Monday, November 30, 2015

Any Difficulty + Buoyant Spirituality = Sure Triumph

LEARNING is the secret to the spirituality of life. There’s no spirituality apart from learning, and such grounded humility leaps off the page from the following quote:
Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.
— Meister Eckhart (1259–1327)
Many times I’ve gone to mentors, frantic, with a grappling torment that I’m not good enough, that the problems I have are too big for me to bear. Occasionally I’ve wanted to take flight. More than once I’d have been satisfied to run away. Not in circumstances of my grief over our recent loss of Nathanael, but certainly over others’ perceptions of me and over my own perception of how well or not I do my work. And as these struggles manifest within my spirituality, God invites me into himself through resilience.
Resilience and spirituality are intrinsically linked. That’s what the German philosopher and mystic deduced. They may be one and the same.
As we sink the skin of our senses in the Eckhart quote, wincing in the fact of our difficulties, we know there’s therapy in it — a horrible yet nonetheless helpful therapy. We cannot run away. We dare not walk away. And we cannot withdraw from life. But we’re blessed by wrestling with… wait for it… the learning of an inner solitudethat, will hold us.
Learning an inner solitude by the sustenance of prayer is acquiring a resilient spirituality that will never fail us.
Not Walking Away, Nor Hiding Within, But Walking Through
If we acknowledge there are three ways of reacting to life, and only one of those is viable to health, we’ll also acknowledge what gets us there: our spirituality that wrestles with our truth.
When we resist walking away — not allowing ourselves that ‘out’ — and we also resist withdrawing from life — shrinking into ourselves, away from life — we have only one other way.
Another thing we must not do is react in our emotion to confront the difficulty full-on, i.e. in aggression.
The way we walk on through the entirety of the battle is by pressing-in on God in the midst of the battle. This process of pressing-in is actively embracing the struggle — entering into it — and, whilst we’re there — finding where God is. God is everywhere.
God is there. He’s there in the struggle, in the fight, in the misery of it all, and in the despair. Not part of it, but in it. He’s there to help and God’s Presence can never hinder. But we must be willing to engage with the truth woven into our realities.
Committing to walk on through our struggles to the bitter end is the only way to overcome them. And focusing on what’s being learned is a healthy outlook when nothing else convinces us that the struggle is worth enduring.
What we learn in walking through our struggles is a vibrant and an effectual spirituality.
Spirituality is learned in struggle as spirituality is the empowerment tantamount to triumph.
The votes are in: in struggle, go spiritual.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

D.L. Moody’s Biblical Heaven and How We Get There

THIS life’s adventures so captivate our hearts we feel as if this foray will last forever and ever. And, of course, it doesn’t! As I reflect over my life, and consider those things that compete with my attention for true worship, often winning, I think what a chump I am. But, of course, that’s not the end of things; it’s merely the start of another learning opportunity when it comes to worship.
Consider these powerful words lined up in a series adding up to life-giving wisdom:
“The reason there are so many broken hearts in this land, the reason there are so many disappointed people, is because they have been laying up their treasures down here.
— Dwight Lyman Moody (1837–1899)
D.L. Moody, the great evangelist and publisher, tells a story that his Dr. Arnot used to tell: the worthlessness of gold.
Shipwrecked on a fantasy island, the people quickly found their pleasures sated in working for gold. They worked, they played, they ate, and made more and more money. Trouble was, they never sowed seed into the ground to grow more food; not until it was too late — as winter began to set in. They had all the gold in their world, but no food. They perished for the very thing that would keep them alive, even as they bathed in their gold — which, of course, was worthless now.
We think we’re doing well when we have our plans to attend our parties; when we’ve won the confidence of accrediting organisations and get our degrees; when we’ve sunk every waking thought into the sporting team we support; when we depose thought of bequeathing a gift to the poor for another lounge suite, technological device, car or holiday; when, finally, we’ve done our sixty-hour work week.
Then we’re captivated by a new thing; a final thing; an awful thing: death.
Death stares at us all our lives, and it’s never a scary staring. Death stares at us with a twinkle of wisdom in its eye: “Will you prepare for me; are you preparing for eternity?”
Or, are we working so hard to earn our gold that we’ve lost sight that we need to plant our seed so we can make something that will last?
Where are we laying our treasures up? Where do relationships feature? What about love? Are our children getting all of their mother and father? Are our parents getting sufficient of their daughter or son to be blessed? Are we sowing deeply into friendship; being a trustworthy carrier of others’ burdens? Finally, is Jesus getting the attention in our lives that he deserves?
A key to the majesty of joy heaven seeks to give us is giving the majesty of our attention to the joys of heaven.
If heaven has no allure, if heaven’s not our delight, how poor is our sight, and this life we’ll struggle to endure.
How must we get to heaven, and just how on earth are we to live, unless we join the dots, we’ll never learn it’s here that we must give.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, November 28, 2015


As the Shamans of Ancient Mexico put it, Death stalks us; meaning its potential as an event of imminence in our lives is ever-present. It’s not being morbid to think in these ways. It’s only morbid if we find ourselves irresistibly attracted to the concept of our death, or more so, to the concept of ending our life. But this article is not about death. It’s about life. And life’s about making the most of every day that the Lord gives us as a precious gift.
Here are ten things we ought to seriously do this day, today, before we die:
1.     Tell someone you love just that: “I love you.” It shouldn’t seem so hard to do, but for many of us it is. Even if our “I love you” is awkward, or even embarrassing, it’s something we won’t ever regret on the other side of precipice.
2.     Do something kind so God can prove to you, afresh, the blessing it is to be a blessing. Kindness is its own reward. It does something uniquely beautiful in us. Kindness is a proof that God does exist by his Presence in our experience.
3.     Find a sunrise or sunset. Watch and marvel at the wondrous creation as it operates like clockwork. From time immemorial until now, yes, the instant these words are read, the cusp of the present, God’s universe runs interminably without need of divine intervention.
4.     Say sorry to someone. Anyone. What a blessing it is, from God, when we find something to be genuinely sorry about. Apologising requires humility, and humility is always a blessing. Saying sorry is a very practical love in the truth of relational transaction.
5.     Look at life. Just look at it. Take a few pensive seconds to observe. Allow life in all its variegated splendour and madness to captivate your consciousness. Be mindful. Can you just accept what you see?
6.     Consider what you’ve achieved. Where has your life made impact thus far? What would you choose to achieve if there were no barrier? Remove the barriers. Make it come to pass.
7.     Thank God for your parents, grandparents and their parents. No matter how good or bad life’s been, no matter how good or bad your upbringing was, or your familial relationships, there would be no ‘you’ without them. Give God your thanks for his gift of them to you.
8.     Decide to do something new — something you’ve not done before or in such a long time. Opening your mind is opening your heart is opening your life. These days are new moments, and new moments are pregnant with possibility. Delimit your imagination.
9.     Commit to eradicating one bad habit. You know how much you daily regret that bad habit that controls your life right now. Make a plan to live without it. Set a date when you’ll embark on a new path. Write up a strategy. And endeavour to know what drives the habit so you can ensure the habit you use to replace the bad habit reinforces what’s healthy.
10. Ask God to make himself real in your experience. Whether we believe in God or not, and whether we even think the divine is important or not, is irrelevant. If God exists we will all soon meet him. ‘If’ is a range of probability from impossible to certain, but remember impossible is only one location at one extremity along the whole continuum. That means ‘impossible’ is a very rare or very small probability — never good odds. What if you meet God but never planned or prepared for such a meeting. It’s an infinitely better wisdom to seek to know God now. He knows you.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Madame Guyon’s Perfection of Love and Presence In Prayer

