Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sheltering In the Protection of the Most High God

Worlds are different and worlds are set apart to be worlds-of-worlds apart.
There is a world where all protection is afforded; where safety to exposure is implicit. This world ensures the person under protection can grow and mature in a seminary; in the seedbed of God’s anointing.
Such is a world that our unborn is in. Such is also a world that young women who enter Esther Foundation live in whilst they are residents of the program. Our unborn is safe in the womb. He or she kicks and dances and moves quite liberally. Growth is healthy there. Young women at Esther also have a great opportunity to grow in a loving environment that can also model the gentle, fair, and tough love of Christ – but it is safe shelter, of the love of our High Tower.
Our baby is on a collision course for the world. A freight train is screaming silently along the track, with its headlight ablaze to warn us of impending doom. The storm clouds are forming wistfully in the distance. We can watch, and even marvel, as that storm approaches. We marvel at God’s might. These precious girls at Esther are also on a collision course for the world, but they are being equipped to continue their call! – a call that started in a sanctuary of loving discipleship. Their call is to lead by serving; to show the rest of the world how to be like Jesus. They know Jesus, and, so long as they don’t take their eyes off him, they will collide with the world with a purpose to absorb all their fears and doubts, which will also show others the Way.
There is the dichotomy. A gospel value says that what God prepares, God will anoint with a future; a future hoped for; a future that makes a difference.
How does that fit for our unborn?
We prefer to think of this situation as the ultimate in healing; that our baby will move from one protected environment in the womb, to the ultimate protected environment – heaven. There really is no better future. And, although, this transition will fill us grief, we will eventually celebrate that one day we may come to know our dear one when we, too, make that transition from death to eternity. He or she will be waiting with the angels to welcome us.
Safe within the womb,
But outside it is doom,
Protection within to grow,
Exposure without to woe.
Despite the certainly of outcome,
God helps us when we are numb,
Our baby will be healed,
His or her future thereby is sealed.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Courage to Stand Up and Walk By Faith

There is a time for courage and such a time in a time consistent with eternity; as eternity presents itself as an ever-present reality in this life.
The concept of courage for such a time as this – for any time in reality – is consistent, again, with the wisdom that is in God, for merely operating in life requires courage.
We have no way of avoiding the need for courage, because we must act or rescind. In a forwards-backwards life there is no scope for remaining as we are – it takes us places and a lack of courage sees us slip back. Nobody wants to slip back.
We all need help in life, and we are benefited by the help of loved ones and from those who care for us, but courage is just as much, if not more, the help we need in our moment of need.
Courage is a statement made in the moment about the faith we have regarding the information we have. We make a decision. Having considered the options, we decide.
Having decided, and having used courage to make the decision, we utilise courage further in acting out that which we have decided. It needs to be ongoing. Courage is about the commitment to sustain, endure, and to not give up. Courage is about faith – for courage continues in spite of a lack of evidence that things are working out. And courage requires humility. It doesn’t need to be placated. It can wait. It doesn’t have to have its own way.
The character of courage is virtuous – it helps in every situation of life.
When we can epitomise courage we begin to understand its power for our lives, because we embody it; we try it on; we wear it. It becomes us. And it’s easier when we know it’s there for the applying.
For the life that wishes to believe in a hope for a good future, courage is the way. It opens the door to such a hope, it sparks awareness for action, and it gives the power to complete what needs to be done.
Every time and situation of life is helped with courage. Now is the time for courage. As we reflect on our moments, bringing courage into view, we see where it can help. Then we put it into action, and life gets better. Everything is helped with courage.
Courage stands naked in the midst of fear as if it’s dressed elegantly in faith.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Imperative of Baptism In the Regenerative Journey

Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
— Matthew 28:19 (GNT bold added)
The Great Commission, Jesus’ imperative to “go... make disciples,” is clarified by the specification to “baptise them” or immerse them. Indeed, Jesus, himself, was baptised by immersion. Further, to be “baptised” is to be “immersed.”
Pauline theology explains the three-phase process in baptism that replicates the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. (See Romans 6:1-10) By being baptised just as Jesus was – by immersion – we take on the identity of Jesus by experiencing something that he experienced. And so many baptisms by immersion are tangibly transformational. Many new baptisees are profoundly touched in the event of their baptisms and through the sharing of their testimonies.
There are many places in Scripture where baptism by immersion takes place immediately after conversion. The eunuch asks Philip why he shouldn’t be baptised there and then (Acts 8:36-38). The jailer of Paul and Silas and his whole family were baptised immediately they came to faith (Acts 16:33). And, of course, on the day of Pentecost, Peter urged those who sought right standing with God to, “Repent and be baptised...” (Acts 2:38).
Baptism is both a theological and a devotional mandate if we read our Bibles truly.
Because “baptism” and “immersion” are synonymous, we are not to blur the lines further.
The coherence between the event of salvation, baptism, and the receipt of the gift of the Holy Spirit are the established pattern of the New Testament church.
The gift of the Holy Spirit comes as a response to a believer’s obedience; they have done what Jesus instructs them to do.
As evangelicals, can we really contemplate being a member of the body of Christ (in a Baptist church) without baptism?
Matters of regeneration are a key in attending to the lack of spiritual depth in Christian circles these days. But if we baptise or even rebaptise we encourage the Holy Spirit to take the person in question on a new journey of self-discovery, because Christ has come into them.
Keeping to a standard of baptism or immersion cannot be problematic in the theological landscape. Baptism, especially when shared with a testimonial reflection, is a very powerful instrument in the hands of the Spirit of God.
Conversion is the regenerative event. It is the moment that a decision is made for Christ. It is also the moment that Christ puts his Spirit into the emergent believer.
There is the imperative of baptism as a forerunner to the real regenerative journey we all need to undertake.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Value of Journeying With Our Sadness

Let sadness not define you,
But it will certainly refine you,
If you journey patiently along with it.
The primacy of sorrow,
Will get better tomorrow,
If we will learn in our sadness to sit.
“Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.”
— Ecclesiastes 7:3 (NLT)
Many commentators think of Ecclesiastes as a book written by someone who was depressed. That’s not the half of it.
We miss the opportunities that abound in life in the midst of the sorrowful. We tend to run or to resent, but to run or resent is to miss the point, because we do not like pain.
But pain is inherent in life. God will show us, if we journey within our sorrow, making a home for it, not pushing it away in denial or anger or bargaining, that there is only blessing beyond the sorrow – for God is met there!
We cannot grasp just how good God is to meet us, right there, in the grossness of the miry experience. We surely feel as though nobody’s ever had it as hard as we presently have it – yet, Jesus has. Jesus has. And more. Not that it’s at all about levels of suffering. It’s about God making himself real and reliable in the pit.
The value of journeying with our sadness is we realise, in the experience and afterward, if this thing cannot crush us, nothing can.
Resilience is the virtue learned when sorrow is journeyed with. We begin to meet our realities with a realistic resolve. We become less fazed. Our emotions even out over time. We are less tipped into the extremes of high and low.
Growth is such a thing as to be ours, when we are prepared to do what we can do any day. But growth may seem secondary when there is the all important task of staying alive or remaining at a distance from despair.
Sadness is not a thing to be feared. It has value, and, from a growth viewpoint, sadness is of far more value that frivolity.
Sorrow connects us not only with the intimate heart of God, it connects us with those who love us, because we must simply reach out and take the love we need.
Let’s not be afraid of sadness when it arrives. But, also, let it not define us, but refine us. There are many things that sadness can teach us, if we are patient and humble learners.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, August 22, 2014

23 Things to Love About Life Experience

As I craft this article, I’m forty-seven years of age. I’ve already had my ‘midlife crisis’ at age forty, when there seemed so many things challenging to my identity. But to be nearing fifty I’m beginning to understand more and more the beauty of age as a reflection of life experience.
Just some of the things to love about life experience:
1.      First and foremost, you ultimately become comfortable with yourself.
2.      There is an appreciation for the vastness of experience that the memory could never contain. There is so much to life and our memories lose the ability to keep up, retaining only what’s truly relevant.
3.      There is confidence in God’s faithfulness to come through, especially when it’s matched with our diligent obedience.
4.      We are no longer so easily fooled. Even the naive amongst us are wiser for having been duped.
5.      Age can be cherished when we realise that what we no longer have in speed and agility we make up for in poise and guile.
6.      We appreciate the experiences of others more. Whether people are younger or older, we can respect the person who’s got an experience to share.
7.      We have less to prove, because proving things becomes less important.
8.      Other people can utilise our life experience and lean on us in a time of need.
9.      The competitive streak has been worn down and we are more collaborative.
10. Because our experience is varied, we begin to appreciate the range and diversity of experience in the next person. We no longer see other people as a threat.
11. Experience is a thing to be reflected over, especially in community.
12. Younger people can show us things and we can appreciate them for it, which is an encouragement to them when we are genuine about it.
13. The value in the simple and the simplest things in life comes to be real.
14. There is less ambition, less pressure, less drive, but more passion, more inner call, and more advocacy.
15. We part ways with attractiveness on the outside in favour of attractiveness on the inside.
16. The meaning of life is closer to our grasp.
17. The significant things and the insignificant things stand to be more obvious.
18. Attributes of virtue – like love, peace, courage – become accessible, honed, and prized.
19. There is little interest for the things that truly waste our time (petty jealousies, pleasing people, wasteful practices, etc).
20. People view us as ‘safer’ and more amiable.
21. Resources are used with growing wisdom, care, and generosity.
22. There is less of a hurry in going about life.
23. Enjoyment of life becomes more significantly important.
Life experience is a thing to cherish, as it’s a legacy into others’ lives.
© 2014 S. J. Wickham.