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Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Cruelty of God




"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?"
— C.S. Lewis


I love this quote, and it has everything to do with the discourse happening in my head and with my family these last few weeks. We have been bombarded with opportunities for deep intercessory prayer - dear friends who are suffering so much after a horrible accident with their son, another college friend who is watching his premature baby fight for his life, and then a choir member who struggles to recover from a simple outpatient heart procedure that went terribly awry.

Each scenario flirts with tragedy. Each day is a roller coaster of hope and despair, alternating viciously with huge drops and violent twists upward. It's too much to bear, but as we fall on the mercies of a God who promises to never leave us, He still seems to be so far away in this time when we need Him the most.

It's cruelty to get one's hopes up, only to have them shattered . . . at least that's what we've come to believe. The question looms so large that it threatens to block out any redeeming thought ... "How can God perform miracles one day and then pull those miracles out from under us the next ...?"

We are left feeling foolish for praising God in a seemingly false victory, and our faith is threatened as we struggle to believe in any future possibility of healing.

It seems like a mean-spirited set-up, to be completely honest. God seems a bit cruel at the moment, if we are transparent enough to admit it.

Job was.

He lost everything. His family, possessions, and health. And did he ever have something to say about it! I'm reminded of his journey, and I'm also remembering the conclusion of his discourse with his family, his friends, and then with God Himself.

Job also praised God in calamity, and things just got worse. Job also felt what we are feeling now, and yes, even went so far as to say that God was being cruel to him ...

Job 30:17-- "You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me."

The largest part of his story was spent dealing with the tragedy, with the accusations, and with the aftermath and thoughts of the unfairness of it all. It's easy to see God as cruel when you are in the middle of a living nightmare.

But to accurately see God, we must do our best to put our perspective and faith outside of our storm. We cannot look at the chaos and properly see Him for who He is. This was Job's problem and is now ours. In our humanity, we take our struggle and place it as our point of perspective. And from this point we see cruelty and sin abounding more.

But this cannot be. We know His grace abounds much more! Therefore we must place our point of perspective in the person of Christ, living in us, who reigns over sin and disease and tragedy. He is our Savior! He is our Deliver and Comforter! And He draws us continually to Himself, bringing us to the point where we, like Job, can eventually say "My ears had heard of you, but now my eyes have seen you!" Job 42:5

And with this renewed view of God, Job found healing, and we start to see the cruelty of God for what it actually is ...

Compassion.

His ways are above ours, but His heart is immense in its love towards us.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Putting Away The Cross



The above picture is a picture of our Church's garden, where TeenFire has our Crucifixion Scene each year on Good Friday.

I took this picture this morning. It has rained almost every day since Good Friday, and I'm waiting on a 3-day stretch of sunshine before I take the crosses back up to our Church attic for storage. We don't want them to warp and mildew.

Standing there, looking at this scene, a quiet realization hit me.

This is what so many of us do. We play the scene, put on the drama, learn our lines, and revel in the Easter moment.

But then we take our Cross . . . and we put it away. Back it goes to its storage cabinet in the corner of our closet called tradition.

This is why our churches are full on Easter Sunday. The visual effects are moving. The communion we take feels cleansing. The story is inspiring.

Why, then, do we move on unchanged?

I'm starting to see the dark side of tradition. Ritual was never meant to take the place of Relationship. Ritual is meant to remind us of the Relationship!

But instead, we place our own Cross away, keeping it in its place, to bring out when it suits us.

But this must NOT happen.

The Cross doesn't go away. God sees it every time he looks at us. He sees it when He discusses our offerings with His Son. He sees it when we lay our burdens at its base.

And He calls us to carry it . . . daily.

"He said to them all, 'If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory..." Luke 9:23-26

"And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost..." Luke 14:27-28

"Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, 'One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.'” Mark 10:21

"For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ; whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame -- who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." Philippians 3:18-21

Are you following Christ? He doesn't give us any luxury at all to follow two paths. We must do as He says, if we are to follow Him.

Do not set your mind on earthly things.

Keep the Cross upon your shoulder, and keep moving forward.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2011

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Bottom Line ...


It doesn't make you more attractive or happy, and it won't bring peace to your life. It can't strengthen your ministry or repair your marriage. It doesn't help the poor or feed the hungry, and it certainly won't make make you become more selfless. It won't bring you closer to God, enable your maturity and, regardless of what most believe, it can't even keep you safe!

It won't get you to Heaven, or keep you from Hell. It doesn't pick you up or give you courage in a trying time. It can't love your family or help you forgive those who treat you spitefully, and there's no way it can coincide with kindness.

It tears you down, limits your gifts, destroys your talents, and ravishes your soul. It feeds on your uncertainty and in spite of our best effort to coddle it and keep it fed ... it always wants more.

It doesn't enrich you in anyway. Fear is useless ... unless you give it value.

BE UNAFRAID.

Here's why ...

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7)

“Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?’” (Luke 12:22-26, NIV).

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:5).

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8).

“…the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:26-28).

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 11:23-12:10).

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

“…put your hope in the LORD both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1)

Be UNAFRAID

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Invasion

"A silent night
Shepherds watch their sheep
A picture of a tiny town asleep
All Heaven stands
The angels spread their wings . . ."

Take some time today to just stop.

Get alone and think the Christmas story from another angle, from another viewpoint if you will. Look at that Silent Night through the eyes of Heaven, and remember what His story really tells us . . .

The Roman empire had grown enough to allow the province of Judea to be ruled by a semi-independent ruler, Herod the Great. Politically, the Jews still fell under Roman rule.

Spiritually, however, the earth had been bound too long by this Silent Night. In fact, the silence was deafening! The fallen Dragon had painted a facade of sway over man and creation. Many lived in despair, and the hope for deliverance was fading.

A few still clung to the prophet Isaiah's writings, and prayed for the Messiah to come. The Scribes and Church leaders kept close tabs on royalty and the lineage of King David, looking for an overthrow of power; a conqueror. This seemed the logical place to look for the Messiah. King Herod himself was even watching . . .

They didn't really know what they were waiting for, and how could they? God always has plans that are bigger than our limited vision or assumption. They were looking for a conqueror over their current physical circumstance. God is more concerned about our eternal spiritual abundance. They were looking for an end to their earthly oppression. He came to bind the broken-hearted. They were looking for a new government. He was interested in freeing them completely.

That Silent Night seemed like any other dark, forsaken night. But there was something Holy coming . . .

Silence. Soft gusts of wind. The movement of the herd in a slow, relaxed churn. Low conversation. A campfire reflected off of a pair of shears. The creak of beams from the nearby holding pen. Stars shining in the Heavens, one noticeably brighter overhead. The shift of armor. A shepherd boy unfolds his evening meal from his leather pouch as the others discuss the day's events. Angels unfold their wings. Drowsy eyelids flutter to stay awake. Heaven stands to attention. As one, the sheep raise their heads, alert. The boy exhales as he thinks of what tomorrow brings. A solitary Angel inhales as the massive choir gathers above the flock . . .

Light! An immense stranger stands among them. Fear! Do not be afraid. Pronouncement! Good News! Singing! Glory to God in the Highest! Great Joy, for ALL people. He is born today!

As a sign, you'll find Him in the most unlikely place . . .

A manger?

Not exactly the planned entrance that Church leadership of the day had predicted.

Not the palace.

No royal midwife.

No proclamation of an heir to an earthly, temporal throne.

Not the obvious . . . but in a manger.

A lowly manger.

A mother's physical pain.

A smelly, lowly home for beasts of burden.

A step-father's feeble attempts to comfort.

A mother's joy!

Shepherd's worship.

A baby's battle cry.

An Invasion.

The facade of dark power begins to crack.

The War had changed. The King was here. In a split second, the tide had turned!

News of a virgin birth caused a deep shudder to go through the Kingdom of Lies.

Light had come, and the Silent Night was gone forever.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2008

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bah Humbug

Tonight, I am doing what I love most ... I'm spending time with the kids. I am forcing myself to take Saturdays off, and it's such a needed thing.

Tara is with Lauren at our high school watching "The Nutcracker", and the rest of us are sitting in the living room watching "A Christmas Carol" (2004). .

Scrooge just said this about the poor ... "Let them die, and decrease the surplus population".

This chilled me. I know people like this; who live this mindset.

I'm reminded of the Cheezit commercial ... "get your own box!" Some of us live this Scrooge mentality. Life is a big "Bah Humbug" and if you are poor and needy, it is your own fault. Get your own money, your own health, your own clothes, your own food, your own drink ... because your problems have nothing to do with ME, as Kelsey Grammer (Scrooge) so masterfully sings in this film.

Sitting here, watching this classic, I'm reminded that God is not pleased with an ungrateful heart. He chooses our heart as His vehicle of choice to deliver His love to mankind. It is no small thing that the image of a heart is a universal symbol of love!

But an ungrateful heart locks the door to this mighty redemptive God and His prevenient grace in our life, and what a horrendous thought this is! Why would anyone want to remove God from their life? Where God is not . . . quickly becomes hellish. Not only do we rob ourselves of His blessings, but we rob souls of His Kingdom.

Each year we enter the Christmas Season repeating those famous words of Tiny Tim, who says "God bless us everyone!"

And God does. Honestly, His prevenient grace works regardless of what we do, but only because of who He is.

In Luke 6, Jesus says “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that."

"And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.

"But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He Himself is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

Those of us who ignore this command run a great risk, as Scrooge does in this Christmas tale. Scripture tells us that many are called, but few are chosen.

We find out what this means when we read Matthew 25. Jesus tells us who will be invited into Heaven. Those who feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, give clothes to those who are without, tend to the sick, and visit those who are in prison.

It's that simple ... and that sobering.

There are no Scrooges in Heaven.

I vote we amend Tiny Tim's speech with this addition:

"God bless us everyone, and have mercy on us! We repent of our ungrateful hearts, and pledge our giving to match our gratitude."

See ... your giving does always match your gratitude. And it has nothing to do with the amount you give. It has everything to do with how you give. Paul's letter to the Corinthians specifically tells us that we can give everything we have, but if it's done without love, then it's useless.

Gratitude tells God and allows others to see that you know your place. You realize that no amount of money, power, or prestige makes you better than the "least of these".

Gratitude makes you choke back the tears as you write a check for a stranger's groceries, for you know how kind and loving God has been to you, even in your sin and wickedness of the past.

Gratitude opens the door to blessing, both in your own life and in the lives of those God brings you in contact with.

So the question presents itself .... are we grateful enough to sacrifice our own personal comfort and prosperity to allow God to use us? God keeps tab of those who do, saying we not only will gain Heaven, but we also build treasure there through our sacrificial giving.

How grateful are you? Do your actions mirror God's blessings, or are you clinging to the pitiful shillings of a "Bah Humbug" life?

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

God's Doing Good Things In The Darkness

This is from a friend of our family, Carol Hobbs. Good thoughts I want to share with you:

Several nights ago I remembered my poinsettia.

It was a gift to me a year ago after Daniel’s dad’s wedding. The day after Thanksgiving to be exact.

It was one of two at the front of the church for Daddy and Daryl’s very beautiful Christmas wedding. Please take it home with you, they’d said.
It was a huge, gorgeous poinsettia. It even survived the trip from Ohio to Pennsylvania in the back of our Suburban. In the cold. Nestled among suitcases.

And I enjoyed it all through Christmas.

Fast forward six months.

It spent the entire summer on my front porch. It was watered. Not very regularly, I must admit. For part of the summer I was even red-neck enough to let it sit on the porch below the air conditioner sticking out of my dining room window and let the condensation drip into the pot. Lazy woman’s watering can.

You get the picture. I kind of wanted it to live, but I really didn’t give it too much attention. It even survived the mini-tornado whose high winds removed everything from the front porch.

When it started getting cold I decided to bring it inside. It was still big and leafy and green. Not looking very Christmas-y at all. But I’d heard somewhere that it needs to be in a dark place.

Ah ha! The basement dungeon we’ve got would be just the place. I took it down and watered it well.

And promptly forgot about it.

I’d meant to check on it every week and water it. You know, check in on it and see how it was faring. Didn’t happen. For me it’s “out of sight, out of mind.”

Until that night I mentioned several days ago. Oh no! I’d forgotten all about that poinsettia! By now I was kind of hoping that somehow I’d be able to coax it into blooming. For Christmas.

Today I remembered to check on that poor, forgotten plant, deep in the hidden recesses of my basement.

And there he stood. Tall. Green. Not wilting a bit. With a few whitish leaves on the top and a few just starting to turn red.

I was shocked, to say the very least.

Something was going on. There. In the dark.

In the dark and damp of my basement, the poinsettia retained moisture in its soil that light and warm air would have stolen from it. And somehow, the darkness is causing changes in its leaves. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a blooming poinsettia for Christmas.

What is God doing in your darkness?

It’s far too easy for me to curse the darkness. I want bright sunny days. Beautiful breezes. Warmth. Light. Fresh air.

But in my dark and damp God is keeping my soil from drying out too quickly. I water it regularly with tears. And He knows that deep inside the heart of the plant, darkness is necessary to produce the most beautiful blooms.

Is my basement a lovely place? Nope. The part of the basement where I put the poinsettia is pitch black and has a gravel floor. It’s a little damp. I don’t love to go there. It’s not a good place for many things.

But it’s a good place for my poinsettia.

But not for long. Only for a period of time.

Then, up he comes. Back to the sunlight. Back to the warmth of my home. Back to the pedestal where he can sit and be admired. Hopefully sporting beautiful blooms.

Remember, your darkness won’t be forever. God’s only keeping you there so your roots can drink deeply. And so the darkness can cause you to bloom.

I’m wanting to rest in my dark place and let God do His stuff. Care to join me?

Monday, September 6, 2010

New blog . . .

Hey everyone, I'm currently taking part in a 90-day challenge Bible exploration with some other church leaders. I'm blogging my thoughts at http://derekhickman.wordpress.com

Saturday, August 28, 2010

What lies beneath ...

I'm reading a book about the simple life. It's not a simple book. The more I read, the more convoluted the solution gets. In fact, I'm starting to realize that life is actually NOT simple at all. Life is a bowl of cherries, without the cherries. We work so hard to get what we think is going to make us happy, but we keep ending up with cherry stems in an otherwise empty bowl. There's always someone else who gets there first. There's always some other thing to do or some hoop to jump through. Nothing is new under this Sun, and all this activity is pretty much useless vanity.

I've heard it said that we are so much more than what we do, but from my perspective I've had enough of hearing how valuable I am.

I live my life. I know my screw-ups.

And so do you.

It's time to take off the costume we're wearing. It's time to dig down until we get to what lies beneath.

I'm convinced that we are guilty of using "activity" as a ruse to keep us and anyone else from seeing who we really are. This fast-food society we live in is our grand illusion. We say "look at what I'm doing!" but on the inside we are whispering "Please don't look at who I am". The church's divorce rates are the same as the rest of society. Our moral failings are rising. Our young people are leaving our congregation.

We've forgotten who we truly are. We believe we are still fallen, and we are acting like it.

I think this is why the Church at large is impotent. We are too scared to look in the mirror, repent of our failings, and then move into the truly simple life of Grace.

The enemy is among us, and he claims that Activity has replaced Identity.

Activity is our security blanket. We wrap it around us, and take solace in it when we are depressed. We crawl into it when we can't bear to look at our marriage. We add another layer when we feel the cold wind of loneliness in our relationship with God.

What's the first thing we say to someone's question of "How are you?"? I catch myself saying "Crazy busy!" What kind of answer is that?

We can be so busy . . . and so alone.

The Spirit of God states that Identity must replace Activity for our activity to be effective for the Kingdom.

I'm realizing that life is NOT SIMPLE, but I am.

I am simply a creation in the hands of an amazing Creator. So are you! He is molding us, individually, into what He plans for us. He wants to do the work. We just need to surrender to the plan.

What lies beneath all of these self-made layers we hide under? Maybe it's time for you to find out.

Take a break from your busy-ness and take a look in the mirror. God has a plan for you. It's simple, powerful, and effective.


© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Incredible Reality of Redemption

I never get tired of a discussion about Redemption! It’s such an incredible concept. When you think that we are so small, and God is so big. We are so tainted, and God is forgiving. We are so lost, and broken, and undeserving, yet God came to us . . . He thinks we are worth dying for. You are worth dying for. I am worth dying for. That blows my mind. I can’t really comprehend that type of sacrifice, where someone so unfathomably Perfect lays down His life for someone so . . . broken.

The significant loves the insignificant. The Triune loves the Trivial. The Relevant loves the irrelevant. The Creator loves the created. And that’s really what it’s about isn’t it. We find our worth in what our Creator thinks of us. He alone has the say so as to what our worth is. He alone can give us value. Nothing and no one else can. As hard as we try, as far as we search. . . we can never find our worth anywhere else. And so we discuss and discourse and try to wrap our minds around this incredible reality of Redemption, caught up in these three simple, almost childish words . . . “Jesus Loves YOU”.

Reality place a huge part in our redemption. It is based on Truth, and Truth sets us free. But unfortunately we know that reality is a rare thing to find today. Our enemy throws everything he can at us to get us fixated on ourselves, our accomplishments, our hurt, our triumphs, our tragedies. And so focused on our selfish desires, the sacred sometimes becomes laughable. We can hear Truth, and laugh in its face, which is exactly what our enemy wants . . .

Everywhere we look we see the headlined version of reality, based by what one tries to sell to the other. Reality shows are the craze, the fad, but recently it’s been admitted that they too are staged. We hear, from all directions, the call to this diet, to that car. He will make your life complete. I can’t live without her. Romance is where it’s at. Wealth is the answer. Hollywood has “the life”. This style is in. That celeb is out. There’s something for everyone and NOTHING SATISFIES!

Do you ever get tired of it? I looked up the term “rat race” the other day. The term “Rat Race” is a term used for an endless, self-defeating or pointless pursuit. It conjures up the image of the futile efforts of a lab rat trying to escape while running around a maze or in a wheel. In an analogy of modern times and cities, many rats in a single maze run around making a lot of noise bumping into each other, but ultimately achieve nothing (meaningful) either collectively or individually (Wikipedia).

Do you ever get sick of this life, this pace we are living it? The pain, the suffering, the searching, the loneliness. Nothing satisfies. And no one sees this more than a person in ministry. A minister’s job is to show the real against the facade of life.

But we’ve replaced the REAL for the Rationalistic. The Real for the Ruse. The Real for the Rudimentary. Our moral code has been replaced by an mtv culture that even demands we believe that there is no REAL! Really, there is no real . . . and we start to lose our logic. We start to embrace the facade.

We’re all caught up in it! Don’t think you’re not. To some extent we all are. The effect is overwhelming.

We live in a fast food society. We want what we want, and we want it now. We have replaced the formula of Desire + Hard Work = Success with a formula that reads Desire = Success. We have created a ladder of Success with one rung and then wonder why we feel so empty and disillusioned. We want what we want, with an immediate order of self-worth. The more we indulge ourselves though, the sooner we become like the writer of Ecclesiastes. We realize that NOTHING SATISFIES in this world.

And it starts to affect us spiritually.

Our churches are now filled with people who have no idea what Redemption is. Many of us go to church for years, without the slightest clue about our real spiritual state. We are inundated by the facade. We are overwhelmed by popular culture that points to everything but the REAL. Some of us come across the Law, and are convicted. Some of us try to go to church. To live right. And we wonder why we constantly fail. We have taken the mirror (the Law's true purpose) off the wall and are trying to clean ourselves with it. In Reality, Redemption is brought about by the Forgiveness that’s been offered, and our realization and the resulting repentance we must have. We must live the life of the Changed Mind, which is the true meaning of Repentance.

But we pass by the Cross with glazed eyes. We don’t see the Law of Life and Liberty that Christ’s death has given us. So we dive deeper. We forget the teachings of our fathers. We turn a deaf ear to the call of God in our lives. We go farther until we find ourselves in danger of depravity.

Because Truth is not benign. Truth is not a neat idea that works for some and not for others. No, Truth stands regardless whether we "buy into it" or not. Truth stands though the world recoils in hatred. Truth stands and will never be affected by whim.

We can do nothing to it, but Truth will always do something to us. There must be a reaction to it. We must respond, and either accept it in humility, or reject it in disbelief and pride.

The Apostle Paul says this in Romans 1:25 – “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator . . . For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions (desires), for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of a woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men, committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error."

"And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which were not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding . . . “.

Sound familiar?

Seen this on television lately?

It’s relentless. And for a reason.

Our enemy is scared to death . . .

See, we are born with a desire for abundance. God built that into our holistic makeup, otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have offered it. He came to give us Life and Life more abundant!

That means Christ is standing in front of us saying, "I am here to give you more than what you have. I am THE REAL! I am here to show you what life has only pretended to be!"

And our enemy is scared to death.

He’s scared that the glimmer of Grace will catch our eye.

That for one second we will stop and turn our focus on the Cross.

That for one hour on a Sunday morning we will hear about a God who was and is and always will be REAL!

That for one moment we will hear the song of the redeemed. That for 5 minutes during a lunch break someone will tell us there’s more to this life.

That one person will break rank and demand that a church practice what it preaches.

That love will be shown to the undeserving.

That prayer will creep its way back into schools.

That righteous action will speak louder than hollow words.

That people will start praying for miracles.

That minds will be changed in repentance.

That hearts will be healed.

That chains will be broken.

That strongholds will be shattered.

That marriages will be restored.

That the divorce rate will go down.

That husbands would love their wives.

That wives would become Godly women.

That teenagers would say “NO” to the damaging pressure, and demand more from their peers.

That forgiveness would come out of pain.

That our eyes would be opened.

That we would see Jesus.

That the meek would inherit the earth.

That the oppressed would find relief.

That we would see the love of God for what it is.

That the facade will crack.

THAT THE TRUTH WOULD BE REVEALED!!!

THERE IS A REAL!

And our enemy spends every moment in this chaos he’s created, desperately trying to believe his own lies, throwing everything he has at Creation to convince us likewise.

There is a Real. Satan knows it. Scripture says that even the demons believe . . .

There is a Real, and it’s based on Truth.

The Psalmist said, “The sum (the entirety, the total make-up) of thy Word is Truth” (Psalms 119:160)

John 1:14 says that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . full of grace and truth”

In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the father but by me.”

In John 8:31 and 32 Jesus says, “if you continue in my Word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free”.

The Truth, the REAL is found in Jesus. No other place can we find our redemption.

No other place can we find our worth.

Our value and our Life is found in His death.

And when he says he is the only way, he’s not being arrogant. He’s being incredibly helpful! Let me explain . . .

Many years ago, in my teen dinosaur years, I went with my dad and brother on a caving tour. We were traveling through a certain area of the country, and we heard of a cave tour that went three miles down into this massive cavern. So we thought we would be cool and “live the dream”.

