To Your Faith …

There is no guarantee that people will ever hear from you again. You can send some messages out to the believers to encourage them. What would you say?

One of the things that continues to impress me about the second letter of Peter is the heart of a man who wants people to remember how valuable this great salvation is. There’s a part in the opening of this letter that I continue to find invigorating and encouraging.

What qualities is he referring to? What do we need to be doing on a consistent basis to be effective and productive in knowing Jesus? The first quality is the fundamental connection we have to God – faith. Not only is there no pleasing God without faith, truly believing Him is the only way to get on with realising who He made us to be.

A lot has been written and said about faith. As with a lot of issues to do with knowing God and enjoying life, it is open to different interpretations and emphasis. Some of them have gone to extremes, whereas some barely scratch the surface of what it is to place trust, confidence and wholehearted commitment to God.

It is worth noting carefully that the qualities that will allow us to be truly productive in living the life God designs for us is all based on the foundation of faith. Not trust in ourselves, not confidence in resources and abilities, not the investment and commitment of all we are and have to causes and characters however noble still failing to be as awesome of God. Faith sees these truly put in God revealed in the Son and celebrates the greatness of His mercy extended to us to allow us to be His children enjoying His eternal kingdom.

Reflecting on faith also brings to mind what Peter’s good friend John had to say on the matter.

It is well to know that the platform of our fruitfulness in knowing Jesus is based on the foundation of faith – the faith that overcomes the world.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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When I Am Sad, He Makes Me Glad

Bad days. Those days when, with the best intentions in the world, things just go bonkers wrong. Best laid plans and everything go up in smoke. Folks to connect with are not available and the desire to be helpful fails in an epic manner.

Just want to be in a huff and shut out the world until the moan and the groan is over.

Following Jesus doesn’t make those kind of days go away. Following Jesus doesn’t mean He is obliged to change those circumstances.

Following Jesus means He gets to watch me having those days and waits until I decide to let Him in on it. Then when I give Him a chance He reminds me of a song I used to sing about Him being all the world to me. When I give Him a chance like that and He reminds me of a song like that … well … it’s still a bad day – but it’s not that bad after all.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Heartily Applauding The Leader

They stand up to give a hearty applause.

Here in Britain, we are approaching the end of the Autumn Conference season. By that I am referring to that time of year where the major political parties have their gatherings.

There was first the Liberal Democrats, then last week there was Labour and this week it’s the Conservative. For an aspect of my life that I have found fascinating for years, it’s surprising how little I have blogged about politics.

And this isn’t going to be one of them.

Kinda.

I mention the conference season, because I have had the chance to watch the leader speeches. Watching them is sad and amusing. It’s amusing seeing just how often the attendees will applaud what’s been said. In one of them, I am fairly certain that the audience applauded to stay awake. But, not that I condone the activity at all, should I have engaged in a drinking contest to take a sip of a mild alcoholic beverage every time audiences applauded, I am fairly certain I would be in hospital right now having gone way beyond alcohol poisoning to having my blood taste of that mild alcoholic beverage. Look, I am all for encouragement and support, but applauding everything??

It’s also there that I came across some sadness. I get it, as I have got it from political conferences for years, this gathering is about cheering each other and backslapping or at least passing it off to do our best to look alright if things aren’t going well. I get it. But it is still sad to watch pandering and petty shots called against opponents and offering little in the way of … #NevaMind

It got me thinking, though, about the leader I endeavour to follow. I would like to think that I applaud Jesus for everything He stands for and speaks about. What I find reassuring about him, though, and it was prevalent in his earthly ministry, he wasn’t pandering to anyone. Even at the height of his apparent popularity with the people, it was nothing for him to turn around and say something that even his closest followers would struggle with. He loved people, he served people, he rescued people and he did it sharing a message that at the same time gave them hope and challenged and baffled them.

Consider it – you could be forgiven and healed, now you must go about forgiving and healing even your enemies! Hope and a challenge.

Consider it – you could be supernaturally fed with good bread and fish and to really live you need to eat of the real bread from heaven and he means it.

Consider it – you could experience the blessing of being accepted by the father and so it shouldn’t be a problem giving up everything you hold dear, take up your cross and follow him.

Those are not the catchphrases or policies that would win votes and longstanding ovations. In fact those challenges to the status quo and to our comfortable way of living lead him to be set up by his own and rejected to the point of the cross.

Even now, however much there has been an effort to sanitise his words and make them culturally acceptable, generations of disciples still are stirred to read the words of the Messiah and see again that he wasn’t promoting the American Dream. To see he wasn’t advancing capitalism and consumerism. To see he wasn’t clamouring for a socialist model of government. To hear he wasn’t pursuing a liberal democratic ideal. To witness again that the invitation to the Kingdom of God is a challenging way of existence that can only come about by yielding to his rule, submitting to his way and embracing his life as your new life by his Spirit.

Honestly I struggle to applaud everything Jesus says. I struggle because it’s hard. I struggle because it does go against a lot that I took as normal – and I was brought up in a Christian home. The reality remains for me though that following Jesus highlights just how entrenched I was in the rule of someone other than him. Just how much his rule changes my life if I submit to him.

The good thing about following him, though, is that he doesn’t ask for applause. He looks for us to relate, for us to grow in knowing and loving each other and for us to grow fully aware that I won’t get it all the time. Things won’t click into place all the time and there are some things I will struggle with. Yet there is the grace of God available to grow and in time to reach the place where there is proper heartfelt applause for all he says and all he does.

In the meantime, I certainly heartily applaud his kingdom coming and his will being done on earth as it is in heaven. I heartily applaud his promised presence with us in all issues of life. I heartily applaud him as my brother, as my Saviour, as my friend and as my Lord.

That’s something I can heartily applaud.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Holy Habits: Word

Exploring this particular habit is very close to my heart for a lot of reasons.

The first thing to address, though, is about the holy habits themselves. There are some things we develop and cultivate rather simply and easily. There are parallels between a number of natural habits and holy habits. For example it doesn’t take much for a baby to develop the habit of crying. It’s their first way of communicating with the strange world they find themselves in. Likewise it doesn’t take much for them to develop a habit of taking in the nutrients they need to survive. In fact it’s still amusing to reflect on the initial weeks and months of my children – eat, bathe, sleep, rinse and repeat with regular incursions of crying when any of those steps are not put out for them.

As we get older things change and we get sophisticated, but really we work to have the resources to eat, bathe and sleep and rinse and repeat. That operates best in the context of relationships. After all back as the baby, there was no way those needs could be met by ourselves. Then as we get older we realise that however much we ought to be pursuing ‘independence’, this whole living thing still depends on vibrant and fruitful relationships with others.

One of the things about holy habits that I love is how they are based on what we can connect to. Jesus expressed it brilliantly when He highlighted how grateful crowds of people were to get fed when they didn’t have food and He fed them supernaturally. They needed the food, He fed them. He then went onto challenge them to actually see that to really live they needed to eat something far more substantial than natural food. He offered Himself as the bread of life and encouraged those who truly wanted to live to believe in Him and experience life giving food that lasts forever.

Belief in Jesus is about opening up to who He is and allowing Him and His life to inform and shape all of life as you know it. Hugely helpful in that is that He is the Bread of Life that is also the Word of Life. Eating Him – trusting Him – believing in Him – is to feed off His Words. Even as He defeated the plans of the evil one by living off every word that proceeded from the Father, so He extends that capacity to overcome evil in the world by hearing Him as He speaks – eating His words by chewing and pondering over what He says and then as we digest it see how it empowers and enables us in itself to let us live the life God wants us to live.

There’s that fascinating episode in the earthly ministry of Jesus where He is transfigured and Elijah and Moses are with Him, but the voice from heaven points attention on Jesus and tells the disciples clearly and categorically to listen to what Jesus has to say. It doesn’t dismiss or degrade the importance of everything said in the Law and the Prophets. On the contrary it points to Jesus as the fulfillment of everything said and to hear Him is to hear everything God ever wanted to express – because Jesus is God expressed in the flesh. We hear Him, we take Him in, we as a result express Him in all of life.

So it is for us to make a habit of taking Him in through His word. It’s not different from the baby scenario. We get hungry, we cry out, we receive that which will sustain. The Living Word – the Bread of Life. This Word can be taken in by various means – but it is important that it is taken in – and by taken in I don’t mean study in the way we academically approach the term study. I mean enjoy the meal that is the word like you would enjoy a good meal – what was was it about it that made you think it was so delicious. So many textures and flavours in there – any worth mentioning. What about ingredients you didn’t pay attention to that were just as pivotal to creating that which was sweet to your lips and filling to your tummy whilst giving energy to every pore in your being. All this found in taking on the Word and making a habit of it.

As with all great eating habits, it is even better done in company. The experience can be so much richer when it becomes a regular part of life to engage in the Bread that is the Word with others who seek to be nourished by it and before you know it what was already an outstanding meal turns out to be a contender for meal of the century.

You might think this is slightly exaggerating, especially compared to some of the humdrum ways in which looking at the Word can take place. Especially when the Word is explored in a vacuum that seems to have no bearing to real life. We read what Jesus and what He did, we read about what others did thousands of years ago and we are happy for them or confused about what’s with all the blood in temples, or bored by the list of begats, or perplexed by people’s different understandings of what that prophet said and meant and what on earth was John on when he was writing the book of Revelation. Modern sensibilities are perturbed by the warfare and bloodshed splattered throughout parts of this Word.

But engaging in this Word was never meant to be a habit that was done purely by our own strength and based on the whims of the changing winds of what is culturally acceptable. There is divine assistance given to truly illuminate what is read when we read it. As we persist and learn to take joy in the pleasure of taking on the Word, so the Helper gives us that support we need so that over time understanding takes place and with it growth and with that greater gratitude for just how amazing the Word really is and how much life is the better for taking it in.

This is just the tip of the iceberg where appreciating the habit of the Word can be in the desire to be holy – set apart for the Master’s purposes and ready to do His will – a will found primarily in the Living Word.

I recommend the Word as a holy habit for you.

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Holy Habits: Prayer

A group of us met recently to look at the issue of prayer.

A simple question was asked as to what was the stereotypical perspective on prayer. In the group was a range of ages from the very young to the not so very young and the responses that came back were to be expected. Close your eyes, hands together, heads bowed – that kind of thing.

From there my friend got us to do a variety of activities exploring prayer as it can be experienced in so many different ways, from contemplative prayer, to seeing reasons to be grateful as the springboard of prayer. It was a brilliant experience for me and to see others even engaging in food and prayer as well was delightful.

With all that, it got me thinking about why prayer is such an essential part of the Christian life. It also got me thinking of its connection with the holiness God looks for in those who follow Jesus. There is little doubt in my mind that prayer is essential. What does it do though in terms of helping as a holy habit?

Praise definitely helps here – it reminds me of who I am communicating with and it reassures me that there is no better place to go to communicate – to open myself and to be authentic than in prayer. The invitation to cast my cares on Him because He cares for me is one that I have benefited from time and time again.

There is more to it than that. I get it that in this age of therapy and self-esteem it’s good to have a method by which the self can be cleansed and that kind of thing. Yet prayer is a two way communication where it is just as much about finding the heart of God and communicating with Him on His terms and conditions as unburdening the self. Prayer connects again with the Creator, the Father Himself who delights in communicating with His children. I get to meditate on His plans, His desires, His mission for the world and again consider life from a heavenly perspective. It’s very easy to get hung up on personal relationships, finances and job concerns as though that’s all there is to life. Being invited to follow Jesus is an invitation to follow Him in His mission to the world whether from the family and work to further afield wherever He leads.

Prayer aligns things so that even in my greatest struggles as I pour them out to Jesus, there is the acknowledgement of the grace to live as He wants me to live. A life that is not about sticking to conventional methods of expression to pander to others. A life that is about seeing how Jesus was not corrupted by the world but remained pure and was eager to transmit those qualities to others should motivate those who love Him to do the same. That takes place through the privilege of prayer, especially as it becomes more habitual, as we relate with God and see the conversation can change us to be more like Him.

I recommend prayer as a holy habit for you.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Holy Habits: A Picture of what it is to be Holy

I love The Bible Project and their efforts to explain biblical themes in the manner they do.

This video about holiness had me intrigued the first time I watched it. What any good teaching does for me is it leads me back to God in His Word. This video said something profound about Jesus and what it is to be holy.

I like the reference to holiness and purity and how they have a lot in common and how Jesus displayed holiness that was able to heal and transforms people. Following Him and believing in Him would allow us to likewise flow in this purity that is greater than the impurity we were in.

It’s that picture, though, of the purity of Jesus reaching out to people, inviting them into wholeness from the inside out, from heaven to the heart. That picture of Jesus proclaiming and practising purity that was about what it is to really live. Not primarily based on what cannot or should not, but on what can and was always meant to be. Holiness as love-giving, life-healing, hope-giving, truth-revealing, uplifting existence that reflects the Creator in whose image we are made.

So purifying myself as He is pure is not primarily about what I am not allowed to do, say, eat, wear, etc. It’s about living the life – the intentional abundant life that Jesus lived – practising that in community with other like minded people to display to the world the wonder and beauty, glory and righteousness, joy and peace to be found in the loving Father through the loving Son by the power of the HOLY Spirit.

It’s a picture we see all the time in the episodes of the ministry of Jesus and it’s the picture we see in the efforts of the early church and the epistles that encourages the Body of Christ to be about the business of following Jesus, being pure as He is pure.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Holy Habits: Why Be Holy? Like Father …

Lately I have been considering the issue of holy habits and shared a little about it by way of a prelude.

It is my intention to get into the habits in more detail as the blog entries come and go. At the moment though, I want to delve a little bit further into the issue of why be holy.

When asked as a child what did I want to be when I grew up, that question was geared towards an occupation. Apparently in generations gone by the desire of the younger generation would be to successfully take over from the older generation in the given occupation. If the Dad was of a particular profession, the child would want to venture into that profession. Indeed, some cultures implied that this was the way things should be. Your grandfather was an ironmonger, your Dad was an ironmonger and so you would be an ironmonger.

Yet in some cases there was more to it than just following an occupation. There was a mantle of a character to inherit, fulfil and hopefully pass on to the next generation. Good or bad, renowned or unknown, there was something honourable in pursuing being like the parent in their character. It’s what makes it all the more disappointing if there is no model to aspire to – not to suggest that mimicking was the only way to be. Obviously each generation and character in that generation would carry off their own unique take on those desired characters giving the legacy a nuance that ensured it would never be an exact replica, but rather a multi-layered expression of the given character.

All of that, apparently, was part of what it was to be human in some cultures. That is not necessarily a bad thing all the time. It also comes from a good source if we take the creation narrative as informative. In that narrative we see that the character we were given to reflect is the character of the Creator.

So it is a tragedy of truly biblical proportions that a lot of life in the world at the moment is about exploring the various aspects of the human experience without reference to the Creator. Without a desire to turn to the Father for a great model to follow especially seeing as though we were made to reflect His character. So in all of our navel gazing, self-exploration for self-awareness and being a ‘better me’ and loving me just the way I am with no reference to the Father and Creator it’s a tragic mess of delusion.

I say all of that as someone very much aware of my own capacity for delusion. I can get into rhythms and routines in life with the gloss of spirituality and the decorations of religiosity. It can be all going so well, until I scratch the surface and am challenged to consider, who is it I am really desiring to be? What am I here for? What is my desire?

That’s why Peter’s challenge is such a pressing and prevalent one. Jesus epitomised that like Father like Son dynamic I referred to earlier. His Father was holy and he was holy in all his time on earth. That holiness radiated from Him in His teachings and the character that He backed it up with. The Father took delight in the Son, as the Son took delight in being pleasing to the Father.

So it should come as no surprise that once we embrace His amazing grace and accept His invitation to follow Him our desires get on the process of changing. We don’t desire what we used to desire. We have a new appetite. We hunger and thirst for something different and we are satisfied by something completely different to what brought us satisfaction before. In fact even the things that pleased us previously can take a different appreciation now that we are changed.

A massive reason and motivation for that is the promised Holy Spirit that lives in us. Unsurprisingly, His aim is to lead us to be just like the Father and just like the Son, because it’s the Holy Spirit that makes us all one. It should also not come as a shock that the Holy Spirit would want us to be … holy. I mean, you can see it’s in how we refer to Him – not as Loving Spirit, or Righteous Spirit, or Happy Spirit. He is the Holy Spirit from the Holy God who is preparing and shaping our lives to reflect the Father in being – holy.

To be honest with you, I never always paid conscious attention to that. It was too easy for me to get caught up with activities, projects and events that needed planning and performing to pay attention to what the Spirit was saying to me as to who the Father called me to be.

Thankfully, being the gracious, merciful and loving Father that He is – ever patient with His offspring – the Father set up plenty of opportunities to grab my attention and enable me to focus it on what His main mission has been all along in making rebels His sons and daughters.

There is now residing in the believer, in the disciple of Jesus Christ, a desire to be holy. Now there is a lot of competition that looks to squelch, choke, stifle and suppress that desire. Prominent among the competition is the former desires. They want to give the impression that the new life thing is just a cover, it’s a phoney and a fraud. That is why it’s so important to expose those lies exactly for what they are and seek to commit ourselves to working with God by His Spirit to meditate, contemplate and activate that desire to be like the Father and be holy.

Engaging in that process is part of the joy of knowing the truth that sets us free – this is relational and spiritual, working on the inside and affecting our approach on the outside. This liberating pursuit, founded on grace, is why there is such joy pursuing the heart of God which calls you to be holy. He who calls you to holiness enables you to be holy and delight in doing so as you recognise that is what you were created for as you grow to fully reflect the character of God on the earth.

You want to be holy because you want to be pleasing to the Holy One who rescued you from death and the desires that only lead you there. You want to be holy because it’s the Way, the Truth and the Life. You want to be holy because when you look into His loveliness, His goodness and His graciousness, there’s nothing else worth pursuing.

It’s just as well then that in generating and stimulating that desire to be holy as He is holy, His Son practices some habits that we can develop likewise to help us in this divine pursuit so that others will know our Father by His children.

“Hold on a minute, Christopher.” I hear you say. “You’re all caught up in why we want to be holy, but what is it that you are talking about when you go on about being holy?”

That’s a great question and so …

(To be continued)

(Photos: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden