Monday, March 31, 2014

Journeying to Spirituality’s Final Destination

Barriers we construct against our own accord,
That’s because they’re selfish, more than we can afford,
But when we approach this journey, finally we can see,
It’s surrender we need to do in order to be free.
“... our own selfish wants are nothing but a hindrance to a journey we are on but know nothing about.”
— Lee Warrington
DESTINATIONS of certainty are not implicit in this life; even if we think we know where the destination is chances are we won’t know how to get there, and worse, from where we are in order to navigate the way there.
When we arrive at a destination of pain we determine there is a journey to another, entirely different, destination that awaits. Our pride and self-conceit will quickly take us off that path, because we are abhorred at the losses already shed at the cross of our identities. Sometimes these losses – in the midst of pride and self-conceit become irrecoverable.
The Journey We’re On, But Know Nothing About
It’s true that we are all on journeys in this life, it’s just that some are easier to predict and, therefore, live than others are.
But there is a journey we are on but know nothing about. We are headed toward a destination where the Lord Jesus has finally prepared us for entry into the Presence of God. But there is a paradox. That preparation continues day by day every day of our lives, and continuously and consecutively, and even subliminally, whenever we get the chance.
Let us accept that we are on a journey – all of us are on it – where we can accept that we can’t know everything and we can’t experience everything, let alone experience the good thing. Suddenly we find ourselves holding on to the incredible mysteries of life.
And these incredible mysteries we are never too fussed about, apart from determining the will to do what the Spirit asks.
The final destination of the Christian journey is to meet God. Everything we do is a building block toward that end. This journey has gleaming touchstones, and we must attempt to show that God cares enough to give us the chance to commit our whole lives to him.
We should trust the path to the final destination. We honor God in it. But this is no selfish path. We do our best to appreciate that God has oversight of our lives.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Being the Bearer of Encouragement

Not many gifts are better than encouragement,
For building up another in order to cope,
Such a gift is the giving of loving nourishment,
And what more is given than reason for hope?
LIFE’S tough enough without enduring it without the encouragement we deserve; that which is born of the love of treating others as we, ourselves, would wish to be treated. Not many don’t need encouragement. Most people, when they are honest, about when they are down and out, will admit to being needy from time to time. There’s nothing wrong with admitting to the reality of neediness when it comes to being built up.
If we didn’t feel somewhat deconstructed by life we wouldn’t need to be built up. But it’s a fact that we do need, from time to time, to be built up, to be resurrected, to be restored.
We are deconstructed by life in very short shrift ways. It might only take seconds to reduce us down, whether it’s something someone says, feedback we receive, a result or report we get, or some other disappointment.
Given that any of us can feel totally disarmed and abjectly vulnerable in an exposing moment should be enough for us to understand how another person feels when they are disarmed, made vulnerable, and stand exposed. It should be enough for us to go to them and to offer some genuine comfort.
Encouragement is one of those gifts that are priceless in a moment of emotional need. Whether it’s a word of affirmation, a good deed of help done, a loving embrace, or anything else, is irrelevant. What is important is the perception of the person receiving their encouragement. Does it meet their mark?
If we know God we will love others as Jesus loves them. This is no easy standard to keep to, of course, and to think that some don’t take it seriously enough is enough reason to doubt whether God has really established anything in their hearts.
If we know God we will love. It’s as simple as that. If we know God nothing will hold us back from blessing others by encouragement, for love as a gift also reveals encouragement as a gift.
Encouragement is a gift that’s priceless in a moment of emotional need. Love empowers us to encourage and when we encourage we empower others. Encouragement may be all we might need to genuinely succeed.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Ode for a Capable Wife

PROVERBS 31:10-31. It appears that the writer of this section perceives it impossible for a woman to climb these heights of character, and yet she is nonetheless described.
We are best being careful how we apply these standards, especially in such a tenuous area as marriage and family. And, still, we’re to consider them.
What are the qualities of this woman – this wife of a noble man?
She is Trustworthy in verses 11-12. She is safety for him, a partner who can reliably be leaned upon, for she is sponsored by the Lord.
She is Diligent in verses 13-19, 21-22, 24 and 27. Oh how Wisdom owes a significant part of her very self to this one trait, diligence. It is only right that the writer of these proverbs considers diligence such an important characteristic for the wife of a noble man that there are at least twenty-three lines of text dedicated to it.
Willing hands are hers and the tyranny of physical distance adds no anguish to her. Rising early is a treat to such a woman – to get the joy of her day underway (for she is clothed with strength). She is one who is not only capable, but willing to work hard for her entire family, including the leadership of the servant-girls. From dawn to dusk, and then beyond, she is still working, and she is prudently purchasing both perishables and land. She is not only mentally and emotionally strong, physical strength is hers too. And above all – a learner – she’s skilled too. Again, we must be reminded; we are to aspire to such a lofty standard of energy and joy – and not be driven toward it in a way to criticise ourselves. We hold to the vision of it without letting its pressure crush us.
She is Kind and Generous in verse 20. Even if only one verse is dedicated to her kindness it is foundational in her service to all. She reaches out passionately and unreservedly. She also teaches kindness (verse 26).
She is Full of Faith in verses 21 and 25b. This woman doesn’t fear for her household. Her diligence has served her and now she can comfortably and confidently rest in her faith.
She is Her Children’s and Husband’s Delight in verses 28-29. What a leader of the family is this wife. Many might be apt at thinking the wife is not the leader; that the husband is. This view doesn’t take into consideration the vital leadership role of the wife and mother in every family – and the marital couple as co-leaders or leaders in partnership. For the Proverbs 31 woman, her most excellent deeds have “surpassed them all,” in the context of others, in the esteem of her family. They have eyes and admiration only for her. How might present-day wives respond to such single-minded and single-sighted familial devotion?
The ‘capable wife’ of Proverbs 31 inspires women to reach for the skies in nurturing virtue, whilst it compels husbands to praise God for their wives. But it is not intended to put unnecessary pressure on women. We aspire to nobility, but we don’t hold to it as an onerous standard over ourselves.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 28, 2014

She is a Woman, a Wife, a Butterfly

“She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.”
— Proverbs 31:10
PROVERBS tells us that a good wife is from the Lord. Proverbs is equally scathing about the wife who has not nurtured virtue within herself. It is clear, however, that a wife is destined to be good for life, her husband’s ally, a butterfly.
Butterflies are considered graceful by human comparison. They will land upon our hand if we are in a nursery full of them. They land daintily and flutter off just as serenely. They are gentle and sincere, and in their inner beings they are to be relied upon.
To a father his daughter is more precious than jewels. And her husband must understand this. Indeed, a woman’s husband must take over from the father and actualize his wife, meaning that his desire is to ensure she flourishes to her potential.
A father has pride in his daughter, because he is charged by God to ensure she is cared for. The father takes this responsibility most seriously; he will answer to God one day about it. But from within his inner being he cannot but love the woman who was once a little girl, and to him, whilst he respects her womanhood, she will always be his little girl – a most delicate and delightful creature.
The girl who has grown into becoming a woman has her father’s instinct; for men, for the risky situations of life, and for the protection afforded of a wise person’s discernment. She is no fool. To receive her respect, her man, or any man, needs to prove he is worthy. She may be a butterfly but she is no pushover.
Nothing we can desire transcends the grace of the butterfly. She is God’s gift to those in her life, and she has on offer many things which may only be admired.
When a girl becomes a woman and then becomes a wife, she then can become a matriarch. This was always her purpose. The matriarch is a butterfly; exemplifying humility and grace, and cutting through to the truth of matters. She is strength for herself and for others, too.
What is to become of a man in the presence of a butterfly? He can only benefit if he is wise. If he is discerning, life will go well for him as he holds her gently and respectfully in his hand.
A woman is like a butterfly, full of grace and gentle in every way. But she is no pushover and her strength is to be admired. A man needn’t hold her too tight in his hand, for she will need to go and come back of her own volition. Like the butterfly, a woman is to be respected and appreciated for who she is.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Accepting and Doing God’s Divine Will

“I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”
— Romans 7:15 (NRSV)
HOW do we respond when God doesn’t do what we ask? How does God respond when we don’t do as he asks? These are two of most perplexing questions. We are frustrated and overwhelmed when our requests fall on ‘deaf ears’, unless we are incredibly mature and incisive regarding spiritual growth, but we equally loath to bend toward God and give the Lord everything he wants either. Yes, the operative word is everything.
There seems to be a polar disconnect between us and God.
Our role as believers is to close that gap. Our opportunity is to be not so demanding of the Lord when we don’t receive what we expect. Likewise, we have the option of managing our expectations to be more realistic. Moreover, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble by praying to God for appropriate things; as we join our hearts to his divine purposes, putting the things of the Kingdom first, he gives us the desires of our hearts, because our hearts are fitted with the readiness to do what the Kingdom needs us to do.
When God asks us to do things by our discerning of his will we have the freedom to obey that calling or to disobey. But as his subjects, when we call him King, we are bound to a covenant of obedience, but alas we still have the sinful nature to contend with.
If we are prepared to accept the challenge and take up the cudgel, we can grow toward doing what God asks us to do, whilst not being swayed by God’s lack of response to the things we ask. The true life – the Christ-life – is saved by the action of sacrificing itself for the common good. It’s a sacrifice of love, not against oneself, but certainly in spite of one’s crawling or soaring ego.
Our challenge as we grow into Christ-likeness is to accept our situations of life and do God’s will to the best of our discerned ability. This will be a difficult objective to achieve, but it is far from impossible. One day at a time we can achieve a lot in doing God’s will and accepting our current situations for what they are.
How do we respond when God doesn’t do what we ask? How does God respond when we don’t do as he asks? These are two of most perplexing questions. What are we prepared to do to reconcile the truths revealed in the answers to these questions?
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Single Biggest Factor In Obedience

Eventually God will bring everything that we do out into the open and judge it according to its hidden intent, whether it’s good or evil.
― Ecclesiastes 12:14 (Msg)
BEING UNDER constant observation – as in direct supervision, or under surveillance through closed-circuit television – with the will to obey – is the way to achieve obedience. Just the knowledge that we are under observation – that every move we make is under scrutiny – is enough for us to conform to the standards set, so long as those standards are achievable. Even though this sounds like ‘big brother’ looking down on us and keeping us in check, we can liken this to the Lord’s experience of knowing our every thought, word and move.
This is a thing to possibly resent and applaud – we don’t like being ‘spied’ upon, but we also don’t like others getting away with bad things against us, those we love, or the vulnerable.
If we can get over the fact that everything we do occurs before God’s sight – that he, of all beings, knows how crooked we are – we can focus on the Great Justice to be done: we will be judged in our wrongs, but so will those who literally got away with murder (and other serious crimes).
It is good for us to imagine being under constant scrutiny. It means we are motivated to be beyond anyone’s reproach. It means our integrity can stand on its own. It means we have far less to be worried or guilty about. We can look ourselves in the mirror.
Challenging Our ‘Hidden Intent’
If we wish to sin, we will certainly find a way to do it. There will be planning and execution of the sin – intent. Often times, if it is people we transgress, those transgressions are predatory in nature; if we have intent to sin. And by intent to sin, we also include the sin of wantonly continuing in it – without the will to change. Many people have addictions they wish to overcome – their intent may be seen as pure. The hidden intent is more calculating.
Integrity is an interesting topic, because it is an investment that promises a rich reward by faith, but it’s not a certain reward, because we do our deeds by faith. That is said in ‘this life’ terms, but the real consequences of this life play out in the next life.
It bears serious consideration.
For every secret thing,
We will all be held to account,
Before God at his throne,
To its exact amount.
It’s a good thing then,
To nurture the intent to obey,
For in holding ourselves to account,
God’s wrath we may hold at bay.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Three Sure Paths to Joy

The three paths to joy,
Are all relational;
To know and be known.
Joy is extended,
By God above,
When our relational
Seeds are sown.
To know the self, to know others and to be known by them, and to know God – and these three by salient experience – is the production of joy. Joy is the product of being held in healthy relationship.
To know, that is, to experience, and to enjoy three types of relationships; that is joy. To experience God is to enjoy others and to be at peace with ourselves.
Relationships are all that matter,
With ourselves, others and the Lord,
Especially uppermost is the latter,
So we find love’s not a thing to hoard.
Love is a thing to give away because we feel loved. Our relationships with God and with ourselves may be synonymous with the other; one thing we need to get straight is how self-acceptance and grace co-mingle and combine, producing the same effect: peace to love others.
Now, with God we may know love – his all-encompassing grace that promises to neither leave us nor forsake us – and, in that, joy. Such an experience of God’s relational love is the sure path to joy. This is to know God by his Presence; his glory and majesty; to love and serve his dominion.
With others we have a thousand opportunities to sow love every day. Sure, we won’t be perfect, and, when we are finding that car parking space we may fall into a vanity of frustration from time to time. But then we can recover. Indeed, the Lord – as we relate with him in the moment – helps us to recover; our love enough to turn back to patience and, hence, joy.
With us is the third sure path to joy. We ensure we know ourselves sufficiently to cut ourselves the slack we need – the extension of God’s good grace. The more gentle we are with ourselves, the more we are receiving God, and the more we can give to others sacrificially.
To experience God is to enjoy others and to be at peace with ourselves. Three paths to joy occur in the reality of relationship – first with God, then with others, and finally, most fundamentally, with others.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Postscript: there are some seasons of life – grief, hardship, trial, and despair – when joy may be an impossible thing to experience. That needs to be said.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

How Can I Know I’m Strong Enough to Grow?

Existing torment, that’s high in my view,
It seems I’ll attract to me, this feeling of blue,
How can it be that life’s come down to this?
How could God allow me to sink into this abyss?
WHENEVER life has turned south into an enshrouding sorrow or fatiguing anxiety, we might be forgiven for feeling we will never climb out of such a despairing hole. The lack of peace between the ears is a bold testimony of that torment we never thought a ‘good God’ could allow, never thinking that God has his own purpose in us experiencing what a great number of the population also experience. We are not alone. We are actually in very good company.
Many are racked with anxiety – intermittently or continuously – or depression, or of thoughts that intercede and invade.
Many, too many, maybe. But that can’t be the foci right now; not if we are to survive this horrendous state of being. The focus has to be to draw our encouragement from somewhere; to gather our hope from a viable source; to withstand those breakers as they crash against the rocks of our persona.
The answer to our indwelling fear is the key reversal of life; when we feel weakest, doubting our strength to grow through such a dearth of hope, we are best to cast our cares onto the One who cares.
Best Foci By Far – Cast Your Cares Onto the One Who Cares
How great is God,
That He allows us awe,
And especially when we,
Misread the score.
How often we worship,
Those mortals like us,
And give them God’s glory,
In all our fuss!
So rich is the Lord’s love,
He allows us to choose,
What we will worship,
Even if it means we’ll lose.
Our degrees of worship,
Need to be aligned,
Toward the Lord,
In Him, Love’s defined.
In God, love is defined – the selfsame love empowering strength to grow all the way out of the present perplexing dilemma.
As we draw in toward the Almighty God, we have sought the Source of Life. When we go to life we shall receive life, and partake of its abundance.
We can know we are strong when we are weak enough to cast our cares on the One who cares. Real strength is borrowed from the Bountiful Supplier. It is unlimited in favour and it comes via peace and joy and wellbeing so far beyond what we could previously estimate possible.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My Story of God’s Glory

SAVED and baptised over 23 years ago, having gone astray during my latter teen years, and having been exposed to 3 years abuse in my apprenticeship which is when I went astray, I really didn’t get faith first time around.
I went a little way in the faith, but I didn’t submit to discipleship, and led a ‘happy’ worldly life until my world came crashing down on 22 September 2003. For the first time in my life I knew I needed God.
The following five months were the hardest of my life, and in my lowest of lows (lonelier than ever and in the deepest despair), I responded to a TV evangelist’s altar call. It was Saturday 8 November 2003. I prayed that prayer in sobbing tears, and didn’t feel a great deal different. But there was a peace I received that I’d call “resignation,” that life is life, and we can best accept it, crumby bits and all. This peace I couldn’t understand, but I had no problem simply accepting it. It didn’t make my circumstances any different, but God showed me they didn’t have to change for me to know relief.
All during this time I was doing the 12-Step program, which included a thorough moral inventory (which involved, for me, two months of sin-identification) and a repentance session with a sponsor (which took five hours one Sunday night). That was 14 December. On 18 December I was baptised in the Holy Spirit for the first time. God was confirming to me every week that he was very real and present in my life, and I was incredibly drawn to him, his Word, and to trust and obey his will – even when it meant I missed out, had to sacrifice in some way, or had to repent.
All through this initial period I was connected to the wonderful fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous – where recovery, unity and service are tenets you live. I fell in love with the process of God restoring me, to connecting with mentors and those I could help, and to serving in some of the most menial of ways. It was all joy. It was all joy in a period of great pain in my life – the loss of my family.
God showed me through this period the immense value in a redemptive mindset; that, with Jesus in focus, what is broken in life can be restored.
I learned the value in making amends. I learned forgiveness. I learned the value of parenting in truly devoted ways. I learned to repent every day. I learned to keep close account with God – that I was accountable to God.
I may not have ‘got’ God first time, but this time I was never letting go.
My story is a story of God’s glory in one human being.
My story
Reveals God’s glory
Whenever I’ve the courage
To share.
What it takes
As courage He makes
Is simply the boldness
To dare.
Our testimony has immense power for the incredible work Jesus has done and is doing in us. Our story reveals God’s glory.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Finding Christ Is Finding You

“Jesus Christ, we believe, is the fulfilment of every truly human aspiration. To find him is to find ourselves.”
― John R.W. Stott (1921–2011)
SEARCHES are made by every human being, whether they seem to care or not about life, because everyone wants to be happy. And what is central to happiness is to know the self. Our thesis, above, is that we cannot know ourselves unless we know Christ.
Jesus, when we come to know him, will give us intimacy with ourselves.
A good many of us still battle to fully know and accept ourselves, because our spirituality is compromised or we don’t have the connection with the Lord we could have or used to have. Indeed, it is so important to know ourselves through knowing Christ that God connects them both intrinsically; to know one is to know the other, but if we struggle with either we struggle with the other.
How can we describe knowing Christ or knowing ourselves? We cannot. We can only experience it, but perhaps if we could describe it, we would need to write volumes to more fully capture what such knowledge is, what it means, and what it gives. But let’s make an attempt...
Knowing Christ – Knowing You
Considering these knowledges may be identical in their character, what is it to know Christ or to know the self?
We could say that either is about being able to approach truth and not deny it, and to acknowledge our weaknesses just as willingly as we do our strengths. We might say that love would consume us: loving the self is licence to love everything else. Grace, warmth, empathy and genuineness become us. Such knowledge is the entrance to wisdom, though none of this is perfected, yet. To know God and to know the self is about having a constant God-consciousness, which is a mode of prayer which is continual. We would be ever mindful of God. And the devotional life becomes irrepressibly part of us. A fuller knowledge of God compels us toward doing the will of God, cheerfully. The fuller faculties of faith are not only available and accessible, they are compelling.
If we were to get inside ourselves, to know and love ourselves as we are, then we would sense a type of freedom that comes only in Christ – a freedom that transcends every other voice, particularly the judging and condemning voices.
‘You getting inside you’ is actually the purpose of life.
As we do such a thing, if we do not know Christ already, it’s as if we are led directly to the Throne of Grace to partake of his Presence; we could not deny the things of God any more. We would experience Christ via the Holy Spirit in his immeasurable fullness.
To find Christ is to know him and to know him is to find ourselves. The rest of our lives is an ever extrapolating journey of growing in Christ and growing in ourselves.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.