Saturday, April 30, 2011

Comfort in Need from Isaiah

“I, even I, am he who comforts you.

Who are you that you fear mortal men,

the sons of men, who are but grass...?

“... The cowering prisoners will soon be set free,

they will not die in their dungeon,

nor will they lack bread.”

~Isaiah 51:12a, 14 (NIV).

The chapters 40–66 of Isaiah are known as the ‘book of comfort.’ Quite frankly life presents its shrieking challenges and during these times the particular verses above (and others) can bring so much spiritual relief. God is, after all, good all the time.

Can you just imagine the Lord—the Lord of Hosts, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—being on the covenant side of Israel, and indeed on our side today through the Lord Jesus Christ, leaving us to wallow and languish when he’s said these things?

“I, even I...”

It is God himself who booms this from heaven and into our spirits. In this original context God is addressing the people of Jerusalem specifically initially and then secondarily the city. God is asking “why.” Why are you afraid? Do you lack my Presence? I am here, with you.’[1]

And this is it. We do not draw upon God’s comfort because we’re estranged from his Presence—we don’t feel him or his re-assurance. Yet it is there. At times we simply need to be reminded; the fact of his Word. God’s comfort is there and available in our darkest tumult, yet it won’t fix us instantly, removing the pain. Part of our challenge is endurance. The edge, however, is taken from the shrillness of the pain making it bearable.

We will be set free from the dark time, eventually. God will attend to our needs in the meantime, but we do have of hope for the future.

“Comfort, comfort my people,

says your God.”

~Isaiah 40:1 (NIV).

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

[1] John D. W. Watts, Isaiah 34–66 (Vol. 25) – Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1997).

Friday, April 29, 2011

Psalm 45 – A Right Royal Wedding

“Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever.

Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity;

you love righteousness and hate wickedness;

Therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

~Psalm 45:6-7 (NRSV).

Weddings are momentous enough, a royal wedding has the world stopping at the mystique and pomp and ceremony of it all. Perhaps this is because conjecture must have its completion in the facts of the day.

This psalm shares the same buzz, but it’s not about any royal wedding. It’s about the Royal Wedding — Christ the Bridegroom marrying his heavenly betrothed: the Church.

The psalmist is a spectator; windswept with expectant awe.

A Moral Consummation – “Ride Victoriously”

Verses 6-7 are used in Hebrews 1:8-9 to describe this wedding as a Christian Wedding of moral consummation connecting the Son with actual Redemption — together with the circumstance of the consummation of creation, replaced with the New Heaven and New Earth (Revelation 21), preceding these nuptials between Jesus and Church. (Equally, it is seen that Christ wedded his Bride, by giving himself for her, on the cross of Calvary.)

But just as poignant is the virtue connected to such Royal office; a thing that only one with ‘royal blood’ can occupy. This is a blood enshrined in the Divinity of holiness; only God qualifies. Only Jesus could be worthy.

The usual suspects of virtuosity are present: most applicably truth, equity and righteousness. These are present in the Bridegroom.

We expect our human sovereigns to exemplify such Jesus-like virtue.

Husband & Monarch – Wife & Subject

Forever subject are we — the Church — to the Lord, Jesus.

Marriage or not, some things will never change. The Lord will be praised evermore by his Bride, and all humankind.


And enter the Palace (verse 15) they will — the King and his new Bride. We hope for this day, as if it were a day, indeed, to hope for.

This, as an event and eternal ‘existence’, will be forever worth waiting for.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Post Script: An earlier article on Psalm 45.

True Greatness – Become Smaller

John the Baptist said at the immanence of God in Jesus,

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

~John 3:30 (NRSV).

John’s rejection of greatness was at the same time an attraction of greatness.

‘Greatness’ is a buzzword in coaching and self-development circles, and usually for the wrong reasons. People generally want greatness out of selfish desires. No amount of telling some will get through, however; that’s never getting anyone ‘greatness’.

Then I thought, “What’s the quickest, surest way to true greatness?”

Immediately thrust into the nearest reaches of my mind, as if the invitation to answer that question had become raggedly overdue, the Spirit caused me to think: humility.

It’s a sharply cogent paradox.

The way to real success in life is the fight to become less. The way we truly get glory beyond ourselves is by convulsively giving God the glory — as if to staunchly reject the praises that might readily come.

John the Baptist did it and so did Jesus.

The Underpinning Glow of John the Baptist’s Message

This has such spiritual relevance to every human being for all people desire some form of greatness.

The Spirit comes from above and we come from the earth. When the Spirit comes alive in us — despite it being housed within us in any event — we cannot help but draw on, and find our meaning in, the glory of the Lord, in as much as we are.

Becoming smaller so God can be bigger (he is bigger in any event!) is recognising the laws of life and it’s cooperating with the Spirit to a point where due credit is given and glory comes to us whether we like it or not... and we’re never really in a position to reject the glory that genuinely comes from godly things. They naturally effuse themselves to us.

Overwhelming Joy

We can’t know joy, not truly, until we place God at absolute first place in our coming in and going out.

For John the Baptist, his joy had been fulfilled (John 3:29). He understood his role as the forerunner; the one people would naturally assume was the Messiah, assimilating honour to him that wasn’t truly his. He was most probably relieved — other than being awed — at Jesus’ eventual arrival.

Paradoxically, though John is deflecting all the kudos and fame from himself onto the “One coming” he is found to be rather famous in God’s court — the eternal riches of glory were genuinely his in humility to have known his place.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Unfathomable, Unsurpassed God!

“O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

“For from him and through him and to him are all things.”

~Romans 11:33, 36a (NRSV).

We cannot ‘track’ God. That task — to extract the divine nature — is forever beyond us. Second-guessing the judgments of God, then, is folly. Because all have sinned — and are rendered “disobedient” (verse 32) — then all have the same destiny to look forward to, with possibility, subject to their earthly allegiance.

Still, there will be vast ranks and poles created for views one way and all others.

Still, again, God holds the key!


We accept Jesus because he is our Saviour. Not “was,” “is.” Is, and always will be.


Reflecting over the pre-reformation rage, Luther causing a stir over Papal (of-the-time) abuses related to relics, indulgences and supposed reduced time of purgatory — the fact Luther was called a heretic; later apparently found not — holds us open to all manner of possibilities with God.

Like Luther was, we’re to be curious; never set in our views, certainly so far as the judgments of God are concerned.

The Apostle Paul, himself, cannot reconcile the mind of God.

This is what makes grace easy for us to extend; it’s the only worthy response toward fellow sinners.

Grace and an unfathomable God; both are beyond us, but both should cause unending praise to bubble up from within.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Caused to Worship – From Revelation to Response

“Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

“Fire came out from the presence of the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat portions on the altar. And when all the people saw it, they shouted for joy and fell facedown.”

~Leviticus 9:23-24 (NIV).

These are possibly the most important verses in Leviticus. They certainly provide a perfect end to the ninth chapter. The people of Israel — the entire house — are utterly flabbergasted at the show of power from the Presence of the Lord.

What is worship if not cognisance of the Presence of God; the notice of holy revelation and the corresponding response?

Even better, it’s shown, God accepted the sacrificial offering — in effect, anointing the priestly ministry — by consuming it!

A More Contemporary ‘Offering’

What sacrifices to be consumed are we offering to God?

Sure, it’s our offering of instinctive praise and thankfulness and enthralled awe; but this can only occur in the truest sense as we feel our way to God’s inimitable Presence.

Leviticus is about worshipping a holy God and living a holy life.

And yet, living a holy life is worship. It is practicing the fear of the Lord — his Presence indwelt within our minds and hearts to such an extent we live in a constant humbled awe.

This sense of worship draws us to a fervent discipleship — to follow Jesus. It resonates with our fellowship as we begin to place others before ourselves; and hence the same for our ministry and evangelism work. All five purposes of our Christianity are wrapped up fundamentally in worship.


Upon holy revelation what more can we do but respond?

Is God not revealed to those who must worship?

We’re caused to worship — by ceremony, tradition and lifestyle — out of what God does, not from what we do.

Ours is to respond; to offer that which may be consumed, acceptably.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Christian’s ‘Noble Reserve of Bearing’

“But those who are noble make noble plans,

and stand for what is noble.”

~Isaiah 32:8 (Msg).

The word “noble” is otherwise helpful and generous in other more relaxed versions of this passage. Rev. Dr. A.W. Tozer also mentioned in one of his famous articles way back in 1946, which I have adapted for gender inclusivity purposes:

“Prophets of Christ will be serious people whose eyes look far; and though they may be meek and lowly as the Lord whom they adore, there will be about them a suggestion of royalty, a noble reserve of bearing that cannot be mistaken. And if there is hope for the Church before Christ returns, that how will lie with such people as these.”

So, now, with these foregoing as our commanding backdrop, let’s look at this concept of Christian nobility.

Christian Nobility

There is about this style of pure Christianity a hint of congruence and of holy stability. The believer is sold to Christ wholly and solely; no coming back to the old life. Okay, they’ll be fully invested in the world at large, but only to the point of reaching and stretching out their missions for God.

They’ll understand that to do this will mean a whole plethora of permeations of response in the midst of their dealing, but this is never spiritual compromise. There is a confident, humble certainty about them.

There is also that glorious hint, too, of the Proverbs 31 ‘noble character’ on display here. It is lofty without being pompous; it is royalty after all. But it’s also slavery to the Christ of the ages — the Saviour of the world. It’s the devoted slavery of a son or daughter. Only the genuine believer can address the tremendous tension that lies between royalty and slavery.

And they will; by the Holy Spirit that dwells deeply within their bosom.

This truly is our most important role, calling, purpose — call it what you will. It’s non-specific for a reason. God wants all of us first and foremost, without reservation, without condition. No matter the individual passions that turn us on, we’re first, God’s.

A Hint of ‘Mission

There is a fundamental urgency about all this — something we often don’t see and therefore fail to understand. This is a holy venture — life. We were born to live out the righteous life and nothing else, before humankind and God.

Do we take that issue — the very basis of faith — seriously?

In doing this, we will look far; we’ll be visionaries, but not aloofly so. Our head will be in the clouds of heaven with God; but our feet will be firmly set on earth, as we go about living the practical faith that wins and changes lives for Christ.

Of all people we should be virtuous people to a fault. We should be reliably trustworthy, committed to truth and lovers of grace, most entirely prepared to accede to all people — such to live after the Lord who has done this all.

We must live this noble reserve of bearing that cannot be mistaken.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Reference: Aiden W. Tozer, “A Plea for Christian Dignity” (from the Alliance Weekly, March 30, 1946) in Lyle W. Dorsett’s, A Passion for God: The Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Publishers, 2008), p. 184.

Powered in God’s Peace

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

~Romans 15:13 (NRSV).

God’s reality is peace, and this peace God wants us to grasp, most particularly between the ears and within our hearts.

Redeeming this peace is easy, but it doesn’t come without a journey — inward to ourselves, and obviously, in that, into the heart of God.

Inward to Ourselves

This journey inward is the essence of truth.

It understands that we are what we think and, though we rarely consider it, we can change what we think at any time we choose.

Going inward to ourselves — the God apportioned version of us; that reality — is hence about grasping God’s perception — a clear picture — and accepting it. If we knew what God really thought of us, we’d be much less bothered by what we typically think. Our self-absorbed concerns would be much less.

Instead, the journey inward is learning about what our lives are trying to tell us.

All the evidence of God, so far as what is plain to the good life, is evident by our own honest sight. Life is simpler than we make it out to be. The lies we believe only complicate life.

Truth is getting us both to ourselves and to God.

The Freedom to Think in Peace

Belief in God, real belief in truth, peace and joy, and the freedom to think are all intertwined. There are other components I’m leaving out.

God owns peace, as God owns love, wisdom, grace, faith, hope and truth.

True peace is only available through faith in God.

Freedom to think in peace is, therefore, a gift of God — apportioned by the Presence of the Holy Spirit in our momentary lives.

There is a high and strong correlation between accepting truth and the prevailing peace in a person’s life.

Truth and peace are highly interdependent. Truth empowers our grasp on faith, hope and love, and peace is the end result.

What we’re discussing is actually the keys to peace; to obtaining God’s peace — to be powered that way.

A Choice – To Align, Then Adhere, to God’s Will = Peace

As most things are, and this one being no different, being powered by God’s peace is a choice. Adhering more and more to the truth enables more and more revelation — God’s inflection revealing his will.

