Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Experience of God’s Power in Weakness

Whenever we are being true to ourselves, and the moment we find ourselves in, we will find God gives us the grace to do and say what we ordinarily would or could not. But as soon as we get pretentious, self-conscious, or self-absorbed God’s power evaporates and we stumble everywhere.
God’s power is shaped through the soul’s centrality of dependence, around the circumference of unabridged humility, and by the fullness of his favour.
It may take quite a level of self-control to surrender our ego in the moment, and as far as character status is concerned, we need to be patient within ourselves to grow.
Character growth into the quintessence of integrity is a prerequisite for routinely accessing this mysterious power of God, known as grace, because it requires us to choose for our weakness; to be vulnerable; to open ourselves up courageously, having subjugated our pride.
Who in the world would willingly give up their strength to claim their weakness?
It is the Christian’s role and goal.
The Effortless Work of the Spirit
This is what Jesus requires; when we are emptied of ourselves and our pitiable pride we are most pliable to the Spirit’s leading. We are less likely to interrupt the serene surge of the Spirit. The work of the Spirit is effortless, but all our work is contrived in labour.
When we pour ourselves out for the Lord, notwithstanding common difficulties, there is this inexplicable grace that somehow gets us through.
Just the same there are those conversations where we, in the midst of them, are praying for the Divine leading, yet we miss it because we are looking and trying too hard. Then we remind ourselves to just relax, and quietly the Spirit of God enters to help us by giving us poise.
The work of the Spirit is effortless, and the more our words make sense, and our deeds make a difference, the more we are led by the Spirit.
When a preacher prays for the leading of the Spirit before they preach a sermon, and they pray for empty words to disappear yet words full of anointing to take root, they are praying for God’s power to intercede through them that moment. What a godly prayer!
The work of God’s Spirit is powerful in and through us when we add no strength to it. Accessing God’s power is easier than we think, but we must empty ourselves of ourselves first. Then it is all ours for the moment. We must routinely go back into God to receive this awesome spiritual power.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Accountable to God to Love Others

As we investigate the commands of the Lord Jesus we are impelled toward two things: love God and love others. And it was this second command that Jesus laboured on during his final discourse to the disciples, as it is recorded for us in the Gospel of John, chapters 13–17 (John 13:34; 15:13; 15:17, etc).
Jesus’ command could be distilled to this: love one another, and in doing so, you love God.
We are all accountable to God to love others. It really does not matter how much or how little of love we receive. We will only be judged, in the Final Analysis, by what we, alone, did and did not do. It pays an eternal worth of reward to look critically at the self and not look critically so much at others.
Such an expanse of theology it is to love our fellow human beings.
Nothing will test us and our resolve of love for God more than remaining committed to loving other people, because God will always put in our way people who are difficult to love, because God is interested in our character growth. Character growth doesn’t occur in a seedbed of comfortable conditions. Character growth, at least in human beings, occurs through trial and difficulty, as we embrace God in and through it.
In just the same way God puts us in the path of those who find us difficult to love. We might think, “What is so wrong with them that they can’t see our good side?” Everybody else is thinking the same thing. We all see our good side. The challenge of life is to see others’ good sides.
How else are we and they to learn patience and compassion and kindness if we are never tempted to become angry, uncaring, or greedy? Of course we will fail. We will sound off at people and fail to love them. We will abandon our care of them and, in that, fail to love. We will be selfish and greedy. We will fail to love.
But as our concern is piqued and stimulated as we reflect on Jesus’ command – “love one another” – we will improve. Our character will gradually be honed. More and more we will be able to see that we are accountable to God to love others, and we will draw on this empowerment to do just that.
When we love others we feel God’s love for us, and ever more so when they are difficult to love.
We are accountable to God to love others. This, in sum, is the meaning of life. To grasp this wisdom, applying it to our lives, is the secret to life.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why the Devil Wants You to Stop Praying

The Devil in his cunning,
Wants you to delay,
To stop you from your praying,
From praying every day.
He will use all sorts,
Of distractions and temptations,
In order to discourage you,
From receiving Godly revelations.
So God says eternally,
From His living Word,
“Pray continuously” in humility,
And you’ll be as free as a bird.
Not that prayer,
At all, is a license for your will,
But as you pray,
You will almost certainly,
Get the Holy Spirit’s fill.
Praying is a direct act of obedience. Perhaps prayer is the supreme act of obedience. Because prayer essentially means we are surrendering our will to know and to do God’s will, prayer is about as close as we can get to an act of faith.
Of course, there are many temptations and distractions that the Devil has designed to get in our way, and to perturb us from the goal of connecting with the Divine.
The enemy of souls would be happy if we did anything but be completely committed to God. Satan will allow us to say we believe, yet we meet real resistance at times when we endeavour to put into practice what we believe.
The greatest example of our belief is prayer, for the simple reason that prayer requires most faith. This is because prayer often feels like we are doing nothing. Oftentimes we have no idea whether our prayers have made any difference. Yet, all that is expected of us is that we ply our faith, and never more so than via prayer.
If we will continue to pray even when we may occasionally doubt the effectiveness of prayer, God must be pleased that we continue to pray, however feebly, because the more doubt we experience the more faith it takes to overcome those doubts.
It’s no secret that the Devil wants us to stop praying; to stop obeying God. But our greatest demonstration of faith is to keep praying, especially when we doubt our prayer’s effectiveness.
If we keep presenting faithfully before the Lord there will be some vindication for our prayers. God is working as we present faithfully because of our prayers.
Our faith connects us with God, and his righteousness becomes ours because we are justified by our faith alone.
We please God all the more when we pray through doubting seasons, during the times we feel God has let us down, and even when we are about to give up.
Faith is exemplified when praying when doubting, and the more those doubts are many the stronger the faith to keep praying.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Those Opportunities Just Begging Our Attention

paradoxes are hardly surprising; once we begin seeing them there are ever more to see. One such enigmatic paradox is the presence of sin as the invitation toward a God-sanctifying holiness, in the moment; such a momentary holiness is all we can hope for.
Picture these transformations below:
Signs of jealous envy are the opportunities for gratitude.
Gratitude for what we already have amends the need to covet something we don’t have. Jealous envy is a lack, whereas gratitude is the mark of wholeness.
Signs of resentment are the opportunities to forgive.
At the earliest sign of resentment is God’s suggestion for what we should do; there is only one thing for it: humble ourselves and, by our will matched with God’s, forgive.
Signs of anger are the opportunities to be honest.
Enshrouded in fear, anger refuses (albeit proudly) to be honest. Anger is therefore an opportunity. The moment we are honest and we are humbled is the moment anger is overcome.
Signs of resistance are the opportunities to adjust.
We all take time to adjust to change, and the natural response is resistance. But at the first sign of resistance we see, also, the opportunity to make the adjustment.
Signs of brashness are the opportunities to care more.
Sometimes we are burned out from caring; we have no energy to care any longer. But brashness is a sign of the opportunity to simply care more. And we can.
Signs of pride are the opportunities to nurture integrity.
When we put ourselves in the place of God, yet we act sinfully, pride is on the doorstep, and hence the opportunity is to match our thoughts and words with our deeds, which is integrity.
Signs of a lusting heart are the opportunities to cherish chastity.
The lust of the eye and the lust of the heart will be the death of us if we don’t see them as an opportunity to repent by cherishing the holy chastity of God in our mortal beings.
Signs of frustration are the opportunities for patience.
Patience runs thin when we are quickly frustrated, but frustration is the opportunity for patience. We can grow greatly in patience in bouts of great frustration. Many people do.
Signs of worry are the opportunities to pray.
As anxiousness bears itself over our consciousness, our next thought should be to pray. Worrying concern has only one godly response: to pray.
Signs of judging others or self are the opportunities of grace.
When we judge others or ourselves there is a lack deep within us and what we desperately need is grace.
Whenever we do wrong in life that is the opportunity to repent; envy can become gratitude; resentment can become forgiveness; anger can become honesty; pride can become integrity; lust can become chastity; frustration can become patience; and, judgment can become grace.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

When Sharing is Caring for Yourself

Sometimes we have asked, “Lord, what is my purpose for living?” or “What have I to look forward to?” Dark thoughts crossed our minds; of ending it all. The truth is there are infinite possibilities. Sometimes we need to be assisted to visualise new perspectives. There are many who have experienced rock bottom, who found a way to climb back to life; many who were helped; who would help us by listening and walking with us. God places these people in our path. Trust them. They don’t judge or have a view that must be asserted; they journey with us. And through them, God gives us hope for a good future, where life will have purpose and meaning.
The Truth We Hardly Know About Until We Discover It
We never realise how common to life the struggle of life is, until we recognise, having gone through a tumultuous struggle, that we had to reach out and seek the support of others, moving from beyond the isolated existence that defined us.
When we have been pushed too far in life, and God has our attention, because we can do life no longer in our own strength, then we recognise the blessing in the rock bottom experience.
And life can begin as if it had never begun before.
Having exhausted the old life, and having burned it at both ends so nothing was left over, having reached oblivion, new life can now commence.
We generally found this new life through the generous encouragement of another who had travelled a similar path before us. They knew what we were experiencing. There was no convincing them. They somehow knew what we needed.
A listening ear is just that. It adds no value apart from inducing the silent realm of the Spirit as it intercedes in prayer, holding the space, containing this person – and the entire moment – before them. There is no judgment. Just the opposite. There is no condemnation. Just the opposite. There is no advice. Just the opposite. But there may be some wondering together. Implicit safety. Implicit trust. It’s the climate for God’s healing Presence.
This listening ear is nothing about the ear itself; it’s all about the person speaking, and in this way the person speaking can experience something of God’s healing in the type of moment perhaps never previously experienced.
God’s healing Presence occurs serenely in this space between the listener and the person ailing. Space is the imperative. Space is what transcends humanity, inviting the Presence of God to intercede uninhibited.
Humanity can add nothing to God, but humanity is needed for the empathy God uses between two.
We have to strip ourselves of any human desire or ego in this healing moment. We must enter into words that could hardly be uttered; shameful words, guilty words, stuttering and stammering words, and words that make no sense at all.
Such moments within this healing space surpass human experience. These moments we know God is real, because there is more to the moment than we can possibly comprehend or even appreciate.
Healing begins with the courage to be honest with someone who’s experienced God’s healing.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

3 Epochs of Christian Discipleship In Your Life

It’s been said that our years under thirty are the era of intensity (of learning), that from ages 30-50 we are in the era of engagement (of contribution), and by the time we arrive in at age fifty we are in the era of humanity (of legacy). Each era through the lifespan is of inherent value. Let us not despise the young or disdain the old. Each is trying the very best that they can to do what they feel is the work of their current purpose.
That said, let’s investigate the inherent value of each era as a uniquely valuable epoch of personal discovery, fulfilment, and legacy.
Robert Bly, in his classic, Iron John: A Book About Men (1990), stated that every man needs to go through the phases of red intensity and white engagement before he ultimately graduates into black humanity, which is the swallowing of his shadow; those bad parts of himself, through some sort of fruit of the Spirit, which is wisdom, self-restraint, the patience proffered of longsuffering, etc.
I think this stands for us all – male and female; nobody who seeks to become their best version of themselves – that disciple of Christ they were born to become – can esteem life to the level of abundance unless he or she has endured that red intensity of learning and humiliation, and that classic whiteness of engagement. Too many it seems skip the red and go straight to white – kids who grew up free from struggle. Too many never move on from red and remain children, even in adult bodies. And, further again, too many do their red time and move into the white, but remain there as in deer stunned silly by the headlights of life bearing down.
Undergo All Epochs
We must travel the full experience of each epoch – red first, white second, black third and last, remaining black for the rest of our natural lives.
Any age we are we should appreciate those in the red epoch. Life will be messy, there will be the learning and the failing to grasp responsibility, and there is trouble in this period. The white epoch is classically the clean mature person, but still with junk inside. This person appears polished, but the person themselves knows the truth. They need the rugged abandon of the black that doesn’t care about the reputation – in some ways a return to red, but with an important condition: truth is no longer feared.
The person fully involved in the black epoch is the true disciple of Christ with their years of maturity in tow – presumably they are at least 35, but usually they are much older than that. They have no need to protect themselves. They fear nobody, only the Lord.
We begin life by learning; we contribute, and then leave a legacy. These are important epochs. We become the best of ourselves when we willingly engage in all these epochs.
We are trusted for the truth we live.
We are respected for the integrity we have.
We are liked for qualities of fullness in our personalities.
We’re considered mature when we are no threat and cannot be threatened.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Faith When Grief is An Ocean of No Hope

Grief is an ocean,
Violent waves crash uncontrollably,
Our vessel rolls and tosses,
Land, but a distant memory,
Seasickness and despairing.
With no sign of land,
And fading hope on the furious whitecaps,
Choice comes down to two,
To give up and wait to drown,
Or hold on in faith,
Because there is no hope.
When we come to the end of our tether, and there is no way of dodging it any longer, when denials and escapades make no difference except make things worse, then grief has become that ocean that knows no land.
Because there is no hope are very pertinent words.
Faith is utterly paradoxical in this way; the loudest trumpet blast of faith sounds when hope has disappeared from earshot. And faith only comes out when there is no hope. So, beyond despair faith goes, and upon the ocean of grief faith floats enduring every pain even as it gets worse and worse by the second.
And what is learned on that livid swell is that pain can be endured – we just do it – we just keep stepping as if by muscle memory. And what is learned, also, is the faithfulness of God to give us strength we know nothing about – to take those steps, every single one to the very last. And having seen the effectiveness of such steps, without hope or feeling, but without cause to give up, because we have been sustained beyond even our own wildest schemes of endurance, we keep going.
To keep going is to float inexorably, to be tossed and thrown and waterlogged, with no hope, but to continue enduring, which is faith.
The best of faith subsists in surviving when there is no hope.
When there is no sign of land, and no expectation of rescue, and no anticipation of survival, we can only cling tight to faith.
Then we know faith, when all hope has vanished. When we cry out desperately and are still neither delivered nor are we destroyed, we see it’s faith that keeps our invisible hopes alive. But we must see the fact that we are not destroyed yet. We must see that, and not the fact we haven’t yet been delivered, as the true sign of hope.
When there is no sign of land, and no expectation of rescue, and no anticipation of survival, we can only cling tight to the vessel of faith as it pitches hopelessly in that forlorn swell.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.