Moreover Blessing & Even Though Love

Moreover Blessing

It was something Authrine reminded me about. She was talking about how God responded to Solomon’s request. So I went to read 1 Kings 3 and loved how Solomon put himself at the mercy of God to just get the wisdom required to operate in his position as king. That degree of humility was something I took very seriously. No way I can carry out any of my responsibilities without that degree of humility – that knowledge that without God I am going to mess it up big time, but walking in line with Him, I can be thoroughly faithful in what He calls me to do.

God’s response to the prayer was the really exciting thing. The writer describes how Solomon’s request pleased the Lord. I love that thought. That thought that God smiled at it, as if He nodded his head because that was the kind of engagement he was looking for. Then that word in the NIV version popped up in verse 13 – Moreover. It got me excited to see God delighted to the extent that whereas Solomon asked for one thing, God gave Him so much more. That word moreover – suggesting it was time for God to show again He is a God of more than enough. As a man’s ways were pleasing to Him so He poured out a Moreover Blessing.

What I also noted carefully was how that bonus blessing was based on maintaining that humble desire to stick close to God. Things would go well for Solomon just as long as he remained committed to this relationship through obedience. It was sobering because it reminded me of that tendency to look for something from someone and as soon as the thing came the someone was either dismissed outright or became significantly less important. Yet here God emphasised how it’s all about the focus on the relationship. It’s not about the goodies we get from God – it’s about embracing the Giver as of far greater value than the gift.

The big deal was being in line with the heart of God and delighting Him to the point that we enjoy His Moreover Blessing!

Even Though Love

There’s brotherly love. It’s a great love among family, it is about those ties that boasts of a depth far deeper than casual and convenient acquaintances.

Yet, there is something about the love of God in Jesus Christ that still humbles me tremendously. What kind of love keeps trusting the people you will bring closer to you than anyone else even though they will misunderstand you, leave you in the lurch when it matters most, denies you three times and in one person’s case even betray and sell you out? What kind of love keeps going even though the wife you died for and longed to beautify time after time brings your name into disrepute?

No wonder it’s referred to as an amazing and divine love. That kind of even though love. A love that Paul evidently had in mind when referring the church in Corinth to it. This kind of even though love lifts us above the bitter resentment that lingers after hurt. This kind of even though love pours out liberating forgiving mercy and grace to others even as we are grateful recipients from an amazing Saviour who loves us even though

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Psalm 32 – Forgiven

There is talk about needing to forgive yourself. I understand that – it can be quite something when the biggest weight of condemnation is the one you place on yourself.

Yet, forgiveness is not primarily something we should be looking to do to ourselves. First and foremost the issue of forgiveness should be seen in the light of what it means in the light of a relationship with a loving heavenly Father. Where you and I can let each other down and where we often let ourselves down, there is a great Creator who invites into a relationship with Him. In this relationship He is faithful and just, kind and compassionate and consistently never lets us down. Yet we persistently let him down, it is a default to look to please ourselves rather than acknowledge Him. What that does to any relationship can be more than damaging.

The Psalmist in this piece can relate to what it is to live in rebellion to this God and the effect that it has on us. Yet when he finally acknowledges and confesses that sin he is the first to see the relief of forgiveness that is found in God. He knows what it is to be blessed in those ways. Truly experiencing how relieving it is to know that all your sins have been dealt with. Truly seeing that the access to a right relationship with God that is hindered by sin can have that hindrance removed through confession and acknowledgement to God.

What needs to be taught to others is just how valuable that experience can be in anyone’s life.The life of anyone who thinks they have done too much to ever be considered, someone who feels that their behaviour and inclination can never be forgiven. For them to come across the expression of grace and truth in God is the greatest release and turnaround possible. To call it liberating is a massive understatement.

No, forgiving yourself has nothing on truly experiencing and embracing the forgiveness of God and that done so that you can have a right relationship with the God who desires to be known by you.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Contrition, Confession, Repentance and Thanks For November

Children are brilliant.

A set of siblings have a unique understanding of how they operate and are able to get away with certain things because of what they can communicate between each other and then to the outside world. It’s so fascinating getting insight into their thinking and their dynamic.

