What It's About

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Paradoxical Love In the Kingdom of God

LOVING our brothers and sisters in Christ is something that is an expectation of us; actually more. Loving our brothers and sisters is the sign that the Holy Spirit is in residence in us — that we can love our brother and sister, even if they’ve hurt us.
Love is paradoxical in the Kingdom of God. We must love our enemy, yet we love our brothers and sisters by dealing truthfully, which, at times, is tough love.
Tough love is only appropriate for the person in a relationship with God. An extra level of grace is due the non-Christian. Tough love must, however, always be love. We cannot deal harshly with a brother or sister and call it love.
Two Models of the Same Love
Love Your Enemies
It is apparently easy to love our kind. But there is no heavenly reward for that kind of expected love. God requires us to love our enemies. In other words, we are to love those who are not our brothers and sisters, for our brothers and sisters are apparently easy to love, and that love is expected. Loving our enemies — those who do not love God — as we do — is also easy, given that our enemy does not have the same compulsion to love that we do.
Love Your Brother and Sister
Out of love we find we must communicate truth with our brothers and sisters. Because we are ‘related’ with our brothers and sisters in Christ we have an additional responsibility — to love them so much as to commit our authenticity to them. With our enemy we do not have the right to rebuke them, but with our brothers and sisters we do; out of respect for love. Our brothers and sisters, also, have that responsibility toward us; they are to admonish us out of love. Such a love is ordinary in the Christian life, but I gather the church nowadays doesn’t do so well here. Perhaps the church has always struggled. But this kind of love is important because we should always want to grow — others have a role in our growth as we have a role in theirs. The dualist role of growth is always underpinned by seeking to build the other up.
The Same Love
The same love pervades all our relationships: the grace of forgiving our enemies and the grace of communicating truth with our brothers and sisters. Both manifestations of love are one and the same love; but each is a love of concern at the right level of the relationship we have. We cannot love someone who does not understand love under God with a love that is full of truth. But with our brother and sister we can.
The love of God compels us to love our enemy as well as love our brother and sister.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Breadth of Reach In Leadership of a Calling to Repentance

LETTING bygones be bygones is not a biblical concept, nor is maintaining a fight for people to turn from their ‘wicked ways’ through the mode of aggression. That’s not to say that letting bygones be bygones is wrong, per se. Sometimes, for our own sanity, we need to. Indeed, letting bygones be bygones, as far as we are personally concerned, is probably, in some ways, wise.
But sometimes injustices scream out to be called for what they are.
And if we are able to do that without making the situation worse — without making our own behaviour part of the problem — then perhaps God will use us to that end.
There is beauty in these words of Jesus of Matthew 18:15: If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over...”
Some of the later manuscripts (and the earlier ones are best) that have “If your brother or sister sins against you...” would suggest Jesus limits our involvement to those sins that are done only against us. But, if we take his words to be relevant for the time — when community meant actually caring for justice within the community — when justice wasn’t thought of as just an interpersonal thing — we can see how the earlier manuscripts broaden our capacity to “go!” if we are concerned by the sin someone does against anyone.
There is a breadth of reach in our leadership in calling someone to repentance.
This is not anything about judging or condemning them.
It is simply about presenting a factual case of observed deeds before them. It is for the Holy Spirit, then, to convict them (or not), if the case presented has been shown to compel such spiritual action of repentance within them. If not, then the admonishing party has the option of Jesus’ instructions in verse 16 and 17.
Leading someone to repentance is a biblical invocation, if we can do so in the spirit of love that seeks to restore the person. We love our brother or sister. We want to see the one who has sinned, restored. We believe that repentance leads to learning; that of the importance and benefits of reconciliation.
Repentance is a lifeblood by restorative truth in the community of faith.
There is no better outcome when we have sinned than when God gets our attention and has us reconcile matters with our estranged brother or sister.
Repentance is impelled by the loving concern of God manifest through the sinning believer, which teaches them a better way.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Notorious Repentance, Enough To Establish Reconciliation

RECONCILIATION is something I believe in; it’s also something everyone wants to believe in. This is the case because we all need to be able to reconcile matters that estrange our minds, hearts and souls.
A mind, heart and soul estranged from itself is an especially broken person in great need of healing.
The only way reconciliation is achieved is through repentance — not always, but most often a two-way street in relationships. The person guilty of the greater sin should always justifiably go first (but it doesn’t always work out that way).
And all repentance is to be proportionate with the immensity of the sin.
A pastor, of course, is to be considered as held to a higher standard. But the following quote also shows a principle that should apply across the board — i.e. to anyone.
Our repentance ought to be commensurate with our wrongdoing:
“When a preacher of righteousness has stood in the way of sinners, he should never again open his lips in the great congregation until his repentance is as notorious as his sin.”
— Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834–1892)
As a “preacher of righteousness” I am under no false allusions. Nor should any of my peers be. We should all stand ready to be condemned for our behaviour, because we know — at our core — this terrible truth: we are sick and we are only made well in this life that has won us to virtue on the proviso that we know our plight in this mortal life:
“The one spiritual disease [is] thinking that one is quite well.”
— G.K. Chesterton (1874–1936)
A person who knows their propensity to ill is a person who plans and prepares for sickness — both the prevention of it, and their cure. One measure is for the ‘health’, and the other is for remediation unto reconciliation. The former is for oneself directly and for others indirectly. The latter is strictly for others, directly, though we may also benefit in pouring contempt on our pride — from a repentance that fits our crime.
The practical steps involved in repenting notoriously enough to extinguish the effect of the sin are:
ü Assume a position of absolute vulnerability and transparency.
ü Confess every sordid thing you can think of. (It is likely that once you start you will open something like floodgates. Do not shrink in fear. Have faith in the cleansing properties of confession. The fuller the confession, the more effective the healing.)
ü Make no position or provision of protection for yourself. Be at the other person’s complete mercy.
ü Be remorseful about not only the behaviours of sin, but their underpinning attitudes. In other words, go deeply into your sickness. It’s the only way it will be expunged!
ü Remember repentance’s first step is of the following. The word repentance (Greek: metanoia) means to turn from one way of behaving to another. Repentance is not just saying sorry. But saying sorry is part of repentance.
A Prayer:
LORD, hold me and my ministry friends to account so we do not sully Your gospel in the name of ‘ministry’ and hurt Your church. It is Yours, not ours. And, make us capable of an appropriate repentance if/when the appointed time comes. AMEN.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement to Gordon MacDonald’s book, Rebuilding Your Broken World.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Why the Meritorious Life is the Happiest Life

GRACED by privilege is nothing if we don’t convert such blessings inherited into traction for good.
Born with a silver spoon in the mouth is nothing if it’s not taken into the realm of release for the captives.
Released by the Lord unto a life of a life, such a life is wasted if it doesn’t procure release for others who are bound to their sin without God.
The biggest waste of life is not living it to the full when we have the chance. Some seasons we cannot live anything like the life we would. But when we can we should.
There is little good holding a position of influence if our conduct isn’t exemplary.
As I pondered my ex-CEO, now our State’s Governor, which is not an elected position, but one bestowed on a truly exemplary person, I saw not only position, but conduct. Her conduct always broadened her position. The living of a meritorious life was her key to making an impact, and making such an impact was the making of contentment. Contentment is always the outcome of someone without designs who has a love to serve.
A meritorious person loves to serve. They inspire others because they, themselves, are inspiring.
The meritorious life is the happiest life because the person has done all they can do with their life. Let eternity be their judge. And as God would judge, the Lord could not hope to be more pleased. The meritorious life is a life well spent.
Our lives are far more of value if we resolve to be meritorious through what we do for others than if we simply ‘played’ position.
What a disgrace it is to be in a position of influence and not utilise those resources for others.
Our conduct is something that will live on far longer when we’re gone than thoughts of our positions of influence that we held.
Nothing is as important as holding ourselves well for others. Our conduct is our privilege — if we have been blessed into positions of influence — and we all have some influence — we are duty bound to make what is ours bigger for others to step into.
Some are born to influence, and some rise to it. But influence without good conduct is a waste of time and love. Whether we are born to influence or we rise to it, let our conduct endeavour to outstrip our influence — for Christ’s glory!
The meritorious life is the happiest life because it lives for others by letting God live through us.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

When Love Is the Only Reasonable Thing To Do

BEING treated as we would be treated creates a problem.
If we would be loved how we would wish to be loved, we should wish to love the person loving us with the love that would satisfy us. We would give to them what our own standards would demand. Applying our own standard of love is the only reasonable thing we can do. And everyone deserves it.
If we cannot love someone to the extent of our own requirements of acceptance and courtesy, we must surely need to ask why.
Why, when we have agreed with God — as his disciple — to love all as we would have them love us? It should cause us great consternation. If we cannot forgive someone, surely we are compelled to explore why? Why is it we resist God?
The reason is something isn’t reconciled. But the Bible tells us to reconcile all things through the imperative, “Go!” (See, for instance, Matthew 5:24; 18:15.)
When we cannot love someone as we would have them love us, perhaps because of our perception of their actions toward us, we have the work to do, not them so much.
We have to engage with them, honestly, courageously, with sincerity, and with the ardency of hope that matters can be reconciled.
They may not even be aware of the impasse.
And, of course, it goes the other way. If someone comes to us — with courage and integrity that is admirable — and seeks our repentance so they may forgive us, we have work to do in the opposite direction. Time to put on the listening ears and caring heart (which should always be the case if we appreciate being heard and understood).
What can we give but ourselves, our love, our gentle truth, in the midst of embracing others in the midst of their truth? It’s all we can give. It’s always enough. We can be content with that.
To love people in our midst is our aim.
To smile when we would hope to be met with a smile is to live out God’s will.
To listen to someone when we know that if we were them that we’d love to be listened to; that’s the doing of God’s will.
To have someone give us the time of day and not to be inhibited by us is what we can give to another.
To smile when we can is to love someone just because we can.
To share in a hope or a dream or a despairing loss with someone is to love them with compassion.
Compassion is the capacity to love another person as we would be loved if we were in their situation.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Being Your Own ‘Soul Keeper’

ETERNITY is the place of souls. It is the destination of spirit and not flesh. Everything that is set against the soul fades along with the earth. Only the soul remains.
Our souls are our being. Yet, our souls are so sensitive. We should not ever quieten our souls, for, in that, we quieten our true selves who would otherwise crave God.
Our role in life is to be a soul-keeper. Our goal is to extract every good opportunity for soul care; to enhance our being.
When it comes to soul-keeping, there are three things to be aware of:
1.     We need to keep our soul soft — don’t be embittered by hurts. But the fact is, we will be embittered by hurts unless we do something to reconcile them. This means we need to be honest in the midst of our relationships. If we bear a grudge over a situation or with a person, the care of our soul is at jeopardy. Being honest with ourselves and being courageous enough to speak the truth in love are keys. The main reason we end up embittered in the first place is we stopped short of being honest with ourselves and others. Courage is blessed.

2.     We have the opportunity to go deeply into the trials of life, for our soul will only grow if we go to the depths. Don’t be shallow or superficial. To miss the depths of life, which require from us courage and endurance, is to miss life itself. And the soul gets and gives out its own rewards when we plumb deeply into the very material of our losses and grief. We are enriched for the depths encountered and embraced.

3.     We have to become aware not to allow the soul to become cluttered. We need space. This is such a danger in our post-postmodern world that is full of distractions. Did you know that pornography and gambling addictions are all the more easier to become tangled in with the internet? Besides unintentional distractions, there are so many attractions that compete for our eye and for our attention. The soul-keeper creates space. Where there is limited space, they ensure life is kept simple. The key priorities of life are easy to identify: family, health, relationships, community. Create equal and balanced space for all.
Our souls go into eternity the moment our life is over. The biggest, most important investment in life is that of soul care. Will you be a good soul-keeper?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Acknowledgement to Pastor Mark Wilson.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Divine Inevitability of Good Defeating Wrongdoing

The apostle Paul told the Romans,
“Don’t be defeated by what is wrong, but defeat what is wrong with what is good.”
— Romans 12:21 (USC)
FAITH at its best is courageous. It will do what it knows is best without making excuses for fear or indifference. Faith when it’s courageous is justice; it’s ready with feet poised for whatever action needs to be taken. But faith is also wisdom to know that “‘Vengeance is Mine!’ says the Lord.”
God is bringing about justice even as we stew in the juices of our private moments of execration. Even as we bellow from the depths of our being, silently, a soul trembling for its integrity, God is preparing us for that moment when all will be seen for what it’s becoming.
And we can act. We are not useless in the meantime. There is a thing God will have us do. But it’s counter to the world’s way. Faith will see it instituted with pleasure. You’ll see.
We are not to deny our hurts and run from them; but to face them brings us, with intimacy, to those things we most dislike about ourselves — our anger and our cowardice.
We will have to face these two truths if we are to fight the good fight.
If we have no fear — for what, truly, is there to lose? — we have acquired love. And, glory to God, there’s no turning back!
If we have no fear, we welcome the truth. Some ‘truth’ we may yet to hear. But truth is purposed for our growth, so why should we ever fear it. Even when another’s truth is not the full truth we can handle it.
We’re not fighting their evil; we are fighting evil itself with God’s unfailing goodness.
This is less about our adversary than it is about who they are an agent for: Satan himself. There is only one way to beat Satan: as Jesus did, we are to die to ourselves.
To die to ourselves brings utter shame on evil. Even evil cannot stand in the face of such exposure. It may appear to, but the death of evil isn’t tarrying!
Wrongdoing is destined for judgment as surely as goodness is never out of the hands of God. Can there by anything more certain? Reflection over such matters will bring to us an undivided confidence in God’s providence means. And God’s means always have just ends!
Wrongdoing cannot stand before goodness. Trust God, but do not think of justice coming in linear terms through time.
Justice comes with perfection on an eternal scale.
Do good. That is how you will overcome the wrongdoing done against you.
Justice comes.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Walking Past Bitterness with Feet Ready to Forgive

The Prophet, Isaiah, said this:
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
— Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
WHILE we are waiting for the unrepentant person to seek our forgiveness — and such a wait can literally last a lifetime — our duty is to walk with the feet of readiness to forgive them. We hold matters in tension all that time. We find God blesses us with his strength in our weakness.
Everyone has these matters to hold in tension. Everyone. Even the person who has not yet come to us to seek our forgiveness for their wrongdoing has had people hurt and betray them; possibly even ourselves — which bears urgent consideration.
Having feet that walk with the readiness to forgive is the continual work of God’s grace through us.
Whilst we walk with such feet, we are compelled to do what we can to be ready.
Our task, when we are called upon at their repentance, is to give them what they need; our ‘undeserved’ favour, which is really not that undeserved as God’s grace is. But it is a modicum, an imitation, and an exemplar of grace.
Such a task of readiness to forgive keeps us from becoming bitter. Becoming bitter would mean we would not be ready at all. But in preparing to be ready, and in actually being ready, we are ready for to bequeath the bountiful portents of God’s grace to be poured into their lives at the proper, God-appointed time. Such grace is not ours to give, but God’s. We are simply abiding in his will — it’s a simple obedience, nothing more, nothing less.
So there is no need for bitterness, though we shall struggle with it as we wrestle with God.
We are to walk on. Past bitterness, we have acceded to the will of him who forgives us our transgressions (see the Lord’s Prayer — Matthew 6:9-13, with bonus teaching in verses 14-15).
Only if we forgive the repentant person — and are ready to forgive them in the meantime — will we be forgiven.
We cannot have it both ways.
The transgressor is to repent and seek forgiveness; they are to be forgiven if and when they seek it. The victim is to be ready at a moment’s notice. These are the common relational duties in conflict for those walking with God.
The people who walk with feet ready to forgive are the people who receive those who walk with the feet ready to repent and to be forgiven. Both are good news. Both proclaim peace. Both bring good tidings. Both proclaim salvation. Such is the environment that Isaiah 52:7 highlights.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Justice and Compassion and Mercy to Forgive

Not just anyone said this… Jesus said this:
“Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
— Luke 17:4 (NIV)
RELATIONSHIPS spell disaster when there is one of two things: either wrongdoing that isn’t addressed honestly or if sins that have been repented of aren’t forgiven (Luke 17:3).
Let us get one thing straight: Jesus is not talking, above, about forgiving in any other context than as a consequence of repentance. Recall his previous verses of Luke chapter 17; the particularly gruesome sins of offences against children — the leading of weaker ones astray. Even these sins are forgivable, if there is a genuine repentance. Maybe Jesus picks the worst of sins out so as to show how unconditional our forgiveness is to be in the light of a remorse that ubiquitously regrets previous sins.
Practically, if a sex-offender were to repent of their despicable deeds against a child they are to be forgiven; and not only that, we are compelled to forgive them “seven times in a day…”
There is no point in getting angry about it. Jesus commands it. And we might ask why.
There is a principle of compassion amid justice implicit in Jesus’ injunction.
If a person were to seek to right their wrong — whether they are able to do it or not — they deserve forgiveness. It’s only the person who has no cause for remorse that we are not compelled, for their sake, to forgive. But the person who sincerely hopes never to do what they did again has earned the right of our compassion.
Deserving our compassion is not the same as deserving our trust in the same situation should it come in future.
The nature of God we are impelled to adopt here is mercy. If we will not forgive someone who genuinely commits to change — who wishes to turn from their wrongdoing — we may well cause them to be so aggrieved and discouraged, they will again fall into the hands of Satan.
Forgiving a repentant brother or sister is the justice of compassion; the divine mercy of God’s grace.
To forgive a repentant brother or sister — to pardon them unconditionally — is to do the will of God.
The Christian obligation to forgive the repentant one is tantamount to a command. We don’t get a choice. But forgiveness is also a process of prayerfully seeking God to change our hearts.
What this means, also, is an unrepentant person need not be forgiven. But we must always ready ourselves to forgive them.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

People As God’s Instruments In the Hurts of Life

LIFE is a pulveriser.
If we are vulnerable enough to be real, God will utilise our vulnerability and bring realness into our orbit.
Realness hurts.
And there is nothing more real than other people as they rub up against us.
People will hurt us in just being people.
People who are trying to love never set out to hurt us. They never want others to feel as they would hate to feel. Those trying to love.
But people who are agents not of love but of hurt are being used by God, and his will is to refine us.
Don’t get me wrong. God never wills it that people hurt us. But he does will it that we reflect over what happened and, more so even, over our response.
It’s not about other people. God is using them for us.
God never wants to rub our noses in the dirt of other people’s abuse of us. Never, ever.
But as we turn in within ourselves — inviting God’s Spirit to speak — we will intuit the notions for growth and development out of a single interaction.
There is an opportunity in our hurts beyond healing. Indeed, the opportunity is the healing.
The opportunity is see people as the vehicle for God’s communication; they are God’s mouthpieces — not that they of themselves ever speak for God.
But God speaks to us through our response to the poisonous darts flung our way.
This is very little about what is done against us. It’s much more about what God is doing in us.
The opportunity is to have God speak to us through our behaviour. As we act we are. As we act we have chosen. It’s no good saying we “didn’t mean it” when we have done what we have done. What we did is now part of our history.
The only way to reconcile our recalcitrant response is to repent.
The life of faith is not about others when they are recalcitrant; it’s about our recalcitrant selves.
God is so gracious. He will not condemn us or judge us or rebuke us. God is closest to the one who is broken and of a contrite heart (Psalm 51:16-17).
The Lord revives us as we listen to his heartbeat in the hurts of our lives.
God is good in that he is the way, the truth, and the life. He will lead us, even as people are instruments he will use in our growth.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.

Monday, April 13, 2015

How Do You Forgive the Unforgivable Betrayal?

CUTTING issues in life make their way into all our worlds. We’ve all been betrayed. And we’ve all faced situations when we are expected to forgive when we feel we can’t. We’ve all been exasperated by both their selfishness and our own inability to move on. We are not the only ones that feel the way we do around forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not as easy as it’s supposed to be… and who ever said it was supposed to be easy?
Forgiveness is hard, because it involves us where it hurts, where we care, where we have given our best and it wasn’t good enough. Forgiveness is taxing — as is grief — because we keep coming back to the same-old, same-old time and time again. Forgiveness makes us question God’s justice as we see the guilty go free.
Those who laugh are those who should verily mourn.
Forgiveness is complicated because justice hardly ever works how we think it should.
We do not understand how God can let the guilty party go. How do they get away scot-free from the temerity of their sin? There are a great many problems in the whole area of forgiveness in the context of justice.
So, how do we forgive the unforgivable betrayal: where there is no repentance?
A lack of repentance is the unforgivable betrayal, because the person who is party to our hurt, who has no interest in our moving forward, does not do the loving thing.
But we still need to wrestle with our own sense of bitterness.
The person who hurt us cannot be responsible for how we feel about them. It’s ours and ours alone.
The unforgivable betrayal is hence not unforgivable as far as we are concerned. It’s unforgivable as far as God’s concerned. Judgment will come to rest on the head of those who refuse to repent. But these are separate and disconnected issues.
When someone hurts us and refuses to repent, they have not sinned against us, but God. And the Lord will have the final word — a terrible day.
We’ve all faced situations when we are expected to forgive when we feel we can’t.
The fact is we need to wrestle with what we feel is impossible. If we don’t we fail the test of faith. All God requires of us is faith.
If we continue to wrestle with our need to forgive someone, God will gift us that miracle at the proper time.
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.