What Is the Essential Virtue?: further insights about the easy yoke from Dallas Willard

Renovation of the HeartYesterday I shared an excerpt from Dallas Willard’s Renovation of the Heart about what Willard sees as the essence of discipleship in the easy yoke of Jesus referenced in Matthew 11:28-30. I wanted to share one additional thought from Willard on this, which flows directly from living as a disciple of Jesus within His easy yoke.

When we abandon outcomes to God, living in true soul rest in God through Jesus Christ, we live with honest assessment of our inability to live the “with-God” life on our own. As you would guess, to truly live the life with God calls us to life, not relying upon ourselves and our own strength, but upon God and His strength. This leads us to a fundamental posture of humility, which Willard describes further in what follows.

Humility is the framework within which all virtue lives. Angela of Foligno observe, ‘Our Lord did not say: Learn of Me to despise the world and live in poverty . . . but only this: Learn of Me for I am gentle and lowly of heart.’ And ‘One of the signs by which a man may know that he is in a state of grace is this—that he is never puffed up.’ Accordingly, we are to ‘clothe [ourselves] with humility,’ Peter said (1 Peter 5:5), which certainly means loss of self-sufficiency. ‘God gives grace to the humble,’ he continues. ‘Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you’ (verses 5-70. Humility is a great secret of rest of soul because it dose not presume to secure outcomes.

Here is a simple fact: We live in a world where, by God’s appointment, ‘the race is not to the swift, and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise, nor wealth to the discerning, nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all’ (Ecclesiastes 9:11). The Lord ‘does not delight in the strength of the horse; He does not take pleasure in the legs of a man’ (Psalm 147:10). He has a plan for our life that goes far beyond anything we can work out and secure by means of strong horses and good legs.

We simply have to rest in his life as he gives it to us. Knowledge, from Christ, that he is good and great enables us to cast outcomes on him. We find this knowledge in the yoke of Christ. Resting in God, we can be free from all anxiety, which means deep soul rest. Whatever our circumstance, taught by Christ we are enabled to ‘rest [be still] in the Lord and wait patiently [or longingly] for Him’ (Psalm 37:7). We don’t fret or get angry because others seem to be doing better than we are, even though they are less deserving than we.

[From Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ(Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), 209-210.]

For more on the topic of humility, you may enjoy reading my ten reflections on Andrew Murray’s short but powerful book Humility, which begins here.

Micah, part 2 [God in the Ruins]

God in the Ruins Series GFX_App Square

One of the most famous passages in the minor prophets comes from the book of Micah.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

As we continued our series on the minor prophets, “God in the Ruins,” This past weekend at Eastbrook, we explored the significance of this passage within the final two chapters of the book of Micah.

Micah was an 8th century prophet to both the northern kingdom of Israel and southern kingdom of Judah. He witnessed the fall of Samaria and the northern kingdom to the overwhelming might of the Assyrian armies in 722 BC. Micah also spoke about the coming exile for the southern kingdom of Judah, which occurs after the time of his ministry.

You can watch my message from this past weekend and follow along with the message outline below. You can also engage with the entire series on the minor prophets here or download the Eastbrook mobile app for even more opportunities to connect.

Read More »

A Prayer on Living for God, inspired by Micah 6:8

Creator God,
You have made us for yourself,
and our hearts are restless
until they rest in You.

We admit that we often live restless lives,
turning to all sorts of other ‘gods’
that promise life that is not life
We confess that in many ways we have spurned
Your way, Your truth, and Your life,
and we ask You to forgive us.

Strengthen us now, gracious Father,
that we might walk humbly with You—
not thinking more of ourselves than we should;
that we might love mercy—
reflecting You who are love toward others;
and that we might do justice—
manifesting Your character in our lives.
May Your kingdom come,
may Your will be done
here on earth—even in us—
as it is in heaven.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

Prayer: A Litany of Humility

James Tissot - Jesus Ministered to by Angels

Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.
That others may be loved more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That, in the opinion of the world, others may increase and I may decrease, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be praised and I unnoticed, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be preferred to me in everything, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it. Amen.

Attributed to Rafael Cardinal Merry Del Val by Charles Belmonten in Handbook of Prayers (Manila: Studium Theologiae Foundation, 1986). 

Daniel: A Prophet of Prayer

 

dani_visioen_grt

“The handwriting’s on the wall…”

“We’re walking into the lion’s den…”

It might not surprise you to hear that these well-known English idioms trace their way back to the biblical story of Daniel. Daniel is best known for his journey into the lion’s den when he defied a monarch’s edict. The story of Belshazzar’s feast, where Daniel interprets writing that miraculously appears on a wall, has been recounted in numerous works of literature.

Enduring Prayer
But what catches my eye as I read through the book of Daniel is not the lions’ den or the miracle handwriting, but Daniel’s life of prayer. We see in the first chapter of the book that Daniel and his friends were dedicated to the Lord God of Israel by their commitment and behavior. When Daniel faced a challenge of interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, we read that he and his friends “plead for mercy from the God of heaven” (2:18). In answer to those pleading prayers, God miraculously provided when the pressure was on for Daniel. Clearly, Daniel was a man of prayer when faced with challenges.

Consistent Prayer
Yet as we read on, we find that Daniel was a man of prayer at all times, not just in times of challenge. In fact, it was Daniel’s consistency in prayer that provided the opportunity for him to be sent to the lions’ den. Out of jealousy for his position, Daniel’s enemies realized that they could not catch him up on issues of integrity or character but only if “it has something to do with the law of his God” (6:5). So, they trick King Darius into signing off on a law that prohibits prayer to anyone but the king himself for a thirty-day period. Undaunted by this situation, Daniel returned home and did what he always did: “three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before” (6:10). Daniel was consistent in prayer.

Humble Prayer
In chapter 9 of the book, we find Daniel poring over the Hebrew Scriptures of the prophet Jeremiah. There, Daniel discovered that a seventy-year period was decreed for the exile of God’s people (Jeremiah 29:10) and that the end of that time is drawing near. Daniel’s response is not to lurch into action and set up a strategy for returning the people of God to their homeland. Instead, his immediate response is to turn to God in contrite prayer. His heart is broken over the sin and idolatry of His people and, in Daniel 9:4-19, he offers one of the most moving and powerful prayers of repentance in the entire Bible. Daniel’s prayer eventually takes him into a time of deep repentance accompanied by a vision of God’s messenger, the angel Gabriel. Daniel was a man of prayer that took sin and wrong seriously. Action was required, but it was not actually to come through Daniel. God had that task for Ezra and Nehemiah. Yet it was Daniel’s humble prayer that catches the eye in Daniel 9.

So, who is Daniel? The un-eaten prophet of the lions’ den? The reader of divinely-sourced dreams for earthly kings? A person of integrity in the presence of great earthly power? Yes, without a doubt, Daniel is all of these things. Yet at the core of Daniel’s life is an intimacy of relationship with God that is birthed in the crucible of prayer: enduring, consistent, and humble.

[For more on Daniel, consider following through the Eastbrook Church preaching series, “Daniel: Apocalyptic Imagination and Exile Faith.”]