“I consider my life of no value to myself”

Years ago at a group fellowship, one of those present shared his prayer for a Damascus Road experience. To the best of my knowledge that prayer request hasn’t been answered, for which my acquaintance should probably be grateful considering what happened to Saul of Tarsus as a result of his encounter with the risen Christ.

Saul’s commissioning included the promise of suffering (Acts 9:16), and he knew that trouble and hardship awaited him in every city (Acts 20:23). And yet he pressed on with his task of proclaiming God’s grace (Acts 20:24, Romans 15:20).

Because of hostility towards him and the gospel he preached, he had to be smuggled out of Damascus in a basket under cover of darkness (Acts 9:23-25); he was stoned and left for dead in Lystra (Acts 14:19); he was severely flogged and jailed in Philippi (Acts 16:22-23); he was beaten by a crowd that wanted to kill him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:27-32).

Luke tells us of plots against Paul in numerous places: Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:50), Thessalonica (17:5-7), Ephesus (19:23-31), Greece (20:2-3), Jerusalem (23:20-21).

He received lashes and was beaten with rods (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). He was shipwrecked (2 Corinthians 11:25, Acts 27:27-44). He was bitten by a poisonous snake (Acts 28:3-5). He went without sleep, food, water and clothing (2 Corinthians 11:27).

He counted his life as of no value to himself (Acts 20:24), risked his life for Christ (Acts 15:25-26) and was ready to die for Christ’s sake (Acts 21:13).

What’s my point?

A while back, I listened to the audio from this year’s Desiring God national conference[1]. I got thinking:  How am I losing my life for Christ’s sake? What account will I give of the life I’ve lived? Would I be willing to live a life of reckless abandon? I dislike being hungry, cold and making enemies. But looking at what God has done for me in Christ, shouldn’t I be jumping at the opportunity of making His name known?

I don’t have the answers. I can only pray that I would treasure the Lord Jesus Christ more than everything else on earth, my very life included.

[1]You must watch Louie Giglio’s message—you’ll never think of whales and stars in the same way again. I was also greatly impacted by David Sitton’s and Michael Ramsden’s respective talks. Unsurprisingly, both of them live what they preach.

Come, thou long-expected Jesus

Over the next five Sundays (the four of Advent and Christmas day), I’ll be posting on some of  my favourite hymns of the season. Today, the first Sunday of Advent, we start with Come, thou long expected Jesus. Here are two versions of it:

Why did I choose it? For one, it was written by Charles Wesley. Secondly, it expresses Scripture without exactly quoting from it.

Here’s the text of the hymn (source)

Come, thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us;
Let us find our rest in thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth thou art;
Dear Desire of ev’ry nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born thy people to deliver,
Born a child, and yet a King,
Born to reign in us for ever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By thine all-sufficient merit
Raise us to thy glorious throne.

The first line invites us to view the coming of Christ from an Old Testament believer’s point of view. A connection could be made to Simeon, who in Luke 2:25 was waiting for the consolation (or deliverance or restoration) of Israel (Isaiah 40:1, 49:13, 57:18, 61:2). As the stanza goes on, it is clear that Jesus is not only Messiah of Israel, but also the hope of all the world (Isaiah 49:6, 1 John 2:2).

The second stanza takes on a more New Testament stance. I see allusions to Matthew 1:21, 2:2, 6:10, Colossians 3:1 and Revelation 3:21. Overall, the hymn excels at portraying the double nature of Advent—celebrating Christ’s first coming to earth as we eagerly expect His second coming.


Hosea’s imagery

If you know anything about the prophet Hosea, it is that he married a prostitute (I blogged about that a year ago). His marriage to an unfaithful woman was to be a picture of Yahweh’s covenant relationship with an unfaithful people. I once heard Os Guinness say that in the Bible, the more open the recipients were to the message, the more direct it was (and vice versa). So whereas Moses talked to God face-to-face, the prophets spoke of locusts and lions (Joel and Amos respectively) and Jesus spoke in parables (Matthew 13:10-15).

In addition to the main Israel-as-prostitute image, Hosea paints lots of other vivid pictures to describe the relationship between Yahweh and His people, which I tried to reproduce in story form. I’m not sure if I succeeded, but take a look below (readers on RSS may have to click through to the post to enjoy WordPress’s fantastic new photo carousel feature):

Two observations:

  • Much of the imagery used derives from flora and fauna, natural phenomena (mist, rain) and human relationships. Hosea’s original audience could easily relate to all of these.
  • I didn’t expect the intensity of the savage beast imagery used of God. Especially since He was talking to His own people, not some godless pagans with no prior divine revelation.



Since getting text from images can be a little tricky, here are the scripture references (I didn’t use all of them in the panels): Continue reading

The Christian is a paradox

A real Christian is an odd number anyway. He feels supreme love for One whom he has never seen, talks familiarly every day to Someone he cannot see, expects to go to heaven on the virtue of Another, empties himself in order to be full, admits he is wrong so he can be declared right, goes down in order to get up, is strongest when he is weakest, richest when he is poorest, and happiest when he feels worst. He dies so he can live, forsakes in order to have, gives away so he can keep, sees the invisible, hears the inaudible, and knows that which passeth knowledge.
A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous (Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1955), 156

Via Chris Castaldo

Joseph, Daniel and Jesus

I’d have loved to have been present when Joseph and Daniel first met. The stories they must have exchanged! Both were torn away from  home as young men; they both had a God-given gift of interpreting dreams (Genesis 40:8,41:16; Daniel 2:27-28) that saved lives and saw them rise in the power structures of a pagan land (Genesis 41:41-43; Daniel 2:48, 5:29). Their love for God’s commands led them both to go against the current (Genesis 39:9, Daniel 1:8). And they were both good-looking 😀 (Genesis 39:6-7; Daniel 1:4).

More important than the things they had in common is how their lives foreshadowed that of Jesus of Nazareth, similarities which came to me after reading this blog post on Daniel and listening to a sermon series on the life of Joseph:

  • All three were exiles/sojourners in a foreign land (Genesis 39:1; Daniel 1:3-7; John 6:38)
  • All three experienced God’s lasting presence (Genesis 39:2, 21, 23; Daniel 2:23; John 8:29)
  • All three did their work with excellence (Genesis 39:8-9, 22-23; Daniel 6:4; John17:4)
  • All three were conspired against (Genesis 37:18-20; Daniel 6:4; Matthew 26:3-4)
  • All three were falsely accused (Genesis 39:16-18; Daniel 6:4-14; Luke 23:1-2)

The difference is that while Joseph and Daniel survived the false accusations and died peacefully (Genesis 50:22-23; Daniel 12:13), Jesus Christ did not. And because of His sacrifice, we who are sojourners in this world (Philippians 3:20) can face opposition without losing heart (Hebrews 12:3)!

Worldly sorrow or godly sorrow?

If you’ve lived long enough, you’ve had unpleasant interpersonal experiences—either as instigator, victim or bystander. In 2 Corinthians 7:10, the apostle contrasts godly grief which leads to repentance, and worldly grief which leads to death. What indicators can you look for to determine which is which?

Remorse Repentance
Short-lived Long-term
Involves emotions Involves emotions and will
Distressed by the consequences Distraught by their actions
Makes vague resolutions Makes specific restitution
Wants public attention Humbly accepts obscurity
Desires immediate return to positions of ministry/authority Recognises the need to rebuild trust over time
Makes external displays of contrition Displays internal development and change
Finds fault in how he/she is treated in the process of discipline Exhibits submission to the humbling process of discipline
Hesitates to follow counsel in relation to reconciliation/restitution Initiates action toward restoring broken relationships and making restitution

From a slightly longer post on Counseling One Another.

See also When “I’m sorry, I messed up” isn’t enough.