Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Love, More Power, More Blessing

“More love,
more power,
more of You in my life...”
— Michael W. Smith, More Love, More Power
For all the mess that we are involved in, in life, there is the awesome truth that power and blessing reside in the source of love.
Why would we not want to be blessed? Why would we not want to do everything possible to vouchsafe the processes of blessing and such a beautiful outcome as blessedness?
The resonating splendour of love is the propagator of power and blessing—to the extension of all good things of God—gifts of his goodness and grace.
The more we give away the more we get back.
The more delighted we are to endure hardship, because we have God, the more of this invisible and potent strength we claim, and without even trying; it just comes.
The character of this power is overflowing, burgeoning with everyday fruitfulness to all corners of our lives. The character of this blessing is reliability and faithfulness to the nth degree.
Surely it would only be a fool who would negate love’s power and blessing in their lives. But, hang on a minute, we would be those fools because of our preference to engage so much in the antithesis of love; to engage in our sin. The more we devote ourselves to God, the more love we are capable of, and the more power and blessing enrols itself to us.
We need power in this life to make anything of it, but it isn’t the power that the world recognises that we need. We need God’s power in order to struggle well the entire journey. And the only thing that wins us to this power is love; as we love each other, and in that, as we love God.
We cannot afford to live without love, to live as though we don’t care, or to live without passion. Even though such a life is a difficult life, it is an easier life (with fewer regrets) than the life that insists on its own way—and, in the process, rejects love.
Love is the be-all and end-all of life. The more we give to love, the more power and blessing we redeem. But power and blessing are not of the world; they transcend the world’s form of power and blessing, which is fleeting and full of falsity.
If we want the abundant life, we throw ourselves into a life of love, whatever it takes.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Deeper the Depths, Higher the Heights

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.”
— Kahlil Gibran (1883–1931)
Simple truths are often the profoundest. The thesis we test, here, is the deeper we go into the depths of sorrow, the higher we might go, later on, regarding the heights of joy. Somehow, with a greater capacity of experience for sorrow there is a commensurate capacity for experiencing joy—later, often much later.
It is strange to consider that within sorrow there is the eventual blessing. Our human default is to run in the midst of sorrow, to discount it and simply move on. And yet, when we resist this human default we learn the stillness within sorrow and come close to the very heart of God in the silence.
We become bigger people for having transcended our weakness through the strength of God. This weakness was the very vehicle bringing us into communion with the Lord. If not for utter calamity we would not know this peace that transcends our understanding.
Not that we celebrate calamity; no, not at all.
But calamity teaches us a thing or two about life; life is a struggle, and when we manage to accept this simple yet incomprehensible fact we surpass the limits of our weaker human spirits. God has anointed us with this strength.
But strength is not the only positive. Just as by our weakness we derive strength—by a miracle, augmented by our faith—we also, by our experience of sorrow, derive the capacity of overflowing joy.
All this takes faith, and faith never operates with any sense of full vision for what might be.
We can see very readily here that the spirituality of risk to choose for faith is the thing that builds our capacity to encapsulate joy. The more faith we can show, the more joy we can contain, and the more voluminous those sources of joy are.
Surely there is greatness abounding out of the depths of depths. Only the solemn go there. Only those with the greatest of faith remain. As if enduring without reason, seeming to not even care about ourselves, we go a long way in reconciling the eventual capacity for joy abounding.
There is no depth that has us remaining there, and the deeper we go the higher we might come. Depths that are plumbed are synonymous with heights climbed.
The joy of all joys—to the heights of eventual and overriding bliss—in containing the majesty of spiritual happiness, is all made complete by the honest enduring sacrifice of suffering well at the depths.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Respecting a Soul’s Innermost Identity

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”
— Thomas Merton (1915–1968)
There are so many outer vestiges that we, as people, are judged on.
We are entrapped in a political game because of the make up of our sinful beings. To a very certain degree we make harsh statements of view. Our views come into our minds, yes, without even a thought. Suddenly we are thinking heinous thoughts, and none of us is saved, except the person—in the moment—who listens to God; who holds their thoughts to account.
Only with some God-cognisance do we stand even part of a chance of giving the next person a fair deal as far as our views of them are concerned. The classic irony is those far from God often see those close to God as those who are quick to judge and condemn. But, the person close to God cannot possibly be comfortable with judging and condemning. They are averse to such a soul-reviling practice.
A soul’s true identity comes from the fabric of its innermost drive.
What motivates a soul is how it’s to be judged.
But this is not how the world defines a soul. The world defines souls through veneers of visibility—through what it sees. And the world’s sight is characteristically fickle.
I have a tattoo, and, because of the nature of the tattoo, and its placement or my body, I am often self-conscious in public when I wear clothing that reveals it. I fear that people are judging me somehow, but then I remind myself not to be bothered. But it is a good illustration of the sort of attention that is drawn to us in being on display, as people see us. We are more self-conscious than we ought to be.
People rarely see the soul—the fabric of the innermost being.
Are we like that? Or, are we constantly reminding ourselves—beyond the sinner inside us that thinks instinctively in sinful ways—of the beauty resplendent in the person before us?
The opportunity we have is to redefine our perceptions of the person before us.
Let them stand before us as a person in their own right, based upon what drives them; according to their values and what they live for.
Let us pity people not for their culture, or their upbringing, or even their chequered pasts, but let us pity people who cannot muster the courage to live as God has called them to live.
Let us pray, whomever we come across, that they will have the inner pluck to go forth into the vision God has placed in their heart; to live faithfully according to the drive central and throbbing within them.
A soul’s innermost identity is defined by what he or she does; by what motivates them to do what they do.
Let’s celebrate with the person, whose courage defines them, in that they live precisely the life God has called them from the beginning to live. They have respected their soul’s innermost identity and we ought to, too.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Trust, Prayer, Peace, Thankfulness

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV)
In the angering moment,
Potential’s still there,
To rock off our laurels,
Frustrations we bear.
Winds of change mount,
Inspiration alone,
Options to count,
Decision’s now known.
Deciding for peace,
A moment of reason,
Logic on the increase,
Defines a sure season.
We can literally draw on peace any moment we like, but we must go unconventional—against our prevailing, frustrated thought pattern.
We decide to go against the default grain.
Any frustration—or any number of them that cloud our consciousness concurrently—can be converted; borne in peace.
The Moment of Agreement
This is because, as the winds changed to anger us, they just as well change again in obedience to our obedience—the Lord’s will is that we’re calm of spirit.  As we agree with the Lord, all’s okay.
In one moment of agreement—the reasonable moment—the incisiveness of the angry mind, and the worrisome heart underpinning, dissipates.
Agreement with God is a prayer: as a peace that “surpasses all understanding” comes, so does the matter of God’s momentary healing.  Then we prefer the logic of plain reality over our feelings, hurts, disappointments, and hindrances.
A new season is, hence, born.  And it is most welcome.  Thanks are presented to God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ

“Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
— Romans 13:14 (NRSV)
We are all born slovenly creatures; we nibble at the breast, sucking for our lives, and develop through to basic mobility and communication from very little other than sleeping, eating, and excreting. The early pre-school years are tarnished by selfishness, and through our childhoods and teenage years egocentricity becomes more or less ours. As adults, we present as mature when the going is good, yet as soon as results turn south we are back in our wounded child states in a flicker.
Our flesh is weak and given to all sorts of unhealthy desires, not the least of which is laziness. We want to control the world, time, our environment, even our relationships.
But life never works when the flesh has free reign. When we virulently take in life, life takes from us and we are comprehensively hurt to the point we often don’t recover as we should.
But an opportunity lies open for us...
The Opportunity of a Living Salvation
Now the opportunity is near; the presence of salvation has come. And though we may be ‘saved’ (that is my assumption of the reader) we often don’t live saved. We are rather controlled by our sin; at least one or two sins, or a bunch of them, cling to us.
Paul invites us to wake up, to lay aside the works of darkness.
Putting on the Lord Jesus Christ is also about putting on the armour of light; living honourably: being of patient and sober judgment, having control over our sexual desires, including respecting other people’s sexuality, and not getting involved in dissension and jealousy, but celebrating others’ successes.
Living our salvation is about living as if the ultimate salvation had already come. And though we live in the now-but-not-yet time, we have every spiritual possession to put on the armour of light in making no provision for the flesh, so as not to gratify its desires.
Notice how putting on the armour of light—putting on the Lord Jesus Christ—is entirely relational. Every one of the sins that Paul highlights in Romans 13:11-14 (revelry, drunkenness, debauchery, licentiousness, quarrelling, and jealousy) has serious relational impact when they are deployed. They cause others harm.
If we can go about respectfully, considering others’ instantaneous needs, each as they present, making the effort we need to in communicating with care, we have surely put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
As Christians, we have been saved from the cost of our sin, but we rarely live saved from revelling in our sin. Ours is the opportunity—for the Day of the Lord is near—to put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us endeavour to live as if that Final Day had already come. Let us put on the Armour of Light.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

God Loves a Servant-Shaped Heart

“Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.”
— Mark 9:35b (NRSV)
There are many, many Christians who have lost faith in the church because either their servant hearts were abused or they weren’t servant-hearted (enough) and sought recognition for their works of sacrifice. In the first place the leaders of the church may have been inappropriately carnal. In the second place, the serving Christian was looking for worldly kudos and not the kudos of God.
What is needed in the world of servanthood is a heart invasion, where Jesus Christ has taken us hostage by love, and by love we must now operate: a gospel miracle.
The miracle of the gospel, as it is thrust irrepressibly into a person’s soul who is saved by Jesus Christ, is the power indwelling the servant-shaped heart.
Serving for the Love of It
This is a concept that is absolutely bizarre, verging on the ridiculous, for the worldly person. They cannot understand why someone would want to be the last of all and servant of all, giving their life away for the glory of God.
The worldly person seems to have the better perspective. They may sacrifice for their family and close friends, but at the end of the day they live for themselves. Serving God, to them, would be a negation of life. That’s their prerogative.
But when the heart is turned towards God—when the Lord becomes our Lord—we are captivated for the love of serving. It is a privilege to serve; to work for an invisible but never more real Kingdom. There is love in the work—in the process of the work—no matter how menial the tasks of serving are. In fact, the more menial and undesirable task may bring more joy in the serving.
One of the reasons we love serving is because we serve with others who are captivated by the same passion; bringing glory to God, because they can. Such a life sown to serving is inspirational to live, to share, to observe, and to reflect on. God lives in us vibrantly through our serving.
When our hearts are won to this majestic obsession, which is tempered by wisdom, so our serving has sustainability about it, we have the abundant life.
The servant-shaped heart sits within the soul of the person who has abundant life. They have discovered the secret to life: to gain their life they must lose it. To get life they must give it away. No ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’. Real servanthood is about the sheer love of work for others. It requires no recognition and no reward. To serve is its own reward.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Draped in God’s Magnanimous Love

Chosen of God—holy and beloved,
Dressed in virtue so beyond contempt,
Compassion, kindness and humility uncovered,
Meekness and patience—never to pre-empt.
Forgiveness is a bond,
Of love in the Lord,
A binding of hearts found,
And for life that is assured.
(Poetic paraphrase of Colossians 3:12-14.)
Being an example of God’s love is the highest call of humanity, the longest task, and it holds us to the deepest of blessing. Along with it is the widest of felt suffering; to expose ourselves to love is to feel every bump along the corrugated road of life.
As If Immersed By This Thing, Love
Draped in love, clothed, and therefore characterised, we’re immersed—and ever so committed—to the ideals and practicalities contained within this crazy little thing called love. It subsumes us. We’re to be won to it, completely. And we know this is so when love is more important than anything else. It requires us to risk, even ourselves.
And this is surely what the Apostle Paul meant when he beseeched the Colossians to it (see Colossians 3:12-17).
When we see ourselves as chosen by God, because the Holy Spirit has taken up residence in us, and we’re blessed more easily to love, we know more implicitly the strains of compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. We know on one level there’s sacrifice, yet on another level there’s incomprehensible ease because of the Holy Spirit. For this we’re thankful. How could we love like this without the all-sufficient strength of God?
To be immersed in this love, as if clothed by cloth or water, we find it complete—there’s little if no doubt or room in our minds to turn back. For this, again, we’re thankful to God.
Holding To The Greatest Test Of All – To Love
Love’s final test is to love when it’s hard—to make eye contact, and to smile, or to reach out and give, when we don’t want to. Most people know this love; they’ve tried.
A further test of love is to keep trying... again and again, we operate, making practical our compassion, kindness and patience. And love brings out the best in us, even despite our besmirching pride.
Our mission in life is to love; it doesn’t get any more complicated than that.
And that mission, though it seems easy on the surface, is a hard challenge—loving through every season of life, in every context, among all types of people.
Best of all with love is the model of God’s love—the perfection of grace allowing our imperfection to graze at the Home of Perfection.
That perfection—via the Holy Spirit—lives in us and helps us to love.
We’re clothed in Love from within so love might permeate from without.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Delight In Work for the Kingdom

“Thus says the Lord:
Keep your voice from weeping,
and your eyes from tears;
for there is a reward for your work...”
Jeremiah 31:16 (NRSV)
Rewards for good work are bound up in the theology of return from exile.
We might think, “What has ‘exile’ got to do with us?”
Redemption is Return from Exile
Countering default assumption, theology of redemption was born from the Old Testament, not the New. Abraham’s relationship with God proved that (Genesis 12 onward). A case might also be made for Noah (Genesis 6–7). Continually that redemptive theology has played itself out through the thirty-nine canonical books under the Old Covenant.
The idea of redemption is nothing more elaborate than God scooping down to pick us up from the barrel bottoms of our own unregenerate selves.
All who are saved were once lost in their irreconcilable sin—or so they thought, until a Saviour was known. The Messiah, Jesus, expunged the cost of the sinner’s sin. Though saved persons may continue to sin, because of the fallen nature, their redemption at Jesus’ stead is of the nature of a return from exile.
So far as good work is concerned, the most important good work we can do is accept the work of the cross. That is, for us, redemption from exile—for all of us were in exile; and all are released at their acceptance of the work of the cross and belief in the resurrection.
This is the simplest, most comprehensive form of redemption from exile in the entire history of humankind. There is but one condition: acceptance.
What Redemption and Return from Exile Will Truly Mean
Blessing is a superficial rationale for the redeemed. The Lord always meant for a deeper transaction to take place. After all, there is a hope beyond us; enduring through our children, and beyond, so long as the godly agenda of hope exists.
The hope in Jeremiah’s passage for the remnant returning from exile was that tear-borne days were ending. Hope for a future they could believe in was on the horizon (Jeremiah 29:10-14). They knew they were in for no holiday as the remnant caravan returned to the holy city. There was much work to do.
It is common, and almost cliché, that we are saved to serve.
The fact of redemption, and our return from exile, has meant we’ve been freed from a scourge for a purpose. And that purpose is to make good the lives we have; for righteousness, justice, and equity (Proverbs 1:3; 2:9)—to be hewn in the mode of action.
Exiles were we all. But this is no longer the case. Where once there were tears, and justifiably so, there is instead reward for the work of acceptance: because of the cross, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
When we’re saved, we have freedom and meaning in our work for the Kingdom, and it’s a delight to join the work God already has underway.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Colouring the World In Truth

How do you see your world? How we see our worlds determines how we feel—our attitudes—and how we act—our behaviours. How we see our worlds relates to the colour of our lens.
It would be fairer to say it depends on how we feel as to how we see our world. Most of us have more than enough chameleon going on within—not the colour of our skin changing, but the colour of our outlook and approach reflecting our reactions.
Are We Wearing Rose Coloured or Blackened Glasses?
Weakness becomes us either way.
If we find ourselves seeing things in overly simplistic ways, or we allow the positives to sway us too far in joy, we fall for the falsity of an exuberance that cannot be sustained. Too soon we are disappointed. Likewise, sometimes our situations are overly darkened and we can’t muster any enthusiasm as much as we try.
Neither of these situations-of-outlook prospers us. What we need is to see truly.
Seeing Truly
The Holy Spirit helps us, in no better way, than by the inspiration, and thereby revelation, of truth. The truth, whilst it’s not always initially welcome, sets us free (John 8:32).
In overly positive circumstances the truth threatens to despoil our sense of joy. In depressing circumstances the truth comes to our rescue, in encouragement to explore faith. In both situations—the inflated and deflated—the truth right-sizes the colour of our perception, and the presence of wisdom isn’t beyond us at these times.
Wisdom cannot abide in untruths; much less, is that process (venturing in untruth) taking us to maturity.
Seeing truly negates the emotions that prove to be burdensome. It’s about becoming aware of the bridling emotion as it climbs within our psyche and combating it by installing truth to the witness stand.
For a moment we are threatened, but only a moment. After we’ve arranged a fair hearing, in our right minds at last, we accept the truth, however reluctantly. There is wisdom.
We can’t help see the world by different colours of the kaleidoscope: the instinctive emotions. The temptation can be defeated, however, when we suspect the colour might be wrong; the lens perhaps informing us incorrectly.
Re-colouring the world is about suspecting our initial emotions as prone to leading us in error. This is keeping a close self-account.
We don’t always see correctly. The more we can check our initial take on things—how we have coloured our world—the wiser and more reliable to the truth we become. So much better to keep good self-account than to be corrected by others.
The truth of recoloured sight holds us aloft to freedom; such a height is not dizzying, however, but liberating, by the means of our faith to adhere to truth.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Today’s Trouble and Faith to Get Through

“Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
— Matthew 6:34b (NRSV)
I’ve always been an active person, with a passion for team sport, weight training, and more recently, cycling. Physical fitness is an important thing for me, and whenever I cannot exercise, perhaps for consecutive weeks, I start to get agitated within. I tend to need exercise not just for physical reasons, but for emotional regulation also.
But then there is the problem of injury, and, when there is the inability to exercise, it affects me psychologically. I will get anxious; worried that I won’t be able to maintain my fitness short-term, and worried also that I may not be able to exercise as I have in the future. Then I must remind myself not to get too far ahead of myself.
I have found by experience that the manifestation of an injury does change over days and weeks; there is confidence in recovery. This is just another way God proves faithful, when we consider the worries of the day the worries of the day.
We think things won’t get better, but inevitably they do, whether we worry or not.
Reminding Ourselves to Be Stayed in the Day
Being stayed in many things is not a good thing, like being stubborn when we should approach change with an open mind and heart.
But there are many things where we are blessed to be stayed. The simplest and most profound thing to be stayed in is the day; the moment. We have enough thought and concern for about 30 seconds, or perhaps two minutes. These are the limits of our conscious thinking.
I often wonder why God would have limited us these ways—to design us to only be able to think in deliberate, same, and focused ways for a very finite time period.
Could it be that God wanted us stayed in the moment?
Could it be a tell-tale, that, to accept human limits, and to rest in the Divine, is a good and appropriate thing?
Whenever we get overwhelmed emotionally, we could ask ourselves, “How much of the immediate or distant past or future is weighing on me?”
When we bring matters back to the moment, reminding ourselves that we can get through this moment, no matter what burdens us, we see God as faithful in achieving his ends in our momentary lives.
Faith for the moment is the golden key to joy. Being stayed in the day—in its peculiar troubles—is manageable, but only just. God is seen faithful when we remain in the day.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.