“Indeed nothing can interrupt this prayer but irregular and disordered affections, and when once we have tasted of God, and the sweetness of His love, we shall find it impossible to relish anything but Himself.”
— Madame Guyon (1648–1717)
Is life worthy of anything other than God; him first… and everything hence ordered unto him? And whereby things find no place in the Presence of God, do they find any rightful place in us?
The loving delights of God are to be tasted and savoured on the palate; ruminations of which take us far away from darksome thoughts and senseless pleasures. Such contemplative milestones are quietness of soul, stillness of spirit, and perfect God-designed-and-anointed sensuality for the senses — dependent on nothing but the salacious delicacies of his creation.
Nothing, literally nothing, is to be compared with the light God brings a being swept up in his loving Presence by prayer.
Prayer is unadorned focus on God to the exclusion of all interruption; although, by interruption, there’s further invitation, an impelling, to re-join him in his holy of holies.
Prayer is hence about Presence. Prayer is more about him than it could ever be about us. And the beneficence of prayer is that God gives such perfection of love in his Presence that we’d hardly want of anything else.
This is when prayer approaches worship — as we ascribe, though our worthiest, most sacrilegious attentions, the honour due God for our sole attentions alone.
Having succeeded in bringing ourselves before his plate, having experienced even once the multiplicity and depth of the delights of his Presence, we’re addicted to the only healthy, healing addiction in all creation: God, and him alone, all of him that we can manage, and all of him, by prayer.
We become dependent on God and we come to depend on experiencing his Presence by prayer. And such, as it is, we’re blessed of his love in order that we might love!
Nothing anyone can do could ever sway us, for we’re now the most evangelical converts — a ‘conversion’ well subsequent to conversion. And whether or not we’re introverted matters such little. If we’re extroverts it matters nothing more. We wait on God and have an answer poised on and pressed through our lips, of what exactly gives us the indelibly pervasive hope we have. This hope lights us.
We experience no distress or constraint, for we’re won to the Kingdom. As subjects we find ourselves more perfectly fitted for each moment of our existence, in spite of pleasure or pain.
Having been won to the Kingdom that decimates all unworthy kingdoms — (this is not terrorising language — for these are the matters of love that are bespoken) — we therefore exist to do God’s irrepressibly acceptable will.
Disordered affections that come irregularly, as Guyon puts it, merely become bases of measure for the attainment of longer seasons in the glory of God. We constantly want to outdo our previous personal best. Of course, these disordered affections can hold no lasting allure in us or for us. They simply cannot compete with what we see as an inalienable perfection to be ever experienced in the Presence of the Lord.
So, where does this exposé end?
Here: When God delights himself in us as we experience him in his Presence, we’re compelled to feel the perfection of his love. Such perfections are voluminous as they are unfathomable. We cannot get enough goodness, when, in life, we’ve come to get used to a lack of goodness everywhere.
Without God, there’s an absence of goodness. With God, goodness is everywhere.
With God we have all the delights of life at our fingertips. Without God we claw in the dark, never sensing meaning in anything.
By prayer we have the Presence of God. Without prayer God is as much absent as he was when we never knew him.
With prayer love’s goodness is within reach. But without prayer we’re cut off from his prevailing goodness of love.
When we’ve tasted the pregnant glories manifest by prayer we could never return to shutting God out of our world.
Having drunk of the delights of the Lord’s Presence all ‘worldly delight’ is vanquished as myriad sadistic folly. The delights of the Lord’s Presence convert the world’s delights, which were created for good, and arranges them only for blessing.
Yes, the delights of God are known by prayer. And by prayer the delights of life are entreated. But where delights known elsewhere are entreated, Satan will make God look impotent. And vast is the reach of the enemy’s accusatory deceit when prayer has become annulled.
So, delight in the silences of the simplicity of prayer. These contemplative milestones will be added to your shaky belief so that belief upon the power of God’s Presence in prayer will be bolstered. It becomes an irrevocable reality that every cell in us will esteem!
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

The Day Jesus Defended Himself Against Violence

 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
— John 18:23 (NIV)
I’ve often wrestled whether Jesus defended himself against violence; supposedly against his Sermon on the Mount teaching of Matthew 5:38-46 (when struck on one cheek, turn the other cheek, also; give not only the shirt, but your coat, too; go not just one mile, but two).
In the account of John 18:19-24 Jesus challenges the legality of the process his accuser, the high priest, uses. He doesn’t defending himself in a proud way; he merely stands for what should rightly take place — due judicial process.
At a proper trial, the defence presents its witnesses first. But this is no proper trial. The high priest has had ample opportunity to interview witnesses to the extent of what Jesus has taught — the high priest’s question — so why does he jump the normal process and question Jesus directly? It’s because this ‘trial’ has been cobbled together at short notice, revealing the religious hierarchy as a panicking and ill-equipped shambles. Isn’t interesting that they’ve had months, if not a few years, to plan this kangaroo court, and they still can’t get it right.
Jesus knows that he’s not spoken any evil in this or any other encounter. He has taught openly in the synagogue, in the Temple area, and out in the open. Jesus answers the high priest’s question in truth, and then is assaulted, presumably because he reveals the improper process in asking, “Why are you asking me this question.” (Verse 21) The official who struck Jesus was indignant that Jesus had spoken disrespectfully, but he might also have been unconsciously embarrassed as to the pathetic nature of the judicial process being used in the ‘trial’ — that or he may have been seeking to impress the high priest. But Jesus spoke only truth as if he were on the witness stand — and he was. This was another in a long string of judicial faux pas’ made that fateful night. Jesus is simply drawing to everyone’s attention, the intention of those bringing this trial — he does so through a revelation — this is a mockery of justice.
This is an encouragement for us when we have the strength of courage in us to challenge what should not, by means of justice, occur. Not to seek to right the injustice, but simply to reveal the injustice; in a way that reveals our hearts are for the ethic of God.
Jesus sets us a healthy precedent. If the processes of justice we’re involved in are incorrect we have an obligation at truth to advocate assertively (gently though firmly) for the truth. Glory goes to God when we do such a thing sensibly and without undue emotion. We’re not righting the injustice, for that’s often not our role (to adjudicate on such matters), but we can reveal. But just as important it is to reveal injustices in a way that glorifies God.
This is good because it means we can meekly defend, at truth, not only others who are being exploited, but ourselves too. Many times as Christians we’ve felt and thought wrongly that we must forgive and forget and rely upon the Lord to vindicate us, and otherwise let lies have their day. That’s wrong. It’s right to state our case, to reveal injustices of our treatment, in a responsible, mature and loving way. And yet, still sometimes it’s plainly God’s will that a lie be left there to rest whilst the truth meanders upon eventual arrival.
What Jesus does is sets a great example: what would Jesus do? If Jesus is patiently revealing unjust processes — even as he is directly being accused — so may we challenge open injustices against ourselves. Such gentle but firm challenges are not defensiveness for defensiveness’s sake, but a mere attempt to set the record straight.
We ought not to set out to right the wrongs that occur to us, but simply to allow God to reveal what happened in his own time.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Scandalous Glory Resplendent in the Justified Sinner

ANOTHER term for “Christian” is “justified sinner.” This term imputes so much!
Before we go any further, this article is about the heart of the Christian’s identity — what might as well be inscribed on their soul — as they’re proscribed from a litany of identity that ever competes for the human psyche. So if you’re not after such an analysis, point your browsing into another direction now.
Simul Justus et Peccator…
Simul Justus et Peccator is a theological formula that Martin Luther authored and used. Many say it summarises in just a few words all of what the Reformation was about. I want to explore this term as a thesis for the basis of our Christian identities as justified sinners.
Simul Justus et Peccator means, literally, “Simultaneously justified and a sinner.”
We’re not justified to sin, but, due to a sinless Saviour, we’re justified in God’s eyes whilst we’re still sinners.
God has crossed over. He, who has no sin, has taken on my sin. And He, who has all righteousness, has given it to me.
Now that we are justified, even though we still sin, we have a special problem as we remain in this world. Every justified sinner is in the midst of a war they hardly know anything about. The devil wants us, even more now — even to shift us into the shadows, and to taint our God-given gifts by bringing our vices to bear over our virtues to push our gifts into the shadows. But it doesn’t matter.
With an inconceivable eternality, the Lord has sought us, bought us, and wrought us — from eternity’s longing of the Triune Creator, at the cross, the resurrection and the ascension, and finally, at our acceptance that Jesus Christ is indeed our Saviour.
Sought from eternity, bought by the broken body and blood of a sinless Saviour, and wrought to the point of belief. A trinity of Creation’s design, a trinity of Divinity’s intent, a trinity of Redemptive action — coming on the Spirit’s power out of heaven — has ensured we’re justifiedeven as we remain… sinners.
Simul Justus et Peccator… one and the same, at the same time, rightly justified, AND a sinner. Serenity and Identity.
We have serenity because of our identity. We have no need of perfection — we are healthiest to remain on a path of expectation that considers we’re indelibly fallen no matter how much we grow. This is a massive blessing compelling peace to visit permanently with us.
Our enemy has no sound basis for attack.
Our faith has every sound basis for defence.
Being a Christian doesn’t make me perfect. It means Christ is perfect in my place.
Being Christian is acknowledged imperfection; to know of anyone deserving judgment, it’s me!
Simul Justus et Peccator… and to God be the glory! To God be the glory when a justified sinner occasionally rises to the effect of their calling.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Thomas À Kempis’ Reminder of the Inevitable Coming

AUTHOR of The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471) was a contemplative and mystic who gave us unique glimpses into the human soul that contemplatives and mystics tend to do. This particular reflection of mine is one that is based on a reminder of the inevitable coming — not simply Christ — but of death; a death we all die once. How inevitably awkward that we might avail ourselves to the opportunity to plan forward for that event in time!
The contemplative and mystic states:
“It is better to avoid sin than fear death. If you are not prepared today, you will not be prepared tomorrow? Tomorrow is an uncertain day; how do you know you will have a tomorrow?”
Truth is, we don’t know. We don’t know. Read it again; we don’t know. What’s impactful in that is what results from such a thought — we think life will run on and on… or we get fearful that life really will be over too soon. Instead of these two states of mind, ought we not to rather impel ourselves forward to that date and time? It comes!
Let death come with a vengeance, knowing we’ve done all we can personally. And let it come knowing we’ve made adequate preparations for those we care about when we’re long gone.
Making Life Count Now: Learning To Look Back From the End
Life seems so permanent, but one day, in a flash, our life will be a vapour. Looking back from there is purpose for life.
À Kempis states also that a longer life is not necessarily a good thing, given the longer we live, the more opportunity for guilt. Precisely the point; getting our affairs in order, is driven by the appropriate fear of the Lord — eternity in heaven, whilst it will be unimaginatively beautiful and awesome, is totally unknowable. When we arrive — to spend all eternity there — we will not be able to wind back the clock. The time for clocks will be at an end!
Looking backwards from the ends of our lives gives us great perspective for the impetus of now.
Looking backwards from anywhere is the enrolling of hindsight; an inevitable wisdom.
Death always defies expectation. The Lord will come just as death does — i.e. with no warning at all. Inconceivably we will all, each one, in our own way, be irrevocably changed — and our views of this life will change and conform to Truth in a flash.
Those of us who thought wrongly of God or of any part of life will come immediately to face the Truth.
“How happy and prudent is he who tries now in life to be what he wants to be found in death. Perfect contempt of the world, a lively desire to advance in virtue, a love for discipline, the works of penance, readiness to obey, self-denial, and the endurance of every hardship for the love of Christ, these will give a man great expectations of a happy death.”
The privilege of life is each life owes God a death — to die and ‘to pass’ into the arms of eternity. No one can interrupt this. No one can stop this. No one can change this.
This life is a constant series of temptations. Eternity is an evaluation of our responses.
“The present is very precious; these are the days of salvation; now is the acceptable time. How sad that you do not spend the time in which you might purchase everlasting life in a better way. The time will come when you will want just one day [more], just one hour [more] in which to make amends, and do you know whether you will obtain it?” (Underlining added as emphasis)
Regret is coming, but it won’t be a regret that we can do anything about. This is sad, but it’s better to know about it now — that The Truth is coming — and use it as a purpose that impels us forward, before The Day.
The purpose of life is to know purpose is defined by life’s end, and to be driven by that purpose and that purpose alone.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God

SWEETLY divine in the most human of ways — the writings of Brother Lawrence (1614–1691). Such do these writings occur as direct from the courts of God that a reader will readily be caught up in a firestorm of much delight for learning The Practice of the Presence of God.
“God often permits that we should suffer a little in order to purify our souls and oblige us to continue with Him… Take courage, offer Him your pains incessantly, and pray to Him for strength to endure them.”
Oh divine plot that resonates within,
That sense within that we’re in a spin,
Help me, Lord, to now attain,
Knowledge of how wonderful
It’s to lose to gain.
“Often permits…” as in the Joban account, God does not bring this suffering about, but the evil that wishes to test our righteousness (that we say we have in Jesus’ name) is given scope to test, because God has faith in us; in our ability to overcome through the power in his name. And because this is how God thwarts the enemy; the Lord knows we only grow in patiently enduring the cauldron in making of us a crucible.
“Suffer a little…” as compared with the Christ man; that man suffered more than we could ever contemplate in truth or more fully imagine. Our suffering seems so much for us, and God knows it is; that it tips us over into dependence on him, if our pride can be capitulated. Pride is the biggest problem in suffering, for suffering in humility is the bridge to growth.
“To purify our souls…” for further allegiance to, and going on with, God. Here is a transaction for you: consider purity of heart as a direct correlation to the practice of the Presence of God. We cannot come very close to God, in the reality of his Spirit, if we haven’t been daily cleansed and renewed. The great test of purity of soul is to see the truth; as Brother Lawrence puts is, “I would willingly ask of God a part of your sufferings, but that I know my weakness — which is so great that if He left me one moment to myself, I should be the most wretched man alive.”
Purity of heart is to know our weakness, and our propensity of harm without God.
It’s a most paradoxical value. When we think of ourselves least, where God is most, and all others are most worthy of our love, we’re blessed with purity of heart.
“Continue with Him…” into the glory of his Presence, more and more. Brother Lawrence wants to testify to the fact of his faith: he can no longer be in any ways lost, for his faith is indelible to the truth: God is good, and he never leaves us nor forsakes us.
Even when life is horrible, there is much cause for joy. And only the one and only true God — through Jesus Christ — can do that in our hearts.
Experience it once, believe it to be true of our experience, and we see it ever more.
We cannot let go of him who has sought us and bought us and wrought us.
“Take courage… and pray” for this is our duty night and day. God will not fail to show us his shimmering esteem when we truly give our all to him in prayer.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

William Booth and the Pathway to Purity of Heart

COVETING is never normally a good trait; but one exception is that we might covet purity of heart — to take it into the self as a possession for our being.
But only through a fervent search, a work of intensity for a series of seasons, and the finalising transaction with the Christ will one find this:
“The Holy Spirit will produce a delightful persuasion in your soul that all the pride and malice and envy and selfishness have been taken away, and that God has filled you with peace and love.”
Booth (1829–1912), Methodist preacher and founder of The Salvation Army, ingratiated nobody in speaking the truth plainly. The pathway to the Pure Heart is a road etched in sacrifice and the hoarding of every little treasure of virtue. And once these works of God sanctifying us by a repetition of sins overcome have been done, we’re able to go on into the experience of grace — that sense of “delightful persuasion.” Only God himself will convince us. Just as we need to know for sure in the depth of our souls that we’re saved, we must know to the depth of our souls that God is pleased to confer on us this confirmation we have this Pure Heart. What a glorious moment to behold! This is a spiritual perfection to strive for, yet it’s always to be juxtaposed with an inherent knowledge of our intrinsic weakness — humanity in a person is a broken vessel — and, indeed, an inherency of brokenness is such a vital underpinning to virtue in the Pure Heart.
Once we have received this conferral we’re obliged to bed it down. We have such a propensity to slide off the altar of sacrifice. We need to bed down this Purity of Heart such that we can never now lose it. Only with a Pure Heart can we work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). Indeed, it’s in real fear and trembling that we’re motivated to want Purity of Heart in the first place.
And it’s only through asking, seeking and knocking — with resilient passion to want something never as much — that we earn the right of such a focus. God, the giver of every good gift, gives us what we want, when we want it desperately! (James 1:17)
Imagine the blessing of having vices removed for virtues; to have fitted to our character the love, the joy, the peace, and the all-abiding-hope, for the removal of fears, doubting, envious stirrings, and overweening pride.
What has then taken place is the very real experience of cleansing in the blood of Jesus, for we may be cleansed in no other way.
The greatest human experience is this cleansing of soul bringing purity of heart.
There is no human glory that comes close to the experience of the glory of God embodied in our being. God wishes to give us the experience of this, and to maintain it within us. But we must want it enough for such a transformation to take root in our mind, intellect, emotion and will.
Glory to God that we know in our hearts when we’re saved, just as we know that he has cleansed us and made us new.
Nothing is more rewarding in life, and nothing’s worth more, than the felt experience of God’s approval and favour. It’s worth everything to attain it.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.

