controlling desire must be to agree with God’s order in life (viz., Psalm 145:16); that he provides adequately for all. This is at the mind level. That is, it’s at the rational, logical level.

At the heart level—our inner committed belief system where we really believe i.e. the test of the power of our belief—we must also agree and be entirely congruent in this, that desire is a good thing that just has to have common sense applied to it; that a healthy self discipline (or self love, which is modelled on God’s love) is wholesome. Doing what is good for us is God’s will.

Knowing and living these two truths—states within the mind and heart—allows us to ensure we do the practical thinking and deciding such that our desires are affirmed and then optimised over time.

We have many good things at our stead—things God has provided and continues to provide, by his grace. When we appreciate these things, each individually as they are, we’ll always optimise our desires.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Let There Be Light!

“Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you.”

~Luke 11:36 (NIV).

There is light within each of us; it’s the God-light. Our consciences attending, it’s up to us, however, if we should choose to respond to the calling of the God-light.

God is Light

In God there’s no darkness (1 John 1:5). Purity and holiness are God’s—in entirety—but they’re ours also through the indwelling Holy Spirit, when we choose to obey the fundamentally immediate call of God.

Light is perfection. Without God we cannot come close; God is the only One without darkness—the only reliable Source inspiring and motivating works of good faith.

God’s light is wonderful and we’re hence called out of the darkness of our human hearts into it (1 Peter 2:9) i.e. we’re called to live with, for and through this light.

We are to ‘be’ Light

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.”

~2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV).

How we hold ourselves and attend to life is all-important. If we feed ourselves upon things that are heavy and burdensome we ourselves will become this way via simple osmosis.

We just are not designed to cope with many unreconciled burdens—we must continually reconcile these before God to become or remain light-full.

If we choose to surround ourselves with many light-full things and build our faith-strength continually we’re going to be the light-of-God almost certainly for others no matter where they’ll be.

We are to be ‘Light’ (i.e. the Verb)

Lightness as a function in life, and not merely what we stand for, is the key to a vibrant Christian Spirituality. Lightness implies there’s no ‘weight’ we place on or over our world, whether that be through judgment, expectation or implication.

Nothing of conditionality exists.

In this, we place little burden on the world at large, and certainly nothing beyond a wholesome account that is only reasonable and wise in a functional living of life in this broken world of ours.

Jesus, of course, said:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest... I am gentle and humble in heart... my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

~Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV adapted, and with italics added).

We are to exemplify this lightness—the gentle, humble heart set on freeing people from their burdens so far as that depends on us.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Times for Everything, Nothing and All Between

“There is a time for everything,

and a season for every activity under heaven...”

~Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV).

Life is all-encompassing. The whole suite of experience—as a word, so understated—and a vast array from opulence to desolation—they all take place in one lifetime; any lifetime.

Times like these cater to all tastes eventually.

Life’s Too Real

But far too much of life is incredibly real; too real for some. They take to life as if a fairy tale, denying the very act of physics all too large for just about anyone to handle, at least that way.

Life has a sharp bite to it at times; it hisses at us like an incensed cobra coiled to strike. And then again, life also has a palatial softness about it, swooning with us romantically, but that too is invariably a trap for the dire times remain ahead.

Everything, nothing and all between. We have it all but we don’t want it all. ‘All’ is too much for us.

Paradoxes of Meaning – That’s Life

Most of us will never get close to understanding how meaningful life really is until we see, finally, its utter meaninglessness—that those things we ordinarily attach meaning to are fabricated nonsense’s. We get it all wrong for so long in all our lives. Only when we reach the bitter end do we see the choice of anti-choice that beckons before us.

Life is. We accept it or we continue to run. We run to God or we run from him; all our lives! There is no middle ground. Each moment’s a choice one way or the other. Each moment we choose an allegiance; each millisecond.

The only way to come to stately terms with life is to have an approach to life that is beyond life.

We understand very little of life whenever we kick against the pricks—period! Times are beyond us and we just ought to admit that. It’s in that sense of hopelessness that we cling to true hope. None of us knows what’s coming. The only way through is that sense of abiding aloneness we can only feel with God.