Then it’s simply a matter of doing it — God’s will. Then there’s peace.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Love Sincere

“Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good...”

~Romans 12:9 (NRSV).

The sub-heading of Romans 12:9 and following introduces us to love that is based unabashedly in truth. It is not hypocritical.

Love is hence the driving premise of life — a thing surrendering all ego for a God-pleasing result. Love and truth are at once entwined, but truth against the self, so love can be victor for the other. For the other, this power of God is innately compelling.

The love sincere is aligned in the holy triad of equity, justice and fairness. It doesn’t see existence as a thing to be grasped. It’s eternally safe, coercing nothing.

This love sincere can be trusted and it’s certainly respected. It’s patently inspiring.

As far as we’re personally concerned, we hate what is evil within ourselves, but never to the point of condemnation — we instead flush it out, virulently, with “what is good.”

Let only the good — the love sincere — co-exist within, so love’s beauty is the thing that all people see from without us.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Like God in Speech and Service

“Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ.”

~1 Peter 4:11 (NRSV).

Tough assignment, in many ways, this might be — it’s our challenge, though.

This is like our Mission Statement.

The middle part of the verse could well be the way of managing the first.

In God’s Strength

It’s no small thing to rely on the strength that God supplies. It’s a difficult thing to learn — surrender.

This is why serving God around the call of our hearts is always easier than serving from extrinsic motives — the sense of surrender is, there, a natural one or, better put, it’s spiritual gold.

God’s strength is a seamless thing. It’s inexplicable and just works, beyond our comprehensive understanding. We achieve what we need to with the minimum of fuss, and added to our success is knowledge that the secret is one of focus, not effort.

Our motivation for life is everything about allowing things to be as they would be. This gives us the natural additional benefit of guarded speech.

Speaking God’s Words

How often will that vile enemy, Satan, cruel us for the thought-of effect of our words? For the analytical-of-mind, too often.

The truth is, we’re not required or even expected to be perfect in the planning or execution of what we say. Perhaps what the Apostle Peter is talking about is we need a solemn sense of responsibility for the ever-to-be-accounted-for words uttered forth. Less and less are we given to glib offerings of irrelevant or nonsensical nature; but of these we’re not immune.

If we were immune we’d lose the gift — an opportune marker — of humility, for we’d have little reason for embarrassment at the faux pas’ we make, and therefore we’d not learn. Following Jesus — the process of discipleship — is about learning.

It’s about turning embarrassment, guilt and shame into useful portents for the Lord.

Speaking God’s words is about growing in circumspection. It’s a growing in confidence when we see ourselves not making the mistakes we used to make.

In effect, what we’re learning is the ability to both delay our instinctive response and discern the actual needs of the situation.


The steward of God is focused, in a relaxed way, around self-awareness and social-awareness as means toward adjusting situations to promote the achievement of God’s will.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

The Power of God Against the Evil You’re Facing

“... for [God] has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’ So we can say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?’”

~Hebrews 13:5b-6 (NRSV).

Confidence in life is always important if we wish to live fear-free.

And, yet, whenever we’ve dealt with subjects occurring or occasioning in much evil it’s easy for our minds to work against us and have us thinking thoughts we shouldn’t.

God is beyond the evil we’re perhaps facing. God has it covered like nothing and no one can. The Lord is our confidence and we have no logical reason to be afraid beyond simply doing God’s will.

God is always present with us. He is power to live. He has promised to never leave nor utterly forsake us, and the faithful believe.

Evil will not have its way — not ultimately.

God is the Purveyor of the mind; restoring our thinking due the words of prayer in seeking him.

In fear, draw near. In pain, recall times of gain. In despair, hold on despite what’s unfair. Through trial, the Advocate, with us, walks that mile.

In all these, God’s there, in it with us!

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Preparing for the Last Days

“Now the seven angels who had the seven trumpets made ready to blow them.”

~Revelation 8:6 (NRSV).

Doomsayers abound in these days of food shortage and chronic financial uncertainty. Perplexing both these are, considering the natural disasters sweeping our planet. Are things like this really burgeoning in the events of Christ’s coming?

We have to observe recent disasters as warnings. Certainly these are acts of God.

The day of the Lord, as each one remits, is terrible (Joel 2:11).

What Preparations Are to Be Made?

We will need to accept that the world is ending — the physical world.

Never more important will it be to turn back to God.

Prepare nothing but a faithful heart; one that hears adroitly from the One coming into the world. Times coming will be terrifying, but those faithful to the Lord — remaining resilient in times of despair never before known — will be saved.

Don’t buckle. Prepare to be weak in the flesh; strong in the Lord.

Such weakness is strength to contain panic, the mayhem of a spirit doubting — with sincerity — the faithfulness of God. It won’t be good to doubt, but even worse to lose discretion.

Wisdom will be our chief ally.

Knowing the implicit Presence of the Lord, in and about the people we interact with, will be essential.

Taking Nothing

Where we’re going nothing can come; not even our precious bodies will go there; everything will be burned.

Only the truly spiritual person can understand and accept this.

The worst actuality for the worldly person is the best possible result for the hungry and suffering; the ‘hope’ of consummation. The worldly Christian will struggle immensely. We all perhaps will. So, take courage.

Nothing we typically talk about — for instance, in church circles — will be important anymore. But unity will be. That’ll always be relevant.

Purposeful and wholesome allegiance to God will be the only thing.

Mind Preparation – An Activity to Invest in, Now!

Preparations need to be made now.

We prepare our minds, first and foremost.

The mind is perhaps closest in form to that we attach to the eternal realm. With it we steel ourselves for the task of being steadfast to the covenant we have with God.

Mindfulness is, here, about being open to what unthinkable disasters (natural or otherwise) that might occur, steadying ourselves in the fact that God is always in control, and has promised us safe passage into eternity.

We best focus on the other world whilst we operate with God’s wisdom in this one.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Who But God?

“Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord

or instructed him as his adviser?

Whom did he consult?

Who gave him understanding?

Who taught him the right way?

Who taught him knowledge?

Who informed him about the way of understanding?”

~Isaiah 40:13-14 (GW).

The classic schoolyard ‘theological’ debate takes place...

“I believe in God, do you?” enquires one little girl. A boy of the same age quips, “No such thing!” “Is too,” she snaps, “No way,” he says... and so it goes on for several interchanges.

The girl then changes tack. “Okay, then who made your Dad?” she says. Thinking more intently he says, “Well... my grandma and grandad, of course... silly!” [She thinks, “Got you!”] “Well who made them, then, smartypants?”

Check mate.

It’s the age-old question... “Who made God?”

Re-Starting Isaiah

Isaiah re-commences at chapter 40, which is affectionately known as ‘the Book of Comfort’.

The section that this above passage comes from is rather reminiscent of Job 28 and Proverbs 8 where the writer muses about the mysteries of life, wisdom and God — in sum, the source of it all.

It’s not until we start to think on these questions above that we start to deduce the magnificence of this wondrous mystery of creation’s initiation and propagation — how it keeps going. And God’s behind it all. What an incredible Divine being God must be.

Re-discovering God

The way Isaiah chapter 40 finishes it leaves us thinking that going back to the source of life and wisdom leads us to God — the Saviour of the world who masterminds resurrection from any situation and status in response to our faith.

It is sincerely the most astonishing truth. God is victory.

Only did we get here from understanding initially that God is first, foremost, and utterly beginningless.

God was, always. Comprehend that.

The sort of convoluted messes we get into as we cogitate at length in the wrong direction about God proves how confounding it is to fight God on the facts of his nature. Some people running the opposite agenda will say, “Well, what difference does it all make?” They strip the profoundest point of life completely bare of meaning.

But it’s those who can hold the great wonders of life in tension — acknowledging it must be God, beginning and end — who live the reconciled life; the life at peace with the spiritual mysteries our hearts always yearn for.

Rediscovering God is the biggest blessing anyone can travel to. To reach that place, high on the peak, to enjoy God, to have no more questions of doubt, to be thrilled in the Spirit... this is the majestic life.

Will we let this reality escape us? Or will we “taste and see that the Lord is good,” as the psalmist compels us in Psalm 34:8?

Discoverable afresh... that is our eternally open invocation to, and of, the Lord.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.