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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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 Admirable

Imagine that you and I are seated in the front room. We’re in those couches are armchairs designed to help you relax. Whatever refreshments we want are on the coffee table in the middle of the room, but we can just sit back and feel comfortable whilst some steady and smooth music plays in the background.

There’s no hassle and no rush, we can just enjoy each other’s company. So you ask me what in life do I find admirable. I smirk. You know you asked the right question as you see the smirk broaden into the familiar grin for which one or two people have found as much a part of me as my name. I love the question and you see the love across my face as my eyes close and I drink in the question to breathe out this answer.

I admire: Consistency and longevity. My parents have been married for over 40 years, which is a considerable feat when you consider the age my Dad got married. They have been by each other’s side supporting each other and loving each other in all circumstances. Their love for each other has poured itself into the lives of their onlooking children who have benefited from the relentless consistency and faithfulness our parents showed to each other and to us. I admire that consistency and longevity.

I admire: Passionate people passionately pursuing their passions whenever and wherever they can. This life can be stifling if it’s left to a mundane routine of living to get enough money to get enough mod-cons to just shuffle from one meaningless leisure activity to another. That’s why I love those people who have a passion for something and pursue it with all their heart. My friend loves his poetry, loves his battle rap, loves his creative communication and whenever the time affords him he is immersed in those passions and I find it so admirable. If you’re going to live you might as well live with passion worth pursuing. The kind of thing is hugely indicative of the kind of approach I look to take when it comes to Kingdom matters – so it’s a blessing to see examples of that in action.

I admire: The love of my wife. It never ceases to amaze me how she has just remained devoted to the marriage and to the reality of God granting the union and able to sustain it. We haven’t reached 20 years together yet, let alone the 40+ that my parents have hit, but her loyalty, her faithfulness, her devotion, her commitment, her investment, her encouragement, her faith, her resourcefulness, her prayers, her integrity, her strength of character, her vulnerability, her honesty, her beauty – I observe all of that and to think that she still actively chooses to invest those in the direction of the most precious union humans face this side of eternity in me is … well it’s admirable. I applaud her to her face and I love to applaud her behind her back like on blog entries and stuff.

I admire: Great music, good football, delicious food, intriguing reading material and gripping storytelling. All of these are the fruits of significant investment in creative outlets and I love to admire those kind of things. I appreciate more and more that these products are not always guaranteed and there is a plethora of average to garbage material that I could wade through and endure. Yet it’s worthwhile when I come a creative piece of work that hits that sweet spot.

I admire: People taking a stand for justice and righteousness. Not following the trends of the day or looking to be popular to gain attention – they just see the example of Jesus and see the need to be peacemakers which often requires taking a stand. The bravery and courage it calls for as well as a selflessness to see Kingdom values as being of far greater worth than any earthly desires – witnessing this in ways that won’t grab people’s attention but is no less significant in the larger scheme of things is humbling.

That’s what I would open up with to consider the things that are admirable and worth thinking on. That would be my offering in our comfortable front room encounter.

What do you find admirable? (And don’t stop me from letting you grab another cup of that beverage you love while you share.)

(Photo: Unsplash)

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden

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

To The Nations, For The Nations

Geography wasn’t a subject I was particularly interested in at school. It wasn’t a very boring subject, it just wasn’t one of those that grabbed my interest.

Outside of school, though, I remember having a passing interest in maps, atlases and especially globes. I recall wandering around an atlas at the odd named places and variety of shapes of nation states. I was not the sort to want to travel, though. I had the same thought about that as I did about the great outdoors – I loved the outdoors … from inside. So although my sister got to go abroad a little bit, I never did when I was a child and my idea of travel was having to traipse up and down the country for church events by my parents.

As I sit here writing this now, I don’t have an overwhelming desire to go globetrotting. But my perspective on the world in which I live has changed. That is largely because of my appreciation for the gospel and the scope that the Messiah has in mind for its spread and infiltration. For the last 15 years at least, there has been a growing admiration for the men and women who give up comfortable living to engage in the lives of other people from different cultures and backgrounds to share the good news that Jesus Christ is Lord and demonstrate that with Kingdom life and love for the broken, lost and hurting.

What I have also grown to appreciate is how I don’t have to travel abroad to impact the world. Stoke-on-Trent may not be the most diverse city in the world, but there are still a fair few nationalities that have made the city their home. The chances to come into contact with this variety of people groups and look to respect the cultural expressions is in itself an opportunity to impact the nations.

Recently I had the honour of attending a prayer event that looked to pray for the nations. It was such a great chance to get immersed in prayer for the issues concerning countries across the world. It wasn’t just a case of a passive approach either, there was a real sense that we were looking for God’s heart and desire for the issues affecting these nations and there were a number of representatives from those countries who we got to pray for and pray with. That’s where the instruction of being witnesses really took on a greater meaning.

I don’t know how my life will pan out, tomorrow is not promised to me. However, already it is a blessing to know individuals who live in different countries and as we connect and support each other in prayer and building each other in the world, there is the opportunity to see God doing great things in the nations as He sends His ambassadors to the nations, for the nations.

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

When Life Defeats Death

As we have it at the moment, if you think about it, however glorious and illustrious it might appear, death wins.

You know that.

They are born and as soon as that happens death is inevitable. Whatever purpose you look for while you’re alive does nothing to prevent the inevitable.

You know that.

So on that bright and cheery note, it’s worth sharing why I’m on about it. It’s because I become more and more persuaded that death does not win. Death is not the final answer. Indeed, I am more and more persuaded that death is already defeated and it is merely awaiting its own end when the one who conquered it has dealt with everything else.

That gives me tremendous hope. It gives me tremendous hope when the spectre of death and its effects are prominent in news bulletins, workplace conversations and around so many different aspects of society.

One of those who followed Jesus put together an account of the time Jesus spent in serving. Among the episodes that this follower recounts features one that highlights why its worthwhile believing in this amazing man. The episode is a familiar one now – featuring Jesus’ good friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus. First up, once more it’s good to know that Jesus had good friends. I like that thought. I like the thought that on earth Jesus hung around with people and some became very good friends to him.

So it’s a particularly distressing message that comes through to Jesus that Lazarus was gravely ill. It’s the sort of news that good friends don’t take lightly. A swift reaction is needed. So it’s a bit odd that Jesus doesn’t act with urgency. It’s even more odd that when His followers ask about it, Jesus actually lets them know first in guarded phrase then blatantly that his good friend was no longer sick, but dead. Yet they were still going to visit see him. What’s the point?

Many years earlier, Jesus’ ancestor David agonised to the point of fasting and wearing himself out while his first child with Bathsheba was ill, but as soon as he was dead, he washed himself, had a meal and went and comforted the mother. He knew that there’s no point in going to the dead, because they won’t return to him, so there’s no point.

Here’s Jesus, however, going to see a dead man. The disciples would understand visiting the sisters, but what was the point other than to comfort? The time for decisive action was over. Death had won again.

Mary and Martha, though they were glad to see their friend again, did not hide their sorrow at him showing up too late as Lazarus was dead and buried. They believed in him for what he could do for the living, but the time had come and gone. What was the point now. Death had won again.

Jesus knew better. He had stated before his credentials as the light of the world. Now he reminded his friends and followers if they remembered what he said. He announced also that there was not just life in him, but resurrection and life. That is to say, in him, life conquered death – power to live and power to live a life that defeats death.

That comforts me like few things have ever comforted me. It’s one thing seeing a glimpse of that in Lazarus the dead man becoming Lazarus the man raised from the dead. It is a greater thing to see that he who brought Lazarus back from the dead went one better and returned triumphant over death and the grave to live forever. Live forever and invite others by faith to enjoy this forever life.

This comforts and assures me when I hear or read about death. The pain of loss, the grief that accompanies it is so real now as it was for Mary and Martha as they saw their friend show up seemingly too late for their brother. That grief that tears only begins to display. That mourning that sobs barely scratches the surface in conveying. It’s real. It’s so very real.

Yet there is an invitation in the tears to understand that in Christ – death is defeated. Joy to the world, He has risen, hallelujah.

Life conquers death.

For His Name’s Sake

Shalom

C. L. J. Dryden