Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Psalm 113 – Trusting God’s Eventual Justice

“From the rising of the sun to its setting
the name of the Lord is to be praised.”
— Psalm 113:3 (NRSV)
Many do marvel at the works of God and by the power and majesty of the Lord’s being.  Indeed, it’s always very cool to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ engaged in praise.  The fact that love hunts best in packs of praise is a sweet revelation.
This first Hallel (praise) psalm of six (Psalms 113-118) starts and ends with the joyous heave, Hallelujah, or Hallel-u-jah... “Praise the Lord!”  The psalm is hence emphatic and ecstatic; full with praise.  But, just why?
Call to Praise – The Servants of the Lord
Verse 1 calls those of the Lord to praise the Covenant Name.  Whenever there is cognition of God’s covenant name it’s to be praised — for it is worthy.  And suitable cause is given in the remaining verses, particularly verses 7-9.
Caveats of Praise (Verses 2-4)
These verses give the servants of God constructs for belief — the Lord’s to be praised, and his name blessed, from this time, forevermore (verse 2).  That is setting God’s praise in the realm of the eternal.
Next in verse 3, the Covenant Name (“Lord”) is to be praised from sunrise to sunset, which is alluding to every waking hour.  Imagine that.  There is no moment of consciousness that God’s name is not to be praised.
Verse 4 calls to the fact that God is omnipresent and above all creation, “above” even the heavens.  This calls to the mystery of a God that cannot quite be located, even though the Divine Being is everywhere simultaneously.
Who Is Like You Lord? (Verses 5-6)
These verses harness and symbolise the crux of the worshipful message.  There is solemn awe expressed by the psalmist as they cannot get their head around the voluminousness of God; both high and low is the Lord, all at the same time.
This fact gives the confidence of hope in spiritual warfare with the enemy.  God is superior over thrones, powers, principalities, dominions and the evil-like.  These verses hold up the truth of God’s concurrent transcendence and immanence.
Reasons for Praise – The Raising of the Lowly (Verse 7-9)
Evidence always underlines truth.  The Lord is the avenger of the lowly in verse 7 and they’re brought to levels of princely being in verse 8.  God, alone, is the one making the barren woman conceive and bring her babies to term (verse 9).  In each of these cases there is great vulnerability, but trust in God delivers on cause.
This psalm is perhaps represented very well in the New Testament by James 1:9-11 and Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), for instance:
“[The Lord] has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly...”
— Luke 1:52 (NRSV)
God is great to be praised, for the Lord alone is the great equaliser.  This is a burgeoning hope for every last one over the earth. Do you perceive it; the justice of God? Justice comes pelting down over a parched land eventually.
© 2011, 2014 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: W. Graham Scroggie, A Guide to the Psalms: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Psalms (Vol. 3) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, 1995), pp. 103-109.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Heart and Soul for Prayer

“Prayer is not asking. It is a longing of the soul. It is daily admission of one’s weakness. It is better in prayer to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
― Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi (1869–1948)
What would you have me say
To you, O Lord, in prayer?
What would satisfy you?
How much should I dare?
You answered me quietly:
“This is how to start:
Give yourself truly over to me;
Just give me your whole heart.”
A heart and soul for prayer is a heart and soul right for approaching God; for getting in nice and close – to give and receive authenticity, and, by manner, to communicate authentically – such that the truth just echoes from within, outward into the realm of God, so that God’s healing Presence resounds from without the vessel bellowing their prayer and inward into them. Impact!
Such is prayer.
It is not scientific, but it is very much a felt experience. Who can say they’ve been heard or answered by God other than the person who has prayed their prayer? Nobody!
What is True is Right – God Wants Us Accepting Who We Are Before Him
The admission of our weakness before God is not about our noses being rubbed in it. We have dark hearts if not for God and we need to know that. The darkness in our hearts is visible, by clear example, in the covering of our weakness, because we are all quick to highlight our strength.
As is life, we are a mix of good and bad, happiness and sadness, strength and weakness. We have no problem admitting the good, the happiness, and the strength. Why would we cover our badness, our sadness, or our weakness before the One who knows all? Particularly, why would we conceal such a thing that is necessary for our healing on the part of God?
Giving God Our Hearts – To the God Who Requires Not the Words
Being raw and real around God is about being true to ourselves – without denying our junk, nor making an excessive case for it. Is it the words God needs to hear? No, of course not, but think for a moment who needs to hear the words.
Vocalised prayer is blessing for the praying person in that they create their own meaning as they decide the words, inspired, as they are, by the Holy Spirit.
But God, per se, does not need the words – he wants our hearts.
Whole-of-heart we pray best, and the words follow. It’s what we feel in our prayer that gives us the connection with God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Understanding and Applying the Gospel Power Paradox

My experience of life is this:
Every time I surrender before my Lord,
Power is added so I may be outpoured.
A surrendered life is a life enthused
A surrendered life is one God has used.
As a believer I want my life to stand
As a life that has stood to give others a hand.
The only ‘me’ God uses is the ‘me’ he can trust
A ‘me’ that has cremated my pride: ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Now let’s talk in terms of God’s ability to overpower
To know how God, mysteriously, then makes my life to empower.
It’s because I’m not ashamed to depend on him so,
And it’s because I’m determined to do everything to grow.
A colossal paradox of truth that I experience almost every day: to be overpowered by God is to be empowered by God. One precedes the other. What is absurd to the unbelieving world is nonetheless true as a blessed experience. I thank God for it.
Many think, “Oh, what a fool for depending on God; for not thinking as you could independently; for being a weak person, needy of God.” But I need God so I need nothing else. Those who might despise my faith may have something they need too – something far less beneficial than God. And perhaps there are several things they need; that they are dependent on.
So, dependence is relative. Nobody can say they are completely independent, as nobody can say they are devoid of worship. We are all in awe of something – or several or many things, perhaps.
The gospel power paradox is so dichotomous that we simply have to melt at God’s command to experience the power poured out over, in and through us in Jesus’ name. This is no power like the world would consider it. It’s a power for peace, for grace, for compassion, for patience, kindness, and many manner of fruit of the Spirit.
The gospel power paradox means that, where we surrender alone to God, we are given power and dominion over God’s creation – we get rule over how we deal with our circumstances, for instance.
To be overpowered by God might seem like an unwanted invasion, but not for the believer. God seeks us to be dependent on him, alone, so he can then pour his power into us, by his Holy Spirit. God will only give us this power if we are first found trustworthy for it through surrender and motivated to do his will.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.             

Friday, January 24, 2014

Why We Fear Depending On God Alone

“Self-dependence... far from being a valuable attribute, is a complete delusion.”
— Dr. Matthew Jacoby, Deeper Places.
“You cannot have it both ways”
My mother often told me.
It’s what the journey of life says
If only we might see.
For, life is a paradox
Of means in this way:
God we try to outfox
But that life doesn’t pay!
It seems such a horrible idea
To depend alone on the Divine
To make the Divine just that dear
We think will personally malign.
But freedom is found
In a dependence of footing
Both sound and profound
Which we can see if we’re into looking.

We cannot have it both ways. We cannot live independently of God and of need of others and realise the strength that comes from acknowledging our innate dependence. We are dependent on God for life. He who created us, and brought us into this reality, and can take us away from it at any time he chooses, ought to be recognised: we are indebted to God, especially if we like the idea of our lives.
Self-dependence is a subterfuge of insidiously colossal proportions that is not only reinforced by our selfish world, it is inculcated in our flesh. The sinner, who knows he or she is a sinner, knows how hard it is to live the God-dependent life (because of the world and their flesh), but, just the same, they are fully committed to that venture, trusting in the grace of God to cover the shortfall between their godly intent and their actual performance as sinners.
To the person who insists on having their own lives just as they would have them – spurning God’s will – will have God say back to them, “Okay, suit yourself.” The person who refuses to be dependent on God will not be a happy person. Though they steer their own ship, they have no answer regarding the myriad circumstances that work against them.
On the other end of the spectrum is the person who has agreed that they are under a certain authority: for simplicity purposes, God. He or she who lives this way is able to be happy despite any circumstance, because they believe God is good, and though they don’t understand everything, they have faith that God cannot betray them.
Because they are under God, and they understand all of life is under God, they see life in general terms as a just enterprise – all things in balance. They don’t need to understand everything, because they accept there are many mysteries they will never know. They don’t need to know everything. They attempt to keep life simple. Most of all, they do not fear depending on God, and indeed find that depending on God is the way to weigh all matters of dependence, independence, and interdependence – for life is all about these matters, dependence, independence, and interdependence.
Why do we need to depend on God? It’s because he who created us and the entire universe, knows us, knows our lack, and knows what we need. Why fight a fight we cannot win? But if we are friends with God, and we discern and do his will, God will fight for us, so we can accept many things that are beyond us.
Life is far more palatable and meaningful when we frame it within dependence on God. We are nothing without God.
We fear depending on anyone. Yet, God is not just anyone. What seems like a great weakness – to need God – is actually one of the greatest of strengths: the strength of humility. It takes great faith to trust in God alone. It is no weakness to depend on God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

From the Temple, Toward the Cross

A big move for me
A big move for all
Is finally to see
The truth standing tall.
Beyond obeying rules
To relate with God direct
No longer were we fools
Who saw ourselves as the elect.
As we left the Temple
Christ now enthroned as King
We looked unto the cross
And were enthralled suddenly to sing!
The gift of salvation felt
Keenly within the heart
Christ’s Spirit had at last dealt
With what had always set us apart. (Sin)
The cross stands high for Love
The Savior’s life given for each one
Redeemed are we from above
To the Father eternally we’re won!
The delicious properties of knowledge, to know beyond doubt the wonderful reality that Christ gave his life so that I might have life, and life almost beyond understanding as far as the world is concerned, is so salubrious as to be incredible.
The simplicity of the gospel is its power.
Such a truth as Christ hanging on the cross, betrayed and sacrificed by me and you – yes, as a harsh matter of fact – and that he knew beforehand what was required of him – having designed his fate in perfect community with the Father and the Holy Spirit, before creation, is astounding. Maybe we cannot fully understand such an idea of God ‘killing himself’.
Christ knew from the beginning, as did the Father, and the Holy Spirit that now dwells within us, that we would need rescuing from our legalism. As a people we could only know God as a cruel judge and an instigator of rules. The human construction of God is so inherently dilapidated God knew that we would need a Saviour – to be rescued from our own foolish constraints of misunderstanding, thinking of God as a rigid taskmaster.
The only idea of God that has any weight of wisdom – a rationale for God that works unto truth eternally – is one that honours and mirrors the relational basis of life. God simply has to be a relational being, being that we are, as people, relational beings. Knowing we will never be perfect means that grace is necessary in order that we are able to live righteous-in-Christ, knowing that we would otherwise be far from God.
A God of grace – relational and understanding – forgiving and redeeming – healing and restoring – is the only workable idea for God. To entertain this idea, and to accept it, our thinking needs to move away from the Temple and toward the cross. As Christ was raised, so it is also possible for us. Let us praise God for that.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It’s True, God’s In Love With You

People with anorexia nervosa, just for one instance, may struggle to recognise the observable truth as everyone else might observe it, with regard to their outward appearance. It is a tragic irony, that, whilst they feel fat, they atrophy more and more to the point where it is an alarming risk to their health. The psychological premise to this condition has already threatened and compromised their well-being.
But we may all have conditions about ourselves where we fail to recognise golden truths that are important, particularly, in this case, in regard to our relationship with God – and what God thinks of us.
Everyone is in relationship with God, whether they believe in God or not, because life necessitates every single person, and life – the creative, dynamic life – is God.
We have the opportunity, as we sit or stand or lie down, to comprehend this truth: in God’s eyes you are beautiful.
God conceived you in his mind well before you were conceived in your mother’s womb; well before your mother and father, united by the exchange of their genetic material, surrendered themselves for the other. You were conceived in love, notwithstanding the circumstances of your conception. God was there overseeing every detail, notwithstanding the situation your mother and father were, individually, in.
God ensured it was you who was conceived, and by natural or even artificial conception, you won a race of one in 1,000,000 to claim the prize of life as your own. Nine months before you breathed your first breath you won your first race – your biggest triumph – and God was there cheering you on, having designed in his perfect plan that you would be the winner! It was the first time that God’s plan and your faithfulness to follow God’s plan came together. And you weren’t even required to ‘be’ there. God was already showing you favour.
Knowing how beautiful you are to the Lord your God requires a response.
You must do all you can to fall in love with the person God is in love with – you. This is no personal obligation, but an obligation we have to take God at his Word. Understood this way it’s easier to do God’s will – it’s for your own benefit. Who would stand against themselves?
Obeying God is, first of all, about believing his truth: he who created you, and who thinks you’re beautiful and perfect, wants you to agree. When you have agreed, and you can love and accept yourself as he made you, then you may be used more and more for his glory.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Becoming a ‘Nobody’ for Jesus

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus... [who] emptied himself... [and] humbled himself.”
— Philippians 2:5-8 (NRSV)
An article with such a title is unlikely to be read much. Nobody these days wants to be a nobody for nobody, but some might choose to be a nobody for Someone: a Someone named Jesus.
The golden paradox involved in becoming a nobody is that, once we arrive there, we suddenly realise this was always the way we were supposed to live, because there is an absence of the selfish desire, which means there is an absence of discontent. In other words, contentment belongs to the person who is so immersed in God and all his creation, they are able to see beyond themselves and, for example, they are not trapped as a weakling in their First World problems. First world problems don’t exist in parts of the world where basic needs are not taken for granted.
The genuine nobody doesn’t have a complaint in the world for themselves, and of course we all fall short.
It is an interesting test to determine what complaints are valid, for we may find that First World problems dominate our complaints. When we begin to complain about the poverty in the world and about the lack of fresh water for a remote South African village then we may have a legitimate complaint. Sure, there are plenty of injustices we can complain about, many of which are valid, but we are always to benefit in checking whether or not our complaints find their basis out of self-regard.
When we enquire of the character of Jesus we are liable to find that advocacy was a key identifier; but Jesus was rarely ever an advocate for himself alone. The possible exception is when he approached his death, when fleetingly his prayer was for the Father to relieve him of the burden of a cross.
What I think God is urging us to find is the reality of emptying ourselves and of humbling ourselves; that in living simply, and beyond First World problems and complaints, we will find true contentment, perhaps for the very first time. Of course, our motivation shouldn’t be one of self-regard, but God understands we will struggle to commit to becoming a nobody for Jesus. We are fortunate that he has blessed us with the fruit of contentment when we live like him.
Not many people will embrace becoming a nobody, but Jesus desires those who will live like he did. He who emptied himself of his mighty power and glory, and humbled himself to the point of death on a cross, wants us to empty ourselves of our ego and humble ourselves to the point of bearing our crosses.
Becoming a ‘nobody’ for Jesus is agreeing to become a ‘somebody’ for the Kingdom.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

To LIVE In the HOUSE of the LORD

One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.
For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble;
he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;
he will set me high on a rock.”
— Psalm 27:4-5 (NRSV)
LONELINESS is a thing we have all known, yet in loneliness there is the absence of thought about what is otherworldly. In other words, when we lose the fullness of sight for God we are bound to be miserable. Putting these two previous sentences together, then, is about understanding the comprehensive dichotomy between heaven and earth – one is home, the other is away.
We have every capacity for stillness and peace and joy and hope when we lose sight of the world, and all the things the world ‘offers’ that we yet don’t have, or that have been taken from us. We miss these things only when the world takes precedence in our minds and hearts. So we are bound to miss them. It makes our lives miserable to comprehend what we are missing out on.
But we ought to look at what we already have: the capacity, motivation, and wherewithal to inhabit the house of the Lord.
Anyone may transcend to hold the world has on them at any time. All we verily need to do is acknowledge that we are eternal beings, unique by design, known uniquely by God (confirmation of which is how intimately we may know ourselves – and only ourselves), and that we are far from home. This is why we are lonely. Yet we fill our lives with the things of the world, and we wonder why we have not been healed, and in fact may have become even lonelier.
We need to inhabit the house of the Lord. This place is an image in our minds, a sanctuary where the heart may rest, and a time where our souls might commune with the only source of real help.
To live in the house of the Lord is a privilege replete of every mercy known to humankind. We cannot know ourselves until we go there. Stripping off every worldly appendage we go into the house of the Lord by our temporal separation from all degrees of this world. When we go to be with God, the Lord reframes our views of life. But we must choose to go there, which is to go elsewhere from the stimulus of the world.
Establishing peace of mind and joy for life is about going to the Source of Life. The world, as we see it, can only disappoint us and betray happiness. When we set ourselves apart to God, however, we find we are blessed when we live in the house of the Lord – which is always a state of being.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Finding a Serendipitous Joy in Everything

Of course it is possible,
To find joy in everything,
But it must abide in truth,
Where the soul it can sing.
Wherever our souls find themselves validated in truth there is the capacity for joy, because joy is about the soul’s integrity with itself.
Even in grief there may be joy to know God is beyond it all – that God will reconcile justice in the overall scheme of things.
I like to differentiate real problems from first-world problems, whereby health issues are separated from inconveniences, etc. I complain, at least inwardly, about many things, some of which are first-world problems and some of which are real problems. But a case in point regarding joy in all circumstances is the idea of remaining upbeat even in the midst of a debilitating back injury. Whilst not the same as a terminal illness, having a disabling injury for several weeks is enough to tempt anyone to become depressed, but there is so much to see and still so much reason for joy.
There is blessing to see. There is the joy in others’ lives to see. There is the development of people growing with which to see. There is hope for a better future to see. There are remembrances of the past with which to see and be thankful for. There are the many things that we can see, that we can touch, those things we have access to, that make our lives just that little bit better. All these things we can see.
Finding a serendipitous joy in everything is finding that impossible thing for another to see. Possibly sight in this way is entirely due to faith, because it cannot be seen or experienced by another. It is special, even meaningful, to us, alone.
It isn’t fabricated – this joy – because it is most truly experienced. And when we might otherwise be sad or depressed or angry or bored or lonely, joy is such a superior and preferred state of being. Who can argue with this state of truth-inspired joy (truth-inspired because we can live according to reality, absorbing the threats to our persona and our perceptions) when it is such a blessing to all comers to be around or to be influenced by that purveyor of joy?
The gospel reality is truly lived when we are able to find the joy in the sorrow and the sorrow in the joy, much like there is joy at a funeral and sorrow at a wedding. These are not universal truths, because they are truths of perception. They may be realised as personally-held truth. But they are real within. Such joys are accessible because the soul is in congruence with itself.
Wherever our souls find themselves validated in truth there is the capacity for joy, because joy is about the soul’s integrity with itself. We cannot experience joy if there is dissonance within our soul. Joy is about soul-health; it’s beyond the roller coaster of circumstances.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How Faith and Works Are Inseparable

“Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever.”
— Martin Luther (1483–1546)
The above quote is such a salient clarification of how Faith and Works are eternally and mysteriously melded together. Neither can they be separated in the heavens nor should they be here on earth.
God always designed these two to run together in loving unison.
These two, as they come together, faith by its evidenced works that may always be observed, are such an ideal reflection point for the believer as they consider the penetration of the Spirit into their hearts. For, there are times when we might implicitly do things as we are led by the Spirit, without thought, just as Luther describes above. But there are also times when we don’t feel like it, and we may shrink within ourselves, and live again as unbelievers do. We are always on this faith–unbelief continuum. What is our saving grace in the latter situation, when we do not do these good works inspired of faith, is the fact of repentance. We come back to God, admit our error, which is a heart-born tragedy of morality, and we are restored in the moment.
When Faith and Works Are Married by Love
As a man and a woman come before God and are joined in marriage, so do faith and works, as they become the same thing, which we may call love. Love sees to it that opportunities to bless people relationally are pounced upon. Love doesn’t miss much. And where love does miss, love apologises; it makes restitution and seeks reconciliation, never giving up.
Works done out of the motive of love, where there are no strings attached, and the work is done without condition, are evidence of faith, where faith is always motivated by love.
But those who are not won to love never truly get faith until their pride is crushed sufficiently that they are fervently won to God. These are those ones who do their works for favour. And we might all fit, at least occasionally, into this category of unbeliever, though our salvation – once it’s received – is never truly at jeopardy.
We cannot be blessed by God in the spiritual realm, as we exist, as we experience blessing, without throwing ourselves away. As soon as we do throw ourselves away, God gives our true selves to us. By our faith we experience love. But in our unbelief we cannot see love let alone receive it.
Faith means Works, together by love,
And everything of love is from above.
When we see love there are these two parts:
Faith evident in Works and both are about hearts.
Faith and Works are joined in marriage, and when these two become one it’s called love. Love gives without thought, without strings attached, and it desires to receive nothing in return. Love gives because it can. Such is faith. Faith, like love, gives itself away. Works are merely evidence of a love-borne faith.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.