Friday, April 30, 2004

Reflections On A Spring Afternoon



Jasper Speaks:

I guess that title sounds like a poem from the romantic period in literature but that is not my intent. I am just sitting in my office thinking about life. It is a beautiful day in New England. It is about eighty degrees which is not the norm for our area in April. I have tried to stay more positive lately. I felt like I was getting into a rut with my negativity. Today, I am thinking a lot about the privilege it is to be a Youth Pastor.

I have been reflecting on my career since I had a heart to heart with our Associate Pastor on Wednesday. He asked if I thought there was a significant change spiritually in our students since I arrived here four years ago. I had to ponder the point and then said I believe so.

Now he has a stake in the answer to that question because he has three kids in our ministry. But I thought of all God has done here in our four years of service. I have seen salvations, rededications, and a slew of "a-ha" moments. Those are the ones I live for. I love to see a student "get" something for the first time. Whether it is a biblical truth like things of the world really do pass away or a life lesson like there are people who are poor and hurting in the world in worse ways than you had ever imagined.

One of my favorite a-ha moments ever comes from our trip to Mission Raleigh two years ago. Our kids had never really seen inner city poverty. Actually they had never really seen the inner city (they actually took pictures of billboards and street signs! What can I say we are from a state that is 90% forestry). Our students were forever changed on that trip. For the first time they saw poverty up close and personal. They also experienced what it feels like to offer (and receive in return) unconditional love. The "a-has" were ever present with us that week. Around every corner students were bursting from their suburban shells and experiencing life differently than ever before.

As we were leaving our mission site for the last time. Many students were in tears as they were leaving behind children who had captured their hearts. Their eyes had been opened and they longed to stay with these wonderful kids who came from not so wonderful homes. I held one student (the Associate Pastor's Daughter Joni) in my arms as she sobbed and asked me why people had to live like this. Of course I didn't have a great theological answer. I assured her God would protect the children and that he had a plan for their lives that we may never understand. She continued to cry and I said, "never forget how you feel at this moment". She looked at me with understanding eyes and we got into the van to prepare to leave. Not forgetting was going to be her a-ha moment.

In three weeks Joni leaves to spend her entire summer in Raleigh as a missionary. She can hardly wait as she has a great burden for the children that we serve there. She hasn't forgotten her a-ha moment and she understands how that moment forever changed her life. I am proud of her. My father instincts kick in and I get a little lump in my throat when I think she is going to be gone there all summer doing what our ministry has trained her to do.

I could go on about how this church had never done a ministry oriented mission trip before we came. I could toot my own horn for hours. But on this beautiful spring day, I can only dwell on my own a-ha moment. The a-ha for me is that God loves me in an incredible way. Now of course I knew that before now but today, as I think on all he allows me to do, I am especially touched. I get to work in the most wonderful profession in the world. I get to be there for the a-has. God has allowed me to be a part of his great plan in people's lives. I can affect people for God and I get to hang out with kids and never really have to grow up.

Somedays ministry is overwhelming and I feel like I need to pack up my bags and leave it all behind. Then God sends me a beautiful spring day that reminds me I am not thankful enough that I have the best job on the planet. Thanks God. You are mighty cool!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

YOUTH BLAST 2004 --- THIS SATURDAY!!! (SCREAM)

Jasper Stressfuly Speaks:

Please be praying for our big evagelsitic event, Youth Blast 2004 that takes place on Saturday. God is miraculously providing money for the event in a way that has never happened before and we are expecting over 200 teens to be there. It is also an event that I have to trust God a lot to take care of as it is the best delegated event we do. So my minor control freak tendencies have a hard time. Please pray that many teens will come to Jesus on May 1st here in Maine!

We have had a lot of interest in this year's event and I am happy about that. I have no reason to believe that my team has not gotten everything under control. One of the coolest things about being a YP in Maine is that we can use our public schools just by reserving them and paying the custodian. It is AWESOME. So every year we take over the whole campus and spread Jesus. It is wicked cool. Still, this is an event that I simply oversee after securing the school and the talent so I have to put a lot of trust in other people to bring it all home. So it is a Jasper issue as much as anything.

It should be a great day! I am trusting in the Lord and my capable staff! Please pray for me!
Something Else Positive

Jasper Speaks:

God is so good to us in times we least expect it. I have been doing a guy's small group on Tuesday nights for four years. I was driving down the rode today and was athankful to the Lord for the way he has burdened the guys to be faithful. Seldom do they miss. It has been great to invest my life in these guys. Three of them are seniors who have been a part all four years and it will bring a tear to my eye when they move on. Of course once they are not youth group members anymore they can become friends and that is always nice.

Not every week goes well for us. There are many times I am frustrated that nothing is getting through. They talk and laugh instead of sitting and soaking in knowledge. Now I realize they are guys and that gives them some lead way. I enjoy our goofy times too. I just wish there were fewer. Sometimes it seems we get nowhere.

But tonight was different. We had a great guys Bible study tonight. We began studying Ephesians. A few weeks ago one of my seniors voiced that he wanted our time to be more interactive (it already was pretty interactive they just talk about OTHER things for action). So I chucked the literature we had been going through and just pulled out the Serendipity Bible. We had such a great discussion about God's will! The guys showed depth and interest. It was very cool. I learned long ago to cherish these momens because they are few and far between.

So, next week it may be back to the same ole thing. But this week I got a peek at what God is doing in these guys' lives. It made me smile.
Something Positive

Jasper Speaks:

I share a lot of what doesn't work in my life on this blog so I thought today I would share something that did. My blood type is B-positive after all so I might as well try!

Just thought I would share with you what a great night we had at TNT (our midweek service). Our student led worship band has been together just about a year and they are really getting pretty good. Tonight they led me in worship in such a powerful way. They even brought my wife to tears! It is great to see time and effort pay off!

Then in my Senior High message time we had a light bulb moment. I am currently teaching through 1 John and am on chapter two. I really struggled with how to present it and had a difficult time writing the message. But when I got the end of the chapter where it talks about the lust of flesh, the lust of eyes and the pride of life I really felt like I needed to emphasize how we need to turn away from the things of the world. I ended up showing pictures of current celebs (Brad Pitt, Nick and Jessica, Donald Trump and Jack Black) and asked why we knew them,. Many of the kids answered because they are in movies or music or TV and then one girl said because they have money. It led us right into a discussion of material things that went well. Then I showed a picture of Chris Farley, Allyiah, JFK Jr. and Kurt Cobain. I told them if each of these wealthy, famous and DEAD stars could talk to them I am sure they would say the things of this world don't last.

We talked about how each of these people died as a result of one of the three categories of sin we were talking about. (Farley - The lust of flesh, JFK the pride of life [he flew an airplane he wasn't capable of flying in the conditions he did because he was too proud to admit he couldn't do it], Kurt Cobain the lust of flesh as well in a more round about way). Then what really seemed to get them was talking about the lust of eyes and how we want material things. Then I told the story of how Allyiah died and how she wanted all her stuff on the plane with her and wouldn't leave anything behind and so the plane was too heavy to take off and they crashed and she died. That was the lightbulb moment. The kids began to really respond to the need to keep their eyes of distractions and toward Christ. It was pretty cool.