Thoughts on Thanksgiving 2010

Hey y’all-

Haven’t dropped a line on here in awhile, but I’m feeling a little froggy. I thought I’d reflect on Thanksgiving a bit.

First thought:

A year ago, some friends and I were throwing a party this week in Banciao, Taiwan. We wanted to get together with some college kids we knew and tell them about the American holiday – Thanksgiving. As we told them about being thankful and our American traditions, it was very natural for us to tell them about our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Here’s a shot from that great night:

Truthfully, country music, Starbucks, and flip-flops (three things I am thankful for on a regular basis) are great, but true thankfulness comes when one realizes the gift given by God in his Son, Jesus Christ. And, once you see and receive the gift given by God to free you from your sin, pain, darkness, and hopelessness, then it is very easy and joyous to be thankful in all circumstances. I call this conversion and so does most of Christian history.

So, I am thankful….for Jesus and his love for me that enables me to be cleansed of all unrighteousness and made whole in the eyes of the Father. Can you say you are thankful for that type of love, freedom, joy, peace, and righteousness? If not, message me and let’s talk. This is too important to pass over…..

Second thought:

The holidays make me a little lonely. I see all the adverts on the telly (kinda Brit, right there) and think, “Man, I’d like a hot tamale to snuggle with in front of the fire.” Then, I go hang out with married friends and see the stress and hear the arguments and I think, “Man, I’m glad I’m single.”

Having said that…if anyone has any connections to a hot tamale with low self-esteem and even lower standards, let me know. She doesn’t have to be perfect, but close would be nice….

Third thought:

My Mom makes a mean sweet-tater casserole. It may be wrong to look too forward to a dish, but I look forward to that every year. I missed it last year when I was overseas, so I’m doing a double helping this year. Mom, hook a brother up!

Final thought:

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope and pray that 2010 has been a good year for you. I pray that your family and friends are well. I hope you have peace with God through a relationship with Jesus. I would love to see all my family and friends in eternity…I’m selfish like that.

Blessings.

Livin’ the dream,

Uncle Jeff

Advertisements

DWYL Lesson 9 – Day 1

Hey y’all-

  I’m back in Kentucky and taking a class at SBTS this week. Paul David Tripp will be teaching Biblical Counseling and I’m excited to hear what he has to say and learn all I can to help spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ through counseling the hurting. Should be a good week.

  Also, we are on Lesson 9 in the Don’t Waste Your Life: Study Guide which corresponds to Chapter 9 in Don’t Waste Your Life. There are only 10 lessons, so we wrap it up next week. Very exciting….

  Let’s get to it. Chapter 9 is about world missions (we all live in the world, so we should all be involved in world missions) and John Piper asks, “In the space below, describe your current involvement in world missions. This would include prayer, financial support, mission trips, and current plans for the future.”

  My Response: This chapter is close to my heart because I have a desire to serve as a foreign missionary (Lord willing) sometime in the future. Where? Not sure. When? Not sure. Right now, my focus is my ministry at Bedford Baptist Church and loving these kids enough to tell them about Jesus and His love and holding them to the highest standard possible….God’s holiness. It’s where I am and where I want to be, but missions is always on my mind and in my heart…..

  This morning, I was in the gym at SBTS trying to work-out (I’m lame…and so are my workouts) when a friend from school walked in. He and his wife are leaving in nine days to serve as career missionaries in a primarily Muslim country that is closed to evangelism and the Gospel. They will be gone for at least three years before coming back for a visit and then, Lord willing, they will return and continue with their ministry over there. This world mission stuff is very close to me.

  Now, my involvement is not very extensive. As a Southern Baptist, I give to the Lottie Moon Offering for Foreign Missions and support the missionaries through prayer. Also, I try to tell my kids about missions and the need for our involvement…not just money and prayer, but going. As a youth group, we are taking a trip to another part of Kentucky to help build an emergency shelter in a few weeks.

  Personally, I am going to Canada this summer to help with evangelism and church planting. How? I’m playing guitar and singing with The Long Run Players. We’re jamming gospel bluegrass for the glory of God. Should be a hoot.

  What do you think we should do for missions? Foreign and local?

  Uncle Jeff

DWYL Lesson 8 – Day 2 and 3

Hey y’all-

  Our Internet access is pretty decent, so I thought I might post this a.m. Had a super-excellent dinner last night at the Siesta Key Oyster Bar (SKOB). (Obviously, I do not endorse all activities that take place at this joint but I do think they make a mighty-fine glass of iced-tea and the people were friendly.) I chose the coconut-encrusted grouper with rice and veggies. Had Key Lime pie for dessert….mmm, mmm, good! Now, we work!

