Sam’s 1st Epic 04 – Ichabod

She named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband.  And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Samuel 4:21, 22 ESV)

Any cheery, happy-go-lucky, ‘always look on the bright side of life’, kinda guy would be hard pressed to get much positive from the fourth chapter of 1 Samuel.

The sentiment at the outset is a noble one. Having suffered the disappointment of a defeat at the hands of their enemies, the Israelites feel they are in need of a game-changer. That meant the ark of the covenant. For with that, they felt, it was assured that the presence of God would be with them and stir them to victory.

In fact such was the boost to their confidence with the presence of the ark that the noise even had an unsettling effect on their enemy. the response of the enemy, then, is creditable. Rather than withdrawing in fear, they rouse themselves to give it their best shot and lo and behold the Israelites who were previously just defeated are then devastated by their enemy. Not only that, but the ark of the covenant is taken.

Disappointment, defeat, devastation, despair and the departure.

It’s fascinating that of all of these that which sets off both Eli and his daughter-in-law as she gives birth and dies is the departure. Such is the value of the presence of the ark that its departure has a grievous effect on those who depended so much on it. This highlights the importance of the presence, how precious the presence is.

What’s also intriguing is that the preciousness of the presence did not stimulate Eli to take action to ensure it was appreciated through his sons behaving properly. Yet at their deaths, the father realises the implications of his negligence. Often it is said that we don’t know what we’ve got until its gone. Episodes like this are to remind us that we shouldn’t take for granted what we have and think that we can just flaunt it in desperate situations to help us out.

Episodes like this are humbling reminders about appreciating what we have in the presence of God. Appreciating his presence through careful observance of His instructions and valuing Him above all things. Even if that puts us at odds with the desires and behaviour of family and friends. Focus on and appreciation of His presence should mean everything to us.

In this day and age the disappointment, defeat, despair and devastating effect of Ichabod may not always be experienced immediately, but the ultimate fate is the reality of eternity in the state of Ichabod.

For his Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Simple and Radical

It’s not always good having conversations with some people if you want to avoid challenges. I had such an experience recently.

My associate was explaining how he found it odd that on a Sunday morning people would gather in a building for a few hours but have little to no impact on the surrounding area but return the next week to go through the same thing again and among other things bemoan the lack of change in the world around them. The commitment to the routine was something he found baffling. To him the simple solution was to spend time where the people were, engage with their issues on their terms and where possible build bridges to whatever was being celebrated and seemingly contained in that building where people gathered for a few hours every Sunday morning.

To my associate it was a very simple thing to do. He also was aware, however, that to do something so simple would be considered upsetting and radical to others who were used to, comfortable with and familiar with the status quo. As long as the rhetoric didn’t demand action they were content with bemoaning the lack whilst doing little to nothing to actually address it. It was sufficient to invite others to their holy huddle every Sunday, but anything beyond that was not on the cards. Likewise should the invite be declined at least they did their bit, which was all that their hectic lives could manage. It only went to reinforce their bemoaning.

My associate just could not live with that approach. It seemed hypocritical to carry on that way, so he refused to sign up to it. Instead he saw merit in using his time with others to actually effect change by being involved in the life of the community around him. He saw merit in blessing those around him in immersing himself in the issues that mattered both in the small and the larger picture. He never went alone, he knew that comradeship would be important for the work ahead and that was good enough for him as at least he went to bed at night knowing he was doing something about it.

He remained baffled at why others saw something so simple as so radical … and disruptive and thus avoided it.

That’s why it’s good to avoid those kind of conversations if you don’t want to be challenged.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 03 – Here I Am; You Called Me

The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of Samuel’s words fall to the ground. (1 Samuel 3:19 NIV)

The call of Samuel is a very intriguing one. Lots of elements can be explored in it and others have done a great job outlining them.

What this encounter says to me at present is the importance of the personal contact with God. The third chapter of 1 Samuel starts by establishing that Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. He is also used to sleeping where the ark of the covenant is. For all of that, though, it’s intriguing that when God calls Samuel, he thinks it’s Eli calling, because that’s all Samuel knows. He has never had his own contact, he doesn’t know. He can serve in the Lord’s place of worship, but he doesn’t know the voice of the Lord he’s serving.

That encounter with God changes everything for Samuel. Not only does he have his engagement with God, but he is entrusted with the word of the Lord and is recognised for that. His obedience in hearing and then sharing the word of the Lord given to him marked him out to the people.

It’s one thing to read the words and to be doing church or godly stuff. You can even be around godly people, but it’s vital to actually encounter and engage with the living Author of the living Word that we read. That makes all the difference. It’s about developing the awareness of God when He speaks and being attentive to what He says when He speaks.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

What? Again?

Recently my wife and I spent some time together up in West Yorkshire. For those of you who don’t know, this is a part of England that has beautiful hills and valleys. It’s gloriously picturesque although at times likely to be affected by rain.

Not that Authrine and I were put off by the rain because we stayed at a superb venue called the Westwood Christian Centre. We were treated so well by the wardens of the centre and we could use the time and space to explore some things together. It was a great time with Authrine and from it were inspired some themes that are set to dominate Dryden life for the foreseeable future.

(Oh, by the way, a word on that phrase ‘foreseeable future’. It’s rather peculiar because really and truly what of the future do we ever really and truly see? So for that phrase just interpret that to mean ‘for the time being’.)

We have witnessed success together and we have also witnessed failure. A particularly crucial ingredient to both was the degree of commitment to keep doing the basics. As long as we did that, despite the challenges we faced, we tended to both overcome and succeed. Where we got distracted from that, even when we experienced some positive things, setbacks and failure would emerge.

On the occasions when there was setback and failure the platform for progress often required us to go back and do things again. Two letters in the English language are great at highlighting that concept of doing something again – ‘re’. Look at the words that when given the prefix of those letters tell you to do something again. Return, reconcile, repent, rebuild, renew, report, revise, review, redeem, restore, refresh, reinvigorate and repeat are just some I can think of off the top of my head.

(Oh, by the way, a word on the phrase ‘off the top of my head’. That phrase makes me chuckle. As if there are things on the top of your head, other than hair, which can be picked off so easily. It’s just funny to me. Just saying.)

One good word in the ‘re’ family is great at describing the benefit of doing something again that can help with the proper growth and shaping of any aspect of life. That word is reform. As it was initially formed it was fine, but over time that has gone out of shape, so we have to go back again to get it back to the shape it should be in. Sometimes it can be exasperating and frustrating to go back to the basics again, but it’s often a humbling and invigorating experience to do so and cherish once more the absolute fundamentals of what shapes and defines you.

Recognising that God shapes and defines. Reverting to that dependence. Rejoicing in the sufficiency. Reflecting on the simplicity and need for commitment to that. Researching the paths that help inform me of that in my every day life. Replicating that in my daily encounters.

All this aids the development and I am grateful for the season to work on this with Authrine. I am grateful to be able to focus on this with the Lord.

As for those basics, well that’s for another blog entry. You will remind me, won’t you, just so I don’t have to revisit this again.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 02 – Consequences of Contempt

If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord , who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.
… And I will raise up for myself a faithful priest, who shall do according to what is in my heart and in my mind. And I will build him a sure house, and he shall go in and out before my anointed forever. (1 Samuel 2:25, 35 ESV)

It’s very sobering reading the judgment of God.

From the ecstasy of a barren woman who prayed to God and was given a son we are taken to a situation where an old man with two sons is told he is about to lose what he he has because of their contempt for God.

In as much as Eli rebuked his sons for their scandalous behaviour as priests, he did not take action to stop them bringing disrepute to their service. The words of the man of God to Eli don’t hold back from what God will do for such contempt. It takes something significant for God to move so severely to replace a lineage with another.

There’s much to learn about parental priorities that don’t indulge sin. There’s also much to learn about the sort of service God looks for – not ones that exploits people, but one that genuinely looks to be faithful and diligent to God and the people.

These were serious matters then, they remain serious matters now. Treating the service of God and service to others with contempt has serious consequences.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Brief Dryden Update & About Sam’s 1st Epic

April is done. I didn’t hate April, quite a lot of good things happened in that month. I am grateful for it and I am glad it’s done.

In the past week I had not written much in the way of a Bible Study. The break was good and posting some interesting videos I came across was cool, I enjoyed that. I hope to do that a bit more as the occasion calls for it.

My life has undergone some significant developments in the last month, a lot of which I think are outstanding and a few that are considerably challenging. One outcome from that is hopefully soon I will be able to share with you some information about a brilliant new place where I hope to do some work. I will also be making the most of some important developments recently to be able to take some critical steps forward for the benefit of my family and myself. I look forward to keeping you updated on that as positive news emerges.

As I have mentioned previously the daily scripture has proved to be something highly positive for me in a number of ways, so I was keen to continue that. I was wondering where to go next and it came to my attention that the story of David from shepherd to warrior to King to fugitive to the quest for his throne had a lot to commend it. That as well as the fascinating characters of Eli, Samuel and Saul made it worth my while to get more insight into the character of God, His relationship with His people and the man after His own heart through the epic books of 1st and 2nd Samuel. So I am excited to be exploring those books in the days and weeks to come.

Finally today (1st May) is my Mum’s birthday!! She remains one of the most amazing women I know and sentiments of ‘I love you’ never say enough for my feelings for her. I am glad God has spared her life and health another year. I hope He continues to do so to allow her to be a blessing to others as she has been to me.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden

Sam’s 1st Epic 01 – Heard by God

In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord , weeping bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10 NIV)

Hannah’s description of her circumstances is challenging. Provoked sorely by a rival who is able to have children, Hannah’s barren state creates a tension that not even the devotion of her husband can settle.

This episode of Scripture is good to read to see what it is to be in agony and distress. This was no momentary affliction, this was a persistent pain that was ever before her. In her desperation and despair she turned to God in prayer. Even though misunderstood by the priest of the time, she saw and took the opportunity to pour out her heart to God.

What is interesting is her interaction. Such was her desperate circumstances but devotion to God that just to give birth would be such a blessing, she would return that firstborn son to the service of God. That’s quite a stunning sacrifice.

To get the response she did was also quite something, for it inspired in her the name for the firstborn – one that celebrates being heard by God.

Often in our own desperate circumstances it might not appear as though we have been heard by God. The situation may worsen, our capacity to cope may go to the brink. Dreams and hopes may seem to be smashed to pieces. This is not the time, however, to forget God in the thought that he has forgotten you. In the darkest times in life when all hope seems lost, God still reaches through the gloom with the light of His presence. By that presence in the gloom of those circumstances there is assurance that you have been heard by God.

Hannah’s situation also offers hope that God hears and in the fullness of time will amazingly answer.

For His Name’s Sake
Shalom
C. L. J. Dryden