We arrived at the cave. I can still remember the time, oddly enough. It was 3 p.m. when the tour started. We walked and walked and walked until we were sooo far down. The walls were incredible with the colors and reflections of the tour guides' light.

When we reached our destination, we were in a large cavern. To the right and left were passages going off into the darkness. Our tour guide then made us close our eyes, line up single file and turn each other around several times, starting with the first person being turned around by the person behind him. It ended with the tour guide turning the last person around. He then told us to open our eyes.

Total darkness.

Some of the girls in our group screamed half heartedly. My dad grabbed each of us boys and told us to stay with him. Several guys in the group ventured a weak “hello”.

Total silence from our tour guide.

And just at the scary moment when panic enters the back of your neck and makes your hair stand up, the tour guide laughed and turned on his light. He then cheerily informed us that if we were cave diving like some kids did many years ago, and our torch went out, we would be entirely lost in the passages of that cavern. There would be no way we would ever find our way out. We would die alone and probably try to eat each other.

Then he turned off his light again . . . but just for a second. :)

I’ll never forget that feeling . . . when the light came on. The feeling of relief was indescribable.

It's an epiphany of Trust.

When he told us to follow him back up the right passage to the light of day, no one ever thought to question his word. No one told him "no thanks, we'll find our own way". We followed, knowing that he had the light. He was the way out.

And certainly no one accused him of being arrogant.

This is Jesus. Standing before us. Saying I am the way. I am the Truth. I am the Life. I am REALITY.

He’s not being arrogant. He is just stating Truth. He IS Truth! And those that are desperate enough, those that feel His spirit on them, those whose eyes are opened to the light . . . follow. Trusting. Believing. Acting on the Truth He gives through Himself. Through the Word.

We’ve all seen plenty of counterfeits. Here is the Truth on counterfeiting . . . You can’t have a counterfeit without a real!

Any person who has counterfeited currency knows that you ultimately have to start with the real thing. A counterfeit is just a copy of the real. It’s meant to deceive.

This is our enemy.

Are you living in reality? Are you holding the real, or are you wondering in the dark?

Some of us are believers. Some of us are non-believers. Some of us are skeptics.

Some of us are hypocrites.

Today is your day.

Some of you are believers who are questioning everything right now. Life has been cruel. The facade has beaten you down for the last time, and you are standing at a decision point, at a crossroads. Throw in the towel, and create your own facade of “I’ve got everything under control” or are you going to admit you have issues with your issues. That you are NOT alright. That you need to re-evaluate. Do NOT let your questions and issues with almighty God build walls between your heart and His love. Instead, let those issues and questions and anger and hurt build bridges to His throne. He will embrace you, and love you, and walk with you, just like he did when he lived among us. If you’ve fallen, then JOIN THE CROWD! You have an advocate through Jesus Christ our REDEEMER. He will be a friend closer than a brother . . .

Some of you are non-believers. You don’t believe there’s a God, or if there is He certainly is not concerned about your life. Don’t believe the lie. Don’t fall for the facade! Question everything, and walk the path of belief. He loves you enough to show you Himself. Through people. Through His word. Through talking with Him. Talk to Him. He's not afraid of your questions. He has the answers if you are willing to listen. Make the choice to find Him. Otherwise you will continue your journey in the dark . . .

Some of you are skeptics. Agnostics. Waiting for proof. Now is your chance! Step out today and see what He can do! Prove Him wrong, and good luck trying. Step out and make the declaration. He welcomes your disbelief because HE HAS THE ANSWERS!
God is bigger . . . bigger than our failures. Bigger than our fortunes. Bigger than the strength or the weakness we live in. No matter the walls that you’ve built to resist Him. No matter the choices you’ve made. There is a God! And He cares for you. No matter what . . . !

Some of you are hypocrites. You enjoy the power that comes with being in Church leadership. Being on the “inside”. But you know, deep inside, when you look in the mirror each night that you don’t live the redeemed life. You are not part of the REAL. The love of God is not in you, and your fruit is rotten. You are in the most precarious place of all. You run the danger of incurring the wrath of God more than the rest, because you pretend to be what He IS.

Just like our enemy.

And that is a very dangerous place to be in. You know the truth and reject it.

You're taking your chances in the dark . . .

I John 1:4 - 2:8 says,

"These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete."

"This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

"If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

"If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

"By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, "I have come to know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected."

"By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked."

"Beloved, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning; the old commandment is the word which you have heard."

"On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you, which is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light is already shining. "

Jesus loves YOU.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Overcome - A Song for Bellevue



Here by the river we gather together,
to lift one another, to carry this cross.
Love has a way of turning disaster,
of binding the broken, of healing our hearts.

Its an anthem . . . calling us to sing . . .

Overcome.

There's hope for tomorrow.
A comfort in sorrow, rise up and believe.
As one . . . we stand here together
with heroes among us, the whole world can see
there is healing. Healing!

Overcome.

So here in this moment we lift up our faces.
We hold out our hands to a neighbor in need.
Tragedy stings but redemption is sweeter.
The song of the fearless brings fear to its knees.

Can you hear us? Hear us calling out . . . yeah!

Overcome.

There's hope for tomorrow.
A comfort in sorrow, rise up and believe.
As one . . . we stand here together
with heroes among us, the whole world can see
there is healing. Healing!

Overcome.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Christian Humanism




Many Church members today are Christian Humanists.

There is nothing wrong with community programs, Sunday School promotion, or even a focus on Church Development. However, when anything takes the place of true worship, we lose our vision and end up at a place where we worship ourselves in the name of Jesus . . . a lifestyle that I call Christian Humanism.

We've done this to ourselves. In the Western Church at large, the importance of the lay person's level of spiritual growth has been bypassed to a certain extent, both by design and unfortunate apathy. We look to our pastors and lay leaders to set the tone for worship. We leave our definition and promotion of worship to planning committees. We fail to realize our place in the body of Christ, let alone what and how our spiritual gifting should be used.

What happens when leaders fail to lead?

I've got news for you. They have.

What happens when planning committees end up becoming war zones of opinion and personal preference, and real worship is not even tabled for discussion, let alone as the the foundation of our planning?

Welcome to the Church at large.

What happens when we substitute personal worship with positive programming?

We end up with positive programming.

We become the children who would much rather play in the street with our mud pies than go in to the feast that is made for us.

But with all of our programs and ideas, we have found that the Body isn't functioning properly.

We are sick, and what we are doing simply isn't working.

Twenty-five years ago, we realized something was wrong. So we looked for something different; something that would attract people.

And the Prosperity Gospel was born on a mass scale. Christian Humanism at its finest.

But now, people are starting to feel an unease. There's a rising discontent with the "Me, Myself, and I" evangelism, like that feeling or lump in your throat when you've realized that you've really done it this time. We are in trouble, and many of us are looking to find out why.

And it's here we find the problem. We find here that we've left something out; we've forgotten the oxygen for our oxygen tank . . . and we're suffocating ourselves. With a deprivation of God, we quickly lose our ability to function in a clear and rational way, and this is what is happening in the Western Church.

So, the question presents itself . . . How do we change? How do we retain, once again, the understanding and focus of true worship? How do we get from our Self-centered Christianity to a God-centered LIFE where our adoration and voice is lifted to God?

How do we stop the madness?

C. S. Lewis has such a great view of this when He states that true progress often involves moving backward. We must go back to the principles and Truth that we left behind.

Worship is a lifestyle, not a day of the week.

We must once again pick up the yoke of spiritual responsibility and ownership. We dig deeper into the Word. We give, pray, and fast. We meet corporately having already, in our private place, fervently asked for God to show up! We lift our voices in congregational singing with thankful hearts. We actively search for ways to apply the Word to our hearts, minds and lives. We serve our community through the Spirit of Unity.

