Thursday, July 24, 2014

Joy As a Consequence of Faith Expressed As Obedience

“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship, it is a consequence. It is not what we have to acquire in order to experience life in Christ; it is what comes to us when we are walking in the way of faith and obedience.”
― Eugene H. Peterson
The fruit of joy is a much vaunted and confused thing in Christian circles.
Of course, we all want to experience joy, but how are we to know the experience of joy if we have never truly experienced it? We all have our ideas about what joy is, but we find it extremely difficult to create or recreate the circumstances that contribute to the bringing of joy. The more we chase joy, the more it eludes us.
But Eugene Peterson gives us a hint as to the role of joy in the Christian experience. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, so it comes as a consequence of walking in the Spirit. The more we simply obey God, the more we are blessed with joy.
We worry about not having enough joy, never really understanding that joy is a consequence of faith expressing itself as obedience. In the simplest terms, if we obey the Word and will of God there will be joy as an outcome. Then we know joy.
What does this mean in practical terms?
It means looking beyond the struggle that are our circumstances, and looking up to God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means understanding that every human being is capable of betrayal, just as each one of us has betrayed God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means we are grateful for having been saved from the consequences and the entrapment of our sins. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so. It means our focus is continually trained on blessing others, and we are routinely less self-interested, apart from our intense interest in our own character growth. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so.
Suddenly the most important relationship is our relationship with God; it takes precedent. We are also most likely to begin to be open to seeing how we are contributing to the problems in our life. We will also be more than interested in a life of repentance; of routinely turning back to God. It’s not easy, but faith makes it so.
Faith makes obedience possible. It’s because faith is surrendered to God without reservation. When faith expresses itself as obedience, joy is an inevitable outcome.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Living the Will of God By Prayer and Peace

Change can be scary.
The moments are unpredictable.
Ranging emotions.
The full circle of grief
Yet no promise of relief
Or that’s how it seems.
What has happened
That has cast doubt
On so many of my dreams?
Change, they say, is inevitable
But ‘they’ are not living
My life.
Then we feel guilt
For having people feel
Sorry for us.
But it’s love, kindness,
And compassion they share.
It’s because they care!
And now I feel loved
Even when life is disjointed
And all up in the air.
Change is difficult
But it’s not a journey
We have to travel alone.
People will understand
When we need to groan.
As does God.
Did you read that Jesus suffered?
If He, then why not me?
These thoughts appear randomly
And it appears our Western world
Does not like how the Eastern Jesus suffered.
I am encouraged
Because I am not alone
It’s God with me
Through those who love me.
I am not alone
And that brings me
Great comfort.
I am not alone
Through this life change
And if God is for me
No matter what is against me
It cannot conquer me.
Change is coming our way and God is readying us for a storm. Indeed, we are quickly reminded that Jesus and his followers lived lamentable lives, in the midst of being empowered by the Holy Spirit to ensure whatever life could throw their way.
The point of pain and change is endurance, and whenever love is poured into our lives we have enhanced capabilities to endure. Life may never be easy as we endure it, but at least we have the will and ability to keep stepping by faith, as one step follows the previous step and so on as we keep on stepping.
And as we step by faith we are fortified by the prayers of those who love us. Where there are many prayers there is much peace, and where there is much peace God’s Kingdom is glorified.
As brothers and sisters band together in responses of love, those enduring losses in grief do so with the strength they cannot explain.
Living the will of God seems hard, but it is much easier when we live life in caring Christian community. When we have accepted that life is no longer about us, that we are living for a broader purpose, we have power to live the will of God, and we are blessed with much peace.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, July 21, 2014

The Most Important Goal of Discipleship

“I will not try to run my own life or the lives of others; that is God’s business.”
— Eugene H. Peterson
When we hand our will and our lives over to the care of God, having accepted Christ Jesus as our Lord, we then have one goal and that is to be a disciple – to be a Christ follower.
Being a Christ follower is harnessed in the above quote; our hands are off having to control lives – ours or others. We will need to let go of contentiousness and narcissism. We will need to be entirely willing to have God identify, address, and heal us of our shortcomings.
When we commit to giving up our desire for control, God will test us to see how serious we are. We will be asked to endure some unreasonable things. We will be required to give back to God what he demands we give him back, and we will need to do that willingly. When people hurt us, we will need to forgive them, without any promise that we will get justice in return. It will appear that we will lose out in life, especially as we consider other Christians who have not made such a rigorous holy commitment.
In understanding God is no respecter of individual persons – that he insists we believe upon Christ unconditionally – the offensiveness of the gospel will become apparent. There will be loved ones close to us who will be repulsed at the ‘requirement’ of our faith.
There will be times when our faith will make no sense, especially uppermost in contrast with our lives as opposed to others’ lives since we became Christ’s followers. But we need to recall that life is not necessarily about this life. It can be all too perplexing.
When we habitually turnover our will and our lives into the care of God, which means we are farthest from wanting to control others’ lives, then we come to no real, abundant life.
The abundant life doesn’t come until we have sacrificed it all. God may give us a hint of the life to come, but unless we give over everything we cannot receive everything.
The Christian walk – astride the Spirit of God – is nothing if not a full surrender. We cannot know all the blessings of God until we have given our all to God.
We cannot have life both ways; all the blessings of God and pleasures at our fingertips.
Giving up what we cannot keep, we gain what we cannot lose. We cannot keep anything that the world promises, but we will have eternally only things we cannot take with us.
The only thing that matters is relinquishing control over our own lives and others’ lives; for God to become more and us, less.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Blessedness of Feeling Useless

Feeling useless is liberating when we can accept all we can do is watch and wait.
The theology of Paul teaches us that at the end of our own power comes the beginning of God’s power. (2 Corinthians 12:8-10) So, as a matter of fact, when we are at the end of ourselves, we are never closer to the transcendent power that really could make a difference in our lives.
An expression of coming to the end of our own power is being brought to the state of feeling useless. We can imagine God having orchestrated the circumstances of our lives in order to bring us to the precipice of our lack of control. This is not because God is vindictive. It is the nature of life that God is God and we are not. It is a blessing, always, to be reminded of the eternal order of things.
Being able to do only one productive thing makes things simple. When all we might do is watch and wait, and that is the case in many circumstances of life, the choices for action and inaction come to be straightforward. All we need to do is do what we need to do.
The Shalom of God
This reminds me of the Shalom of God – that smiling face of God favouring us with his empowering simplicity. Even when we feel at the end of our own power, God compensates by empowering us in the simplicity of his purpose.
As we consider God turning his face toward us – even as we traverse hell – knowing his favour abides as we abide in him – that smiling Shalom of God transcends the difficulty, making the reality surreal.
As we turn in the consideration of God turning his face toward us, we see the liberty he is giving us in circumstances otherwise totally de-liberating. Of course, the world cannot understand this spiritual reality; the gifting of God that we call faith. It seems absurd to the worldly and it is absurd in the world’s thinking. But we can know a different reality; to smile through a hardship; to accept what we cannot change; to deny nothing of the truth; to be alive in the midst of reality.
When things are against us, God is still for us, and even more so. There can be freedom within powerlessness, patience during testing, and courage that meets and befriends great fear.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

2 Ways to Mature, Yet Powerfully Simple Faith

A simple faith is powerful and resilient,
It’s attained through much fiery testing,
It’s owned in the crucible of the persistent,
And God makes possible such surreal resting.
The first way is how we handle our flaws,
With no room for self-condemnation,
Having opened all grace’s doors,
We have paved the way for self-relation.
The second way is how we handle our sin,
Taking full responsibility when it’s others we hurt,
Ownership unto repentance toward all our kin,
Is about having God purge us of all our dirt.
There are two ideas showcased here. The first is the achievement of a mature faith that is inherently simple, though not naive. ‘Simple faith’ is another way of saying the gift to faith, such that the faith exemplified occurs as if it were a mystery. Those with such a simple faith can quite easily mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice, no matter what is going on in their own lives. Such faith is a gift and there can be no credit taken for it – except praise to God.
The second idea is represented by the second and third stanzas of the above poem.
Too often we tend to berate ourselves for those mistakes and slips that only cost us. Our negative self talk gets out of hand. But those with a productive simple faith – which is intrinsically mature – can easily find the position of self-acceptance to encourage themselves to get back up. This is the first way.
The second way refers to taking the appropriate responsibility for our transgressions against others – our sin. We are typically too quick to shelter from responsibility. We are too quick to make excuses. Our opportunity is to be honest, and, in that, be vulnerable.
We tend to go to go too heavy on those things that will only cost us. Yet we go too light on those things that transgress others, typically by not taking enough responsibility.
We are too hard on ourselves when it comes to ourselves, but we go too easy on ourselves regarding our transgressions against others. God offers us the opportunity to enter into a simple faith, which is inherently mature, in order to not be so hard on ourselves, whilst taking responsibility for those transgressions against others.
Good faith goes light on self-judgment, but it goes heavy in taking responsibility for sins against others.
Mature faith is a healthy self-acceptance blended with a conviction and willingness to repent for sins against others.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement: to Mr. David Michie, pastoral supervisor and counsellor.

Monday, July 14, 2014

It’s Because I Love You

You are my morning and my bright shining day,
I hang on the sound of every word you say.
You are my life when everything else fades,
You are my everything when life cascades.
What you do to my senses gives me my song,
So as long as I look at you I will live strong.
The longer I’ve known you the more I’ve seen,
Just how this love within me sees you as my queen.
Our marriage isn’t perfect, far from it, it’s true,
But I’d remarry you every day especially when I’m blue.
We both love Jesus and the truth must win,
I’m thankful we’re disciples and we try not to sin.
Attractiveness is your strong suit, and wow, you’re hot,
But I can say only physical attraction it definitely is not.
Well, my Princess, I’m thankful for who you are,
It’s because I love you; you’re my bright shining star.
She is my bright shining star – she is.
When God promised me a second chance in the field of love and life and family I didn’t quite expect to be so blessed. The truth about hope is that, while hopes are bold, our hopes tend not to be bold enough. God knows. God is good. God is faithful.
One thing I have observed about my marriage is the more I have given to it, in terms of my own acceptance and maturity, the more I have seen how I have grown. And I think that is the man’s role; to lead the way in acceptance and maturity.
It’s because I love you that you light up my life.
It’s because I love you I will not end up in strife.
It’s because I love you every day I can run this race.
It’s because I love you and through you God shows me his grace.
When we sit through arduous things, arm in arm, and back to back, we are a force for each other, and it can even be seen that you are my sister and that I am your brother. Our love is everything and more, and I still stand amazed at the voluminous value of love that God has nurtured in my heart for you. And truly, you give back in many ways that I could only be thankful for.
You are gorgeous beyond compare, and I love it how God has made me new for you. It’s because I love you that I know I am so richly blessed.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.