Monday, September 30, 2013

What Will Meeting Jesus Face to Face Be Like?

WE HAVE SUCH focus in this life, on the things of this world, that Christian or not we rarely think of what life might be like in eternity.
Although we live in a blip of time, it means so much to us – our families, our work, our friends, our hobbies and pastimes. We rarely think of what lies over the hill; a place just over yonder; just far enough, yet so far we have no sight to see that at all.
Now, there is a transition – whether it be death or the Parousia (the coming of Christ) – that stands before us as a concept, and in reality this transition will be an instant, maybe less.
We will flash from one reality to the next; from one realm to the next.
What is about to come – maybe the next minute away – our meeting face-to-face with Jesus – means a great deal to the Christian. We will come face-to-face with our Saviour. We will come face-to-face with our Judge; as we see our lives as they were truly lived, in truth. Yet, no matter how we are seen – if we call Christ, “Saviour, Lord, King; God” – we are heaven bound, and we will worship.
I have often wondered what God might look like – what the Father and the Son in unity with the Holy Spirit might look like. Will God be visible? Or will the face-to-face experience transcend what we call “vision” in this life. Perhaps coming face-to-face with God in heaven is more about an intrinsic experience of God’s Presence, such that we are so secure within his sanctuary that lasts all eternity – yes, 10,000 years is but a start.
Yet, a thing of quantification, like time, and the concept of eternity are poles apart.
The closest thing we have to the infiniteness of the space between these two concepts – time and eternity – is the universe, as we even know it, for we know so little about it. Still, it blows our minds.
Worshipping Jesus in heaven must be something like the peace of sleep combined with the joy of all joy put together. And if we add to that the concept of infinity, we are still barely scratching the surface.
We have so much to look forward to, but our lives aren’t over yet. God has willed us on, and we somehow do not want to meet him yet, anyway. There is still too much to do and experience here – if that’s his will.
Then there is the situation of a loved one who meets Jesus before we do, coming face-to-face, leaving us here. How do we get our minds around that?
There is so much to contemplate, yet we get lost in the busyness of this life, and in the pettiness of details that are clearly unimportant in an eternal scheme of things.
We will all meet Jesus face-to-face. For many of us, the truest sense of life will begin, then. Being in God’s Presence, eternally – perfectly fulfilled, perfectly built, and perfectly durable – will make this life pale into vast insignificance.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Praying Psalm 46 – Stillness In Trepidation

God, oh my God, You are my refuge and strength, eternally, as I live!
You are present when I need You – a very present Help in dire trouble.
You find me when I’ve found You and You make Yourself known then!
Therefore, I won’t fear, I won’t tremble, even when the earth shakes,
And though there are great tsunamis and earthquakes,
I’ll still myself in You.
You make the seas to swell up, and, though You command the seas,
I trust You.
I will trust You always – to the ends of my days, with every means in me!
There is the River of God that calms my spirit, Oh Lord,
It streams into the City of God and makes the City rejoice,
This River flows with majesty and its sense of Sovereignty is unmistakable.
God has made His Presence live here, and I enjoy the experience of Your
River, Oh God.
Oh God, You give Your servant the experience of heaven on this green earth.
God, You are in the City – within it – all about – in every nook and cranny;
Whilst You are here, with Your servant, this City shall not be shifted.
And when morning comes gently on the horizon, You will help the City.
Though the other kingdoms – those of other gods – exist, they totter and fall,
But Yours, oh Lord, remains, even as You breathe fire
On these other kingdoms,
And as they melt away before my eyes – You, alone, are Sovereign.
You are with me – the God of Jacob upholds me!
Come, I say to myself, come, and behold the experience of God’s Presence; come view the crafting of His hands!
He has brought great lands to a ruin at the clap of His hands; in the echo of His great voice! He who has done this won’t stop in defending me!
The Lord commands that conflicts cease – even to the ends of my world.
He burns all the heinous weapons of them who fight against me; He smotes them!
He booms, “Be still, and know that I am God! Have faith in Me!
“I am exalted among all the godless nations – they who laugh at you soon come to understand their ignorance and folly. I am exalted over the face of the earth – you shall see!”
You are with me – the God of Jacob upholds me!
God will not hold back his defense of those who call upon his name.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Praying Psalm 91 – Assured of God’s Shelter

Now, as I live in the shelter of, You, the Most High, Lord,
As I’m to be known to abide in the safety of Your shadow,
I will say to, You, the Lord,
“You are my safe haven and my citadel;
You are my God, in whom I totally trust – I will not trust in idols.”
For You will deliver me from the traps of violators
And from the deadly pandemic as well;
You will cover me with Your blanket of security,
Under Your wings I will find asylum;
Your faithfulness is my shield and armour of all kinds, Lord.
I will not fear many varietals of terror by night,
Or the arrows that fly my way by day,
Or, for that matter, the epidemic that broods sinisterly in darkness,
Or the destruction that cuts the fearful low in broad daylight.
Many hundreds I may see fall at my side, Lord,
Ten thousand who are near the tender grasp of Your right hand,
Who choose not Your way.
But, in faith, I know evil will not come near me to dissuade me.
I will look aghast with my own eyes
And see them sentenced, the wicked, who are against You, Lord.
Because I have made, You, the Lord, my refuge,
The Most High my dwelling place,
No evil shall befall me inevitably,
No scourge will infect my tent.
For I know You command Your angels concerning me
And you guard me in all my ways absolutely.
On the angel’s hands they will bear me up and uphold me,
So that I will not dash my foot against even a pebble.
I may even tread on the lion and the adder,
The strong lion and the cobra I will trample under foot.
You say to me, “Those who love me, I will deliver;
I will protect those who know and revere my name.
When they call to me, I will answer them;
I will be with them in trouble,
I will rescue them and honour them.
With long life I will satisfy them,
And I will show them my salvation.”
I believe You, Lord. I will always believe You, Lord.
Our Comfort. Our Serenity. Our Sanctuary. God has promised us a refuge of eternal measure in himself. Whenever we hold fast to the Lord we gain something we can never lose by giving up what we can never keep. We gain access to our souls. Seeking the face of God gains for us everything that ever mattered.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lessons From Joseph’s Early Life (Age 17–30)

Imagine you are one of the youngest of 12 brothers in a pretty dysfunctional family set up. You’re picked on, mostly because you’re Dad’s favourite. Your brothers get sick of you one day and decide to lock you away in a disused house out-of-town. No matter how much you scream you cannot be heard. Living on a cup of water a day and some stale bread crusts, while your brothers ponder for days what they should do with you:
What do you feel; what do you think; what do you fear?
It would be natural to be fearful and to be cast into despair.
Your brothers decide they want to fix ‘their problem’ once and for all – they sell you into prostitution (which we know to be a form of slavery). To ensure the truth is covered up, your brothers fabricate your ‘death’. Your father is overwhelmed with grief – and, as time would tell, he never truly recovers.
You become a man in those circumstances, and somehow you find the favour of your eventual boss – the Federal Treasurer. You’ve established a position of trust and have everything you need; you’ve amassed a significant degree of influence. You get a promotion. You’re trusted to be the spiritual overseer in his house.
But, one day your boss’s wife comes onto you; she says: “I have watched you, I admire you, and I’ve fallen for you; come to bed with me!” she insists. You’re mortified. You’re paralysed for a response, yet running from the house, she grabs your coat, and ripping it from you, is heard to shout, “Yes, keep running you rapist!”
Doublecrossed, you go into hiding, but not long afterwards you’re captured, tried and jailed – incarcerated again!
Lessons from Joseph’s Early Life
So, what did Joseph do? How did he recover?
The Bible tells us it was his faithfulness to diligently just get on with the tasks of seeking God – his faith in God’s providence over his life – that distinguished him from many of our typical human ‘reactive’ devices of response.
Instead of allowing his pride to squash any shape of emerging recovery, Joseph simply stepped. Perhaps in his day there may have been no choice but to hope for better.
This is how it is for us. We have no option – if we truly wish for the abundant life – and why would we not? – but to keep working as if were working directly for the Lord. For we are!
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What God Teaches Us About Forgiveness

“Before judgment comes, examine yourself;
and at the time of scrutiny you will find forgiveness.”
— SIRACH 18:20 (NRSV)
FORGIVENESS IS a very personal need for each and every one of us. There’s no getting around it. Perhaps we can see how easy it is to forgive another person – one who’s wronged us – when we can see our own need of forgiveness before a holy God. Everyone has a pressing need, an unconscious undertow, for forgiveness.
For those of us who find it difficult to forgive – who hold on to a hurt – to the injustices meted out against us – this is a sure-fire method, bound to work, time after time, and also in the ultimate sense.
When we begin the process of self-examination the eyes of our hearts stand to be opened:
What the LORD teaches about forgiveness can’t be quantified,
But what the LORD teaches is the need to self-examine,
For within our forgiving of them and the extension of our grace,
We’ll not experience a state where our blessing comes upon a famine.
Forgiving the other party is only the first half of the transaction – the second half – the important half, so far as God’s concerned, regarding our relationship with him – is fundamental to the achievement of the experience of having forgiven them.
As we examine ourselves – before God’s judgment comes against us (for those who insist on withholding forgiveness will be judged for it) – God tips into us knowledge for growth; and such growth unto eventual blessing. As we take the spotlight off them and focus it onto our own mess, failures and shortcomings, God shows us empathy for them; he reminds us we, too, are a fallen creature just like they are. In that process we find God forgiving us as we forgive the other party we’ve had a grudge against.
There are plenty of Scripture passages, especially in the New Testament, that talk about the matters of being able to repent and forgive as being signs that we have God’s Holy Spirit in us. Let’s not put our relationship with God at jeopardy by continuing to bear bitterness and resentment.
Forgiveness works best when we commit to doing our own work, forgetting the transgressions of the other as much as possible. We should want God to do a work in us, and, by his doing so, he will give us the grace to forgive – each time and in the ultimate sense. It’s not hard to forgive when we really want to.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, September 23, 2013

God’s Providence and Our Unshakeable Trust

We can trust God’s providence (His plans for our good).
But in the meantime we must get accustomed to waiting.
Life transitions always seem to take longer than we wish or expect.
But God’s providence (His will for our blessing) is certainly being worked out.
Trust in God’s providence is never disappointed.
But there will be times and ‘opportunities’ to ride the unpredictable waves of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression – all intermingled through the inevitable ripples of acceptance that serendipitously meander their way within them – bringing a welcome relief of calm that we might rest.
Two Forms of Waiting
God is teaching us something in all this – if we will wait on through the pain of the moment.
When we can wait in the moment of pain – when we are tempted to deny, explode with anger, bargain on ‘another way’, or sink into a depression – we gain access to a mysterious strengthening. This is the first form of waiting. God is able to be discerned in this – his inimitable Presence.
As we cope with the pain, not denying, getting angry, nor bargaining, nor getting depressed, we come close to the Lord by simple recognition. We can resist these things by simply being in his Presence.
The second form of waiting is the ultimate form – where we wait for the full realisation – the fuller manifestation – of God’s promises for our lives out of the grip of loss, enforced transition, and inevitable grief.
When God said to me a decade ago, “I will give you a second chance,” I believed him because I had no other real, sane choice. Even though it’s taken nearly all that time to more fully realise this role of God’s providence over my life, I’ve seen signs all along – signs of God’s faithfulness that have encouraged me to be faithful. Still, I’ve needed to wait. But then from the aspect of today, I think, “What more is to come?”
Waiting is blessed.
When we can wait, and we do so patiently, there is only one true and appropriate designation – blessing. Sure, waiting will involve discomfort, which is its own form of pain we tend to shy away from – especially in a world shrouded in ‘comforts’ of all kinds. But the world’s comforts are a trap. They take us away from the capacity to enjoy true comfort.
Trust in God’s providence is never disappointed. If we can wait, and if we can surrender our vanities, God is preparing for us a banquet of gorgeous extremes beyond our hopes and expectations. Every wait is worth it, for what God is about (or still) to pour into our lives.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Mark of God’s Providence On Your Life

IS IT THAT MUCH of a coincidence that we sit here, where we’re at, today?
Can we see how God has brought us here, today, this morning, this afternoon, this evening? Can we feel that sense that God has been ‘in’ our past week – even to this day? What about the past year – good, bad or indifferent – can we see how God has been leading us to this point?
Stretch it back a little way; to a few years back – five or ten. Can we see God’s hand in the passage of that journey – not bringing heartbreak through intention, but allowing it, in the belief that in surviving such things we would grow and be more available people?
And if life has improved over that past ten years or so, what do we put that down to?
What does analysing our pasts do in considering our futures? If we are who we are and we have been where we have meant to have gone, we will most certainly go where we are destined to go. Imagine the possibilities.
God is part of our lives – our Provider God – whether we accept it or not. He is the Force for Life and the Provider of Circumstances. Nothing gets in the way of his Divine will. Nothing and nobody is beyond either his will or provision.
It is joy to accept this; it is destructive to deny it or rally against it some way.
The qualities of God are fundamental to caring for our present and providing for our futures. What is required of us is plain trust. God does everything else.
The mark of God’s providence on our lives is irrefutable and irrevocable. What is an utterly good thing – thriving with hope and purpose – is something that will never be missing from our lives. How great is God that he cares for each of us, uniquely, proactively, purposefully, eternally?
And God’s providence is just one mark of our holy and living God!
We cannot see God’s purposes in the pain we endure – not at the time. But afterwards, with divine perspective in sight, we know that God neither tested us nor abandoned us. Indeed, the providence of God was sowing hope all the time; God meant all of it for our good and not for our harm; to give us a future even beyond what we had hoped for.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

God’s Presence By Day, Comfort By Night

“By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.”
— PSALM 42:8 (NRSV)
WHAT A GORGEOUS THOUGHT it is to be encouraged of God’s Presence. By encouragement I mean, how God lifts us, according to our need.
Most of the time we don’t know our needs – not truly. We try to know and we deduce inaccurately what it is, because we have a feeling; a sense for our need. We know its general direction and we go off in search for it.
One way we can be encouraged, rightly and with timeliness, is through attaining to the awareness of God’s Presence by day.
Presence By Day
Presence is a majestic thing we either have wind of or we don’t. Presence is the abiding influence of God. It either is or it isn’t. God cannot be present to us via our conscious minds if we are ‘illumined’ to disregard care or be actively stubborn, for just two instances.
True life is a journey,
The preparedness to travel,
In realms not of geography,
But of understanding to unravel.
There is far more to be learned about life than what knowledge and experience can provide. Openness to the momentary calling of the Holy Spirit is the key accompaniment of The Journey. It’s not about being told what to do as much as it’s about being willing and able to discern. Key questions: Can God get through; will we listen through the ears of our hearts; what are we missing?
Presence is that sense for the above – to incorporate the knowledge of God – and what God is saying (inaudibly) to us – so that, by discernment, we become aware and then, therefore, act.
Comfort By Night
As Presence is by day, Comfort comes by night. As one is cause (Presence), the other is effect (Comfort).
God gives one – Comfort – for the fact of Presence. Knowing we are in the lap of God’s definite will, because we have journeyed with his Holy Spirit to the discernment of his will, and because we have carried it out, there is Comfort.
Such a Comfort is deeply abiding and binding. Day is the designation of our action. Night is the designation of the consequences of our actions. Presence is our action. Comfort is our consequence.
When we journey with God’s Presence, consistently abiding in his will, by the Holy Spirit, we are accorded God’s Comfort. Obedience begets the consequence of comfort.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

From Bitterness to Beneficence

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense,
for the time when their foot shall slip;
because the day of their calamity is at hand,
their doom comes swiftly.”    
The co-commitment that necessarily runs with the capacity to leave our resentment behind is a precondition that God will take care of justice – in faith we must commend all our bitterness to God.
In allowing God to take care of the business of justice, we must trust enough as a co-commitment to let go – visibly, manifestly, demonstrably – as a means of actually trusting. We can afford to look at our side of the equation; what we could have done better.
In leaving the justice to God, we attribute to God what is God’s, and we attribute to ourselves what is for ourselves, alone. We must do our work; that which we are responsible for. Nobody else can do it for us.
The Practicalities of Leaving Justice to God
There is no silver bullet or magic recipe for executing the grace needed to leave matters of justice to God.
Our opportunity is to simply practice it – to do it.
That is the work that God has given us, as we journey with the Spirit in our granting of grace to those who might – in our eyes – not deserve it. We do not deserve it. Yet it was poured out for us at Calvary. So we should, like Jesus, pour it out.
It just has to be done. We do ourselves no favours, not even to mention them who are probably unaware of the potency of our grudges, by withholding the grace they so freely deserve if we deserve it.
God is perfectly equipped to judge. We are not. We are fitted so keenly with our human partiality. God is fitted, by his nature, for the acquittal of absolute truth.
God’s Justice Is Often Harsher Than We’d Execute
That is my direct experience. As we follow through in forgiving the other party, we soon find God working at restoring justice we may have longed for. It may get to such an extent that we witness a harsher level of justice as it is meted out to them, who may have their own bitterness to deal with. Having forgiven someone, we can come to experience a genuine empathy for them that is real compassion – as if we weren’t involved.
God’s justice – as it comes in the shape of the consequences for sin – is retributive, impartial, and final. We may well ultimately pray that God relent. And that would be a godly and God-pleasing prayer.
The reason we can forgive is God’s justice comes. By withholding our forgiveness we show we don’t trust God. Forgiving another’s transgression against us is about taking God at his Word. “Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. God’s justice is as perfect as it is timely. Our lot is to trust God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Little Learning Fingers – by Sarah Wickham

It was whilst my son was doing this that I was reminded of an illustration that I’ve heard my Dad use many times in devotions and sermons over the years. It is about fingers and a thumb working together to pick up a ball.  Have you ever tried to pick up a ball with just your thumb?  Or just one finger?  Maybe you’ve tried with two fingers; it’s still difficult to do depending on the size of the ball.  The task is completed much more easily when the fingers and thumb work together to pick up the ball.
It’s a bit like the passage in 1 Corinthians 12, where Paul talks about how the body of Christ, the Church, is one body made up of many members; we cannot say that we don’t need each other, because we do need each other.
Watching my son’s little fingers learning to grasp at a zip reminded me that while we as Christians may be one body in Christ – the Church – it takes time to learn to work together.  Oh yes, there’ll be a lot of frustration and effort required along the way!  It also requires dropping our pride and checking our own ambition.  But the reward is rich if we take the time to learn the nuances of the God-given personality and gifting of other members of His body and learn to work together.

Sarah Wickham first clapped eyes on her then future husband, Steve, and his three daughters while studying her Master of Divinity at Vose Seminary. Sarah has been a Town Planner, Youth Pastor and Photographer.  She is now a full-time Mum to Ethan, dabbling in photography occasionally and supporting her husband’s family and ministry.
© 2013 Sarah J. Wickham.