Friday, March 30, 2012
Thursday, March 29, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The unceremonious demolisher of all things put up in the name of God, but against God, is God. Any believer sown into the reality of life and trying to make sense of the Lord will note this—they cannot make sense of God:
“My idea of God is not a divine idea. It has to be shattered time after time. He shatters it Himself. He is the great iconoclast.”
~C. S. Lewis
The Purpose Of Belief
It might surprise some to discover that it’s not God’s will to make us comfortable in our understanding of life or the Divine. We will never understand it, not in its entirety. The nature of life, the ultimate purpose, will not be fully understood.
The purpose of belief is to get us to look beyond an achieved understanding.
Knowledge is good, but it takes us only so far—its typical end is pride; to be puffed up and useless to the purposes of God. Such a place as knowledge, when it has too much priory, has us in little reliance on the causes for humility. Such times we don’t need God, only information—only everything apart from God; a false place. This is not good spiritual passage.
The purpose of belief is the broad construct that facilitates resilience, able to gently forge its way in life, through many deconstructions. Life deconstructs us. Only when we approach such deconstruction with a willing attitude to hope and to learn and to not be afraid do we invite God to help us. Faith, here, is essential for life.
We must go beyond our idols, and knowledge is just one, that put up barriers to God. Better still, it’s unmerited and seamless wisdom to sacrifice these gods of comfort and convenience, and surrender them instinctually and gracefully. For, this is the human condition; to have idols—to insist upon our way which is against the way of the Lord.
The Broadening Of Faith
This must be our sole conquest: to accede to the will of God at each turn and only by doing so will we know the blessing of the Lord.
Doing such a thing as this will make our faith broad as continents, but sufficient only in the purposes of truth. Such a faith will divine its way, without thought, in replete obedience to the Spirit.
As we allow the Lord to identify and flush out the presence of idols in our lives, and all of us have a few, God will see to it that our faith flourishes and our perspectives broaden. Then we’ll know God even more.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Monday, March 26, 2012
In a life that forces us to choose between going forward or receding backward, the Gospel way presents the only viable answer for growth against the threat of recession. Even upon recognition that life is a constant struggle there’s the cosmic, eternal hope:
“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)
The Hope Of God
Everyone open to the idea of God, that a Supreme Being exists who created the world and all that’s in it, can—whilst they may struggle with the idea of God being present here on earth—hold to a reasonable hope for God in the next life; to the experience of God’s Presence in heaven.
The experience of God’s Presence here on earth, whilst we hold it as a biblical truth, is not a given for everyone. Not everyone is so blessed to feel God in their midst. And there are those, also, that find the felt Presence of God too fleeting to be assured.
Add to this, the people—and this affects all of us to a greater or lesser extent—that experience great suffering every day or most days of their lives. What have they hope for? Yes, this Gospel provides the hope they need to live. It helps.
The hope of God is an end-time reality and that, as an actual event, is approaching fast. Whether by Parousia (the coming, again, of Jesus) or by our bodily deaths, which is a cataclysmic certainty, we will see God—all of us. That experience could not compare with our wildest imaginative design. Truly, nothing we’ve experienced in this life could prepare us for the unmerited, symphonic awe we will bathe in at that time. It will be totally ‘other’ than any of our human experience.
Though “it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.” (Habakkuk 2:3)
Hope For Now
In the strangest of ways we draw meaning and hope for life from the acknowledged reality that our lives precede something magnificent; something altogether too wonderful to comprehend. That irrepressible hope, the certainty of such an event and eternal destination, beyond fleeting fears for judgment that are reassured by knowledge of the grace of God, is the thought we may invest in any time, anywhere.
Beyond the uncertain hopes that lie in our earthly lives sits a permanent hope; one that will not wash away or be torn from us. A hope that seems so far off, but can verily be moments away, fuels so much transcendently immediate hope.
In the simplest of terms, the hope of future glory makes everything we endure here abundantly worth it.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Sunday, March 25, 2012
Churches and their pastors attract the lonely just as much as clubs and pubs and any other ‘fellowships’ where groups of people coexist. Many attend church for the same reasons that many join clubs and congregate at pubs. Loneliness is part of the human condition, and church attendance may not be any nobler an endeavour than attending a club or a pub, unless there’s a mature decision made to address such loneliness.
Churches and their pastors have an urgent role in creating the right environment of ‘hospitality’:
“Many people in this life suffer because they are anxiously searching for the man or woman, the event or encounter, which will take their loneliness away. But when they enter a house with real hospitality, they soon see that their own wounds must be understood not as sources of despair and bitterness, but as signs that they have to travel on in obedience to the calling sounds of their own wounds.”
Setting People Free, Really
When we imagine that at least some people who attend church are looking for salvation from their loneliness, via an attraction toward fellowship or guidance by a pastor or simply a place to belong, there’s a cogent opportunity to do more for this person than meet the immediate need.
But to do this requires a risk; it means not being the thing the needy need. If we’re to teach people how to fish instead of giving them fish to eat we’ll need to ensure they can see the need to fish.
Church must be an environment where not only is brokenness welcomed, but it’s to facilitate, as a tool, the process where each person might freely admit their fundamental loneliness—and their need of God, alone, to fill that void.
But this is one of the gaps within church experience, largely—there’s typically little growth because there’s so little abandonment of the fearful pride that protects such loneliness. The very vessel that’s provided to show people the true way home becomes more of a club or pub experience than church should be.
The Risk In Ministering
The proper minister takes a big risk. When they don’t satisfy the superficial need, in order to allow the exposure of the deeper need, some people walk. Those who aren’t after a salvation experience don’t seek to be set free. Many more resist change than those who embrace it.
The risk in ministering (properly) is to coax people toward solid food, not merely milk. It’s to bring them, along with their own resources, and the development of those resources, to a more acceptable understanding of themselves. It’s to occur in a seedbed of brokenness, for what is church if it appears perfect (or even close)?
The Personal Opportunity
Venturing personally, sick of our loneliness, wanting the wholeness that others have attained, we sense an opportunity—not in rejecting our despair and bitterness and disappointment, but in embracing it on a slow, often painful journey. Yet, wholeness is surely there to be claimed; but not without stepping through the process.
Could it be the very things we’ve been running from are those things that will, eventually, set us free?
And when we’ve made this courageous connection, that our brokenness is the key to our wholeness, we can truly understand how God (and the church and pastors) can help. Straight away the relationship with God, to this end, commences. We stand open before the Spirit for healing.
There’s a direct link between our loneliness and our wholeness.
We cannot have wholeness without rummaging through our loneliness, bitterness and despair. We’ll get what we want when we deal with what we don’t want to deal with. The beauty is, during this process, we’ll become fearless. We’ll come to truly know God.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Saturday, March 24, 2012
There’s a method for living life when things get tough, and we know it’s not about giving up. And no matter what life throws at us, from the numbness of loss, to being overwhelmed by the sheer load of things, we can learn so much from the psalmist (‘of David’) in this Psalm, about the faith to hold on in the midst of tyranny. Maybe the toughest of situations is handled here; to be falsely accused, and for that accuser, the one responsible for great travesties, to be calling for our demise on every angle.
Despite the quaking and polarising injustice, the psalmist painstakingly charts the accusations, much like in a court. In spite of it all, though, including the raw clarity of spiritual pain, his faith remains firm:
“Help me, O Lord my God!
Save me according to your steadfast love.”
~Psalm 109:26 (NRSV)
When The Curses Pile Up
Just about every conceivable curse is called against the psalmist in a middle part of the Psalm, and to place ourselves in it, as the accused, is more than humbling; it’s a threat against our life and all we hold dear. To lose everything, in the type of circumstances that Job endured, is what we can imagine if the accuser was to get his way. This is scary!
And though, at one level, rarely does it occur that a person is blighted in so many dimensions at once, it takes just one dimension of our lives to be upended for us to lose our way; to feel perplexed and cursed beyond measure.
When the curses pile up we have the choice to continue in our misery, focusing on the hellishness of it all, or we can repetitively turn and, in going about-face, we look to the heavens, and say, ‘What now, God?’ ‘Whatever you ask, I will do.’
Remembering That God Has Promised To Bless Those Who Obey
Looking to the heavens instead of looking all about us at what’s going wrong, and having faith in that which we cannot yet see, abides by the rationale that if we act in faith, blessing will come.
This can sound like Christian rhetoric; but that’s faith—to believe, without sight, in a way choosing to see that all we suffer will be worth it in the end. A real faith is required; the type of belief that learns to quickly get past disappointment and resentment and the focus on the negative. Quickly we look to the things God’s already doing—not for us, maybe, but in the midst of others’ lives that are being delivered. Our turn’s coming.
Whatever we’re confronted with we can always take some small comfort in the fact that others have had it worse. Enormous have been the barriers that the faithful have conquered in the name of their God. When we hold on in faith blessing is the eventual consequence.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Those devoted to Jesus might choose to remember the circumstances that crucified the Saviour; the carnal Jew, the deep-read Scribe, the learned Rabbi, and the religious Pharisee—those who ought to have known better—not only did not receive Jesus, they crucified him:
“They desired no change of their own nature, no inward destruction of their own natural tempers, no deliverance from the love of themselves and the enjoyments of their passions...”
~William Law (1686–1761)
Their conflicting devotions crucified him. They were supposed to be devoted to God, but in fact they were devoted to religious practice, selfishness, power, etc.
Could it be that we, too, are manipulated by conflicting devotions—so many even, in Jesus’ name? Is it not so that many of our chosen allegiances, in the name of God, require us to take on a Pharisaic method in order to ‘fight the good fight’?
This is where the ethical debate, on a number of fronts, becomes confounding; how might we fight, yet honour God to that same end? Here we can appreciate that dishonouring God is a blasphemy. And upon blasphemies we ought to repent.
Regarding this issue, the rights and wrongs of common life in the midst of believers and non-believers alike, there are many situations where no absolutes exist. To think in ‘golden absolutes’ is to become, in a flash, a Pharisee. But there’s one cure for all untenable situations in the heart of the true believer: to repent; to draw back in within the Presence of God; to relate one-on-one with our Lord. Only God can show the way.
Tests From God?
Could it be that our grandest test of faith is how we treat each person and each situation at love—holding to the Greatest Commandment? (Matthew 22:37-39) If we were true to this test we may quickly shun many of the things we instinctively say or do or give approval to; where divisions are caused—in ‘the name of God’, no less.
The moment we become aware that divisions are occurring is the moment we might seek the heart of God in these very circumstances. That’s what God wants to see; our preparedness to repent when confounding relational circumstances rise up as they often do within ethical debates. It’s not about what we say or what we don’t say; it’s about where our heart’s situated—about our proximity to and congruence with the Lord.
Beware The Unwillingness To Repent
A strikingly familiar pose taken by the scribes and Pharisees was their inability to repent. Are there contemporary similarities?
It’s much more difficult to discern a focus for repentance in the evangelical church, nowadays, than it is to discern flavours for intolerance within difficult ethical landscapes, for instance, interfaith solutions, sexual orientation issues, or even abortion. Whilst the biblical position is clear, what’s less clear (and perhaps never clear) is how to deal with or combat practices not meeting the biblical position without failing to love.
The only thing we can do correctly in such situations is to continually seek the Lord—to repent. Doing this necessitates we love others. Accountable to God, we love.
Repentance is not as popular as doctrines on prosperity, grace or resurrection. But it’s central to the experience of salvation. We cannot live the life of faith unless we practice repentance—to draw near to God. Only by repentance can we live in harmony with God and all humankind.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Friday, March 23, 2012
Comes a time in most of our lives when we explore who Jesus is; we need and want to know God at this time. But for many this ‘urge’ comes and then goes. What was to be for our eternal blessing never stuck.
Is there a more important practice for the believer, then, to investigate and entrench—even as part, their daily recommitting to the Lord? The most vital living fortification is against backsliding, so we too can claim this, below, with confidence:
“But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.”
~Hebrews 10:39 (NRSV)
A Fear Of Dependence Or Just Apathy?
The truth is many might lament being dependent on God—as, for them, no dependence would appear wise, safe or preferable. After all, the world coaches us to get beyond dependence. We’re to be ‘independent’ or ‘interdependent’, but never dependent. The Gospel, however, requires we depend wholly on God.
Getting into a position of wilful dependence on God—like, ‘I need God’—is the best fortification against going backwards spiritually, and going forward in growth.
Too many have seasons of renewal and enthusiastic enlightenment where there’s much spiritual progress, yet they don’t convert these seasons into a lifelong conquest adherent to truth.
They take the brightening season for granted, enjoying their newfound peace, grace and joy, but they don’t fear losing it enough to warrant protecting it by wisely planning for the future.
It appears that these are two solid causes for backsliding: a fear of depending on God and an inability to plan spirituality into the lifespan.
Wisdom Along The Spiritual Journey
What do we need most of all, having caught a sniff of the Lord’s chastening enlightenment? We need wisdom, which is discernment, and enough to imagine the future need we have of ongoing enlightenment. (I speak of enlightenment, here, of being enlightened continually in Christ.)
Discernment is the vehicle motivating us to plan ahead and make some of what we have now last for all eternity—to ensure we get beyond being duped by the Evil One, who lurks by Apathy, Comfort, Pride, and Self-Sufficiency. Any of these, and more, prevents us from making inroads in the spiritual life.
We ought to never be beyond God’s volitional reach. We are the ones who need to choose to be God’s friend, for the Lord will not force himself on anyone.
The biggest threat to our spirituality is backsliding. The only protection we have is a daily dependence on the Lord our God, which protects us, chiefly, from apathy. Comfort, pride, and self-sufficiency contest with our faith. Will we, continually, choose God over these? Daily dependence on God is our only protection.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.
Written on a train.