Sunday, April 28, 2013

3 All-Conquerable Truths for Life

“Although the world is full of suffering,
it’s full also of the overcoming it.”
— Helen Keller (1880–1968)
An all-conquerable truth stands eternally; Christ has overcome this world! This is power and hope for life and nothing—not one bit—less.
Living in this world can make us feel as a pariah; even as it seems a joke of a reality that is too coarse for our existential consumption; just too painful. That or it is wondrous for all we might experience. Of course, there is the middle-ground, but why would we not have it all when we could have it?
There are at least three tangible ways we live this wondrous all-conquerable reality:
1.      Thinking without limit: when we consider the true testament of life in its comprehensive sense we acknowledge how expansive it is in both joy and pain. There truly is no limit to it. When we broaden our thinking commensurately, we experience the Spirit broadening our perspective in many different ways. We allow the Lord to cause our thinking to blossom; we grow in the things of virtue and vice-like thinking shrinks, because love is bigger—much bigger—even too big—than the shrinking and strangling fear that compels us to sin. Thinking without limit is giving over our will and our lives to the Lord our God.
2.      Feeling without regret: suffering tends to bring with it the consequence of regret. When we see that we have the resources in this world—God-anointed resources—to feel everything we can feel, entirely without regret, we instigate the deployment of those resources and we learn to look ever forward. This is no denial for what is gone. No, we glory in the losses of a bygone day, for it is (and was) the defining of us. To feel as God has always willed us to feel is a glorious experience. It is freedom and it is the magnitude of heaven, but we must first agree to surrender our will and go on a journey of healing—a journey that never ends in this life.
3.      Living without fear: both these above contribute to living a life that is fear-free. There is one perfect fear we are to invest in—the fear of God—which simply compels us to endure all the struggles given us in God’s Almighty name for the glory of the Lord. To live without fear is to live free to love. It is a life free from regret, despite the regrettable and regretful. And living without fear is helped by the fact that we are expansive thinkers; fear just isn’t our way any more.
***
Because Christ has overcome the world we can think without limit, feel without regret, and live without fear. The all-conquerable truth is we have power when we access it. It is there and it is real. We go to God and we are being healed.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Speaking Into Our Loneliness

There may be two forms of loneliness: one that appears regularly, even most days, yet it can be denied, and from this form of loneliness we pick up a crutch. The other loneliness is one that sweeps through our souls and, for a time, destroys us. Totally deconstructed the only chance we have is for a patient reconstruction effort.
Of course, both sorts of loneliness may merge, with stark remembrances of pain revisiting themselves upon us.
Could it be, though, that, in the midst of our loneliness, we might attempt words of consolation with ourselves, through prayer before God?
Talking When Talk Is Impossible
This is most likely our problem. How are we to talk in this sort of loneliness that is unspeakable? We cannot seem to get the right words, or even a word, that comes close to describing how we feel. These are the most discouraging of places.
When talk is impossible we can feel completely defenceless against the assault of our aloneness. All we can do is cry, and yet even that can seem pointless. From loneliness we lurch into exhaustion, into simply a different form of hopelessness. And from these two we tend to vacillate.
Our lonely circumstance is not about to change, but what can change us are the spoken utterances—even in syllables and gargling—that show us as expressive.
In these tongues of pain we communicate with God in an unconscious language, and this is therapeutic. Such prayers are just as important as our eloquent ones are. We may not decipher the language these prayers are given in, but God hears the language shrieked from our souls. And these efforts to appease God in identifying our souls with desperation are commended.
Healing is on its way.
Courage To Communicate With God
It’s a risk to have faith in this communication. In a more rational mindset we can see the benefit for such a risk, but in loneliness all we feel is abysmal desolation.
If our logic can inspire us to speak in pitiable words, and in strings of them that sound like gibberish, and we have the presence not to deride ourselves, we may be steadily blessed of God.
It takes courage to endure loneliness. When we feel worse than death and there’s nowhere to hide, a small but safe blessing comes about in the moment we take courage to communicate with God. Take note: God understands the undecipherable language of our souls. We speak and God listens. In this we’re helped.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Double the Kindness, Halve the Distress


“... it was kind of you to share my distress.”
— Philippians 4:14 (NRSV)
It was good for the Apostle Paul to experience kindness from the church at Philippi. He had come not so much to expect it; many of the churches he started or that he had fostered relations with had betrayed him in one way or another. Like any minister of the New Covenant, Paul is blessed to feel a reliable sense of trust permeate between himself and those who caused him to rejoice—the Philippians.
Paul had experienced, as we experience, that double kindness halves distress.
In other words, a highly considered level of kindness (caring) lessened significantly the anxiety he experienced. It’s like the Philippians had found creative ways of loving Paul by reducing their burden on him and allowing him the honour of serving them in the capacity of unreserved apostle, teacher and evangelist.
The principle holds. It’s not only our task, but our privilege, as Christians, to double the kindness so as to halve the other person’s distress. We are to lessen others’ burdens. Where we find ourselves adding to the burdens of others, unnecessarily, we really must ask ourselves if we’re remaining in the lap of God’s will.
Kindness lightens people and brings forth creative measures that define love.
Kindness thinks of the other person and people that much it spends itself and sacrifices, without thought for loss. It goes out of its way without looking at the clock.
Kindness is grace and may even be worth more than double itself when it’s deployed in real and tangible ways.
Distress, on the other hand, weakens. It betrays the will and strength of love and seeks a much lower place with which to operate from. Why would we add to anyone’s burden? Why would we despise God this way?
Christians are not to buy into the “I’m hurt” debate. If we’re hurt we deal with it and relinquish it, and we reconcile with the Lord. One shred of bitterness in our hearts reveals we still no longer esteem God as our Lord and the King over our lives. We cannot reject the Lord’s commandments and still hope for intimacy with the Divine—because it’s relational.
Kindness, on the other hand, has realised that hurt will derail us. Kindness can be re-deployed for a time onto us who needs it. We may only add distress to someone if we’re personally ailing.
***
Kindness reduces burdens and it’s the investment of creative love to the ignition of joy. Our investment of kindness infuses people with a sense of lightness in an otherwise burdensome world. Our task—indeed, our privilege—is to double our kindness and halve another person’s distress through what we may do.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Healing Presence – A Therapy of Caring

“Sitting in silence with others can be deeply healing. You’re not waiting for their next words. You’re simply going deeply into the moments together, united by this quiet you share. As you open to it, you can listen for what this rich silence is saying, to each of you and to both of you.”
James Miller & Susan Cutshall
Silence between two is always a risk because we’re all so apt to break it and ruin the therapeutic framework with words in an attempt to bring clarity of meaning to the moment. Of course, so many moments are beyond faithful description or categorisation—especially those in the realm of emotional richness and supernatural spirituality. There’s too much of humanity in words and not enough of God.
God becomes realer to us in the awkward silence—an awkwardness that transforms into sweet spiritual revelation as we remain faithfully open to it and in it.
So words fail us, but we have an all-sufficient sense that they will be our panacea, probably because verbal or written communication with words is the most palpable way of expressing ourselves.
But in the midst of pure healing space, words have no role; no territory. The Spirit transcends all definable meaning.
The communication media of silence and other wordless modes takes us immediately into a divine space where healing may occur.
Practicing Healing Presence
How might we show that we care any more than by allowing the sacred to enter the space between us and the one we help; to respect them so much as to allow the silence to heal where words cannot. We remove ourselves—in the role of therapist or carer—as the potential barrier to the healing. We are merely a facilitator or conduit arranging the environment to bring God’s will to bear. We would be invisible if we could.
Only those with eyes, ears, hearts and minds fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) can heal in his name. That might seem obvious. But if we don’t ‘increase’ God and decrease ourselves (John 3:30) then we will be an imposter.
Practicing healing presence is all about utilising the power of silence in poignant moments, particularly when persons are temporarily open to receive either holy revelation—as 1) a concept of understanding, or 2) a means of the action to take in order to become healed—or the healing itself.
***
There is healing in silence, where our faith transcends words. God doesn’t need our words in order to heal us or others, and, though words can play a role, they generally get in the way, distract us, or complicate matters even more. Much more may be communicated—for healing—through spaces and interactions devoid of words, but rich in unspoken meaning.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Monday, April 22, 2013

The Dance of Brokenness and Grace

Nothing can be added to the deed of obedience of the Son of God, nearly 2,000 years ago. Nothing we do makes us better or more acceptable in God’s view. God has taken a fallen, broken humanity and restored the human being—by their faith in Christ alone—to right relationship, despite works—irrefutably.
But there is more; God wants more for us. He gets us to a vital first base on an assured home run by our salvation, but he wants us to experience second, third and home base—the fullest experience of life.
Life with God is a dance of our brokenness with his grace.
God’s grace ever-sufficient and only fairly magnified stoops to pick us up in our brokenness, and in our brokenness we accord ourselves to the truth—we need grace.
The Overwhelming Need of Grace
We all have this insurgent need at the core of our souls. Without grace we cannot approach the truth about ourselves—that not only are we saved and re-made as new creations, but we have actual brokenness that God desires to heal within us.
God gives us everything to ensure our eternal safety and then proffers us toward opportunities of discipleship in following Jesus for the transforming of our hearts and the renewing of our minds.
We need grace at the beginning of our faith journey and we need it every moment as we continue—right to the very end we need grace.
Grace is sufficient to emend our brokenness before any journey to healing is even embarked upon. It’s sufficient to emend our brokenness as we are sanctified by faith in Christ, once for all time, and through and through as we are sanctified by our repentance from dead deeds. Wherever we are on the spiritual continuum, grace is all we need. It is power for everything else.
When Ready: Emend the Brokenness
So many in this life seek wholeness; grace is sufficient for this, too, but grace is the only thing that can deliver to us to any proportion of wholeness in this life. This is because the power in grace aligns with the truth.
We approach wholeness when we can readily accept the raw truth about ourselves.
When we accept this truth we are no longer afraid of our brokenness, denying it, and we know with boldness God’s blessing via grace even in the midst of that selfsame brokenness.
Our brokenness actually defines us and is cause for celebration—we are weak, but God is great!
Our brokenness—our damage from, and our propensity to, sin—propounds grace all the more. Our brokenness in true light magnifies the grace of God that has rescued us and continues to.
Grace dances with our brokenness, bringing us to wholeness at least by our attitudes about ourselves. Grace dances with our brokenness, gifting us to more wholeness. Grace even excuses our brokenness, making us whole in Christ without even an iota of effort on our behalf.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

“If you’re a fish you swim. If you’re a bird you fly. If you’re a Christian you live a life pleasing to God.”
Dr. Peter Christofides
We please God when we exemplify fruit in keeping with the Presence of the Holy Spirit within us—a fact that the Spirit resides within every person confessing Jesus as not simply their Saviour, but their Lord and King over their lives, too.
Fruit is the product of something, typically of plants, but also of other investments.
If we are filled with badness we will constantly think on the things of vice: greed, anger, selfish pride, etc. Then these will project out of us, because what we think we become.
Just the same, the fruit of our Christian walk are deeds of consistent (though never perfect) goodness because of how we are deploying ourselves, or, more importantly, because of who we belong to. We, like all our resources, belong to God. How thankful we ought to be for every millisecond on this journey of life!
The only barrier to such a bounteous goodness as prospered to us as a gift through the Spirit is the flesh and fear clinging within; those things that constrain us to our sins.
Evidence of the Holy Spirit is Fruit of the Spirit
Think fruit. Think of the product of our devotion. Think not about legalistic duty but of the type of devotion that has us exuding the spiritual energy where the Spirit lays claim to our moments and we accede.
We may be Christian, but it doesn’t mean we’re alive in the Spirit. The Spirit may be dormant as we go through the motions of our lives or, worse, as we rally against the righteousness of God in our sin, unopposed.
Evidence of the Holy Spirit—where we are alive and well, spiritually—is fruit of the Spirit. By devotion to the Lord, we are more grounded in the Gospel; we are more fervently impervious to the world’s overtures; and by the Spirit we grow.
The interesting thing about the fullest measure of the Holy Spirit is we are blessed by his Presence all the more that we submit for the infilling. That’s the surrender we talk about. It’s about giving ourselves to actively practicing the fruit of the Spirit, and, in that action, we are blessed by the infill of the Spirit and others are blessed by the overflow of that selfsame Spiritual fruit.
When we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit with relative consistency, then we are evidencing ourselves as true subjects and slaves of the Lord our God.
***
Real Christians believe upon Jesus as their Saviour, Lord, and King over their lives.
The Spirit of God is given to the believer and he is given reign—a two-way transaction. The believer is a receptacle of the Holy Spirit that indwells them, the saved sinner. By such a possession we are granted the Power of God’s grace, made manifest by visible and life-transforming Spiritual fruit.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.



Friday, April 19, 2013

Enjoying the Spirit’s Soul Presence

“God is not far off. In the Holy Spirit, the Triune God comes close, so close as to actually enter into each believer. He is even more intimate with us now than in the incarnation. Through the operation of the Spirit he has truly become Immanuel, ‘God with us’.”
Millard J. Erickson
The person of the Holy Spirit is so fundamentally personal with us we can relate with him and enjoy a relationship with him, which no other religion can offer—a personal relationship with a deity. Within our Christian faith, our theology holds that there are three persons in the one Godhead: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these is a person in their own right—perfectly in relationship with us—and together they are One.
Many writers over the centuries have demoted the Spirit of God to a lesser position in comparison with the Father and the Son; some of which is caused by a lack of biblical coverage on the theology of the Holy Spirit and some of which is caused by fear within the Conservative quarters that the ‘unreliable’ Pentecostals will take over and reign with heresy. Clearly both balance and discernment are required.
Now if we can agree that the Holy Spirit takes equal prominence with the Father and Son, appreciating that all three entities of the Triune God are persons in their own right, with their unique functions, we gain something that has practical significance in our daily walk with God.
God is with us by his Presence; in us via the Holy Spirit—one and the same thing.
Transformations by Intimacy with God
If we wish to relate with ourselves in enjoying the Fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, etc—then we will seek to become close to God. As we draw near to God, God draws near to us (James 4:8). But God is never far away. Because we so often run our own race we chide the Spirit; not needing him.
Enjoying a close relationship with God is the appreciation of God’s Presence and how such a presence can heal us—past, present, and future. The Fruit of the Spirit is a natural extension—it’s not tongues that are the key manifestation of the indwelling Spirit, but the fruit of virtue—every basis of God’s love as it sweeps over us to the vast benefits strewn within all our relationships.
It’s the Spirit that helps us forgive, heals us when we are betrayed, who revives us in our exhaustion, and who showers us with encouragement and holds us accountable.
Truly, enjoying the Spirit’s Presence is centrally about seeking intimacy with the Spirit of God and putting everything else, as potential factors for life, to one side.
***
When we honour the Spirit’s Presence within us so much that we obey with our commitment with tenacity, we are blessed in the natural extension of enjoyment of the Spirit’s Presence. In the Holy Spirit we have God’s perfect Presence within us, always.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.



Thursday, April 18, 2013

An Exciting Time to Be Alive

It’s an exciting time to be alive. Indeed, this is a perennial statement. It could be said of any time—in present-tense context—of any time in history. It is otherwise far too easy, from a Christian viewpoint, to focus too much on these end-of-times. We know the present age to be evil, but at the same time God has given us life for the abundance of enjoyment. And that enjoyment we extrapolate into bringing heaven upon the earth, like through roles of advocacy for injustice. We can do something!
These are exciting times. It is exciting to be alive. One day very soon we will not be able to say that. It will be somebody else’s turn. Such a thought might be morbid, but it is just as much a reality.
We live in exciting times truly for the fact that we are live, today; this instant.
Are we making the comparative most from our times just now?
Without pushing ourselves to burnout, which we know is unsustainable, are we taking our opportunities at the time they are presented?
When we consider the moment we live in, just now, reading these words, imagining what it is to live our lives, just now, we may recognise the awesome reality—the gift from God—of life enough to think, to feel, to experience, to react and respond, to ponder again; to hope.
This is no insignificant topic. Indeed, that would be a graphic understatement.
There is no more significance than the idea of being alive now, especially as we consider the other reality—life in eternity.
One thing we can know with a great deal of certainty is that such a fact of being alive now—of knowing it afresh—forces us to respond in some way. Many will respond by making the most of the moment and planning more for future moments. Many others will respond by ambivalence; perhaps learned helplessness permeates. But why should we be disabled or disempowered by such a fact. Such a fact as being a live now should elicit within us praise; it should evoke some jealous movement; it should spark from within us praise or outrage.
This knowledge should create some emotional response. That brings life!
***
The significance of being alive now, no matter how down we might feel, is forever relevant. Now is our time. Now is an exciting time to be alive. As we consider the chains of the past, determining where the shackles are, we ask God to loosen them, and because we are alive now we break free the best we can.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

God, My Help, My Strength, My Song

The wisdom of God is what I need,
For my way alone is regretful indeed,
God, be my strength and my song today,
So I neither waver nor wander away.
The wisdom of God is my only hope,
Only through grace is there the way to cope,
Now, is required my surrender for God’s Power,
Then a mystery unfolds to sustain this hour.
***
Every now and then I get this reminder; it’s a prompt from God himself.
In the pressure of the moment I waver in my thinking, because my feeling is awry. Having become stressed I then allow the enemy of my soul access to my thinking compartments. Then there is confusion. Then, and only then, am I confounded for what to do. I have run the opposite way from God and God does what God does best—he loves by letting go.
“Okay, Steve, I honour your wisdom,” God says.
God lets us go into the mire of our own making. But if we are diligent enough we will hear the sweet echo of the Spirit calling us home—this voice of the Lord is gentle and humble.
This particular instance where I strayed from the Lord involved, as it always does, an incident where I went ahead in my own power. My own power is rather pathetic, but I believe in it at the time.
Far better, it is, to commend the moment to patience; for God will most certainly speak.
The Wisdom and Power of God In Our Moment’s Need
When God is our strength and our song he is our very present help in time of need.
Let’s get one thing clear: there is always a need for God; our need is eternal.
Having wandered my own way, and having landed upon a parched creek bed, with every reminiscence about it like a desert, I remained there overnight. But in the morning I turned back. In the morning I went to God. In the morning I received power again.
This power of God resplendent in surrender, to redeem the wisdom of God, is truly spectacular in ways to sustain the present hour—the day; the season.
By this power, alone, is the only way a believer can cope. Having trusted the Lord, once for all time, a transaction occurs when we wander. We lose power. It is God’s way of getting our attention. We are being succoured back to him who gives life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Help In Deep, Dark Discouragement

“For God has said, ‘Not at all will I ever leave you, nor in any way will I ever forsake you,’ so that you may confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; what can any human being do to me?’”
Hebrews 13:5-6
We really need to hear these words resounding from within and through us at times. In deep and dark discouragement, where no soul ventures in going voluntarily, we hold aloft every dear intercession, with a silent desperation of a person frankly despairing.
At these times we will do anything for some respite. We feel weak; weaker than we should. And although we accept our weakness, because there is no point in fighting it, we are troubled by that selfsame weakness.
When we are in a hole, one dug down deep and so far above our heads is its top, how hard is it to extricate ourselves? It seems impossible and hardly worth the effort. Instead, we shrink into the dire necessity of an isolated forlornness, darker than we had previously contemplated.
These dark clouds that encumber our souls have gathered with surprising tenacity and coherence. These dark clouds have made a statement over us. We feel helpless against this spiritual barrage. And we have forgotten something very important.
Where is our hope? Where has our hope gone? Why does it feel so distant?
Adhering, Again, to the Ancient Truth
When our hope has vanished and it has been replaced by such a vacuum of what would be hope, we lose sight of an ancient truth: God has promised he will never (ever) leave us, nor (ever, in any way) forsake us.
The moment we have remembered this golden truth is the moment that those despairing dark clouds lift. What had previously vanished without a trace now comes back into view. In spite of our circumstance part of the burden lifts.
The best way of fighting rank hopelessness to the desperation of the soul at the end of its tether is to recall this most mighty of ancient truths.
All of our deep and dark discouragements do tend to come from our relationships; they have a relational cause. Whether it was by bad relationships in our formative years or bad relationships now is perhaps beside the point. Our need of good relationships puts us at risk, because we don’t always enjoy sound relational outcomes.
***
The main point is we now have access to a perfect relationship. And a relationship with God, though we are imperfect, is enough to impute God’s perfection over us.
When we are deeply discouraged, all we need to do is remember what God has said. Especially in the darkest of days and moods of gloom we are blessed by the soul-warming Presence of God.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

God Cannot Be Let Down


“You haven’t let God down. You weren’t holding him up in the first place.”
— Jeremy Bourdon
Many, many people feel, or have felt, that they are not good enough for God; that they have let God down. Such a prevalent view of life, in the midst of a life that insists there is a God, is highly problematic—many upon many lives are derailed because there is no way back in a person’s mind to a relationship with God.
Of course, it is a lie.
It is a lie that the devil sows into our minds and hearts, that we are so deeply sinful we do not deserve a second or a 122nd chance. Part of that is true; we are deeply sinful—every single one of us. But we quickly forget that our sinfulness has been forgiven, and there is nothing that could separate us from God through belief in Jesus Christ.
We cannot let God down; we only let ourselves down, and, I guess, others. I was reminded very recently that no matter how far we are from God we are only one step from returning; from enjoying the intimacy we can have with God anytime.
This is, of course, a great practical help and encouragement.
God has destined that our faith is to be kept simple, and, besides complicating it as we often do, we are blessed in knowing that condemnation is of the devil. God has no part in it. As far as God is concerned we could only ever condemn ourselves by refusing a relationship with the Lord Jesus; by refusing entry of the Holy Spirit into the cabinets and compartments of our mortal bodies.
God cannot be let down. Or, another way of looking at it, if a major thing could let God down, why then would not a minor thing equally let him down? God considers every sin to be sin. There are no ‘levels’ of sin in God’s sight. Sin is sin. And whilst we add our value judgments, God sees none of our sinful natures as any better or worse than the next one.
If I have failed God, and I have, and I will in the future—yes, indeed, tomorrow as well as today—then I have only failed God to the same extent as the next person. No matter how good or bad a life I live I am never beyond an arm’s reach of the Lord.
God can always redeem a life, whether that life has already been redeemed or not.
***
We cannot let God down, because we never held him up in the first place. We are only ever one step away from the loving embrace of the God, who seeks us; who loves us; who died for us; who wishes to restore us to replete fullness.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.