Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Teach Your Children Well


Jasper Speaks:



What is the most quoted passage of Scripture in history? If you are like me your first guess might be John 3:16. I am flooded with pictures of football games with a giant poster in the endzone being raised by a man in a rainbow wig. But John 3:16  is not the correct answer. The answer may actually surprise you. It is Deuteronomy 6:4-9. It reads:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.  You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

It may be a surprise that this passage is the one that is most quoted. However, in the home of every Orthodox Jewish family this passage is repeated morning and evening. This passage is recited at Bar Mitzvahs as Jewish boys ceremoniously enter manhood.
It is important enough that it is the passage Jesus recited when asked what was the greatest of all commandments.

This passage is referred to as the Shema. The word Shema can be translated “witness”. God instructs parents in this passage to make witness to their children of the doctrine of one God and how we honor Him. The imagery of the signs being on their hands was to remind the children of Israel to remember the Lord in the work of their hands. Binding them as frontlets between their eyes reminded them to keep their minds pure from ungodly thoughts and images. By placing them on the doorpost, they were declaring God as the Lord of their home.

Christian parents today have a responsibility to live the principles of the Shema in front of their children. A concern in our churches is that it seems that many students are leaving the church when they leave high school. It is staggering the numbers of students who seem to abandon their faith at this time. Depending on the studies the numbers can be anywhere from 60-90%. There is one thing that seems to make a large difference in these numbers however --- parents.

Recent studies have shown that there is a 300% increase in the chance of students staying in church when there are faith conversations on a regular basis in the home.1 Parents are key to the discipleship process. The Lord clearly commands parents to impress the teachings of His Word on their children. Many parents struggle with how to best do this. Here are a few suggestions:

1.      Remember that discipleship begins in the home.
Start the spiritual conversations that children need to remain in the faith. Even when your child seems uninterested, the Spirit is at work. God promises that his word will not return to him void. Share your own faith story with your children. Discuss meaningful passages of Scripture with them. Find spiritual lessons in the every day happenings in your home and talk about them with your children.

2.      Remember Children often spell love T-I-M-E.
Spend time with your children. Show them the love of Christ by reminding them that they are a priority in your life. Put down the remote. Leave work at work more. Discuss your child’s day with them and as those discussions flow point out areas where your child could grow spiritually through greater faith, prayer or time in God’s Word.

3.      Just Live It
Remember that your own life is your best discipleship tool. Your child sees the real you. How are you living out your faith day to day? Do they see you in God’s Word on a regular basis? Do they hear you speak of trusting God in all circumstances? Do they see your life marked with the joy of the Lord? You may think that you do not know how to model the Christian life because your parents never modeled it for you. That kind of thinking is what Satan wants you to believe. Instead, you must trade the sin of the past for God’s plan for today. You can make a generational difference by simply living for the Lord in front of your children. Do not fear it. Embrace it. Start this Godly lifestyle today.

The church is a great resource for discipleship for families. However, there is only so much the church can do to help. God reminds us in the Shema that discipleship begins at home. Remember the Lord has given you your children as a trust. Investing in them spiritually is the most important thing you can do. Teach your children well and when they are old, they will not depart from it.

1Jim Burns, Christian author, speaking at the Reinvent Conference, Louisville, Kentucky November 4, 2011
I Must Be Old Because I Keep Shaking My Head and Saying "This Generation ..."


Jasper Speaks:


At first this article made me mad. Then it just made me sad. I am so sad that this generation doesn't seem to understand consequences. It doesn't seem to have real, solid values. This man KNEW that boys were being harmed and did NOTHING. He is not a hero no matter what his "winning record" says. Football games have no significance in life. Zero. Only eternal differences really matter. I applaud Penn State on their decision to fire this man and not take the easy way out and just let him retire. It makes me sad that college students there don't understand anything about the justice being served.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Student Surgeons or Student Researchers?

Jasper Speaks:


Much has been said and written about living life on mission. Searching the all knowing website, Wikipedia, I found this definition of "Missional Living":

Christian term that describes a missionary lifestyle; adopting the posture, thinking, behaviors, and practices of a missionary in order to engage others with the gospel message.

The more I think about this in student ministry, I think about a doctor's training. As they go through the process they learn in detail about everything regarding the human body and how it functions. When it is done some become doctors who get their hands dirty in the lives of patients as surgeons and their hard work saves their lives. Others go into research. They continue to know a lot about things but never really use their knowledge to heal. I want my students to be surgeons not researchers. I think the American church is full of researchers who may even have the best intentions as they go to church every Sunday and learn. I want my students to get their hands dirty in the lives of people God has put around them. I think a continued emphasis on living life on mission helps point them toward that

I am not saying that research isn't important. I believe that research can enable us to change the world. However, as I  shepherd the flock of students with whom God has entrusted me, I want to develop students who take their research and use it in practical ways. I want surgeons, not researchers.


Here is a great video overview of the concepts of a missional church. it is pretty basic but if you don't know about or don't understand the foundational truths of the missional church movement, this should help:









Thursday, October 20, 2011


PURE PRAISE -  Week Three - Worship is Conversion

Jasper Speaks:

I am learning a lot about worship in our latest study, Pure Praise. Here is what we talked about last night:

We are in week three of a series we are calling Pure Praise. We are looking into God’s Word to see what it says about worship. We’ve talked about how worship is a lot more than singing. The first week we said that worship is knowing God. We said that in order to really worship Him, you have to know Him.

Last week Jeff talked about worship being praising God.

Tonight I want to talk to you about where worship comes from. How it can be real and not inauthentic. Last week Jeff talked about how praise is an outward thing. How people see it when you are doing it and that is really true. Praise is the outward response to what God is doing. Tonight I want to build off what Jeff said last week and help you see how to prepare yourself for real, true worship what should come from your worship.

Worship begins INSIDE
True worship comes from within us Worship is a heart issue. To genuinely worship God, I believe your heart haws to be right with God. Last week Jeff talked about how praise comes from the overflow of the heart. I believe that worship begins inside us. Look with me at what Psalm 51 says:
 
Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to rebels,
and they will return to you. Forgive me for shedding blood, O God who saves;
then I will joyfully sing of your forgiveness. Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. Psalm 51:10-13

In order for us to worship God in spirit and in truth like we talked about two weeks ago, we have to make sure that we are right inside. We have to be equipped to worship.

Before we can really worship we have to prepare ourselves. If praise is really the overflow of our hearts then our hearts need to be right to worship. Once that happens we can take the steps of worship. Worship on its own is so much more than praise. It should move us to change. Worship is conversion.

As I thought about what that might look like I was drawn to one of my favorite passages in the Bible. Isaiah chapter 6. I think as we look at Isaiah’s experience here we will see path of preparing our hearts for real worship.

Isaiah is possibly the most famous Old Testament prophets. His book is 66 chapters long like the Bible is 66 books long. The first five chapters of Isaiah deal with a vision God gave Isaiah about Judah and Israel and God’s judgment.

Then we get to chapter 6 and Isaiah and he records the extraordinary experience he had. To understand this chapter we have to recognize Isaiah’s state of mind. His friend (and probably cousin) the King, Uzziah had died and Isaiah was mourning. Isaiah is reaching out to God in his time of mourning. In the midst of this hard time God speaks into his life and changes it.

I like to call this the “C” chapter. I think we see Isaiah’s heart being prepared for worship in a series of happenings that all start with the letter C.
Fist is the act of:

CONSECRATION
It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord. He was sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Attending him were mighty seraphim, each having six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!” Their voices shook the Temple to its foundations, and the entire building was filled with smoke. Isaiah 6:1-4

The dictionary says that to consecrate means to to make or declare sacred; set apart or dedicate to the service of a deity: 

And that is what happens here.

The seraphim cry out Holy holy holy!

Isaiah realizes God is different. He consecrates.God is greater. Holy different. Our worship begins with recognizing that.

So the first C is Consecration the next is

CONVICTION
Then I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed … Isaiah 6:5a

When we see how different God is we immediately see how sinful we are.

We are separated from God.

We see that more when God is consecrated. When we worship God starts to shine his flashlight on our hearts and we see where we fall short.

Once we have consecrated God and seen how different he is and our sin is made known to us this requires a response on our part. That response is:

CONFESSION
… for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Isaiah 6:5b

Isaiah consecrated God and immediately saw his own sin. But he didn’t  just see his sin he responded to being in God’s presence. He saw his own sin and confessed it. If you want to really worship God in spirit and truth you need to confess the sin in your life before him. You need to get things right with God. I would even go as far as to say if you are in a worship service and you are singing and you are consecrating God and you are convicted of your sin before him (as should happen most of the time of our worship) you should stop right then and there and confess. Why? Because that sin is going to keep you from truth. Sin is the opposite of worship. You have to confess it to really be able to let yourself worship God with your whole spirit.

Sin is the exact opposite of worship. Worship is about God, sin is all about us. Really worshiping in Spirit and Truth cannot happen if you have unconfessed sin on your heart.

Then God does something in the worship. The next C is for

CLEANSING
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your guilt is removed, and your sins are forgiven.” Isaiah 6:6-7

When you consecrate, are convicted and confess, God is going to cleanse.

Why did the seraphim put the coal on Isaiah’s lips? That was where his confesses sin was.

God will go to exactly what you confess. He will cleanse it.

Once you are cleansed you are at a point where you can worship God unhindered. It is at that time that you can achieve the last step of worship

CALL
Then I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”  I said, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah 6:8

Isaiah came to the temple that day because he needed God. When we are worshipping him we are saying God I need you. Is Consecrated, was convicted, confessed, God cleansed him and then --- then he was able to hear God’s call. Worship is about giving back to God but it is when we are iving back to him that he can move the most in our lives. It is when he gives back to us. Is worshipped and God spoke.

You should expect to hear God’s call every time you worship.

This shouldn’t be a one time thing. You see

Worship is LIVING CONVERSION

Let’s go back to where we started in Psalm 51.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. Psalm 51:16-17

God doesn’t want our works
God wants our real worship
In order to really worship we have to have all thse Cs.

When we have them, God will not reject us. He will speak to us. Then our real act of worship continues when we answer the call to consecrated holy living.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Life is Hard 


Jasper Speaks:



Life is Hard … But God is Good

Life is hard but God is good. This phrase has been running through my mind of late. I have had a difficult few weeks and I keep telling myself that even in the darkest hours, God is good.

When was the last time you really contemplated the goodness of God? We are so blessed. I heard someone say the other day, “What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday”. It made me think. I have much for which to be thankful. I have an amazing wife. I have a wonderful son. My extended family loves me. I have close friends.I have a caring church family. I get to spend every day “working” in a job that is my passion. I have a nice home. I have two cars. I have not gone hungry. I realize that I don’t thank God enough for what I have.

God’s Word speaks of the goodness of God often. I think that God understands that we all have difficult times. Our sinful nature enables us to be selfish and look at our current circumstances and neglect all God has done for us. So, God, in his infinite wisdom, reminds us of His goodness when we open His Word. Even in the times we feel abandoned, God’s goodness still surrounds us. Psalm 31 says:

Oh, how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men! You shall hide them in the secret place of Your presence From the plots of man; You shall keep them secretly in a pavilion from the strife of tongues. 

God knew life would be hard. Sin complicates everything. It keeps our focus off God and all he has given us. Still, in our darkest hour, God does not leave us alone. His goodness still prevails. We may not understand why He allows the darkness to over shadow us but we can have confidence that His goodness will continue to shine down. Part of the goodness of God is that He promises that all things will work to our good. Life deals us so many difficult times but God is greater than our difficulties. Satan’s lies are defeated when we stop dwelling on the darkness and begin to return to a list of the things for which we are thankful to God in His goodness.

If you are dealing with a difficult time, I challenge you to sit down and list the ways that you see God’s goodness at work in your life. It will change your perspective. It will defeat the enemy as he tries to deceive you into believing God has left you all alone. Life is hard but God is good. May we all remember that even in our toughest times. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

INSIDERS

Jasper Speaks:
I am completely convinced that God has not called us to be out of this world. He has called us to be insiders who are changing the world. Here is a video we made for our latest Reality Check Series called Chosen Generation. We spent all of September 2011 studying 1 Peter 2:9 piece by piece as we prepared for The Lifebook Movement we are taking up later this month. After the video I have placed my notes from week two of Chosen Generation that discusses the idea of being an insider.





Chosen Generation
Week Two

You Are An Insider



But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 1 Peter 2:9

We talked about how we are CG RP HN. We are God’s ambassadors to earth to tell about the love of Christ and God’s redemptive plan. Tonight we are going to rest on the next phrase HOSP. Ithink everyone likes to be told they are special. Nobody wants to be ordinary. We want to be special and in a good way. You know sometimes I may look at you and say you’re special. But its all in the tone. Specail may mean something different to you but in God’s definition we mean, chosen, royal and holy. So if you are special then

God has SPECIAL PLANS for you
Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord, who have no confidence in the proud
or in those who worship idols. O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them. Psalm 46:4-5

I completely believe that God has given all Christians a special plan. He has told us that we are special to him and that he has great plans. In fact the psalmist writes here that those plans are too numerous to count. His plan for each of us is unique and special for us.

So if God has a special plan for you when does it start?

God’s plan for you is about RIGHT NOW

I want to take you back to the Old Testament. We begin our study in the Old Testament. We ask, How did Israel relate to the unbelieving world? We soon discover that Israel was God's message, His vehicle of communication to the rest of the nations. Their message was in their uniqueness, as they lived by the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws God had given them through Moses.' They were not to mix with their neighbors in marriage or take on their customs because such a mixture would blur God's image.' The plan was not to send Israel into the world to reach the nations. Rather, He planted her in the world to attract the nations. That plan worked as long as Israel was faithful.

Esther:

If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Esther 4:14

Now times have changed but I believe that God still puts us in certain places for such a time as this?

ME WWII – why wasn’t I born then? Because in the grand scheme of God’s plan I was born for such a time as this. I had a purpose for the right now.

Remember I said that in the OT God place Israel in a place of being God’s messsage to the world. The New Testament opens on a very different note. Israel had fallen into dishonor in the eyes of the nations. Yet Jesus came as a member of this discredited people. He offered Himself to them, but they rejected Him. What we often fail to understand was that He came to the Jews, confined His ministry to them for the sake of the nations of the world.4 God's purpose for His people was not to restore their national splendor so that the world would again be attracted to them. Rather, He focused on the few, capitalized on their heritage, revealed to them who He was, and scattered them into the world.' The fruit of this scattering was a new people: the church. There is a basic difference in strategy for God's people of the Old Testament and His people of the New. Rather than the come and see of the Old, it is now go to and live among. You live among the world today:

You are an INSIDER

What planet are we on? There is a basic difference in strategy for God's people of the Old Testament and His people of the New. Rather than the come and see of the Old, it is now go to and live among. It is as critical now as it was in Old Testament times that we live holy lives. Ungodly living will destroy us and our credibility just as surely now as it did then. But we are to live our lives among the lost rather than separated from them. God's people today are a people sent; we are to go to and live among. So a basic difference between the calling of God's people in the Old and New Testaments is that the arrows have been turned around. Where it was once come and see, it is now "go to and proclaim. It seems we are having difficulty getting out of the Old Testament and into the New in understanding what we're to be about. One of the key players in this New Testament strategy is the "insider." An interesting description of this person is found in 1 Corinthians 7. The first-century Christians of Corinth had been converted out of paganism. But as they struggled their way out of their grave clothes, Paul had to help them get untangled. They constantly fought losing battles with worldliness, giving in to jealousy and quarrels among themselves. They bickered over which of their leaders was the greatest: Paul, Apollos, or Peter. The Corinthian believers tolerated an incestuous relationship in their midst, while others among them questioned whether even married believers should have sexual relations. They had a hard time getting away from idolatrous practices and temptations to sexual immorality. They took each other to court. And in spite of all of their weaknesses, Paul had to warn them repeatedly against their arrogance and boasting. Incredibly, some even doubted Paul's motives in going to them, wondering if he wasn't in it for the money!

In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul is writing to the church where there are a lot of questions about how Chrisitans are supposed to act. What are we supposed to do. There was lying and stealing and sexual immrality in the church at Corinth and they wrote him. You know what? Paul didn’t say run away from the world. Go hide. He said something very different. Let’s see what that was:

Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you. This is my rule for all  the churches.For instance, a man who was circumcised before he became a believer should not try to reverse it. And the man who was uncircumcised when he became a believer should not be circumcised now. For it makes no difference whether or not a man has been circumcised. The important thing is to keep God’s commandments. Yes, each of you should remain as you were when God called you. Are you a slave? Don’t let that worry you—but if you get a chance to be free, take it. And remember, if you were a slave when the Lord called you, you are now free in the Lord. And if you were free when the Lord called you, you are now a slave of Christ. God paid a high price for you, so don’t be enslaved by the world. Each of you, dear brothers and sisters, should remain as you were when God first called you. 1 Corinthians 7:17-24


He didn’t say, now you are a Christian change everything about your enviroment but he said remain where you are.

I thnk you are an insider and God’s plan is for right now and that

You are an INSIDER for a reason
Do not be afraid, for I am with you. I will gather you and your children from east and west. I will say to the north and south, ‘Bring my sons and daughters back to Israel from the distant corners of the earth. Bring all who claim me as their God, for I have made them for my glory. It was I who created them. Isaiah 43:5-7

What does that verse say the reason we are here is? Yes to glorify God. Now how does that work into the fact that we are insiders? Well we are God’s own special people. We are inside and if we are insiders that mean we are in the midsts of others and they can see us. They are watching us.

Glorifying God means revealing something about Him so that people can see Him more clearly. Jesus told His Father, "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.... I have revealed you to those whom you gave me."" In the same way, God intends that through us, non-Christians will see Him and believe. He intends that those who do believe will be inspired to know Him better as they see His person reflected in us. So we are called to reveal God to believers and unbelievers alike in the context of our families, friendships, and jobs. This is precisely what Jesus was getting at when He said, "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand.... Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.""

CONDUCTOR – Feels the music – Orchestra watches

I think we need to go back to the idea of really being IN THE WORLD.


God placed you INSIDE the world
So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don't become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. Romans 12:1-2

A lot of times we use this passage as a rally call to stay out of the world but God doesn’t say that. I love this translation because it reminds us what we were just talking about. It say we need to leay every part of our life down like an offering before God. It says we need to show our relationship with him. It doesn’t say get out of the world at all. It does say concentrate on glorifying God in the world. Don’t let the things of the world sway you to do the wrong things. Be salt and light.

Paul wasn’t the only one who said that we should stay in the world. Jesus said the same thing in the last prayer he prayed for us on earth:

I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. John 17:15-18

Whoa! Did Jesus say he was sending us INTO THE WORLD? He did! We aren’t supposed to hide ourseleves away. We are supposed to be IN THE WORLD. Jesus prayed for our protection but I love that part I had you mark. HE SENT US INTO THE WORLD. There is no Biblical support for living away from the world. There is HUGE biblical support for not being like the world.

We often interpret it to mean we are to have nothing to do with the people who live ungodly lives. A distinction needs to be made here. We are instructed to "have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness."The distinction is between the unbelieving person and his deeds. We are instructed to love the unbeliever. We are told to be wise in our relationships with unbelievers so that we can make the most of every opportunity.15 Keeping ourselves pure is not really a matter of our physical proximity to evil. It is a matter of our minds being conformed to God and His Word. Jesus prayed to His Father concerning His disciples, "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.... Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified."" Jesus was the original insider. He came and lived among us. Sinners gathered around Him. His purpose for His disciples was that they too should serve as insiders. He sent them into the world in the same way that His Father sent Him. So it is with us as well. We need to live as insiders in the same manner that Jesus did.

So what does God want you to do?

God wants you to answer the CHALLENGE
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9:36-38


LIFEBOOK

We are not of the world, but our designated position is in the world. Our safety from evil is not a matter of withdrawing but of  protecting our minds through Christ and His Word. If we are to move beyond just being present as insiders to the place where we become involved in people's lives to help them become followers of Christ, we're going to need help. We will need to team up with others who can fill in the gaps for us.

We all, Christian and non-Christian alike, live in the same environment. It is where we who believe are called to serve as insiders. This constitutes both a problem and an opportunity. It is a problem to the extent that living itself can consume us. Our hands can be more than full just coping with our own private chaos. But this same chaos becomes an opportunity as we learn to survive. By learning to apply biblical wisdom and to rely on spiritual resources, we can live balanced, meaningful lives in the midst of it all. When this happens, the gospel starts to look increasingly attractive to those who are watching. We need to be salt and light. So if you are going to take up the Lifebook challenge, you need to be prepared to be leading a life that is God glorifying every day.










Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Ghana Was Amazing


Jasper Speaks:

God taught me so very much while in West Africa. The trip was more than I could have imagined. God taught me about seed planting in a way I had never understood before. My advice to all Christians is --- GET OUT OF THE COUNTRY! Serve God abroad. Here is the video we shared with our church about our trip.

Friday, September 02, 2011


The Dash

Jasper Speaks

Recently I visited my grandmother’s grave. She passed away in 1995 and I don’t think I have been back to her grave since about a year after that. The other day I was drawn back to her final earthly resting place. I struggled to find her headstone in the midsts of so many. I remembered a landmark that her grave was near but there were so many stones it took me about ten minutes to locate hers.

When I found it, I looked down and was flooded with memories. I remembered that my grandmother was a devoted, godly woman. She served him with her whole being and loved him with her whole heart. She reflected Christ in all she said and did. I know I was blessed to have her example. I recalled my last words to her at the hospital the night before she went to be with her Lord. I took her hand in mine and simply said, “Thank you for showing me Jesus”.

I stood there for a moment and could hear her sweet voice in my mind. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness for her legacy. As I looked around the cemetary it was a certain reminder of what is left of us all when our lives come to an end. I looked back to her grave and began to wonder about my own legacy. I noticed something on her headstone. It read Rosalie E. Baugh November 1909 - January 1996. She had never had much of material things in this life. In 1909, her birth didn’t make headlines. In 1996, neither did her death. What struck me was that even more important than the 1909 or the 1996 was the -. The dash in the middle of those dates was what was most important in my Grandmother’s life. What she did in those years between birth and death is what remains. She instilled a fear and love of God in her children, grandchildren, other family and friends. I am a product of the great use of her “dash”.

The Bible says in Psalm 90, “Our lives last seventy years or, if we are strong, eighty years. Even the best of them are struggle and sorrow; indeed, they pass quickly and we fly away.” Life is fleeting. I want to make the most of mine. I want to be sure that people know that Christ  is the most important thing in my life. I want to leave a godly legacy. That day at the cemetary, I started to ponder how I can do that.

Christ said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come”. 

I think leaving a godly legacy means that I need to bring good news to the poor. I need to tell those who are separated from God about His redemptive plan that can restore them to a right relationship with the creator. I need to not only tell others that God loves them but I need to show them. I need to be a walking example that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. Like Jesus, I need to help people see that they matter to God. I need to take the gift of life with which God has blessed me and bless others. I need to put action to my words. I need to make my dash matter.

My prayer is not only for my own legacy but for yours as well. I pray that each of us will take a long moment to contemplate our dash. I pray that we will be men and women whose legacy will be that we reflected Christ; that we told the captives that they can be free; that we loved the unlovable and showed them their worth in Christ; that we helped others see the one hope we all can have.

I am praying that my dash matters. I am praying that my dash is full of difference. I pray that my dash will hold my legacy and that my legacy will honor my God. I am praying yours will too.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Notes


Jasper Speaks:

I have a box in my office. It is one of those picture boxes where you can store tons of printed pictures if you are more organized than I. In my box are notes. Not notes from classes or reminders to myself to buy an anniversary present for my wife. They are notes from people, mostly students or parents of students that I have been given through the years. When I am feeling like I am not making much of a difference, I pull this out and am reminded of the privilege of impact that God has let me have.

This week I got a 2011 version of a note, a text message from a college student. It said:

"I just wanted to thank you for being such a great Christian example. It's encouraging to watch you on your walk with God."


It was a pretty simple message but one that encouraged me to keep on. So, I encourage you to get a note box of your own. On those days you are asking yourself, "Why do I keep doing this" you will be reminded that God is using you, one heart at a time.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Send Out A Prayer Today


Jasper Speaks:

Just saw this on Twitter:

Praying for FBC, Lexington, SC and the family of Shannon Greene. Student pastor who passed away in his sleep yesterday.


Here is a link to the church website:
FBC Lexington SC

Please keep this church and this family in your prayers. So sad.




Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Three Articles for Youth Pastors


Jasper Speaks:

This week I have come across a some articles that I think youth leaders need to read. Here are the Titles and a link to each:

Why Today's Sex Education Won't Work
http://t.co/I466x4E


What Are the Top 10 Characteristics of a Healthy Youth Ministry?
http://t.co/2fGcpIX 


How Higher Education Affects Lifetime Salary

http://tinyurl.com/3wlfkwz

These should spark conversation and action for leaders and parents. I felt like I should share them here.I would love to hear what you think. Leave a comment if you like.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Mother Teresa of Cairo Touched My Heart

Jasper Speaks:

I had the pleasure of attending The Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit this week. It was challenging. The speakers were great. One touched my heart and challenged me to the point that I am still trying to figure out all that God is telling me as a result. Her name is Mama Maggie Gobran and she works with the poorest children of Cairo. She was soft spoken and humble and the most challenging speaker I have heard in a long time. Here are some quotes:

  • We don’t choose where to be born but we choose to be sinners or saints.
  • We choose whether to be a nobody or a hero.
  • If you want to be a hero do what God wants you to do.
  • 25 years ago I heard my “tough call.”
  • When God wanted to promote me, He sent me to the poorest of the poor.
  • Everyone who carries the fragrance of eternity has to experience the dark valley of death.
  • To be elegant comes from the inside.
  • True love is to give and forgive, to give until it hurts.
  • Forgiveness is not between you and another, forgiveness is between you and God. God holds our accounts.
  • We are forgiven much but live so little.
  • With God’s grace I left everything and found Him waiting for me with a crown of love.
  • When you die to yourself you discover the beauty and power in yourself.
  • Who are the poorest of the poor? The children.
  • Children are hungry and starving for bread but also for love and affection.
  • When one has nothing God becomes everything
  • When I touch a poor child, I touch Jesus Christ. When I listen to a poor child, I’m listening to God’s heart beating for all humanity.
  • We build a church in the heart of every child we reach in a country where it’s not always possible to build a church.
  • Silence is the secret
  • To be in silence is to be fully inside your own self.
  • It’s not easy, but there you discover the taste of eternity.
  • The Kingdom is within you.
  • The silence is the secret – the first step – to finding treasure.
  • There are secrets in silence.
  • Silence your body to listen.
  • Silence your tongue to listen to your thoughts.
  • Silence your thoughts to listen to your heart beating.
  • Silence your heart to listen to your spirit.
  • Silence your spirit to listen to His Spirit.
  • In silence you leave many and be with the One.
  • If God has chosen me, believe me when I say I’m the least of any of you here.

    I am still not sure all God is telling me but I have spent two of the last four weeks of my life among the poor and God is quietly speaking to my heart.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

 Glory in the Process


Jasper Speaks:

For years I have used the classic of Christian devotion MyUtmost For His Highest in my daily quiet time. It is a deep book that challenges me. Today, as I read, again, my old friend brought a challenge to me. This quote stood out to me today, even though I am sure I have read it before. “It is the process not the outcome that is gloryifying to God”.

This reminded me of our recent mission trip to Memphis. I love taking teens on trips. I love watching them serve and get stretched. It is a pleasure to see them discover new things about the world and themseveles.

This year we worked in the inner city of Memphis. Poverty was all around us. Violence was prevelent. For some of the teens on our trip, all of this was a very new experience. I watched as they tried to process what they were seeing. I watched as inner city children stole their hearts. After just a week, so many of our students were broken before God thanking Him for His grace in their own lives while struggling to understand why the children they had come to love live in such a world of despair.

On Friday, I sat on a seat in the church van next to one of our students. He was quiet at first as tears formed in his eyes. I put my arm around him and he began to sob. Through his tears I heard him say, “I have grown so much this week.” He had. I watched him go from shy and standoffish with the children to loving and playful. He shared Jesus bodly with them while also reminding them that he loved them as well. He was living proof of  the process God brings us through. He grew a lot that week and through that process God was glorified.

You see we didn’t see any first ttime decisions on our team. That can be discouraging when you are serving on mission trips. But like our student we saw God’s process worked out in the lives of the children of Memphis. Children like MJ. MJ was a hard faced five year old. When we first met him he had a scowl on his face and didn’t want to get to close to us. God placed him on our team’s heart and day by day God’s process insued. By Friday MJ had changed. He was smiling. He was certain of two things and was quick to tell you that Jesus loves him and that we love him. He did not pray to receive Christ but God was glorified in the process of softening his heart. In that process he burdened our team’s hearts and changed us.

So often we go through life with our own agenda. We try to see an end to each phase of our lives. The important thing for us to remember as Christians is that sanctification is a process. Every growth pain, every triumph is part of a greater picture God is painting in our lives. It will not be complete until we are glorified with God in Heaven. God’s glory, however, is present in every aspect of our journey. He is glorified in the process that draws us into a deeper relationship with Him. Sometimes that causes us pain. Sometimes that gives us a joyful heart. Either way, because it is part of the process of Him making us more like He is, God is glorified in it.

I pray that the next time I search for the end of what God is doing in my life I will be reminded that the end comes in Heaven and that my duty is to discover God’s glory in the process of my own santification. I pray that I resist grumbling and questioning and embrace the work that God is doing. I pray that you will do the same. May we see the glory of God in the process.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Before Africa


Jasper Speaks:


Friday, July 15, 2011

Love Covered Sin


Lidie H. Edmunds Speaks:

"My faith has found a resting place, not in device nor creed; I trust the ever-living One, his wounds for me shall plead. I need no other argument, I need no other plea, It is enough that Jesus died, and that he died for me. "

Jasper Speaks:

This is not the most well known hymn, but these words cut to the heart. I believe that even the strongest Christian can be fooled by the devil into believing that there is something we can do to earn entry into life eternal. However, God makes it perfectly clear that only by accepting His free gift of salvation can paradise be gained. Our pride often gets in the way of understanding that we can do nothing to earn such a great salvation. When we feel that we have done something great for God, He must immediately humble us so that we remember that it is by grace alone that we are successful at anything.

We need not list the wonderful things we have done for God. He is not impressed by those things. He actually loves us so much that he says, "Hush child, you don't have to convince me to love you. I loved you before you ever knew you wanted my love." There is no argument needed. All that is needed is for us to accept God's grace gift to us.

For a long time I struggled with God loving me in spite of my sin. I am not sure I ever even realized that I was not allowing myself to accept His love. I would fall and then rush to do so many right things to make up for the sins I had committed. I was picturing God holding a cosmic score sheet and though I knew better, I was trying to even the score of my deeds all the time. I was not only in bondage to my desires and pride but I was also in bondage to my lack of faith that grace was enough. I wanted to perform, to earn my place with God in eternity.

I had to step away from the behavior driven from my unbelief just as I had to step away from sins. I had to make a concious choice to let God's love and grace be sufficient for me. I had to come to the point where I lived a life driven by the fact that good deeds are not ways to earn my salvation but the means by which I am given the privilege of expressing my appreciation of that salvation. It was then, and only then, I began to understand that I would never fully fathom the awesome power of the grace of God.

"It is enough that Jesus died and that He died for me." 

Friday, June 03, 2011

Worth The Wait

Jasper Speaks:

Let’s face it, sometimes in student ministry you feel like you are not making much of a difference. You spend hours every week investing in students and you wonder if they ever really are getting it. I know there have been times when I was ready to throw in the towel because students just seem to let what I was sharing go in one ear and out the other. It can be discouraging. It seems like we wait and wait for them to start really acting like they understand what we are trying to help them live.

meandferg 001I thought about that long wait last night as I sat in a high school graduation. I have been around long enough now to have seen one class go from seventh grade through their senior year. It has been a long road. I have watched students make poor relationship choices, struggle with addictions, lose family members, struggle with school, and so many other hard things. This class has been through a lot. At times I wondered if they would make it to graduation and still be serving the Lord.

I have spent many long hours doing my best to invest in these students. Through many trips to camps, mission endeavors and events they have both exceeded expectations and disappointed. In it all I tried to be an example of Christ and His love. I resisted the times I might have wanted to lay out a verbal smackdown and prayed hard before much needed confrontations. I rejoiced with them through a slew of “a-ha” spiritual moments. I stood proud as I watched them serve others.

Discipleship takes time. Sometimes I get inpatient with the process. I want students to become super Christians right away. Last night as I sat through the graduation of one of those long time students, I was overwhelmed with pride as I thought of the strong young men and women of Christ this class has become. Though not all of them are where they need to be, some have grabbed onto a Christian worldview that goes way beyond Christian catch phrases and emotional responses. They have become true Christ followers. This has happened not because of me but because of Christ. It also has not happened in my time but in his.

As I walk alongside this journey with students in ministry, God is also working on me. As I lose my focus and let the craziness that can be student ministry overtake me, I forget that God is still working on me too. Like the students, it takes me a long time to change into the man God wants me to be. I struggle. I am on a journey of completely working out my salvation. Sometimes I take tiny steps, sometimes it is giant leaps. The journey is a lifelong one. It will take a long time.

Some days I sit back and wonder deep in my heart why I keep doing this. Last night God’s whisper in my spirit reminded me why. I love students. I love to see them grow into mature believers. It takes many hours, lots of hurt, and unconditional love and acceptance to see that change in their life. It takes a long time. Last night I was overwhelmed by the phrase the Holy Spirit repeated over to me, “It’s worth the wait”.