  For Day Two in the DWYL: Study Guide there is a question which reads, “What does it mean to go to work (or school) ‘with God’? Describer three ways that you currently take God to work (or school) with you.”

  My Response: Considering that I am a youth pastor at a church, taking God to work with me each day is fairly easy. Not always easy, but fairly easy. So, let’s address the first part of the question….what does it mean to take God with you to school or work? I think John Piper is hinting at the reality that we must be conscious of our relationship to God at all times and in all things we do. There is no “day off” for the Christian.

  Unfortunately, in our current American culture, Christianity is seen as an activity (like soccer, or swimming, or Girl Scouts) that is done on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. And then again at night if you go to youth or something. That’s not being a Christian. That’s being a church attender and you will die and go to Hell with a Sunday School perfect attendance certificate in your hand if you do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s just the reality of it.

  Jesus said we must take up our cross daily and follow Him. If we truly take up our cross and follow Jesus, we would never, ever think of laying down the cross to go to work or school. Rather, we would take it with us and obey our Lord and Master Jesus Christ. I fear that many people will meet the Savior of the Universe one day at the Judgment and be eternally disappointed to find that church attendance and serving on a few volunteer committees were not enough to be counted worthy for entrance into Heaven.

  That is not the flip comment of a smug youth pastor who thinks he has it all figured out. That is a heart-wrenching realization of a sinner who has been forgiven by Jesus Christ and freed from death, hell, and slavery and wants others to taste the freedom that only living for Christ can offer. I cannot count the times over the few years that I have lived (I’m 37) that I thought I was a Christian only to realize much later that my version of Christianity was nothing more than a self-created religion made to placate my sinful soul and soothe my battered conscience from all the horrible offenses I was committing against God. Horrifying. And I am very thankful and blessed that God reached down from the heavens and shook me enough that I woke up from the sleep to see the One True Light that shines into the hearts of man as the glory of God. That is awesome. I have been forgiven much and I know the sweetness of that love….I just want you to know it as well.

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

DWYL Lesson 8 – Day 1

Hey y’all-

  I’m posting this week’s first entry a tad early. “Why?” you ask. Well, I’m leaving on an all-night drive to FL tomorrow after church and I have no idea of my WWW hook-up-ability in this condo complex. Hence, this post to start the week and we’ll see where it leads. Plus, there may be a beach shot or two posted. Maybe even me all tan and whatnot (Please don’t hold your breath. I don’t really tan anymore and you wouldn’t want to see this ‘ol buzzard shirtless….trust me.)

  So, here we go: Question 2wants us to examine Colossians 3:23-24 and 1 Corinthians 15:58 as we look at the question. Here it be: Do these verses only apply to Christian ministry? Or do they apply to secular jobs as well? List three practical ways ot obey these commands in your vocation.

 My Response: What is in question here is “working for the Lord.” Does this mean that these verses are only for pastors, youth leaders, Sunday school teachers, etc.? Heavens, no! (Like that use of “heavens”? Like a little old grandma.) All work is for the Lord.  I put that in bold so it would seem like I raised my voice. Why? Because too many people will put their happy face on for church on Sunday and then go to work Monday through Friday and act like a hopped-up gang member with an itchy trigger finger….just blowing people out of the water left and right with hatred, malice, envy, gossip, slander, etc. Get the picture? This doesn’t even touch how they treat their families until, of course, they pull in the church parking lot and put that smarmy grin back on.

  So, we are to work for the Lord at all times in all vocations. But Jeff I’m a drug-dealer. Find a new job. But Jeff I’m a science teacher. Teach the Truth. But Jeff I’m a police officer. Arrest people in love not hate. Sound funny? It’s not; it is actually true. You can be a good Christian and a good businessperson. You do not have to lie, cheat, and steal Monday through Friday to “make ends meet” and then try to “get right with God” on Sunday. God expects you to be faithful to Him 24/7/365….add one day on leap year. Always and at all times.

  What about students? Go to school and study and learn and treat your peers and your teachers as God would have you to do. How? Be a loving, kind, compassionate, truthful, merciful person and quit thinking the world revolves around you and your cell phone. That’s a good start. If we always keep in mind no matter what we do as work that we are “serving the Lord Christ”, then our daily life will be worship as our Sunday mornings should be.

  My vocation is youth pastor so working for the Lord is expected (not easy, not a given, not always done well, but expected).

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

  PS – I am not sure what my posting will be like this week. So, if you are behind, catch up. If you are current, work through Lesson 8. If you are not doing this but reading my posts from time to time, welcome. Glad you’re here. Later taters!

DWYL Lesson 7 – Day 4

Hey y’all-

  Today, we’re moving through the last part of Chapter 7 in Don’t Waste Your Life. This corresponds to Day 4 of Lesson 7 in the DWYL: Study Guide. I have to admit I had tears in my eyes as I read the section for this lesson.  John Piper writes about soldiers fighting for the US in Iwo Jima. It’s heart-wrenching, heart-warming, convicting, and uplifting. Read that section. Your day will change…pages 122 to 129.

  Now for the question. Question 9: In this section John Piper discusses the courage and sacrifices of soldiers in WWII. What is the point of dwelling on these stories? What connection does John Piper want us to make to our lives?

  My Response: John Piper recounts the stories of soldiers fighting (some died, some survived) in WWII for a cause greater than themselves. They were fighting to end tyrrany, to bring freedom to the world, to stop oppression, and (eventually) establish some sort of worldwide peace. Now, each man may not have realized that…some were just hacked-off at the Japanese for bombing Pearl Harbor. Nonetheless, they were in a fight greater than themselves and their personal anger. What does that have to do with being a Christian and not wasting one’s life? Lots.

  I work with youth and they are generally not concerned about things greater than themselves. Most are only concerned with their personal, unholy trinity-me, myself, and I. Clothes, makeup, hair, video games, fun, TV, sports, being cool, looking good, popularity, fads, food, ice cream , music, bands, computers, vacation, school, etc. All of these things are huge to teenagers and fill the mind with banal nothingness for the most part. The same can be said for adults if we just up the focus a bit – cars, house, job, TV, clothes, food, weight-loss, kids, family, Internet, boats, motorcycles, guns, etc.

  Are any of these things bad in and of themselves? Some are (popularity) and some are not (ice cream) but all are bad if the focus of one’s life is a thing and not God. John Piper is trying to wake us from slumbering and lumbering through lives that mean nothing in the eternal expanse of God’s greatness to lives that waken hearts and quicken pulses of those “dead in their sins” to a Holy God who loves them and wants to spend eternity with them. But we, as Christians, have Tivo-ed a baseball game or three episodes of “The Office,” and we’re tired so we better just go home and relax…..wasted life!

  Do we never get to relax? Heavens no, people! Don’t be ridiculous, but I think (if we are all honest) much more of our free-time is spent relaxing or doing things that bring no glory to the name of Christ than working for the Kingdom of God.

  Any thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

 

DWYL Lesson 7 – Day 3

Hey y’all-

  I’m pretty much on top of things right now, so I thought I would write before breakfast (not before coffee, but the actual food part). A man’s gotta have a little java every now and then.

  We’re on Day 3 of Lesson 7 in the DWYL: Study Guide. Let’s get to it.

  I’d like to start with a little quote from John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. He writes,

  Oh, how many lives are wasted by people who believe that the Christian life means simply avoiding badness and providing for the family. So there is no adultery, no stealing, no killing, no embezzlement, no fraud-just lots of hard work during the day, and lots of TV and PG-13 videos in the evening (during quality family time), and lots of fun stuff on the weekend-woven around church (mostly). This is life for millions of people. Wasted life. We were created for more, far more (119).

  Question 8: What is the biggest problem with TV? List three ways that television and the Internet negatively affect you and your family. If someone compared the amount of time you spent watching television and surfing the Internet with the amount of combined time you spent praying, reading the Bible, and worshiping God, what might they conclude about the source of your satisfaction?

  My Response: There are a lot of problems with TV: from content of shows, topics of discussion, celebration of celebrities (So you can sing or bounce a basketball. Why does that make you so much better than everyone else?), valuation of improper things (idolatry), hyper-sexualized lifestyles portrayed (cheating wives/husbands, teenage sexual activity, normalization of homosexuality, etc.), and the list goes on…

  I have a feeling this line of questioning in the book will irritate some people who read this. Why? Because they love their TV. It is a comfort, a friend when no one else is there. You’re all alone, lonely, at home, on the couch, and the idiot box is right there waiting to be turned on to suck the life and hours and common sense right out of your head. Happens all the time…that’s why I turned off cable TV at my house. I could flip channels for hours and say, “There’s nothing on worth watching, but I WOULDN’T TURN THE STUPID THING OFF!”

  The Internet is becoming the same type of mind-numbing, fake-friend (Facebook or MySpace, anyone?), anonymous-living, social skill destroyer as millions of people sit in front of a screen each day and night pretending to be someone they wouldn’t have the guts to be in real life. (Don’t think the irony of you reading this on the Internet has not escaped me.) So, are TV and the Internet all bad? No way…

  There are some good shows on TV (every now and then). Ever seen a Billy Graham special? Or a show about the production of molasses in Kentucky? Or bluegrass pickers singing somewhere in Texas? Or just a (fairly wholesome) movie to relax in front of? The issue is these shows should be exceptions to your day not the norm. Not every hour. Not the majority of your life.

  Unfortunately, we are used ot be entertained every minute of every day and (in our jacked-up minds) there is something worse than sin, death, and Hell-boredom. “I’m boooored!” is the worst words a parent can hear, so they prop kids in front of hours of jumping, bouncing, silliness on TV and act surprised when theise same kids reach 6th-grade and cannot develop an attention span long enough to finish a simple book. They’re boooored with reading. Got any freaked-out clowns with weird grins who can sing stupid songs and make me laugh? Huh? That’s what I need…not books!

  The second part of the question is not fair for me. My numbers would be off because I’m a seminary student. I spend a lot of time reading (the Bible-even though I could spend more time in the Word, and books about God, religion, church history, philosophy, counseling, etc.) and not much time in front of a TV or laptop. My lack of cable and Internet access at my house helps with this. Actually, posting this blog is a bit of an effort because I usually write it and then have to go to church or the local library to get access to post. However, even with all of that, I can still kill some time checking email, looking at Facebook, or whatever else the devil wants to lure me with to keep me from Kingdom work. I am so easily fooled!

  I’m not saying you should burn your TV or smash your PC, but maybe turning them off every now and then and reading the Bible, or taking a walk with a loved one, or sitting on a front-porch (or in the shade) and talking might be nice. Make some lemonade and call me….I’ll come over.

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

DWYL – Lesson 7 – Day 2

Hey y’all-

  Today, we’re talking about money and possessions. I know, I know a tough topic. I understand. Know this: I will not be asking for money. (That seems to be a misconception about preachers and pastors that has grown from the black sheep of the so-called TV Christians who constantly try to bilk the faithful of their money.)

  However, money is an important topic to Jesus. So much so that he said, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). Jesus taught that He was the the treasure of our lives and not money or possessions. What does he mean by the “eye of a needle comment”? Pretty much what he says…for a rich person to truly love Jesus more than money would be very difficult because where your heart is there your treasure is….so, what’s your treasure? A bank account? A car? Or the Creator, Sustainer, Provider, Savior, Redeemer, Warrior-King of the Universe – Jesus?

  Let’s look at one of the questions in the DWYL: Study Guide for Lesson 7.

  Question 4: On page 109 (of the book Don’t Waste Your Life) John Piper notes that “The issue of money and lifestyle is not a side issue in the Bible. The credibility of Christ in the world hangs on it.” Slowly review the texts dealing with money on pages 109-110. Summarize the teaching of these verses in your own words. Which text is the most meaningful to you at this point in your life? Why?

  My Response: I think I pretty much summed up my thoughts on the texts in review during the introduction of this topic. So, I’m going to focus for a few sentences on the phrase “The credibility of Christ hangs on it.” What does John Piper mean by this? I think Piper means that the way you live your life, the way you view your stuff, the way you handle your money, the way you treat those who have less, the way you worry over finances speaks directly of your relationship with Jesus Christ. How, Jeff?

  Like this: when I lived in Nashville, I knew some people who went from having nothing in the music business to having some success. All of a sudden these people had a new focus-fame and fortune-and some of their “lesser” friends were pushed to the wayside for new, improved friends. I think Jesus means the same thing when He talks about money. Who is your Friend? Upon what do you rely? Your ability to make money or Jesus? The way you treat your money and stuff will show directly what (or whom) you are trusting in for your happiness, joy, salvation, standing with God, relationship with others, etc. All of that is shown by how you act…..as the old cliche goes, “Actions speak louder than words.”

  The scenario is this: Sunday morning in church people say, “I love you, Jesus! I trust You with my life. I want to follow You. You are my Rock, my Salvation, My Redeemer. Thank You, Jesus.” (This is good. There is nothing wrong with any of these words, but how about the heart behind these utterances?)

  Monday morning: Rush to work, worry over the bills on the kitchen table, argue with the husband/wife about the dirty dishes in the sink, by-pass the man who needs help on the street, field three calls from the kids before you get to work (yell at them on the third call), and slide into your cubicle 10 minutes late with a steaming cup of designer coffee ($4.40-plus tax) to flip your Christian calendar to the new Bible verse of the day that says, “It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:20-21). And you think, “I do that. I live for Christ every day.” Do you? Do any of us? Really?

  Where is your trust? In whom (is that correct grammar?) do you trust? Or in what do you trust? Money? Stuff? Family? House? Or Jesus?

  This question took a lot of space, so I’ll stop there.

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff