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 

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Learning From History: We Want One To Rule Over Us (But Not That One)

My introduction to the Bible was through the Old Testament.

When I was a child I read aspects of the Old Testament like a story.  I never understood some of the prophetic books.  I enjoyed the first bit of Daniel and gave the other bits a miss.  Of the first five books, I obviously didn’t bother too much about Leviticus, but was engrossed with Genesis, Exodus and Deuteronomy.

The real gold mine of quality narrative material would be found in the books from Judges to 2 Chronicles.  Story after story of power, family feuds, national warfare and all that kind of stuff was good for someone like me.  When people dismiss the Bible, they really miss out on quality stories.  They really do.

One of the stories I remember sticking with me strongly was the story of the end of Samuel and the beginning of King Saul. (Worth reading 1 Samuel 8, but also worth reading that and all the chapters up to 13.)  Reading it, I remember the heartbreak that Samuel had over the people desiring a king to rule over them like the other countries.  I also remember God helping Sam out by telling him that the people were rejecting Him and not the prophet.

The decision of the tribes of Israel to plump for a new system of rule was an outright rejection for the rule of God.  They didn’t want it, and to be fair, it’s not the first time they rejected the direct rule of God.  You’ll recall despite Moses’ encouragement, when God appeared to the people after the Red Sea episode they preferred Moses to talk on His behalf, because they were too afraid to deal with Him.

In fact the very act of sin is a rejection of the direct rule of God, preferring something or someone else instead.  So this was fairly typical human behaviour.

I was reflecting on that when considering the life of the church in the light of Jesus Christ.  In His earthly ministry, He warned us not to go about giving each other titles and lording it over others as was the custom of the Gentiles.  He expected us to relate to each other as brothers and sisters.  He expected us to relate to each other as children of God, with the only authority being our Father.

He expected us to realise that with His mission, He was repairing the breach and opening access so that men and women could directly engage with their Heavenly Father and the only Mediator required would be Him.  This was a great equaliser – this created the proverbial level playing field.  The new-believer had just as much access as the veteran.  There was no hierarchy established on earth, the only positions that mattered was The Father, The Son and the children of God who were all now part of the royal priesthood.

Over 2000 years later, have we taken on board that lesson?  Over 3000 years after the whole Saul and Samuel issue, have we really learnt from the rejection of the direct rule of God?

If we have, why is there such a reliance on a one-pastor-lead system of church?  Why is there such a big deal about titles and managerial/leadership hierarchies prevalent in a lot of the expressions of church?

If we have, why is there still a clergy/laity mentality prevailing even in some church sections which would never suggest there is such a mentality in existence?

If we have, why are the Body of Christ seemingly not enabled to see all-member ministry in operation in the life of the church?

If we have, why is there an expectation that 80% of church work is conducted by 20% of its membership?

If we have, why is the concept of a genuinely Spirit-led experience of church life so rare? Worse still, why do some equate Spirit-led to things being done the same way as it’s always been done which is a virtually a spectator approach to church gatherings?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

dmcd

Amazing Grace – Wintley Phipps

I’ll just let the video do all the talking on this one.  Other than to say it is shocking that I’ve left it so long to post this awesome song and the brilliant way in which Phipps gives the background on it.

For His Name’s Song

Shalom

dmcd

I Digress – The Sin Condition: Prone To Wander

I’m currently in between jobs and to bring that era to an end I recently had an interview for a post.  On my journey there I was reflecting on different things and my mind came onto again the sin condition.  I think it’s really sad that this language is only used among certain people with a knowledge of it anyway and it seems to be passē for the sophisticated.

I was also thinking about it in terms of some people’s progressive sense of history.  Implicit within the macro-evolutionary thought and as has been subsequently developed by other thinkers there is a look at history as seeing the progress of the species from one stage to another and the current is something different and inherently better than the previous.  It’s also hinted in super hero narrative with the concept of ‘the next step on the evolutionary chain’ going from homo sapiens to homo superior as exmplified in the mutant.  In all this there is a sense that man is going from strength to strength and getting better and better.

This is further reinforced by technological and scientific developments over the last few centuries that has seen us go from discovering new cultures in different lands to discovering the wider space beyond the planet and exploring different stars and galaxies.  From the age of the printed press to the electronic era.  From bi-pedal beings utilising horses to planes transporting whole contingents of people from one end of the globe to the other in breath-taking speed.  Where once certain diseases would wipe out towns and cities advances in medication has developed vaccines and cures for these saving lives.

Apparently we’re getting better and better.  Sure there are things to indicate this journey isn’t all good and there are always deviants and malcontents, dictators and despots only too willing to mess up the story, but this human story overwhelms these efforts and as we become more aware of ourselves and what we’re capable of we engender the human spirit to work out solutions to deep lying human problems.  Whether it’s cancer or the Middle East situation, as apartheid and Nazism was defeated in a previous age, we have the means to eventually find the key that unlocks the door to further solutions on these life-threatening issues.

Yet as I sat in that bus I got the impression we were missing the point and that is exactly the whole concept of the sin condition – missing the point.  It’s great to make advances and have more knowledge and tools at our hands now than ever before, but it misses the point.  It’s great to stand up for social justice throughout the world as the major cause of life – but in a real way even this misses the point.

It misses the point – we digress rather than progress – because these initiatives draw us away from the Source of life and brings us back to ourselves as the total and end of all that is.  We are all that matters in the universe – this view would follow – and as a result focus on self is the most important thing.  Yet there is always in the picture the presence of the Creator of the universe, the Holy Loving God who created us to be God-focussed rather than self-focussed, so that in always being connected to the Source we may know and live out the fullness of life that was always in mind from creation.

We can criticise people for apparently standing still while the world moves on, but in a real way it’s not as though they do stand still.  It is a conscious effort to try and maintain and retain elements of a bygone era that was deemed to be the essence of life.  So it’s not regressive as some would argue – going back.  On the contrary it is digressive.  And that in a nutshell is the human problem when it comes to God.  Rather than acknowledging how far we are from Him – His character, His love, His call to Him – we take noble causes and moral standards, rally around those and think these will give life and lead to a better way – we digress – we are prone to wander.  Maybe, so this thinking goes, if we can just get rid of what makes us different and hold onto what makes us the same and make everything subservient to those qualities we’ll live in a better world.  Yet that again isn’t progressive – that’s digressive.  The way to peace and peace-making does not come at the absence of the issues that divides, but at the resolving of those issues in the light of One who truly makes whole.

Put in another way, God doesn’t call us and say we can get on in a relationship if we put aside our difference and focus on our similarities.  God calls us and addresses the condition that divides us – by the cross and the message of reconciliation through the gospel, the ongoing journey in the way of His Kingdom.  Anything else isn’t progress at all as seen in the fact that for all the technical, philosophical. ideological and medical advances in actuality the human condition – the state of the heart and mind – is hardly any better than any other era in history.  Our sensibilities don’t stop genocides and other grotesque abuses of humanity.  Our enlightenment has not quashed the dark realms of man’s insidious nature whether overt or covert.  Psychoanalysis and the plethora of spiritual alternatives on the market only make it clearer that the problems that face the human condition are as prevalent as ever before.

The Way of the Cross once more offers the only solution, the only way of making real progress – journeying towards the being we were always meant to be, in the light of God – Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer and Lord.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

dmcd


Freedom From The Prison of the Past

Wracked with guilt for what was done, continually haunted by what was never done, experiences of yesterday hold today captive. As the memories thicken and the hurt intensifies, so the suffocating choke of yesteryear prevents any ability to breathe the fresh air of the present. The keys to the jail are found in discovering that though nothing can change what has happened, it does not have to cripple today. The hope is for the power of that release to be the present of the present for those still behind the bars of the prison of the past.

My friends, I don’t feel that I have already arrived. But I forget what is behind, and I struggle for what is ahead. (Philippians 4:13)

Safe Journey

Shalom

What Is It About The Teaching On The Mount?

It’s fair to say what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount has not always captured my imagination.

Indeed I got a bit bored with people taking snippets from it and having them as poster campaigns for their own agendas. Like the ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ mob that defiantly went about telling others they couldn’t be judged as only God could judge them. Or the ‘golden rule’ crew who just went about thinking it was a decent ethos to go about saying do to others as you’d have done to you. I was brought up in a church was a bit of a stickler for getting the Word right.

Not that we got the Word right ourselves, after all our church hardly grew out, in, up or down – that’s not a slight, more of a general fact. In any case as a stickler for the Word it wasn’t always cool seeing people nick these bits and pieces without getting the whole thing. Not that I ever thought about getting the whole thing myself.

That changed in 2006 though. I’ve yet to write about how significant a year that was in my own spiritual development but it was a renaissance period for me in a number of ways. One of those ways was to go back to basics again checking what it was to love God – for who He revealed Himself to be in His Word rather than the faith of my father or the doctrine of the church in which I was brought/dragged up.

One of those fundamental building blocks was an appreciation all over again of the Beatitudes. You’ll know it’s something when I committed them all to memory and let it soak in me especially the fourth one that focussed on hungering and thirsting after righteousness. I got in major deep into that section of scripture and realised just how much I had to start from the beginning in cultivating a living relationship with God through His Son. As you can imagine it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. More on that in a future blog I hope.

That as you may have calculated was three years ago and since then I’ve had my fancy taken with other scriptures and theological concepts. In the background however has always been especially that Beatitude and the issues that spring from that, for example a definition of righteousness that doesn’t capitulate to having right this or right that – a bit too tautological for my liking.

Anyway along life’s journey since then I’ve come across a book or two on what I prefer to refer to as the Teaching on the Mount. (After all at the start it says he taught and at the end people were amazed at what he taught, it occurred to me that perhaps calling it a teaching might be a tad more accurate. Having said that it’s obviously later scholars who referred to it as a sermon just as some bright spark referred to the first part as Beatitudes.) As this year has proceeded I was drawn again to the theme of this tremendous teaching.

A friend of mine came across a dude who majored on the piece of scripture and that caught my interest and I began to be a lot more interested in seeing the Beatitude in its context. As love would have it then just as I was skirting round the edges the whole topic became the subject of our recent 13-week study. So now I get the chance to mix life, business and pleasure and share what I love about it as I study it and reflect on how I put it in practice and how it convicts of the areas that still are in need of better practice.

On reading it as regularly as I am at the moment the thing that catches my eye about this brilliant monologue is how Jesus is not just outlining and clarifying how the law was fulfilled when it was a part of our hearts turning us into the character of our Father, but how He Himself typifies all that we talk of. The point of worship is to show love for God and that is first expressed in the profession of faith in Jesus and here He outlines what that faith means for our heart’s attitude to God and to others.

Also as I read it, the thing becomes ever clearer to me in terms of how it should be read as one. Not just a collection of random thoughts by Jesus as to what would Kingdom life be like, but one coherent piece pointing people not just to the Kingdom or Kingdom living, but to the King Himself and how He stands as an example for us to follow. I’m drawn by the counter-intuitive and counter-cultural quality of this teaching. I’m drawn to how it challenges me to be light and salt not by conforming but by being distinctive and a clear beacon to others of who God is. I’m excited by the power of the secret life of prayer, fasting and giving and how that helps us to get priorities straight in not worrying about temporal worldly stuff, but getting caught up with the things that matter.

I love the areas that remain a bit mysterious – what the pearls and swine bit all about really? I’m sobered up pretty quickly by the definition of a hard way through a narrow gate. I’m particularly made sharp by the reality of professing Christians being called workers of lawlessness because Jesus does not know them as evident particularly from their fruits. I don’t just read, I envisage Jesus teaching it whilst using word imagery to get people’s heads grasping what He’s saying. I get caught up with the flow of the piece and am brought to a sombre yet stimulating close by the house analogy. I can easily see why people get carried away with it, it is a brilliant piece of work. As I explore further I hope to share some of the things that come to me and let it settle with you.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

dmcd

Fast and the Curious

I’m aware … I don’t know if you know … but I am aware that even on this very blog I don’t always come quick to fulfil my word. It’s not to say I don’t fulfil my word, it’s just that my original timescale for fulfilling it and the actual timing are somewhat skewed. Now I know you find that hard to believe, after all how can a man of my verbose nature struggle with time-keeping?? OK silly question, end of the day I’m not always prompt and don’t always make my deadlines but I guarantee you my heart is well into improving in this area so that when I say we will have this, then I say it knowing I will deliver – a bit like the Man I follow.


To give an example of what I’m talking about, check this entry last year giving an update on how I was. Note specifically the promise of something on Desperately Seeking God looking at fasting. So that was April, check what I say in May. It’s looking good, but not quite coming out on time. Now check what I say month later.


So there you go – good intentions, bit slow in matching it with outcomes … until now.


So I was not sure if I ever documented my journey in fasting but it’s worth putting it down in this series the first entry will be called … well you can read the title can’t you! For the benefit of the exercise the definition of fasting I’m using is the abstinence of food and drink for some spiritual purpose. More details will emerge as the blogs go on.


Fasting was fairly alien to me until I left home for university. Now hold on a minute, you might say … if you had an inkling about my upbringing. Your parents are Christian, no? You go to church, no? Your church does fasting, no? So … help me out here how does that work? Those kinds of questions could be buzzing around … or not – that depends on you right but I’m happy to air questions you may have asked in your head, it gives a base to answer them. So yes my parents are Christians and dedicated ones at that, not nominal types. The home church in which I grew up was into fasting … I think. It was never a big deal in my family and I never got the impression it was that big a deal in the church. As a result I didn’t make a big deal of it. In fact forget a big deal, it wasn’t a deal at all!


This changed in 1997 when I spent the summer with a family friend who was yet to become a personal dear friend (hey Reuben!). During my time with him, I went to the church observance of fasting on the first Sunday of every month. This was not a practice that I did back in my hometown church for whatever reason. This church practice was a meeting for a few hours to pray. It was not that memorable. In fact I couldn’t recall anything of great significance during that period about fasting and praying other than it being done and the great relief that took place when I could actually eat again. The fasting wasn’t for that long anyway, well it felt long but it was barely the day itself in which we fasted and other than the meeting itself my mind wasn’t really focussed on anything in particular during the time of fasting.


So that’s a starter for ten, find out more about my journey of fasting in the next blog where you’ll discover how things took a change the more I got involved in church stuff. You’ll also get to see how I grew in my understanding of just how important fasting is not just for church stuff but individual consequences. See the link that this had with some of my eating habits.


For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

dmcd