Wednesday, February 24, 2016

My Vanity, My Impudence, His Victory, His Grace

BORN again to new possibilities, I have to confess, my regenerate life too often resembles something from the History Channel.
Truth I’m committed to — being in Christ — yet my truth is all too stark much of the time.  Too much I’m a failure and frail and at fault.  Yet, there’s a more important and more prevalent truth: my failures, frailties and faults are covered by Christ’s cross — I’m no longer condemned for being who I am.  And the wonder of the gospel is, it’s grace that paves the way for me to be honest, yet to not feel condemned, and to be able to be honest before others, in repenting of things that fall short of God’s glory.
I do wrong, and that’s somehow okay, because I’m trying and I’m being honest.
I don’t know about you, but I need to repent every single day.
I’m vain, and I fall for things of vanity, and I’m so weathered by it all, yet there is victory for me, because of what Jesus has done.  I can’t get my head around it.  I’m impudent, yet His grace abounds upon my repenting.
I fall short so often and so badly, never seeming to learn some lessons.  And still God forgives me, and picks me up limp from the floor.
When all’s said and done, my prayer for myself remains the same:
Father, help me prefer Your righteousness.  Help me debunk those times when I think I’m right — when I blindly or stubbornly sin, whether I’m ‘right’ or not.  Make me aware.  Then help me with my guilt, as You always do.   Help me to love and not hurt others.  Help me onward the journey to humility, for I’m so far from that cherished of destinations.  Help me experience Your graciousness, by remembering the cross, so You may restore me to the victory You’ve already won in Christ.  And I thank You that You’ve redeemed me, and everyone else who calls Christ, God.  It’s in Jesus’ name I live and pray, AMEN.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Let God’s Holy Spirit Encourage You

The Holy Spirit is saying,
“When your arms are heavy from holding your shield of faith, when you are tempted to lay down your sword, when you’ve lost your shoes of peace and your helmet of salvation feels it’s falling off, tighten the belt of truth around your waist.  The enemy of your soul spews lies to convince you you’ll never win the battle, but the truth is the Father always leads you into triumph in Christ.  You are in Him.  Move and live and have your being in Him.  Victory belongs to you.” (adapted from Heart of the Prophetic)
When you read that, doesn’t your heart just rise?
The truth is we Christians are in spiritual warfare all the time or we’re no threat to the enemy, but I personally don’t know any Christians who aren’t beleaguered occasionally.
The war is a flesh-level war, where we want our own way; when having things go our way has to be the way.  It’s plain tiring.
Well, the Holy Spirit wants us to know that His strength is ours when we tighten that belt of truth around our waist — to acknowledge the flesh is weak — that our way to inevitable victory is to rely on His strength, which gets us through.
Honouring the truth is getting out of our flesh and into His Spirit — it’s the jettisoning of ego, and the striving for humility through submission.
Let the Holy Spirit encourage you; the truth is God our Father holds us up to conquest when we’re in Christ.  When we seek Christ’s best, in surrendering our putrefying flesh to Him, to gather our poise, and to go back into the arena, He serves us unto blessing.
We’re more than conquerors through Him who loved us so much as to bear the cross.
And what that means is, the harder the things that come against us, that we bear weakly by submission in His strength, the more the enemy is held up to shame.  The worse things get the better glory goes to God.  The more we’re put to shame, the more the curse of shame sticks irrevocably, as it eternally does, to the devil.  So we see we’re not put to shame at all — we’re being glorified even in the midst of our being persecuted.
The final word I give to John Chrysostom (349–407), early church father:
“Yet those that be against us, so far are they from thwarting us at all, that even without their will they become to us causes of crowns, and procurers of countless blessings, in that God’s wisdom turns their plots unto our salvation and glory.  See how really no one is against us!”
Trust in His Spirit, rely on His strength, obey His Word, and all will go well.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Letting Go of Panic By Taking Hold of Mindful Peace

READING an email several years ago, and suddenly panic gripped me like a vice.  The same thing has happened when the realisation takes hold of an important interaction I’ve had no time to prepare for.
Times like these fear propels us into panic, and if the passage of dread isn’t arrested a full-blown attack isn’t far away.
Arresting a full-blown panic attack depends on the person, and for many people it’s not, and can never be as simple as being, addressed in such an article as this.  I can only report what has helped me; one who has had panic attacks, and who’s had to develop resources for getting through tremulous moments.  You, too, may have developed your own God-guided work-throughs.
It starts with this:
When panic takes hold don’t forget WHO holds you: God.
God helps us when we let go of things we were never supposed to hold onto.
Having such knowledge at the forefront of our awareness means we have a sliver of a chance to correct our thinking that our feelings have heavily influenced.
The mind is a strong thing.  With the mind we can believe.
When we believe that this, too, shall pass, and we sit in the panicked moment without one iota’s demand, as if believing we’re at peace, just using our mindful thoughts, we can begin to gently settle.
The mental slide gets worse with pressure, but as soon as we mindfully relax, by jettisoning all demand, cognitive function gets better.
With head space comes heart space, and where panic took hold, the brakes are released, and the freed mind works to unbind the heart.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A Prayer for the Healing Powers of Repentance

DEAR GOD of my creation,
Here is a prayer for Your worship, for my humility, to express my penitent joys, and to meet the desires of your Being; You’re the grace of infinite pardons, but You don’t leave me where I’m at.
You, who surrounds me with life and love, who enters life with me, who doesn’t ever leave me nor forsake me; I am in awe of who You are and for what You’ve done.  You’re worthy of the highest imagined and manifold praise on the scaffold of Truth.
Before You, O God, I suffer the indignity of being without my peace, because again I have not trusted You more completely than I should.  I confess not simply my sin; I also confess my need of You; that in my turning back toward You, that You’d make me warrant the blessings I so often in life receive.
From a time of adoration comes a time of thanksgiving, and today, Lord, I give You my hope, in the unadorned thanks of a Prodigal who comes home sheepishly, yet is met warmly.  Ever more am I to be thankful, especially when I’m so involved in life that I add a sense of entitlement to it that ought always to be swiftfully repented of.
Be mine as I’m Yours, too, Lord.  Complete me as You protect me.  Purge me of my fearful ways, and help me accept that I am, ever and always, where I should be.  Give me the grace to deal with what troubles me.  Now that I’m grateful, help me to stay that way.  Help me understand the beauty in every experience.  And help me to know Your teaching, and the appropriateness for my time in the lessons set before me.
I believe in the Power and in the name of Jesus.
It’s in His name I pray,

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Glory in a Broken Hallelujah

BEST hallelujahs are mottled through with the sting of a suffering of regret, a most truth-filled acceptance, for having fallen short of the Lord.
That is the best hallelujah (‘praise the Lord’).
This is why that is the best hallelujah.  Until a Christian has sincerely fallen on their knees, vanquished of all their pride, with no defence for who they are, and all the wrong they’ve done, they don’t deserve grace.  Unless we’re been broken, we’ve not paid the full price for that costly grace expended for us at Calvary.
A broken hallelujah should be an oxymoron.  How should we praise God when we’re broken beyond our own comprehension?
The Character of a Broken Hallelujah
The broken hallelujah is a praising of the Lord in a circumstance antithetical to praise.  This is why it’s the most compelling hallelujah.  It’s a hallelujah where there should be, and often has been, lament.
It’s compelling because we’ve been brought to a place where brokenness has taken us no further than the cross.  To the cross we’ve stayed… and stayed long enough to know that everything begins from the cross — at the end of ourselves is the only appropriate beginning.
Most Christians haven’t spent the sort of time at the cross to be broken down sufficiently; to know the inner realities of the Father’s love and Christ’s intercessory magnanimity.  To know these things, powerfully and inwardly, we need to stay at the cross, and return regularly; to be broken afresh; that is to come back to the precious moments we were broken initially, remembering them intimately well.
A broken hallelujah is a praising of the Lord at the depths of the pit.  Any Christian who hasn’t experienced that level of fully rendered sacrifice ought to pray for the humility for that level of submission.  That can sound harsh, and it probably is.  In reality, our broken hallelujahs are uttered with fortitude during a time of reprieve, immediately after a significant attack of despair.  During that chastening of our spirit, as we flop forlorn at the foot of the cross, we’ve got little fortitude left for anything else but survival.  Afterward, though, we’re ready to recommit to the spiritual task at hand, and that, itself, is a broken hallelujah.
So the character of a broken hallelujah is humble certitude.
The Maturity Borne of a Broken Hallelujah
Broken hallelujahs are a sign of the capacity to choose for God no matter how bad life gets.
A broken hallelujah is therefore inspiring.  It’s the doing of a noble thing in great distress, and, even though that can never be easy, we only have to do it once, and we can do it evermore.  And still the more we do it, the more routine a supposed hard thing is to do.
Not only is a broken hallelujah something requiring astounding maturity, to live as broken is to live as one who is whole; who’s mature.
We’re not ashamed of our brokenness, we who sing our hallelujahs in the memory of our pain.  We’re not disempowered to praise God, we who know that submission to him is the only way.  We’re not hoodwinked; we know God is good in the good times and in bad.  We’re not afraid of praising God having learned our fear has been found wanting.
The maturity borne of a broken hallelujah will hold us together as the faithful all our days.  Nothing else would we ever need.  Zilch.
When we’re able to sing our solemn broken hallelujahs, finally we’re able to please God.
The most inspiring hallelujah is a hallelujah bellowed in brokenness.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Trusting One Thing to Be THE Thing

COMPLEXITIES in life tend to cloud our perspective, dilute our efforts, and cause us maximum stress at times.  What if one thing could be the thing?  What if one thing drove the rest of the show?
That one thing is a Person.  That Person is Jesus.  If we genuinely order our complex lives under Him — as a solemn matter of truth — yes, this very moment, and every moment — then we will have power.  This is my direct experience: for faith to work we must first give up what we want.  We cannot have things our way and live by faith.
This is a hard truth to learn.  Nobody can be a disciple of Jesus and retain their substantive say and view on things in life; everything is to be governed by Another: our Lord through His Holy Spirit.
How Much Are You Prepared to Trust?
When the Gospel says, “Trust!”
And you choose, “No!”
You turn Jesus’ Words to rust,
And He cannot help you grow.
Trust doesn’t happen in a vacuum, as if trusting were that simple.
We always have our context, and that context is littered with baggage and biases.  We have all our emotions to deal with, and every strong feeling must be tossed into the mix of our surrender.  ‘Faith’ is no good otherwise.  It’s null in effect and void of power.
But there is power in the one thing: a glorious-to-God submission so that His Kingdom would win through our surrender.
It will seem at the time that we’re being a doormat.  But that’s the farthest thing from the reality.  Only when we more fully give up our petty wants and desires do we find Jesus gives us something back that was, until now, completely, yet only tantalisingly, out of our grasp.
Trusting God is sheer peace; it’s not confounding in any way.  But we must give up our poor attitude and remain open to what our gift-of-libation will proffer the Kingdom at hand.
We must give up what we cannot keep in order to gain what we cannot lose.
We cannot keep hold of those things that come from our pride, because these will be swept away in the torrent of a calamity that is coming.  We cannot lose those spiritual things of our living for the Lord; they endure into eternity.
See, having nothing of our own way is the way we obtain every good thing.  Nothing’s lost.  All is gained in surrender.  We’re blessed in our submission to God.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Believing Upon the Word Planted Deep Within

“Coastlands, listen to me;
distant peoples, pay attention.
The Lord called me before I was born.
He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.
He made my words like a sharp sword;
He hid me in the shadow of His hand.
He made me like a sharpened arrow;
He hid me in His quiver.
— Isaiah 49:1-2 (HCSB)
THE Lord calls forth potential sunk deeply within each of us; deep within each one he has sowed something so precious, and it’s for each of us to determine what that pearl is.
He has called with an ancient calling into each of our souls, before we were even materially possible; within the genome of our priceless humanity.
Before we ever were, there, fully constructed, and therefore fully known, were each of us; what we stood for, what we were capable of, and for what difference we were made for.
Our calling is an echo reverberating back and forth through eternity.  Our words are sharp swords; they have effect as we speak them, whether audibly, written, enacted or promised.
Because our calling aligns to the perfect equation of God’s will, we exist and persist under the copious expanses of God’s protection.  We’re upheld as if by invisible hands.
Calling is a sharpened arrow, poised in the quiver, ready to be retrieved and set in the bow.  All the planning from eternity ground has been readied.  The equipment is ready for the warrior and the warrior is steady, ready for use.  The arrow need only be plucked from the quiver, set in the bow, and fired.  That is our real execution, and it’s only a matter of time.
God has laden within each of us a groundswell of potential for his Kingdom.
With faith our potential explodes, out of the bow, and through the air our arrow goes.
We’re fling forth toward our target, and God wills it that we hit the mark.  Many of us stress we’ll miss the mark, but if we trust the preparation and the purpose, we won’t miss what God intends we hit.
We cannot fail in hitting the mark God has destined us to hit, if we’re diligent, determined, and driven within bounds to succeed.
God has his Kingdom to build, and God is always less desperate to forge the way than we think he is.  The Lord teaches us patience, for his time.  The Lord teaches us discernment, so we won’t be too confused and discouraged.  The Lord teaches us courage, for going his way.  And yet, only the Lord can do these things.
Made for a purpose, made for a reason, ensure you’re ready, for the hour of God’s season.
God can only do what he wanted to do through you, through you.  Only you can do it.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

A Theology of Sublime Poverty, Yet Spiritual Riches

RUNNING a Bible study for a group of youth-aged girls in a recovery program as an extension of the ministry of the church I work for, and God leads me to share the above Word.  We had just been discussing how three of these girls had experienced significant healings whilst on a camp.  In a mood of reflective joy, we all mused about how fortunate we were — having gone through a recovery of sorts, in the Kingdom of God.  There were stories going around the group of how much community adds to life, and how ‘those on the outside’ were missing out.
These girls, and anyone on a mission of recovery, inevitably has to give up and sacrifice a lot of things; much contact with family, access to electronic devices and social media, and basically many freedoms we all take for granted.  There is a true sense that life is ‘on hold’ — that into the incubator of self-development they go.
Yet, even with all this taken away, together with the daunting task of looking ahead to a lot of personal work, there is the perspective that this Program builds their future, one day as a brick in a wall at a time.
I told them that they inspire me.  Some have bold hopes for noble careers, others want to be leaders elsewhere, like in a family, and others, too, are headed for careers in helping vocations like social work.  First they have to finish their schooling.  They learn to deal with their feelings.  They’re discipled.  They go to healing meetings.  It’s a hotbed seminary for challenge and growth.
On the one hand, they have nothing, so far as possessions go, yet, on the other hand, they have it all — a caring, nurturing community they can grow with safety in, the felt Presence of God, and opportunities that might only come through a Program like this.
They have nothing, yet they possess all things.
And that’s a marvellous spiritual concept; the less we have, as in what we hold, the more we have.  Only someone who’s ever lost it all, and had to go back to the start, could really understand.
Consider it privilege replete with joy when you’re in possession of nothing, for only then can you say that, in God, you possess all things.  It was so for Jesus.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Overcoming 5 Dark Powers of Spiritual Leadership Abuse

“Be they well-intentioned leaders or dictators driven by sinister motives, their dark side, like oil in a body of water, will always find its way to the surface and create a mess if it is not acknowledged and redeemed.”
— Gary McIntosh & Sam Rima
EVERYBODY in a spiritual fellowship deserves to be fed and watered by the Word of God through capable and trustworthy leaders.  Such leaders are, first and foremost, emotionally intelligent; self-aware and able to self-manage, as to become socially aware and able to manage socially.  And the great paradox is, emotional intelligence comes out of a wrestle with one’s dark side.  Every good leader will become adept at this wrestle, even if at least initially they choose to deny they would have character flaws.  The best leaders know how inherently flawed they really are.
The following list is a compilation from Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership.
1.     Compulsion in the Leader
This leader is driven beyond the agency of a reasonable self-control.  Such a leader is difficult to please as they’re an order Nazi.  They have standards that even they can’t keep to, and they’re often as disappointed with themselves (if only they were more self-aware) as they are with other people.  Compulsive leaders are often onerously judgmental and legalistic.
If you see yourself as having a problem with compulsion, it’s best you nurture your self-awareness so that you can learn to relax a little.  Perfection is the enemy of the good.
2.    Narcissism in the Leader
Deep insecurities drive a passion for attention that appears as supreme confidence.  Narcissists have no capacity for empathy, they exploit others for their own gain, and they have a perception of their worthiness — they feel entitled.
If you see yourself as being better than others, watch out!  Truth is, anyone attracted to spiritual leadership will have some form of narcissism to deal with.  Self-awareness is key.
3.    Paranoia in the Leader
Fear drives the paranoid leader into making mistakes as a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Pathetically jealous of others who do well, and constantly worried what others are saying about them, paranoia in the leader paralyses them.
Like with compulsive leaders, paranoid leaders have the propensity of control; actually all of these five leader types do.  Once we’re free of paranoia, having called it for what it is, we’re freer to do God’s bidding with a clearer conscience.
4.    Co-dependency in the Leader
More so as a throwback to growing up in dysfunctional relationships in the home, co-dependency is the state of living with someone who is compulsively dependent; for example, addictions.
Unless they’re self-aware, co-dependant leaders reinforce a sick system, and they often don’t feel they have much influence.
5.    Passive-Aggressiveness in the Leader
Pessimistic in outlook, this person is going to be hard to get along with.  They can be known for being resistant to change, and they tend to be on the look-out for people who they see as a threat.
Understanding that resistance is a totally reasonable sign for wanting to be mutually respected, when that resistance tips into an area where the passive-agressiveness is poignant, we see an inappropriate role for it.  Passive-aggressive is unbecoming for a Christian leader.
The uppermost character competency in a spiritual leader is their nurtured self-awareness, and no growth in humility can occur without it.
Without self-awareness spiritual leaders will inevitably fail, and they’ll take a lot of innocent people down with them.
Good spiritual leaders are non-compulsive, meek and humble, measured and secure, interdependent, and direct communicators.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

I’ll Always Be Me, But Jesus’ Me Is My Best

LONG is this life, or at least that’s how life seems.  Too long it can seem.  Then we don’t want to go.  God must wonder what we truly want.
But that’s life.  We don’t know any better when we’re aged than we did when we were young.  And yet we’ll have seen so much that we’ll be confidently able to say, “There’s nothing new under the sun.”  Why do so many people so foolishly think they have life sorted out?  Why are there myriads of know-it-all’s?  They don’t know more; they just have to appear to know, because their pride usurps their self-control.  But this isn’t a rant about know-it-all’s.
This is about the dualist fact that I’ll always be me, but Jesus’ me is my best.
I’ll always be the person I was born to be; the person people know who is me.  I’m always be that person.  But Jesus makes me better; the best version of the me I’ll always be.  I’m who I am, but I’m a completely different me in Jesus.
But I have to do one thing to achieve this holy ideal.
This one thing is I have to enter Christ’s passion; actually live Jesus’ anguish.  I have to live as if I’m going, myself, to Christ’s cross.  I have to live in the horror of the crucifixion, yet also, at the same time, I have to live in the salubrious wonder of the resurrection.  I have to see the horror in the fact of my sin that sent my Saviour to the cross, and I have to see the wonder that, through him, I’m raised to new life.
I’ll always be me.
For many, many people that would be a scary and hopeless reality.  And the same I would declare, but for the Lord Jesus.  I’m free to be Jesus’, because he’s freed me to be me.  You’re free to be his, because he’s freed you to be you.
It doesn’t really matter what the rest of the world thinks of me.  I know what Jesus thinks of me.  That’s enough for me.  But contingent on such a relationship is the respect due him, alone, for what he did once, for ever!  His will is that I end my pettiness, my indulgences, my insatiable seeking.
Jesus sponsors the grown up, responsible version of me.
Christian life, taken seriously, is the best life for us and everyone in our orbit.
Life in Christ is nothing changed about who I am, yet it’s everything changed about where I belong.
In Christ, I can celebrate that, on the one hand, whilst nothing has changed, on the other, everything has changed.

© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

When Submission Becomes Spirituality’s Power for God’s Glory

“The measure of your submission is the measure of your spirituality.”
— Rev. Ray Brown
“Mutually submit to one another out of respect for Christ.”
— Ephesians 5:21
Submit, and do so in any and every situation, and there, in that moment, is spirituality.  This is because to submit is to quash every degree of pride, and pride is the antithesis of the Spirit.
But the word “submission” (Greek word, hypotasso) is not very fashionable these days.  In our prideful era we don’t like the idea that we should submit to anyone, let alone each other.  And somehow we haven’t discovered that such a position is the root of discontent.  Such a position — to not submit readily to everyone — is unbiblical.
To submit to everyone — out of respect for Christ — not to appease them, for their sake — gives glory to God.  And yet there’s a great deal of power we experience in submitting in all our relationships.
What Does a Godly Submission Look Like
When we genuinely try on this godly submission we find there’s a latent and loving power indwelt in it, for us and for the person or people we’re interacting with.  The relational dynamic will be an experience of Christ’s lightness; all because one person decides they bring a gentle spirit to the conversation.
A godly submission is a listening spirit, and hence it avails to the moment patience, poise and power.  Yes, that’s right — in genuine submission (out of respect for Christ) there’s power; a power because of self-control and trust in God.
The Paradoxical Power for Joy and Peace
Submission is a paradoxical power for joy and peace, because we don’t have to force our way through or defend ourselves; we find that God does that for us.  When we decide that another’s needs are as important as our own, our own needs change, and we find that our needs are subsumed in the whole — everyone’s needs become important to us.  When this is the case, the prayer, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” becomes answered, through us.
See how our joy and peace are linked to others’ joy and peace?  The paradoxical power in submission works all the time.  It’s a joy and a peace we come to live with, the more we submit to others.
Godly submission is nothing about being a doormat, yet it’s everything about the power in the glory of God.  Follow me.  If I can ‘submit’ within an interaction with someone sufficiently to listen properly, I help to allay their fears as I appear present with them in the moment.  Their needs are as important as mine are, and godly submission is respect for that reality.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.