Totally

We were returning from a good night out with the brothers. I turned to my dear friend and said something about how precious and important that time was. He looked knowingly at me and mentioned something about Total Church.

The phrase echoed in my mind. My good friend could say that phrase because we share a love for Jesus as well as a great interest in football. There was a style of football popularised by the Ajax football team of the late 60’s and especially early 70’s. That style was referred to as Total Football. Whereas the game was used to being played with set players in certain positions, Total Football embraced a style where all players would be comfortable interchanging with others to create a flexibility and adaptability that provided options far greater than the more regimented system allowed. Players understood the need to cover areas and attack others in a disciplined way, but there was dynamism in the play and at its best it was a delight to see the expression of football that had no problems seeing defenders in attack and attackers covering in deeper positions.

A good question at this juncture, would be what on earth does that have to do with church?

Distinction and definition is important. I wholeheartedly agree with that. Lacking in distinction and definition can lead to confusion. I don’t like confusion at all. It is good when you know what’s what at any given time.

What tends to happen, however, is that the distinction we place narrow things considerably from how they were meant to be. For example, when Jesus came to give us life in its fullness. That suggests that for whatever reason we were not living it to the full and in some cases it could be successfully argued that we’re barely living at all. That was because we had placed distinction that limited a lot more more than was created and actually fell far short of what life had been made for. Life was to be lived totally as Jesus displayed in a life of total service to the glory of God.

That meant the parameters we put on things don’t always match with the Father. Hence the whole total church thing is about life as family that is not limited to parameters that we might set up. Parameters like locations and times. Parameters like titles and positions. Parameters like culture and traditions. Parameters like what’s going on inside and what’s influencing from beyond. Some of these parameters were useful for a season, but not meant to be the permanent fixtures of what life is about.

Indeed the journey to life in all of its fullness may lead us beyond the parameters to discover a fullness of life lived totally for Him. This goes beyond where we were to see how much more there is to life lived totally.

Imagine the possibilities and then consider the invitation not to total church or total kingdom but to total life.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Advertisements

Keeping a Brother

Cain was expected to look after his brother and killed him. Killed him out of anger, killed him out of jealousy, killed him through ignoring the call of God to deal with his own issues rather than taking it out on his brother.

Whatever you think of the historicity of the episode in scripture, there was something essential to human relations to learn from this. Something essential about whether or not we are our brother’s keeper. Something essential about how we can see the best of humanity rather than just kill it.

Recently I was challenged about being a brother. My friend was caught up in an issue of his own making. Being the church type, this was our opportunity to see if we would bear with him and help restore him. In considering the issue, some talked about the need for my friend to step down from responsibilities because of the disgrace he brought to the church. While they were hammering this point home, it felt like rather than building a brother who had already been knocked down by sin, they were burying him even further. I endeavour not to get angry often, it’s not really in fitting with how I operate anyway, but on this occasion teeth were gritted and fists were clenched with only the thought of Jesus preventing me from saying words that would not necessarily fit in with the encouragement to let brotherly love continue.

The point remained that this was a time to keep a brother, not kill him.

When I reflected on how other ‘older’ brothers were killing younger brothers with wild accusations, derogatory comments, offensive statements and the like, it told me again and rebuked me never to find myself in that position. As someone who has a brother that has stood by me at my worst, never condemning me, but encouraging me in repentance, I know just how serious and crucial it is to be a brother’s keeper.

God help me to look out for my brothers.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Herbs and Spices: Enhancing the Flavour

The rice was plain. The chicken was plain. The vegetables were plain. That was what they were used to. Other than a bit of salt, they didn’t want their meal any other way, because they never had their meal any other way.

That changed when they were invited to taste a meal at their new neighbour’s home. Even before the food arrived they were pleasantly enticed by the smells. The aroma was rich and multi-faceted, it had an effect on their taste buds that they had not experienced before. The connection between smell and taste was more potent than they had known it before.

Then the food came out. They were told it was rice, but it certainly wasn’t plain. Overcoming initial scepticism at this different way of preparing and presenting rice they tried some. Then tried some more, and some more. They were amazed at what they were enjoying, so rich and filling in and of itself. The way the vegetables appeared was so different to what they had eaten before, but the rice had given them the courage to give the new setup a try. The wide eyes and broad smiles of delight were all that was needed to show their full acceptance of the vegetables. Someone mentioned that vegetables had always been something they avoided because it didn’t taste that appealing, but now they had to change their approach – this made vegetables all the more appealing without the use of anything artificial and unhealthy.

As they mixed some of the rice with some of the vegetables, they were all crowing about how gorgeous the smell, the look and the taste of this delicious meal was. That was before the chicken was unveiled.

By the time they had tucked away all that food and discovered how herbs and spices played a crucial role in the experience, they couldn’t hide their excitement and desire to know how they could bring this diversity into the mix of their own concoctions.

They were surprised to discover that which was new to them had been practised for longer than their plain old approach and it was about making the most of all that was given to them to create mouthwatering and belly-filling experiences like these.

That’s how they enhanced the flavour.

(Photos: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Does That Suit You?

A friend of mine was concerned.

He was asked to facilitate a session standing in for someone else. My friend’s concern was how to facilitate the session in the typical way that the absent facilitator would do it. The concern was understandable, after all, my friend didn’t want to upset a routine that people got accustomed to and he certainly didn’t want to draw attention to himself by veering off script.

However, as we conversed, it became clear that the worst thing he could do would be to facilitate it just like the other guy. It just wouldn’t suit him at all. Thankfully, as it transpired, my friend was able to be both considerate to the needs of those attending the session and still be himself in his delivery.

Despite his best intentions to just go unnoticed in carrying out the task and not draw attention to himself, his confidence, competence and comfort in delivering in a way that suited him left a great impression on those who took part. Such was the positive response that the original facilitator invited him to take more sessions.

There are a lot of outstanding things that people are doing in their own way and because it’s so effective, others look to turn one person’s style into a system and format and expect folks to fit that particular style. It’s evident in schools, it’s evident in offices, it’s evident in hospitals and it is evident in churches.

It can, however, be suffocating as people mistake a decent method for one person at one time, as a universal approach for all places at all times.

It is delightful when we recognise people for how God has specifically equipped them to function and rather than expecting them to fit our mould, we give them the space and the platform to serve in that specific way God has given.

This is why we celebrate a diverse group of people in scripture who displayed the brilliance of God in different settings that still expressed their God-given character and personality functioning in their unique calling as God directed. It would be a shame if we acknowledged that in the life of the called by God only to hinder that in the various formats and systems we put together.

This is not an invitation for selfish and self-gratifying pursuits where we can do whatever we like whether people like it or not. This is the pursuit of what God has specifically called us to be in service to Him for the benefit and blessing of others. He who made the best clothing for our parents, knows how best we can be clothed to be effective in what we do.

That’s why from time to time it’s good to look at what we are putting on ourselves and carefully consider – does that really suit you?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Affirming the Blessed

It has been a fair few centuries since He said it, but I wonder if the church He died for would recognise and affirm those He referred to as the blessed.

Those 8 characteristics are as counterintuitive and countercultural now as they were when He shared them with His disciples way back then. Sometimes in the bid to be people-pleasing and attractive to the eye, much is said to sell Christianity as something worthwhile because it’s like wish fulfillment, where all your wildest dreams come true and phrases about having the best in this life are appealing and gratifying, especially as they often coincide with what the world and the flesh suggest would be the best in this life – security, comfort, material benefits and happiness.

It’s jarring, then, to hear Him once more make the clarion cry that the blessed pursue something of far greater worth than security, comfort, material benefits and happiness. Indeed the blessed turn a lot of what others would deem that which truly makes us happy to that which ultimately makes us holy – not for our sake but for His Name’s Sake.

Yet how do we actively affirm what He referred to as the blessed?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

The Hub

One of the best memories I have in life is of The Hub.

My good friend Andy lived in a place that we loved to refer to as the hub, where God could do business with us because it was a place of transparency, hospitality and honesty that encouraged vulnerability. The occasions I would enjoy just sitting on the sofa at his place as we went from laughter to tears and back again, deepening friendships and being a lot more aware of the issues that prevented people being real.

Being a hub turned out to be not just about a physical location. It was an agreement among brethren. The environment could be created anywhere as long as saints were of the same mind and heart. Not to perpetuate rituals for the sake of it, but to relate to each other and God as time allowed.

This was not an exclusive club for believers that was inaccessible to those who were not as yet believers. The conversation was about life. Points in which people could connect and then get to see a gospel perspective.

I love The Hub and am grateful for the lessons learned from the experience that I have the privilege of practising today.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

When A Revelation Leads To A Reformation

For those of you looking for a piece on Martin Luther and the last book in the Bible, this is not that kind of article.

2 Chronicles 34 outlines an impressive chapter in the life of the nation of Judah. The new king Josiah lives up to the standard of David, one of the few kings to live up to it. It started well at an early age and stage after stage he continued to pursue God wholeheartedly.

One of the most impressive aspects of his reign was what happened when the book was revealed to him. The book read and the findings lead to him renewing an even greater zeal of national reformation to bring God’s people back to proper wholehearted devotion to God as He instructed.

While I don’t dismiss out of hand the possibility of a national fervour for the things of God, something of great importance for the church of the Living God is to realise from time to time, how we need to have the Word revealed to us again to make the necessary changes. Oh for the heart like Josiah to get rid of all the competing gods so as to establish the worship of the one true God as supreme over all.

2 Chronicles 34 – It’s a chapter worth considering …

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden