Friday, September 30, 2011

Heaven’s Concept of Abundance



“But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. Truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” ~Matthew 13:16-17 (NRSV).


For many people, life is just too ‘real’ to believe in the existence of heaven. In other words, there’s far too much of the material world on display for them to be duped into thinking of nebulous worlds beyond. Evolution, for one theory, could be far more explicable to them than the thought of God creating the heavens and the earth over one seven-day timeframe.


A recent scientific find went a long way to prove there is a fabric making up the universe. It suggests that every part of the universe is interconnected; that whole galaxies, and even clusters of galaxies, share a certain sameness despite the incomprehensibility of it all.


One thing believers, atheists, and agnostics can all believe in is the sheer abundance of what many term, creation. The size and continuing expansion of the universe is one example of such abundance.


Perhaps it’s the person that insists God is behind it all, however, that Jesus suggests has eyes that see and ears is that hear; the secret revealed to these but not others.


“The Kingdom of Heaven Is like...”


The parabolic theme of Matthew 13 could be: descriptions of what the kingdom of heaven is like. Between the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat, the Parable of the Mustard Seed, and the Parable of the Yeast is a common concept: the kingdom of heaven is abundant. Its nature is blessing via growth, meek domination to sort the wheat from the weeds, to make large out of the minutest, and to permeate the entire mix.


The kingdom of heaven is irrepressible.


We might ask: is Jesus referring to the theoretical kingdom of heaven or the actual place? It matters little. If we can surmise the kingdom of heaven being, in essence, abundant, it is not a leap of logic to imagine the location of heaven, likewise.


The Commonality of Abundance


Abundance shares two other commonalities, both mentioned above.


For the worldly person caught up in the abundance of their everyday life—a life that is so enormous it crowds out any concept of God, Jesus, heaven, or significant thought of afterlife—there is no temptation whatsoever to change tack.


Yet, they already believe in the principle of abundance.


The person who stares above upon a starry host on a quiet reflective night wonders aloud within their spirit: just how big is this God to have created all this?


Both believe in abundance, but only one believes in heaven.


Heaven can be believed because of the concept of abundance that’s eternally present. Heaven is abundance—myriads more abundant, possibly, than even the known universe. And as heaven is abundance, so also is God. Nothing that God is or does is not abundant; even to the smallest piece of matter in comparison with entire creation.


***


The thought of an eternal God, who’s supported so much history, and created so much, is too much for many—especially when there’s no compulsion to believe.


Such a loving God he is that complete freedom of choice and faith is given to us.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Having Faith in the Justice of God




“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long in helping them? I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them. And yet, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?’~Luke 18:6-8 (NRSV).


The human default thinking is negative so far as God answering prayers is concerned. We commonly don’t expect the sort of answer to prayer that we desire. Sure, we still pray, saying all the right words, but the faith of our hearts is weak, yet we might not realise it.


In this parable, Jesus is heard contrasting the enacted and fair justice of an evil man in a powerful position with the coming justice of God. The widow in question had faith strong enough to continue beseeching the unjust judge—a man who neither feared God nor respected anyone. Saving himself the extra hassle of further pleas, the unjust judge gives the widow her justice.


The moral: if the unjust judges in our lives will give us justice because we harp on them, how much more readily will God give us justice that we even don’t deserve?


But let us go further in our consideration that persistent prayer—which is what this parable is all about—is actually the will of God for our prayer lives.


‘Nagging’ Prayer and Eventual Justice


The widow was a nag. And though she was uncharacteristically persistent she shows that persistence pays; and such perseverance doesn’t discriminate, meaning we don’t often even need to be in the right to wear someone down. In this story, the widow wears down this thoroughly unfeeling man of power because he can’t be bothered hearing one more protest.


Now, is it God’s will for us to ‘nag’ our prayers?


Well, by the fashion of persistence for prayers of injustice: yes! The unjust judge will have seen the widow as a nag, when God sees it totally different. The unjust judge can’t see the injustice and, therefore, lacks compassion. Our Lord, on the other hand, is ever compassionate—poles opposite of the unjust judge. God gave us the justice we didn’t deserve: Jesus on the cross—his sinless life for our sin.


The Right Way To Pray


Of the volumes written on prayer over twenty-five centuries there is one fundamentally basic thing to be noted. The Apostle Paul said it plainly in First Thessalonians 5:17—“Pray without ceasing.”


Prayer, in the way of continually beseeching the Lord, is the exercise of practicing our faith in the justice of God.


To devote such time and effort, and resources of creativity—for nobody enjoys bland prayers—is not only a blessed activity, it’s also demonstrative of a commitment that proves good faith. We do not pray, after all, to some idol. It’s the Lord of all creation, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, whom we are praying to.


The right way to pray is unceasingly, with a heart of pure faith to believe that in God all things are possible. Our Lord will vindicate the praying person.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Humility, Truth, and the Power of Our Words



“And don’t say anything you don’t mean... In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no’.” ~Matthew 5:33, 37 (Msg).


There are many biblical nuances to the truth that our words, and the actions connected with them, have great power—both negative and positive. James chapter 3, particularly, hones in on the impossibilities of taming the tongue.


If we were to run a humility gauge over the whole Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) we would find Jesus repeating, continually, the importance of such relationally-related truth. Our humility is tested most in the realm of our relationships. The words we use, and the way we say them, reveal our deeper character.


The Humble Beauty of a Plain ‘Yes’ and ‘No’


Humility and truth are concepts married in Jesus’ message in this passage on oaths and empty promises. Humility perhaps characterises the heart of the person who is wedded to the truth, in spite of the temptations to the contrary. Extending this theory, it is humility that underpins the process of truthful communication—which is the output.


If we are not truthful we cannot be shown as humble.


Situations where we are tempted to embellish our responses beyond a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are commonplace. It’s a humble heart, however, that abides to the truth. Humility is hence situational.


Words that are unadorned of the frills of fallacy, flattery, and fanfare carry about them a humble beauty, and much inexplicable power. The truth carries them with weight and reputations are fortified never more firmly.


The Business of Blessing


Exceeding people’s expectations is the business of blessing; we can only do this if we don’t pre-inflate vision of the outcome.


This is a difficult balance to achieve because sometimes our imaginations get the better of us and we hope to bless people before we can actually deliver. Therefore, we’re tempted to people-please. We try too hard at times, by taking an advance on the blessings we can procure, and then when we don’t deliver to the level anticipated we disappoint.


So, this business of blessing—so far as our words leading to actions are concerned—is centred in having the restraint of patience not to elevate expectations prematurely.


This restraint obeys the principle promoting the reverent positive power. It cooperates with time and, added with the previously mentioned humility and truth, produces actions perfectly in line with expectation, or better.


***


Our actions ought to correspond with our words and vice versa. This can only happen, with consistency, if we value truth and honour the personal development of humility.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Committing to the Unchanging God



“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, have not perished. Ever since the days of your ancestors you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’” ~Malachi 3:6-7 (NRSV).


This section of the Minor Prophet, Malachi, is scarily close to the passage entitled, Do Not Rob God. This is the predominant passage most preachers take their periodic tithing messages from. These opening verses (6-7) are part of that larger “fifth disputation,” a feature of Malachi, and there is undoubtedly a connection with Israel robbing God.


A Harrowing Truth


It’s an irrefutable fact; humankind’s nature is indeed rebellious and disobedient. In comparison to the perfection of God’s love, ours is characteristically conditional and often capricious. When we turn from others, lacking faithfulness, we just as well turn from God.


It is a harrowing truth that we are forlorn and absolutely bereft of any quality deserving of God’s love. Yet, our Lord has not changed and does not change. The grace of God is poured out over us commensurate with our ability and willingness to turn back; to repent and make good our sin.


But even the sound of that doesn’t feel right. It leaves our salvation open to a work available to us, and it therefore pacifies grace. Quite rightly it leaves us with an uncomfortable feeling.


The Gospel Correction


The marvellous and miraculous reality of the gospel truth is that even beyond repentance—which is implied perfectly (when none of us are perfect)—grace covers all eventualities.


The truth is no one will ever repent each and every time to the total appeasement of their sin, as if repentance could offer due restitution. That’s not to devalue the fundamental need we have to turn back to and return to God. The gospel provides both the way back to God via actual repentance and through forgiveness of our base human sinfulness. God’s plan of salvation is infinitely beyond human improvement.


Against the harsh and dichotomous backdrop of God’s perfection and our imperfection, a truth brought out to bear in Malachi 3:6-7, we now know grace: the forgiveness of the worst of sin—and that, unconditional.


Even at this assurance our humanity dictates that we will doubt, and even ask: “How shall we return?”


The unchanging God is unchangeable in this: there is no Divine turn-back regarding the salvation of gospel believers. We have not perished, and we will not perish. There is a consistency about God that corresponds paradoxically with our inconsistency. And this is the key to our hope: that we side with the unchanging nature of God, leaving the condemnation of that changeable chameleon nature of our fickle humanity long back.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.


General Reference: Douglas Stuart, “Malachi” in The Minor Prophets: An Exegetical and Expository Commentary – Vol. 3. (ed. Thomas E. McComiskey) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1998), pp. 1360-63.

Monday, September 26, 2011

JESUS FREAKS – In the Flesh



Anybody reading the Sermon on the Mount will note its radical stance, verse for verse. The gospel is a radical message. The Christian faith is, itself, a radicalised way of living life. There is nothing normal about it.


Yet, all Christians will inevitably find themselves living non-radical, normal lives by default; unless they will expose themselves continually to God’s flagship virtues: truth and humility.


The world would call such a normal life—if the same sort of thing were to occur to someone worldly—a rut.


Living untransformed, is for a Christian, a spiritual rut. This is no condition for a Jesus freak to live; indeed, it is not life at all. It misses out on two critical values that scourge, and therefore define, the character of the believer in question.


The Self-Accounted Truth


There is nothing better, so far as God is concerned, than for a follower of Christ to be firmly in-dwelled in the truth regarding the discharge of their lives. Truth has an amazing power to transform us.


Jesus said that true worshippers would worship the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:24). Given that every moment of life can be a worshipful activity, the exercise of truth over those moments is pivotal. Yet, it is never God’s will to externalise the truth toward self-righteous ends. We may fight for justice, fighting the good fight against injustice, but truth essentially lives and dies at the personal level. This is the task of giving ourselves to discipleship.


The real Jesus freak falls in love with knowing the truth about themselves, and whenever God reveals intonations of sin in their lives they seek to root out all symptoms and the cause—a heart given to deception and compromise and a mind given to double-mindedness cannot be tolerated.


In a world foreign to truth, a rigid commitment to honesty is a radical trait.


The Other-Accounted Humility


Whilst truth has a direct bearing over our internal spiritual worlds, humility is the commensurate gauge so far as values are concerned for our approach to others.


We cannot exemplify the real Jesus freak if we’re not applying the golden rule consistently as far as others are concerned—we are compelled to think of and treat others as we also would want to be treated.


Humility is the way. It inspires us to listen to people with a heart for them, not focusing on what’s going on in our hearts and minds. It goes beyond communication to action. It therefore involves sacrifice. We cannot get the Sermon on the Mount message if we don’t understand and apply humility. Humility is genuine love to our fellow human beings—even, at times, against ourselves. Humility is, therefore, a radical character trait.


***


The Jesus freak has the uncanny sense to apply the blowtorch of truth to their personal lives, all the while applying the uncommon grace of humility with all others. Of course, we all fall short. The secret is in aspiration, not self-condemnation for failure; a resiliently obedient approach to discipleship, resisting overtures to compromise.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Psalm 121 – The LORD Watches Over Us








“I lift up my eyes to the hills—from where will my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth.” ~Psalm 121:1-2 (NRSV).


The second in the Song of Ascents, this one reminds us of curling up in front of the fire on a dark and stormy early evening, safe and content, watching the mystery of the flame play upon our eyes; our hearts soothed and our minds anaesthetised from many possible worries.


Safety and Security


Verse for verse, this set of eight in Psalm 121 speak in unison for safety and security. The Shepherd watches over his flock and not one sheep is neglected or spurned.


Wherever and whenever we look the Lord is there. And it is our nature to look for guidance and help when we detect problems. God has promised his Presence and it is eternally there.


The Quiet Enjoyment of Sleep


Even as we sleep, enjoying rest from the wiles of life, the Lord watches over us, never letting harm come our way. Likewise, God watches over the church and tends to it, again like a Shepherd might monitor his flock. And as we consider sleep, we thank God that despite the excitement and challenge of life, we have wired within the need to rest, and a desire to enjoy same.


We might otherwise neglect this thought: our Lord keeps us during our sleep; the mode of sleep being trust on our account that sleep won’t turn into death, for we are giving over our consciousness, temporarily, to God.


Eternal Provision


Ever more, our every provision is augmented by our Jehovah Jireh (Genesis 22:14). As day gives way to night, neither the sun striking us nor the moon (verse 6), we enjoy so many continuous days and nights throughout the process that is our lives. Every breath is sponsored by the Lord.


The Lord is our Keeper (verse 5), and the provision of things we are given can never be counted; they are like the hairs on our head.


God is Always Working On Our Account


It comes as no surprise that God never sleeps. It’s a fact that the Lord never tires, either of us or the process of creation.


As we follow our God we will be kept from evil, though like in any battle, life is characterised by threats to evil, constantly. This psalm affords us the assurance of life; that grace is ours, eternally, by the comprehensive obedience of the Lord Jesus on the cross.


***


Whenever we feel insecure or unsafe we can know comfort, afresh, that God watches over us, in our going out and our coming in, always.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Psalm 17 – Solemn Prayer for Help


“As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.” ~Psalm 17:15 (NRSV).


Now we return to the regular theme of David: lament. This psalm is a prayer proving the anointed one’s reliance on the Lord. If there is nothing else we take from this plea it is the benefit of peace that comes from hiding (verse 8) in the Lord.


“I Have Done No Wrong”


The first five verses detail David’s desperately nonplussed mood at the lack of just vindication; his cause had not been heard. This is not a declaration of comprehensive innocence, but of innocence in the situation.


Prayer is the right response in such situations. When we feel hopelessly outpointed—the day done to the dogs—just that awareness to come before our God; this is what we need.


What we are given is a moment of respite, as reassurance provides the insight that today, however bad, is not all there is.


Sharing with God the Details of Our Woes


We can easily wonder, just how does prayer work. The beauty of David’s prayer is the model he adopts. He vocalises the issues, point by point, spilling his naked vitriol in the Presence of the highest heaven.


Somehow the blessings of heavenly empathy are felt here, as time and again, not just in this psalm, a fresh declaration of confidence is made in the final verses.


We suspect this, also, in our own lives. The more we’ve earnestly sought God in prayer—spending more than a few minutes, and perhaps up to a day or more with the Almighty—the more we’ve realised the role of prayer.


In lament, the role of prayer is one of reflection, initially, and rejuvenation upon encouragement to know our God listens; more than that, the Sovereign Lord will restore just balance eventually. In the meantime, he restores our blessed equilibrium so we can go another round of life.


Like David (in verse 13), furthermore, who better to place our petitions before than God?


Where the Prayer Lands


Prayers, after they are initiated and spent, finish in the bond of trust. Merely the exertion of spiritual and emotional energy commands there be some relief in our fatigue. Sometimes, like when a muscle spasms, it’s only when we are utterly spent that the Lord has a chance to ‘release’ and revive us.


Verse 15 is the key.


Waking afresh on a surprisingly bright and chirpy morning, we are able to say in our heart of hearts, “I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.”


Our authentic prayers land in the lap of the blessings of God, to lift us out of lament, and to kick-start our faith once more, so we might follow the Almighty all the more closely.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.


General Reference: W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms - Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 108-12.



Friday, September 23, 2011

Repentance, Then Transformation



On September 16, 1962, the great ‘minor prophet’ of the 20th Century, A.W. Tozer, preached a profound sermon intended to guide followers of Christ stuck in a spiritual rut into the circumstance of transformation. Forty-nine years later, that message is never less relevant.


There is a brutal truth known to the spiritual life because of the fact that we only ever grow or rescind—forwards or backwards is the dynamic state of play that impinges on us all.


That brutal truth, referred, is known in this: only those that repent may be transformed.


The Forgotten State of Mind


A.W. Tozer could see the great wave of unaccountability coming—indeed, it had been some decades beforehand that the slide away from true penitent faith had commenced. He feared for the new wave of so-called religious freedoms.


The forgotten state of mind doesn’t press itself in a vernacular welcoming repentance; it focuses instead on many glorious things of God, ever underplaying the great holiness chasm between the Lord and humanity.


And we understand why this is a forgotten state of mind. Precious few messages are preached on repentance, and fewer still welcome such a message.


Humanity doesn’t like to hear the truth, especially a facet of truth so difficult to bear as one’s sinfulness paraded before us as if to rub our faces in the dust of our failures.


But the repentant heart, one that gorges on a humbly accountable mind, embraces its sinfulness because it knows that these are matters of spiritual life and death.


Tests for Growth – Answering the Hard Questions


Whenever we find ourselves in a most comfortable place, but paradoxically so comfortable it’s a rut that we are in, we have the opportunity to ask ourselves a searching question:



  1. Am I always honest, and am I always truthful? If not, where am I being dishonest or untruthful?

It’s a simple double-barrelled question. There are areas in our lives where we cannot look God in the eye. Equally, there are areas that if our church, our pastor, or even our spouse were to know we might be instantly ashamed.


Quickly we identify the source of the rut. Any prayerful analysis based upon such a question (complete with a concerted reading of the Sermon on the Mount) will reveal gaps—these gaps are stumbling blocks to growth. These gaps are feeding what Tozer would call a “winter of discontent.” In other words, our felt lack of joy is centred in nothing other than the sin we tolerate; it’s a lack of integrity with ourselves.


Are our mouths clean—and that’s not just about swearing/cussing? Is there anything we would tell, gossip or laugh about that we’d be ashamed of if we knew Jesus was present? (Well, of course, we know Jesus is present.) What about the money we have—are we using our money wisely? Are we still working faithfully and loyally for our employers? What about our fantasies? Where are we lazy or careless? Where are our thoughts impure or uncharitable?


This is not about putting the acid on us unnecessarily. We just cannot grow where we abide in sin. We ought to be encouraged, however, that God is graceful as a father forgiving their prodigal son or daughter.


Our Abba Father


We far too often categorise God as a Judge and not an abundantly compassionate Father. Yet, it is the Father’s prerogative to forgive each of us instantly, the moment we repent, and perhaps even the moment before we repent, as the Lord knows remorse is coming.


Let’s consider the nature of our ‘judging’ God using the words of Isaiah:


“... a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” ~Isaiah 42:3 (NRSV).


If we are the bruised reed, or the dimly burning wick—as images of us struggling in our sin—our Lord will never break us or quench our dimly flickering flame.


Our Abba Father will never toss us to the ground or cast us aside when we admit our sin; instead, the Lord will take us onward into higher revelations of blissful transformation. The only way to growth is through repentance.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.


A useful link to Tozer sermons.

The Practice of Faith for Our Circumstance


Faith as a practice is an important denial. Never denying feelings, however, it denies fear for courage, the lie for truth. It chooses to give and enter into life even when there’s every reason to shrink, take and withdraw. The only exception is for necessary Sabbatical where operant faith rests and recovers.


We discuss faith so much and from so many angles, yet faith—the verb—is an inordinate thing.


Subscribing to faith in things is, like worship, something we all do. We cannot help but trust in things, be they our own abilities and capacities, other people, or God.


This is, however, where good faith is separated out from not-so-good faith or bad faith. Good faith is backed up in truth. It is therefore enshrined in wisdom, which is demonstrating actions as having efficacy from the view of hindsight, or in review, afterwards.


Holding Extraneous Moments in Tension


Faith is the great skill, and very timely, when all of sudden life looms noisily.


That is, when things begin to bombard us and there is only ‘work’ and no joy in that work, we begin to lose our moment’s hope. At this point we have to manufacture hope. We either deny the escarpment of fear that rapidly encroaches—doing so via courage—or we let it perhaps begin to overwhelm us. The former has us manufacturing hope successfully; the latter not so much.


Holding our moments in tension in Emotional Intelligence terms is harnessing ourselves and our social challenges, and meeting them one-by-one.


From one successful moment of practiced good-faith-in-circumstance to another, and then to another, sees us build our confidence so that we can actually bridge this mounting tension, and sustainably so.


Where Faith Meets Wisdom


“Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.”


~Matthew 11:19 (NRSV).


It is a principle of wisdom from Matthew 11:19 that wisdom is vindicated by the later recognition of its action—that it is found later as effective. We can usually only tell from afterwards how wise the action was and whether it was based in ‘good faith’ or not.


Good faith is the agency to wisdom as a method for living life.


It can be seen here, then, that both good faith and wisdom—so far as them being action-oriented—are highly temporal in nature. They involve momentary trust. So, it’s up to us to join our moments-of-trust together so we live an effective faith.


Using Good Faith as a ‘Simple’ Method Through Life


There’s never a better supplement to the mode of good faith as a simple approach to life.


This method is naturally not attracting extraneous noise, for it knows and appreciates the quiet life. That is not to say that the quiet life means less work or less challenges. It just means there’s more ability to focus on what’s most important.


Living a good faith is mostly about keeping things simple and living dedicated to the truth as much as possible.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Exodus – The Way Out of Bondage



“Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders? You stretched out your right hand, the earth swallowed them.” ~Exodus 15:11-12 (NRSV).


A postcard-size analysis of Exodus is a difficult task, but one worthy of embarking upon. Let us gather the vast expanse of forty chapters and rediscover the eternal message: the way out of bondage. Our study will explore seven broad situations.


1. The Initial Oppression, The Burning Bush, and Bricks without Straw


The first five chapters paint a moving picture of great change. After centuries under Pharaoh’s oppression the Israelites seek their salvation and a saviour. Moses at the burning bush is our first glimpse of the Divine plan of Israel’s deliverance out of bondage. But God’s chosen nation wasn’t rescued yet; even more immediate suffering was to be endured first.


Our experiences of bondage have been, and perhaps are, bolstered by the revelation of God’s plan to release us. Oftentimes, however, we must still endure some pain and heightened challenge before we find our way out.


2. God’s Promised Deliverance and the Outworking of Plagues


Pressure for change mounts when we know the Lord is behind us. Moses received that assurance. The hardest part for Moses and Aaron was to obey the Lord by defying Pharaoh.


It’s easy to overlook the significance of courage on the part of these two. Not only were they outnumbered and out-powered by the ruling Egyptians, the first resistance by Pharaoh ignites the Israelites’ own wrath against Moses and Aaron (Exodus 5:21). The plagues, themselves, are the heaviest testament of the power of God to release the grip of evil.


Similarly, our bondage will resist when it’s threatened. Old habits can seem impossible to break. We need the poise of courage to not back off.


3. The Passover and the Exodus


Note now the symbolism of the initiating event of the Exodus. The Passover had become for the Israelites the coming of a new thing. They would see the faithfulness of the Lord in the provision of protection, even in the midst of the final, most significant plague (Exodus 12:29-32).


The procession of the Exodus is about as majestic as we could imagine. When we talk about ‘biblical proportions’ we speak most particularly about the Exodus.


As we follow the leading of God to provide the way out of bondage we hold out in faith that a significant symbol will come and the event of release will, in fact, occur.


4. The Ten Commandments


The coming of the Law: every established democracy needs a structure to base their society around. The Ten Commandments provide macro law. They provided the re-established nation of Israel with the ‘must comply’ framework with which to base the rest of the Law.


Once our Exodus has taken place, we too need such a construct in order for the release out of bondage to stick. These commandments are life for us because release, at least initially, relies for its success upon some simple rules.


5. The Structuring of the Jewish Faith


As with any typical legislature, a tiered approach to both mini and micro reform—supporting the macro law—is essential for the base law to work. We tend to denigrate the 613 Mosaic laws that were created immediately after the Exodus—yet, this Law was abundantly necessary for Israel as it reformed its national identity. Let’s not forget these laws were inspired of God.


As we pull away from our bondages, and the past that has held us back, we need to be equally fervent in our approach. Perhaps we don’t need myriad rules, but what we do need is attention to the new identity. This is the new ‘us’ and there’s to be no going back.


6. Meeting the Lord


There is a poignant instant in chapter 33 where Moses and the Lord share an intimate moment.


Inevitably, there comes a time when—long after the moment of our Exodus from bondage—we reacquaint with the Lord our God for a definitive purpose. This is intended to strengthen us further. We may ask for confirmation, and even for one of those intimate signs.


7. Commissioning the Vestibules


Upon any building project there are design, construction and commissioning phases. As the Israelites were constructing their system of governance, which came with essential elements—the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, the Table for the Bread of the Presence, and the Lampstand—construction was paramount to their burgeoning identity.


We must also, in the establishment of our new lives in and through God, find those things that must be designed, built and commissioned, to formalise the new arrangement.


Such constructions are never usually material things; they are deeply spiritual.


***


Bondage is a tremulous affair. We’ve all tasted it—to many manner of a manifestation. The Lord releases us from this bondage so that we might worship him. That is the message of Exodus. We are released from hell so we can enter heaven.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

Looking God in the Eye



“If we say that we have fellowship with God while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true.” ~1 John 1:6 (NRSV).


The true Christian is not so much pious as they are honest before God—guilty as charged, and to most, if not all, the crimes of the morality code. Looking God in the eye is almost certainly impossible if we cannot contemplate and, therefore, own our sin.


The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth


The greatest glory for the Christian person is in knowing they will keep on sinning despite their will not to. Without such a hopeless situation there would be no need for a Saviour. We need saving not once, but for a lifetime.


There is freedom in such truth. Suddenly all of the pressure is relieved, not that we lose interest in doing the best we can, but we can live with ourselves in the midst of our mistakes, misjudgements and misdemeanours.


Our imperfections don’t characterise us as much as the perfection of Christ does. Grace has the final say, and with our commitment to truth—to know we all are sinners; the worst kind, even ‘the best’ of people—we underscore what is undeniably near from what should be impossibly far. The Spirit of God is near.


The Integrity of Honesty – God’s Greatest Gift


The alluring state of personal and interpersonal transparency is a blindingly fresh advance on the disposition of virtue. Nothing can touch it for value. We are never a better brother or mother or spouse or companion or work colleague than when integrity grips us.


The prerequisite of knowledge of our sin gets us there. Suddenly, we expect less from people and we are more honest about our capacity for failing.


The greatest gift, however, is not the ability to please other people—blessing them that they can trust us to boot—but it’s the condition of pleasing God that is most in view. We know we can look God in the eye when we are able to look at ourselves, deeply, and not shrink from the shrinkable things that impinge on us.


There is no shame in knowing that we are far from perfect, faulty, even broken human beings.


The Ticket to Salvation – The Cost: Authenticity


No human being can be comfortable in their own skin unless they acknowledge their guilt and, transferring that more personally, their shame. How are we able to look others or ourselves in the eye if we cannot honestly look God in the eye?


The Lord doesn’t want us feeling onerously guilty; the point of grace is to ameliorate how we feel and to facilitate the impossible, which is to settle a score that could never really be settled without God.


Our sin will get in the way if we won’t deal with it. Dealing with it means we’re being honest about it, anticipating and avoiding it if we can, making restitution whenever possible, and knowing God’s abundant forgiveness at all times.


God wants us to be able to look him in the eye. Honesty is the requirement; to know we are guilty as charged, yet pardoned as eternally innocent. There is no shame in being honest.


© 2011 S. J. Wickham.