Member

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a member of the family of God which is also the Body of Christ.

There was a song we used to sing in the church that spoke of how glad we were to belong to the family of God. It was a beautiful song and would get the sort of camaraderie that would give the impression that what we were singing about was true. Yet for years I never quite experienced that. Sometimes the behaviour was more like a social club where membership in the club gave you insider perks and bonuses which was more about having the inside gossip.

That discrepancy between what we sang and what I experienced only grew when I read in the scripture what it was to be a member of the family of God and the Body of Christ. Thankfully, however, there were also glimpses of what it was like to be a member of the family and the Body.

For example being a member of the family really is a tremendous privilege. Everything flows from that truth. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus did what it took to bring us back to the Father – who I could now refer to just as much as my Father as anyone else’s. That, however, was not about being a part of a closed shop of people from a certain denomination or cultural preference. That was about seeing the heart of Jesus touch the hearts of people crossing denominations and cultures and there is a powerful connection because of Jesus that makes us family.

This is supposed to be the best expression of family because of our Father and our big brother. It is supposed to be, but it is made up of flawed and fallible people only growing to become like their Brother in the image of their Father. Yet there are always glimpses and the foundation of the family always gives hope to what we’re growing into. At its best it is the best family in the world – it is a family of men and women learning to submit to each other, learning to consider the other better than the self, to see the value that Jesus placed on relationships reflecting divine unity and pursuing it.

Being a member of the Body of Christ is likewise an enormous privilege. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus is the single most influential human being ever to walk the planet. His mission, His teaching, His acts, His death, His resurrection, His treatment of friends and enemies alike have profound reverberations that have lasted millennia. His Body that He left on earth have that tremendous privilege of continuing to live His life here and now. Being a member of His Body really does mean joining in with others to see people healed, people follow life-changing teaching by learning to live the life of Him who is life. It is my life to live His life today and I get to do that connected with others who are likewise doing that.

When I think of people being sent to speak the heart of God to the world and share the good news whilst nurturing people and helping them learn about what the fullness of life looks life – wow, it’s brilliant. It doesn’t always feel brilliant. It doesn’t always feel like it is a Body, or if it is it’s comatose or paralysed or simply asleep. But it is a Body and because of the Christ we love and adore, this is His Body and one that He knows is vibrant and thriving all over the world despite the challenges it faces. Sometimes reading about what He has to say to the 7 churches in Revelation, it feels like little has actually changed about the nature of the Body. Yet this work in progress is making progress. Lives are being touched every day.

I have been guilty of criticising and feeling very sceptical about family and the Body. Yet in a real way it is self-harm. If a positive difference can be made my contributions about things going on in the Body then that is good. anything else – murmuring and complaining about how things are, proves to be counterproductive. I am a member – it’s my family and if the Body hurts, I hurt, I am a part of the Body. Any pain felt should have me seeking for the cure, for the right remedy. I feel very strongly about the family aspect of the things. It’s such an important element to express properly and I am grateful for the glimpses I see and I experience – genuinely seeing people from various cultures treating each other as brothers and sisters cherishing the unity of the Spirit.

My name is Christopher Dryden. I am a member of the family of God which is also the Body of Christ.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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What Kind Of Man Are You? In Pursuit Of Love

Love or fear.

Generosity as a characteristic is incredibly attractive. Something I’ve noticed is that generosity is not based on material goods. Some of the most generous people I have come across would not be classed as rich in most people’s eyes. Yet they were never in lack and hardly ever in a place of discontent even when circumstances looked tight. They were always desirous to give something especially if it was something as valuable as their time and attention for you.

The opposite quality is being stingy. There is something about that characteristic which has looked to hide itself behind terms such as ‘prudent’, ‘cautious’ and even in a highly presumptuous way ‘wise’. The stingy nature, however, requires a self-centred attitude. And an attitude based on ‘concern’ for what would happen if, then in the light of that ‘concern’, they rationalise that rather than giving and losing, they might as well keep.

That ‘concern’ is a disguise for fear. Fear that drives people to withdraw and withhold at just the time when the opposite is needed. Experience, however, reinforces those ‘concerns’. You give someone your trust and they betray it. You give someone your time and they effectively waste it. Not to mention what they do to your heart if they ever get that close to you. So, understandably, for safety reasons, it’s best, so we reason, not to give much away.

One of the compelling qualities of Christ is His love. This love brought Him into the lives of twelve men and He entrusted His life to them. So much so that one was close enough to betray Him. So much so that He even knew they would desert Him and yet He entrusted Himself to them, called them friends, washed their feet and modeled the kind of love worth pursuing. This kind of love was never deterred or rationalised away because of fear. It didn’t ignore fear either, it acknowledged the very presence of fear and overcame it because the darkness of fear could never overcome the light of love.

This model is also evident in the love that the disciples would have for each other. Persecution and opposition did not defeat it, it only let it spread to wider parts of the known world. People captured by this love began pursuing it and expressing it and found life so much more fulfilling in sharing and experiencing the blessing in giving rather than receiving.

Fear still looks to hold people in their grip ad as they withhold and withdraw. The tragedy continues to be that the more they withdraw and withhold, the more they shrivel and look to make the world around shrivel too. Living in fear is no life at all.

The life that Jesus offers is about a love that trusts and gives. He gives and broken lives are made whole by it. He gives and emptiness turns to overflowing by it. He gives and the oppressed are set free.

This is why this kind of love is worth pursuing, it’s the kind of thing worth making life all about, it’s just the kind of quality that should define a man.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

What Kind Of Man Are You? In Pursuit Of Faith

Faith or sin.

It starts with a life that says I believe. The question then becomes I believe what?

The story of the Bible is one of God revealing Himself and His plans to humanity. It’s one in which the story of life is always made infinitely better when it’s lived in the light of knowing the one who gives us that life. Knowing – believing – trusting – investing all in the one who reveals Himself as the source.

Some people think that the great opponent to faith is fear. Others think that the opposite of faith is doubt. Interestingly what both have in common is the element introduced at the beginning that lead to the sad state of affairs that blights human experience. What I’m proposing is simply the opposite to faith is sin.

I say simply, but there’s a little more to it than that which helps us understand all the more what sin is and what it is to be in pursuit of faith. Sin entered the scene when humanity actively chose to listen to someone other than the Creator. Sin caused the fall of humanity when humanity actively chose to trust in someone other than God. Since then sin is the condition in which all humans are born into – it’s a state that is continually turning its back from ongoing trust, investment and belief in God for who He is.

Sure, when things get a bit dicey, then we will call out to God because we want Him to swoop to the rescue. Certainly if we are in desperate need then we will call out to a God who can help us in our time of need. In other words He’s great for times of convenience and desperation, but other than that we are more than content to go in our own direction, do our own thing.

This is not the basis on which God relates to humanity. The faithful God relates to humanity in being their Source – He is not just all that they need them to be – He is all they need to be. That is to say to truly be human we need Him – we need Him in a trusting and loving relationship, one in which He informs and shapes us and allows to realise life is not about being selfish and seeking our own thing and our own way. We need Him to be.

Throughout scripture, God has invited people to walk with Him and discover more of what this life is like. Those journeys, stories and relationships are marked by God doing wondrous works in the lives of people but also those people seeing beyond the acts and delighting in knowing the Creator for themselves.

This is the beauty in the outline of the life of faith – it is not about looking for a genie to grant them infinite wishes. It is a journey to discovering that what is of the greatest value of all is knowing God. That’s why He is a rewarder of those that diligently search for Him. It’s even witnessed when God affirms His connection with the father of faith, Abraham with these amazing words.

Men in pursuit of faith are men in pursuit of an ever deeper trust and ever richer valuing of the right relationship with God available by grace. They like Abraham grow to see God not as something for convenience, they see in Him the greatest reward possible in life. In the light of this understanding there is a desire to love Him, there’s a desire to serve Him, there’s a desire to know Him and to know, love and desire Him gives a completely different view on sin.

Sin – whether expressed in fear, lust, pride, doubt or however else – is seen for just how gross, detestable and abhorrent it is. And that’s all sin. It’s viewed that way because of what it threatens to do to our relationship with the one of greatest value. It’s not just a revulsion because of sensibility, it’s the outcry of a heart that sees how the sweet communion we can have with God can be tainted or shattered by entertaining sin in any of its guises.

This is why men of faith grow in learning what it is to be pleasing to the Father. This is why men of faith have their eyes set on walking in the light of the love of God and the relationship they have with Him. This is why men of faith cherish their relationship with the holy one and so live holy lives that reflect Him. That’s why men of faith adore their relationship with the merciful one ad so live merciful lives that reflect Him. That’s why men of faith rejoice in their relationship with the gracious one and so live gracious lives to reflect Him.

This is why Paul is keen for Timothy to run away from evil youthful desires – all marked by sin. These lead to disaster and ruin. This is why Paul is keen for Paul to be ever running to faith, pursuing the faithful life, chasing wholeheartedly to be known as one who walks by faith and not by sight. That’s not just Paul’s desire for Timothy.

It’s the Father’s desire to be able to say that’s the kind of man you are.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Greatest Commandment (14): Love Is All You Need

Jesus said the greatest commandment was to love God and love your neighbour. He said that was the greatest commandment. Later his beloved friend John helped us recognise how they are the greatest commandment by essentially saying we could not do one without the other.

What Jesus said was based on something that Moses had heard from the I AM who brought His people out of slavery. Those Ten Words outlined what love for God and love for others looks like, from the divine relationship to the family relationship to the engagement with the wider world. The love described was based on soft and gooey sentiments. It was based on hard commitment of the will to acknowledge God for all He is and all He has done.

Saying love is all you need can come across as simplistic. Hearing it as a song lyric from a time and age where there was an apparent effort for peace and love and all the groovy ideals seems like such a disappointment in the light of subsequent decades of war, bloodshed, corruption, a cycle of high hopes and broken promises.

When the love that is mentioned, however, is an enduring, pure, righteous and holy love, this is truly all we need. We see this love in action through a man travelling across a small region not just preaching about a rule of love, but demonstrating it in healed and restored lives. That’s the love we need. We see this in a love that serves others and looks for their interests. That’s the love we need. We see this in a love that never gives up and holds onto what is true, noble, right, pure, excellent, admirable, lovely and praiseworthy. That’s the love we need.

We need it for relationships with our parents and children. We need it in the workplace and in the places of leisure. We need it in interactions between individuals, companies and nation states.

We need it for the sensation of seeing the birth of a beautiful baby. We need it when they are celebrating their first steps. We need it when they rush home with their first drawing from school. We need it as they walk down the aisle with their new partner for life. We need it in getting the new home and the job they always wanted. We need it when around the family table with four generations grateful for food, fun and fellowship.

We need it when a loved one is facing the final moments of life. We need it when facing the effects of a bully at school. We need it when an organisation looks to make a profit by laying off loyal workers. We need it when two tribes are about to go to war with each other. We need it when one group of people think they are perfectly fine ostracising another group. We need it at the loneliest and darkest time in life.

Love is all we need. And we certainly need it.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Greatest Commandment (13): Desiring the Good for Your Neighbour

It is not an overt thought that is mentioned, but it’s lurking in the background when we think about keeping up with the Joneses.

Why should they get all the good stuff? He’s got a pretty wife, he’s got a great car, he’s got a lovely house and he has such a sweet job. I want that. It’s not fair that he has all that and what do I have? I don’t have anything as good as that. I want that. My car doesn’t look as smooth as theirs does. Look a their phone too, I still have some cheap old model and theirs is the latest model. I want that.

Some people see no problem with that. Your neigbbour has something, you want it, that’s all good. It’s what helps to drive the consumer economy helped by the ads that reminds you that you will never be as cool, as smooth, as sexy, as beautiful, as smart and as  desirable as your neighbour until you have what he has.

The problem with that is just how much a waste of time and energy that turns out to be. It’s especially unfortunate because in the larger scheme of things it is a lot better to look out for the good for your neighbour, than going around desiring what they have. The reality remains as a wise man said that the quality of life is not accurately measured by the abundance of possessions – especially the ones you got because you desired what was your neigbour’s.

There is something about freedom and love on the inside that allows you to look at whatever material success your neighbour may have and genuinely be happy for them and leave it at that. No desire to catch up with them, because there’s enough to be grateful for in your life. In fact rather than envying them and wanting what they have, love looks at opportunities to bless. There is more to life than possessions and relationships thrive based on a love that sees how its more blessed to give rather than take and a love that looks for the good to celebrate rather than looking to get one up on them.

That kind of love for others makes a huge impact in the neighbourhood. That kind of love is what can lift the quality of life above materialism to truly seeing what life is about.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Greatest Commandment (12): The Truth for Love

I did it to protect you. I didn’t want to hurt you, so I felt it was the best thing to do. I didn’t think you could cope with it, so I didn’t tell you at the time. I didn’t want you to feel let down so I had to couch it in a way that helped you the most.

Often, however, the truth is if there’s anyone we are looking to protect it’s ourselves. If there’s anyone we want to keep safe from harm, it’s us. The truth is, we construct a sufficient safety valve in telling others something less than the truth in order to keep ourselves from the full blast of the consequences of the truth. We’re often thinking more of minimising damage. That’s why we made up the reason that we were late for work because of a ‘family issues’ rather than because of a much bigger problem. That’s why we haven’t told the child about who they’re real parents are. That’s why we haven’t told our loved one that the thing we said we’re over, we’re still struggling with. That’s why we enter the place of worship in our Sunday best with the Sunday smile and the Sunday show of holiness. That’s why we answer the question if we’re alright with a wry grin and shrug saying we are fine.

We are encouraged in the scripture to tell the truth in love. It’s good to live in the truth for the sake of love. Living with lies, promoting lies, accepting lies because of its usefulness for the quiet life does not bring that quiet life. Loving the other is about treating them with the integrity to be able to deal with the truth. That’s not always easy. It is true some people cannot handle the truth. It’s true that for some the truth can be devastating. It’s also true, however, that the alternative is not an expression of love. It’s an expression of a lot of things, but love is not among them.

Life has shown that knowing the truth is a very liberating experience and living in that, whatever pain it may cause, is a far better place to live than in delusion, in denial and in defeat to the darkness that comes with deception.

For the sake of love it’s best to live with the truth.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Greatest Commandment (11): Commitment to Contentment

There is something about loving the other that does not look to take from the other person without permission.

That very desire to take without permission says something about the sense of contentment experienced. This is why it remains the believer’s massive challenge not to take from others but find contentment in what has already been given to us by God. That takes much in this age of covetousness under the masquerade of consumerism that contradicts contentment.

This is nothing new and there is a good word from Paul of Tarsus who discovered the heart of contentment.

Oh look – the famous ‘I can do all things through Christ’. Oh but look, it has nothing to do with passing exams, getting a new job or completing a significant project. This has to do with what Paul considers to be important – the secret of how to stay content with what ever condition you find yourself in.

That contentment gives freedom and space to not go looking to take from someone else, but look for opportunities to give, knowing where your strength is found and that same source giving provision for time of need. That level of confidence is another expression of love for God which has a massive bearing on how to truly love the other.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden