2014: Don’t Waste Your Life – Risk It!

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It’s New Year’s Eve. Another new year is upon us.

The question is, what will we do with it?

Will we waste it?

As a follower of Jesus, I have been challenged greatly (in a very positive way) by the writings of John Piper. Whether you are a Muslim or a Christian, I hope you will benefit from a few thoughts I want to share on this New Year’s Eve from his writings.

But first, I have some questions for you:

Will 2014 be a year that will matter in your life? Really matter. For eternity. For the glory of God.

We have a verse in the Bible that speaks to this (Ephesians 5:16):

“making the most of your time” (NASB)
“making the best use of the time” (ESV)

John Piper speaks to the importance of how we use our time in his thought provoking book, Don’t Waste Your Life. Here are some pertinent excerpts:

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“I will tell you what a tragedy is. I will show you how to waste your life. Consider a story from the February 1998 edition of Reader’s Digest, which tells about a couple who “took early retirement from their jobs in the Northeast five years ago when he was 59 and she was 51. Now they live in Florida, where they cruise on their 30 foot trawler, play softball and collect shells.”

“At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: come to the end of your life – your one and only precious, God-given life – and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells.

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“Picture them. . .at the great day of judgment: ‘Look, Lord. See my shells.’ That is a tragedy. And people today are spending billions of dollars to persuade you to embrace that tragic dream. Over against that, I put my protest: Don’t buy it. Don’t waste your life.”

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As you ponder Piper’s quote, please don’t miss the point. He is not “anti-seashell” or “anti-leisure”! No, he believes in the God-given pleasures of nature and recreation . But he also wants to challenge us to think about what most matters for eternity. What most matters for the Kingdom of God and the glory of God.

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This past month, a 33 year old young man – Ronnie Smith – was shot and killed by extremists in Benghazi, Libya (you can learn more here: http://www.worldmag.com/2013/12/a_life_laid_down).

Smith was a chemistry teacher for Libyan high school students and he and his wife and infant son went to Libya in part because of one of John Piper’s messages.

To my utter amazement, some have criticized Ronnie Smith for moving to Libya:

Too risky,” they say. “A needless tragedy,” they say. He should have moved his young family to “a safer place.”

But Ronnie Smith’s widow, Anita, said:

“We knew beforehand that Libya’s not safe. . .
We knew before going into Libya that there was risk.
We were doing this because we wanted to follow what God has for us,
and that’s to show the Libyan people His love and His forgiveness.”

“. . .we believed the Libyan people were worth the risk. Even knowing what I know now, I have no doubt that we would both make the same decision all over again.”

(http://www.cbsnews.com/news/widow-of-american-teacher-shot-in-libya-says-she-forgives-husbands-attackers/)

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Truly living for God in 2014 – living in a way that you are not wasting your life – will involve some risks.

But when God himself calls us to risk, “risk is right.”

John Piper writes about the person who lives like this:

“. . .your life will be hard,
your risks will be high,
and your joy will be full.

This is not. . .about how to avoid a wounded life,
but how to avoid a wasted life.

Some of you will die in the service of Christ.

That will not be a tragedy.

Treasuring life above Christ is a tragedy.”

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To my Christian readers: is this the way you want to live in 2014? Are you wasting your life? Where do you need to take risks as God Himself leads you? Do the souls of people mean more to you than your own life?

To my Muslim readers: what do you think of John Piper’s challenge to Christians? What do you think of people like Ronnie & Anita Smith who loved the Muslim people of Libya more than their own safety – even their own lives?

Christmas: A Muslim And A Christian In Jordan

On this Christmas, I thank God for this little story and the picture that goes with it.

Building bridges of friendship, trust, and understanding between Muslims and Christians – one purpose for this blog, one purpose for my life.

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AMMAN (The Jordan Times) — A photograph of a Muslim cleric shaking hands with a priest under a Christmas tree in Abdali’s Boulevard has gone viral on the Internet, with sharers commending the sentiment it conveys.

The photo of the sheikh apparently offering his seasonal wishes to the priest has proven a hit on social media, with some 60,000 likes and 2,000 comments on Her Majesty Queen Rania’s Facebook page by Thursday afternoon.

First posted by Queen Rania on her Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, and exchanged by thousands in Jordan and in the region, the photo was snapped by an anonymous photographer in the newly opened Abdali Boulevard in downtown Amman.

On the Jordan Times Facebook page, by Thursday afternoon, it was viewed by almost 100,000 people.

“This is Jordan, and, God willing, this is how it always will be,” wrote the Queen on her social profiles, wishing users a merry Christmas.

Have You Ever Been “Unloved” By Allah?

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Dear Muslim readers,

Have you ever felt that you were unloved by Allah?

Maybe we all have experienced that at times.

We know we just haven’t measured up. . .

in our prayers,
in our piety,
in our dedication,
in our deeds.

We simply fall short – incredibly short – of God’s glory.

But here is a question for you:

Does God’s love for us depend on what we do?

Our prayers, our fasting, our good deeds?

Or. . .does God’s love for us depend upon. . .God?

His innate, perfect, unchangeable, loving character?

Here is a song written by Michael W. Smith and Wayne Kirkpatrick that expresses the difference between God’s perfect love for us and our unworthiness. Please listen to it and read the lyrics below.

NEVER BEEN UNLOVED
I have been unworthy
I have been unrighteous
And I have been unmerciful

I have been unreachable
I have been unteachable
I have been unwilling
And I’ve been undesirable

And sometimes I have been unwise
I’ve been undone by what I’m unsure of
But because of You
And all that You went through
I know that I have never been unloved

I have been unbroken
I have been unmended
I have been uneasy
And I’ve been unapprochable

I’ve been unemotional
I’ve been unexceptional
I’ve been undecided
And I have been unqualified

Unaware – I have been unfair
I’ve been unfit for blessings from above
But even I can see
The sacrifice You made for me
To show that I have never been unloved

It’s because of You
And all that You went through
I know that I have never been unloved

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Today I know and believe this incredible truth: God loves me.

Not because of anything I do.

But because of Who He is.

How about you?