A Time Most Certain – Sadness

Sadness condemns us not. It becomes us not. Sadness is as real to life as happiness is. Both are accorded their opportunities—we live through both. And so we cheat the sadness? We thumb our noses at it? Sadness is our very own possession just as happiness is—and all things between.

Sadness is a safe place with God:

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted

and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

~Psalm 34:18 (NIV).

This is no pathetic cliché. Real power is known in the halls of sorrow with the Lord God.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Who Owns the Fence?

“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’ But the people said nothing.”

~1 Kings 18:21 (NIV).

Ambivalence! (Can a word such as this even command an exclamation mark?)

Elijah is about to do something historically special, the denouncement of false religion to the exaltation of the only true Spirituality, and he’s put the deal before the wishy washy fence-sitters of Israel—those cajoling a syncretistic faith; as if there even were such a thing i.e. syncretism is not ‘faith’ at all.

Everyday Syncretism

The truth, of course, is there’s no such thing as mixing our spiritual metaphors, at least as far as power and truth—a vibrant faith—is concerned.

How many call Jesus their Saviour and still worship the football by how sullen they become of a Sunday when their teams have lost? What about the person travelling home from church with their family who declares to everyone, they’re spending the rest of the day with others fishing or socialising, leaving the rest of the family to amuse themselves? Or there’s the envying look, in church mind you, at the person dressed fashionably.

There are so many forms of Baal worship alive and well in our society—everything stripped of love, for instance, smacks of foreign god worship.

Owning the Fence

Being in a position to sit on the fence is not only uncomfortable physically—for fences were never made to be sat on—it’s untenable spiritually. We are, of a fashion, rewarded with many negative consequences—consequences mind you that we often choose to live with—for enduring our fences and refusing to commit one way or the other.

But sitting on the fence is one thing completely less than owning it i.e. permanently buying into a dualistic faith (again, even if there was such a thing).

Many times people will sit on the fence for a reason. At times it’s even wise to sit temporarily on a fence to await further information or to gauge other people’s responses and reactions first. But this is never so with the Christian faith.

We ought to never sit on the fence with Jesus. We ought never, also, sit on the fence to the point that we dilute this Spiritual power of healing, provision, guidance, strength and God’s Presence (to not name all).

Fence sitting renders ineffective the faith of the ages. This faith is the only enduring one. It’s the only one backed to work every single time.

Where are we today, hedging our bets, and by the way we’re living, trusting also in foreign gods to the exclusion of the only true God?

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Having Nothing, Yet Possessing All Things

“We own nothing, and yet we have everything.”
~2 Corinthians 6:10c (NLT).
What an amazing picture of life that Paul presents for us and for the Corinthians back then. There is a volley of paradoxical life opposites presented during this passage; concluding with this one.
And this indeed is the common resolution to all our plights of materialism, envy and undue comparison etc. This is the ultimate answer to the person who hasn’t had their prayer—any prayer—answered. It’s hard, perhaps, but it’s nonetheless true.
We already possess so much... indeed, everything of true worth.
The Way of ‘The Way’
Paul, I believe, was trying to win over the Corinthians to the Way—that way of Christ i.e. to model for them how believers of ‘the Way’ should behave and interact with God, each other and the world. It’s no different for us.
Why then do we consider what we don’t have as superior opposed to that which we do have? I suppose it’s because we get to see what everyone else has far more easily than what we see we have. We forget in an unguarded moment’s nonchalance—an altogether too common human response to life—the very many thousands of common blessings we really do have.
And ‘very many thousands’ is no exaggeration! I really think we’ve just never learned to count this way.
The keys to life are already in our possession; we’ve already arrived, and particularly so if we call ourselves saved of God.
Restoring Right Perspective
Correct sight of these very many blessings, of course, all depends on our perspective.
How can a starving person in some third world country be happier, owning next to nothing, than the millionaire who’s plotting their suicide? There is such a confounding dichotomy across the face of the globe with regard to this. The Western world, for a large part, is at a stark despair with itself, thinking, i.e. erroneously, it has it all right.
And this is a big part of the problem. When we think we’re so right how can we possibly see the colossal room for growth and change in attitude required? How can we be both ‘right’ and obsequiously unhappy with our lot in life?
How do both of these co-exist? It’s madness. It’s an insane perspective.
How do we possibly re-rail this runaway train that is speeding brake-less toward materialism, and away from a social concern and a spiritual answer to everything?
We have to somehow get people—ourselves for this matter—to see that we are the makers of our very own problem.
Can You See?
Having nothing, yet possessing all things... if you can see this, you’re right where God wants you to be. It probably took years for you to arrive at this point. Nonetheless, don’t stagnate there or you’ll not retain this incomprehensible joy for long.
If you can’t for the life of you comprehend this, just simply believe it’s there. Thousands upon thousands, to the millions can’t be wrong. These countless believers through the ages—and currently—all have experienced the same thing; the same sense of God’s abiding Spiritual blessing—having nothing but possessing everything.
You too can have it! Ask, and for all your life go after it, unrelentingly so. God wants it for you.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Wouldn’t You Know It – God’s in Love with You!

“The weakness in our Christian life is that we do not take time to believe that this Divine Love really does delight in us. Love will awaken your faith and strengthen it. Occupy yourself with that love; worship it; wait for it. You may be sure it will reach out to you, and by its power take you up into itself as your home.”

~Andrew Murray.

I have to credit a friend for this wonderful quote. It is rancid with the pungent grace of the Lord on High—a God so enchanted with our souls he’s wedded to redeeming us—not simply in God the Son venturing to the cross of Golgotha, but in wooing us for love to his throne today.

And all this because God’s captivated by us and we’re one (only) in him.

The unification of God’s love within us is so dramatic and so insolvent of evil it cannot get over the wonder of itself and the infusion of godly flavour in and through the vessel that contains it. It is for this purpose that it lives—to indwell.

Talk about the wind and fire of God! It’s the totalitarianism of faith—all due love. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:8).

A God in Awe of Us – Can This Be True?

We possibly don’t think about our faith in such ways. We know we’re to be in amid of God, and yet we don’t get it that when we turn the tables on this concept we’re forever closer to the truest faith than we’ve ever been.

We can love ourselves when we know how much God loves us—for loving the self is the only way to true life, faith, strength and hope.

But the heavy brass key to this type of love that is in God and that comes from God—that infuses us—is it’s the absolute real deal. There’s nothing ‘blind’ about it.

Love – Even to the Dark Night

Love that proves itself truly stands the tests of time and withholds all the horrible things against it in life. We can humbly and truthfully wait for it. It won’t disappoint us... though it delays it is surely coming (Habakkuk 2:3). And when we have this love, patience becomes us through our Dark Night’s of the Soul.

Ascended we are in the presence of this love; the fragrance of the holy God; even if not immediately.

When we’re eventually delivered it takes us farther in than we’ve ever been before and this love takes no prisoners who’ll escape again to hell. This love has won us, and we are to it, a beautifully aromatic flower of worshipful praise in its stead.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

This is MY Day!

“This is the day the Lord has made;

let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

~Psalm 118:24 (NIV).

Ever had one of those days where you slept in and then realised, with a waking gasp, it was Monday... and then you cavort, the mind shrieks, “oh, no, not this again,” as there’s the distinct note of warranting escape, even temporarily, from life?

I think we all have them. Indeed, that’s exactly what inspires this article.

Perhaps it’s just a chance to take stock and stop the pressure, just for one day.

I did this recently. As I arose and realised I was already behind time, instead of panicking, I simply and calmly went about my normal routine without getting into a fear-ridden fluster.

A Decision

I decided to be late this day. After all, I’m rarely late. I decided I was going to ‘wear’ any undesirable feedback. And do you know what? None came. Everyone else was so totally preoccupied in their own worlds they didn’t care as I rejected my own—just for this one morning.

Against the flow of fear I decided for peace. I thought, “If peace is possible it is mine today.” I chose for it!

This mightn’t be easy some days—but the day I tried it my will was tenacious enough to conquer the fear. I just did it.

Anxiety, too, held no part of or over my day. Why fear something we do not know? You might sceptically think I’m not being realistic—and some anxiety is totally irreconcilable—but I defeated it anyway. I’m not saying disorders of anxiety are wrong or untrue for they are very real. They just didn’t take hold this day; I wouldn’t let them!

Just How? – Again, a Decision

I decided that even though I wasn’t going to take the day off, it was going to be my day in any event. And it was. It was so wonderfully my day; in peace I trudged—not perfectly—not swimmingly—not joyously—but I did command peace over my life for this whole day in the name of my God.

This God’s name is Jesus. He transcends my own understanding in this peace of his—the peace of his Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:6-7). I cannot even explain it such is its smooth, heavenly Spirituality.

Faith, Simply Faith!

Faith is behind this, of course. It’s a faith that agrees with the verse at top. Any day, if it is God’s day, is also our day—if we choose it so. Our day, again, doesn’t need to be perfect for us to know God’s peace. This wonderful peace is possible even in the harshest turmoil.

It’s usually the simple matter of allowing the Spirit to conform our thinking back to God’s desire for our mood and disposition. We can very easily think ourselves into peace and happiness. Our surrender to God’s Spirit is mandatory for it to work.

The more we try this the better we get at it; day by day, year by year, things just get better and better as we cooperate more and more with this astonishing Spirit of God!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Science of Understanding

“Slowness to anger makes for deep understanding;

a quick-tempered person stockpiles stupidity.”

~Proverbs 14:29 (Msg).

Let’s not simply read this proverb and move on. There’s much, much more to it!

We cannot do justice to ‘understanding’ unless we conclude that anger, as suggested above, is representative of such a broad range of folly—indeed, the upholding and ‘exaltation’ of this anti-wisdom against the self control of patience.

Inner Aggression

Anger in this way is not just overt shows of aggression as noted in the susceptible people who necessarily seek or otherwise need anger management classes. It’s fundamentally an inner aggression against other people, situations and even the self. This type of anger is a deep and visceral discord that can be genuinely hard to detect.

We all have some of this inner aggression to deal with.

Secondly, it is a task of maintenance of character that sees us reduce our inner aggression via holistic love. For most of us, again, this task of maintenance is a lifelong contract i.e. we never totally master it.

The Ultimate Remedy – Loving Patience Equals Understanding

Like the above, those who are patient do not just show their patience just to the outer world. Their understanding has them at peace in their inner world also—to almost everything about them.

Perhaps it’s a chicken-and-egg scenario, patience and peace. One begets the other.

Two Vast Opposites – Anger and Patience

They are two different people who essentially epitomise each of these two. Most of us carry attributes of both, and depending on the situation, we bring out what prompts us most at the time.

But we know that to move all our actions and reactions to the one end—that of patience—is to be our ultimate goal.

Never are we to nurture our anger. Even righteous anger (indignation) shouldn’t be nurtured. Forgiveness via patience is always to be our prevailing modus operandi—and it gets easier with practise.

The Science of Understanding

Understanding is a philosophical construct all its own, much akin to wisdom.

In the biblical wisdom of Proverbs, understanding has a special place with fellow attributes of character: prudence, knowledge, diligence etc. Understanding is closely related with insight.

In this biblical wisdom tradition a person ‘long of nose’ is difficult to rile up, slow to anger and hence they are great in their understanding.[1]

This science of understanding is the deep study of the attributes of patience exercised in the most testing of personal, situational and relational circumstances.

This study of understanding—and its acquisition—is the golden temperament of reason toward great results of learning, rapport, intelligence, wisdom and maturity over time.

It has to be a chief goal of any genuinely spiritual person.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

[1] Paul E. Koptak, Proverbs – NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003), p. 381.