Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Experiencing Spiritual Inebriation

Drunkenness in the Holy Spirit is, nowadays, most associated, and therefore most owned, within the realm of Pentecostalism; even to the point of superiority as other Christians look on. Many charismatics routinely experience Spiritual inebriation, which is, presumably, being baptised in, or by, the Holy Spirit. Along with it, oftentimes, is communication by tongues, Divine healings, prophesying etc.

But these halcyon experiences entrap many unsuspecting ones in divisive spiritualised pride; Spiritual inebriation is not saved exclusively for the charismatics. It’s available for any Christ-believer:

“Spiritual inebriation is this: that a person receives more sensible joy and sweetness than their heart can either contain or desire.”

~Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381)

Entirely consistent with Pauline New Testament teaching, our cups should, and indeed will, overflow with the goodness of Divine knowledge that we are saved and, no less, redeemed—even, with effect, resurrected with Christ. Yet, many Christians are left still scratching their heads. Indeed, my first experience of Spiritual inebriation didn’t come until the Gospel was made real in my life, through great loss—13 full years after I was first saved! That is not everyone’s experience, however.

What’s in sight here, though, is the experience of boundless Spiritual joy.

Experiencing Boundless Spiritual Joy

How long has it been since we last experienced the anointing of the Lord in our worship; completely lost within the solemnity of the intellectualised emotions—both mind and heart fully captivated by the Holy Spirit?

This, in some ways, could be likened to an orgasm, in terms of ecstasy; not, however, in terms of the physiological spasm-founded process. Allusions to something sexual should not offend. We speak of joy, after all.

Experiences of boundless Spiritual joy are, of course, established through common amazement regarding the simple blessings of God, and the intimacy we can have with the Holy Spirit, any time. These experiences can be practiced, as can be the Presence of God.

Grounded in simple analogies of thankfulness, and the enjoyment within the practice of all manner of virtue, inebriation of the Spiritual kind is bounteously available. We make the time and space for it, invite God, and there, sooner or later, we achieve it.

***

Experiencing Spiritual inebriation is the highest of all human experience—the touch of the Divine. Any believer of God is capable of enjoying such delight. The Presence of God, brought to the immediacy of the moment, made fathoms deep before us, makes life within our beings never more worthy. Living out of such an experience makes every other experience relevant, meaningful, and endurable.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Exorcising the Ministry of Manipulation

Nobody owns God. Yet, the same could not be said for the reverse; by the fact we exist we’re instruments of the Almighty. Against the trend of truth, however, comes an all too common occurrence, anywhere that power might be contorted against people and, never worse, in the name and purposes of God:

“The people [that] control others with God, are further from God than those who don’t believe in Him. He’s not a tool we use.”

~Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono of U2

Of many manifestations to the end of manipulation, ‘for God’, countless thousands are robbed of quality from their spiritual lives. Of course, this is not just a Christian phenomenon; so many cults and religions—as many as there have ever been or could be—might engage in such practices. But what does a Christian ministry look like, that manipulates?

Sensing The Danger Signs

Manipulation has many threads as webs of deceit and control. There is no exhaustive list. We’d do better to identify the characteristics of such threads. For instance, what might a ministry leader or pastor or fellow-follower-of-Christ do in exhibiting coercive behaviours?

It’s better, again, to focus on what we might feel at the behest of manipulation.

We all have a spirit-sense; the intuition for right and wrong within our midst. Something within our gut instinct tells us, perhaps at an unconscious level, that what we hear or see or experience isn’t quite right. Sometimes this sort of sense is not picked up on, or we don’t act on it. Later we may find out things, either more positively or more negatively, are not as they seemed initially.

The more consistently we listen to and act upon this inner sense, the more personal control we can exercise. It’s not disobeying God to question the motives of others, even the motives of our leaders. Indeed, leaders with a godly anointing, those humbly submitted to the Lord, will understand the need to operate within a network of accountability. Leaders should have no problem in accounting for everything they do, within reasonable limits. Leaders should also have the trust to operate as leaders. That trust, though, is a tenuous arrangement. We trust only those we’re safe with.

Sensing the danger signs is an indicator for further enquiry. We should never dismiss, point blank, nodes of alarm.

***

Anyone who coerces anyone under ‘the purposes of God’ has, by their coercion, disqualified themselves as an agent for God’s purposes. Furthermore, they have moved far from the Lord and act as an agent for the enemy of God. Where we feel coerced, we should listen to our inner spirit-sense and pray and, with courage, act regarding what the Spirit tells us to do.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Isaiah 54 – The Promise of Eternal Peace

What do we picture when we think about peace? The opening to Isaiah 54 presents the image of space, in many ways congruent with concepts of peace the Israelites would have understood—a geographic peace. The recurrent theme throughout latter Isaiah is brought also to bear here. Here is the proclamation of redemptive peace:

“For your Maker is your husband,

the Lord of hosts is his name;

the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,

the God of the whole earth he is called.”

~Isaiah 54:5 (NRSV)

Do Not Fear – Do Not Be Ashamed – Do Not Be Discouraged

What is the central, underpinning note of the fourth verse is also the classic hinge for this Psalm of peace from Isaiah.

Comfort and reassurance is the resounding mood as we reflect over verses 4-10. Like the people of God in ancient times, we may have felt cast off, forgotten by God, left in spiritual squalor, but that was not how it ended. Perhaps for a brief moment we were abandoned—it felt that way. But like the dutiful parent, the Lord looked away for but an instant. His disgust was fleeting, as was our shame.

As we ponder these verses, taking our time, mulling over them in reflective thought, allowing the Lord to seep again into our souls, refreshing us, we’re healed... again.

Blessed assurance, and an eternity of peace; these are ours. Never again are we to be subsumed in conflict without the Lord, present, by our side.

The Grandeur Of Hope

Verse 11 takes us from reassurance to the wondrousness of hope; in the grandness of enveloping styles, whatever past we lamented is blown away for a future too good to perceive. This, we know, is of the Lord. This redemption is sealed in precious stones. Prosperity is now to be the theme of everything we know; a spiritual and pervading prosperity.

In the Lord’s righteousness we’re established and the product is peace.

Any issues of present or future conflict we now decouple from Divine hand. The Lord has our good at heart, always. And though he may still use wickedness, it is destined to drive us back, now, into the bosom of God. Conflict commends us to draw near to the Almighty. And when we do, we experience instant and prevailing protection.

***

Neither weapon nor vicious tactic will prosper against us; those who call the Lord their God. Not even things said against us will have founding basis as we trust the Almighty. This covenant of spiritual peace we enjoy is eternal.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Graphic Credit: Eternal Light.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Loneliness of Discipleship

God incarnate, it could be safely argued, was perhaps the loneliest of all people, as can be concluded in his response to the verbal commitment of an unnamed disciple to follow him, wherever he went:

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”

~Luke 9:58b (NRSV)

The Divergent Polarity Of Fellowship In Discipleship

Yet the opening paragraph, above, is an unbalanced statement. Jesus had unique intimacy with the Father. Being the very essence, God, perhaps Jesus didn’t need humanity’s recognition or approval. But his humanity must surely have been hurt by the severest of rejections.

Despite his ever-centring congruence with the Father, and the Presence of perfect fellowship in God, Jesus was most alien to the typical human condition—of relative happy fellowship with humanity—because he was so set apart from run-of-the-mill, broken human beings. He loved his disciples perfectly, yet they were not capable of loving him as he loved them. The disciples prove to us how much we need a Saviour.

So, we can view Jesus this way:

Holding two starkly diverging realities simultaneously, one in the left hand and one in the right, he was both, at the same time, the most fulfilled-of-fellowship because of the oneness in the Trinity and the loneliest of all people. These are, consequently, two great identifiers for every servant of God committed in their discipleship.

We can enjoy the fullness of Spiritual fellowship, yet, at times, we’ll be driven into unparalleled loneliness. Both of these because we know God; this is due the acceptance of God and the rejection of the world. This is the position, the state, and the privilege of discipleship under the name of Jesus.

Living A Blessing That Is Also A Curse

This is a thing that so many will struggle with. Jesus requires that we pick up our cross and follow him; both to the heights of the Mount of Triumph and to the depths of the Valley of Tribulation. There truly is no middle ground. We have not one without the other. We must, if we’re to be located as true disciples, accept both realities—to be loved by God, but hated by certain humanity.

We never struggle with blessing, but we rail hard against the cursing of persecution.

And loneliness is the end result—the heart serially rejected—of many manifestations of persecution. We may not be following in the stead of Jesus if we haven’t felt persecuted, particularly to the ends of loneliness. The blessings of such loneliness, of course, are that we run into the arms of God.

***

Discipleship under Jesus can be a lonely pastime, but many, also, are the blessings. Being Christian is a difficult life, but one seasoned in grace by the highest heaven. Moreover, this life of devotion to God is the only true life, where the only thing we reject is lies. Finally, we have heaven, both here with the Spirit and away with God.

Heaven is in our hearts.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Best News At The Worst Time

Many millions do not, and may not ever, get the Gospel message. They may, indeed, be much too blessed in their living circumstances to need the miraculous rest that only the Lord Jesus can provide. Others who’ve had their lives torn to shreds, though, are ripe for Divine picking:

“To be weary and heavy laden is to have the highest fitness to receive that rest which Christ alone can give.”

~William Law (1686-1761)

The wondrous reality of life is the person neediest of help is most blessedly open to receive that help that can come from the agency of God, alone.

The Lord is a safety net encompassing all situations of the living. Whenever life is at its hardest, relations with God are never easier. But we must make some definitive choices to ensure we can move closer to God, taking part in Divine rest, and not move away, sickened by life and God’s role in allowing such personal persecution.

Considerations For The Weary, Grieving, Lonely, And Spiritually Bereft

The list of those types that have been characterised above is endless. Those most blessed to be touched by stringent suffering, those feeling most assuredly cursed, may know they’ve found a place of need for God. Our Lord proves real in such a place where there is no respite besides the rest we feel in pouring out hard emotions relentlessly. This is our qualification; that life has become too much to do alone. There is the most comprehensive need for God. We cannot manage without the Lord.

Desperation is a good place to be if it finds us turning toward a miracle, as can later be seen.

When we are here, beyond scope for much reasonable thought, we must approach certain conditions that’ll see us through:

1. We don’t read too much, or fill ourselves with much knowledge. It’s more important to simply experience the rest of God, by being thoroughly honest in pouring out our emotions.

2. If we wish to learn, we read about the character of our Saviour who would scoop up the downtrodden and those suffering when he walked this earth. Jesus’ inclusive and personalised compassion we now draw upon. His Spirit is alive.

3. In our going out and coming home we should spend no time berating ourselves in self-analysis, enjoying as much as possible the ability to be gentle with ourselves, experiencing God’s unlimited grace.

4. We continue to remind ourselves that the pain of the losses we’ve experienced, and the battles that overwhelm us just now, won’t last. It’s afterwards that we understand how faithful God was in helping us through; in identifying with us.

***

Many people never hear the Gospel message because they’ve never suffered. At the ending of one life there’s the burgeoning of another, better life. Rock bottoms are not the end; they’re the beginning of a life where rest in God is possible and, found later, joyously miraculous.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Psalm 71 – A Mind of Youth When Reflecting


When I was 32, the year before the passing of the millennium, as it approached, I became very reflective over the time that I had lived thus far, back then. 1999, and the few years previous, were a nostalgic time. I actually wrote a book called, My First Thirty Years, and had only one copy made, because it was a personal warts-and-all memoir to that point.

This Psalm is of that contemplative order; it draws on spiritual reflection, selecting many best-of verses from other Psalms, compiling them in a bookmarked way.

The psalmist, possibly David, because he is cited in the LXX, may be writing this Psalm from the viewpoint of facing a challenge earlier known, yet not recently experienced. It’s the Psalm of an old man with the young mind; a mind for yesteryear as it relates also today.

Its commencement, in faithfulness to the Lord, tends to be its refrain:

“In you, O Lord, I take refuge;

let me never be put to shame.”

~Psalm 71:1 (NRSV)

It may be fair, consistent with the wisdom in this Psalm, to delimit ourselves from insisting on structure, for there are many reminiscent remembrances as we read throughout. Indeed, the aged have that privilege and agency, to get away without strict curricula. There is a quality in this Psalm that superintends the purposes of structure.

It is best, then, to admire its general qualities, and the qualities of the author in plucking its verses, revealing his mood, without being hemmed in by the need for structure.

The Advantages Of Stoic Mid/Old Age

By stoic I mean, resilient enough that life has not worn the elderly or mid-aged person down; life has not chided their spirit. Anyone beyond 40 is in sight for this Psalm.

The beauty of age is the blessedness of reflection, having learned the myriads of things that God has, through our lives, destined us to be exposed to, to reflect on, and to draw meaning from. Without age there is no such experience. Without age, humbling as it is to deal with relative physical incapacity, compared with youth, we cannot appreciate the superior vestiges of God’s sovereignty—we, the mature-of-years, are not as bullet-proof as we once thought we were, and acceptingly so.

Age, therefore, has many advantages. Physical prowess cannot compensate for the spiritual spark within one so aged as to truly be able to appreciate life, and their God interminably within it.

When The Agencies Of Weakness Contend

Another of these more humbling realities of life is the fact of the enemy; whether these are people, our inner fears, generalised or specific situations, or anything else.

Certain enemies stay with us the entirety of our lives. Such is the old age resplendent in this Psalm, the psalmist continues to beseech their Lord, and there is a level of acceptance for this thorn, or messenger of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7-10).

The maturity to accept these agencies of weakness is a blessing for the aged.

***

There are many advantages within the acceptance of age. The art of reflection, for good instance, is honed and magnified and enjoyed all the more with age. We can read this Psalm through the experiences and heart of an older person, who has retained their younger mind. Reflective practice keeps the mind faithfully young.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Jezebel Spirit

In Revelation, an excerpt from the message to Thyatira:

“I know your works—your love, faith, service, and patient endurance. I know that your last works are greater than the first. But I have this against you: you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet and is teaching and beguiling my servants to practice fornication and to eat food sacrificed the idols.”

~Revelation 2:19-20 (NRSV).

Here above, also, is the Spirit of Jesus speaking to the modern-day church, community, people group or person. This is a universal message; ever relevant.

This spirit of Jezebel wasn’t really something created in the woman that was King Ahab’s wife (see 1 Kings 16:29 – 22:40 and 2 Kings 9). She, and her spirit, has existed almost from everlasting to everlasting.

The woman at Thyatira—called “Jezebel” by Jesus in John’s vision—was acting like many women, and indeed men, have acted, at wickedness, against the church’s true objectives; that is, to disrupt the flow, work and commands of God saving many souls from eternal death.

She led them astray, typically, in her use of sexual deviancy and broad acts of idolatry—to set up anything of worship, but God.

She works, today, as a mistress of overbearing control, yet it’s winsomely deployed.

Direct Affront of the Biblical Mandate

We’re servants of the Lord or servants of the devil by pure virtue of our behaviours, and the motives of our hearts underpinning them.

The real issue is how this Jezebel led people astray—it was wantonly, knowingly; done with blasphemous intention. If we’d virulently oppose God, we’d take up the inspiration of Jezebel in our minds and hearts; employing it in our mortal flesh.

We think of today’s outlaw gangs as synonymous of this spirit but, worse ever, if done by beguilement. Many outlaws flout justice, but openly. The Jezebel spirit is a direct affront to the biblical mandate, and even worse if done with covert deceit in mind. The obvious trap: one cloaked in ministry, or as partner to the minister—female or male—but with ungodly, controlling, manipulating intent.

Specifics of this Spirit

This Spirit of Jezebel has myriad manifestation. There are too many to go into here in this short article. My purpose is to highlight the main character of this strain of evil.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

“Therefore I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

~Matthew 12:31 (NRSV).

We can be assured that the one continuing in this way, unrepentantly, will certainly go to hell. They don’t want heaven. Godliness they find sickening.

In an earlier article I delved into the theology of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

The unforgivable sin is the action of the person actively worshipping Satan; the one doing his dirty work against the kingdom of God. That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This is the intent of the Jezebel spirit—one and the same. They may not even know Satan’s name, but their acts dignify their worship—they’re his!

Is It a Specific Wickedness of the Feminine Gender?

This is a very good question. Under certain pretences, yes, we would have to say that femininity, like masculinity, carries with it certain characteristics common to the gender.

The adulteress portrayed in Proverbs chapters 5–7 symbolises the type of woman seeking to trap the na├»ve young man. She is a good illustration of one housing the Jezebel spirit. Only a woman, typically, can act this way—to entice a man sexually to trap him—but nearly all women don’t. Paradoxically, the vast majority of women are more morally prudent regarding their sexuality than men secretly wish them to be.

But women, like men, know, innately it seems, how to manipulate people and situations—if bent for evil. We all can if we choose to go up against God—for we’d not just be sinning against people, but against the very Spirit that affords us life.

***

The spirit of Jezebel is undoubtedly a vast subject. I’ve merely begun to broach it here.

Our role is to juxtapose two characters—the evil and the good—for instance, Galatians 5:19-26, and decide which we’ll serve. Active forays into acts of the sinful nature are demonstrative of the Jezebel spirit—yes, known to some leading others astray. Ours is to be watchful for this Jezebel spirit; in persons, situations and movements.

We watch for evidence of purity, honesty, humility, compassion, kindness, peace, gentleness, patience and other virtue—those seeking God. Those speaking by these motives, and with authority; we follow those. They’re ever pointing to Jesus.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Image Credit: Cersei Seated by Jezebel.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Christian Spirituality 101 – Trust and Obey

The role of a disciple is to follow:

“And when Jesus got into the boat, his disciples followed him.”

~Matthew 9:23 (NRSV)

But when the disciples followed Jesus into that boat they got more than they bargained for. They hardly expected a windstorm to brew and break over them. It’s the same for us—Jesus’ modern-day disciples. We promise to follow and then, so many times, pull out of our ascent to the Holy Mount, especially when things get hairy.

True believers are not just Spirit-filled, discerning great prophetic Words of God, preaching truth and grace, exemplifying forgiveness, or praying officiously; they follow their Lord. They walk humbly with their God (Micah 6:8). They do the most basic thing, first. They work within their lives toward obedience, as much as they can.

The Most Basic Role – Obedience

The best reflection of smooth grace typifying the most enviable of relationships is the reliability of trust. People who are reliable, those we can trust, are the best to relate with. There’s safety and security locked in. And whilst not everything in such relationships can be enjoyed, at least everything can more easily be endured.

What occurs within the best relationships is the reliability of faithfulness. Loyalty is issued and enjoyed. There is, of a sense, mutual submission. This occurs as much in marriage as any other relationship.

Our relationship with God, and his with us, hinges on such faithfulness. Whilst God’s faithfulness is fundamentally implicit within Divine character, our faithfulness is conditional upon a pure heart and a mind submitted to obedience. We will not be faithful unless we choose to obey the will of God as it attends each moment of our lives. This most basic thing is often the hardest—because it’s wrought in difficulty, morality, and focus.

Following Jesus – In Faith, Purity, And Consciousness

Our obedience is underpinned by the trust implied by our faith to endure through difficulty, our purity in the presence of temptation, and our consciousness where mindfulness is fatigued or otherwise compromised. Obedience is tough.

Following Jesus is not just about being ‘in love’ with our Saviour—as if our relationship with the Lord was romantically based. Such a love wears off when the rub of life contends. Following Jesus is more than emotion or devotion or evangelistic promotion. It’s doing what we’re meant to do. It’s simply that, foremost.

Obedience is a practical commodity. Faith is a doing thing. So, too, is choosing for purity in a crass world. Finally, our conscious focus works for us in wisdom; to follow Jesus only where he would take us.

Being a disciple of Christ’s is much less about biblical knowhow than it is about trusting and obeying God.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Psalm 119:105 – Deus Dux Doctrina Lux


Deus Dux Doctrina Lux – God is our leader; learning is our light.

“By your words [God] I can see where I’m going;

they throw a beam of light on my dark path.”

~Psalm 119:105 (Msg).

Without godly provision we’d all be utterly destitute in the pit of inglorious, unabashed hell.

This is true if we consider the skill of our centuries-honed legal systems—and by virtue of the fact that we can call it an ‘ass’, for what ungodly monstrosity would allow it? Our safe boundary-based freedom within society is proof of God’s providential light for our collective paths.

But light is also beyond this sort of providence. Light is for revelation and inspiration; for learning. And we’re learning nothing if we’re not guided.

God is that Guide leading us on the right path.

Interrogating Psalm 119:105

God encourages us to attack his Word with ferocity for learning. On a non-visual path, morality is the basis of our spiritual compass, and the bearing is toward light and away from the darkness of conceited, abased immorality.

Meditating over the meaning of this single verse, out of a chapter of Psalms totalling 176 verses, helps us focus on the value of the structure for life. God’s Word, like the Law, gives us foundations we can trust, for they’ve always worked.

The reason they work is they’re entwined with holy wisdom; the measure of completion in life. Go the way of the Word of God and success, eventually, is assured. In pragmatic terms, the Bible provides light for hope on an often hope-barren journey we traipse in this world.

Learning by the God Light Means Following the ‘Light of the World’

If we converted this verse, Psalm 119:105, into New Testament language we’d soon find ourselves at John 8:12 (below in the NRSV):

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life’.”

Jesus is the Word (John 1:1). By the Word we have light for life.

When we go back to Deus Dux Doctrina Lux we find that Jesus is our leader and his light is for our learning—that such sophistication is the greatest goal of life.

As we connect the two ideas—God as leader and learning as light—we find every good way for life is endeared to the nexus of this combined principle. Learning is humility and humility is the path to wisdom; every good way.

Practically, learning is that ability to accept all circumstances as they come, with a hopeful openness that seeks to find the way through, particularly in our difficulties.

This is God’s way for us, because when we need God in our trials, the method out of them is always the same. It’s through patient endurance that we follow our Leader by fashion and knowledge of learning, and obeying his Light.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

Acknowledgement: Article inspired by Christ Church Grammar School’s (Perth, Western Australia) motto on their School Arms.