We turn back to God as our Creator, and once again see ourselves as the Created.

We bank on that.

And we become distinctively Christian again.

Psalm 100:3 - "Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves".

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Free to Surrender . . .




We cannot do the work of the Creator, because we are the created.

Our responsibility is to be thankful enough to surrender to His process . . . this truth alone should free the majority of us from the dismal way we see ourselves, and God.



© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Friday, February 26, 2010

Have A Heart . . .


Jesus never said "I am the way, the law, and the life" because the law cannot free us while at the same time condemning us. You cannot tell a man he is free as you continue to sentence him to death.

Truth sets us free because it reconciles the law to redemption.

The law is not part of the Gospel. It's the entire reason why the Gospel is needed.

Some have asked "Isn't the Law the heart of the Gospel?" and "Didn't Jesus come to fulfill the Law?"

I don't think the Law is the heart of the Gospel. I do think it is most certainly the mirror God uses to show us our condition without Him.

I think that the heart of the Gospel is Love. Matthew 24 talks about this when Jesus says that the entire Law hinges on loving God and each other. ...

The law hinges on the Gospel. Not the other way around. In fact, we could word it as such . . . the heart of the Law is the Gospel.

For without the Gospel, the Law has no heart at all.

So, I guess one could say that Christ fulfilled the Law by giving it what it lacked . . . a heart.

:)


© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

My Letter to Shawna Taylor

Hello Shawna,

I'm a youth pastor here in Winchester. I, along with many members of my youth group, have been saddened to hear of your death. I don't know you, but I know our paths have probably crossed at DQ many times!

I took the opportunity to look at your facebook wall today.

I’m amazed.

Your death seems so senseless and tragic, and to our limited view, it is exactly that.

But I’m noticing, as I scroll down the dozens of comments left on your wall, that there’s something much more going on here . . .

So many of us, as teenagers, live life far from where God wants to place us.

But you didn’t.

A life lived well leaves a legacy and an impact that death cannot steal or destroy. Right now we mourn, we ask “why”, and we remember your smiles and the way you were.

Your legacy, however, will be what your LIFE gave us, not what your death was about. Death IS senseless and tragic, but strangely irrelevant and small when compared to LIFE’s grand, eternal picture.

Your LIFE is what we remember. Your LIFE is what gives your loved ones hope for a grand reunion. Your LIFE is what changes our focus to what matters. Your LIFE is what inspires us to live like you did.

What an amazing achievement . . .

Thank you for living.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

There's A Deeper Life . . .

There's a deeper life, there's a higher call
There's a giant sleeping in us all
There's a God who gives rest to the soul
There's a deeper life than the one we know


I was recently reading Mark 9:14-24, where Jesus turns his attention to a crowd of people who are obviously in a moment of chaos and confusion. Jesus goes to them and asks what is going on, and a man steps forward and says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out. I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it."

Jesus chides his disciples for not being prayed up enough to cast the demon out, then turns his attention to the father for the largest part of what follows. He asked him, "How long has this been happening to him (the son)?" And he said, "From childhood. It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!"

And Jesus said to him, " 'If You can?' All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the boy's father cried out and said, "I do believe; help my unbelief."

This father figure embodies where I'm at on my journey.

“I brought you my son” . . . the real question was not whether he believed. he already believed. There’s no other reason he would have bothered to bring his son to them, unless he believed there was a chance for healing. His real crisis was accepting that it would be real for him, that God would even want to meet his need.

It actually doesn't seem too hopeful at first, does it?

“I told Your disciples to cast it out, and they could not do it” . . . The miracle didn’t happen. You could say that his first attempt at faith failed miserably. Nothing but more of the same bondage and failure.

Have you been there? To be honest, I am there right now. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the difficult circumstances that my family and I face, and right now, this story hits close to home! Sometimes the curse of ministry is that you have to struggle alone; that you have to constantly have the right answers and attitude. We have to be the strong ones, they say.

I’m not strong right now. Honestly, I’m beat down, depressed, and feeling like a massive failure. My struggle isn't even close to the anguish this man felt, but when you consistently fail at something, no matter how small, it grinds at you. We all struggle with unbelief, and I’m just like this father who has believed, but is now looking at a wall of confusion. I’m the man who musters up the courage to bring my need to Providence. I’m that man who is waiting for the miracle, and nothing is happening. Nothing but more of the same . . .

I sympathize with that father. He must have been so frustrated! Scripture says that the commotion was so great that it caught Jesus’ attention.

This is a guy who’s incredulous! He’s seen miracles all around him. He knew that this Rabbi, this Teacher, had the solution to his problem. Jesus was constantly healing and casting out demons for others, so why not him?

He had tried so long to provide for his family, for his hurting son. He had summoned the strength and courage to endure the stares and ostracism as he carried his shaking boy through the crowds of people, working his way to where Jesus was, stopping occasionally to hold his son while he seized . . . keeping him from hurting himself or others.

He had belief. He goes through all of that to get to the disciples. His belief carries him so far, all the way to the inner circle . . . just to be told “I’m sorry, it’s not working for some reason!” Can you imagine the humiliation?

He lost it.

Can we blame him? If this was all of the story, I would give up. I’d throw in the towel because I couldn’t take the realization that providence is preferential – that somehow I didn’t qualify.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Thank God.

This wounded soul lost it, but that doesn’t mean he was giving up, and that is the lesson learned here. It would have been easy to accept that he wasn’t worthy. we all do, to a certain degree.

But there was no way he was quitting after all he had just gone through, after carrying his son, enduring the comments, and seeing the devastation the enemy was causing.

No way.

He was going to have his say, and he was going to find answers. He was NOT going to be satisfied with “I’m sorry, it’s not working for some reason”!

So he stood his ground. He demanded an audience.

And God showed up.

Where does your faith take you? To Sunday School? To Church? To Counseling? To Accountability Group? To Scripture?

Those are such good resources for our progress, but understand this clearly:

There will come a day when our faith is taken to a place of discomfort, to a place of darkness, and to a place of doubt.

You will feel alone.

You will feel unworthy.

You will wonder where God went.

Take heart and grit your teeth. Stand your ground. Demand an audience. In our dark places, sometimes we fail to see what is right in front of us . . . a door.

This is the door of the Deep.

This is where God takes us to the end of struggle, and to the beginning of rest. This is where He waits for us to call out, to stand our ground, to cause a commotion!

Romans 12:12 says "Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer".

James 1:2-3 - "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, for perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything".

Does God want us to be halfway filled, halfway effective, or halfway redeemed?

No, He doesn't.

Our pain is our path to progress. He is faithful to complete us, in the work He calls us to do.

We just have to persevere, to stand our ground, to remain faithful, and to demand an audience.

This is when God shows up.

This where we surrender our spiritual inferiority and put on His infinite worth.

This is where Belief no longer stands on a precipice.

Here, in the dark, I'm reaching for the door . . .

Join me.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2010

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Little Things . . .

Ah! We've done it again. Constantly shooting for the lowest possible denominator, and shooting ourselves in the foot instead.

I agree that the little things are to be looked at with gratitude.

But what happens when we stop looking for the big things?

You know?

No one's writing a book called Low Expectations.

Because no one would read it. And why should we?

We already live it.

I don't like that kind of focus. It feels claustrophobic. For most of my life, I've had this nagging thought and inescapable feeling that there's more . . . that God, as our Father, is waiting for our wildest dreams to arrive, but all He ever gets from us is a last minute request for help with a late mortgage payment or a difficult boss.

I think that the little things need to be put in their place. Be thankful for life's small blessings, but expect greatness from each day. It is shocking, but many times we ask more from our earthly fathers than from our Heavenly Father.

