To Your Faith …

There is no guarantee that people will ever hear from you again. You can send some messages out to the believers to encourage them. What would you say?

One of the things that continues to impress me about the second letter of Peter is the heart of a man who wants people to remember how valuable this great salvation is. There’s a part in the opening of this letter that I continue to find invigorating and encouraging.

What qualities is he referring to? What do we need to be doing on a consistent basis to be effective and productive in knowing Jesus? The first quality is the fundamental connection we have to God – faith. Not only is there no pleasing God without faith, truly believing Him is the only way to get on with realising who He made us to be.

A lot has been written and said about faith. As with a lot of issues to do with knowing God and enjoying life, it is open to different interpretations and emphasis. Some of them have gone to extremes, whereas some barely scratch the surface of what it is to place trust, confidence and wholehearted commitment to God.

It is worth noting carefully that the qualities that will allow us to be truly productive in living the life God designs for us is all based on the foundation of faith. Not trust in ourselves, not confidence in resources and abilities, not the investment and commitment of all we are and have to causes and characters however noble still failing to be as awesome of God. Faith sees these truly put in God revealed in the Son and celebrates the greatness of His mercy extended to us to allow us to be His children enjoying His eternal kingdom.

Reflecting on faith also brings to mind what Peter’s good friend John had to say on the matter.

It is well to know that the platform of our fruitfulness in knowing Jesus is based on the foundation of faith – the faith that overcomes the world.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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It’s Praiseworthy

There’s quite a lot of things that get praise.

Someone sings a song on television and it gets praise. Someone scores a goal and it gets praise. Someone draws a picture and it gets praise. Someone makes a meal and it gets praise. You name it and it gets praise for it. A lot of media and popular culture is based on the praise someone or something gains, however short-lived that praise is.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that praise is more than deserved.

Yet contemplating on the concept of something being praiseworthy can nudge me to something more. Something praiseworthy is something that lifts me and also something that lifts my awareness of something of higher value.

Of the many things that are indeed praiseworthy, there is nothing that causes me to soar and climb higher than beholding the amazing love that created all things. Seeing that love displayed in pursuit of a creature that rejected and rebelled against its Creator.  Seeing that love rescue people from oppressive slavery and express relentless faithful love despite time and again getting faithless adultery in response. Seeing that love come in human form and show what humanity was really about. Seeing that love heal, restore, teach and build those who were once rebels now becoming sons. Seeing that love on a cross to score the greatest victory in all creation. Seeing that love rise triumphantly conquering death and sin and inviting others to follow in the way of love – true godly love – that sets people free to serve each other as the ruler of this love is established on earth as it always has been in heaven.

That – and that alone above all things is worthy of everlasting praise.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

 

It’s Lovely

My guy Stevie Wonder wrote a song about his daughter. He put into song the delight he took in this newborn baby and her growing impact on his life.

I enjoyed the song anyway, but when my firstborn made her appearance on the planet, the song took on a whole new level of resonance. It’s a good thing too, because for a while I thought the term ‘lovely’ was a girlie thing. (I’ll just stay right here as you throw your bricks in my direction.) Yeah, I didn’t think ‘lovely’ was something for men.

Thankfully appreciating the blessing of having a child and then subsequently having others have made me appreciate just how appropriate the term ‘lovely’ can be for men. In fact, when I relax a bit and enjoy the word lovely, I get into the vibe of actually being able to see it’s the sort of things in life that makes me grin, or beam and say somewhere whether out loud or in my mind, ‘I love that’.

So …

  • I love the miracle of birth and the wonder of children – that’s lovely.
  • I love that taste of a good can or bottle of ginger beer consumed fairly swiftly – that’s lovely
  • I love that laughter you hear among friends when they recall something truly hilarious – that’s lovely
  • I love the calm of the early morning to just engage and embrace that stillness in that time of the day – that’s lovely
  • I love that thing of reading an article and thinking how great it was to read it, like it was a genuine honour to have those words affect my thinking and behaving – that’s lovely.

