The beauty of duty and dependence. 

It is the beauty in Christ that fuels true obedience in us.

“Our pleasure and our duty,
Though opposite before,
Since we have seen His beauty,
Are join’d to part no more:
It is our highest pleasure,
No less than duty’s call,
To love Him beyond measure,
And serve Him with our all.”
—John Newton, “We Were Once As You Are” (Olney Hymns)

We delved into this dynamic last Sunday with “Beauty of Duty & Dependence“.

“Do not rest until love and faith in Jesus are the master passions of your soul.” —Charles Spurgeon

“We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.” —A.W. Tozer


Giving thanks in times of trouble. (When you need God’s justice.)

Each day has it’s own trouble. Our worries could come true, our fears take form. Yet, I think it is only those who can look over the landscape of their troubles and put a name to them who can personally plead for vindication.

It goes from, “Why is this happening to me?” (anxiety over circumstances) to “Lord, be my Protector, Provider, and Strength. You are my Justice.” It becomes personal. It begins with a twinge of moralism — since I’ve lived such a “good” life why has this bad come my way? — and leads through confession to redemption. I think it is harder to confess our faults when a clear enemy is out there hoping for our downfall. When we think we are in the right and cannot see our contribution to the problem.

When your troubles have a name — an enemy in flesh and blood — and you pour out your whole heart to God, you can miraculously shift from being mad at your enemy to being mad for them.

This only happens through the Grace of God, and it doesn’t just “happen.” Jesus is the Grace of God in human form. He loved His enemies to the end, not being mad at them, but being mad for them. (“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”)
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When you’re a control freak (and you just now realize it).

“Hi. My name is Jeff and I’m a ‘control freak.’ I haven’t tried to assume autonomous control of every aspect of my life for at least the past 30 minutes.”

Urban Dictionary says a control freak is: “Someone who has a compulsive need to control all aspects of his or her own life…”

Nathan Bingham writes:

If we’re honest, there’s a little control freak in all of us. Some have tamed the beast better than others, but every now and then it lurks its ugly head.

I’ve been thinking about what I observe to be man’s almost insatiable desire to control. How should Christians stand apart in this area from the world? As I reflected, I thought of 3 ways in which Christians can crush their “inner control freak.”

Nathan continues:

Remember the Gospel

If you remember the gospel, you’ll crush your inner control freak.

Remember, the bad news of the “gospel” is that you cannot save yourself. You are guilty before a holy God and are without hope within yourself. Redemption is totally outside of your control. However, the good news of the gospel is that another, God Himself, has taken control of redeeming a people for His glory. God is the One who is active in sending His Son to redeem a people. Jesus is the One active in the sense of willingly living, dying, and rising to redeem a people. The Holy Spirit is the One active, like the wind which “blows where it wishes” (John 3:8), drawing a people to the Father.
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Dependence takes the form of humility, which takes the form of a servant. Humility, and being like a servant, is not thinking little of ourselves, but counting others as more important than us (Romans 12:3; Phil. 2:1-11). Dependence involves being honest before God, honest with ourselves, and honest with others.

How can we cultivate humility and daily dependence? John Stott gives some solid advice:

Thank God, often and always…. Thank God, carefully and wonderfully for your continuing privileges. . . . Thankfulness is a soil in which pride does not easily grow.

Take care about the confession of your sins. Be sure to criticize yourself in God’s presence: that is your self-examination. Put yourself under the divine criticism: that is your confession. . . .

Be ready to accept humiliations. They can hurt terribly, but they help you to be humble. There can be the bigger humiliations. . . . All these can be so many chances to be a little nearer to our humble and crucified Lord. . . .

Do not worry about status. . . . There is only one status that our Lord bids us to be concerned with, and that is the status of proximity to Himself. . . .

Use your sense of humor. Laugh about things, laugh at the absurdities of life, laugh about yourself, and about your own absurdity. We are all of us infinitesimally small and ludicrous creatures within God’s universe. You have to be serious, but never be solemn, because if you are solemn about anything, there is the risk of becoming solemn about yourself.”

—John Stott, The Radical Disciple: some neglected aspects of our calling, page 106, ch. 7, “Dependence,” quoting Michael Ramsey (former archbishop of Canterbury) in “Divine Humility,” ch. 11 in The Christian Priest Today, rev. ed. (London: SPCK, 1985), pp. 79-91.



A Prayer of Lament.

Lord, as we gather, celebrating Your glory and goodness,
we acknowledge the shadow of today’s anniversary.

Together, we remember September 11th, 2001.
We mourn for the lives lost in New York City,
Washington D.C., and on Flight 93.
We lament death’s reign, the visible and invisible forces of evil,
the principalities and powers of this dark world,
and the evil that lurks in the hearts of all men… including our own.

With the Psalmist, we cry:

“How long, Oh Lord?
How long will Your enemies scoff?
How long will You withhold Your justice
from a world that is desperate to see it?”

We lament a world at war, and we ask You for peace

  • In Afghanistan
  • in Iraq
  • in Libya
  • in Israel and Palestine
  • in Egypt and Syria,
  • and all of the nations of the earth that long for freedom from oppression.

We ask for protection over our loved ones and families who serve overseas,
We pray for the fatherless and the widow,
for the poor and oppressed.
We lift up our global leaders
that by Your grace they might lead with wisdom and justice
and work for peace.
And we acknowledge that all such hopes and longings point us to one who will soon return and bring an everlasting peace and justice.

Together we proclaim:

Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the LORD his God,
who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets the prisoners free;
the LORD opens the eyes of the blind.
The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;
the LORD loves the righteous.
The LORD watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations.

Praise the LORD! – (Psalm 146:2-10)

Amen, Come Lord Jesus.

—source: Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky. For corporate lament in their worship gathering, Sept. 11, 2011.

Photo taken by Alister Knock.


Towards a virtuous life: use worthy means.

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
—Peter’s second letter (1:2-11)

How do we move towards this life, of adding virtue to our faith? Continue reading