We are His children, and we need to realize that we must approach Him as a child approaches his earthly father. We must expect that He wants to provide, protect, and give to us abundantly. There is wisdom that says, "With great power comes great responsibility". I agree, but I say something else, "With great expectation comes great reward".

The world is only ever changed when our focus changes.

Look up. Empower your prayer life. Seek massive health, wealth, and wisdom; always to be used for the Kingdom and glory of God. God never says for us to be focused on just the little things. In fact, He tells us to be faithful in the little things, and then He will make us faithful in much. The little things are to be used to get to the true abundance!

Be faithful in each small task, and expect more . . . God wants to give us so much!

Live long and prosper . . . :)

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Terminal

Death is terrifying because it is so ordinary. It happens all the time.
~ Susan Cheever

There's a story about a man who was diagnosed with a terminal illness. He had little time left on this earth.

It was interesting to see him start to make amends with people, to start thinking about his legacy. He sold most of his belongings and gave the money to the poor. He started mentoring young people at a youth center. He volunteered his time at a local hospital. The word "on the street" was that he had found God.

Those who knew him were amazed at the difference he made in such a short time, and he often lamented the fact that he waited so long to change. But he said he was ready to go, and at peace with the inevitable. Everyone marveled at his strength.

However . . . there was one small kink in this storyline . . .

He didn't die.

Misdiagnosis.

He didn't have the disease he thought he had.

At first, he was overjoyed with his new-found lease on life. He told everyone at the hospital he volunteered at. He threw a party at the youth center. All was well, and life was good!

You'd think that this would be another life-defining moment for him. You know, a lesson on the power of positive thinking. Good karma, so to speak.

But an interesting thing started to happen.

He stopped giving to charity, and said he didn't have time to volunteer at the hospital anymore. Before long, word spread that he quit mentoring at the youth center. He got a new job, and someone overheard him mention that he had to plan for the future, to take care of his retirement and savings now.

Before long, those principles that were so important to him disappeared, just like the rest of his story, fading into oblivion.

Don't get me wrong. I don't blame him for any of this. It's so easy for us to judge sometimes, but truth be told, we are all unfocused.

This story has me thinking. C. S. Lewis said that God yells in our pain. I agree. Any one of us who receives a tragic diagnosis looks at life much differently. Things that were important are no longer even on the list of priorities, and age-old truths about the importance of God, family, and others quickly jump to forefront of our thoughts and actions.

Our spiritual lives are marked by the equality of the Gospel. Our physical lives are marked by the equality of death. We all possess a one-way ticket to Tombstone. When you think about it, we are all in this together . . .

We are all terminal.

We have all been diagnosed. The question is, "How do we handle it?". What are you doing with the time you have left. No one knows when or how the end will come, but everyone can see where this diagnosis is pointing, that subject of great importance . . .

Living.

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day . . . There are only so many tomorrows. ~ Pope Paul VI

Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live. ~ Norman Cousins

Have the courage to live. Anyone can die. ~ Robert Cody

Life is an occasion. RISE TO IT! ~ Mr. Magorium

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Worst Has Happened

An active and growing relationship with God will lead to an enhanced discovery of human nature's depravity because God will faithfully reveal the massive gulf between His holiness and our corrupt and ever-polluting heart. He will make us conscious of the distance and coldness of our love, the surges of pride and doubt, and the lack of fruit we produce. - John W. Ritenbaugh

Joy is the serious business of Heaven. - C.S. Lewis

These statements beg a deeply introspective search and an honest assessment from every living soul. This is the paradox of Christendom: The Joy of the Lord is our strength and Blessed are those who mourn.

As I look at today's church, I am troubled. We are not deeply rooted. We are not bound by the Word of Truth. We are not bond-servants to our God. There is missing the marked finality of our decision to serve, and we have such a casual attitude toward the incredible pain and suffering that the pleasures of this "season" bring to real people all around us.

Most of us are so satisfied with our facade. We attend our local country club church, we are involved with some charity work here and there. We live our lives. And we are satisfied with that. Do not mess that up, and all will be just fine.

But come face to face with the actual monster - a teenager who kills herself, another who cuts himself, a father who molests, a wife on drugs, a pastor who has an affair, a middle school girl who gets pregnant - and we have no strength, no answer, and no help.

Because we do not know our Strength, our Answer, and our Help.

We have become quite masterful at developing a worship sequence for Sunday morning, but, because of our perfunctory relationship with Him, we are wretched failures at implementation on any other day of the week.

The mark of a Christian (a bond-servant of the Most High)is a life lived by Joy, and an ever-growing recognition of what a monstrosity sin is. There is a sober strength of a heart that consistently puts itself on the line to reach the lost and hurting, knowing that we are woefully inadequate, but still leaping by faith into the deepness of our Father's embrace. He is our Strength, our Answer, and our Help.

I don't see that in today's church, and it is because our relationship with Him is so trivial. Most of us treat the Bible like a self-help book. We are tiny, weak water bugs. We skim across the surface of what He offers with no clue of the massive depth of Joy and Godly Sorrow we must plunge to so we can be properly used.

We are not marked.

We are not strengthened by JOY.

And we do not mourn.

Therefore, I am afraid the worst has happened.

We are desperately frail . . . and happy about it.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Monday, November 2, 2009

For All The Men

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master,
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!


- Rudyard Kipling ("IF")

This poem resonates with me. Regardless of the theological qualms some may have with parts of what Kipling is saying, there is a visceral understanding and reaction in the man who reads this, because this is what we all long to see and become.

In an age where manhood is constantly nullified and scorned, we look for men who live with virtue, righteousness, fearlessness, and yes . . . who define masculinity in word, thought, and deed. We look for those who will stand for justice, and we look for a man to know the difference between good and evil and then choose good.

We look for someone who will live LIFE, when all others fail; who will point the way to Truth in the face of scorn and ridicule. We long to be able to LOVE regardless . . . and that yearning is God-ordained.

Alas, there are few to look to. In fact, we all fail so miserably in our own strength.

It reminds me of what I read today in Isaiah 59:

. . . our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities:

Transgressing and denying the LORD, and turning away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving in and uttering from the heart lying words.

Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the street, and uprightness cannot enter.

Yes, truth is lacking; and he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey.

Now the LORD saw, and it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede . . .


So He came Himself.

He showed us what true manhood is, and does, and suffers for Truth's sake. He is our perfect example, reconciling men to be real. We can now live up to our design.

That yearning we feel inside?

That's just our natural, instilled desire to be like Christ.

That's where we find it.

That's what a man is.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Do You Doubt?

Matthew 14:29-31, "And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, "Lord, save me!" Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

I can't blame Peter.

I mean, after all, I lose my focus so often that sometimes I wonder if I need spiritual glasses. Let's face it. Neither you nor I are stellar examples of steadfast faith.

And we can't blame Peter for being afraid.

I've always wondered though, how many steps did Peter get before he looked down? How long did he last? How far did he walk? A step? A yard? Twenty yards?!?

Sure, he was afraid. Yes, he sank like a stone. I know, He went belly-up, so to speak. Fear gripped him, paralyzing his faith. He could just imagine tomorrow's headlines, "Peter sleeps with the fishes".

Yep, I'm aware. I've heard all the sermons.

There's no denying he did all of that . . . after he walked on water.

I'll say it again . . .

after He walked on water.

The guy walked on water!

Did you ever think about what was going through the mind of Christ?

When I look through the eyes of God incarnate, I feel a huge joy swell up within me. Here is a big fisherman who, after everyone else screams and runs for cover, has the guts to test the Master of the Storm.

"Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." "And He said, "Come!"

And Peter got out of the boat.

Peter got out of the boat.

I love this verse! He defied fear, doing what nobody else would do. He opened a door between the supernatural and the natural, showing us a reality we could not see before. He performed a miracle of faith in the middle of the worst possible moment, the worst possible scenario, the hardest proving ground in the vicinity. He succeeded where everyone else failed.

He did more with those few seconds than anyone else in history could boast of . . . and that's why I'm impressed; that's why I'm inspired; that's why I love Peter!

And that's precisely why Jesus responded the way he did.

"You of little faith, why did you doubt?"

An accusation? An indictment on Peter? If we go with the age-old consensus, then yes, Peter is the proverbial black sheep of wave walking.

But I think there's more here. Don't get me wrong. It's not that I can't see every one's point. Sure, He failed. He sank. He cried for help.

But if there's an indictment on anyone, it's on the other eleven disciples.

It's an indictment on us.

Peter's the one who got out of the boat. He's the one who had faith, small as it was! More importantly . . . he acted on it.

And Jesus acknowledges that. "You of little faith . . ."

The other disciples had none.

See, the problem wasn't Peter's faith. His faith was just fine, at first.

Three chapters away from this moment, Jesus explains. "I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed . . . nothing will be impossible for you."

Peter's faith was powerful! He was planting mustard plants with every step! He believed and he acted. At that moment, the impossible became the possible. At that moment, for those few seconds, someone other than the Son of God stood on water. That amazes me.

And it is here that we see Jesus' statement for what it was. "You of little faith". With this, He both acknowledges the power of what Peter's faith was, and chides him for what it became.

Why?

Because the problem wasn't his faith. It was actually working quite well for him. The problem was what happened next.

He looked at the waves, at the storm, and he listened to popular sentiment that said, "This shouldn't be happening!!!!".

And he sank.

Jesus asks him a very direct question, "Why did you doubt?".

No beating around the bush. No exasperation. Our Savior had a way of getting right to the heart of the matter, as He always does.

Why are you doubting? Where's the logic in stopping now? You were already living the miracle! You were already doing the impossible!

Why. Did. You. Doubt?

Shakespeare sums it up nicely for us . . . “Our doubts are traitors and make us lose the good we oft might win".

Doubt's only purpose is to destroy the miracle.

Why would we allow that?

Why do you doubt?


© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

We Are Priceless

Fear does not become us.

We are made to shine, just like a diamond. The pressures of life, even direct attacks from our enemy, can actually work in our favor; molding and shaping us to the desired perfection that is preset to our design.

We are made to be brilliant, and the only substance that is capable of dulling us is fear.

It's so unfortunate and tragic in the truest sense, especially when we catch a glimpse of the situation from God's point of view.

The idea of fear overpowering us is like trying to break into Fort Knox with a spoon. It's preposterous . . .

but that's what happens to us. We are so magnificently made, but we so willingly hand over the keys of our worth, because of fear.

We do it to ourselves. We buy into the facade, and it's so easy for our enemy. All he has to do is present the world's most popular question . . . "What if".

We do the rest to ourselves. We have become masters of internal sabotage; shooting ourselves in the foot, so to speak.

And it's so unnecessary.

It's like finding the biggest diamond in the world, then choosing to paint it orange and call it a pumpkin. There's no logic to it.

Fear does not become us.

It doesn't make us more attractive. It doesn't make us happier. It doesn't bring peace to our lives. It doesn't strengthen our ministry. It doesn't repair our marriages. It doesn't help the poor or feed the hungry. It doesn't make us become more selfless. It doesn't bring us closer to God. It doesn't enable our maturity and, regardless of what most of us believe, it doesn't even keep us safe! It doesn't enrich us in anyway.

It's useless . . . unless we give it value.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Monster Under Your Bed

There's a Monster under your bed.

At least that's what I was told at the tender age of five.

My family and I were staying at my cousin's house one summer while we were on vacation. I can still remember it so clearly. My Uncle and Aunt lived in a white parsonage on the side of a hill by a little country church. I think it was in Pennsylvania, or maybe Eastern Ohio. We were visiting from out-of-state, and it was a hot, muggy week.

While the adults visited, my cousins and I played at one end of the house by the stairs going down into the basement.

I can still see the doorway and the brown wooden hand rail leading downward into the gloom, the stairs dropping off into the darkness, lit by a solitary light bulb hanging high over head. I can even smell the familiar aroma of canned vegetables and dusty jars, and remember feeling trepidation because of what the older kids were saying.

They were telling me about the Monster.

They said he lived under the stairs, and every night before we went to sleep he would slither up that hand rail and glide down the hall into our room and under our bed where he would wait for us to come . . .

He wanted a snack. And five-year-old boys are a delicacy, or so they say.

I was more than a little concerned. Yes, we had stairs at home too, but I could stay away from them indefinitely. I was really worried about my bed.

I liked it. My bed was cool and comfortable. I could lie awake at night and create imaginary worlds and scenarios, usually involving me being a cowboy with six-guns that, miraculously, never ran out of bullets and bad guys that were always caught. After my Dad or Mom tucked me in, I was good to go!

But now I had something entirely different to worry about. I was no longer safe. How was I going to get in or out of my bed now, without him grabbing me?

He was under there, and he was waiting. It was horrible.

I tried to forget about him! I pulled the covers over my head, but that didn't work. I sang songs . . . nope, still there. I was stuck.

Forget about getting up in the middle of the night to get a drink or use the restroom! No sir, that wasn't an option at all. If it did get so bad that I couldn't resist the urge to go, then I would line up on one side of my bed to run and jump off as far out of reach as possible. Then I would run back in and jump from as far out as possible to get back in. I didn't want to be grabbed and pulled under.

I took great precautions to stay away from him.

Fortunately, my Dad eventually saw my antics and informed me that there was no Monster! It didn't help much though, because I didn't really believe him. For months after that I would make him look under the bed when he tucked me in, just to make sure . . .

I'm a father now, and yes, I've had to look under the bed for my children several times! But as we grow older, we tend to lose that fear and are able to put the fable to rest in the proper place of mythology and fairy tales of children, and that's fine. We forget the terror we felt, and lock the memory away for good. I guess it's good to be able to put these things in their proper place.

But I've lately been reminded of another Monster who slithers into our lives, and waits for us.

He's hungry.

He's been here a long, long time.

And he's very real.

Revelation 12:7-9 "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him."

Ephesians 6:12 - "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens."

I Peter 5:8 "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

He's here, he's real, and we're on the menu.

But I'm afraid we don't see the danger. In fact, I'm convinced we have placed our true Enemy in the world of myth, fable, and fairy tale. "Legend has it . . ." we say, but we don't really believe there is a Satan, a Dragon, or a Serpent.

And that's extremely dangerous, because he does believe. James 2:19 says, "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder."

He does everything in his power to destroy us with our own apathy. Our human condition dictates that we grasp and take advantage of everything good from our Messiah, but we scoff at the Monster. We dismiss him. He's not really that important right? After all, the war has already been won! He was defeated at Calvary! His heyday is over! Right?

Then why are we dropping like flies? Why are there wounded and bleeding warriors all around me? Why does this world look and feel like a war zone?

Because it's not over until it's over.

We call a person who denies the existence of God an atheist. What do we call a person who denies the existence of Satan?

This time, the Monster under our bed is real, but for some reason we keep pulling the covers over our head! Therefore our view of sin has changed, and so has our standard of holiness. We live a prosperity gospel in a world of opinion, fable, and fancy.

And that's when we are the most delicious.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our Deepest Fear

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” - Marianne Williamson

My mirror has cracked. One by one pieces are falling onto the floor, with a soft, wet thud in the darkness at my feet. I'm confused, because with each piece that falls I brace myself for the loud shatter of glass.

But there is none. Just a muffled, damp thud . . . thud . . . thud.

My identity is skewed, and I panic because I can no longer see my reflection . . .

Something's happening.

I can now see that behind my mirror is another . . . this one somehow different. The person I see is still recognizable as myself, but the colors are brighter; the darkness that enveloped me before is now gone, replaced by a light so beautiful that it glows out of the frame and into the room.

And in this new light, I can now see the reason for my confusion. My cracked mirror wasn't a mirror at all, but a painting of sorts, fastened over the reflection of my true self. A painting fashioned by my own hand. A self-proclaimed masterpiece of dark impressionism, where the subject is hinted at and the truth about my identity has been made relevant to the point of absurdity . . . almost to the point of treason.

And I've been comfortable with that . . . until now.

But now my facade has been broken.

My last-ditch attempts to control my own image have been supremely thwarted by the very One who created me.

He wants to show everyone my true reflection . . . of His glory . . . in me.

I have been hiding behind what I used to be, finding a sick, twisted comfort in the familiar rags of MY painting, but that will not do.

He is exposing me for who I am NOW.

I am Royalty. A child of Heaven. A shining witness of Redemption to all the world.

My deepest fear is realized.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I Then Shall Live

I have found no other song that encapsulates worship such as this one:



What a message! What an incredible glimpse at what worship in Heaven could be like!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Heavenly Hugs and A Father's Heart . . .

It's early. I've already walked three miles with my friend Kevin and have been sitting in my chair in the living room, enjoying my quiet time, consumed in my thoughts about the day ahead.

Reagan just padded down the stairs a minute ago, and came teetering over to my chair, his eyes still sleepy and a smile on his face. He reached for me and I picked him up and gave him a big hug. Whatever I was thinking of, quite honestly, disappeared. My day stopped and we just enjoyed loving on each other for a few minutes, father and son. It was quite heavenly!

I have learned to cherish these moments, because they are becoming such a rarity. Once he wakes up, Reagan becomes a tour de force of energy and toddler mayhem! Life must be conquered! Toys must be broken! Walls must be written on! There's so much to learn and do! Busy, busy, busy!

To be able to hug him during the day is a lesson in futility.

And right in the middle of our heavenly hug, it hit me . . .

This is what God wants to do every day with us. He wants to love on us too, just as a father wants to love on his son or daughter. Scripture tells us that His mercies are new every morning, because of His great love!

Read it for yourself.

Lamentations 3:21-23 says, " Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."

But sometimes I see myself in Reagan. I get up, and before I know it I'm off! Things to do! People to see! Places to go! Toys to break!

And I forget about my time with my Heavenly Father.

Just yesterday, somebody was talking about the intricate details of showing our love to God, and praising Him with this decision and that worship song. That's fine, but we also need to know that God wants to love on us too!

Forget about the theology of worship for just a minute, and instead view God as our Father who wants to spend time with us, whose great love is renewed every single day for YOU and ME.

I love the lyrics to this song:

There he was just waiting, in our old familiar place.
An empty spot beside him, where once I used to wait
to be filled with strength and wisdom for the battles of the day.
I would have passed him by again but I clearly heard him say

(chorus)

I miss my time with you
those moments together
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt's me when you say
you're too busy, busy trying to serve me.
But how can you serve me when your spirit's empty?
There's a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you.
It's true, I miss my time with you

(verse two)
What do I have to offer?
How can I truly care?
My efforts have no meaning when your presence isn't there.
But you'll provide the power if I take time to pray.
I'll stay right here beside you and you'll never have to say..

(chorus)

I miss my time with you
those moments together
I need to be with you each day
and it hurt's me when you say
you're too busy, busy trying to serve me.
But how can you serve me when your spirit's empty?
There's a longing in my heart
wanting more than just a part of you.
It's true, I miss my time with you

- (Larnelle Harris, "I Miss My Time With You")

Take some time today to let your Heavenly Father love on YOU.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Mind Games

2 Timothy 1:7 - "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

Fear becomes sin when we refuse to take it captive to the obedience of Christ.

It is a very effective weapon waged by our enemy in the battle for our soul (our mind, intellect, emotions, etc.) This is where the Christian's battles are fought (as you well know!) Fear tempts us to let go of belief; to turn our backs on faith.

This is partially why Paul tells us, in 2 Cor. 10:3-5, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses."...

"We are destroying SPECULATIONS and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ".

Fear is what stands in the way of obedience and is the ultimate enemy of our faith. It's primary purpose is to DESTROY our faith by producing, in us, disobedience.

When we refuse to take it captive, we sin. We tell God, "I don't believe You are bigger".

We idolize Fear.

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prayer

Most of us do NOT have an effective prayer life.

I'm convinced this is our reality because of our lack of understanding in the process of prayer. If we do succeed in praying daily (which is becoming so rare these days), for the most part it consists of us telling God what we need and want.

Then we go and live our lives.

What a travesty! We become guilty of a casual or perfunctory prayer life without realizing that our outlook determines our outcome. We must have a proper view of the process of prayer, and this includes a mental platform or foundation made up of a principled mindset. There are several key realizations and beliefs we must have to actually have a real prayer life.

In Scripture, we find many uses for prayer, such as prayers for covering, strength, blessing, healing, peace, rest, praise, petition, tearing down of strongholds, and more. The first realization we must have, however, is that we are in a Spiritual War. We pray through Jesus to God against our Enemy. Every prayer encapsulates this process.

Secondly, we must be blameless before God. After our initial prayer of repentance, our prayers must be consistently lifted from a holy life and mind of Christ. We must be holy as He is holy, and this can only be imparted to us through the Holy Spirit working in our surrendered body, soul, and spirit. This is a huge reason we are ineffective in our prayers. Many of us either live with sin in our lives, or we refuse to give full control to the Holy Spirit. We must be sanctified entirely! This empowers us, and makes our prayers effective. "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16)

The third realization we have is that God is bigger. Bigger than what we either know or don't know. Bigger than our limited view of His will. Bigger than anything we can imagine. This realization alone allows us to compare our earthly fear against the backdrop of His nature. "The Fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever. The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether" (Psalm 19:9)

Earthly fear loses. Period. And once we live our lives without fear, we start to see the freedom God gives. The abundant life . . .

God is BIGGER.

You can illustrate this point by finding a picture on your wall in your house. Walk up to this picture and put your eye flush against it, as close as you can. Without previously knowing what the picture looked like, there is no way you can discern what the picture is. You are simply incapable of seeing the BIG PICTURE. God reveals to us parts of the picture, as we mature and walk with Him, but His revealed Word is primarily about the Gospel, which is more than enough for now.

He is BIGGER.

And this brings us to another important realization so vital to our mindset of prayer.

It’s not about what we want
, only because our wants are so limited. Our view is simply not big enough to even be able to see what we should want.

Our will is not irrelevant, however. No, it is actually the most powerful tool in the makeup of humanity. We do matter in this equation, because and only because He chooses to take our surrendered will and use us, through that choice we make, to do HIS WILL. His will is all-important, and our entire fulfillment, the reason we enjoy life, is found through HIM using US.

He is Trustworthy
. For us to realize this in our prayer life, we must give up control. This is so hard for us, but it is vital to our success. We must trust Him with our life. We must lay it down voluntarily for Him to take it up again. This is what the Father commands. What helps us in this process is the growing realization we have that He loves us so much. Couple that with our knowledge that He is bigger, and we have a recipe for trust.

We are to pray Expectantly.
Scripture tells us to come boldly to the throne, and why wouldn't we? If we believe and know that He is God, and we have the proper mindset, then there is no reason for a faithless prayer life. The Father's will be done, and we speak through Jesus our intercessor, in His name and for His sake . . . BOLDLY.

"Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power, and the Glory forever. Amen"

© Copyright Derek Hickman 2009