I was watching a set of brothers. Three of them there were. It transpired that one of them had taken something he shouldn’t have. I asked the eldest one who did it, and he said it was the middle one, but he wouldn’t admit it out of fear of being punished and angering the particular parent whose fuse was known for being remarkably short. I could understand the reluctance but then I said, wouldn’t matters be worse when it was discovered that not only did the middle brother do it, but in failing to confess his volatile parent it was going to make the parent go through the roof. The elder brother used that to reason with the middle sibling who at first was insistent that he was not going to risk it. I then said I would talk to the parent on his behalf to soften the blow. As it was, he looked at his younger brother who was very nervous about all of them suffering punishment and plucked up the courage to confess. As it transpired they caught the parent on a good day and though he displayed some displeasure it was perfectly reasonable.

Looking at the episode, though, it made me think of my relationship with my heavenly Father. Confessing things has been difficult for me because of the sense of letting someone down and admittedly looking like a loser in my failing, especially if it’s a repeat. When it comes to God, though, there is something about his irrepressible mercy that makes it very difficult to make any progress without confessing. He’s not giving me a guilt trip at all – I am giving that to myself for free. It is sad because it’s not as though God is a volatile Father who blows up at every sin I commit. He doesn’t condone it, overlook it or accommodate for it. He still hates sin. It’s just that He loves me and wants the relationship between us to be clear and it can be clear as soon as I confess. It’s about remembering the nature of the relationship based on grace that helps me above sin and helps me to recover when I sin. He has put everything in place for that to happen. He does that because he is a loving, caring Father who yearns to be with His creation. It should make me run to Him when I fall and ask for forgiveness. It’s something I am still learning as I reflect on His good, good character.

The fruit of doing so is seen when I lay my all before Him, confess with a contrite heart and endeavour by His grace to repent. What I find extremely useful is that repentance is about a desire for Him where He fills in those places where my own desires had its way. He says if I delight in Him then I won’t find the time to mess up. If my delight is Him and I find Him to be the treasure beyond measure then adversity can come, tempration can appear and I am equipped to stay on the right path. A path that He is on with me, and that he’s eager to walk with me so we can make progress to discovering even more wonderful and awe-inspiring aspects of His nature.

That has meant of late the discovery that if He has forgiven and restored me, there’s no need for me to carry on moping as though I can disqualify myself. I might as well just get back on track and walk with Him and enjoy His wondrous, beautiful nature and character in operation across His creation.

I am grateful to God for His mercy, compassion and grace.

While I’m being grateful I put on record my gratitude to my loving Father for the month of November. It’s been a very good month indeed. Not because it was my birthday. Indeed, without sounding off, it was one of the most unremarkable birthdays of my life. The month in itself has been a very good one in terms of progress with some pivotal relationships that have emerged this year. I’ve been a part of some gatherings that have been outstanding in learning aspects of life in groups and the power of men together in prayer. Of late I’ve also been reading up on fasting and been intrigued with some of what I’ve come across. That has made this month a very positive one. Possibly the best month of this year and for that God deserves so much of thanks.

So thanks, Father.

Can I have an even better month in December, please?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Choke Hold

Recently I had the privilege of sitting in on a small prayer meeting. The thing about settings where there’s a small number of people is that if those in attendance are interested it gives room for lively and engaging dialogue. 

The nature of the prayer meeting gave space for people to share their prayer points, a time of prayer and then aftermath. That was looking at what ever came up in the light of the prayer. There was something about the nature of the meeting that allowed a great degree of candid sharing. People were not there to judge or criticise, but encourage and even rebuke where necessary. 

During the course of the meeting some raw issues emerged about obstacles in the way that prevented individuals truly enjoying the presence of God. It was insightful seeing just how much of a choke hold relational issues had in blocking people’s growth. The grip was tight – the story of the hurt that was caused and the effect it had was sad. The extent of the effect left more than a scar in the life of the victim. It left a bitterness, anger and simmering malice that could not bear to consider the person even in a passing thought. The struggle to release the perpetrator only left the victim in a choke hold of their own making. 

This is not untypical in settings with believers, because we are still hurt people and hurt people, hurt people. Jesus knew that. It’s why forgiveness was a big deal in the Kingdom presentation. As God forgives us of being the perpetrators of sin, so He requires us to forgive others. This is possible when we remember what we have been forgiven of, but it does not always happen. When it does not happen the choke hold tightens. We can’t be effective recipients of grace because our tendency to hold the grudge does not give room to hold His grace too. There’s only room to hold one. 

Letting go and releasing others is not easy and that’s why we need His grace. That grace is the power to release others and we see that in action through the example of Jesus and the example of Stephen when he was being bludgeoned to death. We need that grace to break the strong grip of the choke hold – it’s the only hope we have to breathe easier again. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

It is a Relief 

There are different types of Columbo episodes. One I particularly admire goes along the following lines. 

As you know, because like me, you love Columbo, the show is not about guessing who did it. It’s about seeing how Columbo can outwit them so they may be duly caught. There are murders that take place, however, in which the efforts to cover their tracks actually highlights the pressure they were under to commit the murder in the first place. Such is the immense pressure with the lieutenant now on their case that by the time our mack-wearing detective finally gets them, it’s a relief to the murderer. The weight of their wrongdoing, the weight of the subsequent watching and checking is taken away. It almost makes them wonder why they didn’t give themselves up to Columbo in the first place. 

I was with a group of believers recently and we were exploring the issue of sharing faith and getting others to look at issues surrounding that. One person touched on the reasonable issue of some not acknowledging sin. When it’s explained to someone and they are challenged with it, some are insistent that this is not a condition that affects them at all. It’s certainly not our responsibility to force anyone to acknowledge that. We talked through in the context of the relationship or conversation, as the other person means much to us, we are to share and leave the rest to God as we continue to do good for the other. 

There are other people, though, who can relate very well with the concept of sin when it is shared to them. Not only can they relate but they can also see it in their lives and actually express that sense of the weight of it and how it is effectively a blockade against truly experiencing the fullness of life. It’s something that believers can also relate with. That recognition of sin, harboured for so long and such a weight that blocks fullness. God offers such a relief from that sin. 

In a way that not even Columbo can compare with, the Lord lovingly pursues us. Not to condemn us, but actually for us to realise there is a relief in confession and repentance. Once we see that he sussed us out from the start and awaits us to own up, He is there to relieve us of the guilt that weighs us down. 

That’s a relief – without needing to hear one more thing. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

A Look at Luke 17 – A Basic Requirement

Faith is a fascinating term.

It’s certainly intriguing when we consider the first incident of Luke chapter 17 (verses 1-10). In it  is a familiar saying about faith that if you have the portion the size of a mustard seed you can say to a mountain be removed and it will do it. It’s a familiar verse, but the context spins everything on its head in terms of how faith is sometimes regarded.

What I mean is that we often apply faith to certain things. I need faith to believe God for a spouse. I need faith to believe God to overcome this job situation. I need faith to make it through these exams. I need faith to believe God to get a house, a car, that stunning dress or that new pair of football boots like the ones Messi wears. Now I don’t dispute the importance of faith in those issues (OK maybe the boots and the dress might not be uppermost in my thoughts about faith, but still …). I don’t dispute the importance of faith when it comes to seeing churches grow, marriages flourish, businesses prosper and ministries develop and people added to the Kingdom and all those wonderful things.

I don’t dispute that, but that’s not where Jesus is coming from when he mentions faith in this context. The context Jesus refers to in this particular incident is when he charges those who follow him to have the compassion and courage to rebuke a brother who sins and if they come back and repent even seven times, they are supposed to have the courage and compassion to forgive them. When the followers of Jesus hear that, their immediate response is a request for a faith increase.

Not only does Jesus respond with the mustard seed word, he goes on to suggest that if we do what we’re commanded to do it’s not something for which we should expect anything in the way of thanks. a servant who does what they are commanded to do are just living up to the basic requirements of being a servant. Considering that in the context of what Jesus has just said, it implies that the courage and compassion to rebuke and restore a brother is actually the basics of following Jesus. We love them enough to look out for them, we look out for them to warn them and reprimand them if they go astray and we’re desperate to restore them once they express a desire to return.

To be fair, when you consider the cost that has on relationships, you can understand why the response of the hearers is for a faith increase. When you’ve endured hurt from someone, or when someone has seriously gone astray, it can be hard to understand and to restore them can be difficult. When that is happening one more than one occasion the strain it can cause can be considerable.

No wonder we need the faith. We need the faith because it’s only in believing God for the compassion and courage to be our brother’s keeper that we can truly reach the basics of what it is to follow Jesus.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Restorative Relationships

Life is made of decisions and consequences of those decisions.

Some of those decisions are really smart ones. Like having Thursdays be called Treat Night and garner the love and adoration of your children forever for ensuring that on one night of the week they get to splurge. That is a smart decision. Good things happen in life and it’s great that the family can engage in it.

Other decisions that are made are less clever. By less clever I mean not clever. By not clever I mean foolish. By foolish I mean … you get the point. Sadly Thursday Treat Nights don’t quite cover the consequences of those decisions. (Though a timely pack of Cherry Bakewell Tarts have been known to alleviate the heaviness.)

So I have made one or two decisions in my life that have been awful. Truly awful decisions. (“How awful, Christopher?” “Really awful.” “Like, how awful, Christopher?” “Like the sort to give you nightmares for almost a decade, awful.” “Oh … sorry.” “You asked.”) Among the various consequences are the impact it has on relationships. Understandably one or two people were so affected by those decisions that up to this day they would rather drink poison with Hitler than engage in a conversation with me.

A good reason why I love God, however, is that there are relationships that have been sorely tested by some of the foolish decisions I have made, but have been restored. Not just restored but brought to such a strength that it endured further foolish decisions I made. (Hey, don’t go getting the impression I make foolish decisions regularly. Certainly not on Thursdays. Well … most Thursdays.)

In those times I have come to appreciate why restorative relationships are so powerful and what it reflects about the relationship I have with God. I would like to share three reasons for their power.

Firstly, it’s the refreshing honesty and room for disclosure. Not all at once. It doesn’t work that way. How it does work, however, is the commitment to the process of disclosure about those foolish decisions and why they were made. It doesn’t have to get graphic and intricate detail is not the point. The space to not hold it in though and to know it’s released relieves the burden of the knowledge. That in itself doesn’t mean all goes well with the relationship. It’s a good step in the process.

Secondly the relationships are based on the painful practice of forgiveness. For some forgiveness can be done because the person you forgive won’t necessarily be in the same relationship with you afterwards.. These restorative relationships have been powerful because the other person has been committed to that restoration of the relationship. To do that requires releasing the debt I owe due to my foolish decision. To do that is not something easily done and hard to work through. It’s been hard for me to look at the person I hurt and know they have forgiven me. The guilt lingers. From time to time there’s the wince of a recall from the other person as well. Affirming forgiveness is not a once and for all deal – it’s an ongoing commitment to keep the slate clean, even when there’s great temptations to etch the outlines of what used to be on the slate. This in itself is tremendously powerful and the ability to do that along with the space for disclosure and honesty goes a long way to showing the power of the restored relationship. Yet there’s one more reason it’s important I mention.

The best relationships are based on trust. The key indication of a restored relationship is the degree of trust that is exercised. Those key relationships I can refer to that have been great examples of restorative relationships have been expressed in the person who was hurt trusting me again. Trusting me tentatively at first, but intentionally and progressively. As the relationship is valued, I endeavour to do my part in honouring that trust. The level of trust though is not just affirming, it goes to mutually build and encourage. It’s about that endearing element of beautiful relationships – wanting to see the other person go on to become the best they can possibly be, believing God that they can be that way and being their chief supporter to enable that to happen. All that requiring a great degree of trust.

Those are three elements of the restorative relationships that I’m really grateful for. It’s something I’ve had the wonder and humbling privilege to experience in my life. It’s something I know has been given for me to also reflect in other relationships. Reading about the relationship God has with His people in scripture it’s these qualities that prevail in God’s steadfast love for them. He does not condone the foolishness but He won’t leave us in our foolish mess.

Thank God for such enriching relationships.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden