Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Father’s Heart for His Children to Get Along

“How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.”
— Psalm 133 (Msg)
Oh what joy to the Heavenly Father it is when all his people – of all different ages, cultures and creeds – come together simply in the name of Jesus.
The Father wishes us to celebrate our diversity within our unity; it’s not about uniformity, but tolerant, open-hearted unity. When we can do that – when we can be passionately awake to what God is doing in the world – when we know that God desires to impact the world through us – we see that diversity is one the most beautiful things we will ever accomplish in his name.
When brothers and sisters – though they disagree – can get along, God commands a blessing. There is an outpouring of God’s favour!
When we can ask, “How might our town, city or suburb bring glory to God in 20 or 30 years time?” we are asking a Kingdom question. Are we building a resting place for the Lord to inhabit? (Isaiah 66:1-2) Such a place is where his children are gathered unto Jesus so they may hear from his Spirit.
Too often, however, the church is hindered, demoralised and, ultimately, it’s demobilised from its mission; to impact its local town, city or suburb; to play a role in building the community for sustainability, bearing much fruit. This is Jesus’ ‘John 17’ church.
Tom Shelton said, “Only a healed, unified church is able to heal a broken, divided community.” Such is the mandate God has given us – our mission. Are we a healed church? Are we, as pastors, leaders, congregants, as healthy as we can be for the building of God’s Kingdom? If we are, we will build the Kingdom not in vain.
Building networks where pastors and church leaders from all denominations, cultures and backgrounds will serve Christ’s mission is a mandate. We can go further and bless our community by becoming actively collaborative. We are charged to be Jesus to those yet-to-believe. We do this best when we get along as the wider, broader church.
It’s not about the strength of the darkness; it’s about the quality of the light.
The Father wants to be near and with his children, but the Father cannot abide in petty squabbling. The only competition is the devil himself. None of our churches and none of us pastors are in a competition against other Christians or Christian organisations. We need to be clear on this; we need to speak this; and, we also need to call these dynamics into the lives of Christian leaders everywhere.
The Father’s heart,
For his children to get along,
Is something urgent to start,
So we may simply sing his song.
Division and disunity,
These concepts disrupt,
The concept of community,
And forever they’ll corrupt.
But if we can resolve our resentment,
And acknowledge the devil’s heist,
All will find contentment,
Because all will serve our Christ!
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement to Pastor Tom White, who preached the message “You are God’s Royal Priesthood – Yes You!” at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Perth, Western Australia, on 31 August 2014.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

All Girls Are the King’s Princesses

“Praise is declaration, a victory cry, proclaiming faith to stand firm in the place God has given you. Praise is a proclamation that the enemy’s intent to plunder you will not rock you. Praise declares that you will not be moved by the enemy’s attempt to snatch you away.”
― Darlene Zschech
Recently I went to a very special graduation ceremony where two young women celebrated the rites of passage, from a discipleship program through recovery into a world emergent with possibilities. From an experience of darkness, these young women, through the Esther Foundation, have been groomed for leadership – through practicing leadership.
I’ve had the privilege of journeying with a family of one of the graduands. The whole family have been through such a courageous milieu. Each has been tested significantly, as life finds a time to test us all. Admiration is the only thing to be afforded those who inspire us, and inspire us these families do.
The reason the Esther Foundation program seems to work is the principle of the Kingship of Christ as it intersects with the fact that all girls – in God’s economy of things – are princesses. But not just any old princesses are our daughters and sisters; they are princesses of the King!
This is no feel-good sentiment; it is a fact throbbing irrepressibly with God’s good grace.
Each girl, each young woman, each mature woman, and each elderly woman; all these are princesses of incredibly unfathomable worth to the Lord.
It is a fact that each boy, each young man, each mature man, and each elderly man are just as cherished to God.
Whenever we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, healing is never too far away.
When we grasp just what is at stake in life – the taking of lives by the enemy against the giving of lives by the Son – we realise we have a fresh opportunity.
Praise will change the emphasis in this divine struggle. Joy will repel the enemy’s darts. Hope will replace doubting moments that separate us from our confidence and send us into glimpses of despair. Love is experienced and it speaks volumes to us; once, and now forever.
Jesus reminds us that when we are his, we are safe, we are loved and, indeed, loveable. And we are his whenever we accept this free gift – salvation.
Whenever we begin to see ourselves as God sees us, healing is never too far away.
God has ordained from the beginning – an eternal truth – so far as girls are concerned – every single one is a princess of the King. For a young woman to live this truth is power to experience joy, to live content, to magnify praise for her King, and to take life courageously as it comes.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Right Head, Right Hands, Right Heart

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
— Mark 12:30 (GNT)
The Greatest Commandment, as it is translated above, is the imperative that is to encapsulate all facets of the Christian life. The task of Christian discipleship, which is more a quest of ongoing sanctification, requires a right head (right thinking), right hands (right practice), and a right heart (the right motive).
Jesus exemplifies each of these in the case of a woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8. The ruling Jews are testing Jesus, and the Lord must determine, through the basis of Old Testament Scripture, what sort of penalty this woman deserves. The Old Testament law allows for stoning, but Jesus senses some dual iniquity in this case.
Are the religious leaders so blameless, themselves?
At this point Jesus cuts to the heart of the issues of humanity. Within his mind he is cognitively aware of the disparity between the Jews’ self-righteousness and the holiness of God. His heart sensed this, and his mind confirmed it. And his hands, with which he would practice the penalty (by throwing stones at her until she was a bloody pulp on the ground, lifeless and even dead) told him that, in this case, it was an unjust penalty.
Jesus doesn’t completely absolve her, however.
His wisdom dictates that she should, “Go, and sin no more,” so as not only to stop offending God, but, perhaps more importantly, to stay out of the Jews’ harshly punitive way.
In modelling the right head, the right hands, and the right heart, Jesus is modelling right relationship. He has brought together orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.
Orthodoxy is rational, orthopraxy is relevant, and orthopathy is relational.
As Christians we need to be informed in our minds, having surrendered our thoughts to be ordered by the Lord. Our lives, having been transformed by the renewing in our minds, mean that our hands are ready to do whatever is relevant. And our thinking and practice are governed and affirmed by a heart that seeks only after the Lord.
To love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength requires a right head (to think right), right hands (to do what is right), and a right heart (and to be rightly motivated). This is our sole task. Living the Christian life is no harder or easier than this.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: this thought was inspired by Dr. Brian Harris, Principal of Vose Seminary, Perth, Western Australia.