A Word On Exploitation 

It was a privilege to be invited to dinner, but the conversation, for all the wit and humour flying across the table, was very sobering. 

There was a father of several children. He was devoted, considerate and caring to his children and in his community. When his wife died, with his children fully grown with families of their own, he eventually retired to settle down in his own home on a farm. A neighbour noticed he was on his own and struck up a deal with a female friend. She would get to know the man and eventually work her way round to getting married to him and eventually  use him, get all his stuff and sell the farm before ditching him. At present she has got such an influence on him that even the children are locked out of access to him to support him as he gets older and more infirm. It’s tragic to hear and made my blood boil. 

The conversation then turned to how countries around the world were exploited. Not just about rich exploiting the poor and the powerful exploiting the powerless. It was the way that people would overlook injustice for the sake of convenience and resourcefulness. While beautiful landscapes were being spoiled and natural resources raped and pillaged, people turned blind eyes because infrastructure was built and the promise of investment wafted across the airwaves. Even as cultural identities were being merged and overwhelmed, by the time people recognised what was going on they were too heavy in debt to do anything about it. That debt wasn’t just an obscenely financial one either. Plus it was not just a matter of ‘foreign’ forces exploiting the situation. There was just as much complicity between the indigenous people to their own downfall. 

In the conversation, there was concern that this issue was nothing new. Put down to human nature it depressingly came across as though there was nothing that could be done about it. Those who fought against it would feel the need for power to do it, accessing the power they would be consumed by the need to retain the power to do what they felt needed to be done. This however would soon lead to the impression that it was more important to retain the power than to do the good it was desired for. There is a saying that power corrupts, but the reality might be that the power exposes that which was already corrupt in us. 

Yeah, not the most upbeat conversation. 

Yet thankfully, for me, that was not the end of the story. That was not and is not all there is to life. I was reminded of a conversation I had earlier in the day where someone was talking about the recent concert in Manchester. One man blew himself up to strike terror into the hearts of a people. He blew himself up and killed others for a cause. My faith is built on a man who gave up His life so others could be cleaned from everything corrupt in them. He gave up His life so others wouldn’t die, but enjoy real, true, vibrant, peacemaking, joy-giving, amazing life. 

Part of that deal involves learning what it is not to use people and allow the corrupt within to corrupt without. Learning not to exploit for selfish gain and love to give for the true and honest development of others. It sounds lovely on the surface, but it does require an entire new me inside. A new way of thinking, a new way of living. It’s immense, it’s incredible, it’s hard, but it’s possible, because when we talk of human nature that nature is truly seen in the life and times of the suffering servant Jesus Christ. He expressed the true human nature – one incorruptible. Can we live like Him? Only if we trust Him and allow the same Spirit that lifted Him from death to lift us from that corroding, corrupting thing in us that only ever leads to one outcome. 

It’s about time. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 106 – What Have We Done For God Lately?  

This Psalm plays like a complimentary piece to the previous Psalm. 

That previous Psalm gave us plenty of reasons to remember what God has done. This Psalm gives plenty of reasons to remember how we are likely to respond to what God has done and it’s not pretty. 

It would be comforting to think that the way God’s people responded back in the day was unique to them. Ah but in it we see reflections of the human condition and it’s not pretty. It is ugly. It is filthy. It is disgusting. 

How quickly we forget God’s goodness in the slightest sign of discomfort. How easy we disregard the great works of God as soon as we are comfortable and given other gods to play with. How simple it is to break our word with the God who keeps His Word. How seemingly natural it is for us to rebel against the One who has shown great kindness towards us. 

This Psalm shines a light on what we have done for God lately, and it is not pretty. 

At the same time when we are stuck or get in trouble what do we do? Go running back to Him, crying out to Him, pleading for help. Were some of us in God’s position, after a while we would be sick of the constant cycle of rebellion and repentance. We would become hardened to the desperately wicked and fickle heart of humanity. Yet this great and glorious God expresses that greatness and glory through patiently and consistently listening to the cries of His people and coming to their rescue. 

Reading a Psalm like this is all the more reason for us to respond in heart-felt gratitude and humble contrition. Reading of our God in these verses should give us cause for reflection and further repentance in the desire to cling on to Him and receive His help on the inside to reject that rebellious nature. Break the cycle of sin and live for this merciful and compassionate God, who time and again extends the invitation to know Him and be known by Him. This Psalm is another invitation to love Him who first loved you and still loves you even though what you have done for Him lately isn’t pretty.  

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Psalm 53 – Relief From Relentless Rebellion 

I know there is a concept known as atheism. I am very much aware of it. I just don’t think they really mean what they purport. It’s a bizarre movement that seeks to counter the existence of a being that would be beyond their conceptualising anyway. It’s like a turkey not believing in Christmas dinner – you can reject it all you like, but it’s inevitable. 

Where I think atheism would really be on a more honest plain would be rather than to dispute the existence of God, just blatantly state that they reject Him. That would make a lot more sense. 

This definition of atheism – not so much God does not exist, more a case of saying No to God is something rampant in our world. Indeed our very condition at birth was that way inclined. It’s a condition the Psalmist was very familiar with throughout the bleak observations noted in this Psalm. 

Be in no doubt, a world that rejects God is not a pleasant one to live in. For with the absence of the divine who defines we are left to do things for ourselves and in as much as we have the capacity to do beneficial acts, these are more than counteracted by that innate ability to do the grotesque, the abysmal, the dire, the depraved. That is the dark world outlined by the Psalmist which is not a strange one to modern readers. 

Making the last verse all the more poignant, not for the sake of escapism, but for the cry for righteousness to rule. To know that whatever the fool says in his heart, the truth remains there is a Sovereign who rules in the affairs of man and His righteous rule seen throughout time and epitomised in the life of Jesus Christ will one day wipe the fools and their foolishness off the earth and replace it with the peace and justice that comes from the God who cares for those He created. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Bad Fruit and the Self Life (The Fruit Series 12)

​And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16‭-‬17 NIV) 

The source of life and fruitfulness is God. 

Choosing to exist without the source leads to many complications that ultimately result in anything but having life. This choice, however, is one we are currently wired to be inclined towards. Someone suggested that we can do it by ourselves. Something left the impression that we didn’t need the source, we could be our own source. We can make it on our own. We don’t need no one and nothing telling us what we have to do and who we have to be. 

In some shape or form, human history has been the expression of efforts to live the self life. Either looking to be totally devoid of any reference to a source of being as typified many movements since the so-called Enlightenment period, or to merely use such notions to justify the quest for the pursuit of pleasing self. History has been expressing that and showing the consequences of such a pursuit and it has not been glorious. 

You don’t even need a history lesson to see how pervasive and influential the pursuit of the self life is. You experience it in some way every day. Just in the little thoughts that cross your mind hinting at just how important you are. Nudging in a little way at how,  really, you are the center of the universe and all of life really revolves around you. You can do whatever you want, it’s your life. Or how oppressive it is for anyone to tell you what to do, you need to break free to do your own thing. 

Here in England, consumer culture is the norm and it’s based on that appeal to the self life. You can have it, you should have it, you deserve it, so go get it. Anything that prevents that should be removed because it’s unfair that you shouldn’t have the best things in life. 

What’s wrong with that? 

Such independent, self-centred thinking detaches us from the source of life and leads down a path to destruction. Not blatantly at first, but as it becomes more apparent that the pursuit of the self life is not fulfilling, but rather leaves the yawning yearning even greater than before, so it’s futility leads to despair that’s often either a state that people leave themselves resigned to as though that’s all there is to life, or spurs an even greater effort to grasp for anything they think can fill that void. 

The bad fruit of the self life is incredibly addictive. Just when you think you can yield everything to return to the source of life, there can be that little nudge to get you back to your selfish ways. Even if you get that realisation of the pointless nature of that fruit, it gets incredibly hard to get off the stuff. 

Thank God for the good news of the good fruit. 

God did not leave us, even when we chose to leave Him. His pursuit of us in the course of history has been remarkably relentless. Episode after episode highlights His amazing love and mercy towards us. His offer to us is to counteract the effects of that bad fruit with the good fruit that derives from faith in Him, acceptance and recognition of what He has done through the death of His Son on the cross that now means beholding the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world gives us access to life once more. Reattach ourselves to the source and allow His life to be our life as He lives in us.

Constant reference to that source makes all the difference. That source gives us all we need to live and encourages us to actively build on those qualities of life we have been blessed with by connecting ourselves to Him. The more we do that, the more we are equipped to counteract the bad fruit and that’s good news. 

That counteracting has implications far greater than just going beyond the self life, as we will discover. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

Introduction to Bad Fruit (The Fruit Series 11)

​And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16‭-‬17 NIV) 

Not all fruit is good fruit. 

A fruitless situation is one that will lead to negative outcomes because of the absence of life. A bad fruit situation will lead to negative outcomes because of the presence of that which will corrupt. We can suffer because we lack something, but it’s even worse if we suffer because we actively initiated and brought about that outcome. 

Part of the narrative of the beginning of all things in Scripture is about the consequences of man actively disobeying the instruction of God and subsequently consuming bad fruit. It was not bad fruit to look at, it wasn’t even bad fruit in terms of its texture and taste, but it was certainly bad fruit for humanity because of the outcome. Which is to say some of the decisions we make in life could appear perfectly reasonable and indeed present itself as attractive and substantial, but as long as it veers away from what is right in God’s sight the outcome won’t be pleasant at all. 

We live with the consequences of bad fruit. Every day we are given an opportunity to avoid it and every day in some way we see a reflection of our inability in ourselves to avoid it. If the story ended with the inevitability of us living with the consequences of bad fruit the meaning of life would be … fruitless. Thankfully, there were two trees highlighted. One that had what turned out to be bad fruit for us and the other was something that would turn out to be very good fruit for us indeed. One consequence of the bad fruit was being banned from access to that good fruit, but in the fullness of time the plan of God gave humanity access to that tree of life again. That access would counteract the consequences of the bad fruit. 

In the light of the good news of the good fruit, in upcoming series of blogs within this bigger Fruit Series, I am going to explore some of those consequences of the bad fruit as well as consider how the tree of life counteracts those consequences. 

Something that remains abundantly clear, however, is that awareness of the goodness of God should be exalted to help deal with the consequences of the bad fruit. As we do so, it will be a big help in fulfilling our call to be fruitful. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden 

The Kings 11 – Solomon Strays

​The Lord became angry with Solomon because his heart had turned away from the Lord , the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice. (1 Kings 11:9 NIV)

There are few episodes in scripture as tragic as this one. Here, in the 11th chapter of 1 Kings, the wisest man in his time who had enriched Israel and attracted such acclaim strays from God who gave him that wisdom with catastrophic consequences for the United Kingdom of Israel. 

It’s tragic because almost as reflection of the fall in the garden of Eden, Solomon strayed from God to follow the voice of women. To read of how Solomon went from acknowledging His dependence on the wisdom of God to rule, to following the gods of his wives is sad indeed. To have had such exclusive interaction with God and to be so greatly blessed by that relationship and then turn your back to that to pursue detestable gods is worthy of great sorrow. 

It is intriguing reading of the three gods in particular who Solomon pursues and then the three adversaries that God raises to oppose Solomon. It is also intriguing that Pharaoh’s daughter was among the first of Solomon’s wives and yet Egypt would prove to be the refuge for two of the adversaries – Hadad who came from a privileged refugee status in Egypt to oppose Solomon and Jeroboam who fled to Egypt after Solomon looked to kill him. 

The account given of how Jeroboam rebelled against Solomon is also fascinating. The account is of a prophetic encounter through Ahijah that let Jeroboam in on something that Solomon himself had been notified about. Namely the consequences of Solomon straying. Jeroboam being in receipt of the news that the Kingdom would mostly be ripped away from Solomon’s son made him public enemy number one. 

This is a truly tragic episode from which we see how important it is to check the state of your heart to ensure it is completely devoted to God. If the wisest person can be distracted to the detriment of his people, then we cannot think we are impervious. Obeying and following God is not a matter of legalistic obligation, it is a matter of the heart. When our hearts is not completely devoted it can lead to straying. There are plenty of detestable gods today which are well marketed and look for us to give them some of our attention. This is why it is so important to ensure we are wary of them and do not fall foul of the Lord by being enticed to serve them. 

God have mercy on us. 

For His Name’s Sake 

Shalom 

C. L. J. Dryden