Saturday, June 25, 2016

When the ‘Vision’ is an Agonising, “Wait!”

“They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were prevented by the Holy Spirit from speaking the message in Asia. When they came to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, bypassing Mysia, they came down to Troas. During the night a vision appeared to Paul: A Macedonian man was standing and pleading with him, “Cross over to Macedonia and help us!” After he had seen the vision, we immediately made efforts to set out for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to evangelize them.
— Acts 16:6-10 (HCSB)
God has His purpose in calling us to a halt.  Sometimes, even as we steam along the path He’s called us to, we approach a dead-end, and it makes absolutely no sense at all.  To us.  But not to Him.  Often these dead-ends are incredibly inconvenient, humbling (possibly humiliating), and even enraging… as if God’s defaulted on a promise.
But His ways are not our ways; our thoughts are not His (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The apostle Paul tried to enter Asia, to evangelise Bithynia, but the Holy Spirit prevented them.  Even if they desperately wanted to go into that region they couldn’t.  They were stuck in Troas for some time, having passed through Mysia.  That region possibly held great potential to preach the gospel, but the Spirit of Jesus (the Holy Spirit) convicted them to go to Troas instead, and there to wait for His leading.  Having been prohibited by the Spirit to preach into Mysia and then into Bithynia, it appears Paul’s party kept a low profile in Troas, choosing not to preach.  They waited on God for an indeterminate time.  Then, at the right time, His Spirit spoke: “During the night a vision appeared to Paul…”
Having to wait must have frustrated Paul, although he probably had the disposition to know that God often changes things without warning, and probably delighted in the fact of simply doing His will.
Waiting when we’re called to wait — when all the appropriate doors to go through are closed and locked — is obedience.
***
God is in control, even as we wait.  Even as we struggle to step forth in an arduous season where we feel we’re not only wasting our time, but we’re being wasted.
We are of use to the Lord even in the very place we find ourselves — any place.
We may hate to have to wait,
And loath nonsensical delay,
But in time God does pay,
Incoming is an inevitable date.
God wastes no wait, and uses our waiting, most definitely, for His purposes.
When you wait, wait well, waiting in the joy of contentment that the wait will be worth it, and by faith it will.  Better still, wait in the knowledge that even in the waiting there’s a new purpose to be known in this present time.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Friday, June 24, 2016

From Adversity to Redemption Via Endurance

From the rigours of adversity, God, in His goodness, paves our path to redemption, so we can be thankful for His goodness, via our endurance.
The journey from adversity to redemption occurs via endurance, and, in that we know God is good, because, as we’re obedient, He is faithful.  He never fails to complete what only He could accomplish — our redemption that for months or years we hoped for, endured for, and never gave up for.
I know a tremendously inspirational young person who has faced the rigours of his own adversities.  Several of them he has had in his life thus far.  Each of them in their size of significance could’ve been devastating, and he has had multiples to deal with.  And then recently, redemption!  The reward for over a decade’s work.  His redemption reminded me of my own journey — of Joseph’s journey, and David’s.  Thirteen years of journeying, each one.  And then I reminded of a young lady who, too, has endured much over a similar time period — adversity endured and awaiting redemption.  She keeps stepping by faith, and I know she will get there.
***
Redemption we all must wait for.  In the meantime, we endure.  Along the path that God is paving, we are blessed simply yet boldly to step, as paving bricks are laid down at about the time we need to step — God’s provision, working in unison with our faith.
God knows He’s paving the entire path to our redemption, yet we cannot know, which underscores the role of our faith to believe in His goodness to carry us all the way there.
So, from adversity, we suffer it, and we grieve it well.  We cry our tears of sadness, being real about it, rather than deny it or pour our vitriol over others.  Through adversity we’re given the gift of coping.  It gets easier, more manageable, and we get used to being perfectly broken.
Then, at the right time, God grants us a redemption that He’s ever been leading us to; we see it only from hindsight, as we approach, and then walk right into, that Promised Land.  Then it arrives and we experience the bliss of the surreal.  Something we came to think would never actually happen, and yet we continued stepping in faith anyway.
It happens.  Ultimately.  Eventually.  The faithful experience redemption.  God works no other way.
Endure, for in your endurance is your hope,
for redemption, from your adversity.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

From Brokenness to a Double Portion of Blessing

Those who’ve hated their sorrow,
Who’ve suffered humbly and survived,
Have cause to hope for tomorrow,
Soon they’ll see they’ve thrived!
That there is a great deal of pain in the world hardly needs to be stated.  The reason you’re probably interested enough in the title of this article to click on it indicates there’s pain in your life or in the lives of those you love; probably both; pain that cannot be assuaged through any action on your part or the others’.
Pain that has no remedy causes a depth of sorrow appended to anguish, delving into helplessness, that verges on abysmal fatigue, where giving up is seriously not only an option, but it becomes a temptation and a threat — to where we cannot afford to plummet.
Return!  To the Stronghold
The mood of the first word “Return” is imperative, a command — “Return!”  As in, those who are subject of the command.  They’re to return with wise haste, straight away, to the Stronghold — to the City of God, which was Jerusalem, but is now to God’s Presence; His face.
The assurance of God in the command to “return” mirrors what Zechariah opened up with in 1:3 — “Return to me and I will return to you” (cf. James 4:8).
Return, as we’re commanded, and we’re assured of His Presence and blessing.
You Prisoners Who Have Hope
Those who are commanded to return to the Stronghold are the prisoners, and, because they have a Stronghold to flee to, they can hope, for their hope is real.
Many people who don’t believe in Christ cannot see the hope a Christian has, for they’ve not experienced it.  It must be experienced to be believed.  And still there is further hope for the Christian — we truly have had very little revealed to us.  Isn’t that a hope, as we gaze at God as if into a mirror dimly?
We prisoners to sorrow and brokenness have this real hope emergent within us.  This hope is real possession, but only by faith, for we haven’t yet realised the fullest extent of it.
Yet.  Hope.  Expectation.  Expect great things from God (William Carey).
Today, I Declare, says the LORD, I Will Restore Double To You
Reminiscent of Joseph (Genesis 48:22) and Job (42:10), there is a promise that what was suffered will be compensated, double.
Double.
Good to His promise, God is a Lord of multiplicity.  God is generous as well as faithful.  He will complete the work He’s doing in us (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Could it be that we may come to be amazed at the creativity and enormity of God’s restorative goodness?
That has come to be our experience!
***
Symbolic night, awash with tears lamenting a broken present, gives way to the dawning of joy, and peace redoubled.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

God’s Number One ‘Will’ for Your Life and Mine

“As they learned to live together, they developed into high-energy communities.”
— Eugene H. Peterson, Under the Unpredictable Plant (p. 19)
One honest moment I asked,
“God, where can I serve You and be Your star?
Where can I fly where I can be tasked?”
He said, “Quite frankly, stay where you are!”
Oh, this is an incredibly hard word for so many of us, most, if not all of us.  We all aspire to rise to another level of effectiveness in this life.  None of us are quite where we aspire to be — whether that be a career, vocation, family, or personal goal.
But Peterson’s point is that stability is grand in the context of restlessness — a spiritual no man’s land.  He learned this from the sixth century monk, Benedict, who added a vow of stability — to stay where he was — to his vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  This fourth vow was an exceeding wisdom that helped underpin the other three.
Spiritually, we’re restless people, and when we give-in to our inner impatience we work against the purposes of God, not for them.  We find reasons at light speed to move from one position, situation or circumstance to what we desire to be the next.
Restlessness is bred from discontentedness, and discontentedness is a spiritual crisis.  We address discontentedness by learning to be happy right where we are — the absolute manifestation of God’s will for each of our lives.  Where we presently are, is where He presently wants us to be.  It doesn’t mean God wants to keep us there, but we are where we are for a pre-determined time, according to His will.
And here is the reason we’re to stay (in our hearts) where we are:
God has given us a community to function within; a place where we will be fashioned by others, according to His Spirit, as others, likewise, will be influenced by us.  God cannot do His sanctifying work of character reformation in us any other way than through community.
God grows us where we neither give up on others in community nor do they give up on us.  We grow best where we stay where we are.
The congregation is not only the pastor’s place for developing vocational holiness, it’s also the best place for the congregation to learn piety.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

5 Heart Cries From the Psalms

The voice of the Lord twists the oaks and strips the forests bare.  And in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
— Psalm 29:9 (NIV)
Praise!  Not all the cries in the Psalms are of lament.  Some are those we’d bellow as if we’d already arrived in God’s eternal house.  Power, glory, and blessing are His, our eternal, Sovereign God.  None is due this accord but Him.
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.
— Psalm 34:17 (NIV)
Delivery!  The righteous He delivers.  Not when the righteous want, nor in the circumstances they can even predict.  Only a Sovereign God could deliver as and when and how He wishes to deliver.
“Hear my prayer, Lord, listen to my cry for help; do not be deaf to my weeping.  I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were.
— Psalm 39:12 (NIV)
Silence!  How else is a faith to be tested?  If we give up when God is silent, how little do we believe He is Sovereign.  And yet, there are times when we feel vanquished.  We do give up, for a time.  Thank God He is the God of the second, and 490th chance.
For he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help.
— Psalm 72:12 (NIV)
Promise keeper!  Many verses in the Psalms attest to the truth that God hears the cries of His afflicted.  We must have faith when He seems silent.  Only a Sovereign God can keep His promises.  If we don’t give up, He will keep His promises.  God is the only real help we have, yet He’s all we need.
Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
— Psalm 142:6 (NIV)
Help!  Some people and situations overtake us, overwhelm us, and overcome us.  It was always designed to be this way.  Somehow God must convince us that we’re not sovereign.  Our faith is ever contingent on falsity until we realise this.  Only God is Sovereign.  We’re not in control.
***
There are many different cries that ring out of the Psalms in God’s holy Word.  As many cries as the human spirit is able to feel and express.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Trusting God’s Sovereignty When God Is Silent

“Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.”
— Romans 9:18 (NIV)
When our lives are turned upside down we could be forgiven for wondering just how God can watch on, having seemed to have had a hand in designing our fate.  Does He not care as the Scriptures say He cares; we may ask?  Can’t He see how much we’re suffering?  Doesn’t He care that life seems hellish some, much, even most of the time?  What is possibly the point of this seemingly sadistic life?
If we trek back to ancient times, we could ask the same theological questions.  Why did God let the Hebrews suffer at the hands of Pharaoh so much, and for so long?  God saw fit to harden Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:16), and this only made life harder for Moses and the people.  Did He do this to punish Moses and the Israelites?  What was God’s purpose in using Pharaoh against those who were His covenant people?  Where is God’s mercy?
These all seem valid questions.
In Romans 9:1-29, the apostle Paul speaks of God’s sovereignty: “God rules and works according to His eternal purpose, even through events that seem to contradict or oppose His rule.”[1]  Paul states matter-of-factly, nobody has a right to question God about what He creates, ordains, and allows.  We rally against that saying, “If only God would love me” — well, He gave us breath and hope and life, didn’t He?  We always want more.  That’s the truth that God’s up against, and life just wouldn’t work if everyone got what they wanted because of some skewed idea that God is that kind of merciful God.  And still we’re cast against the wall of real trials that do seem so unfair at times.  Even when things are going well, we cannot know, definitively, God’s sovereign purpose, though we may think we know.
Let’s explore the enigma of God’s sovereignty:
God has plans we know nothing about,
Who are we with which to utter a doubt?
God will do just as He pleases,
If you want proof, look how He treated Jesus.
God has plans beyond our control,
We still have no idea what is His goal,
Yet we must trust Him to His Decree,
In eternity it’ll be, we’ll finally see.
God has plans that we can’t change,
Nothing we can do will cause Him to rearrange,
Why should we trust Him when this is so?
It’s because there’s no changing; He’s never our foe.
God has plans, and it’s because He’s king,
That as His subjects we can sing,
Not because of the hardships that we must bear,
But of the compassion within His eternal care.
God’s sovereignty is an enigma when we look at it through the lens of our human sensibility.  That’s why His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).  God is inscrutable.  Only when we accept this can we go on in our growth with, and toward God.
Then we might come to accept something really chastising:
How God Uses the Hardened Heart
God has set some people against us.  Some, for His purposes, are hard of heart.  Others are just loving us tough, when we need it, though it seems they’re hard of heart.  It’s difficult to know where God’s mercy starts and whom He hardens and why.  Only God can truly know.  Our role is simply to trust.
But we can know that He showers us with mercy as we bear up against those who seem to be acting as if their hearts have been hardened.  We may not experience His mercy via our perception, but His mercy is very real alright, and we shall know it when He gives us that crown of righteousness in heaven.  Yet have we not His mercy through the grace of a humble response in our suffering?  That’s a real mercy that can only be known through obedience.
What is most important is that we don’t harden our hearts.  God’s Word promises us trouble where we harden our hearts, for it is blessed rather to tremble before God (Proverbs 28:14).
God is “raising up” those who have or will harden their hearts against us.  He is doing this for our testing.  If we resist hardening our hearts, we will experience His mercy ultimately.  And God is showing us who are the trustworthy people in this life, in the midst of our lives, and few do they seem when the chips are down.
So this is worthy of our trust: to rely on God’s sovereignty by obeying God.
Only by faith can we please God by trusting His divine will and purpose in allowing Him to be Sovereign in our lives.
Let us be found worthy of God’s mercy, first by accepting Christ, then by accepting His way, day by day.
Show us Your mercy,
Lord, of our being,
Help us in the seeing,
To trust You, and be free.
That God is silent is a sign that He is Sovereign.  Trust Him in the silence and peace is yours.  There is no sensible option to not trusting God.
By faith there is hope.
By trust there is peace.
In weakness there is strength.
In acceptance there is restoration.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.


[1] Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary.

Monday, June 13, 2016

When God Breaks Us for His Glory

“When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible person and crushes him.”
— Alan Redpath
I quiver with fear and trembling that I believe is from God, even as I broach this topic.  It’s a topic with which I can presently speak.  God has reason to break me for His glory this season… get that.  I don’t write these words for my glory… I write them because I still rely too much on the things of this world and on my flesh.  We all tend to do the same thing.
Here is a prophetic poem, fashioned in the present, but with a wish for future’s present:
Till God stripped me bare of all I had but Him,
Every vanity of my flesh He sought to vanquish,
His purpose, in Him, was to make me cling,
So in clinging to the world I’d languish.
Grieving in anxious despair,
Within abject poverty of soul,
I could not know how much I now care,
For me to be without I know is God’s goal.
Having no other support, no, nothing at all,
Only then was He prepared to fill,
My hands with His glorious call,
Equipped finally to do His will.
Life’s living purpose is in simply one thing,
To make us to depend on the Lord,
And only when with emptied hands can we bring,
A readiness to be restored.
Another take:
When God stripped me bare of all I had but Him,
Every vanity of my flesh, every sorry and sordid sin,
It was in that very place of bitter and dour anguish,
That He granted me cause again to cower there and languish.
Pathetic in my lack of resolve to courageously bear,
I did not see in that horrid place the blessing of God’s care,
But the Potter of my mineral was there to care alright,
I am the clay and I do not have God’s sight.
So, as I lay there, barren of hope to try,
There as I lay, even as I began to cry,
His Spirit came before me, in the silence of the still:
“I will give you My favour if you just ascend My hill.”
Now every time I make my cause to lament,
I just remind myself from Whom I’m verily sent,
It is this chalice of suffering that makes me again to agree,
I exist in all my being to confess Him and then to bend the knee.
There are three kinds of people within the community of God: 1) those who are quick learners, who wisely heed warnings, and they prosper — they’re fleetingly broken; 2) those who are slow learners, who learn the hard way, but they do inevitably learn — these are broken much; and, 3) those who resist learning, refuse to be crushed, and end up remaining unbroken.  And there are phases of all three kinds of these people within each one of us.  It’s to positions two and three that I confess I’m radically conversant.
God transforms us in the crucible of crushing.  He does what’s impossible by dealing with our impossibility.
The more we let God deal with our stubborn, impossible parts, the more He will make transformation possible by His grace.
Let’s not be discouraged by our impossibility.  It is as it is.  To see our impossibility is to encapsulate the chance to let it go.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Psalm 31 – Dealing with, and Healing, that Forgotten Feeling

I am forgotten: gone from memory
like a dead person — like broken pottery.
— Psalm 31:12 (HCSB)
Blessed is that season of life that takes us from notorious to forgotten; to know that it takes time for people to forget our sins against them.  But blessed also is that time in our lives when we experience such a loss as to be continually forgotten, so we may find that, as broken pottery, or as a dead person, we can survive without the accolades of men as we recognise we already have the accolades of God, by His gracious Presence.
But going from feeling forgotten — only remembered by God, which is no small ‘only’ — to being happy in that fact-of-our-being, is a huge adjustment to make.  Huge, and healing.
Feeling forgotten isn’t a bad thing if we remember God never, ever forgets us.  And if our faith is true, knowing He never forgets is all we need to remember.
Feeling forgotten, so far as David the psalmist was concerned, was an astonishingly lonely feeling.  David feels ostracised even as he would walk past those who know him.  It left him feeling consumed, or brought to an end of himself.
Such a feeling reminds us that we’ve supposedly lost everything we truly value.
It feels that way.
But feeling that way also, in the same frame, negates all the rest of our lives that God has provided for, not least our protection, which is the theme of Psalm 31, which David attests to in verse 23, even in his lament.
Feeling is central to both the solution and the problem; the solution, by being real with how we feel; the problem, in that we cannot stay there if we hope to heal.
Dealing with our feelings requires awareness and recognition, but then we need to find a way of courageously, wilfully letting them go to God.
We have to be prepared to let of feelings if we’re to be healed; if we’re to deal with the perception we’ve been forgotten — because the truth is we’re not forgotten by the most important Rememberer.
It’s blessed to take a risk to let go.
So…
Dealing with our feelings brings us to kneeling which is healing.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Happy, Broken, Tested, Restored People

Job was considered a righteous man,
He’d done nothing at all too bad,
But when his life imploded on him,
For a long time, he was sad.
Bitterness overtook him,
Complaint was his repose,
Anger at the hardness of his ‘friends’,
No sympathy from them for his woes.
But then the Lord his God,
Finally made His speech,
Sending Job to his knees,
Oh boy how God can teach!
Therefore, Job soon discovered,
That the Lord wanted Job to grow,
God had to show He was Sovereign,
Through all life, above, here and below.
So now Job knew his God,
Not mistaken anymore to fret,
Soon Job was weaned of complaint,
His needs, in God, were met.
Now how does Job’s story finish,
Did his nightmare come to an end?
Well, certainly he was blessed,
Not least by not needing to defend.
God gave Job everything back,
A double measure was extended to him,
All because as a man,
He chose to God alone to cling.
***
We’re a people chasing happiness, or at least a life where things don’t go wrong.  We might presume Job had a happy life before he was broken by one cruel circumstance after another.
From brokenness came Job’s testing.  God doesn’t bring us testing because He’s cruel; He allows it because He knows we can endure the test.  We endure not through our own power, but by His grace, as we submit.  We trust His providence.
As soon as we’re able to trust God’s sovereignty, we’re a testimony of restoration.
Happy, just not tested,
Broken open to horrid reality,
Tested so as to endure,
Restored, to trust God’s personality.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Healing at the Foot of the Cross

Francesca Battistelli’s song, If We’re Honest, is an anthem about our humanity speaking of a resplendent healing only as far away as the foot of the cross.
We’re called to gather there; to admit, “I’m a mess and so are you.”
We have built walls that nobody can get through.  But if we bring our own brokenness, by admitting our struggles, trusting that spiritual tempest in the safety God’s provided at the cross, we gather in the unity of our vulnerability.  By those stripes of rare bareness we’re healed.
That’s church; knelt, heartfelt, indwelt, cushioned by grace and not crushed by our burden, at the foot of the cross.
“Love heals that hurt that divides,” and in recognising that we sense that holding onto the baggage of past is a secret we were never meant to keep.  Only as we let it go, letting it mingle into the community of misgiving, do we find redemption in the land of the living.
Trust is what makes safety possible, but our intuition believes it’s the other way around.  We hide our hurts, thinking we’re alone.  Yet it’s only in our hurts that we’re connected, accessing there the love that’s balms and binds those wounds, which is a love available only at the foot of the cross.
By our hurts we gather, in need of His healing as individuals within a collective, to be renovated by the outworking of His grace.
***
Let us gather, be vulnerable together, seek Him and trust Him, to be healed at the foot of the cross.
Mercy awaits us on the other side of the cross, but we must seek Him by going there.
Only as we arrive at the cross do we see the multitude making the same pilgrimage of need.  If we’re honest, then we know just how much we need Him, and only then are we granted vision of others’ in their perplexing need.
Healing at the foot of the cross is license and liberty to become the most accepted version of who we are.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Experiencing the Hour of Darkness

A young person I know very well told me recently that they don’t live a day at a time, but mostly it’s an hour at a time.  The concept has gravity.  There was weight to the words, for it was the case of a real and present danger, a darkness lurking, where what was spoken of involved the potential that the very next moment could consume all sense of hope and rationality; a darkness descended.
I know of such hours.  I recall times when one hour felt like a whole day.  On other occasions, I remember, within one hour, feeling fine, then only to sink into a menacing spiral.
“What happened?” I’d think.  “How could my hour/day be hijacked so instantly?”
The thing is, until this happens to you, until you’re overwhelmed in a panic attack, you don’t believe it’s possible — for someone else, maybe, but not for you.  Then you experience it for the first time, and a worst type of reality is born into existence.  But such an horrendous reality is not the end of the story; it’s really a beginning of something far better, if we embark on a learning journey, though I don’t want to halt necessary descriptions of darkness just yet.
Experiencing the hour of darkness teaches us
something about the weight of life.
It teaches us about the gravity indwelt in reality.  It opens the eyes of our mind, penetrating the heart to fathoms, and makes us serious, wiser, more compassionate persons overnight.  It grabs our attention, making us ever more empathic to myriad plights in the world.
***
Experiencing the hour of darkness, as a swarm of spiritual heaviness hovers with fleeting swiftness, is best done still.  Nothing can be added just like nothing can be taken away.  Stay still, silent in your mind, hold the key of the moment, and do nothing silly.
For all those who’ve lived in this hourly frame, you’re not alone.  The seconds are arduous, the minutes contemptuous, the hour’s pitch darkness.
Experiencing the hour of darkness reminds us to be grateful for the return of the hour of light.
Anxiety and depression, however atrocious they are, expand our empathy, and deepen our compassion.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

God’s Presence With You, No Matter What You Face

Joseph spent a full thirteen years developing in character.  From age 17 to about 30 he faced hardship after temptation after persecution after tumult.  Like Job after him, by the time God used his life with great power, he had learned the humility that believes: “God is with me no matter what I face, and, that facing what I face like I can proves God is with me, and actually, nothing else matters.”
Whether in squander or want, whether we rejoice or weep, no matter the circumstance, God’s Presence makes the difference, in what we face.
God’s Presence reminds us, any time we wish His reassurance, we’re never alone in facing what’s overwhelming, all-consuming, or seemingly impossible.
God’s Presence is what we experience when all is not okay, but we respond as if all is okay.  Somehow we should react differently, but God’s Presence blesses us with poise when we’d otherwise fall apart.
God’s Presence is shown in and through us via our courageous response.
***
Sooner or later God’s Spirit brings us to this realisation: we will serve Him no matter the cost and consequences, even if and when, in serving Him, it seems His Presence is far off.
That is where God wants everyone.  It’s a place of impregnable commitment.  We may not feel unassailable, but our commitment that is easily spoken is backed up by our behaviour, and we find our lives bellow Joshua 24:15 — “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”
No matter what you face, no matter how hard, trust God’s Presence, and His face will shine for you, no matter what.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Top 50 Christian Search Words – Some May Surprise You

Here are the 50 top Christian search words on the internet from 2014 research: 
1.     Love – God is love, but so then are we to exemplify love.
2.     Faith – it’s a lifelong journey to discover how to apply faith.
3.     Peace – everybody wants what they determine in their own way to be peace.  The Bible has particular forms of peace.  We have to trust God that His peace is superior to any peace we might be happy to acquire and retain.
4.     Hope – like faith, hope’s essential learning for life for everyone.
5.     Marriage – no surprise here marriage rates so high.
6.     Joy – it’s what the Christian life holds out as the perennial opportunity.
7.     Prayer – we all need to learn more about connecting with God.
8.     Strength – the real Christian life is about His strength in our weakness.
9.     Grace – juxtaposed with sin, we can never tap the fathomless caverns of grace.
10. Children – the future of the Kingdom resides in the least of these.
11. Forgiveness – we all find we have to wrestle with bitterness in learning true forgiveness, and ironically, it’s when we’ve made that journey we begin to understand the depths of mercy in God’s grace.
12. Healing – we all need it, variously and continually.
13. Holy Spirit – from where all our power comes from.
14. Salvation – we all need it, variously and continually.
15. Fear – being human is being fearful.  Faith is the antidote.
16. Trust – such an important concept, both vertically (with God) and horizontally (with people).
17. Heart – a thing that Proverbs speaks so much about — the seat of our intentions.
18. Forgive – see forgiveness at number 11.
19. Comfort – in our grief, not for materialism’s sake.
20. Pray – see prayer at number 7.
21. Worship – our number one pursuit; our living purpose.
22. Friend – Jesus.  But we also need friends who’ll be Jesus to us as well as opportunities to be Jesus to others.
23. Worry – Matthew 6:34 tells us to take life just a day at a time.
24. Light – Jesus, the light of the world, as we, too, are to be lights on a hill.
25. Patience – such a necessary virtue to learn and practice.
26. Death – the deaths of loved ones and friends, plus the inescapable reality: our own.
27. Love one another – Jesus’ final command.
28. Love is patient – it is.  1 Corinthians 13 lists patience first.
29. Truth – believers worship God in Spirit and in truth.
30. Sin – a thing with which we’re all related.  It’s ours to have such a relationship with sin that we love awareness yet repel temptation.
31. Fruit of the Spirit – definite manifestation of God’s Presence.
32. Thanksgiving – not just one day a year, but every day of the year.
33. Divorce – a perennial favourite topic for God’s people.
34. Heaven – not only where the saved are headed, but also a milieu on earth by God’s Presence.
35. Anger – juxtaposed with “patience.”  Being Christian means genuinely overcoming violence.
36. Spirit – see Holy Spirit.
37. Praise – put this together on a coin with thanksgiving.
38. Wife – interesting, no mention of husband.
39. Family.
40. Trust in the Lord – see trust.
41. Tongue – taming the tongue in James 3.
42. Work.
43. God is Love.  He is.
44. Jesus – why is Jesus rated so low in such a list?
45. Ten Commandments – there is obviously still interest in the Mosaic Law.
46. Baptism – there will always be interest in baptism when we have so many differing traditions within Christianity.
47. Encouragement – another such necessary gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
48. Satan – part of the arsenal of our faith is to know we’re engaged in spiritual warfare every day of our lives.  It’s good to know how the enemy operates without being freaked out by his presence.
49. Repent – is there any more valuable a concept to equip us for a saved life of service to and for God?
50. Tithe – the church needs and deserves to be resourced.
Some that surprise for being there are “comfort,” “work,” and “friend.”  Obviously, though, the Bible speaks greatly about comfort for the oppressed, as opposed to comfort in a material form.
Some that surprise for not being there are “porn” (given statistics reveal Christians are plagued in equal numbers to this sin/addiction), “addiction” (generally), “theology,” and “husband.”  “Same sex marriage” or “gay marriage” are terms we’d expect to see as well.  And given that Jesus only comes in at number 44, among others that feature higher or lower than we’d expect, we can look at any list and there are surprises which provide for our edification and entertainment.
© 2016 Steve Wickham.