A Word On Exploitation 

It was a privilege to be invited to dinner, but the conversation, for all the wit and humour flying across the table, was very sobering. 

There was a father of several children. He was devoted, considerate and caring to his children and in his community. When his wife died, with his children fully grown with families of their own, he eventually retired to settle down in his own home on a farm. A neighbour noticed he was on his own and struck up a deal with a female friend. She would get to know the man and eventually work her way round to getting married to him and eventually  use him, get all his stuff and sell the farm before ditching him. At present she has got such an influence on him that even the children are locked out of access to him to support him as he gets older and more infirm. It’s tragic to hear and made my blood boil. 

The conversation then turned to how countries around the world were exploited. Not just about rich exploiting the poor and the powerful exploiting the powerless. It was the way that people would overlook injustice for the sake of convenience and resourcefulness. While beautiful landscapes were being spoiled and natural resources raped and pillaged, people turned blind eyes because infrastructure was built and the promise of investment wafted across the airwaves. Even as cultural identities were being merged and overwhelmed, by the time people recognised what was going on they were too heavy in debt to do anything about it. That debt wasn’t just an obscenely financial one either. Plus it was not just a matter of ‘foreign’ forces exploiting the situation. There was just as much complicity between the indigenous people to their own downfall. 

In the conversation, there was concern that this issue was nothing new. Put down to human nature it depressingly came across as though there was nothing that could be done about it. Those who fought against it would feel the need for power to do it, accessing the power they would be consumed by the need to retain the power to do what they felt needed to be done. This however would soon lead to the impression that it was more important to retain the power than to do the good it was desired for. There is a saying that power corrupts, but the reality might be that the power exposes that which was already corrupt in us. 

Yeah, not the most upbeat conversation. 

Yet thankfully, for me, that was not the end of the story. That was not and is not all there is to life. I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier in the day where someone was talking about the recent concert in Manchester. One man blew himself up to strike terror into the hearts of a people. He blew himself up and killed others for a cause. My faith is built on a man who gave up His life so others could be cleaned from everything corrupt in them. He gave up His life so others wouldn’t die, but enjoy real, true, vibrant, peacemaking, joy-giving, amazing life. 

Part of that deal involves learning what it is not to use people and allow the corrupt within to corrupt without. Learning not to exploit for selfish gain and love to give for the true and honest development of others. It sounds lovely on the surface, but it does require an entire new me inside. A new way of thinking, a new way of living. It’s immense, it’s incredible, it’s hard, but it’s possible, because when we talk of human nature that nature is truly seen in the life and times of the suffering servant Jesus Christ. He expressed the true human nature – one incorruptible. Can we live like Him? Only if we trust Him and allow the same Spirit that lifted Him from death to lift us from that corroding, corrupting thing in us that only ever leads to one outcome. 

It’s about time. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 106 – What Have We Done For God Lately?  

This Psalm plays like a complimentary piece to the previous Psalm. 

That previous Psalm gave us plenty of reasons to remember what God has done. This Psalm gives plenty of reasons to remember how we are likely to respond to what God has done and it’s not pretty. 

It would be comforting to think that the way God’s people responded back in the day was unique to them. Ah but in it we see reflections of the human condition and it’s not pretty. It is ugly. It is filthy. It is disgusting. 

How quickly we forget God’s goodness in the slightest sign of discomfort. How easy we disregard the great works of God as soon as we are comfortable and given other gods to play with. How simple it is to break our word with the God who keeps His Word. How seemingly natural it is for us to rebel against the One who has shown great kindness towards us. 

This Psalm shines a light on what we have done for God lately, and it is not pretty. 

At the same time when we are stuck or get in trouble what do we do? Go running back to Him, crying out to Him, pleading for help. Were some of us in God’s position, after a while we would be sick of the constant cycle of rebellion and repentance. We would become hardened to the desperately wicked and fickle heart of humanity. Yet this great and glorious God expresses that greatness and glory through patiently and consistently listening to the cries of His people and coming to their rescue. 

