Friday, November 30, 2012

Psalm 12 – Help In Weakness and Fear

“The promises of the Lord are promises that are pure,
silver refined in a furnace on the ground,
purified seven times.”
— Psalm 12:6 (NRSV)
The enemies that surround us in this day are rarely usually those that chase us like they chased David.  Our enemies are often in our minds and those demons don’t quickly relent.  
When we feel we’re all alone — and this can happen for anyone; especially the ardent Christian — we feel like there could hardly be a similar person.  This isolation over us gets us talking to ourselves, and our minds accuse of the wickedness of others and situations against us.  Everything appears a problem.
The Enemy’s Field Day
We should note who the enemy is here.  It’s no one other than ‘the accuser’ — Satan.  If it’s not our desire that’s crowding us it’s usually the devil, and desire is nowhere in sight when we’re in this lowly frame.
Isolated, we’re no match for this prince of darkness.  He’s got us right where he wants us: weak, failing and rejected — in other words, feeling this way.
We forget, however, that God’s got other plans if only we’ll draw closer to the Spirit (James 4:8). As we press in on God, not relying on our strength, God presses in on us.
The Promised ‘Safety’
In verse 5 the promises of God are issued, for the “despoiled” and because the “needy groan.”  God hears.  God, at this time, when things are haggardly awry, “will now rise up,” and provide the perfect, or complete, protection that we need.  This is what “purified seven times” means — the promise is like perfectly crafted precious metal.  The promise has the ‘quality’ of pure silver.
How this safety actually works is a mystery other than the application of the technique of focus and of drawing close to God.
As we draw away from the enemy — those pathologically-looped thought patterns — we find the weakness, sense of failure and rejection dissipating almost at a rate consistent with how much we draw away from the enemy whilst drawing closer to God.
The mind is our greatest enemy when we’re feeling weak, failing and rejected.  But, as we reframe our thoughts, switching focus onto God, we’re reprieved. The mind can be harnessed one thought at a time.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Wider Mind of Christ

“But we have the mind of Christ.”
— 1 Corinthians 2:16c (NRSV)
The mind of Christ is a concept of consummate holiness in thinking—to rise above the salient tempestuousness of the worldly, fallen model of thinking, and to transcend it in thought-provoked actions of a thousand flavours of love; bounded always in truth.
Employing the wider mind is in one massive way, different, but it exhumes the dormant mind of Christ within us and expands upon it, making it not only holy for contemplation, but practical and relevant for our situations-of-life, ensuring our lives are infiltrated by God’s practical wisdom.
Comparing Two Opposite and Incompatible Minds
The mind of Christ, so far as we are concerned, is a theological concept we make real through the use of our wider minds. This is the desire and ability to discern all we perceive God wants us to see: 1) that we would be aware, and 2) that we would act.
If we compare two minds, now, through the use of the figure below, we can see that we commence from worldly pagan thinking, broad in its base to represent our willingness toward idolatry (sin)—when no conviction of the Holy Spirit was borne upon our lives.

Upon salvation, when we first realised our distance from God—the despicability of our sinfulness in the presence of a holy God—we convulsed and quickly desired the mind of Christ. And we were blessed to receive it. Yet, when we were immature, the bandwidth of our Christian thinking was still very thin.
But like the smoke in a smoke-filled room rises to the ceiling and spreads across only then to fill the room, the more we heat our spirituality within the refining furnace of God the wider the mind of Christ we develop. The wider mind of Christ is grown. And what comes of this wider mind is a relationally motivated mindset.
Thinking wise, we become much more tolerant, and our patience is seen in that we do not judge prematurely.
‘AND’ Not ‘OR’ Thinking
The best way of conceptualising the wider mind of Christ is in the capacity to receive and assimilate a broad variety of truth. This is to appreciate, as all should, that truth is truth and nothing else is.
The wider mind of Christ is the ability to consider carefully and astutely all presenting information such that nothing would be ignorantly disregarded or naïvely adopted. The wider mind of Christ is wisdom to delay judgment until the right time.
The wider mind of Christ, therefore, resists taking sides, or developing set views, in doctrinal debates, but is comparatively free to engage in spirited discussion to the ends of edification, and therefore intimacy of relationship between people.
The wider mind of Christ sees the broader perspective and holds to the knowledge that truth often reports in last at rollcall (Matthew 11:19). After most people have taken their sides, the truth comes in as if lagging, embarrassing those who have already believed a lie. Wisdom delays judgment because it respects the truth.
The wider mind of Christ is what God is calling every Christian to. Maturity is not simply holy thinking, but it is a character aligned to holiness and truth. The wider mind of Christ gives us the capacity to see and follow God continually throughout all life (within the obvious constraints of our fallible humanity).
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

The LORD Says, I Am God; There Is No Other

“Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.”
— Isaiah 45:22 (NRSV)
We, as a people, people designed and created and maintained by God, continually run from God, until we realise we need God, and then we seek—sometimes with all our hearts—after the One who can save us for life: the only One.
We are wrecked without God.
In our idolatry, our worship of things other than God, and so many things are these we cannot count them, we ignore God. We despise grace. We cheapen it. We have the temerity to insult Jesus, again and again, whether by arrogance or hypocrisy. No matter how pious we get, we always have the potential for this propensity.
But throughout time and eternity God speaks a consistent message. The Lord says: “I am God; there is no other.” These are obviously red-lettered words; words akin to Jesus’ words; the words of Yahweh. These are words from the Author of Life. These are the words of the One who will finish the physical life at the correct time, for the majesty of Divine Glory.
Those who would earnestly seek God will find the Author of their lives. For the One who knows our lives from back to front, and every event before it happens, knows our hearts on this matter: our seeking after the living God. God will know us and we will know God, by the essence of our committed repentance, heartfelt and true.
Acknowledging We Cannot Shift the Inevitable
“To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear, that I am the Lord,” says God.
Worship of anything other than God is totally worthless, meaningless, and a blight on the incontrovertible truth. Yet God knows our tendency to turn and face the world of folly. Such is God’s acceptance of this fact—that we are inherently unfaithful—he caused a binding and irrefutable redemption. He sent his Son, and we scourged him. As we scourge God each day in our idolatry, Jesus was scourged. And, at our worship of Jesus, accepting we are sinners with an ongoing problem, still God forgives us! God understands us.
The inevitable fact stands.
A time is coming—if we could call it a time—when all things, all knowledges, and all realities, will be brought back comprehensively to God, in every sense of entirety.
God will be worshipped purely and cleanly then. Then we will have the fullness of rest in our worship, to know, via consistency and a wondrousness of unadulterated love, the Lord is One.
The Lord says: “I am God; there is no other.” What we do with this fact is up to us. But it is the most important decision—to follow Jesus or not—we will ever make.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Blessings In Sunday Worship

Church-goers are as blessed as ever, but at a recent service I attended I was reminded of the many blessings that modern convenience and our human nature has us perhaps taking for granted.
Each week we:     
    Listen along and sing to live music.  How many non-Church-going people can lay claim to being at a live concert every week without door-charge?  Not only is the music and singing from our worship teams just a delight, the words of the songs we sing filter through our hearts like pure mountain spring water refreshing our souls. God isn’t the only one blessed. He knows we need this worship.
    See a bunch of genuinely smiling faces or smiles or hugs returned commensurate for our presenting mood.  Church sees us as people live out Paul’s exhortation: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15)
    Hear messages of hope given, and not just from the pastor.  At every service we receive special revelations from God that add to the devotional value of going to church.  Going to church without pen and notebook, or a thinking mind, is to miss the little gems of wisdom on offer every week.
    Find out about the cry of the needy as we learn of developments and concerns from mission efforts further afield, both downtown and all around the world.  Living in affluence is no excuse for a head-in-the-sand approach to life.  God blesses us all the more as we consider the extension of God’s kingdom to all corners of the earth.
    Share good-natured laughs, though never at the ridiculing expense of another.  The very best humour is always in good nature, even as we might engage in self-directed humour that makes light of our faults in honest ways.  It’s these ways we find for sharing more of our true selves, albeit in a ‘format’ that’s entirely palatable for others.
    Stand back for a moment and notice the hive of activity, as faithful servants of the church combine to ply their spiritual gifts in ways to bless others—in doing so, they worship God.  This is one of the purposes of maturing in faith; that we all find our role, our fit, and get busy for God in serving others.
    Learn how we might apply our faith out in our community, with our neighbours, work colleagues and friends.  After all, what personal good is a faith that doesn’t extend into the interpersonal world?
There are many more positive observations possible.  From a moment’s reflection, thankfulness to God for these is easy to reconcile.
Church-goers bless their Lord in their passionate worship, but, in that, they too are mightily blessed. The more we give to God in blessing, the more God blesses us with gifts unlimited.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Splendour of Kindness’ Generosity

“A generous person will be enriched,
and one who gives water will get water.”
— Proverbs 11:25 (NRSV)
“Those who are generous are blessed,
for they share their bread with the poor.”
— Proverbs 22:9 (NRSV)
Sitting in my office at work recently, enjoying a brief glimpse at the harbour view, God asked me to count the objects on my desk: 31. Thirty-one tools of the trade, some of which are essential for doing my job; some others just make it easier.
The simple fact is, by position and provision, I am mightily blessed. And when we consider our Western lives—presuming the majority reading this are blessed, like me, in their comparative westernised richness—including those in the East, or wherever, who live like modern Westerners—we have little to want for from a material perspective.
No one blessed in such ways deserves it more than someone who isn’t so blessed—born in less fortunate circumstances, perhaps in a poorer country or without the family or support structure many of us take for granted.
Healthy Comparisons
There are not too many comparisons we might make that are healthy; comparing ourselves with others, for instance, is a recipe for envy. But one good comparison to make is our blessedness with others’ relative paucity.
That sort of comparison is, it could be said, not limited to financial or material means; it extends into all circles of life. But material blessing is in present sight.
The motive for such a comparison is genuine compassion, for there is much neediness in the world and so much rank wealth—the distance between the two (relative rich and relative poor) would be hard to parallel.
When Is Enough, Enough?
The nature of accumulation is to gain more and more. How much relative wealth is too much relative wealth? Again, comparatively speaking, though the vast majority of us are nowhere near millionaires, we might still have more than we need.
When we accumulate more and more, redefining with growing blessing our level of comfort, there comes a point where that material blessing has our spiritual blessing ebbing away. The material blessing is a test; where we have enough, can we give some away?
A miraculous thing happens when we start to give away what we don’t need—and the limits of need are much lower than most of us readily contemplate. Not only are we freed of much clutter—mental, emotional and spiritual—we get to feel how God feels, as a sort of provider.
The best thing about such generosity is the desire grows according to the blessings of God that are felt; we quickly realise nothing, not any wealth on this earth, can touch us like God touches us when we act these ways.
The responsibility for generosity is a role for the comparative wealthy; that’s most of us. Everyone has something to share. Nothing can produce happiness like making someone else happy through the kindness of generosity.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Abiding the Tests of Separation and Silence

Even the Prophet Isaiah felt it—the absence of God’s eternal Presence:
“Truly, you are a God who hides himself,
O God of Israel, the Savior.”
— Isaiah 45:15 (NRSV)
Many friendships suffer from a lack of nurture.
No matter the seasons of closeness, maintenance is always a clever byword for friendship, because of conflict, or the mind’s propensity to invent problems, or just because we lose touch and, therefore, apparent interest.
Good friendships last because we were prepared to mow down the barriers to separation and silence; that one or the other said, ‘enough is enough’, and re-railed what was destined for the relational abyss.
The exact same thing happens for our relationship with God.
Maintaining the Bond of Friendship Even in Distance
The test of separation and silence is one for each party, except when it’s our relationship with God when we, alone, our tested. Faithfulness is that test.
We are not tested just for the sake of it, but to prove, even to ourselves, the bond strength of the relationship—how much it means to us. It communicates just as much to the other party, whether they are a friend or God.
Maintaining intimacy at distance may seem impossible, but the need for the right feelings robs us the opportunity to still feel intimate—by thought and prayer at least.
Intimacy is the key. At distance it needs to occur in the mind; but we must nurture the mind in order for it to happen. And as we nurture good thoughts, and kindly prayers, God instils a fresh confidence, along with thoughts prompting action, despite the distance.
The Purpose in Friendship
Friends aren’t there to make us feel good—though that is often the blessing of friendship. They are there as God’s provision for someone to love. As we need to be loved, so do others.
We ought to treat our friendship with God the same way.
We are worthy of friendship—whether with a human friend or God—when we scale the mountain of desire for the need to be placated. There is profound truth to the old saying, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
Friendship is other-focused. The moment we shift the focus onto another, blessing is ours.
This is when we become the best of ourselves; when humility springs forth at the requirements of others—despite the origins of their desires—and not of ourselves.
God uses the model of friendship in our human relationships to show us what it means to love. Love may be a feeling, but that is not the nourishing part of life. Real spiritual nourishment comes when we love—as an action in response to a distant situation or a defined need of another.
Periods of separation and silence are a test of our commitment. Can we endure them? Will intimacy falter as a result? Or, will we use that distance to yearn and long for reconnection. Whether it’s a friend or God, the question remains:
Are we making the next move?
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Great Loves of Life

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind... You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
— Matthew 22:37, 39 (NRSV).
Love, via the passions that compel us, persists in two planes: one is relational by real body-to-body, mind-to-mind and soul-to-soul rapport; the other is usually not relational at all—by our typical understanding—our material worship. Or, what competes for our ‘worship’. Of course, this is where the Christian has the keys to the Kingdom—they have converted the vertical plane of love into a relationship; or, more correctly put, they have been bought by God into a relationship with their Creator.
The Horizontal Love
The second part of Jesus’ Great Commandment is conditional on the first. We cannot love others as God intends without loving God. But it is better for us to deal with the horizontal love first, in this article, so we can see what underpins it—the vertical love, or our love for God and his love for us.
We love others only in apportionment to the love we have for God. If we don’t know God or don’t love him, our love of others is very conditional; it’s hit-and-miss at best. Fear still has too much control.
This horizontal love is the giving over of ourselves for another person, much in the tradition of Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples the night he was betrayed: we are to give ourselves for our friends, being prepared to die for them. In actuality, this is about dying to ourselves more so than physically dying.
Dying to self when it comes to another person is the main test of this horizontal love.
The Vertical Love
We cannot truly understand and therefore enact the horizontal love unless we have discovered the vertical love God has for us. The moment we understand how much God loves us—where we are truly enamoured of Jesus’ sacrifice for our personal gain—to be reconnected with God—is the moment life begins again.
What this means is life is reframed. Our lives come to true life.
Life takes on a significance previously undetected. Life begins to make sense in a way we always hoped it would. With the eyes of our hearts opened we are able to see as God would wish us to see. Then we see all the needs around us; the needs of others.
This vertical love compels the horizontal love; to give ourselves over to it.
There are two great loves: love for God (and God’s love for us) and our love of humankind and all creation. This is the beginning and ending of life. These are the means and ends of life. We only ‘get’ life when we live these two great loves.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Prayers of Unutterable Depth

“The Lord needs not the tongue to be an interpreter between him and the hearts of his children. He that hears without ears can interpret prayers though not uttered by the tongue.”
— Thomas Manton (1620–1677)
There is an answer to all our depths of despair, which is the safety we all need when life turns sour. There is an answer for all sorts of pain, but that answer may not satisfy us unless we are putting God first. When we put God first, our prayers of unutterable depth help us transcend our problems—and, by this, God becomes our Saviour again.
Blessed is the person who has suffered and has called alive to their God.
In our wisdom to admit our incomprehensible incapacity to deal with the lamentable torment that has expunged us of all joy and peace, we are graced with the holding, flowing, containing power of God.
The Experience of Unutterable Prayers
When we pray without uttering a word,
As indecipherable as the warble of a lone bird,
The Good Lord hears without a doubt,
And comes to us within depression’s bout.
There is enormous comfort in the expression of unutterable prayers, so long as we know beyond doubt we are in communication with God. Experiencing God is about knowing God’s Presence by knowledge. Such a knowledge we can only know. Such a knowledge is held by faith and belief in the Word of God.
Unutterable prayers are not prayers of works, but prayers of faith.
We are wrong to judge ourselves for praying insufficiently or inappropriately when the words don’t come. Eloquence in prayer is a lie of the devil, who loves to trip us up in compounding our desires of perfection.
The best of prayers come from the heart and are beyond words.
The most solemn of prayers God already knows, and all the Lord seeks is our humility in truth to acknowledge him above all else. We cannot add to the value of our prayers the sounds and nuances of words. God has already valued our prayer within the price of salvation—grace has paved the way, eternally.
The experience of unutterable prayers, within the paradigm of surrender, before the only One who can help, is eventual peace—that peace we know that transcends our understanding.
There is good news at rock bottom depth. God needs no words when we’re numb. Simplicity in prayer unfolds blessing to the heart close to God. All God needs is a heart yearning for him.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, November 23, 2012

3 Essential Jewels for Success

“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.”
— Maya Angelou
There is so much money made and given away in the name of ‘success’ in our world.
From the get-rich-quick schemes, to fads for fame, to growing our popularity in a numbers world, to the competition for roles on an endless corporate ladder, we get a warped, superficial sense of what success is.
Do we really know?
The quote at top gets right down to the basics, and it gives us some raw direction to work with. We may not like its truth, presently, but we have something to work with. That’s something more than we had maybe.
1. Liking Ourselves
It sounds so simple: to like ourselves. And at many levels we probably do.
Some, however, struggle. Some of us struggle to believe in ourselves, to accept ourselves, or to honour ourselves in the sight of God. We all have times when we despise the things we do or how we do them, but hopefully we don’t despise our very beings.
Liking ourselves, for some of us, requires some work; some of this is ongoing work. In many ways, accepting the things we don’t like about ourselves is the biggest part of liking ourselves. Those that do the hard work in accepting the unacceptable bits of themselves enter into new and happier forms of relationship with themselves.
2. Liking What We Do
Many people hate their day jobs. Those that do would be better to find work they enjoy, or find meaning and purpose, somehow, in their present vocation. A change of thinking can change many things. We can learn to accept once-difficult situations. The transformation of our thought process is the key.
It’s possible to love everything about a day jobs, or our daily routines, but for some this requires imagination and work.
3. Liking How We Do It
The finite qualities of how we do the things we do gives us true satisfaction. This is the essence of our moments. Doing the things we do gives us meaning. How we do things is as important as anything is. The little things take care of the big things.
When we get the little things right the big things tend to take care of themselves.
Liking how we do things is taking a healthy pride in the quality of what we do. And no other time can we invest an appreciable quality into what we do than when we’re doing it.
When we like who we are, what we do, and how we do it, we have the keys to success.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.