Fighting a War of Hate with God’s Weapon for Peace: Love

THIS is not just another comment about Paris; it’s a comment about the inevitable waves of attack that occur in life and how we’re to properly respond to them.
When the apostle Paul tells Timothy to “fight the good fight of the [true] faith” (1 Timothy 6:12) he’s saying “agonise the good agony of the faith.”
(The Greek word for “fight” is ἀγωνίζομαι [agonizomai] from which we get our English “agonise” from. Its root word is ἀγών or agón from which “agony” comes.)
It is to labour earnestly, to struggle fervently, to strive avidly; all this, in our Christian context, against a backdrop of deceit, idolatry, evil, trickery and wickedness within the world — for which only agonising the good agony ultimately works.
Christians, when we hate we’re being deceived. Christians, when we hate we do Satan’s bidding, not the Lord’s.
Accepting, There is “Agony” in this Life
We must acknowledge that life involves a lot of agony, which means “extreme physical or mental suffering.” Whether we like it or not, that’s life. None of us are ever immune to the scaling fury of many varietals of agony. They can overcome us at any time, and in many differing ways. And there’s an agony that the enemy knows full well will test us as unique persons to, and beyond, our own personal limits.
But that’s not the end of the story; it’s only, thankfully, a scary beginning.
We can suffer the agonies of this life in an agonising way, getting resentful, or we can choose to agonise the good agony, which is still agony — having a different form — but has a good and holy purpose, for which we’ll not go unrewarded.
There is a good agony. A good fight.
But the good agony comes with its own cost; not something that dissuades us as much as something to bear in mind:
Every good fight must fight past fear in courage.
Every good agony must be chosen, in order to agonise courageously.
Every good agony accepts that this life is implicit agony, but the person choosing to agonise the good agony chooses to not just stand back when courage calls them forth.
When a person is driven by this good agony they cannot stand by in the presence of hate or fear (evil). They must do something to help; whether it’s for them self or for another. And sometimes the best place to help is simply to pray: God, come.
The Only Worthy and Worthwhile “Agony”
So, the decision is made: we face agony. It’s a choice: face or deny.
We face it in our own lives in tremendously personal ways; humiliating ways. These ways will quickly convince us that, no matter how godly we are, we’re doomed as unequivocally broken people. We face agony because of the fallen nature of our humanity. But, if we’re Christian, our personal agony is healed in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord. Such, such good news!
But with being Christian comes something odious. We have become soldiers for a Kingdom — an everlasting Kingdom that has no compare. But in this life we’ll know much travail. In this life, if we’re attuned to reality, we’re in the trenches of hell, fighting for our long-awaited homeland: the glorious Kingdom of God. Kingdom come!
The moment we pop our heads up and out of the trench in this trench warfare — which Christianity is — is the moment the enemy says, “Okay, it’s coming your way!”
Over the cusp of the trench comes a grenade. Paris. An unexpected loss. Cancer. Infant death. Inexplicable fear. A family member caught up in a scandal. Beirut. An accusation against us. A church division or split. A temptation we fall for. Bullying. A betrayal. 9/11. None of this we could directly see coming. But it was coming, alright! Oh for twenty-twenty hindsight.
Agonising the good agony is about trusting God to keep stepping courageously by faith:
Fear of facing harm,
Is the fact of the ferocious fight,
God’s care will keep us calm,
If it’s in him alone we delight.
No matter what comes against,
No matter what threatens trust,
No matter, choose this defence,
It’s simply that trust we must.
Satan wants a piece of anyone who’s going to call reality as it is: to condemn injustice when it occurs by loving audaciously. Satan wants to remind anyone that with courage comes a cost. Only by faith can we say, “Yes, to do God’s will, I’ll bear the cost, no matter what.” We will be tested. (Only by loving audaciously, even in the presence of evil, will we win in the end.)
But God has an ever more beautiful reminder: “I am with you, no matter what you face, no matter what is brought against you; when you condemn injustice, doing so peacefully, responding in love, bringing grace where there’s groaning and gall, I am with you, and I am for you.” Courage is immediately vindicated, eternally.
Fighting the good fight of the faith is agonising courageously to do God’s will.
Agonising the good agony is about loving people especially when they don’t deserve it, even as we’re loved when we don’t. (See 1 John 4.)
Love is agonising. Loving will be agony many times because honouring God means we may seem to lose so love can win. But when love wins, everyone wins.
Agonise the good agony. Love, not hate, is our purpose.
Agonising the good agony is a good fight, for peace through love, in a hate-filled war. God help us.
Hate speech seems everywhere. But only love is eternal.
Hatred is like cancer silently lurking avoiding detection. It’s dangerous and threatens to kill our world. It’s a Christian’s job to gird their heart in love and be ready to love even to their death.
It’s better to die for love than to live a hateful life.
Eternity beckons. Evil threatens. Love gains. God reigns.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.