Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why the Holy Bible Is So Full of Failures




Power for understanding,
Is God’s holy Word,
The message is commanding,
Above all we’ve seen and heard.
It’s a series of stories,
Of failure of all kinds,
The majesty in God’s glories,
And his salvation power to unbind.
LITANIES of tragedy, victory, defeat, exile, death, pillage, gore, and even the seemingly unbelievable; that, in sum, partly at least, is the Holy Bible.
As I walked recently – (God always seems to talk to me when I walk) – I was reminded, “My Word is about failures – in person and deed and life experience – as an encouragement for those, like you right now, who feel like failures. My Word reminds you that you are not alone in feeling this way. It reminds you to look beyond your failures unto Me. Life is not about success or failure; it’s about Me, your Saviour and Lord. Fix your eyes, your heart, your senses, and your thought on Me, for I will save you, again and again and again.”
As we cast a glancing eye over the Word of God we see that the good biblical characters – those revealing God’s glory in and through his Word – had anger management issues, were greedy (e.g. several of the kings), lost sight of their calling, wandered from the path of their calling, murdered (Moses and David), ran away from their problems (Jonah), insulted God (Job, David, etc), were prostitutes (Rahab), committed adultery (David), and battled unforgiveness (Peter and Paul). This is only a scraping of the biblical surface.
The object of God’s Word – particularly the Old Testament – is to highlight: 1) how far from God we actually are, and 2) how much we need to desperately cling to God in order to not miss the mark. The object of the New Testament is the revealing of God’s grace through Jesus Christ; our Blessed Assurance.
We are failures in the sense that we are fallen creatures with flesh-held desires we cannot fully control. We are failures in the sense that we either doubt ourselves or we puff ourselves up. We are failures in the sense of being for our own guidance. We are bad guides of ourselves.
The Word of God propounds these truths – over and over again.
Without God we have not a hope and we remain in the actuality of hell – where part of that hell is in simply not knowing.
With God – through the encouragement of his Word, which points us to futility of doing life in our own strength – we have what we need; a day or a moment at a time.
God’s Word is a lamp unto our feet. It lights our way. And that light is contingent on following him steadfastly and earnestly.
***
God’s Word is beautiful in this: from character to character we read of failure upon failure. It encourages us in our failures to keep going, and to refocus on our King, Jesus, who makes all things new.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The LORD Is My Light

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?”
— Psalm 27:1 (NRSV)
CONFIDENCE always seems in such short supply for the majority of us, yet it is overblown in those puffed up people who tend to have life at their fingertips. But none of the world’s conceptualization for confidence runs close to the idea for confidence framed in the ancient word given to David; that which is portrayed in Psalm 27.
Such is David’s confidence in God; he is able to find himself ever more reinforced by the Lord’s light, salvation and fortress. The more fear David experiences, the more his faith pulls him into the orbit of God; the more access is made of God’s eternal light of guidance. The Spirit is his salvation and his fortress – of whom, truly, is he to be afraid?
Psalm 27, it is said, is two opposite halves of a whole picture – the first half the confidence of fear-conquered faith and the second half, the shaky reality of doubt presented as unbridled fear before faith, again, becomes the antecedent.
The existence we know to be life is replete with mountaintop views and valley depths. With one or the other, and with both, we have God. We thank him for the one, and we cling to him for the other.
***
The child of God, in keeping with his or her faith tradition, finds themselves encamped, as it were, in beholding the beauty of the Lord where fear encroaches. Faith has become the default. Fear has such short shrift that faith is the refuge in all but the tiniest vestige, which might normally just be rebuffed with a smiling glance.
In the time of trouble we have a thing to do: to gaze upon the splendour of God.
When there is anxiousness, the anxiousness is met with the fullness of the Lord, which subsumes that anxiousness in the knowledge that Jesus overcomes.
When we are weak and fainting, because life has become too much for us, just now, we then climb into the cave of the Almighty and seek a rest.
And when we cannot decide or are struggling to trust or we are afraid of the dark, then we enter into the light, which is our salvation. God has ample light for each of us with which to see, to decide, to trust in.
© 2014 Garments of Praise. Written by S. J. Wickham.
Visual: tee shirt design from Garments of Praise collection.



Confidence and Courage In Fear and In Faith

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?”
— Psalm 27:1 (NRSV)
CONFIDENCE always seems in such short supply for the majority of us, yet it is overblown in those puffed up people who tend to have life at their fingertips. But none of the world’s conceptualization for confidence runs close to the idea for confidence framed in the ancient word given to David; that which is portrayed in Psalm 27.
Such is David’s confidence in God; he is able to find himself ever more reinforced by the Lord’s light, salvation and fortress. The more fear David experiences, the more his faith pulls him into the orbit of God; the more access is made of God’s eternal light of guidance. The Spirit is his salvation and his fortress – of whom, truly, is he to be afraid?
Psalm 27, it is said, is two opposite halves of a whole picture – the first half the confidence of fear-conquered faith and the second half, the shaky reality of doubt presented as unbridled fear before faith, again, becomes the antecedent.
The existence we know to be life is replete with mountaintop views and valley depths. With one or the other, and with both, we have God. We thank him for the one, and we cling to him for the other.
***
The child of God, in keeping with his or her faith tradition, finds themselves encamped, as it were, in beholding the beauty of the Lord where fear encroaches. Faith has become the default. Fear has such short shrift that faith is the refuge in all but the tiniest vestige, which might normally just be rebuffed with a smiling glance.
In the time of trouble we have a thing to do: to gaze upon the splendour of God.
When there is anxiousness, the anxiousness is met with the fullness of the Lord, which subsumes that anxiousness in the knowledge that Jesus overcomes.
When we are weak and fainting, because life has become too much for us, just now, we then climb into the cave of the Almighty and seek a rest.
And when we cannot decide or are struggling to trust or we are afraid of the dark, then we enter into the light, which is our salvation. God has ample light for each of us with which to see, to decide, to trust in.
© 2014 Garments of Praise. Written by S. J. Wickham.
Visual: tee shirt design from Garments of Praise collection.

Gaining It All Having Lost ‘It All’


CALAMITOUS endings can have the most salubrious of beginnings. We have to lose it all, materially, before we can truly grasp the fullness of life spiritually. Don’t worry if you haven’t lost everything yet – you probably never will. But if you do, and still many experience grave losses, there is a paradoxical hope that stands to reverse the order of things, to catapult you into great advantage for the very things suffered.
We can see, here, that there is a compensation that God gives to those who have lost – and the more that is lost, the more that God will compensate. But, it has to be understood, this compensation is entirely a spiritual thing; it can only be felt and experienced, never touched or tangible.
***
Thrilled to be alive,
Having survived various scrapes,
Not the least of which of these,
Was the experience of sour grapes.
It’s amazing how regularly,
I’ve been beset by jealous strife,
But now it’s easier to trust God,
And to enter into His life!
Is there any point to the covetousness of envying another for what we don’t have? Yes, the point sends us to God. That’s the point. Our rancorous dissatisfaction is the hint. There is always something better than craving something which will probably never be ours. Why would we torture ourselves? It is world’s better to accept everything that God has given into our hands alone.
***
It’s amazing what is gained,
When we are open enough to lose,
That which we cannot keep,
No matter the payment of dues.
When we give it all up before God,
And therefore seek Him above alone,
We stand and are astonished,
At just what it is we are shown!
Life can only begin when all the things of death (those items of materiality we put above God) are stripped away.
The worst circumstance can be the best thing that ever happened because the gospel is known, and the things of God are shown, and his love is sown, in loss. Biblical things are often paradoxical, so no person can boast in and of themselves.
Above every sense of want for something else is the spiritual blessing of having the material things stripped from us and swept away.
***
How wonderful it is, that in loss we can gain everything we never thought possible; that which we never conceived, which is the spiritual compensation of God. Truly, we gain spiritually when we lose materially.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

One Resurrection, One Example


“We are not called to be like other Christians,
we are called to be like CHRIST.”
OFTEN we lose sight of the classic Easter truth: Christ died on the Friday, to be death for us so we might be connected with the Father, and he rose from the tomb on Sunday, defeating death and conquering sin, proving his Divinity. Jesus is God and Jesus is Lord.
Easter is about centralizing on this magnificent truth: we cannot ever follow anyone or anything else and be in accord with the truth. Jesus is one resurrection and the sole example of life connected into the heart of God. This is such an amazing, yet simple truth, it makes us behold it as we imagine the freedom in not waiting upon comparison with others; we wait on Jesus, our Savior and Lord, alone.
***
There is no worthy comparison other than Jesus. And though we are so other-than God, we know, by the portents of God’s redeeming grace, that though we strive for holiness, we will fall short and that is okay. Not that we glory in our sin – but we accept we are fallen, broken vessels needing the Holy Spirit’s infilling to work as God intended us to work.
When we have removed all other distractions with which to compare ourselves to, we can then enter into the grace of growth; to love God as we, ourselves, are loved.
There is no worthy comparison other than Jesus.
When we can control our comparison and train it on the Lord, himself, we know we are on the right path; that is, toward the glory of God, as we love others and keep loving them despite our mutual transgressions or even our bumbling ways.
There is a privilege in this work – to abide in the one and only true example for life.
***
As we come into this knowledge and comprehend it, afresh, we begin to sense God’s Spirit is doing a new work in us as we debunk that wrangling nature to compare with others in our envying. No longer do we need to venture forth in a state of low self-esteem. No more is there the need to look over the neighbor’s fence.
We are now free in Jesus Christ if we believe. When we believe, Christ changes us by the Holy Spirit. Through our belief we compare with our Lord Jesus, and him alone, to the glory of the one and only Father, who is saving us for all eternity.
© 2014 Garments of Praise. Written by S. J. Wickham.

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.