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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

Don’t Waste Your Life – Chinese

Hey y’all-
I love the book Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. It is an awesome read and a chance to really dig deeper and think through some big thoughts for your life. And your service to God. In fact, I blogged about it quite a bit a year or so ago…

I found a sample of the book in Chinese and wanted to post a link for my friends in Taiwan. Read it and see what Piper has to say…

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

Suicide of Christians

Hey y’all-

Got a heavy topic today. Why? A friend…..

She got in touch with me and said she was trying to help counsel some others who were struggling through suicide in their close circle. She wanted some guidance in leading them to God’s Word to see what He says. Not what I say, but what God says about suicide. So, what should I do? I went to my counselor and one who I love to lean on in difficult times is John Piper.

John Piper bringing it....

He is a man of God who totally leans on the Bible. I love that and I pray I get better at it. (By the way, I do not know John Piper personally, but I do call on his message when I struggle, as well as, Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, Mark Dever, Kevin Shrum, and other great preachers of the Word.)

I found this message about the suicide of Christians. Read it. Pray over it. Study God’s Word. Respond if necessary. I hope this helps.

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

DWYL – Lesson 10 – FINAL POST!!!

Hey y’all-

  This is my final post for the Don’t Waste Your Life book study. It’s been fun. I hope y’all have gotten a bit of blessing from the reflections posted here and maybe even God has worked in your heart a bit to reveal the joy of following Him with your life—everyday.

 

  Lesson 10 in the DWYL: Study Guide is all about reflecting back on the whole study. So, that’s what I’ve been doing. In chapter ten of Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper speaks about his prayer for those who read this book, his desire for those who seek God, and his thoughts about what it means to follow God and not waste your life. (Makes sense given the title of the book, doesn’t it?)

  In regards to seeing Jesus as our Great Treasure (over life on earth, money, fame, fortune, cheap thrills, drugs, food, sex, cars, sports, and a ton of other things we put before our relationship with Christ) he says,

 “Is not this, then, the way we lay up treasure in your house—to give our money and ourselves to make as many rich with God forever as we can?” (188).

  Adding to the thought of laying treasure up in heaven by giving of ourselves on earth to make God known in every nation (even the U.S., especially the U.S.), Piper writes,

 

  O Father, grant your church to love your glory more than gold—to cease her love affair with comfort and security. Grant that we seek the kingdom first and let the other things comas as you will. Grant that we move toward need and not toward ease. Grant that the firm finality of our security in Christ free us to risk our homes and health and money on the earth. Help us to see that if we try to guard our wealth, instead of using it to show it’s not our god, then we will waste our lives, however we succeed (188).

 

My Response: This is a difficult, difficult thing to do—to love God more than comfort, air-conditioning, hot showers, new cars, new clothes, new shoes, video games, friends, family, food, guitars, Blizzards from DQ, or anything else. Why? Because we, as sinful humans, seek our glory more than God’s. We want what we want and we want it now!

  I think John Piper is speaking in the context of the church in America (and Europe) being willing to live for God in their home countries and some being willing to go and serve as foreign missionaries.

  SIDE NOTE: I think it is probably easier mentally and emotionally to live sacrificially for God as a foreign missionary. Why? Because you have already made a huge sacrifice to go and serve and the ties to home and comfort are cut more easily. If you live in Bedford, Kentucky, it’s a lot more difficult to not want a new car when your neighbor gets one. Or, to have your kids think serving God is more important than being some kind of Guitar Hero.

  Where is our comfort displayed most readily in the current American church? Speaking from my personal experience, I have found many in the church find comfort in these things—hearing and singing music they like, sitting in their regular pew at church, getting out of church by noon with service no more than an hour, a preacher they find attractive and easy to be around, sermons that make them feel good, only attending one service a week (no more than an hour!), bathrooms fully stocked, water fountains that work well, air-conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter, children in the church who behave, youth who are attractive and seem to be non-threatening and Jesus-followers, padded pews, and a Savior who loves them and requires very little of them.

  Sad, right? Some of you are thinking, “Uncle Jeff, you’re being too hard on the church.” Really? I’m a part of the church, so I’m a part of the problem. But, I want God to use me when He decides He has had enough and is ready to send the solution. I’m willing.

  So, I have been negative and it’s time to show something positive, right? Sure. Here are a few suggestions for those who love their comfort more than Christ. Remember, God has called us (Christians) to reach the world with the story of His Glory and we can’t do that when we are more concerned about our comfort than other people’s salvation.

  Here are a few simple suggestions for the average church-goer to start moving from comfortable Christian to God-honoring, Christ-exalting, sacrificial Christian.

1.      Read your Bible at home, by yourself with your mind and heart focused on God and what He is teaching you through His Word everyday. Everyday!

2.      Pray for God’s guidance as you read His Word.

3.      Read through the Bible as a story and as a book with one over-arching theme, rather than a bunch of trite sayings to help get you through the day.

4.      Understanding who God is and how awesome He is from His Word is a huge start.

5.      Pray, pray, pray at all times and in all places. This is a common suggestion, but get in the habit of reaching out to God when you are in trouble, tired, excited, joyful, thrilled, nervous, worried, or any other emotion you can think of. You will be surprised how quickly prayer becomes a first response to waking in the morning if you make it a conscious decision.

6.      Worship God on your own during the week to prepare for corporate worship on Sunday. How? Read your Bible, pray, listen to favorite Christian music and sing along, take a walk and pray while going, climb a mountain, hold a baby, eat an ice cream cone, be a great employee—there are a ton of ways to worship God in your daily life.

7.      Hold yourself and your church and your pastor and your family and your friends and your heart to a higher standard and seek God—always! Do not be satisfied with dead, lifeless worship. Don’t leave your church—fix your church. Jumping from one church to another when things are not going well is not a good solution…you will just find all of the problems at the new place. Rather, work to resolve any issues at the church where you attend….you can do it with God’s help. (That’s a good place to focus a lot of your prayer rather than on your comfort.)

8.      Serve in your church. Teach, sing, open doors, drive a van, cook food, greet visitors, run sound, help in the nursery. It is amazing how serving others in the church can open your heart to all kinds of God-honoring worship.

9.      Finally, share your faith. It will challenge you to articulate what you believe. And, if you lead someone to Christ, you will be fired up! Trust me…..trust me…do it. Share, lead, share, lead, share, lead…..that’s following Jesus.

 

Thoughts?

Uncle Jeff

DWYL Lesson 10 – Day 2

Hey y’all-

  I’m going to post today and probably one more time to wrap-up our look at John Piper’s Don’t Waste your Life and the DWYL: Study Guide. I hope you have found this study helpful, challenging, eye-opening, convicting, encouraging, and covered in God’s grace. My desire when we started was to help the youth in my church see that God has a bigger plan for us than many of us realize (even adults). Maybe God has opened your eyes through the words of John Piper to see and savor and love Jesus Christ more than you ever have. If so, then all of these posts were well worth the effort.

  Plus, being a sinful, selfish human being I must mention the personal benefit I have received by going through the study as a “leader” and posting my thoughts and responding to the comments. I feel like God has used this time in my life to work in my heart and that is personally encouraging.

 

  Lesson 10 in the Study Guide has no official questions but we have been asked to reflect back upon the book and the study. On day one, I posted a rather lengthy quote from the final chapter that spoke to me and I shall do the same today. John Piper writes,

 

  A greater weight of glory waits to be enjoyed for those who grow in love to Christ. And what is love to Christ? It is the cherishing of all you are for us in him. It is the treasuring of his perfection over all the treasures of the world. It is delighting in his fellowship beyond all family and friends. It is embracing all his promises that there will be more pleasure in his presence than from all the lying promises of sin. It is a gladness in the present taste of glory and the hope of future fullness when we see him face to face. It is a quiet peace along the path he chooses for us with its pain. It is a being satisfied that nothing comes to us in vain (187-88).

 

My Response: As I try to teach and lead my youth group, the concept of loving God more than any other is a difficult one for the kids to grasp. God says, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). This is the First Commandment of the Ten Commandments and it is echoed by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew when He says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

  What Jesus is teaching is this: to properly love anything at all (parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, etc.) you must first love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind. Why? Because the new birth given only in relationship to Jesus Christ is not addition of good things to a broken, sinful heart—it’s a heart transplant. Jesus takes your old, sinful, broken heart and replaces it with a new heart. A heart that is oriented toward God and thankful for His love and grace and mercy and peace and joy that He alone can offer.

  Here is a common concern and response, “But I could never love anyone more than I love my parents!” Yes, you can. My Mom and Dad know that I love the Lord more than them. And, I hope and pray they love God more than me. Why? Because if they love me more than they love God, then who is their god—me. And I can save no one…I can’t even save myself let alone my family. The only hope any of us have is Jesus—see John 14:6. So, if you have placed your love of Mom and Dad, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, dog, car, guitar, food, son, daughter, nephew, grandma, grandpa, etc. above God, then you have created for yourself a false god. Do you think God will honor that? I am here to tell you clearly and without a question God will not share His glory with another God—ever. If you doubt me, read the Old Testament. It is a reminder time and again of the trouble the Israelites brought upon themselves as they followed and loved false gods.

  So, love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind and love your neighbor as yourself. Not too hard, right? Well, it’s impossible without the indwelling grace of God displayed through and manifested in the Holy Spirit.

 

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

DWYL Lesson 10 – Day 1

Hey y’all-

  Well, here we are…the end of the road for Don’t Waste Your Life and our walk through the DWYL: Study Guide. It’s been fun, and enlightening, and convicting, and a ton of other things I can’t even express right now.

    I have the opportunity to check out my overall stats for the blog and I’ve noticed that some days have much more traffic than others. I’m not sure who all is reading, so I thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule to peruse my thoughts about John Piper’s book.

  This blog was created primarily to be used by the Bedford Baptist Church Youth Group but it’s fun to hear from others (adults and youth) who are enjoying these posts. Thanks again….

  I’ll continue to post on this blog other thoughts and whatnot (I may do another book study in a few weeks), so please keep me in your Favorites and come back.

 

  Now, let’s look at the final question for Lesson 10. NOTE: This is only Day 1 of the final week, so there will be more posts on the final chapter. The question reads, “What have you learned?”

 

  My Response: That’s a pretty easy (and broad) question with a multitude of possible answers. I’ll go in one direction today and move in another direction tomorrow. The final chapter of Don’t Waste Your Life is a reflective chapter on the overall book and John Piper’s reaction to what he has written and his view of how people will respond. Here is an extended quote on which I would like to focus today:

 

  O God, you know I tremble now for fear that many of the ones who call you Lord have made themselves the prize and glory of your grace. How many, Lord, have made your love a witness to their worth! Is then their joy a resting in your worth or in their own? So many decades have gone by in which the constant message from the world, and even from some ministers, is this: that love means making much of man. And so when men, with this assurance, ponder what your love might mean, they say the same: God’s love means making much of man. For proof they ask: Don’t your feel loved when someone calls attention to your worth? (184, italics Piper’s).

 

  This quote is a great fear for my own life and for the lives of many I know and see in the church. That we are making ourselves the center of our own universe, building a little kingdom to ourselves, constructing a shadow world to fit our wants on earth, when God wants us to experience so much more in this life and ultimate joy and fulfillment in the life to come. (I have to acknowledge Paul David Tripp for the “little kingdom” concept from his book A Quest for More: Living for Something Bigger than You. This is a great book that clearly speaks to our desire to live for ourselves—i.e. sin—when God calls us to a much higher purpose—namely, living for His glory and not our own.)

  I just hope and pray that my life reflects a greater worth, value, and joy in the glory of God than my own glory. The sad reality is I get my drawers in a bunch when things don’t go my way. Being 37 and single, I can be unbelievably selfish. How? Think about it…my world at home is all mine. I eat what I want when I want, I watch what I want on TV, go to bed when I want and wake when I want. My bathroom is as clean or dirty as I want it to be. Selfish! Notice all the “I want” statements in there?

  What do we do? We’ll talk about that in the days to come….

 

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff

DWYL Lesson 9 – Day 5

Hey y’all-

  This is the time of the week where we look back and reflect. Here’s the question from the DWYL: Study Guide for the completion of Lesson 9, “What was the most meaningful part of this chapter for you? Was there a sentence, concept, or idea that really struck you? Why? Record your thoughts in the space below.”

 My Response: I think the part of Chapter 9 of Don’t Waste Your Life that struck me right between the eyes was this quote from page 177.

No, you don’t have to be a missionary to admire and advance the great purposes of God to be known and praised and enjoyed among all peoples. But if you want to be most fully satisfied with God as he triumphs in the history of redemption, you can’t go on with business as usual-doing your work, making your money, giving your tithe, eating, sleeping, playing, and going to church. Instead you need to stop and go away for a few days with a Bible and notepad; and pray and think about how your particular time and place in life fits into the great purpose of God to make the nationas glad in him. How will you join the great global purpose of God expressed in Psalm 67:4. “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy”?

  Wow. Know what I mean? I think one of the things we (as humans, Americans, evangelicals, Christians) have settled for is “less.” By “less”, I mean God has created us for His glory and we settle for so much less. It’s sad. And sinful. And John Piper is calling us to contemplate what God wants us to do for His glory and not our own. We are good at living for our glory. Well, I know I am…know how I know? Let me tell you….

  Every morning this is my routine, bathroom (if necessary), coffee, cereal…..see God in there anywhere? When I wake up, my first thought is for me. Sinful. I settle for my own glory rather than God’s glory from my first waking moment.

  Back to living for God’s glory and not our own. I think John Piper’s suggestion to search your heart for a few days with serious prayer, Bible study, and meditation. And then pursue what God lays on your heart is a great idea.

  Now, my youth are gonna say, “But we can’t take a few days and go away…” I know. But can you take your Bible (if you don’t have one, I’ll get you one) and a notebook and find a place to sit and think, and read, and meditate, and pray? Maybe the edge of a cornfield? Or a tree by a creek? Or a quiet place in the back of your neighborhood?

  This is a great idea that could be life-transforming for all of you. Seek God’s direction for your life and not your own. That’s awesome.

  Thoughts?

  Uncle Jeff