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

Advertisements

It’s Praiseworthy

There’s quite a lot of things that get praise.

Someone sings a song on television and it gets praise. Someone scores a goal and it gets praise. Someone draws a picture and it gets praise. Someone makes a meal and it gets praise. You name it and it gets praise for it. A lot of media and popular culture is based on the praise someone or something gains, however short-lived that praise is.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes that praise is more than deserved.

Yet contemplating on the concept of something being praiseworthy can nudge me to something more. Something praiseworthy is something that lifts me and also something that lifts my awareness of something of higher value.

Of the many things that are indeed praiseworthy, there is nothing that causes me to soar and climb higher than beholding the amazing love that created all things. Seeing that love displayed in pursuit of a creature that rejected and rebelled against its Creator.  Seeing that love rescue people from oppressive slavery and express relentless faithful love despite time and again getting faithless adultery in response. Seeing that love come in human form and show what humanity was really about. Seeing that love heal, restore, teach and build those who were once rebels now becoming sons. Seeing that love on a cross to score the greatest victory in all creation. Seeing that love rise triumphantly conquering death and sin and inviting others to follow in the way of love – true godly love – that sets people free to serve each other as the ruler of this love is established on earth as it always has been in heaven.

That – and that alone above all things is worthy of everlasting praise.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

 

It’s Excellent

It’s Excellent: Opening

I was sharing with someone I have the honour of tutoring that there two ways to approach learning. Learning to pass or learning to love.

For some it’s easier and more constructive to set up an environment for learners to learn to pass and where exceptional students are found stretching them further where possible. For this to function as in a lot of areas of life, it requires standards to be in place.

When you learn to pass, you reach the standard and don’t do much to pass it. When you learn to love – by which I mean you love what you’re learning – the standard can sometimes be easily surpassed.

It’s about the joy of getting the rudimentary aspects and then seeing what can be done on top of that to develop an understanding and dynamic engagement with the subject matter. Whether that’s Maths or English, Psychotherapy or Drama, Social Care or Music. Before you know it, you realise the love of learning was never meant to be confined to academia – it is meant to impact life as we know it in that sphere of interest. That’s how the learning can become a vocation – a true calling to accomplish throughout life. It’s not a career, it’s not a job, it’s more than a pastime and money is never the primary object. Welcome to the world of excellence.

The World of Excellence in a Song

When I reflect on the call to think on whatever is excellent, I am drawn to this particular piece of music. In all likelihood it’s probably the first thing I have a recollection of that I would define as excellent. I loved the track for so many reasons and as I got older the number of reasons increased. Sitting here listening to it now, I can say without any hesitation this is excellent.

Why? First of all the lyrical content. Three words of the title at the heart of the song and repeated frequently says also a lot about the standard of excellence – it’s met by people who don’t do a half-hearted job. They are not doing something to just pass off as adequate and acceptable in any given area. This is about commitment – a life commitment to complete something thoroughly. In this context it’s about going all the way in walking with Jesus to do whatever He calls you to do. The journey of discipleship thoroughly enjoyed and thoroughly endured so that the crown of life that awaits can be worn with joy and delightfully thrown at the feet of the Saviour on His return. The lyrics are just inspired. It is excellent.

Then there’s the vocals. I am not the biggest fan of Andrae Crouch as a vocalist, but this song is where he finds his sweet spot and I loved it from beginning to end. There’s nothing about  it I disliked or thought was out of place and when he belts a high note in the bridge of the song, it’s a home run. I have heard a number of cover versions of this song by some pretty decent vocalists who don’t hit it like he hits it on this song. Then I consider the harmonies from the strong males at the beginning to the beautifully blended harmonies taking this commitment thing to the next level at the bridge. The arrangement of the vocals and their role in taking us through the song is masterful and it just sounds like something carefully crafted in the studio so that it could just sound so right – from the dedication and forward thrust to the driving commitment to keep going at the end as it fades. Lead vocals, backing vocals, superbly arranged. It is excellent.

What about the instrumental contribution? Wowsers. I could spend a good hour or so raving about the funky bass driving this song and the electric guitar that plays a riff at the beginning and pops up throughout the song to buzz in the ear with that insistent riff – it’s joy. That bass is something, that electric guitar is something. Later in life I had a brief stint learning and playing the drums and I know this song had a major part in the reason why. Folks might think it’s relatively easy to do it, but then you try it and have to keep the beat as well as the little flourishes here and there and to keep that going is no easy feat at all. The keyboards decorate this piece even more than the icing and cherry does on the world’s second greatest dessert the Cherry Bakewell Tart (we all know a the triple chocolate cake gets top spot). There’s a mood to the piece that those blessed keyboards guide us through with such consummate ease that it might give you the impression it can be done – but then try it for yourself and realise – this is not all that easy at all. Brilliantly done, though. Then they had the thought to slap a string group in there. I mean, the strings on this piece are such a delight to hear with their cut and thrust inserts before giving a more flowing and humming contribution. This entire musical ensemble just sounded beyond music to my ears. It is excellent.

This brief tribute to the song barely scratches the surface of just why this piece of music is excellent. Doesn’t touch on the hours I can imagine spent in the studio recording and editing making sure the parts fitted perfectly and that the final piece would sound like the gorgeous soundfest it does from a decent set of speakers. All those production values, all that talent, all that investment to produce just over five minutes of listening pleasure that turned a little boy onto loving music so long ago.

Excellence Yesterday, Today and Beyond

Over thirty years later, when I think about excellence, sure I think about Daniel and his brilliance in Babylonian court. Yeah I certainly think about how Joseph prospered in whatever state he found himself in because of that commitment to excellence. Yep, I am reminded of the beauty of Esther in the court of Xerxes and how her commitment to a character of similar excellence saved her people and also gave the opportunity for her Uncle Mordecai to likewise play an integral part in playing a positive influence in the political administration.

For sure, I definitely think about the Ark, the Tabernacle and the Temple which are architectural constructs that were never anything less that magnificent in build and purpose at the outset. I don’t have to go long before thinking of the entire ministry of Jesus on the earth and how excellence ran through it with consistency from the way He lead His disciples to the way He organised folks at His teaching, even to how He had the foresight to prepare a brilliant final meal with His disciples before being crucified.

I have been privileged to witness excellence in my brother and his music and writing. I’ve observed excellence in my wife’s commitment to prayer, intercession and helping others. I’ve watched excellence flow from brothers and sisters doing things from setting up halls with the chairs to writing correspondence to hospitality to serving those on the margins of society.

All of those element and more I think of when I think about excellence. I also think about this song, though and how it was my first introduction to that concept and how since then it propels and stimulates me to employ excellence in what I do.

When it comes to the call of God on my life, I’m not looking to learn to pass, I’m looking to learn to love, because it’s right there that I know I will excel.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Pure

This was a hymn we used to sing every week in the summer at the church I attended in my childhood days. The hymn title is Purer in Heart. We would sing it at the end of session we referred to as a ‘Missionary Meeting’. (Don’t ask … well don’t ask on this occasion, I’ll go into it on another occasion. Probably.)

So on the surface it’s a bit odd talking about being on mission and then ending it talking about having pure hearts. It at least appeared odd to me back in the day singing it. A couple of decades later and I remember the song very vividly and the sentiments of its lyrical content is a lot more poignant and meaningful for me now then it was those years ago.

Pure. Without any stain, without any smudge. No hint of corruption or distortion. It is what it is without any flavourings, colourings or preservatives. Not only that, but there is a beauty that radiates from the purity – something intensely attractive, but when appreciated properly the attraction is not to defile or desecrate, but to just celebrate it’s purity.

I can reel off a number of things that I’ve ruined. From decent meals and interesting conversations to meaningful relationships and superb initiatives. Ruined. Because when it came to the purity of it, I allowed pride and lust to mess things up.

That is why I am so grateful for the cleansing work of the Saviour. Cleansing from within and without. Every time my flaws and failings – my sins – goes in there and mucks it all up, His grace is greater, His forgiveness and His desire to restore and redeem all purifies. As each incident and episode of the inner me as the enemy threatens to mess things up, so His presence that lives within me reminds me that the pure in heart see God and the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead is able to make me clean. Make me pure. Make my thoughts only ever pure as they’re focused on the things of God.

Pure. Thoroughly and utterly clean. Delightful to take on in its brilliance because its essence just effuses purity. No hang-ups, no gossip, no backbiting, no complaining, no murmuring, no lusting, no pride, no messing, no nefarious hidden afendas. Just purity in every aspect.

There are some things that are pure worth reflecting on. Worth thinking about the love of the Father for you. Worth thinking about the good love that parents have for their children and siblings grow to develop and have for each other as they recognise their status in Christ. Worth thinking about those relationships that have remained pure over the years – those good friendships that have not allowed anything to sour things. Ahhh the purity of a joyful laugh echoed not because of someone’s misfortune, but because it really amazing how much He loves us and is willing to give us everything to live the kind of lives that reflect His character.

All of these hints to what awaits those whose minds stay on Him and think about Him and then sees how that impacts the rest of life.

I am a living witness that it doesn’t matter how badly things have been messed up, there is a love, a grace and a mercy that is far greater and able to wash all the stains of shame and guilt away to leave us in the state we were always created to live in. One where we will no longer have to ask God to help us be purer in heart. One for which we will simply be able to declare how we are  …

Pure.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s Noble

Some words have a feel to them.

The word noble, in my hearing, has the feeling something old and posh. It’s not a word I hear often mentioned in my circles unless there’s a mock posh voice or unless it’s being mentioned in jest. Maybe that’s just the people I hang around. Maybe that’s just me.

There is something about the word, however, that’s reflective of what what it’s pointing to. Not so much about being posh as about being something of an age, of a vintage, or a time – a classic. When you think of something classic, usually what’s done with something marked as classic is that it is cherished, it is honoured, it is highly valued. Therein lies the wisdom in thinking on the noble.

Thinking on the noble is an exercise in thinking of someone or something of a higher value not in financial terms, but in terms of its character worth. For example, the call to honour our father and mother, is a call to see the noble task of bringing children into the world and being the guardians responsible for their welfare and upbringing. This is a noble task because it requires great character. It needs values that are to be highly cherished and valued. It remains one of the greatest tasks that could be undertaken. When it’s recognised for that, the recipients should understandably respond to that with the due honour.

I am not suggesting that disrespect and irreverence is a modern phenomena, I am saying that in a world where respect is a value but honour and nobility isn’t as much of one, there’s almost a license to discredit and undermine anything that could be seen to be worthy because of its inherent nobility. It’s a great shame that this is the approach. The pursuit of the noble is recognising a greater worth in pursuing that which is of great character and substance and starting on that premise rather than looking for the flaws to help bring it down.

There’s not overtly much to commend in pursuing the noble and the honourable, but when we dig a bit further in life we find the value. For example, if you’ve been blessed to have two loving parents invest their lives in you and practice that by investing their lives in each other, there is something of great value in that. Something you may not appreciate until you go beyond those confines. When you observe other parenting dynamics especially the ones where the parental dynamic is dysfunctional seemingly beyond repair, it reinforces the noble and honourable. It goes onto also challenge and sometimes motivate you to realise that the best way to honour that blessing isn’t by applauding it and highlighting it, but by going onto practice it.

When I think of the noble and the honourable today, I think of my brother. I think of his life of ongoing sacrifice for his beautiful wife and their beautiful children. I think of his commitment to his family and desire to serve them and exercise his responsibility to love them by guiding them on a right path.

As he celebrates his birthday today it’s so fitting that in thinking of my parents and how they loved him so much in the time he was brought up at home. It’s to their credit that he is exercising honour to them by being such a devoted husband and father. It’s for him to talk about his flaws and failings, I choose to start from the premise of just honouring this noble, modest and humble man. He is a great friend and a man whose integrity and word I value significantly. I am glad he is such an honourable man and with his son looking on it bodes well for the generations. It bodes well because David took well from a  very noble man in our Dad.

Thinking on these things raises the sights of the character I desire. Thinking on the noble raises the aspirations to be just like that – to recognise that in following God there is a chance to have your character shaped by Him so that through the fire and through the challenges of life, God can be chiseling and moulding that noble character. It’s worth thinking about to aspire to and to practice until we reach there.

After all, that would be the noble thing to do.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

It’s All In Your Head

It’s worth mentioning that this blog isn’t always that concerned to keep up with current affairs. If there are special occasions and events of one sort or another, I don’t feel obliged to mention them. So it is just one of those things that this entry so happens to happen on the same day as World Mental Health Day.

I am currently reading the autobiography of the former footballer and current football pundit, Ian Wright. Known for being a bubbly and chirpy character, so it was interesting coming across this quote.

In general, you’ve got a society in which men put up barriers around themselves and won’t even admit to being depressed, let alone talk about.

A Life in Football, Ian Wright: My Autobiography

He wasn’t writing about himself, more about the culture he was in where especially among professional footballers there were many barriers to talking about depression. It’s not that culture alone, though, that suffers from that problem.

There is a sense in which followers of Jesus shouldn’t be depressed or suffer from similarly debilitating mental illnesses. In certain Christian circles it’s almost as though you’re not Christian enough or don’t have enough faith if you are depressed. This obviously doesn’t help anyone, so those who suffer will tend to do so in silence, whilst being told all the time to rejoice in the Lord always and again he said rejoice.

There are cultural expectations of what it is to be a man both in church circles and the world that makes no room for ‘weakness’. There is little acceptance for vulnerability and so things like depression and feelings of inadequacy and even suicidal thoughts are not talked about openly and so barely addressed.

That is not to deny that in some cases there are some very real spiritual issues going on that need to be addressed and there may be a plethora of factors that contribute to a person’s perspective on themselves and subsequent seasons of doubt and despair. Even here, though, it would be great to know that there is a community who loves and cares and is capable to offer either effective support in themselves or signpost you to where to get the support you need. The kind of community that makes it easier to be vulnerable and share those tough times. The kind of support network that appreciates that there aren’t always quick fix solutions to these issues and just because one person is supernaturally healed immediately it doesn’t mean everyone should be or indeed will be. The kind of community that seeks to understand and then be sensitive in a proper compassionate response that is not about belittling the situation and the individual, but endeavouring to help them out even by just being a loving presence.

Men get depressed. Men of God get depressed. It happens. It’s a reality and to dismiss it or seek to avoid it is only building up for greater trouble at some point down the line. Not only is there a need for awareness, there is a need to shed light on what can be done to show love in deed to those who are going through.

As someone who has experienced a number of very dark times of the soul, I can agree with the casual dismissive comment that it’s all in your head. That is correct. That is where it is. It is really there and as long as it is there life cannot continue as others want it to be. Saying that it’s there does little to change anything other than the level of irritation that’s felt about such a disrespectful and negligent remark. Now that it is there, what can be done about it? What can you do to make a difference?

I am able to write this here and now today, because there were good people around me who exercised great patience and grace as I walked through some tortuous seasons. It can be a struggle sometimes, but to have people to support and feed love in situations like that is worth so much in itself.

Trusting God and believing in Him is to believe that He wants us to be whole and on the journey there we can walk with others and compassionately and sensitively seek to understand them.  Even when we cannot, we can at least learn how to love in word and in deed as these times of life proceed.

Perhaps being a part of the community that is intentional about giving people the space and environment to be able to share these things will be a step in the right direction. Ensuring that men and women can feel free to be vulnerable, unsure and afraid can be tremendously helpful as initial steps on what might be a journey that lasts for a lifetime. Yet with love inside shared on the outside at least it will be a life-time and a life-time full of love at that.

It might be all in the head, but what can we do to see the head-space full of darkness, and bring a little light to it?

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

Words to Build

There was this prayer meeting I took part in and one of the thoughts that emerged from it was how important it was to use our words to build others. We were reminded of what Paul said to the church in Ephesus about communication.

The verse has been used by some to condemn swearing. I can see where they’re coming from, but it is a lot more than just prohibiting curse words. It’s an active invitation to consider what we’re using our words for. It’s tragic to hear some use their words in an attempt to bring down others, either in anger, in malice or in gossip. No swear words are used at all and sometimes some very pious and religious terms are used in conversations that appear well meaning but are just a front for the sort of corrupting communication Paul writes about.

It is my honour to be around people who bring out the blessings in the other part of Paul’s instruction. They stir me to practice using my words to build. They challenge me on this because there is a need. A need for the constructive. As they face new challenges – they need the constructive. As they face current challenges – they need the constructive. As they go through seasons of uncertainty – they need the constructive.

They need it and the same God who speaks the constructive in us, can use us to speak the constructive in others. It’s not about being cheerleaders all the time, the constructive isn’t about flattery or being charming. It’s about being substantial in encouraging the same to those who need it. There’s so much of it we can do if we remain focused on dwelling and meditating on the true, noble, right, pure, excellent, admirable and praiseworthy – something Paul encouraged the church in Philippi to practice.

I am a beneficiary of those who speak constructively on my life and certainly know it’s well worth pursuing in practice.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden