Friday, March 30, 2012

Praying for Boldness

“And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”
~Acts 4:29-30 (NRSV).    
The early church certainly existed in tremulous times, and our world is certainly different, though there are still many unconquered lands to Christ.  Many, many thousands of faithful servants serve in hostile territories, doing essentially the same work as those early apostles, but perhaps in less purely evangelistic ways.
This prayer for boldness is prayer for God’s fully-sufficient provision as much as it’s about having the Spirit’s Presence go with them.
Against Timidity
Whenever we think about biblical timidity we can quickly turn our gaze upon Timothy — a young, diligent and worthy servant of the Lord, but one equally challenged with excess portions of ‘humility’.
The Apostle Paul is famous for writing to Timothy:
“For this reason [the inheritance of faith] I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us the spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline.”
~2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NRSV [context added]).
This is, in essence, why the First Century believers are praying for boldness.  They’re perfectly equipped in every spiritual sense to live out this boldness, and appropriately so, but then there’s the contention of their flesh to deal with.
The flesh is fearful, whilst the Spirit within is bold.  The flesh battles with our spirituality.  Like Timothy, we’re often found wanting, especially in weaker moments, and we all have them.
Our Need of Boldness
Without courage what are we?  We can easily shrink from the hustle and bustle of life.  Just living normally — whatever ‘normal’ is — we’re challenged.  And this bar is lifted when we’re supposed to be living this “Spirit-filled” reality.  For many that’s just more pressure.
If we don’t have the awareness to pray for boldness per our need then we probably won’t be blessed with it.
Prayer is our jumping-off point.  It’s what not only ‘informs’ God of our need (as if God didn’t already know), it helps us self-inform ourselves.  “God helps those who help themselves,” is the old and worn cliché.  But it’s true. 
As we discover the nature and format of our fears, through our truthfully spoken words in prayer, God liberates us as we liberate ourselves.
We must pray for what we need.  If we need an appropriate kind of boldness we should seek God for it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Enduring the Troubles of Life

“Therefore we do not lose heart.  Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.  For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”     
~2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (NIV).     
We’re intermittently bombarded by incompatible goals, and constantly we deal with fears that never seem to completely or sustainably reconcile themselves.  
What we have here is life as it’s been given on earth, and we’re away from the Father.
The Father has given us Jesus first, then the Holy Spirit as a holy Companion and Guide at Jesus’ ascension—God-in-three, but also God-of-one.  But us, in this realm, is just a fragment of what we are.  We are not at home.
Are You Lonely, Exhausted, Empty, Tired, Angry or Confused?
Times come when we approach a typically inexplicable mood, and though we feel anything but ourselves, we cannot explain why, despite how bad we’re feeling or how troubling our circumstances are.
This is normal, and it’s especially normal for ‘feeling’ types.  ‘Thinking’ types may analyse their issues and generally find some attribution or they think their way out of their trials.  Feelers, also, may think a lot.  But the feeling of being ‘away from home’ finds all believers in these circumstances.
There are some troubles we have that’ll simply be beyond explanation or even description.  Perhaps because of this inexplicability, at source, we’re most troubled, but in the context of eternity we have an explanation, though it doesn’t seem to help much, in tangible terms, at times.
Heaven – Just ‘Over There’
The realism of this sub-heading cannot be truly comprehended, for none of us knows when the world will crumble or we’ll breathe our last; God’s grace interceding to take us home.
Yet, we’re so apt to find a home here.  Family for one and our passions or work for another; these are just two things that keep us pressing in and wishing for one more day, month, year and so on.
We don’t really view our troubles and struggles as ‘light’ or ‘momentary’.
They’re more heavy and lasting than we readily want them to be.  Still, the weight of the present struggles is a blip on the radar of eternity.  But, we’re destined never to feel that reality of eternity until we’re well on our way there i.e. post death, rapture, or the like. 
Eternity claims this truth, to us, as a cliché.  It doesn’t do us any good by fact, only by faith.
Holding On When Things Are Really Tough
Frequently we feel the tightness of our moments, the darkening peeling over us, and despairing is ours for some unlikely reason—even for a minute, an hour or a day; at times longer, much longer.
We’re reminded of these passages in the Bible that reinforce or explain our loneliness of present condition—away from the Father, yet home in the Presence of God via the indwelling Holy Spirit.
We’re honest when we feel like we do, not covering for this destiny-gap.  Of all truths God’s calling us to own, this one’s the one that’s most basic for us to grasp and hold tightly.
God is with us even if we can’t see or feel the Almighty’s Presence.  And still God respects us most assuredly in the sincerity of our prayers founded in the utmost spiritual dissonance.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Now or Never

The amount of time we spend wishing our lives away is phenomenal. Then there’s the amount of times we put off what’s best for us—to lose weight, get fitter, start a course of study, or get saved, etc—so we can wallow in the continuation of experiences that bring us no respite from our spiritual lack.
Then there are times when we hear the mightiest of revelations...
If you believe it’s from God, it is from God, it’s yours, and, as history will show, it was from God. Take it as fact. Go forth in steady obedience.
When It’s Now Or Never
“Wisdom cries out in the street;
in the squares she raises her voice.”
~Proverbs 1:20 (NRSV)
There’s a secret wisdom shouted from ages eternal, and it screams from the pages of the Old Book, namely, for instance, from Proverbs above.
Only in the moment of spiritual revelation—which is defined, here, as an enlightenment experience from the Lord—can we realise the eternal benefits for change; not via dreaming and planning about it, but by actually doing it. To go forward of our fear, beyond known safety of not risking the new way, is the way of faith—one engendered by foremost unquestioned obedience.
Going Where Power Resides
All Christians, presumably, want the benefit and blessing of living powerful lives. This is what caught them in the headlights (like deer) of God in the first place.
Going where the power resides is hearing the urgency within the call of God in the moment which reminds us, it’s now or never. It’s time to commit (or re-commit).
A Gift Out Of A Hateful Ill
Can it sometimes be that we’re facing inner angst or depressive moods because we’re resisting what God is placing before us to do? My personal experience agrees comprehensively. This can be the case.
In a situation of only two possible paths, the right one and the wrong one, these times redeem more inner dissonance and distance from God when we continue in arrogant procrastination—when we answer ‘I’ll do it later’, rather than obey—or they redeem the anointing of the Spirit’s power, even if in pain, when we take the path of obedience.
There’s no wisdom in putting things off.
Motivations For The Journey
Most quests for obedience are stunted early. Instead, as we guide each foot on each step, following the initial and subsequent direction of God, we find our way along this right straight path, one step at a time.
There’s no sense in getting prize-focused, for then we’ll take our eye off the next step.
Times of spiritual revelation bring us to a point of ‘now or never’ and we’re required to act in obedience. When we do this we receive power. Then all we need to do to obey is put one foot in front of the other.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

God’s Dream for Your Life

No cliché, just a fact... this Creator of the universe has not just plans for our lives, but a dream; one with a cosmic twist.  It can only be realised for individuals, by the individual in focus.  This is great news, however.  You are the one who, with God’s help, defines that dream; you, and only you.   
It’s a cataclysmic hope that people enter into: “Does God really care that much about my life and how I live it?”
With an affirmative intent we believe, yes... it’s true.  No matter the size of things in God’s estimation, and no matter how small we are in comparison, we count to the Almighty.
Unravelling a Mystery
God is no mystery other than to understand now what we previously did not know, and for thought—in that scope—of what we still do not know but may do one day.  That is, God has revealed, and is now revealing, those things that are mightily dream-worthy as they pertain to our lives.
The mystery is meant to be unravelled; perhaps this is why the present is called ‘the present’—it’s meant to be unwrapped and devolved such that we live it in ‘revealed’ form.
When it comes to dreams we’ll be liable to think there is no Divine dream for our lives, for we have no idea what it could be.  It’s just not been revealed to us yet.
To unravel the mystery requires inquiry and effort.  Jesus’ eternal invitation is that we ask, search and knock:
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”
~Matthew 7:7 (NRSV).
Living the Dream Once It’s Revealed
The dream is whatever you want it to be (as it’s revealed by God) and that which God is blessing via all manner of provision, insight and spiritual purpose and contentment.  This is marvellous news because it’s personally defined and divinely censured beyond the realms of worldly definition.  (‘Success’ is such a plastic term.  Only God makes ‘success’ real because it’s now personally viable.)
It’s your dream and nobody else’s!
Dreams—once revealed—are lived contentedly one day at a time.  Yes, you dream a dream and you know its power.  It can be true.  When it comes to pass—perhaps not even as you expect—you’ll really thank God.
Be assured, God has it for you.  Find it, then live it... set apart to God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

God’s the Destroyer of Idols

The unceremonious demolisher of all things put up in the name of God, but against God, is God. Any believer sown into the reality of life and trying to make sense of the Lord will note this—they cannot make sense of God:

“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.”

~C. S. Lewis

The Purpose Of Belief

It might surprise some to discover that it’s not God’s will to make us comfortable in our understanding of life or the Divine. We will never understand it, not in its entirety. The nature of life, the ultimate purpose, will not be fully understood.

The purpose of belief is to get us to look beyond an achieved understanding.

Knowledge is good, but it takes us only so far—its typical end is pride; to be puffed up and useless to the purposes of God. Such a place as knowledge, when it has too much priory, has us in little reliance on the causes for humility. Such times we don’t need God, only information—only everything apart from God; a false place. This is not good spiritual passage.

The purpose of belief is the broad construct that facilitates resilience, able to gently forge its way in life, through many deconstructions. Life deconstructs us. Only when we approach such deconstruction with a willing attitude to hope and to learn and to not be afraid do we invite God to help us. Faith, here, is essential for life.

We must go beyond our idols, and knowledge is just one, that put up barriers to God. Better still, it’s unmerited and seamless wisdom to sacrifice these gods of comfort and convenience, and surrender them instinctually and gracefully. For, this is the human condition; to have idols—to insist upon our way which is against the way of the Lord.

The Broadening Of Faith

This must be our sole conquest: to accede to the will of God at each turn and only by doing so will we know the blessing of the Lord.

Doing such a thing as this will make our faith broad as continents, but sufficient only in the purposes of truth. Such a faith will divine its way, without thought, in replete obedience to the Spirit.

As we allow the Lord to identify and flush out the presence of idols in our lives, and all of us have a few, God will see to it that our faith flourishes and our perspectives broaden. Then we’ll know God even more.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking Ahead to Future Glory

In a life that forces us to choose between going forward or receding backward, the Gospel way presents the only viable answer for growth against the threat of recession. Even upon recognition that life is a constant struggle there’s the cosmic, eternal hope:

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”

~Romans 8:18 (NRSV)

The Hope Of God

Everyone open to the idea of God, that a Supreme Being exists who created the world and all that’s in it, can—whilst they may struggle with the idea of God being present here on earth—hold to a reasonable hope for God in the next life; to the experience of God’s Presence in heaven.

The experience of God’s Presence here on earth, whilst we hold it as a biblical truth, is not a given for everyone. Not everyone is so blessed to feel God in their midst. And there are those, also, that find the felt Presence of God too fleeting to be assured.

Add to this, the people—and this affects all of us to a greater or lesser extent—that experience great suffering every day or most days of their lives. What have they hope for? Yes, this Gospel provides the hope they need to live. It helps.

The hope of God is an end-time reality and that, as an actual event, is approaching fast. Whether by Parousia (the coming, again, of Jesus) or by our bodily deaths, which is a cataclysmic certainty, we will see God—all of us. That experience could not compare with our wildest imaginative design. Truly, nothing we’ve experienced in this life could prepare us for the unmerited, symphonic awe we will bathe in at that time. It will be totally ‘other’ than any of our human experience.

Though “it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)

Hope For Now

In the strangest of ways we draw meaning and hope for life from the acknowledged reality that our lives precede something magnificent; something altogether too wonderful to comprehend. That irrepressible hope, the certainty of such an event and eternal destination, beyond fleeting fears for judgment that are reassured by knowledge of the grace of God, is the thought we may invest in any time, anywhere.

Beyond the uncertain hopes that lie in our earthly lives sits a permanent hope; one that will not wash away or be torn from us. A hope that seems so far off, but can verily be moments away, fuels so much transcendently immediate hope.

In the simplest of terms, the hope of future glory makes everything we endure here abundantly worth it.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Venturing Beyond Loneliness Toward Wholeness

Churches and their pastors attract the lonely just as much as clubs and pubs and any other ‘fellowships’ where groups of people coexist. Many attend church for the same reasons that many join clubs and congregate at pubs. Loneliness is part of the human condition, and church attendance may not be any nobler an endeavour than attending a club or a pub, unless there’s a mature decision made to address such loneliness.

Churches and their pastors have an urgent role in creating the right environment of ‘hospitality’:

“Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their loneliness away. But when they enter a house with real hospitality, they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds.”

~Henri Nouwen

Setting People Free, Really

When we imagine that at least some people who attend church are looking for salvation from their loneliness, via an attraction toward fellowship or guidance by a pastor or simply a place to belong, there’s a cogent opportunity to do more for this person than meet the immediate need.

But to do this requires a risk; it means not being the thing the needy need. If we’re to teach people how to fish instead of giving them fish to eat we’ll need to ensure they can see the need to fish.

Church must be an environment where not only is brokenness welcomed, but it’s to facilitate, as a tool, the process where each person might freely admit their fundamental loneliness—and their need of God, alone, to fill that void.

But this is one of the gaps within church experience, largely—there’s typically little growth because there’s so little abandonment of the fearful pride that protects such loneliness. The very vessel that’s provided to show people the true way home becomes more of a club or pub experience than church should be.

The Risk In Ministering

The proper minister takes a big risk. When they don’t satisfy the superficial need, in order to allow the exposure of the deeper need, some people walk. Those who aren’t after a salvation experience don’t seek to be set free. Many more resist change than those who embrace it.

The risk in ministering (properly) is to coax people toward solid food, not merely milk. It’s to bring them, along with their own resources, and the development of those resources, to a more acceptable understanding of themselves. It’s to occur in a seedbed of brokenness, for what is church if it appears perfect (or even close)?

The Personal Opportunity

Venturing personally, sick of our loneliness, wanting the wholeness that others have attained, we sense an opportunity—not in rejecting our despair and bitterness and disappointment, but in embracing it on a slow, often painful journey. Yet, wholeness is surely there to be claimed; but not without stepping through the process.

Could it be the very things we’ve been running from are those things that will, eventually, set us free?

And when we’ve made this courageous connection, that our brokenness is the key to our wholeness, we can truly understand how God (and the church and pastors) can help. Straight away the relationship with God, to this end, commences. We stand open before the Spirit for healing.


There’s a direct link between our loneliness and our wholeness.

We cannot have wholeness without rummaging through our loneliness, bitterness and despair. We’ll get what we want when we deal with what we don’t want to deal with. The beauty is, during this process, we’ll become fearless. We’ll come to truly know God.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Psalm 109 – Faith During False Accusation

There’s a method for living life when things get tough, and we know it’s not about giving up. And no matter what life throws at us, from the numbness of loss, to being overwhelmed by the sheer load of things, we can learn so much from the psalmist (‘of David’) in this Psalm, about the faith to hold on in the midst of tyranny. Maybe the toughest of situations is handled here; to be falsely accused, and for that accuser, the one responsible for great travesties, to be calling for our demise on every angle.

Despite the quaking and polarising injustice, the psalmist painstakingly charts the accusations, much like in a court. In spite of it all, though, including the raw clarity of spiritual pain, his faith remains firm:

“Help me, O Lord my God!

Save me according to your steadfast love.”

~Psalm 109:26 (NRSV)

When The Curses Pile Up

Just about every conceivable curse is called against the psalmist in a middle part of the Psalm, and to place ourselves in it, as the accused, is more than humbling; it’s a threat against our life and all we hold dear. To lose everything, in the type of circumstances that Job endured, is what we can imagine if the accuser was to get his way. This is scary!

And though, at one level, rarely does it occur that a person is blighted in so many dimensions at once, it takes just one dimension of our lives to be upended for us to lose our way; to feel perplexed and cursed beyond measure.

When the curses pile up we have the choice to continue in our misery, focusing on the hellishness of it all, or we can repetitively turn and, in going about-face, we look to the heavens, and say, ‘What now, God?’ ‘Whatever you ask, I will do.’

Remembering That God Has Promised To Bless Those Who Obey

Looking to the heavens instead of looking all about us at what’s going wrong, and having faith in that which we cannot yet see, abides by the rationale that if we act in faith, blessing will come.

This can sound like Christian rhetoric; but that’s faith—to believe, without sight, in a way choosing to see that all we suffer will be worth it in the end. A real faith is required; the type of belief that learns to quickly get past disappointment and resentment and the focus on the negative. Quickly we look to the things God’s already doing—not for us, maybe, but in the midst of others’ lives that are being delivered. Our turn’s coming.


Whatever we’re confronted with we can always take some small comfort in the fact that others have had it worse. Enormous have been the barriers that the faithful have conquered in the name of their God. When we hold on in faith blessing is the eventual consequence.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Repenting Everyday Blasphemies

Those devoted to Jesus might choose to remember the circumstances that crucified the Saviour; the carnal Jew, the deep-read Scribe, the learned Rabbi, and the religious Pharisee—those who ought to have known better—not only did not receive Jesus, they crucified him:

“They desired no change of their own nature, no inward destruction of their own natural tempers, no deliverance from the love of themselves and the enjoyments of their passions...”

~William Law (1686–1761)

Their conflicting devotions crucified him. They were supposed to be devoted to God, but in fact they were devoted to religious practice, selfishness, power, etc.

Could it be that we, too, are manipulated by conflicting devotions—so many even, in Jesus’ name? Is it not so that many of our chosen allegiances, in the name of God, require us to take on a Pharisaic method in order to ‘fight the good fight’?

This is where the ethical debate, on a number of fronts, becomes confounding; how might we fight, yet honour God to that same end? Here we can appreciate that dishonouring God is a blasphemy. And upon blasphemies we ought to repent.

Regarding this issue, the rights and wrongs of common life in the midst of believers and non-believers alike, there are many situations where no absolutes exist. To think in ‘golden absolutes’ is to become, in a flash, a Pharisee. But there’s one cure for all untenable situations in the heart of the true believer: to repent; to draw back in within the Presence of God; to relate one-on-one with our Lord. Only God can show the way.

Tests From God?

Could it be that our grandest test of faith is how we treat each person and each situation at love—holding to the Greatest Commandment? (Matthew 22:37-39) If we were true to this test we may quickly shun many of the things we instinctively say or do or give approval to; where divisions are caused—in ‘the name of God’, no less.

The moment we become aware that divisions are occurring is the moment we might seek the heart of God in these very circumstances. That’s what God wants to see; our preparedness to repent when confounding relational circumstances rise up as they often do within ethical debates. It’s not about what we say or what we don’t say; it’s about where our heart’s situated—about our proximity to and congruence with the Lord.

Beware The Unwillingness To Repent

A strikingly familiar pose taken by the scribes and Pharisees was their inability to repent. Are there contemporary similarities?

It’s much more difficult to discern a focus for repentance in the evangelical church, nowadays, than it is to discern flavours for intolerance within difficult ethical landscapes, for instance, interfaith solutions, sexual orientation issues, or even abortion. Whilst the biblical position is clear, what’s less clear (and perhaps never clear) is how to deal with or combat practices not meeting the biblical position without failing to love.

The only thing we can do correctly in such situations is to continually seek the Lord—to repent. Doing this necessitates we love others. Accountable to God, we love.


Repentance is not as popular as doctrines on prosperity, grace or resurrection. But it’s central to the experience of salvation. We cannot live the life of faith unless we practice repentance—to draw near to God. Only by repentance can we live in harmony with God and all humankind.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Being Fortified Against Backsliding

Comes a time in most of our lives when we explore who Jesus is; we need and want to know God at this time. But for many this ‘urge’ comes and then goes. What was to be for our eternal blessing never stuck.

Is there a more important practice for the believer, then, to investigate and entrench—even as part, their daily recommitting to the Lord? The most vital living fortification is against backsliding, so we too can claim this, below, with confidence:

“But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.”

~Hebrews 10:39 (NRSV)

A Fear Of Dependence Or Just Apathy?

The truth is many might lament being dependent on God—as, for them, no dependence would appear wise, safe or preferable. After all, the world coaches us to get beyond dependence. We’re to be ‘independent’ or ‘interdependent’, but never dependent. The Gospel, however, requires we depend wholly on God.

Getting into a position of wilful dependence on God—like, ‘I need God’—is the best fortification against going backwards spiritually, and going forward in growth.

Too many have seasons of renewal and enthusiastic enlightenment where there’s much spiritual progress, yet they don’t convert these seasons into a lifelong conquest adherent to truth.

They take the brightening season for granted, enjoying their newfound peace, grace and joy, but they don’t fear losing it enough to warrant protecting it by wisely planning for the future.

It appears that these are two solid causes for backsliding: a fear of depending on God and an inability to plan spirituality into the lifespan.

Wisdom Along The Spiritual Journey

What do we need most of all, having caught a sniff of the Lord’s chastening enlightenment? We need wisdom, which is discernment, and enough to imagine the future need we have of ongoing enlightenment. (I speak of enlightenment, here, of being enlightened continually in Christ.)

Discernment is the vehicle motivating us to plan ahead and make some of what we have now last for all eternity—to ensure we get beyond being duped by the Evil One, who lurks by Apathy, Comfort, Pride, and Self-Sufficiency. Any of these, and more, prevents us from making inroads in the spiritual life.

We ought to never be beyond God’s volitional reach. We are the ones who need to choose to be God’s friend, for the Lord will not force himself on anyone.


The biggest threat to our spirituality is backsliding. The only protection we have is a daily dependence on the Lord our God, which protects us, chiefly, from apathy. Comfort, pride, and self-sufficiency contest with our faith. Will we, continually, choose God over these? Daily dependence on God is our only protection.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Written on a train.