To think about what’s lovely in life is an invitation to put a big ol’ grin on your heart. It’s one thing to have it on your face, but it’s even better when it reflects what’s going on inside.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Admirable

Imagine that you and I are seated in the front room. We’re in those couches are armchairs designed to help you relax. Whatever refreshments we want are on the coffee table in the middle of the room, but we can just sit back and feel comfortable whilst some steady and smooth music plays in the background.

There’s no hassle and no rush, we can just enjoy each other’s company. So you ask me what in life do I find admirable. I smirk. You know you asked the right question as you see the smirk broaden into the familiar grin for which one or two people have found as much a part of me as my name. I love the question and you see the love across my face as my eyes close and I drink in the question to breathe out this answer.

I admire: Consistency and longevity. My parents have been married for over 40 years, which is a considerable feat when you consider the age my Dad got married. They have been by each other’s side supporting each other and loving each other in all circumstances. Their love for each other has poured itself into the lives of their onlooking children who have benefited from the relentless consistency and faithfulness our parents showed to each other and to us. I admire that consistency and longevity.

I admire: Passionate people passionately pursuing their passions whenever and wherever they can. This life can be stifling if it’s left to a mundane routine of living to get enough money to get enough mod-cons to just shuffle from one meaningless leisure activity to another. That’s why I love those people who have a passion for something and pursue it with all their heart. My friend loves his poetry, loves his battle rap, loves his creative communication and whenever the time affords him he is immersed in those passions and I find it so admirable. If you’re going to live you might as well live with passion worth pursuing. The kind of thing is hugely indicative of the kind of approach I look to take when it comes to Kingdom matters – so it’s a blessing to see examples of that in action.

I admire: The love of my wife. It never ceases to amaze me how she has just remained devoted to the marriage and to the reality of God granting the union and able to sustain it. We haven’t reached 20 years together yet, let alone the 40+ that my parents have hit, but her loyalty, her faithfulness, her devotion, her commitment, her investment, her encouragement, her faith, her resourcefulness, her prayers, her integrity, her strength of character, her vulnerability, her honesty, her beauty – I observe all of that and to think that she still actively chooses to invest those in the direction of the most precious union humans face this side of eternity in me is … well it’s admirable. I applaud her to her face and I love to applaud her behind her back like on blog entries and stuff.

I admire: Great music, good football, delicious food, intriguing reading material and gripping storytelling. All of these are the fruits of significant investment in creative outlets and I love to admire those kind of things. I appreciate more and more that these products are not always guaranteed and there is a plethora of average to garbage material that I could wade through and endure. Yet it’s worthwhile when I come a creative piece of work that hits that sweet spot.

I admire: People taking a stand for justice and righteousness. Not following the trends of the day or looking to be popular to gain attention – they just see the example of Jesus and see the need to be peacemakers which often requires taking a stand. The bravery and courage it calls for as well as a selflessness to see Kingdom values as being of far greater worth than any earthly desires – witnessing this in ways that won’t grab people’s attention but is no less significant in the larger scheme of things is humbling.

That’s what I would open up with to consider the things that are admirable and worth thinking on. That would be my offering in our comfortable front room encounter.

What do you find admirable? (And don’t stop me from letting you grab another cup of that beverage you love while you share.)

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Excellent

It’s Excellent: Opening

I was sharing with someone I have the honour of tutoring that there two ways to approach learning. Learning to pass or learning to love.

For some it’s easier and more constructive to set up an environment for learners to learn to pass and where exceptional students are found stretching them further where possible. For this to function as in a lot of areas of life, it requires standards to be in place.

When you learn to pass, you reach the standard and don’t do much to pass it. When you learn to love – by which I mean you love what you’re learning – the standard can sometimes be easily surpassed.

It’s about the joy of getting the rudimentary aspects and then seeing what can be done on top of that to develop an understanding and dynamic engagement with the subject matter. Whether that’s Maths or English, Psychotherapy or Drama, Social Care or Music. Before you know it, you realise the love of learning was never meant to be confined to academia – it is meant to impact life as we know it in that sphere of interest. That’s how the learning can become a vocation – a true calling to accomplish throughout life. It’s not a career, it’s not a job, it’s more than a pastime and money is never the primary object. Welcome to the world of excellence.

The World of Excellence in a Song

When I reflect on the call to think on whatever is excellent, I am drawn to this particular piece of music. In all likelihood it’s probably the first thing I have a recollection of that I would define as excellent. I loved the track for so many reasons and as I got older the number of reasons increased. Sitting here listening to it now, I can say without any hesitation this is excellent.

Why? First of all the lyrical content. Three words of the title at the heart of the song and repeated frequently says also a lot about the standard of excellence – it’s met by people who don’t do a half-hearted job. They are not doing something to just pass off as adequate and acceptable in any given area. This is about commitment – a life commitment to complete something thoroughly. In this context it’s about going all the way in walking with Jesus to do whatever He calls you to do. The journey of discipleship thoroughly enjoyed and thoroughly endured so that the crown of life that awaits can be worn with joy and delightfully thrown at the feet of the Saviour on His return. The lyrics are just inspired. It is excellent.

Then there’s the vocals. I am not the biggest fan of Andrae Crouch as a vocalist, but this song is where he finds his sweet spot and I loved it from beginning to end. There’s nothing about  it I disliked or thought was out of place and when he belts a high note in the bridge of the song, it’s a home run. I have heard a number of cover versions of this song by some pretty decent vocalists who don’t hit it like he hits it on this song. Then I consider the harmonies from the strong males at the beginning to the beautifully blended harmonies taking this commitment thing to the next level at the bridge. The arrangement of the vocals and their role in taking us through the song is masterful and it just sounds like something carefully crafted in the studio so that it could just sound so right – from the dedication and forward thrust to the driving commitment to keep going at the end as it fades. Lead vocals, backing vocals, superbly arranged. It is excellent.

What about the instrumental contribution? Wowsers. I could spend a good hour or so raving about the funky bass driving this song and the electric guitar that plays a riff at the beginning and pops up throughout the song to buzz in the ear with that insistent riff – it’s joy. That bass is something, that electric guitar is something. Later in life I had a brief stint learning and playing the drums and I know this song had a major part in the reason why. Folks might think it’s relatively easy to do it, but then you try it and have to keep the beat as well as the little flourishes here and there and to keep that going is no easy feat at all. The keyboards decorate this piece even more than the icing and cherry does on the world’s second greatest dessert the Cherry Bakewell Tart (we all know a the triple chocolate cake gets top spot). There’s a mood to the piece that those blessed keyboards guide us through with such consummate ease that it might give you the impression it can be done – but then try it for yourself and realise – this is not all that easy at all. Brilliantly done, though. Then they had the thought to slap a string group in there. I mean, the strings on this piece are such a delight to hear with their cut and thrust inserts before giving a more flowing and humming contribution. This entire musical ensemble just sounded beyond music to my ears. It is excellent.

This brief tribute to the song barely scratches the surface of just why this piece of music is excellent. Doesn’t touch on the hours I can imagine spent in the studio recording and editing making sure the parts fitted perfectly and that the final piece would sound like the gorgeous soundfest it does from a decent set of speakers. All those production values, all that talent, all that investment to produce just over five minutes of listening pleasure that turned a little boy onto loving music so long ago.

Excellence Yesterday, Today and Beyond

Over thirty years later, when I think about excellence, sure I think about Daniel and his brilliance in Babylonian court. Yeah I certainly think about how Joseph prospered in whatever state he found himself in because of that commitment to excellence. Yep, I am reminded of the beauty of Esther in the court of Xerxes and how her commitment to a character of similar excellence saved her people and also gave the opportunity for her Uncle Mordecai to likewise play an integral part in playing a positive influence in the political administration.

For sure, I definitely think about the Ark, the Tabernacle and the Temple which are architectural constructs that were never anything less that magnificent in build and purpose at the outset. I don’t have to go long before thinking of the entire ministry of Jesus on the earth and how excellence ran through it with consistency from the way He lead His disciples to the way He organised folks at His teaching, even to how He had the foresight to prepare a brilliant final meal with His disciples before being crucified.