Reading a Psalm like this is all the more reason for us to respond in heart-felt gratitude and humble contrition. Reading of our God in these verses should give us cause for reflection and further repentance in the desire to cling on to Him and receive His help on the inside to reject that rebellious nature. Break the cycle of sin and live for this merciful and compassionate God, who time and again extends the invitation to know Him and be known by Him. This Psalm is another invitation to love Him who first loved you and still loves you even though what you have done for Him lately isn’t pretty.  

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 53 – Relief From Relentless Rebellion 

I know there is a concept known as atheism. I am very much aware of it. I just don’t think they really mean what they purport. It’s a bizarre movement that seeks to counter the existence of a being that would be beyond their conceptualising anyway. It’s like a turkey not believing in Christmas dinner – you can reject it all you like, but it’s inevitable. 

Where I think atheism would really be on a more honest plain would be rather than to dispute the existence of God, just blatantly state that they reject Him. That would make a lot more sense. 

This definition of atheism – not so much God does not exist, more a case of saying No to God is something rampant in our world. Indeed our very condition at birth was that way inclined. It’s a condition the Psalmist was very familiar with throughout the bleak observations noted in this Psalm. 

Be in no doubt, a world that rejects God is not a pleasant one to live in. For with the absence of the divine who defines we are left to do things for ourselves and in as much as we have the capacity to do beneficial acts, these are more than counteracted by that innate ability to do the grotesque, the abysmal, the dire, the depraved. That is the dark world outlined by the Psalmist which is not a strange one to modern readers. 

Making the last verse all the more poignant, not for the sake of escapism, but for the cry for righteousness to rule. To know that whatever the fool says in his heart, the truth remains there is a Sovereign who rules in the affairs of man and His righteous rule seen throughout time and epitomised in the life of Jesus Christ will one day wipe the fools and their foolishness off the earth and replace it with the peace and justice that comes from the God who cares for those He created. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Exploring Ephesians: From The Old, Now Walk In The New

Paul is serious about the church living the life in the light of the eternal plans revealed to them. He’s built a foundation of what God has done in Christ. He has described vividly why there’s good reason to rejoice in the glorious works of Christ.

It’s in the light of that we are to get on with maintaining the unity and growing up into Him and leaving the old walk behind. The old walk, the old clothes, the old habits, the old predispositions – quick to get angry, hard to forgive, swift to engage in gossip, eager to touch every kind of lust, corruption and deceitful desire. You know the old, you’re surrounded by the old. The old is still around you. They are familiar, you were used to it. It was nature to you. And look where that nature got you – getting pathetic highs and ever lower troughs on the journey to a physical death that reflected the misery of the spiritual death that stank out the world.

Paul gets all forensic in highlighting these attitudes and emotions. He doesn’t spare any issue from highlighting it for the church to know just what has to be dealt with. These relational issues are the critical nub of what this whole manifold wisdom of God business is about. No point getting all emotional and swaying at the touching music and getting goosebumps and wanting to wave lighters in the air if after all that you’re still bitter about how they treated you 13 years ago. No point in nodding vigorously at the latest monologue on virtuous living if after it’s said and done you hardly talk to anyone with any depth because you can’t afford to trust anyone because you only get hurt.

All of that is the old way and in Christ it’s from the old you travel to the new.

This new walk is a walk of love. Tenderhearted, kind, forgiving, full of thanksgiving, finding out what the will of God is, walking as wise and making the most of the time we have in the evil times in which we live. The new walk is a radical alternative to the old way. It does not let up in the intensity of love wiping out the old way that we’re used to. That’s why as children of Light we are reminded to spend all our time finding out about the riches of Christ and dwell on the depths, heights and breadth of the love that goes beyond comprehension. That kind of passion and mindset will find no time for that which we were once used to in the old walk.

That’s played out, as we will see in the key relationships of our lives and that love expressed is summed up in one word  … which we will soon consider.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Bad Fruit and the Self Life (The Fruit Series 12)

​And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16‭-‬17 NIV) 

The source of life and fruitfulness is God. 

Choosing to exist without the source leads to many complications that ultimately result in anything but having life. This choice, however, is one we are currently wired to be inclined towards. Someone suggested that we can do it by ourselves. Something left the impression that we didn’t need the source, we could be our own source. We can make it on our own. We don’t need no one and nothing telling us what we have to do and who we have to be. 

In some shape or form, human history has been the expression of efforts to live the self life. Either looking to be totally devoid of any reference to a source of being as typified many movements since the so-called Enlightenment period, or to merely use such notions to justify the quest for the pursuit of pleasing self. History has been expressing that and showing the consequences of such a pursuit and it has not been glorious. 

You don’t even need a history lesson to see how pervasive and influential the pursuit of the self life is. You experience it in some way every day. Just in the little thoughts that cross your mind hinting at just how important you are. Nudging in a little way at how,  really, you are the center of the universe and all of life really revolves around you. You can do whatever you want, it’s your life. Or how oppressive it is for anyone to tell you what to do, you need to break free to do your own thing. 

Here in England, consumer culture is the norm and it’s based on that appeal to the self life. You can have it, you should have it, you deserve it, so go get it. Anything that prevents that should be removed because it’s unfair that you shouldn’t have the best things in life. 

What’s wrong with that? 

Such independent, self-centred thinking detaches us from the source of life and leads down a path to destruction. Not blatantly at first, but as it becomes more apparent that the pursuit of the self life is not fulfilling, but rather leaves the yawning yearning even greater than before, so it’s futility leads to despair that’s often either a state that people leave themselves resigned to as though that’s all there is to life, or spurs an even greater effort to grasp for anything they think can fill that void. 

The bad fruit of the self life is incredibly addictive. Just when you think you can yield everything to return to the source of life, there can be that little nudge to get you back to your selfish ways. Even if you get that realisation of the pointless nature of that fruit, it gets incredibly hard to get off the stuff. 

Thank God for the good news of the good fruit. 

God did not leave us, even when we chose to leave Him. His pursuit of us in the course of history has been remarkably relentless. Episode after episode highlights His amazing love and mercy towards us. His offer to us is to counteract the effects of that bad fruit with the good fruit that derives from faith in Him, acceptance and recognition of what He has done through the death of His Son on the cross that now means beholding the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world gives us access to life once more. Reattach ourselves to the source and allow His life to be our life as He lives in us.

Constant reference to that source makes all the difference. That source gives us all we need to live and encourages us to actively build on those qualities of life we have been blessed with by connecting ourselves to Him. The more we do that, the more we are equipped to counteract the bad fruit and that’s good news. 

That counteracting has implications far greater than just going beyond the self life, as we will discover. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

The Kings 12 – Following Bad Advice 

The tragedy of the disobedience of Solomon is compounded by the manner in which the nation responds to his successor on the throne. 

As a delegation approaches the new King, they present a request for fairer working conditions. King Rehoboam got great advice from those who were around with Solomon and so had some understanding of what it was to rule well. Indeed if a leader truly serves the needs of his people, he himself will be served well by those he serves. It’s all well and good talking about fulfilling prophecy, there is still something to learn from how Rehoboam despised that advice. 

It’s also important to learn how Rehoboam preferred the advice of his peers. That advice fed the ego of someone who wanted to establish himself as the big man in charge. There is something about that which appeals to the need for control and acts of machismo can certainly keep people intimidated … if you have the capacity to wield such intimidation. As Rehoboam discovered, that was certainly not the case, leading to the split of the Kingdom. 

From there, however, the new King of the larger Northern Kingdom of Israel had an opportunity to follow the great advice he had received earlier from the prophet Ahijah. Jeroboam had been told that if he obeyed the Lord and followed Him just as King David did, then his rule would be established for generations. Once again if the king served properly, he would be served properly too. 

Yet once more, the concerns of maintaining his position outweighed the call to follow good advice. With fear of the people returning to Jerusalem and eventually to Rehoboam because of their religious connections, Jeroboam followed bad advice. He went further than any of his predecessors as judge or King by establishing idolatry to prevent people going to Jerusalem. In so doing not only did he neglect the God who gave him the Kingdom, he actively lead the people with him into disobedience. 
Not all advice we receive is good advice. This is why it’s so important not to be driven by pride or fear in what advice we follow. Following those compelling urges will only lead to disastrous outcomes. These episodes are shared so we are made ever aware of our capacity to stray from what is right. Let us today endeavour to trust in God and follow His way, so as to avoid disastrous outcomes. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden