Friday, May 31, 2013

Blessings On the Wings of Burdens

“Blessings are often sent on the wings of burdens. Fear not the courier, lest you miss the gifts that the Father sends your way!”
We never know what is right around the corner for any of us. We can be in the depth of torment or grief or languor and there it comes: a blessing from God. It is an ever present possibility. And it is the thing that we hold onto for dear life when we are in that dark corner subsisting on the scraps of this existence.
Where there is hope there is hope.
The fact of the matter is this: we must restore ourselves by the power of God to thinking the right thoughts and to validating our feelings whatever they are. We don’t judge ourselves or condemn ourselves. We simply let ourselves be, and then bring our thinking around to the possibilities.
Possibilities are beautiful things, and though hope meanders through our presence, as we waver from hope through despair and back again into hope, possibilities always load-up our hope.
We are best not to get too downtrodden by the lack of deliverance out of the things we hope for. We look back and we see how our hopes have failed us, how we still wait, and how long we may still have to wait. Yet we know the blessing remains around the corner, possibly.
We are graced by the Presence of God as we persist in hope, because we entertain the thought of how we might feel, and we enjoy the imagery of what the blessing might look like.
When Hope Is Everything
Such a wonderful concept is hope. Hope is the thing that helps us defeat the temptation to fear. It is not a bad thing to hope for something that seems totally unrealistic if it will get us past the point of fear; this we can deem as faith.
With hope we remain open to what God might do.
With hope we have poise for the moment, patience as we wait, and a happy disposition that we can enjoy.
With hope we have so much more of what we construct through the power of God, and any construction built on God’s name has a solid basis and strength about it.
When hope is everything, fear is diminished, and we roll with a buoyant uncertainty, fuelled by faith. Nothing can defeat us when God sponsors us with Strength.
We never know what is around the corner, and this can give us tremendous hope when life turns south. When hope becomes everything, fear is quashed, and we accept the uncertainties of life with a buoyant joy that comes from God’s power. Nothing can defeat us when we have this hope.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Who’s Reading the Fifth Gospel?

“Non-Christians aren’t reading the four gospels; they read the fifth gospel in you and me. What are they seeing?”
— Colin Meadows
We Christians are a funny bunch. We follow a perfect Lord, yet are completely and utterly imperfect ourselves. We espouse to live to biblical principles, but get it wrong probably more than half the time. To be a Christian is to voluntarily put our hands up in taking on the role of hypocrisy. We are bigots who apparently hate gay people. And so much more... not that we believe these things about us, but it’s the version of the ‘fifth gospel’ non-Christian/non-religious people are reading into us; or do they just generalise and stereotype?
We, as Christians, are an oft-maligned group in society. Yet, we are also heralded in special ways for the things we do that come from our hearts; resonant from the heart of God—where love truly abounds.
Being a fifth gospel—as people read the story of our lives—a line, a paragraph, a page at a time—we have enormous influence for Christ within one solitary life: ours.
If we’re adopting the Bible as our precept for living, we’re probably dealing with our stuff in truth, being a loving family person, a loyal work colleague, and a responsible citizen.
But what are the practical differences a fifth gospel exemplifies?
Personifying the Fifth Gospel
What is God’s general will for our lives, as others look on? What is our witness of Christ?
1.      We obey the law—not just the law of love, but we respect and uphold all laws: criminal code; taxation; human rights, etc. This is harder than it seems. It means doing the right thing even (especially even) when no one’s looking (but God is always looking).
2.      We focus on the marginalised—Jesus was all about protecting those who couldn’t protect themselves. How are we loving those who may be ‘unattractive’ to the world? Or, are we favouring the popular people; loving them and spending time with them instead?
3.      We worship and devote ourselves to ONE God—in our fast-pace mod-con world there are so many temptations to run after things (idols) other than God. Everything we do should spring from a focus on God.
4.      We are inclusive in our fellowship—we do not exclude anyone and we are a friend to everyone. As Christians we can actually love everyone; Jesus commanded we do so, so it must be achievable.
5.      We are willing to serve—we find joy in serving people, because we are an encouragement to them, and encouragement is one tangible way to love someone.
6.      We are slow to anger and quick to forgive—perhaps the biggest test of the fifth-gospel Christian is their approach to relationships, hurts and forgiveness. Only by the grace of God can we truly forgive, so we tap into this grace by truly being a follower of Jesus.
7.      We find ways to share our faith—we do so primarily by who we are, not what we say.
As Christians, we are the fifth gospel of Jesus Christ. What ‘Jesus’ are we showing to the world? Are we law-abiding, lovers of the marginalised, worshippers of one God, inclusive in our loving of everyone, willing to serve so as to encourage, slow to anger and quick to forgive, and willing to share our faith?
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Monday, May 27, 2013

Heralding the Power At Work Within Us

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine...”
Most Christians probably overlook this fact-of-being far too much: we have the power of God resident in us.
Through the pervading power of grace, prevailing in and through us as we obey the call of the Spirit, via our discerning and acting out of the situations of our lives, we can manifest outcomes far greater in magnitude than those we would achieve just in our own strength.
In terms of magnitude we can see that this power at work within us takes us and our bodies into realms of possibility beyond what we can either ask or imagine. We have no idea as to the intent or extent of God.
In a life that seems so remotely despairing at times, it is a great comfort that we can tap into joys that we cannot possibly contain.
And this is the power we can come to know by the Spirit living within us, by our simply turning back to God, which is the opposite way our default nature works (by doing things in our own pitiable strength).
Heralding the power at work within us is a Christian’s privilege. We, alone, have been gifted access to this Spirit that not only lives within us, but provides us the power of grace—where life is no longer about effort alone. This power anoints us and fills us and empowers us and encourages us.
As we herald this power at work within us, we highlight within our consciousness that we have this power. This knowledge is very simple. It defeats the resonance of despair by matters of hope, just as it defeats the problem of doubting by matters of faith.
And of all things we thank God, because God has been so generous in gifting us not only access to the Spirit, but that we are temples of the Holy Spirit.
Heralding the power at work within us is not about dismissing it in modesty, by a covenant of false humility; it is about working with the Spirit in whichever way we are asked. When our methods of operation are soft to the Spirit we land with sufficient grace as to tread lightly upon life. This is the way God wants us tending to his existence in and through us.
There is a great power at work within us, the Christian. This Holy Spirit has made himself a home within us; our bodies are temples where God resides. Our souls are made holy as we give way to God. This is a great power at work within us. Let’s herald it to the glory of God through our obedience.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spirituality’s Magnificent Seven

“Today admit your need, seek God’s help, celebrate his love, live for his glory, study his wisdom, work for his kingdom, rest in his grace.”
 ~Paul David Tripp
What if we could formulise the spiritual life? Seven nuances of faith are presented above and explored below:
1. Admitting Our Need
The most important step in addressing any weakness is admitting our need. It’s certainly the first step in 12-step programs of recovery. Everyone needs God whether they admit it or not. When we begin each day by admitting our need we recommit to re-establishing our spiritual search. Such a search embarked upon in earnestness avails us to the answer; an answer that unlocks our day.
2. Surrendering So We May Be Helped
Admitting our need leads to seeking God’s help. And the only way we may be helped is by surrendering our weakness, and surrendering in our weakness, before God who is the only One that can help. The more we admit we need help the more secure we are in the truth of life. Life sorts us out. Only in God do we have an adequate response, overall.
3. Celebrating How Much We Are Loved
The One that helps loves us. We give up on God, readily, but God never gives up on us. There is much to celebrate in this unconditional love that refuses to let go of us. Whenever we bask in God’s love the Fruit of the Spirit is returned to us. We are blessed in joy, peace, patience, and goodness, etc. For love, we grow in virtue.
4. Living For God’s Glory
It seems easier living for God’s glory when we understand, afresh, how much we are loved. It’s a very normal response to love God back in recognition for just how much we are loved. When we live for God’s glory our sacrifice is for love; we need no credit. Our privilege and our pleasure become united in the quest for wisdom.
5. Studying God’s Word
The great condition of our spiritual growth is our ongoing immersion in the Word of God—toward growth in wisdom. This is our lifeline to a fervent spirituality that keeps us growing in the good times and stable in the not-so-good times.
6. Working For The Kingdom’s Cause
With all of the foregoing stowed, energising our spiritual efforts, working for the Kingdom’s cause is an abounding freedom. And with every endeavour toward the Kingdom’s end we are affirmed that God is blessed as we work in our humble way.
7. At The End, And Always, Finding Rest In God
Symbolic of day’s end, and of Sabbath, we learn to rest and we enjoy it. Rest is earned, but mostly, we work out of rest. Finding rest in God is the necessary process for energising future conquests.
Seven magnificent things God gives us: power at our admission of our need for help, nurture in his love, blessing to live for his glory, the ability to study his Word, the privilege to serve in his Kingdom, and the capacity for and enjoyment of rest.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grieving As God Grieves

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
— Matthew 5:4 (NRSV)
Oh how we grieve in this life.
But we yet not grieve as God grieves, and we can learn a lot about self-care and the appropriateness of grief when we take counsel directly from the Spirit that meanders all through life, grieving eternally—not that God is only grieving.
When we grieve as God grieves, then we are comforted with a comfort only God can give: a very clean and succinct pain that heals as it cleanses us with a thrush of divine antiseptic.
But again, how common it is to grieve in this life, for we are continually losing things, whilst the things we gain lose their significance—their novelty—very easily.
Our losses, however, hit us on a grander scale.
Grief in this life—in this worldly existence—paralyses us two ways: we deny it because it’s too painful or we are angered by it and blame everything, including God. Neither results in healing, because neither is nestled in the will of God. These are maladaptive forms of grieving, because we grieve the right things in the wrong way.
We have the opportunity, though, to venture gently on a divine road, into the heart of God so far as true grief is concerned.
Here is our opportunity to know God, to think for a moment how God thinks, and to reframe our approach to grief.
God grieves many things that occur in everyday life. Like sin. Like a turning away from the truth. Like when people aren’t loved when they deserve to be loved. Like when innocent people suffer needlessly. The list runs on.
God is not opposed to us grieving our personal losses; he designed us and built us to grieve, because we cannot love and not grieve. Grief is one of the central costs of love. And we will suffer if we love; the name of that suffering is grief.
So we have the option and the opportunity to grieve as a worldly-focused person would, or to transcend those foci and surrender our sadness to God to be remediated.
God wants us to grieve in accord with the truth. He wants us to grieve the important things; the relational things that we get wrong and the relationships we lose. One leads to others’ healing, the other leads to our own healing.
Grief and healing go together as a hand goes in a glove. This is God’s will, but it can only occur when we go God’s way. The key is to grieve as God grieves.
The things of love we grieve appropriately when we lose them. We cannot help it. It is right to grieve them. When love is the datum point of our grief we grieve as God grieves. However painful such grief is, it is right and appropriate to grieve.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Seek God Persistently and You Shall Find

Wisdom says,
“I love those who love me,
and those who seek me diligently find me.”
— Proverbs 8:17 (NRSV)
Whatever we seek in this life, whatever we search for, we find. We may find God if we search diligently and long enough. Likewise, we will find everything but God if we do not seek the Lord of our lives.
The matter of seeking and finding is an essential truth. God does not isolate himself away from humanity; it is more the other way—us against our Lord. We may run and we may hide, but God stands eternally to be found if we would want to find him.
Many of us have run. Many of us have hidden. And many of us have not, for the life of us, despite our searching, found God in that dry time. It appears God remains hidden; yet we, somehow, have hidden ourselves.
Sometimes the season beckons for us to journey into the desert away from the matters of comfort and into the matters of pain. We wonder why when there seems to be no why. We are betwixt and between spiritually, neither at home nor away, beside ourselves and damaged in the present, perhaps without hope for the future.
We have gone from the truth that God remains to be found upon seeking, yet upon our seeking he is nowhere to be found.
Everything in life seems to be pushing us away from the Lord—the only one who can help us just now. When we have no Lord we have no help. Such a truth we take of the truth and it makes us angrier than ever toward God; we say, “God we believe in you, so show yourself this day, and make my belief in you real upon both your Presence and my experience.”
Still, God appears vacant upon our understanding.
We are increasingly angered, yet we feel guilty—and possibly ‘judged’—for feeling this way toward God.
But God is there!
But God is there by our knowledge. God is there by our visual cognisance; we see the things of God everywhere, even if we don’t feel him. We see God working in others’ lives and that is evidence enough for us. It is best for us, just now, not to panic. God is real, he is here, and he will reveal himself in the right way at the right time.
For this we have faith.
God says, “Seek me and you shall find me; wisdom to live your life.” But then God disappears upon our experience for a time. Such a time in the desert wilderness isn’t God turning his back; no, our faith is being refined, fortified, renewed upon the discrete resources of the Lord our God. We are not being weakened, but strengthened. And our search will not be in vain. Our faith experience is being elevated and a closer relationship with God is to be had. We have both a hope and a future; God is central.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

When Will the Help Come?

“I’m hoarse from calling for help,
Bleary-eyed from searching the sky for God.”
— PSALM 69:3 (Msg)
Times of despairing last so long that we are forgiven for contemplating how we might just simply give up. And many do. Many give up in the ultimate sense, just as we have all given up on important things far too prematurely. But just the same there are times when we can’t give up, no matter how much we want to. These times when we won’t give up, because, perhaps we have too much to lose, build our faith to hold on long enough to endure the next conquest; we only fight one conquest of time. That’s all there is. It’s called the day.
We need only survive the day, but the irony is, when the day is enough, in our desperation, we tend to take far too a long term view.
What truly helps us hold on when the answer from God seems delayed? It’s almost as if the final result we hope for is able to be lived without enough to let go of it. Fixating on it won’t bring it to us any faster or any more assuredly.
What we discuss here is the matter of irony.
When Faith Is Helped by Irony
What a benefit it is if we can manage to think of life as one giant irony. Better put, perhaps, is that we would imagine life comprising of a series of ironies, like upside down realities.
In such a way we would need to learn to let go of that thing that is most important to us, whilst learning also how to grapple with the things we hate.
We might learn to choose to leave behind our hearts desire in order to endure inwardly and wrestle with our pain. To wrestle with our pain is to enter into it patiently. And just as patiently we could consider how we are to leave the precious thing behind.
When we can imagine life as a requiem of irony we expect much less from life and we begin to notice much more of a natural blessing in the present day.
What we’re really doing is giving ourselves plenty of breathing space, and we need such space when we consider our realities of being completely disoriented. Moving into a period of reorientation we know we need space, so we allow ourselves every opportunity at that space.
Space is what we need, not more pressure.
When we have to wait for the help of God to arrive our faith is built stronger, but only if we don’t give up. Relaxing in the despairing time is helped by temporarily letting go our heart’s desire, so we can experience sufficient poise, peace and perspective to endure. We relax our grip and find the help comes almost immediately.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Faith or Doubting – Choices and Consequences

Pain endured now ensures good things to come,
For plying your faith is a good thing done,
Because faith is a thing tested, now beyond sight,
And only by faith will we retrieve the good Lord’s might!
When we do the hard things of life in what could be considered a responsible way, we ply our faith—a ‘good’ faith; a faith that holds up under the rigours of truth and is consistent and abiding with the laws of this life.
Faith could well be the most important thing as far as life modus operandi is concerned.
Because we will all fall on hard times we need faith to get us through from that horrendous position A to the new B that God has already designed for us.
Such a faith as this is always geared most opposed to our comfortable default—we desire comfort when we should prefer resilience under pressure; we want joy when that’s not possible in this new now; we entreat the value of a bygone day rather than look forward to a newer, brighter though less certain one.
Faith is about choosing past the doubting.
Faith is about noticing the loathing in life, but not going that way; not staying in that space. Faith moves on into and onto a higher place; a precipice of majesty for what might be, not what currently is.
Faith involves a risk, yet doubting brings home a certainty.
Faith’s Risk / Doubting’s Certainty
Faith risks for something better and, it, by its solemnity of intent, will not often be found wanting. Doubting, on the other hand, is easier, closer to our default way, and is never more certain—we have nothing good coming to us by our enacted doubts.
Faith is worth it—what’s the worst that can happen by risking in faith? Embarrassment, disappointment, a loss of faith. No, all these are covered by true faith, for God makes faith ever more durable than the result of what we hope for. Faith always takes us on, into a place of newness and an enduring vitality runs with faith.
Doubting is an abyss of eternal wandering. It seems we’re making progress but we never do. We keep coming back to the same place. We never venture far from the starting point with doubting. Doubting is time-waster and it takes us ever more spiralling into the chasms of frustration and fatigue.
Faith is always worth the risk. It delivers upon a promise and always produces a worthy result. Doubting retrieves nothing but frustration and fatigue. Faith seems the harder way, but in the end it’s the only way to a hopeful life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Working Out Life So Life Works Out

“... work out your own salvation...”
— Philippians 2:12 (NRSV)
God gives us one life to work out—our own. We are responsible for no other life, unless we, for a time, in somebody else’s life, are a guardian. We are only responsible for children until they grow to be autonomous adults.
Now, there are no answers in life other than what we, in our own lives, work out. God blesses an ongoing search, done diligently. In fact, we regress in life when we don’t search.
Working out our lives or not working them out is our choice and diligence finds its legs in taking responsibility.
There is really no sense in not working our lives out, because we are the only ones that suffer, principally, apart from those who rely on us. And if those that rely on us suffer because we aren’t diligent enough, whose true fault is it?
We can take responsibility for these facts of life or we can choose to deny them. It doesn’t really matter, but we are blessed to know that working out our lives is about applying our faith. It’s about doing the work God sets us, by the challenges and opportunities that come our way; those that proffer us toward blessing.
Working Out Life – Making Life Work Out
None of us are passive in our own lives. Even if we are passive and we show little interest in leaving a legacy of who we were in life we actively choose to do such a regretful thing.
We either choose to work our lives out or we don’t—and many, tragically, don’t.
What it means to work our lives out is we earnestly do what we can to make them fruitful exercises of devotion to God, by discovering his will for both our moments and our overall lives and then by doing that discerned will. It’s no good not doing it.
We know when we are doing this because our lives are all about growth and opportunity; we are always open to what God is doing; we anticipate the challenges, or at least we receive them without lasting resentment.
A large part of working out our lives is also grappling with our pasts.
For every reason that we deny our pain we miss our opportunities at healing. Healing is coming home to the truth about our pain and emotional discomfort, in order that we can work out our lives for the better all the more. Healing is a journey and it always gets slowly better.
If we don’t grapple with our pasts the potential for working out our lives will always be limited. The past can be very important in terms of our future.
God gives us one life to work out—our own. We have charge over our lives alone. We have to work with what we have. Our lives are what they are, but they don’t have to remain the way they are. We can have our lives work out however we want. It’s up to us.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wearing the Wardrobe of Love

“So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline...”
— Colossians 3:12-14 (The Message)
Eugene Peterson continues that this new life of love compels us to be even tempered; content with second place; quick to forgive an offense; attempting to forgive is quick as the Saviour forgave us.
Love, he says, is the all-purpose garment for life that we ought never to be without.
Life or death, from the spiritual perspective, is what ‘life’ is all about. We make choices all the time about whether we venture toward the one or the other.
Love is central; love the modus operandi.
When love is chosen—and we all choose, whether we accept or deny it—we choose life. Love is the art of coming last in a two-horse race. It’s the astounding paradox of all time where victory is achieved from defeat. It’s an irony that works when all doesn’t work out. Love is an enigma that never has to compete; it wins from going against competition as it sees an agenda higher than others see.
Love is embodied by wisdom as wisdom is embodied by love. And love is depicted as a wardrobe of virtue, with garments and accessories perfectly designed by God to be worn in bringing heavenly realities to earth—“on earth as in heaven...”
Let’s consider this wardrobe for life. Let’s try the clothes on for fun. Then, let’s keep in the practice of wearing them.
Clothed for Life
We need underwear, our day clothes and suitable footwear as bare minimums for life.
The underwear for life is the humility and quiet strength outbound from the nexus of God working in us and through us constantly by the Holy Spirit. What we feel and think within is going to expand outward into daily life. We nurture a character of gentle solemnity. We govern ourselves and we allow God to speak to us, ever listening and discerning.
The day clothes for life are what people see—our kindness and compassion. These both are informed by humility and quiet strength. Kindness and compassion are how we love. There’s no other lesson needed other than to study these great gifts to others and apply them without hesitation.
The footwear for life is discipline. It’s the only way the rest of our wardrobe will stay robust for their roles. We cannot rove, move or be mobile for life without discipline, which is self-motivation from a purpose deeper than ourselves. Our purpose is love. Our agenda is God.
The underwear for life is the humility and quiet strength. The day clothes for life are what people see—our kindness and compassion. The footwear for life is discipline. Wearing the complete wardrobe avails us to love. Then we will be even tempered, quick to forgive, and happy with second place. Then we will have life. We have life when others have life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.