I have been privileged to witness excellence in my brother and his music and writing. I’ve observed excellence in my wife’s commitment to prayer, intercession and helping others. I’ve watched excellence flow from brothers and sisters doing things from setting up halls with the chairs to writing correspondence to hospitality to serving those on the margins of society.

All of those element and more I think of when I think about excellence. I also think about this song, though and how it was my first introduction to that concept and how since then it propels and stimulates me to employ excellence in what I do.

When it comes to the call of God on my life, I’m not looking to learn to pass, I’m looking to learn to love, because it’s right there that I know I will excel.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Pure

This was a hymn we used to sing every week in the summer at the church I attended in my childhood days. The hymn title is Purer in Heart. We would sing it at the end of session we referred to as a ‘Missionary Meeting’. (Don’t ask … well don’t ask on this occasion, I’ll go into it on another occasion. Probably.)

So on the surface it’s a bit odd talking about being on mission and then ending it talking about having pure hearts. It at least appeared odd to me back in the day singing it. A couple of decades later and I remember the song very vividly and the sentiments of its lyrical content is a lot more poignant and meaningful for me now then it was those years ago.

Pure. Without any stain, without any smudge. No hint of corruption or distortion. It is what it is without any flavourings, colourings or preservatives. Not only that, but there is a beauty that radiates from the purity – something intensely attractive, but when appreciated properly the attraction is not to defile or desecrate, but to just celebrate it’s purity.

I can reel off a number of things that I’ve ruined. From decent meals and interesting conversations to meaningful relationships and superb initiatives. Ruined. Because when it came to the purity of it, I allowed pride and lust to mess things up.

That is why I am so grateful for the cleansing work of the Saviour. Cleansing from within and without. Every time my flaws and failings – my sins – goes in there and mucks it all up, His grace is greater, His forgiveness and His desire to restore and redeem all purifies. As each incident and episode of the inner me as the enemy threatens to mess things up, so His presence that lives within me reminds me that the pure in heart see God and the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is able to make me clean. Make me pure. Make my thoughts only ever pure as they’re focused on the things of God.

Pure. Thoroughly and utterly clean. Delightful to take on in its brilliance because its essence just effuses purity. No hang-ups, no gossip, no backbiting, no complaining, no murmuring, no lusting, no pride, no messing, no nefarious hidden afendas. Just purity in every aspect.

There are some things that are pure worth reflecting on. Worth thinking about the love of the Father for you. Worth thinking about the good love that parents have for their children and siblings grow to develop and have for each other as they recognise their status in Christ. Worth thinking about those relationships that have remained pure over the years – those good friendships that have not allowed anything to sour things. Ahhh the purity of a joyful laugh echoed not because of someone’s misfortune, but because it really amazing how much He loves us and is willing to give us everything to live the kind of lives that reflect His character.

All of these hints to what awaits those whose minds stay on Him and think about Him and then sees how that impacts the rest of life.

I am a living witness that it doesn’t matter how badly things have been messed up, there is a love, a grace and a mercy that is far greater and able to wash all the stains of shame and guilt away to leave us in the state we were always created to live in. One where we will no longer have to ask God to help us be purer in heart. One for which we will simply be able to declare how we are  …

Pure.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Right

One of the things I love to hear is people say, “That’s right.”

Why do I love it?

When things are not right, when there is that little bit that kinda spoils it. When there is that element that just makes the something off-putting, it is not a pleasant experience.

To dwell on that which is right is often an exercise in enjoying that which is worthy of applause, satisfaction and admiration. Even if that which is right leaves you in an awkward position (because you are in the wrong) there can still be an acceptance that at least the right way has been established.

Many think they know what is right, only to be shown how wrong they were, but far better to experience that and have a turnaround than to keep on going in a direction that will end in misery.

One of the reasons I love following Jesus is because He not only shows what right is, He lives it out Himself. His way of living it continues to fascinate and challenge exactly because it turns a lot of the norm that were accepted as right on its head and says that there is a way to know the right and rejoice in it for the change it makes to those formerly in the wrong.

To consider His way of life is to consider what’s right and think on those things helps us not to be left with what is wrong, but be able to join in the chorus of saints throughout the ages who look at the wonders of God in Christ Jesus and say,

“That’s right.”

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden