Christmas Eve Reflections…

Hello everyone and Merry Christmas!

  This has been a wonderful year for Uncle Jeff. Why? Many reasons…but the most obvious one is Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Second? I am now a married man! On August 15th, I married the love of my life, Rachel.  God has blessed me richly with this lovely woman. Hallelujah!

  Okay…now to some reflections:

  I have been thinking about salvation, the Gospel, assurance of salvation, perseverance of the those who are saved, and all kinds of other things these days. Here are some Scripture meditations and links to Gospel-related content that I think might be helpful.

  1. A few years ago I wrote a blog about my belief in Jesus. These statements are simply written to be clear for those who might speak English as a second-language. I did not back them with Scripture, but I can if anyone needs clarification. Click here for that blog post.

  2. Lately, for my morning devotionals I have been pondering the “faith chapter” in Hebrews – Hebrews 11. In that chapter, the writer of Hebrews (I think the Apostle Paul wrote Hebrews) Works through an amazing list of men and women who had faith in God and were counted righteous because of their faith. Hebrews 11:1 – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

   The amazing thing about this chapter is the people Paul references are deeply flawed, sinful humans. If you take some time and read the life histories of these people in the Old Testament, you would see that they have serious issues. Adultery, murder, deceit, pride, anger, etc. Now, does God just overlook those issues in these people? No…not at all.

  Rather, God forgives them of their sins just like He will forgive us….through belief in Jesus Christ. This is the Gospel. In Romans 10:17, Paul writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Jesus said, “I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

  You must be born again through belief in Jesus Christ. You believe that Jesus is God. You know that you are a sinner. You repent (turn from) of your sin and ask God to forgive you through the blood of Jesus. His sacrifice on the cross paid your penalty. This turning from your own righteousness to trusting in Jesus for salvation is hard on your pride. Turn. Trust. Repent. Believe. Live!

  Here are some links to resources for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These men can explain it in ways that I cannot. Take some time and watch and listen. Really try to hear the Gospel. Do you believe?

   – John Piper: John is a pastor in Minnesota. He loves Jesus. He explains the Gospel in 6 minutes. Click here.

  – Propaganda: Prop is a spoken-word artist who loves the Lord and proclaims the Gospel in a unique and powerful way. The message is true, but the delivery is anointed. Click here.

  – Tim Keller: Tim is a pastor in NYC. New York City?!?!?! Yep, New York. He is a clear speaker. This clip is from a Q&A session at a university. He clarifies the difference between religion and true faith in Jesus. Click here.

  I hope and pray these resources give you something to think about and to place your hope and trust – Jesus!

  Merry Christmas,

  Uncle Jeff

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Christmas Party – Taipei, Taiwan

Hey y’all-

Last night, we hosted a Christmas Party at our apartment. Yes, the party was on the 26th, but many of the students we are trying to reach have class late on Friday. So, we moved it to Saturday. (I think Jesus would be cool with that. Matter of fact, I know it.) So, the party…

We were a tad concerned about the potential turnout. Why? A few reasons: the distance from the school (40+ minutes on the MRT/subway) and no telling how long on a motorscooter, the timing (day after Christmas), the day (Saturday night), etc., etc…..

It is always good to see God work when your faith starts to waver. We were wavering a tad and God worked. He worked to the tune of about 70 students and over 80 total people at our party. It was a blast. Here are some pics…

Students listen as we share the Christmas story...and the Gospel.

Students packed in every corner for the Story of Jesus' Birth...

Me and Joyce

Brian and Rain

The dudes from Change Life Church...they love Jesus...for real.

Eva, Eunice, Stacy, and Example...some of the first friends we made on ChihLee Campus.

What an awesome night. We had a chance to hang with great friends, eat good food, laugh, joke, take pictures, sing songs, and tell them the Greatest Truth Ever Known.

Jesus is real. Jesus is God. Jesus died for their sins. Jesus rose again. And, He wants them to believe in Him and be saved. Pray that they believe!

Thoughts?

Merry Christmas from Taipei, Taiwan.

Uncle Jeff

I am thankful for…

Hey y’all-

It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, so I thought I would post a few things I am thankful for. Hope you can relate…

1. I am thankful for Jesus. (This is an obvious one.) He is my Lord, my Savior, my Friend, my Brother, my Redeemer, my Intercessor, and He wants to be all of those things for you. (Ask me about it. I would love to tell you the truth about Jesus. And, how you can have a personal relationship with Him.)

2. I am thankful for godly men in my life. Here are two:

Wade Hampton Gayhart

This is my Grandpa. He is my Dad’s dad. He loved the Lord.  He loved me. He loved me enough to tell me about Jesus. And, he loved me enough to tell me when I was in rebellion against God and God’s desire for my life. He was a master cornbread maker. He was a fisherman. A public speaker. A good husband. A good father. A good provider. He loved to play golf. He loved to laugh. He was fun. He was serious when he needed to be. If I could be half the man he was, I might turn out okay.

Melvin Leroy Parton aka "Doe Pop"

This is my Mom’s Dad, my Papaw. This picture represents him pretty well. When he wasn’t running the roads of East Tennessee, he could be found in that chair reading. Favorites? The Bible and the newspaper. I’m guessing the paper on the end table is sitting on top of his Bible. My Mamaw gave me that Bible when my Papaw died. I treasure it. He was a godly man who loved his Lord and his family. He, too, told me about Jesus. He loved me. He was a storyteller. He could eat….a lot. He loved black coffee. He loved people. I can still hear him singing as we rode around Knoxville….”Take that ribbon from your hair……shake it loose and let it fall….” Man, he had good taste in music.

Again, if I could turn out to be half the man my Papaw was, I might be okay.

3. I am thankful for the promise that I will see my Papaw, Mamaw, Grandpa, and all of my family members who trusted in and followed Jesus someday in heaven. We will live together for eternity. What hope we Christians have! Hope built on a promise given by the Living God. That is awesome.

4. I am thankful for the rest of my family. They love me. They support me. They correct me when I need it. They even try to help me when I don’t need it. (Like helping me find a wife.)

5. I am thankful for my new friends in Taiwan and my old friends in the United States (and other parts of the world). God has blessed me with many great people in my life. They are not all followers of Jesus, but I pray that they will be. Why? I love them and I want the best for them for all eternity. Not just temporary happiness in this life. Eternal joy. It’s guaranteed, trust Jesus!

6. I am thankful for too many things to mention but here’s a silly list: coffee, chocolate, friends, guitars, country music, Jeeps, leather jackets, boots, books, Skype, apple pie, old country churches, fall leaves, snow, the beach, rain, sunshine, mountains, surfing, basketball, french vanilla coffee creamer, soccer, cornbread, and many, many other things……

Be thankful!

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

 

 

Thanksgiving

 

Fall in Trimble County

 

Hey y’all-

I thought I would post a quick note on Thanksgiving. Our friends in Taiwan hear about Thanksgiving, but they don’t really understand what we are celebrating. Also, people in the United States hear of Thanksgiving and do not really understand what we are celebrating. Let me tell you a bit about it…

Thanksgiving came about as a holiday to remember the debt of gratitude owed by the first American settlers (the Pilgrims) to the native Americans for their help in surviving in a new and harsh land. The Pilgrims were trying to escape religious persecution and came to the New Land to worship as they saw fit. They weren’t really into religious freedom for everyone, but that idea did come later….much later….

Nonetheless, when they landed in America, the living condition were rough. People died. Starvation. Wild animals. Disease. Cold. All kinds of hardships. The Indians (this is a term of endearment in my book, so fret not PC police) befriended the Pilgrims after a time and taught them necessary survival skills. They learned to farm, fish, hunt, and live in the new land.

The Pilgrims decided to celebrate and thank God for their survival. They invited their new friends the Indians to the party. Thanksgiving was born….the year was 1621.

Today, in America, Thanksgiving is the start of the Christmas shopping season. It is an excuse to take a day or two off from work, eat a lot of food, hang-out with family, and overindulge. Thanksgiving is far from its original intention in the American landscape. What to do?

Take it back. Be thankful to God. Praise Him for all He is. Praise Him for all you are. Praise Him for all you have. Praise Him. Worship Him. Be thankful to the One who made you, loves you, and offers you salvation through His Son, Jesus.

The ultimate act of thankfulness? Accepting the free offer of salvation made by God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. Be thankful….for eternity.

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

Solitude and Silence – Part III

Newfoundland Mission Trip 035

Ruth Haley Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence is really hitting me right between the eyes. I like it. I don’t like it. And then I like it again. Where did she smack me last night? In the areas of fear and control…..

She writes,

Entering into solitude and silence also moves us into a realm where we are not in control. The practice of silence in particular honors the reality that it is God who initiates the spiritual life; he is the One who calls forth in his way and in his time. But even as silence and solitude bring us face to face with our addiction to being in control, there is also an invitation: the invitation to let go and allow God to be in control (48-49).

I think this pretty much sums me up. I like to be in control. Or, more accurately, I like to think I’m in control. The reality is God is in control. Doesn’t that seem like a better idea? To allow (and desire) the Creator of the Universe to be in control rather than a bald, single, 38-year-old seminary student? Really, whom would you rather follow? Me or God? Trust me, you’re not hurting my feelings…I’m with you….I’d rather follow God, myself.

Now, how about your life? Who is in control? You? God? Someone else? A friend? Family member? Boyfriend? Girlfriend? Who is in control of you? Trust in the Lord Jesus. Let Him be in control. That is the way it is supposed to be. That is the only way I want it to be.

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

Friends in Taiwan

Hey y’all-

Want to introduce you to a few friends of mine from Taiwan.

This is Frank. He’s a 9th-grader at a local junior high school. (They have three years of high school here.) He goes to school all week and cram school on the weekends to work on English and Art. He helps me with my Chinese and finds us good places to eat.

Frank - student, basketball player, Chinese master

Frank - student, basketball player, Chinese master

This is his older sister, Shelly. She is a 12th-grader at a local high school. She goes to school all week and three cram schools on the weekend for Math, English, and Art. She has a huge test in January or February for which she is currently studying. That test will determine what university she will attend….

Good score. Good school. Not so good…..well….

Shelly - math student, artist, Chinese guru

Shelly - math student, artist, Chinese guru

Just thought you might want to meet a few new friends of mine….pray for them and for me as I share with them about Jesus.

Uncle Jeff

Snow Day Devo

Hey y’all-

            Since there is no youth meeting tonight (due to snow, ice, danger, etc.), I thought I might drop a line via the blog with a devotional thought—something to ponder, study, and respond to….are you ready?

            One of my classes this semester is Personal Evangelism and there are 40 Bible verses/passages we have to memorize for a test (and for use in ministry). While looking through these verses, I decided to focus on one this morning, share it with you, and offer a few thoughts on its significance.

            In Acts 4:12, Luke writes, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” There are a ton of rocks to look under in this verse, so let’s start.

            First of all, let’s define a term—salvation. This is a Christian technical term that non-Christians may not understand. So, if I share this verse with a non-believer, they would have a fair question in saying, “What do you mean by salvation?” Well, Christians, youth, regular attendees of Bedford Baptist Youth Group…what do I mean?

     Better yet, what does God mean when He uses a term such as salvation in His Word to the world?

     I think Paul gives us a good look at the idea of salvation in his letter to the Ephesians when he writes,

In him [Jesus] you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory (Eph 1:13-14).

     Salvation is a belief in God’s promise through His Son, Jesus Christ, that we are forgiven of our sin and able to live in right relationship with God in this world and the world to come. This is a free gift that is initiated and given by God. We do not save ourselves. Trust me, if you could save yourself, then it would not be worth doing. (Personally, I know I jack-up so many things in my daily life [i.e. relationships, finances, cooking, etc.] that I would not trust my eternal soul to myself; rather, I gladly trust it to Jesus.)

     It is a realization of immediate (and a hope of everlasting) relationship with Jesus. There is a faith in the promises of God. In Ichabod Spencer’s A Pastor’s Sketches, he tells of meeting with a dying woman from his congregation. Written in the mid-1800’s, Spencer recounts how he went to her bedside and asked about her health. She responded she was dying. He asked if she was ready. She affirmed she was well prepared by saying, “Sir, God knows—I have taken him—at his word—and—I am not afraid—to die” (57).

     He writes, “ . . . that expression of her faith has been of great benefit to me. It has aided me in preaching, and in conversation with inquiring sinners very often. It gave me a more simple idea of faith than I ever had before. . . . Everybody could understand it: ‘God knows, I have taken him at his word’” (58).

     For further study on salvation, look to Romans 10:9-10; Ephesians 2:1-10; Revelation 3:20; Isaiah 1:18, and, really, the whole story of the Bible is one of redemption.

     Now that we have talked of salvation let’s discuss the name by which men must be saved. Not, might be saved…but must be saved. There is no other name under heaven, except the name of Jesus Christ by which men can be saved. It is not possible. This is what one would call the exclusivity of Jesus Christ.

     This is a part of the Christian message that irks those of other faiths or of a more liberal bent who wish for many doors into heaven. However, Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me” (John14:6). This truth is really clear. Jesus lays it down and you can pick it up or ignore it, but you cannot be angry with the Christ-follower who tells the message as Christ preached it.

     Now, I could spend the next few minutes typing up a list of other faiths that do not believe in Jesus. But, I shan’t. Rather, I challenge those who claim to follow Christ to do so. Read His Word. Study His teachings. Do what He says. And lovingly tell those who do not follow Christ (you know who they are) that Jesus is the only way.

Enjoy the snow.

Uncle Jeff

     PS – I linked earlier to a band website for No Other Name. This is a gospel group I’m friends with from Nashville. They’re great. Check them out. Hit their website. Buy their CDs. They love Jesus…trust me….they do.