Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Enjoying the Simplicity of Reality

“... dreams come with many cares, and a fool’s voice with many words.”
— ECCLESIASTES 5:3 (NRSV)
Life is always best tinged in a superfast coating of reality. And this is perhaps the Teacher’s point in Ecclesiastes 5. Unreality promises creativity and imagination, but it delivers disillusionment and, ultimately, despair.
There is a way of living that all are commended to chase. But invariably we are given more to chasing dreams than chasing reverence, humility, and, in those, deriving contentment. I guess we are all guilty to some extent. We all lose the plot from time to time.
The more we dream, the Teacher notes, the more we invest in our dreamy imaginations of ambition, the more trouble is added to our outlook. Our cares multiply. When worldly cares are added, contentment is taken away.
Ode To The Simple Life
Is there a thing better than this,
A thing that may be as solid as bliss?
Can it come more simply today,
The order of work, then come to play?
Simplicity exults in the wisdom of life,
A life that avoids most common strife.
***
The Teacher, of course, is advocating, in the entire book of Ecclesiastes, the simple life. This is no lazy person’s life, just a life so girded against idolatry. True wisdom is known in the person who prefers reverence and humility as modes proffering contentment.
Simplicity, in its supreme form, is the solidity of bliss, because it journeys by the mechanism of wisdom. Is there a better form of simplicity in finding our work, doing it, and then resting, by enjoying our play? It leaves life as simple as that.
“Eat, drink, and be merry” is the famed cliché ripped from the heart of Ecclesiastes.
We typically abuse the intent of the wisdom ground deep into the simplicity of such a word. It simply means we should eat and drink in moderation and enjoy the toil that we are given as part of our lot.
The Pleasure In Being Grounded In Reality
Perhaps it’s true that reality is a hard thing. It is hard, but it’s nonetheless reliable. God is entirely faithful in the revelation of existence. We know this by the undercurrent of anxiety we all bear as part of the privilege of being human. What a paradoxical wonder it is to be alive. We hate the pain of being alive, but we cannot contemplate death.
But beyond dreaming enfolds us to a certain pleasure in being grounded in reality; not protected by insufficient and inadequate coping mechanisms. We don’t drown our sorrows or soothe jangling nerves on alcohol, or numb ourselves on drugs, and we don’t give in to counterfeit feelings more home in denial. The truth is we do. We dream. Then we face trouble. By our rejections of simple truths in our lives we face trouble.
Better by far it is to train ourselves into the love of reality—the acceptance of the very place God has made for us. Let us be thankful.
***
Whilst dreams entertain the imagination and fire our passions, reality is the reliable guide for life. Reality advises us to be reverent and humble; giving us a simple contentment. The simpler our lives, the more contented we will be.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Four Meaningful God Designations

The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.
— 1 JOHN 3:8B (NRSV)
Our purpose, here on Earth, is to support the purpose for which the Son was revealed: to destroy the works of evil. We are God-anointed, God-planted, God-appointed, God-granted:
God-anointed — God-planted,
God-appointed — God-granted,
There’s a role, an occasion, a season,
There’s a purpose, and always a reason.
Let’s not doubt our meaning for being here.
Each of us is anointed, planted, appointed, and granted daily:
þ     Anointed to do what God has purposed we do.
þ     Planted right where we are — for a reason.
þ     Appointed to life/our lives — to an occasion.
þ     Granted a role in the building of God’s Kingdom.
***
Anointed
We are anointed to do all we can do – or, more to the point, all that nobody else can do but us. Although God doesn’t need us human beings, he has chosen us for a purpose. We will never know our purpose until we search for it. The purpose of our lives is to find our purpose and to do what we, of ourselves, are anointed to do; as was predestined from the beginning. We are not anointed for one thing, but to many things.
Planted
We, whether we like it or despise it, have been planted in our lives for a reason. It’s understandable that some of us hate our lives; we detest what we’ve been through, and we may even dislike who we are.
But we, with the knowledge of God, have everything we need to put things straight, and to work from where we are, satisfied and content, for the Kingdom of God. The purpose being, there is no other purpose that makes sense, because we are where we are – and nothing will change that fact.
Appointed
We have been appointed to an occasion – the present moment.
Every moment is an occasion of eternal significance, even though just about every occasion has no significance apart from eternity. As in taking up a position, we have been appointed by God to the day.
It is up to us to make the most of it.
Granted
We have been granted a role in the building up of the Kingdom; in the building up of solitary beings; and, in the support of teams and groups we have natural allegiances with.
***
Being anointed, planted, appointed, and granted is sufficient to spark joy and every sense of hopefulness from within us. Life is rich with meaning when we understand these concepts. We may never believe the depth of that purpose until we realise we are anointed to, planted in, appointed for, and granted life.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

God and the Grace to Forgive

“Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
— MARK 11:25 (NRSV)
Yes we get hurt all the time,
Most of it we can be unconscious about,
The mature person sees the risk,
They keep short account with God, no doubt.
They will ensure that forgiveness becomes habit,
For they realise the insidious nature of hurt,
Daily they come before God,
And give Him all their dirt.
Air the laundry by keeping a short account with God. Unreconciled hurts not only destroy relationships, but they propel us toward an estranging of ourselves. A lack of interpersonal integrity affects our personal integrity.

Simply put, when we remain hurt, we undermine ourselves.
***
Keeping a short account with God is the blessed state of union with the Creator who always designed life to be lived in close connection with the Divine Being. We can no sooner short-circuit this, as Adam and Eve and the serpent did in producing the Fall, than we can pray to God and expect everything to work out as we wish it to.
Keeping a short account with God necessitates us to pray, daily, momentarily in fact; continuously – as the apostle Paul urges the Thessalonians in his first letter to that church (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). For, when we pray, as Jesus commands it above in Mark’s gospel, we are to forgive as if forgiveness is part of our daily routine, because we are hurt daily.
We are to pray unceasingly, and, in that, to forgive unceasingly, also.
We need to do these things to stay in direct communion with the Spirit of God indwelling us. If we were not to communicate with our spouses, our relationship would soon become messy. Likewise, communicating haphazardly with God, or not at all, is a recipe for spiritual disaster.
***
Getting back to the initial subject, we necessarily need to comprehend that we are hurt by people routinely in life and we are blessed when we take each and every one of those hurts directly and immediately to God.
We waste no time in this. We know that time runs against us when we delay our forgiveness. We know that a lack of forgiveness when it is needed means we only damage ourselves, apart from splitting asunder the relational dynamics that may, in fact, be hard won.
***
When we remain hurt, we undermine ourselves. Forgiveness begins with us as individual persons and it ends with us having been blessed for surrendering our hurts. The mature person keeps such a short account with God that none of their hurts they allow to fester.
Blessed are those who air their dirty laundry before the King of kings and Lord of lords – and the Saviour, alone – so they may receive healing grace to forgive.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Trial and Triumph of Faith

“Grace, grace is now the only oil to our wheels. Christ has taken the castle... when he has taken the will. When Saul rendered his will, he rendered his weapon. This is mortification, when Christ runs away with your will.”
— SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600–1661)
Faith is a knife’s edge, better get it right,
“No holding back, I hope,” says the Almighty Lord,
“I hope you walk by faith and certainly not by sight,
For, it’s only by grace that my will’s in you, safe and securely shored.”
***
Still so many don’t get it: faith. So many so-called believers who have not relinquished, with finalising effect, their long-cherished will. Their glory is in their shame right-abouts. I don’t boast in this, but it’s the truth if people insist on having their way at the expense of Christ. We have little part in grace – and maybe none at all – when we insist on having things our own way – all under the concealment of, “This is God’s will.”
We cannot continue actively in conflict, and without seeking some significant part of reconciliation, and say that it is God’s will. God wills none of our pride, disobedience, or stubbornness. God’s will is that all of the flesh is mortified; taken captive to the Spirit.
“There is no goodness in our will now, except what it has from grace.”
— SAMUEL RUTHERFORD (1600–1661)
Grace must make all the difference in our lives if our lives are to be lived for God to the extension of the Divine will. It is no longer us who lives, but Christ in and through us.
We can no sooner give up our will by our own accord than we can disobey and be possessed of the Spirit of God. Both are heinous and laughable incongruencies.
Faith is simple. It always has been and always will be. Faith is tested by the holy acquisition of grace – the ‘God gift’ at the surrender of our pathetic will. Faith is nothing without it; everything with it. When faith takes to the dock it relies on grace in order to testify truthfully – not an iota out of keeping with a wholesome integrity; a divine dignity.
Faith’s trial is its triumph – the achievement of God’s exacting will. Faith’s triumph is the work of glory made manifest in mortified, humbled flesh.
***
The trial of faith is the situated in the will – have we yet given it over to God? The triumph of faith is when the will is deliberately, intentionally and sacrificially given to God – by the divine movement of grace –where our flesh has been mortified. The triumph of faith is the continual seeking and doing of God’s will.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

By Trust, God Is For You

There Are Times when, completely powerless or at our wits end, we wonder about the certitude of life, as we grapple with a disaster that has unfolded before our eyes. We wonder how God could possibly love us and still allow such calamities to invade the spaces of our consciousness.
Then we read the following:
“Yet those [people and things] that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us the causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, so that God’s wisdom turns [those] plots unto our salvation and glory. See how really [nothing] is against us!”
— John Chrysostom (347–407), Early Church Father.
God is not against us by the circumstances of our lives, but only for us; but we must respond in a way that sees, by faith, that this is true, by rejecting negativity and seeing the blessing in the persecution. This seems absurd. But we can only see that God is for us when we choose to allow the disaster to occur without comprehensive resistance. Even in the affliction we can do nothing about, rather than becoming forlorn, we become accepting regarding the best we can give in response to that situation.
When the people and things that seem to be against us cannot defeat us, nothing can defeat us, and we have what is an indefatigable hope.
There are many forces in this life would that would have us defeated, but we, by our faith in God, propose a superior set of circumstances – the circumstances of our attitudinal competence, by ways of refusing their power over us, as we skip happily along in life. We do not deny the negativity, but we take it in its stride, and when we do, we find God has already provided the strength to get through.
So great is God that nothing is beyond the brush of his healing touch.
To gain a grasp of this astounding wisdom of God’s, we see the gospel with utter clarity. It is the solution to all of life’s problems: when we get out of the way of God’s Spirit we are granted power to cede the difficult attitude. The attitude is addressed with deft poise. We simply make a bold decision to run with the flow of the river of life.
Because God is for us and not against us – by our willingness to obey the will of God; that we should never resent, for we know not its purposes – we will be granted power to get through hopelessness and hope for our despair.
***
Because God is for us we can have the hope for a solution to every circumstance, and the worse our circumstances are the more we are blessed by accepting them. It’s a blessing to get through the circumstance, and added later is the blessing of the crown for having endured. So, really, the worse, the better.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Opening the Eyes of the Heart

The wise have eyes in their head,
but fools walk in darkness.
— ECCLESIASTES 2:14A (NRSV)
There is great wisdom in compassion and compassion is the underpinning of justice. God blesses only those with open eyes of the heart by the provision of wisdom, always for his purposes.
The two are synonymous – wisdom and compassion. There would be no sense in granting someone wisdom if they had no compassion, and indeed, more basically, a compassionate heart is a wise heart.
In a relational life, and this existence is inherently relational, compassion must be a qualifier for wisdom. Seen this way, we must acknowledge that wisdom is highly virtuous by character; that it’s beyond smarts, knowledge, information, or experience.
Wisdom is an integral part in holiness. Perhaps there is truth in the reverse; holiness being a significant part of a greater wisdom. There is no question, however, that wisdom has about it a compassionate strength.
Compassion – Absence of Aggression; Long on Love
If we were to interrogate compassion, and, find from within it, specimens of its furrows of goodness – to learn of its merited worthiness and to drink from its streams – and if we were able to adopt aspects of its goodness, we would be wiser.
We would be wiser because, to be a student of compassion is to open the eyes of our heart; to experience, from within ourselves, the absence of aggression and length of love.
Our Christian goal must truly be to rid ourselves of aggression, and to develop the ability to be long on love, which finds itself underpinned by all sorts of virtue like patience, kindness, and humility.
But the main contingency in striving toward such a goal is to have the eyes of our hearts opened such that we want to love and rid ourselves of aggression.
We should note, here, that aggression isn’t just overt violence, it is just as much – and more – the sort of aggression that occurs passively; the aggression that people are likely to get away with, but still wrangles within our souls.
It’s perhaps a case of the chicken and the egg – we need to love to please God and enjoy the blessings of the Christian life, but we don’t get it until we attempt to see with the eyes of our heart. Many Christians may never get it, and such is the pity, or they get it conditionally – where it’s only available in certain situations.
Our goal needs to be that we would see all of life with the eyes of our hearts opened.
***
We need to see all of life with the eyes of our hearts opened. Then we would have compassion. God shows us more and more when the eyes of our hearts are opened. We gain wisdom as a result.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Feeble Knees Before Jesus

The day my life changed – and changed for good, in so many ways – was, of itself, the worst of all days. Alone in my flat, without another soul there, and a soul loneliness impinging toward pain and possibly numbness, I switched the television on. It was a Saturday morning. And of all things my eyes could’ve seen, it was a TV evangelist saying the words, “Jesus knows your pain, he knows your need, and he knows your prayer, but now it’s time to pray that prayer, to have that need met, and to be healed of that pain. Will you pray this prayer with me?”
And so it began. I prayed that prayer. On my knees before Jesus, I prayed that prayer with my forearms lent on a worn lounge cushion, my elbows impressing themselves into the grotty arms of the chair, tears streaming from my eyes.
I prayed that prayer with earnestness I never knew I had in me. I had given my life to Jesus, ironically 13 years, nearly, since the first time I gave my life to Jesus.
Suddenly I comprehended what I’d missed all those years ago. A peace came over me that is so hard to describe, and bears no need of description. I was met that day by the risen Lord Jesus, who came into my heart by the Holy Spirit, afresh, in order that I would truly believe.
I needed to pray this prayer, because, if this wasn’t my absolute rock bottom in a season of rock bottoms, I didn’t know what it was. My life was over. A new life had to come. I had no hope otherwise, so in a real fashion I was rescued, saved, delivered, sanctified even on the spot.
I found it bizarre how only moments earlier I had considered a dire choice. Thankfully, just in time, God provided the way out through the simple decision to turn the television on at that precise moment.
Frankly, I didn’t care how God would come into my life. As I said, my life was over. I had truly come to the end of myself. Hopelessness and helplessness dominated my mindset, and my heart was broken to smithereens.
But God, in all his abundant grace, took me into his Divine Presence that moment and saved me from a life that was no longer a life at all. Peace it was the came over me, and later it was hope, which was the fuel for faith, and the strength behind the forgiveness I both needed and needed to exemplify for others.
***
The TV evangelist said, “Jesus knows your pain, he knows your need, and he knows your prayer, so now it’s time to pray that prayer, to have that need met, and to be healed of that pain. Will you pray this prayer with me?”
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, July 19, 2013

An End, A Rest, A Crown

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
— 2 TIMOTHY 4:7-8 (NRSV)
Of the mysteries of God,
A lot’s made of life,
And about this life,
Is the notion of strife.
There’s a spiritual battle about,
And in this life it’ll bring,
Evil forces from without,
And temptations from within.
It’s up to us,
To maintain the fight,
It’s the only way,
We gain the right.
Salvation’s abode,
Believer’s divine right,
We fight by faith,
And not by sight.
***
Of course, there is much made of life; it’s the only thing we know. We have an inkling of what heaven might be like; that eternal abode. But realistically all we know is this life, and we grapple with it, struggling to understand. Sometimes we think we have mastered everything there is to understand, but soon we come to realise we are deluded to think that. Life catches up with all of us in that way.
A Beautiful Promise Only God Can Fulfil
That eternal dwelling place – a sanctified retreat beyond measure – is prepared for us. It is our home-sweet-home. It is a house with many rooms (John 14:2).
At the very least we have to look forward to in arriving in eternity – if even we could speak in such minimalistic ways – are the blessings of eternal life (perfect wisdom, joy, holiness, peace, and fellowship) all enjoyed to the glory of God, in a marvellously restored universe, in the company of Christ and all the saints (William Hendriksen).
For having fought the good fight, by trusting and obeying God the best way we can, in spite of the evil forces from without and the temptations from within, we will receive an end to the turmoil, an eternal rest, and a laurel wreath crown to last the ages. Such a crown of righteousness will be awarded for our triumph and in our honour – for having endured and for having kept the faith – to the glory of God.
***
Heaven is a beautiful promise only God can fulfil. The vast and surpassing incentive for bearing this life is entry and blessing upon entering the next life, where we are granted an end to our pain, an eternal rest, and finally a crown for having endured a full lifetime as faithfully as we could.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Understanding Suffering’s Useability

“One must really have suffered oneself to help others.”
— MOTHER TERESA (1910–1997)
Stepping into someone’s moccasins is our duty,
When we’ve experienced enough life to have endured,
Life blows sufficient that ensure we’ve secured,
Enough of the compassion of Christ’s beauty.
Suffering helps us understand,
What life’s got in its hand,
So in it is a noble idea,
If in it we can stand,
It’s a safe basis with which to land,
A thing undermining much of our fear.
***
This is no manifesto against the person, who themselves, sees their life as devoid of suffering. They may be naturally compassionate. Mother Teresa is not saying that the one who has not suffered is incapable of helping another. What is being said is there is a purpose beyond the trial, extending past the pain, indwelling all our feelings, as we push forth on a mission far bigger than ourselves.
Whilst suffering is not a noble thing of itself, God ensures there is a purpose in it, by the fact that it matures our characters, in order that fear is undermined by the broadening of our perspective and we see the need to help others in their suffering.
God and Suffering
It is difficult for many people to put God and suffering in the same sentence. Many cannot see how God can allow suffering, whilst many others will only see a holy God apart from suffering.
But as we theologically reflect – seeing into what God might be saying – we can note, through Scripture, and through direct and indirect human experience, that suffering produces something worthwhile in the person who suffers well. It isn’t easy to suffer well, but it is possible if we focus on obeying the Lord.
In suffering well – by enduring something horrendous and obeying God in the process – we gain a certain perspective, and it is through such an enhanced appreciation for the weight of reality that we are blessed. We are more home to the truth and we can handle it.
Given that suffering comes indiscriminately into our lives we can see its God-anointed purpose; it refines us and matures our characters. We never enjoy this. How could we? It costs us so much. But perhaps the refining mark in suffering – if we can see a little beyond our pain, and into the flow of life itself – is what we may learn; about others, not just ourselves.
***
Suffering correlates with empathy – if we’ve suffered well, God has opened our hearts to see and respond to others’ suffering. By our stripes God uses us so others can be healed.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Achieving Integrity of Allegiance

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
— JOSHUA 24:15B (NRSV)
There comes a time, and perhaps many of them in different ways, where we have the opportunity to wise-up, and to take counsel from the ages; the lessons we have learned in life. The key to all of this is integrity.
First of all it’s about the meeting of our minds with reality – to honour such a reality without wanting to manipulate it.
Secondly, it’s about a character, and what God is saying to us by the methods and workings of life – what we need to hear, so far as ‘who’ we have been.
Thirdly, it is about the commitment we can make, a recommitment daily, to ensure that integrity speaks for us first and foremost; that through our actions, we are known as a person / household serving the Lord.
The integrity of allegiance – so far as serving the Lord is concerned – is to be our number one goal. Everything else begins from this datum point. When we have the integrity of allegiance, there is no swaying to the right or left; everything is subservient to that goal.
The Pure Beauty of Simplicity in Integrity
At a time when times have seemingly never been busier, we have an important opportunity to come back to the Source of all things, and from there start again, and make it a daily discipline – to start again.
The beauty of the simplistic life – a life burgeoning with power because it is no longer busied by incongruity – is it flourishes with peace and joy.
Because we have committed to one thing and not many things, we are granted peace in the eternal realm, even whilst we remain here on Earth.
This is a cherished position. To have found our way to the secret of life – to know that life begins, has its middle, and ends in God – as its basis – we have found our way to the basis of all things; to the plumbline for all our decision-making.
When there is one thing, and one thing only, by which to rate the things of life, decisiveness and confidence are but two tangible things that win us to a life of integrity.
Integrity is not just about moral character; it’s also about our character of being. We have become more reliable, responsible, rational, realistic, and logical, whilst also having the capacity to feel everything that needs to be felt.
***
When we have the integrity of allegiance to God alone, every other priority is sorted, manageable, and achievable with relative decisiveness and confidence. Even the difficult things of life are made easier through an integrity of allegiance to God alone.
We miss the simple life in this busy life of ours. Coming back to God – to the integrity of allegiance – means we are granted order to our days and peace for our nights.
© 2013 S. J. Wickham.