Friday, May 30, 2008

More Monthly Personal Reflections

This month really appears to have been one rooted in prayer. So even though for COG as a whole it’s been themed on young people, personally it’s been more of a journey in the importance of prayer.

This is reflected in the prayer day we had at the YMCA as well as the overall time of prayer and fasting that COG joined with the rest of North Staffs in the run up to Pentecost. Then as you’ve noticed there’s been, the season on prayer in the Daily Thoughts.

God’s been answering prayers in a major way Kevaughn got baptised this month which was a serious answer to prayer. Authrine had an outstanding personal breakthrough which again can be linked to prayer. Yesterday I had a brilliant day with Karen Way a dearly loved friend from Derby who’s about to take on leadership with her husband of their local YWAM. She was just such a blessing to the mission at the YMCA and also as a result a great Kingdom connection.

There have been various God encounters throughout the month that highlighted the fact that prayer has to be the foundation of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Abi Birthday

As it’s so close to the time I still remember the events leading up to the birth of my second child and Authrine’s third child. As with Deborah the second birth did not arrive on time. The circumstances were different in the sense that the tension, drama and trauma around the first were not so pronounced in the second.

As night fell on Sunday 28th May 2006 I went to sleep not expecting a disturbance, but low and behold after 1am the wife woke me up insisting she was having the pains more regularly. Thankfully our friend Hughie was awake and ready to come to our aid, so eventually we made it in the hospital for minutes to 3 in the morning. There it was not a long protracted process at all. Indeed it was at 3:29am on Monday 29th May 2006 that Abigail Elizabeth Danielle Dryden made her appearance on planet earth.

Abigail was immediately different to her older sister in being very light in skin tone. This was the source of much merriment among the extended family especially our church family who would have launched enquiries as to the legitimate father of the child. Praise be to God, however, there were distinctive features that could have only come from the Dryden side of the equation.

Since her birth I’ve found Abigail’s development fascinating. It’s not unusual to see her mimicking her sister and others around her. She already wants to help with chores around the house and of course is investigating what’s going on around the house and creating chaos as well as helping in the clean up process. She’s quite something else is Abigail.

I love her smile and her giggle and laugh and making her laugh is harder than making her mother laugh so it’s always an achievement when my efforts hit home! She is a beautiful baby and I often chuckle at the fact that she’s of all people the daughter of Christopher Dryden! No she’s not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but she is such a blessing to my life that I’m grateful to know her and have the privilege and honour of being her father.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Return of Family Fortunes

It’s approaching 21:00 as I start typing this entry. I’m at home watching the friendly England vs. USA and it’s not a great match, but then you gotta say what is expected from an end of season game with the majority of the 11 from the Chelsea and Manchester United side that played in the Champions League.

I like the looks of Jermaine Defoe and I’d actually give him a chance to play more often. I hope next season he really does it for Portsmouth in Europe and in the Premier League. Rooney also looks the business; it’s just a pity that the team system will never make the most out of him because it will always compromise team balance. I’m up for being proven wrong on that one though. The midfield looks unimaginative though – Lampard, Gerrard, Hargreaves and Beckham. Where’s the width? Where’s the pace? Three central midfielders and a player on his last legs playing in a second rate league across the pond. Wow is that really the best England can do? I won’t put any money on them wining much with that line up.

Anyway, what to blog about? Well it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged a personal blog as it were which has more to do with me than spiritual things that I’m contemplating. It’s a good time to blog as tomorrow, should God spare our lives, we’ll celebrate Abigail’s 2nd birthday. I hope to do an entry especially on her tomorrow. In the meantime things are fairly well in the Dryden household.

The wife hasn’t been too well of late. She was hospitalised at the start of the month with breathing difficulties and she’s really not taken the hint to slow down. She is by nature a battler with a servant heart and so as long as there is the function and capacity to breathe she will be up and doing something to help someone somewhere. By God’s grace then she is what she is and is doing what she’s doing and God is blessing what’s going on in her life in amazing ways.

It is a blessing and an honour to inform you that Authrine’s firstborn Kevaughn got baptised recently, which for us is a big deal as it suggests publicly that Kev is at least interested in following Christ, which in essence to me is the only thing in life worth pursuing. Deborah has really come into her own in terms of developing her character and personal style. Yeah I think she’s a bit of a daddy’s girl, but thankfully because I’m reclusively minded she’s getting her mum’s habits of socialising, being bubbly and making her voice known wherever she can, it’s a delight to see her develop and show what a beautiful girl she is. So that’s the state of the family.

There’s so much more I could say about me own state of mind, but the wife calls, so I’ll look at updating what’s going on there when another precious window of opportunity opens. Remember the Dryden family in your prayers, it’s not a straightforward thing doing family and all that jazz, but God’s grace remains ever sufficient for me to be grateful for what I have.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pray Believing

As we approach the end of the month, so I approach the end of the Daily Thoughts series at work on prayer. Just like the Word itself, coming to the end of something like this only highlights how much more could be said on the subject. It’s fascinating even approaching the subject in the way that DT does it to see the many dimensions and factors involved in talking about prayer. Today’s particular thought inspired this blog entry.

The issue here is faith. It is a topic we looked at as a church on Sunday and I found it really engrossing and fascinating looking at this basic of connecting with God and how it’s discussed with people just starting their own journey with God. It reminds me that part of the fun of building relationships and making disciples is being ready to share what you understand in a palatable format. That is the KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) model (I’ve got to find another S for Stupid, it doesn’t get at what I’m getting at).

In any case here is the initial thought that’s been shared and following that some extended thoughts that I meditated on.

And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith. Matthew 21:22 ESV

What a deal! Jesus seems to have turned into a game-show host offering the sale of all time – whatever we ask for we receive!! The catch in the deal, which makes Jesus a peacemaker connecting rather than a dodgy second hand car salesman, is that the key ingredient is faith. This is not mere positive thinking with fingers crossed, but a trust in our Father, built on a growing knowledge of Him so when we ask for ‘whatever’, we do so out of love from and for Him. Then there is reassurance that He hears and answers prayer.

This verse could get people into trouble and give people a reason to ‘disprove’ God. After all many are the stories of disillusioned people whose loved ones died or suffered trauma and wonder why God didn’t help them out, even when they prayed. The explanation that someone didn’t have enough faith can be patronising, insulting, hurtful and insensitive (even if on some occasions accurate). The deal here about having faith is not about having a divine cashcard to spend on absolutely anything you want, but being connected with the Source of Creation to get from Him the very best He wants for you.

The issue of believing is not primarily about belief in things to change, but trusting in the One who makes all these things, even the seemingly impossible, possible. The issue of prayer is relational and so is motivated out of a love for God and such a connection with Him that you’re able to walk in ways pleasing to Him and astounding to others. That’s why the definition and condition of faith outlined in the scripture on people of faith – Hebrews 11 – is so crucial. Faith according to verse 6 is about trusting God exists AND that He is the rewarder of those who are looking … for Him.

The deal then is not about what’s in his hand, or what am I looking to get out of Him. The deal of faith primarily is looking for Him. So as we look its fair to expect Him to give us what we need in the day to continue live as though we’re looking for Him. It is the reassurance we so desperately need when prayers appear ‘unanswered’ because if our issue is a reassurance of the reality of God we can say like the Hebrew boys in front of Nebuchadnezzar that God is able to deliver and even if He doesn’t, He’s still God.

For every Peter miraculously delivered from prayer, there’s a Peter who’ll end up crucified upside down. This doesn’t negate the worth of the gospel and the reality of God, because the bedrock is not on what He will do for me, but we will do for and through Him and we show Him most glorious as He is our strength at our weakest moments of confusion, hurt and pain. Seeing Him doing the miraculous, impossible and unexpected becomes the norm as we embrace the mysterious yet sovereign nature of the God we serve. That is why we can pray believing.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Football Prizes and Following Christ

It’s 22:52 as I start writing this, and I’ve just seen Manchester United lift the UEFA Champions League. They have now won the top trophy in Europe for the third time.

I am a Liverpool fan which makes the club on the Red side of Manchester my most bitter enemies. Yet I sit here and have to say without any malice in mind or even resentment that I am happy for Manchester United. They deserve to win the trophy. They have been a better team than anyone else in Europe all season, they have showed the class needed to win the important games when it mattered and played classy football when they needed it. Congratulations Manchester United.

When you look at the team from back to front this is a team that deserves to win the top trophies. Ronaldo has undoubtedly been the best player in the world over the season. Rooney has been awesome when he needs to be. The Vidic-Ferdinand partnership has been the best defensive partnership in Europe this season. I am really happy for Paul Scholes, he’s been a player I’ve always admired despite playing for United. One player that I do bring up is Ryan Giggs who has been such a loyal servant to United for so long and now has been decorated with ten league trophies and a number of other trophies over his time at the club. He’s been a great player and has matured well over the years adapting to squad rotation extremely well and deserves the success he’s achieving.

I am also not too proud to mention Alex Ferguson in all this. It doesn’t matter if it’s taken him 22 years to make it this successful, he has once more set the bar of success and has every right to the claim to be the most successful manager in British club football far eclipsing any achievements by Clough, Shankly, Paisley, Busby, Stein, Revie, Dalglish, Wenger, Mourinho or any other candidate you may care to mention. I salute those who succeed and so I pay tribute to the great achievement Alex Ferguson has brought about at Manchester United.

In fact to type this is not difficult for I am first and foremost a follower of Jesus and that means that football is not the be all and end all of my situation. Following Liverpool comes well below Jesus and as a result I can appreciate quality football when I see it and that is what United have produced this season. I may give an analysis of Liverpool’s season. I may not. What this is, is congratulations to champions.

And also to give it the spiritual spin that you would expect from me, Philippians 3 gives me an insight into another set of champions which is even more valuable than winning the richest prize in football. That is the prize of the high calling in Jesus and I’m grateful that whether Liverpool win or lose, whether Manchester United succeed or not, I want to collect the trophy of the crown of life after finishing the gruelling season of life following the only prize worth living and dying for – becoming like Jesus Christ. They say following Jesus is a matter of life or death – as Bill Shankly said, it’s a lot more important than that.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Monday, May 19, 2008

Prayer: Daily Dependence

Following the trend without necessarily getting into a habit of using these as extended thoughts on the ones that I send out, here’s something that forms part of Jesus’ guide to prayer.

Give us this day our daily bread – Matt 6:11

This can appear a rather odd part of the prayer. You woke up this morning, put clothes on your back and then worked hard for the best part of the week to get the money needed to get to the shop to get what you need for the day. In that way of looking asking God for daily bread is pathetic. Then we look at it from another perspective. The very ability to wake up is not something that we have given ourselves. The ability to move and work are blessings from the God who created us. In that way we really are dependent on Him for even the very basic things of life.

Yet this request goes beyond the material basics and to the heart of how we need to completely rely on God to sustain us just for the day. Just as it was with the children of Israel back in their time in the wilderness, there is not enough for us to store up for the next day, week or month. God gives us everything we need to face the challenges of the day ahead of us and our ability to look out for these provisions rather than worry about the past or the future ensures we can make the most of the present that God offers us called Today.

After all that’s why the writer of Hebrews in chapter three stresses the importance of protecting each other from conceit and unbelief by encouraging each other every day as long as it’s called today. It is amazing how often I take things for granted and never realise just how vulnerable I am to sly attacks to distract from what I’m meant to be doing today. Thank God for His Word then that instructs us on how we can do what we do in a way pleasing to Him and avoiding the many pitfalls that are so easy to fall into. We depend on God every day and need to verbalise that dependence throughout the day so as to be able to walk in the provisions that He’s made for every day.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Prayer: Nothing To Hide

Now I’ve said I’m not going to use Daily Thoughts as my kop out for blog entries and in a sense I’m not. What I am doing is offering a place to put down some extended thoughts on the initial daily thought that I release. Not a regular thing, but just a place for people who may have read the Daily Thought and are interested in exploring things a bit more.

However in the case of not having actually read the Daily Thought here it is.

Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

What’s the point in telling someone something they already know? A response to this could be that as they already know there’s no point in saying anything. Yet there is something valuable in a relationship in still being open and vulnerable in sharing what’s going on. It is encouraging to the recipient that you still want to open the issue and share it with them – inviting them to be a part of the conversation and in the case of the Father a part of the resolution of the situation. That’s why transparency and honesty in prayer is beneficial.

And here is the extended thought.

I mean what would it say about a conversation if we’re holding something back? We either don’t think it’s important or we’re too ashamed to talk about it or we feel capable of dealing with it ourselves. In the context of a conversation with the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe that, in essence, could be reduced to negligence, fear/shame and pride – all things that are obstacles to healthy and effective relationship with God. Whereas in opening ourselves to involving God in our every day lives we’re in effect saying that even if we can do whatever ‘in our own strength’ we still acknowledge that even that comes from Him. Even if we can figure it out – that brain comes from Him. In living a life with transparent and open forms of communication we’re dedicating all of life to God, not just the bits that we struggle with.

Now does that mean we close our eyes solemnly and utter benedictions and doxologies to our most divine, heavenly, almighty source of all providence before opening the tin of beans, reading the newspaper, having a bath or other regular ‘mundane’ activities of life? Of course not – that would be absurd. (Although in the case of the beans there could be an argument to solicit divine protection for those who will suffer some of the gaseous aftermath of the consumption.) Prayer, however, as I’m suggesting, is an open channel of communication between God and ourselves – thus whether it’s a thought, a word uttered, a passing contemplation, all these can be our method of communicating with God on any and every given situation – hence the possibility of praying without ceasing.

So that’s why it makes sense that knowing our heavenly Father knows what we’re praying for, we might as well be open, transparent, vulnerable and considered in our prayer lives. Otherwise we’re like Adam and Eve in the garden, we want to cover up stuff out of shame, fear and pride, when we would be better off placing ourselves in His hand with everything – after all as a loving God that’s the kind of relationship He desires with us.

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Easy Blogging vs. Disciplined Blogging

Usually I type out the blog entry as a word document, then paste it on, but on this occasion I'm striking while the iron's hot, i.e. while I'm on here and have something to blog that won't take too long.

Following the last entry in which I stated it would be easy to just put on the Daily Thoughts and have that as my blog without any hassles I reflect further on the fact that I could make things so much easier for myself. I mean I YouTube virtually every time I'm online (unless at work of course, not because it's banned but because the connection down my end leaves a bit to be desired on that front, so I might as well wait to get better connections). So as has been prevalent I could just get a good clip, attach onto the site and have those as my blog entries. Yet I cannot do that either. Not to say I won't put on good clips as and when they come, but again the issue for me is ease and the nature of this blog.

To be fair the Among Friends blog doesn't really cater for faith based and spiritual content so it would be legitimate to use this one. My only hesitation is doing so is because I see this blog as a forum to develop and nurture the discipline that will help me in my writing. I love writing almost as much as I love reading and so because of that I want to keep the entries going far more frequently than they are, yet it has to be as original a piece of material as possible.

So it's not to say that I won't post anymore YouTube clips on here, but it is to say that I'll just discover that discipline required to post quality material from my heart on a more consistent and regular basis.

Anyway the issue of the time is John 21:22. I'd strongly encourage you to read it, especially in the context of John's narrative on the gospel, there's some precious stuff right in this verse that I'm excited to share with you ... at another point.

In any case I'm still on course to get the series on fasting posted in the near future, then from there ... who's to say what might happen?

For His Name's Sake
da man cd

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Christ Is The Gospel

OK so far in the year it’s not going quite as planned on the blogging front. I’m evidently spending time elsewhere doing other worthwhile stuff and the regularity I wanted to get in terms of entries hasn’t quite hit what I wanted it to. I’m not beating myself over it. I realise there’s a very pragmatic resolution to the issue which is to choose one of two paths. Path one is just to be more disciplined and clinical, brutal and ruthless in separating the time required to do more regular blog entries. The second option sees me relaxing under the current regime, appreciating the fact that the opportunity and time to be as regular in my blog entries just may not be possible at the moment and I should just blog when I can. At the moment it’s actually the former option that’s most appealing as the latter is only too much in my nature. I have a tendency of not being more diligent and pushing things through, so because I want to write more I’ve got to push myself. In all that though, I have no intention to live off guilt or poor quality just to fulfil this requirement.

Right. One writing commitment that I’ve been fairly consistent with over the last month or so is the Daily Thought initiative. If that were my blogging requirement I’d be fine as more often than not, although not at a time I’d prefer, most weekdays I am producing that 100 word limited piece for staff and friends. Without blowing my own trumpet, I am pleased at the regularity and challenges that I’ve been able to produce the Daily Thoughts – 21 entries in March and 22 in April is a fair return on the commitment and I trust by the grace of God I can keep that going. In terms of web access for that, the NSYMCA web-site is undergoing some adjustments at the moment which is why the latest entries have not been posted as yet, although that could possibly change by the end of the week depending on commitments.

In any case during the month of April I was going through a series on the good news and highlighting some of the different facets of the gospel that we see in scripture. I enjoy the structure of an overall theme for the month that guides the Daily Thoughts. I was thinking about reverting back to the random nature of them, but for the upcoming month at least I don’t think that will be the case. Anyway, back to good news. As the month of April came to an end I wanted to end the series looking at the Spirit, Father and Son in the light of what the good news is all about. In coming to the final entry of the month I was really drawn again to outline my understanding of what the gospel really is. This is in no way meant to be a definitive word on what the gospel is and what life so far as proved as well as the month’s series is that there are so many avenues into understanding what the gospel is that it’s best to be relatively flexible on the issue. Having made those concessions, however, there is also something fundamental about the nature of the gospel – it’s not just about advice or a way to live a moral life, it’s not just about any god or a little thought-provoker to reflect on life. The heart of the gospel to me is the person and work of God through His Son Jesus Christ. That’s why sometimes in this pluralistic age we live in we have to be real with the fact that we’re not compromising on the exclusive nature of the gospel – exclusive in the sense that the message is about Jesus Christ being the only way back to God for humanity to be reconciled as their sins alienate.

Without going any further and spoiling what I’ve put together, here’s what I’ve elaborated on in terms of what the gospel is all about.

The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:16, 17)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. (1 John 3:1, 2)

The good news is all the more glorious because it is based on bad news. The bad news was that we are by nature rebels against God. This is expressed in our consistent nature of missing God that is to say our thoughts, actions and words fall short of what our Creator designed us for. We keep missing God and not only so but we then set up for ourselves an alternative to God, namely ourselves and the idols we set up instead – whether that’s work, money, family, sex, hobbies or whatever. For all our best intentions and noble activities we fail to hit the standard of God and so we behave like fatherless children with apparently no restraint as seen in the atrocities of humanity over history and even our pet foibles.

It is in this scenario that God chooses to remedy the situation and reconcile us back to Him in the only way that would express His character of Holy Love. Love in the essence of being and doing that which gives maximum good in any situation, Holy in satisfying the qualities of justice, righteousness and perfection in all that He is and does. To satisfy this and the great chasm our rebellious nature created, God Himself took on all the punishment that we deserved. In so doing He created a way of escaping that punishment and turning rebels into the sons that He had created initially.

That is why it is only in the Son that we find hope of redemption and full life. For it is in the Son that we see how we were created to be, reflecting the image of the Father and Creator who made us in the first place. Now it is not anything that we can do to earn son-ship, there’s no great acts that can merit God’s favour, which is why good works and noble words fail to meet God’s requirement. What now meets His requirement is a Spirit-filled life that turns away from the rebellious lifestyle and towards one set to please our Father. Now, by faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit that raised Him from death to life, we are children of God with the hope and assurance that one day we shall be reunited with our Brother, our Friend, our Lord and our Saviour and see Him as He is.

For His Name’s Sake
da man cd