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TRIBEWORK is about consuming the process of life, the journey, together.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Forgiveness Through Reconciling the Pain of Regret

Regret is a powerful force. We are tempted to deny our regrets exist when the real opportunity is to wrestle with the pain and encounter forgiveness.
How powerful, really, is the temptation to deny our regrets exist?
It is one of the most powerful forces, because, whether we like to admit it or not, we hate pain. And regret is an oft-irreconcilable pain. It will seem easier to deny the pain ever existed. But the real problem is not the regret itself, but the false lie of a life we procure in its place.
Any pain that comes our way through our personal experience is a salient temptation to deny the sting of it. Why would we endure pain when we can deny it and move on with our lives? But denial is never moving on; it’s how we get stuck in maladaptive methods of maladjustment to life’s slings and arrows, for which there are so many.
How are we to wrestle with our pain?
We encounter our pain’s truth as we learn to stand firmly in God as we encounter our emotions, learning to hear what God in the Scriptures says to us.
There is no viable substitute for the truth. A truth honoured is a strength in our weakness. It’s the choice to honour what is real, what can be trusted, and that which is ever authentic, and so faithful as to be reliable.
Wrestling with our pain is sitting in the midst of the fire, taking all its furious heat, defying the flames as they scorch and singe.
Wrestling with our pain is taking the force of such an assault with the divine temerity of Jesus. As our Lord cried out for the Father to forgive his murderers, he stood in the midst of torment with the patient courageous meekness only God could muster.
What is the encounter of forgiveness like? How will I know it when I encounter it?
To encounter forgiveness is a miracle of sorts; many diverse sorts.
A weight is lifted from the burden of life. There is a sense of assured acceptance in knowing, that, whilst the past is done, the present and future lie gaping awake for a new thing.
Forgiveness is not only possible, it’s probable when we face God truthfully with the knowledge of God’s character and nature — God wants to forgive us.
Praying for real opportunities toward experiencing God’s freeing forgiveness is our task.
Regret is a waste and an unnecessary burden, shackling us to denial; a life dominated by fear. But the truth wrestled with is a truth that sets us free! And those who are called to truth, who venture by courage into their regrets, are freed indeed. Forgiveness is procured through a truth honoured.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What Is Better Than Sex In Christian Marriage?

Where is God taking us in our marriages? Otherwise, what is his will for the union of two into one?
Such questions are primary for all of us who appreciate the sanctity of Christian marriage in devotion to our spouse for the life now and all of that which is to come.
What must God want for us to think and say and do in our marriages? How are we to discharge our ‘rights’ of the other person (1 Corinthians 7:4)? How are we to forego our own body’s rights? What does it mean that our spouse has claim on us?
These, and so many more questions, are the substance of Christian marriage. Only a union of two, themselves, are able to lay claim to the answer of such questions.
But here it is — the Summum Bonum of marriage — at least from a Christian standpoint. God’s will is that we would give to the other to the extent that we are able to remain in love with our spouse — that the quotient of our love would superintendent the past, and we would become lovers of our lover in the present.
God wants us to be in love with our spouse. He wants us to do what we need to do to remain in love.
Too many marriages are rent asunder because of our inability to remain in love.
And so many marriages might be predicated on not being in love in the first place.
Men, if we are able to remain in love with our wives, other women — albeit their inherent attractiveness to us — will always remain at a distance from our hearts. It is bad enough that we might partake in an attraction from time to time, but to take part in fantasy is to extinguish our marital love. We would fall out of love.
The key to falling back in love with the spouse of God’s choice for us is to be in love — to the point that our spouse becomes, as they were, the consuming focus of our lives.
It cannot be equalled in the realm of marriage under God — to be in love with our marriage partner. Satisfaction is redoubled into contentment because of God’s affirmation for our faithfulness; hardly a better, more assured state of heart and mind any person could achieve through grace.
Better than sex in Christian marriage is to be in love. Being in love is the pinnacle of blessing that amounts to an overflow of blessing in our spouse’s life.
Being in love is the precursor to the best sex life, but is never conditional on it.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Adopting Jesus’ Easy, Unbeatable Way for Forgiveness

Easter reminds us of many aspects of God’s saving grace manifest in the cross of Christ, and of Christ’s divinity to defeat death. It also reminds us of a very basic yet thoroughly cogent concept: forgiveness — which is not about what the other person does or has done.
Forgiveness is more essentially about how we see their attributions of themselves and God than it is about us. This is proven the instant we see how indiscriminate they are in hurting those around them. Their hurting us isn’t as personal as we reckon it to be. Their hurting us is more about what’s going on inside them — their inability to see — or, their incapacity to care.
A person’s inability to see is fundamentally about what God gives them to see.
A person’s incapacity of care is quintessentially about their lack of love for themselves.
As we accept these truths, we are given to one more fact of merciful mastery.
As Jesus was nailed to the cross, the later manuscripts say, he cried out, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
Our betrayer, our heckler, our accuser, our enemy has the very same problem — they simply do not know what they are doing!
Test it out if you doubt the veracity of my claims.
Take the person who just doesn’t see the hurt they’ve caused. Another way of putting it is, they do not know what they are doing or have done. They are blinded to it. They cannot see what is so obvious to us and others. There is no coercing them, either. We can rightly say, “Father, forgive them — and help me to forgive them — because they don’t know what they’re doing!” But there are consequences for such people: we don’t trust them anymore; they’re maligned; their credibility is dashed. Yet, they can be forgiven, because they do not yet know the weight of their fault.
If they sit on the more sinister side of the fence — they do know what hurt they’ve caused, yet they don’t care — they are affected similarly. They do not know — in their arrogant inconsideration — what consequences they’re storing up for themselves in heaven — and probably later in this life, too! They are too morally blind to care. We should pity them, for when God gets his hands on them they’ll know, alright! These people can be forgiven, because God’s justice is a solid and lasting justice. It always is.
The point of forgiveness — all the foregoing disregarded for the moment — is, we take the power and make the betrayer, the heckler, the accuser, our enemy, powerless. They have attempted to trump us with a commanding assault. But what can they verily do to us, whose thoughts and ways are higher than theirs? (Isaiah 55:8-9) When we opt to obey God we adopt his thinking, and that is the way to the surest victory.
Jesus forgave those who betrayed him because they didn’t know what they were doing. Our betrayers, alike, do not know. They don’t see or they don’t care. We cannot resent people for what God hasn’t revealed to them. But we can pity those whose justice is still coming. The Day of the Lord is terrible, indeed! (Joel 2:11)
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

29 Ways to Get Unstuck

If you have to keep wondering where you stand with someone, perhaps it’s time to stop standing and start walking.
— Author Unknown
Seasons come and seasons go and we might be forgiven for thinking whilst at the halcyon heights that we have everything sorted. But pride comes before a fall. My 2010 was a case in point. It was a great year. But then came 2011!
Here are 29 ways to help us get unstuck from an unsatisfying season:
1.     Acknowledge your weakness and even major on it. Make it your magnum opus.
2.     Take a break by changing the pace and environment you’re in.
3.     Get around people, positive though realistic people.
4.     Don’t take no for an answer: persist!
5.     Enjoy what you loath and learn to loath what you enjoy.
6.     Consider being less interested in your own life such that others’ lives are more appealing.
7.     Take up something new and make every effort to put it high on your priorities.
8.     Go see your medical professionals and get intentional about getting healthier.
9.     Believe in transcendence, which is a spirituality of faith in the impossible.
10. When you’re mad, smile into a mirror (a genuine smile).
11. When you’re sad, smile into a mirror, and allow laughter, so long as you’re not ridiculing yourself.
12. If you’re glad, take a moment to think of those who have no clean drinking water.
13. Call someone you haven’t spoken to in twenty years.
14. Grace the centre stage of your former life, sit there and reflect.
15. Enjoy the vantage point of somewhere you’ve never been.
16. Throw all your past away without throwing who you are away.
17. It may seem novel, pray. (This really should not be number 17.)
18. For every month you’ve been stuck there is a month of growth deposited in the bank of good lessons.
19. Take a chance on destiny without allowing destiny to take a chance on you.
20. Decide to take your embittered heart out with you when you dispose of the trash.
21. Taste the water you drink, smell the air you breathe. Consume with your senses.
22. Try a night on the streets. You’ll never take your bed for granted again.
23. Imagine what you would do if you had an extra $143.65 in your wallet or purse.
24. Create something that has never been created before. Make something priceless.
25. Think up some wonderfully lucid thoughts that are drenched in holy fantasy.
26. Put an apple on your boss’s or teacher’s desk, if it won’t create more problems!
27. Collect up all your photos and start collecting heads, arms, hands and feet.
28. Reckon life to be an irony. Start entertaining, without living, the opposites.
29. Stop trying to get unstuck when it’s probably making things worse.
The strangest incident releases us from being stuck emotionally or spiritually.
The less we try our hardest the easier we find it is to learn and grow.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Betraying Temptations to Sexual Sin and Unfaithfulness

In a vision I was given I was shown how remarkably easy it is to be lured into temptation to engage in sexual sin.
(So thankful am I for the revelation inbound of a mystery. There is most often little or resolutely no connection with what is going on at the time the content and meaning of the revelation is received. Hence, the revelation, as a warning or as an encouragement, is always gratefully received as it is later pondered. And it is seen for what it is, for it is pungent with truth. This revelation is the communication of the Spirit demanding the furtherance of his holy communication. I am, again, to be used as his messenger!
Please, read on...)
To be lured into temptation to engage in sexual sin is not the wrong, in and of itself.
Our weakness to submit as if we had no other choice, however; that’s the wrong. It’s our weakness of intention to forget what is behind and what is ahead — the relationships implicit of faithfulness we are about to take immediately and surreptitiously for granted — which is never more wrong. The travesty about to prevail is a sinner’s snare when they don’t see the litany of corpses strewn ahead; none more, their own. The awesome calamity that is about to beset one and one’s loved ones — and so many more!
Yet being lured into temptation to engage in sexual sin is astoundingly powerful as a force for wrong, and, if we match up the seductive power of our innate sexual desires and our needs of felt intimacy with the innate propulsion of wrongdoing in sexuality enacted inappropriately, we have a potent thousand proof cocktail that inebriates even the ‘very best’ of humanity!
This is the problem I feel the Holy Spirit wants me to proclaim: Engage the human being, yes anyone, at the level of need, and there, place such ‘national’ (whole-of-being) pleasure in their lap — a caress, a tickle, a requited glance, a touch — and there is potential for an incursion of disaster to occur internationally. The process of cause-and-effect is ignited. And a rocket-propelled vehicle goes faster down a spiral. The forces of calumny are only just now coming into being! There is a woe in its creation!
Only one accord for international relations is permissible: marriage — when one’s body (their ‘nation’) takes up with another’s to the alliance of consummate unity to the very last breath; until death parts them.
Whatever is intrinsically enjoyable that may involve inadvertent sexual contact — and not necessarily, and not usually, genitalia — may prove irresistible. The brush of skin or hair, a gaze set upon and taken in longer than the wiser look away, the sneaky note or text message, time spent together meeting in a conspiracy of pleasure, the meeting of a need inappropriately, in sum; these, and more, are killers of good international relations — global safety and security is on the line! All that is needed for a runaway train is for attitudes to become behaviours, let alone if behaviours become habits! For a habit so appalling reaps a cataclysmic event — an unprecedented derailment — coming all too soon. From there the unfolding destruction goes ahead of the person who took no account for the consequences. Destruction is then manifest in myriad dynamism. Once an event like this is in its horrendous throes there is no recovering it until all the forces at play come to a complete standstill. Disaster recovery must then wrestle with what is, having full control over the management of such a horribly disfigured scene.
But it need not ever be; we have our own devices of Spirit-led and Spirit-contained response enabled for the moment; ‘surprise’ is never really surprise when our Spiritual acumen is enabled.
We have no excuse.
Warning upon warning is provided, if we are interested enough in national and international welfare.
We must betray our mortal impulses and actually mortify them.
The more habitual we become at shifting swiftly away from inappropriate affections, the less power they have over us.
Faithfulness is a lifetime of relational investment stored in heaven — to the glory of God — but unfaithfulness is bankruptcy both in heaven and on earth.
Integrity of heart and behaviour is the sharpest arrow of blessing. It penetrates the bullseye every time. Faithfulness is the sweet spot on the target toward satisfaction.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When God Doesn’t Give Us What We Want

Pointless faith seems if Jesus doesn’t give us what the ‘desires of our hearts’ call for. Wrong, dead wrong.
In a recent sermon, the Senior Pastor (Jackie Smoker) at the church I serve in said:
“Saying yes to important things, like family, sometimes means saying no to things we desperately want.”
We all want a self-fashioned Jesus who will help us have the things we can’t survive without. But until we try to survive without them, we don’t know that we can. Indeed, we might even thrive in the subjection of our desires!
There are touchstones of desire we all have that may be thoroughly good for us, which also don’t meet God’s will for us. Perhaps it’s a season of life where it’s inappropriate for us to acquire the thing we hanker for. Sometimes God has a slightly different direction for us to journey in. Maybe we are asked by the Holy Spirit to be the guide for someone who needs us, against our will when we would rather go another way. Then again, it’s something we are sure should be ours now.
We become incredibly frustrated for a time. There is a season of inner irritation welling up to the brooding of incongruence. We step out of step with God so we can nurture the desire that seems just out of grasp. We keep passively (or actively) after it. We keep insisting in our own ‘obedient’ stubbornness (thinking the Spirit still wants for us what we want) that everything will turn out. And we are so adamant that we may not admit to ourselves that we are at crossed purposes to the Divine.
What are we to do with the fact that not everything turns out as we would have liked it to? Are we to reject God? Should we keep going our own sweet way? Is the road to our own damnation paved in the bricks of grace — will we expect God to understand our wilfulness?
If Jesus didn’t get his own way, there will be times when we won’t get our own way.
Still, what are we to do?
There is nothing shorter nor longer than acceptance as the perfect measure for the attaining to of God’s will.
Acceptance of God’s obvious will—the putting first of others—is the blessedness of faith, for faith accepts what cannot be changed.
And, finally, we shall see that faith is the most blessed activity of all!
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A Theology for Safe Ministry With Vulnerable People

Christian ministry isn’t ever purposed or achieved in hurting or betraying people. It is always — and can only ever be — a process by which people are built up, encouraged, inspired, grown, and, principally, kept safe. Safety in every concept of the word. Safety as determined by how the vulnerable person feels — in their realness of honesty as God would see them.
There is a power dynamic in the relationship that must be recognised and respected — by the minister! He or she is responsible and accountable for the relationship and everything done and discussed. Only in humility can a minister bear such a burden.
The minister interacts in appropriate fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). As the minister “works out their salvation” — given their special role as a teacher, leader, counsellor, spiritual guide, pastoral carer, and friend — they must know that one slip can potentially spell the end of their work, no matter how ‘brilliant’ they are. Of course, most ‘slips’ involve a priory of foolish steps, but sometimes it’s just an accusation that sticks — once!
The good minister thanks God every day for the privilege in his or her work; not because they are privileged — but that the work is privileged; it is divine work. They have been gifted, and they have at the forefront of their minds that their gifts are nothing to be proud of. Their gifts have been given by God — so they cannot boast — and they are for use, solely, in the building of God’s kingdom to the extension of his borders for the minister.
So, what are some of the premises of engagement in the formation of a theology for safe ministry for a minister to provide with a vulnerable person — a helping relationship?
1.     Everything Thought, Said and Done is Before God: An ever present awareness of God’s searching is necessary. As is stated in Psalm 139 (especially verses 1-4, 7, 11-12, 23-24) we cannot hope to ever be out of God’s sight. No sin goes unseen. And even if we justify our sin — which we very often attempt to do — it won’t change the fact that sin is sin. It is so important to have this knowledge so well entrenched that it becomes part of our ministry persona. We are careful what we use our eyes for, where our hands are and what they are doing, and the positioning of our body and how our body language may be read. It’s as if God himself were in the person we are ministering with; which, if they are a believer, is an actual fact because of the Holy Spirit in them. We are under scrutiny everywhere, all the time. We cannot hope to get away with a single thing. We will account one day for every good and not-so-good thing we have done. We are cosmically alone with God, eternally! (With for a believer, without for someone profaning Christ.)

2.     Mothers, Sisters, Daughters: God revealed to me, a long time ago now, that, even though there are thousands of very attractive women that I would be (and have been and will be) personally attracted to, they are my mothers, sisters, and daughters — and, not least daughters of the Lord Almighty. Would I think about my mother the way I do about this cultured older woman before me? Or, if she were closer to my age, how would I feel if she were my sister and my thoughts should be led carnally astray? Having three daughters I know quite intimately how I would feel if one of them were infracted. A peaceable person am I, but for a time when that should happen. It is not unusual, however, that I’m struck by a women’s beauty. Better to thank God for how wonderfully adorned she is than go somewhere irretrievably immoral. But, just the same, there are the males who are also vulnerable — elderly men through to little boys. I have nothing for males, but I must equally be on guard for any misuse of power.

3.     Accountability Relationships: I have a wife and she is my confidant in matters of tenuous ministry. She deserves to be in concert with God — to know all the ‘hidden’ things in all potentially fraught relationships. When it comes to sharing important issues, my awareness through God’s distinctive revelation is key. I have learned to trust her and tell her especially those secret agreements I might begin to keep with myself. Not every male minister has a wife so mature. Not every female minister has a husband so wise. This is why pastoral supervisors — who we spend time with, who have permission to ask hard questions of us, and who are answered honestly — are crucial. I also have several mentors and one supervisor. But my wife is the best person in the present context. If she is, at any time, uncomfortable, God is telling me to listen up and heed what she is either saying or not saying. It is up to me, not her, to reconcile the situation.

4.     Humility of Service: this qualifies us or it disqualifies us. C.S. Lewis says in his sermon Weight of Glory, “The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.” Any sign of pride in us, the minister, has to be swiftly dealt with; contempt poured over it to smother its noxious effect. It will harm others and it will harm our work for God. But a humble person sees no particular delight in helping people. Instead, they just praise God for the gifts and transference of insight that enable that help to be made manifest.

5.     One Day At A Time: says the Apostle Paul, “… continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfil his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12b-13) Ministry is the will of God; an act fulfilling his good purpose. Anything that doesn’t achieve this goal is not ministry. And some things done in the name of ministry have been abominations. Only can we achieve this one day at a time, with diligence, reviewing our performance as we go, staying accountable to God’s Spirit in our work, and repenting regularly. One day at a time we can obey God; no more. One day, each day as it comes, is enough of a challenge of us to trust him implicitly (Matthew 6:34). When we put the Kingdom and his righteousness first, one day at a time, everything we need is ours (Matthew 6:33). And when the Kingdom is first, everything we need to be for others is ours, also.
In sum, these considerations help the minister and the person they are helping:
1.     God is ever before me/us — nothing is felt, thought, said or done without him knowing. Equally, he knows and accepts how broken we are.

2.     We need to see how other people connect to other people. If we see the roles people play in their lives, and we wish to uphold them for God’s best in and for their roles, we will be helped in helping them.

3.     Having accountability relationships based on transparency, and to prompt the subjugation of temptations, is vital. Ministry can only stay healthy and holy where we have no qualms in sharing the journey.

4.     Remember, only the humble will be able to bear the strain of ministry long-term.

5.     The wisest way to live life is one-day-at-a-time.
Let’s face it, we are all vulnerable, and occasionally the one in the helping profession is most vulnerable than all. That’s humbling!
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to Consider It Pure Joy (When You Suffer)

Consider the opportunity to choose for joy when you are faced with horrendous situations. Such a choice is blessed. The more we choose joy the more mature God makes us — which is compensation for what we’ve been through.
~*~*~*~ James 1:2-4 paraphrased ~*~*~*~
This biblical wisdom isn’t for everyone but it should be, for anyone can apply this and reap handsome rewards: this wisdom of God’s. Why do I spruik it? I’ve lived it!
Indeed, there were times, about eleven years ago now, when I really had no choice but to choose the way the Scriptures told me to embrace the pit of despair my life had then come to be. Of course, I was so desperate for any help I could get from God that I diligently ran to the Word of God constantly. Scriptures like Galatians 6:9, Romans 5, 8, and 12, the above James passage, 2 Corinthians, and many of the psalms became staples to get through; a diet rich in spiritual hope.
I’ve never been through a worse time, before that or since. Not even the loss of Nathanael in 2014 was as bad as losing everything I valued — my first marriage and family as it was back then. I think this previous experience helped enormously regarding how would handle grief from then on. I know when all else is stripped away that I still have God.
Anything can happen to me; but, I still have God.
Can you say that?
This is where faith comes to be exigent; we have faith only when we obey God.
James 1:2-4 has about it one key premise — the way we express faith — and one key outcome — the blessings of growth in maturity, which is resilience and virtue.
The moment we understand the power in choosing the opportunity of joy in every difficult circumstance is the moment we become more able to do it.
Choosing joy is not about a fake or contrived happiness. Joy is the real hope in the midst of reality — not pretending everything is fine, but acting like everything will ultimately be okay. Joy in difficulty — which is an emotional steadiness to take the longer term view — is easiest when we realise the power of surrendering our anguish to God by the sheer will of obedience. Any other will would be forlorn, but not the will to honour God!
The more readily we apply the above, consistently, the more humble confidence we are blessed with. Suddenly as we see ourselves empowered like never before we have a blessing ever beyond our former reach. This is the value in loss. It teaches us what we could not gain otherwise.
God grows those who, with their integrity of realness, choose joy in their pain.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Challenges and the Hope In a Long Marriage

Marathons are excruciating affairs of endurance.
The athlete is inspired to register their entry, they do so, and then they devote many hours in the preparation. They prepare mentally, physically, emotionally, and maybe even spiritually. Their wellbeing is under constant surveillance, for the journey is too long to allow a single compromise. Their diet is strictly controlled and days out from the event there is the careful portioning of protein and carbohydrate — not to mention the supplements they choose to take as extra insurance. There is, perhaps, a difficulty in sleeping as race time draws near, and fatigue may be the unwanted nemesis. With the starting line in view, and the starter’s gun fired, she is off!
The race has begun.
Marriage is no race, but for reaching the finishing line — “til death do us part” — intact.
The marathon runner is pacing herself as she strides the opening miles at good, though reserved, pace. The course is known and there is due execution of the plan that has been carefully designed and prayed over.
With marriage, of course, the course is unknown. Many unknown mountains need to be climbed, not to mention the valleys to be endured. The early going sees much excitement — and maybe some trouble — but nothing like what we will experience as the race winds on through the lonely chicanes. Depending on how we feel, we might settle in for some balanced and triumphant miles. But, sooner or later, the drudgery will affect us mentally, and that’s where we need to stay sharp. Such drudgery is an inside job — and we need to say, “Get behind me, Satan!”
The marathon runner, likewise, has temptations to quit. The course is harder than she imagined, and there’s the unexpected encounter with shin splints — a pain that feels like an explosion in the leg every time each foot lands. There’s no blood, but there are tears and lots of them, and the grimacing face is the sign of a will being tested to its bitter extremes. As she keeps putting one foot in front of the other, there is the nagging thought of giving up that gnaws away at her. But she cannot. Not just yet, anyway.
Similarly, the marriage suffers upsets and some of them seem impossible to get through — certainly as they are experienced in bristling momentousness of hurt. But there is hope if we can keep striding by addressing this ‘injury’ on the run. So long as we think laterally, we can stay in the running. And then some marriages become a DNF — did not finish. The injury was too great. The runner(s) gave in to the gargantuan pressure. But the marriage where communication and compromise are regularly met and re-invented is the marriage that endures to the end.
And so it is.
If marriage can embrace the dark valleys and the arduous high mountain climbs it can enjoy the terrific massif vistas that beckon at life’s end.
A marriage enjoyed sets itself apart as the thesis of life that God called it to be.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.