Friday, April 18, 2014

The Fifth Cup – Jesus Drank the Cup of God’s Wrath

There it was,
That Fifth Cup on the table,
Only One could possibly drink,
The fact that Jesus drank
God’s wrath for us,
I really shudder to think.
The four cups of the Passover Feast have held great measure of worth and meaning for Jews ever since its institution itself. These cups represent:
  1. The Cup of Sanctification – based on God’s statement, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
  2. The Cup of Deliverance – based on God’s statement, “I will deliver you from slavery to them.”
  3. The Cup of Redemption – based on God’s statement, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”
4.        The Cup of Protection – based on God’s statement, “I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.”
These four cups are a staple of Jewish thought regarding their relationship with God. But the meal was always incomplete without the Fifth Cup: the Cup of God’s Wrath.
Could we absolve ourselves? Of course not. Could we ever hope to help ourselves; to be our own sanctifier, deliverer, redeemer, and protector? It could never be.
The sin in the world – that sin that so irreverently insults God – had to be dealt with in full. Only a sacrifice so large – the largest conceivable sacrifice – the only perfect and sinless Man ever, and God’s own Son – could expunge God’s fury for our consummate insolence.
Simply put, Jesus came to the earth, God incarnate, to become sin for us, so that we might be reconnected with God as it was originally purposed. The Jews of Jesus’ time couldn’t conceive the masterful redemption plan that meant that the Son of God would be the Lamb of God as promised, and indeed, prophesied (meaning they should have known that Jesus could be the suffering servant of Isaiah) who could drink a cup of God’s wrath dry.
They anticipated a military leader, yet what God provided was a Leader who was militarily humiliated by the religious leaders of the day, but who would in turn reveal the glory of God in that suffering death on the cross.
Jesus drank that Fifth Cup – the cup of God’s wrath – so we would never need to, and, in order that the four cups of sanctification, deliverance, redemption, and protection would be ours, eternally.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Experiencing God’s Loving Kindness Called Grace

CHRISTIANS are funny re-creations of the living God – having accepted the Father’s forgiveness because of the Son’s sacrifice, they rarely experience that grace in real felt ways unless they are discipled; especially those who have been brought up in Christian households. Then, when a significant loss or perplexing situation hits, so does crisis – not the crisis itself, but how to meet the crisis and sustain ourselves through its entirety. That is, to come out the other side intact, having grown.
Where there is no previous crisis as a bearing or point of reference, or there was, but we didn’t respond in such a way as to grow through it, God may bring us back to this place: “Suffer this with Me,” says the Lord.
Only when we have suffered with God, receiving the ministry of his grace in our pain, will we understand something of how his grace works – not that we will ever comprehend it. But at least we will know how to access it.
The point is the search. If we will search with unguarded diligence, God will show us everything we need to learn.
To experience the actual loving kindness of God, called grace, we not only need to be mindful of Jesus’ substitutionary act on the cross – his sinlessness for our sin – we need to receive it in our hearts; for ourselves, personally, in our situations and living contexts.
Where we have sinned and then been saved, we are saved from the bloodguilt of that sin; all sin, past, present, and future – though we have also been given repentance as a biblical model for making restitution for ourselves before God.
But forgiveness may be experienced to the point we no longer experience the guilt and shame of the sins of the past.
A Method
Knowing that God is eternally and comprehensively loving – and taking in the biblical truth that once something is forgiven it is forgiven eternally – we rest in the fact through contemplation.
We plunge our minds into the healing space of imagining God is there, even in the midst of that sin we engaged in. Even in that, we imagine not an iota of condemnation – only the completest sense of loving kindness for who we are: unconditionally loved by God, through Jesus Christ.
As we sit there contemplating the Lord there with us back in that sinful situation, we imagine no judgment for what we are doing, but love simply for who we are.
This is a paradigm shift of massive proportions magnifying the character of God.
The character of God – now revealed to us in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ – is so fundamentally virtuous and trustworthy we cannot lose. God seeks the person weighed down in condemnation to deliver them – that’s the character of God. Our Lord is no vicious task master. God is more loving and more understanding than we can ever hope to know. And no sin is beyond his wiping clean of our slate of debt.
So, our opportunity is to imagine Jesus in the midst of that time – being there with us. This evokes an emotional response. It has to. As we imagine the essence of Divine understanding, even in the midst of sin, we begin to understand that we truly are more than conquerors in Christ. We understand, by seeking his face, that God just wants us healed; he wants us back and desperately so; he wants us growing past our guilt and shame, so we can glorify his name all the more.
Feeling forgiven is as simple as imagining Jesus in the midst of our sin and loving us anyway. Nothing, not even our guilt and shame, can separate us. Experiencing grace is done prayerfully as we imagine God there and present with us.
As saved people we are forgiven and we can experience that forgiveness by resting in it contemplatively.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Reason There Is So Much Pain In the World

THIS is a simple philosophy and possibly with its faults; there are exceptions, ironies, paradoxes, and mysteries all through life.
But the Lord showed me something watching a recent YouTube clip. What I was shown is the untenable anger in a great portion of humanity – those who live completely to satisfy their own foolish desires, and on a continual collision course with authority.
We all battle somewhat, but there is a narcissism in some that proves a point: they have suffered – at the hands of dysfunctional family structures and/or abusive societal contexts – but they have suffered without learning. They have resented their suffering. They have blamed instead of being sustained. They have resisted the world instead of resisting themselves.
They haven’t been shown the ways of Jesus to a life-transforming effect.
The reason there is so much pain in the world is pain is not handled as it should be: honestly, truthfully, humbly, courageously, and as an input for learning. Of course, this is counterintuitive. It makes no sense until we’ve tried it, but it is entirely consistent with the Gospel imperative.
There is nothing courageous about getting angry with others in our pain, but anger, of itself, can be a healthy reaction – because the anger abides as a response to the truth regarding the injustice of the pain. Much pain is not brought on as a consequence of a person’s sin. Much pain is totally illogical.
There is nothing humble about complaining without a sense for wanting to find a way – the right way – through the pain. The person that suffers well journeys courageously, in seeking and searching for an answer to restore their peace, their joy, their hope. They get beyond their complaint. They are never happy complaining; there is something more to be gleaned and learned.
There is nothing truthful or honourable in denying our pain, by either pretending everything’s better than it is or getting angry by many forms of transferring our anger onto others for the things we, internally, are deeply dissatisfied, and even possibly very depressed or anxious, about.
The reason there’s so much pain in the world is there are too many people who have suffered incorrectly. There are not enough models of the true Christian life, yet every modern day hero – and those of history – have applied the Gospel principle to overcome their nemesis. Even within Christianity there are the majority who do not still know how to suffer well. They have taken the easy-hard way; the lazy and unlearning way. The diligent way is patient longsuffering, which leads inevitably to learning and growth.
Learning and growth are the purposes behind pain. All pain can be meaningful, but we should lament that the world does not know how to suffer well – which is to fully rely on God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Deafening Silence Of Praise

“Praise therefore, and praise worthily, so that to the utmost of your power there be in you no charge, no drought, no contemplation, no carefulness of mind that is void of the praise of God.”
— Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)
There is no self-assessed holiness that comes from the heart of praise; only sincere, heartrending thankfulness for a most incomprehensible gift; a prize of intellectual means and an affectation beyond all measure.
And what is the likeness of the mood we discuss? How might it be declared?
No thought for self-righteousness; none for worth without from God; precious little, it is hoped, for what we might bring to the altar of sacrifice prior to due penitence; a pittance for that which our lives are devoid of; and, certainly none for pride, greed, anger, lust, sloth, gluttony, or envy—the seven deadly sins.
Connecting Praise With Thankfulness
The shape of praise is formed by thankfulness; it might be considered the product of gratitude. Being thankful forms the ever-mouldable attitude of heart as it conjures thought for what might be praised. Praise and thankfulness, therefore, are a chicken-or-the-egg scenario; which comes first, and why, are irrelevant. They must just be entered into for the best of life to be achieved.
Importantly, though, we necessarily understand praise and thankfulness complement and work with each other such that all of life could be a gift offering of worship back the Lord.
At any deceptive or indifferent mood we thrust praise and/or thankfulness; holy combatants worthy for replete spiritual warfare.
Praise In All Seasons
Because battles come insidiously, vigorously, or by stealth, and often with hidden worth as to their actual threat value, we are frequently tricked—found without praise or thankfulness. Such a state of heart and mind attacks us when we are at either ease or peril—and any state between, really.
We come, therefore, at the ready, at all times, to hear the reminder of the Spirit, calling aloud within us, to convert attitudes of annoyance, complaint, and unhelpful comparison—to the ends of any spiritual compromise—into annotations of God-conformed delight, no matter the circumstances (with quick exception, only, for genuine grief).
And such annotations will not digress into dilutions of pride manifest in words, but they will stand alone in the God-anointed strength of silent action. Words betray the blessings of God that afford praise. Actions, on the other hand, keep faith with the power within, present always for disposal via the adroit sacrifice of love.
True praise is rarely, if ever, vocal—by our illicit shouts of “Praise the Lord.” A God-converted praise is first and foremost silent by sound and raucous by action.
Praise is the demeanour of solemn mindfulness that disciplines the body toward action that loves others and pleases God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Garment of Praise for the Spirit of Heaviness

THERE was a time in my life when ‘put on the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness’ was an anthem – when, as I endured the loss of everything I held dear, I received comfort for the hope I had that God might turn it all around.
God does that! God turns things around for us, ultimately, when we look high into the unknown heavens, tears streaming down our face, our nose running, a mind in anguish, but with a brave smile in our heart for the hope of being restored.
When we put on the garment of praise in our spirit of heaviness we draw down deeply into God and our Lord makes us search for ways to praise.
Praise cannot just come, but in knowing our obedience is to be blessed, we search for ways to praise God in the midst of our sullen iniquity.
We somehow know that praise will lift our spirits. We know, through prior experience, that through praise we know joy and that joy leads to peace, and in peace is rest. Rest from anguish is what we really seek. And when we finally arrive at a moment’s rest we taste it and that gives us the innate desire for more.
The good news is that that rest is the eventual product for obedience.
When Anguish Catapults Rest and Rest Catapults Praise
Out of the valley of sadness, the abyss of despair, and the crevice of anxiousness, comes the desire to return to a safe and steady state of mind and heart.
This desire is what catapults us from anguish – a great and swirling passion derived out of pain – into the state of rest, for we cannot leave things as they are. We know there is gain out of our pain if we obey God.
This obedience catapults us. We are blessed by God for the inputs of submission, for if we search for a way to praise, God will give us what we need to know and do.
Having achieved even a foretaste of rest we become spiritually determined to do all we can to feel more of this blessing of God. Then comes more rest, and then more again. We come to know how to get there. It’s because of our praise. Out of rest we find praise is easier, for we have experienced blessing, and blessing enough for the time being. We see how faithful God is and that abounds to more praise in our hearts.
When we put on the garment of praise for our heaviness of spirit we receive rest and our confidence in God’s faithfulness is buoyed.
© 2014 Garments of Praise. Written by S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Ancient Practice of Lectio Divina

“Christ stands in the midst of those who seek him.”
— John 1:26 (paraphrased)
LECTIO DIVINA means “sacred reading,” and it can be done as a means of spiritual contemplation toward practicing the Presence of God. For Example, when Jesus says, “Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you” (John 14:27), we can either focus on what that means theologically or we can meditate on it to deduce what Jesus is actually saying to us, in our space and time, right now. We are practicing being Present with the Messiah.
Lectio Divina is done by simply praying the Word aloud, repeatedly, for example, John 14:27... “peace, I leave you... peace... peace, I leave you... I give you peace... I give to you... peace...” we imagine Jesus saying to us as we pray the words aloud, slowly, experimenting in different tones and pace.
What follows is an acrostic that describes some of the features of Lectio Divina:
Linger – as we linger over the Word of God – one verse, line, or word – we draw deeply into the Lord and God becomes real in that moment.
Examine – of a sense we are examining the text before us. God is doing things in our minds as we open ourselves up via our intentional focus.
Concentrate – there are times when our thoughts waver into distraction; but this is about stilling the mind, heart and soul as much as possible. Whenever we find ourselves distracted we re-connect and concentrate, not so much mentally, but on our spiritual resources of being one with God.
Transform – through such a submission of ourselves into contemplative practice we are open to God transforming us by the revelation of his Word back to us through the biblical text. The text literally comes alive; it makes us change.
Internalize – the introvert will love lectio divina, but any busy or weary person will; that’s because there is the intentional internalization. We have given ourselves permission to escape, for a brief time, from the burdens of this world.
Obedience – to practice being Present with God is possibly the greatest sign of the humble submission of ourselves.
Discipleship – lectio divina is an investment, at its core, in the process of discipleship. In allowing God to speak to us through his Word, we are able to listen, to hear (and therefore understand), and to contemplate the action to take.
Illumined – there are myriads of false enlightenments in this world. To be truly enlightened is to see as God sees. To be illumined is to be judged; to know the truth – the good, the bad, and the ugly – as we are personally concerned.
Vulnerable – to be vulnerable to God’s grace and revelation is to be opened up like a tin can, knowing all along that as God pervades us we are safe. To be vulnerable as we pray through the Word is to give God license to change us.
Integrity – this is what we want to harness; to be integral as we pray; to be a unit within ourselves with God.
New – as we plunge prayerfully into the biblical text, we come through fresh exploration into to new understandings.
Acuity – lectio divina blesses us with a sharper, keener sense for ourselves, God, and our relationship with God.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

More Love, More Power, More Blessing

“More love,
more power,
more of You in my life...”
— Michael W. Smith, More Love, More Power
For all the mess that we are involved in, in life, there is the awesome truth that power and blessing reside in the source of love.
Why would we not want to be blessed? Why would we not want to do everything possible to vouchsafe the processes of blessing and such a beautiful outcome as blessedness?
The resonating splendour of love is the propagator of power and blessing — to the extension of all good things of God — gifts of his goodness and grace.
The more we give away the more we get back.
The more delighted we are to endure hardship, because we have God, the more of this invisible and potent strength we claim, and without even trying; it just comes.
The character of this power is overflowing, burgeoning with everyday fruitfulness to all corners of our lives. The character of this blessing is reliability and faithfulness to the nth degree.
Surely it would only be a fool who would negate love’s power and blessing in their lives. But, hang on a minute, we would be those fools because of our preference to engage so much in the antithesis of love; to engage in our sin. The more we devote ourselves to God, the more love we are capable of, and the more power and blessing enrols itself to us.
We need power in this life to make anything of it, but it isn’t the power that the world recognises that we need. We need God’s power in order to struggle well the entire journey. And the only thing that wins us to this power is love; as we love each other, and in that, as we love God.
We cannot afford to live without love, to live as though we don’t care, or to live without passion. Even though such a life is a difficult life, it is an easier life (with fewer regrets) than the life that insists on its own way — and, in the process, rejects love.
Love is the be-all and end-all of life. The more we give to love, the more power and blessing we redeem. But power and blessing are not of the world; they transcend the world’s form of power and blessing, which is fleeting and full of falsity.
If we want the abundant life, we throw ourselves into a life of love, whatever it takes.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Three Ways a Christian Is Saved

THERE is an eternal dynamism in the concept of God’s salvation of an appropriately penitent humankind because of Jesus; those who are saved, are being saved, and those who will be saved.
As a Christian:
1.      You Are Saved
Having taken up the cudgel of faith – having owned our sin – and having committed to journeying with Jesus as Lord – we have a salvation that can never shift; it will never diminish.
A state of justification has taken place – we are justified because we have accepted what the Lamb of God did for us, personally, and for all eternity, on the cross at Golgotha. “Jesus died for my sin, and I accept the Father’s forgiveness for what Jesus has done. What Jesus did, he did once for all time.”
2.     You Are Being Saved
Oh, how salubrious is this salvation fact: Jesus saves me in my trust and obedience every day; every moment I rely.
We are being saved day by day, as we rally for life and against the forces for evil. As we hold forth a life of praise and worship of God, our Lord is providing for us limitless and genuine salvation experiences as we are lifted out of dark situations by our reliance on him who is our Saviour. Even when we remain in darkness situations that are our circumstances, we may be lifted into the light of a spiritual revelation – and that is, by faith.
3.     You Will Be Saved
As light passes from the body and the body takes on the darkness of inert dust, the spirit is lifted out of the body and the soul rises to be with God. In that moment we are transformed from one reality of God’s glory (the bodily variety) to another, most ultimate and glorified form. In an instant we will be glorified. The precise details of eternity are unclear, but we are assured of this fact: it is in every sense, glory. If the other foundations of salvation were entirely blessed, then how might we consider this one? There will be no comparison!
It seems an inexplicable paradox that we are becoming the people we already are. But that is the Christian life of sanctification for you, me, and all who take the gospel message seriously.
Those who have been saved (who have accepted Jesus wholeheartedly) are being saved every day through trust and obedience (sanctification) and will be saved for all eternity (glorification). Salvation is very dynamically blessed concept.
That which is priceless in value is also never more free because of grace: that’s salvation.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 7, 2014

How Suffering Precedes True Rejoicing

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.”
— Romans 8:18 (NRSV)
In times of pain,
Like being stuck,
In the cold driving rain,
There seems no way to cope.
But when we’re real,
And we’re open to feel,
God provides relief of hope.
SUFFERING may actually be the perfect accompaniment to true rejoicing, but only if – in the material of suffering – we can suffer the right way; that is to Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.” (Romans 12:12)
Suffering meets everyone sooner or later, but the human response is to rail against it, and, in that way, we learn nothing; God cannot mould our characters when we resist the work of his Spirit by resenting the suffering, overall.
But in a paradox of all wisdom we do need to resist and resent a little; enough to be admonished and encouraged. There is great benefit in issuing a lament before God. There is healing in dealing with God alone. God knows there is no healing to be done purely through our fellow human beings. Healing occurs in transaction with God.
There is precursor to healing: suffering. But not just any suffering will be the material for healing. We must suffer in humility and continue to give God glory as our hope in the glory to come overcomes our worldly concern. What is coming cannot compare with what already is.
So suffering is a necessary prerequisite to the glory enfolded in true rejoicing. Many consider themselves having not suffered, and it might be the case that there is a quiet envy going on when those who haven’t suffered compare themselves with those who have, who faced their suffering courageously, and have hence been healed. Forgiveness is now a bit of an instinctive no-brainer as the heart of God has moulded a human heart to be a purveyor of compassion, kindness, and tolerance.
Those who have suffered humbly to the point where God has shaped their character and healed their broken souls have found the way to true rejoicing.
Suffering is a prerequisite to a true understanding of the gospel, for, as Jesus suffered, we too must suffer to comprehend a little of what he went through.
Suffering is not a bad thing; it is a gateway into the glorious hope that prevails which is still to be revealed. We understand the ways of faith, hope, and love when we have a bearing for suffering – our own or others’, and certainly Christ’s.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

First Things

HAVING been inspired by The Desiderata (1927) I sought God to inspire through me something along those lines. This is it:
Awaken the ancient call inside you. Do the best you can with what you have. You are neither perfect nor is anyone else. Accept God above and all around as the only King and Saviour; the only Perfect One. Accept limitations gracefully. It’s all we can do.
Concede your blessings and elude your cursing, and know the balance struck is wisdom. But overall everything is what it is. Enjoy whatever comes in a healthily detached way, but don’t miss the opportunity to love, for in loving is the meaning of life. So love the best you can.
Speak the truth, and a hundred fold better, in the justice of love. Find truth through the worthiest of efforts for exploration. Life is the learning ground. Partake of all life with a keen interest, confessing the boredom, restrain the extraneous panic, and add no burden to your peace.
There are many better and there are some worse. Allow yourself a calm position of mediocrity from the striving of those never happy because they must be the best. Being you is good enough. It’s good enough for God. And God should know. Resolve this for peace.
Spare no expense (time, effort and money) in getting your healing, but be wise; much time, effort and money go into worthless healings which serve only to complicate matters, for some healings are snake oil remedies. Listen to people who have no vested interest in themselves; those who have taken the counsel of the years. Trusted people have a track record that anyone can rely on. Don’t be afraid to remain convinced, though scepticism should have a limit.
Ground yourself in the finding and foundation of God. Know that God knows best, and accept the mysteries for the glorious majesties they are. Acceptance is a key to life. Life gets easier when the pressure flows away. Find peace from within the truth.
Peace and the truth coexist because peace and righteousness coexist. What is right is true, so righteousness and truth are the same, so long as righteousness being the outcome of truth. Abiding in truth is the way to peace. There is no guilt added to us. Abiding in the truth, even if it means you lose, is the way to peace.
First things are the things of virtue.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.