“Are You a Peacemaker?”

By Tim Wadsworth, SCS ’03
High School Chapel
Southside Christian School
Thursday, October 14, 2021

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal (All mistakes are mine alone.)

I have a few minutes with you, and I want to convince you why you need to listen to me. You can easily go through the motions and not listen to me. Here’s why you should listen.

Going to a private school is awesome — a privilege and an honor. But the great challenge is the difference between “having to” be here and “wanting to” be here. My prayer is that you would move from the “have to” to the “want to.” Do you understand that difference? You have to fight against those two opposing forces. You are facing this struggle, and Mauldin High School is not. Don’t take these opportunities for granted. People here want you to grow in your relationship with Jesus. I am talking to many followers of Jesus in this room, but I’m not naïve to think that everyone in this audience is a follower of Jesus. Lean into this time, because you want to, not because you have to.

I went to Southside Christian from Kindergarten to graduation. I was here when the school burned. I “lived the dream” as a student, watching the gym burn. When I went here, the school and Fellowship Greenville were together. I hold a record that has never been broken. During my sophomore year, I took French. I got a D. Mrs. Barrett was not happy with the D. She made me take the class over. I took French as a junior, and I got an F.

Let me pray. God, thank you so much that we are in this room. Help us to want to be here, versus being forced to be here. Help our attitudes be of gratefulness and receiving this gift from you. Thank You for having us here right now. If there are students who have not surrendered their lives to King Jesus, pursue them into a lasting relationship with You. I love you. I commit this time to you. Amen.

I have a question. Take 30 seconds to consider the question.

What is your first reaction when you face conflict with someone?

Ponder that question in silence.

[Silence.]

Conflict. God’s Word has a lot to say about conflict and confrontation. From now for the rest of your life, until God calls you home, you will have daily doses of conflict and confrontation. You’ve got to figure out how to navigate conflict and confrontation in your lives. Sometimes, followers of Jesus are the worst in conflict. Either they don’t like it, they hate it, and they avoid it. Or they love conflict. They thrive off of confrontation. Those people scare me. It’s rare to find people in the middle ground of conflict and confrontation.

Your generation is between a rock and a hard place. Meaning, most middle school and high school students are skewed in their responses to authority. You guys don’t do well with authority. Some of you do. But many of you let authority go in one ear and out the other. Here’s where you can grow as a follower of Jesus, or growing as a person in honoring God with your mind.

Can anyone tell me the greatest commandment?

[A student responded correctly.]

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, and your strength.

What is your soul? It’s your breath, life, and spiritual being.

Love God with all of your mind.

Anyone ever heard someone say to you, “Have you lost your mind?”

You are to love God with all of your minds!

We do this really well with sports. Athletes honor God with all their minds. If you love school, you are giving all of your mind to God at this school.

Here’s a phone in my hand. I feel so bad that you have to grow up with this. My heart aches for you. Anxiety, depression, misery — You guys are constantly comparing yourselves to each other. When you don’t get invited to a party, you feel like you’re a loser, AND YOU’RE NOT A LOSER.

My challenge to you is to love God with your common sense.

Limit time on your phone, a way of honoring God with your common sense. I love that you can’t have your phone all day long. Otherwise, you’d have your heads down on your screens all of the time.

A couple verses will help you.

Matthew 5:9 —

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

Are you a peacemaker?

God’s Word is calling you to be a peacemaker. God is calling you to be a peacemaker in your conversations, in your circle of friends, on Snapchat? If you are in a circle of friends who gossip and demean people, it is going to happen to you and about you. We are called to be peacemakers.

Proverbs 15

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

You will be held accountable one day before God. Are you known as a gentle person? Are you a peacemaker who is gentle with your words? If you’re not, that’s something glaring in your character, and I would encourage you to lean into why you are not a peacemaker or gentle. Your words have the power of life and death. I have two little boys, Judah and Levi, 7 and 5. I am constantly asking them if their words give life or death.

How do you want to be remembered after you graduate from Southside Christian?

I am going to annoy you. In about 3 to 5 years, you are probably not going to be friends with the people to the left and right of you. Maybe, you’ll salvage 1 or 2 friendships. Some of these people won’t give a hoot about you. Let this truth sink in. We spend so much time trying to impress the people around us, but for what purpose?

I remember great high school athletes. At 36, though, I’m not impressed with what people accomplished at 15 years of age. No one cares. I say that, so you can recognize priorities and what are not priorities. Satan moves your attention in the wrong directions.

I hope your legacy is as a peacemaker. Nice. Kind. Your identify is not in being at a private school or holding a ball. Your legacy is how you love people. Love God. Love neighbor. How will people remember you? What will people remember you for?

I challenge you to have gentle answers, not harsh words. When you implement God’s Word, it really does lead to good mental health. Harsh words stir up anger and a harder life.

Be known as a peacemaker. Be known as one who has gentle answers.

Matthew 5:44

Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.

When we love God with all of our minds, we will fall into 3 categories:

You’re not going to like everyone in life. How you deal with people you don’t like says a lot about you. The Scriptures are clear. Love you enemies. The people you don’t like.

Category 2 is “your people.” My generation called this “our homies.” This category can be the hardest when it comes to conflict. Your best friends can disrespect and lie to you. Guys and girls deal with conflict differently. Girls fight dirty. Girls can turn a whole school against one girl. Boys get in a fistfight, and it’s over.

The third category — We used to be good friends, but now we’re hurt and these are no longer “our people.” We’ve got to love God with all of our minds in our friendships. Crummy people who gripe and complain will cause you to look like them. Get new friends. You’re not married to those people. I’m not going to get a lot of “AMENS” to that statement, but that’s the truth. Make wise decisions with your brain. Love God with all of your common sense. Common sense is like deodorant. The people who need it the most don’t use it.

Love God. Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

There is a biblical way to love yourself:

Use common sense. Make life easier with common sense.

Stop trying to impress people. Stop worrying what people think of you. Stop trying to impress that boy or girl. We all have that fear of man. We find a lot of our identity is how people think of us.

Honor God through your relationships. If I could talk to “Tim in high school,” I’d say, “High school is where you find your groomsmen; college is where you find your bride.” Stop trying to find your brides in high school. Girls, boys don’t own you. You’re not married. You owe them nothing. It’s healthy in high school to be concerned about friendships. Boys, you need to learn how to be respectful and how to treat a lady. There are a lot of boys who shave. Girls, you need to be around guys who respect you, who treat you well, and who value you. Guys, you need to be around girls who respect you and treat you like a man, not a boy. The people you hang around are so important.

Southside Christian has such a special place in my heart. I would love to meet you. I would love to pray for you. The adults in this room are for you, not against you. I’m for you. I’m not against you.

Let me pray. . . .

HS Spiritual Life Conference, Session 4, 07 October 2021

Fall High School Spiritual Life Conference, Session 4
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
Southside Christian School Fine Arts Center
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Thursday, October 7, 2021

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship, welcomed everyone to chapel. He reminded everyone that Cam Hill has spoken to our students on Tuesday morning, Tuesday night, and Wednesday night. [Hia fourth message as soon to follow on this day.] “The teaching has been awesome,” Pastor Colin stated. [Agreed!] Pastor Colin indicated these opportunities for relationship with Jesus will allow us to find life to the fullest. He said, “People can go down wrong alleys, finding bounced checks.” [Nice mixed metaphor.] Pastor Colin reminded us that Cam had indicated a strong point about people too often presenting “false selves” to others.

Pastor Colin prayed over Cam and the student body in advance of his message.

Cam Hill

Amen!

If you have not been able to join us for all of the sessions, I want to fill you in.

We have been talking about how sin affects our relationships with God and others.

Sin entices us with twisted desires. Sin is internal and intensely personal. We too often see ourselves as alone. Our sin is too unique. No one would understand. We never invite others into our “real us.” When we do give into temptation and sin, the enemy tells us that sin is “no big deal.” Sin starts off small like a baby, growing as a cancer until it’s dealt with, or sin can be very destructive. Last night, we talked about hiding from God because of our sin. We see God as a wrathful God who is angry with us. But God actually moves toward us as sinners, not to harm us, but to deliver us, to embrace us, to set us free from the bondage of sin.

We can know all of that. We know sin is destructive. We know God’s grace is amazing. Yet we quickly forget all of that, finding ourselves back in the sin cycle all over again.

My wife and I bought our house 5 years ago. I have no mechanical skills. My twin brother got all of those skills. My brother got a Honda manual, secured the necessary tools, found a transmission in Detroit, Michigan, and replaced it! The dude is handy. He can build a house from the ground up. I did some projects in our home with PCP. I was intimidated by a job in our tiny bathroom. I watched a YouTube video. I didn’t do too great, but I got the job done. I looked to renovate our kitchen. We finished the project. I said the exact-same thing: “I’m never doing it again.” And, then, I take on another project. I experience amnesia. I forget.

We experience the same kind of spiritual amnesia. We forget the destructiveness and pain of our sin. We forget what it’s like to be enslaved by that sin. The enemy comes back. “It’s not that bad. It’s no big deal.” And we do remember God’s grace. God’s going to forgive us. We too often presume upon the grace of God. My sin increases. God’s grace increases all the more. Shouldn’t I keep on sinning?

Paul tells us that, because God loves us, God’s grace will exceed our sin. God’s not going anywhere. He’s always going to move toward me in love. God is always going to forgive me. Shouldn’t I continue in my sin? we ask ourselves. Paul anticipates that attitude. If you were born in the church, you are familiar with and susceptible to that lie.

I grew up in the church. I grew up in a Christian school and Christian home. Everything around me was sacred space. Because of that familiarity, my faith became boring to me when I was your age. God loves me. God is never going to NOT love me. I didn’t grow up in a legalistic household. I grew up in a grace-filled home. I did what was right, but I thought I’d take life more seriously when I got to college. As a high school student, I was on the verge of getting kicked out of school. All of the things I was doing were “no big deal” to me. I was “doing what’s fun.” I started to realize that my actions had consequences. I had bought the lie that sin was the good life. Living in sin is the good life. That’s the premise. Why should I stop sinning?

The enemy comes to steal, rob, and destroy. Jesus came to give life — and life abundant. God is not a cosmic buzzkill. We think He doesn’t want us to have a good time.

When I was a kid, we’d go to areas to ride our skateboards. The cops were our buzzkills. I was skating where I wasn’t supposed to skate, and cops chased us. We view God as the “fuzz who is trying to keep us from having a good time.” The Scriptures become our “rule book of boundaries.” We push the boundaries. We test the limits. How close can we get to the edge before crossing the line? And God has enough grace to bring me back.

I know I’m not supposed to have sex before I get married, but what can I get away with, short of intercourse? I know I’m not supposed to lie or cheat, but what about this one time? I know I’m not supposed to make fun of people, but I can have a little fun at this one person’s expense.

God is not a buzzkill! He’s your maker! He’s your Designer! He created you for abundant life — where joy and peace and contentment are!

But we live against the grain of our design. Sin doesn’t make you more alive. It makes you less alive. Sin does not make you more human. Sin makes you less human. Sin is dehumanizing.

How do we experience abundant life? Obedience. Obedience leads to the life you were designed for. Where do we find this strength to obey? Paul tells us. We were buried in baptism. We die. We were raised from the dead. And we experience the newness of life. We identify with Christ’s death to identify with His Resurrection as well. We die to sin and the former self. We were enslaved by sin. We can be raised to the newness of life. In one church tradition, baptism represents death beneath the water and new life above the water. We come up for life. We come to life when the old self dies and the new self is raised from the grave to life. We become a new creation in Christ Jesus. We are made new. We are new human beings.

My wife and I planted a fig tree in our yard. Few figs grew initially. But now the tree yields hundreds of figs. The old life stays in the dirt. The new life allows us to experience life with Christ.

Christ, who had only known life, the author of life, the one who breathed life into Adam, the source of life, gave it up. Gave it up. Christ was in heaven. He left heaven. He took on flesh and bone. He dwelled among us. He became obedient to death, even death on a cross. He sacrificed everything — life — so we can experience life for all of eternity. Jesus took the consequences of our sin on Himself. He was betrayed by His friends. He was accused of crimes He did not commit. He was beaten. He was crucified. His disciples deserted Him — men in whom he had invested three years of His life. He died naked on a cross. The God of the universe, in a real way, suffered the consequences of sin, so He might invite you into resurrected life.

So, in those moments when we think about continuing in sin, we must remember that we can been raised from the dead. The power of the Holy Spirit is inside of you, if you believe in and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior! Your heart of stone was replaced with a heart of flesh. God wrote his law on your heart. We cannot keep commandments on our own. We need God to do something in us to walk out our lives in faithfulness. That could start today. You could experience that today. I want you to leave here believing with all of your heart that God wants good things for you. God wants you to experience abundance — the “good life.” He knows what’s good for you. Better than you know. He’s given you everything you need to walk with a new Spirit and heart as a new creation to walk in abundant life.

When you mess up and fall back into sin, the heavenly Father scoops you up and brings you back to Himself. That’s really good news. My prayer is that you embrace that and walk in that new life. The Christian life begins when you put your faith in Jesus Christ and are raised in the newness of life.

Can I pray for you?

Pastor Colin asked the audience to show their appreciation for Cam’s involvement with our student body. The students were generous with their applause.

Pastor Colin spoke about the cycle of sin, guilt, working to regain God’s favor. We think Jesus is a buzzkill. It’s tiring. The answer is newness of life. It’s not forced on us. It’s not thrust on us. Pastor Colin expressed a desire to pray for our spiritual formation, echoing what Cam had spoken about over the course of these three days of the Fall High School Spiritual Life Conference activities.

Pastor Colin prayed to close the chapel.

SCS Spiritual Life Conference, Session 3, 06 October 2021

Session 3
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, HS Principal
Wednesday, October 6, 2021
6:00 p.m.
Swain Barn
Woodruff, South Carolina

Thanks to the Swains for allowing us to occupy their beautiful property!

Thanks to HS SLC organizers Carla Evans and Pastor Colin Urbanick!

Thanks to the SCS staff and others who participated: Erin Bowers, LeeAnn Jacobs, Pastor Colin, Ethan Moore, Carla Evans, Dr. Sam Barfell, Jen Barfell, and Amanda Mashue

Pastor Colin welcomed everyone and thanked the students for taking time for the purposes of worship and spiritual growth.

Pastor Colin prayed that the Holy Spirit would remove distractions and quiet our anxieties, so we could listen for the word God had for us this night.

We worshipped through song.

Thanks to the lead worshippers: Brett Henderson (lead vocals and guitar), Ashlyn DeVaney (vocals), Jake Evans (guitar), Menzi Hlophe (percussion), and Kaitlyn Moll (vocals)!

Thanks to Cam Hill, speaker!

Cam

I am glad you were able to join us tonight. Thank you for being here.

God sees every one of you, and God has something to say to you in the unique “stuff” you are walking through. Do you believe that? Listen for his “voice” tonight.

We have been talking about lies from the enemy. We carry these lies in our heart.

The first lie is that our twisted, corrupted stuff is uniquely bad.

And, then, the lie and sin grow inside of us.

We have already talked about inviting people into our lives.

Tonight we ask, How does our relationship with God affect our perception of our sin?

As a husband and father, I have rhythms with my wife and children. We live in these rhythms. The birth of a new child upset our family rhythms. So the other children act out. My daughter now goes to school, which affects our family rhythms. The children become defiant. So we think about the proper response, not to withdraw but to come closer to them. Children want quality time with their parents.

That’s how God responds to our sin. God draws closer to you. But we view God from the opposite perspective. We think He is angry. We think He withdraws from us. We sit in the guilt and shame of our sin. That view is not new. This response is rooted in Genesis 3.

After then sinned, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God. They were afraid. They ran from God. They were filled with guilt and shame.

We, too, are often afraid of God. We are afraid of what God would do if we move to — if we run to — Him.

God can be angry, but His Word says He is slow to anger. He does hate sin because He loves you. As Paul encourages us in Romans 12, let your love be genuine. Abhor what is evil.

God is not furious with you when you sin. He is furious about sin, but He loves you. He does not react in anger.

In Luke 15, Jesus tells three stories.

First, a shepherd seeks the 1 lost sheep. When the sheep is found, there is joy in heaven. That is not an angry God!

Second, a woman finds 1 coin, and, again, there is rejoicing in heaven.

Third, a son squanders his inheritance. He hit the lowest of lows in a pig sty. In his mind, he didn’t return as a son, but as a worker who would need to earn his way back to his family.

Maybe you have thought you needed to earn love in your family.

The Prodigal Son crossed over the threshold of the horizon. His father was waiting. He runs toward his son! The son was lost but now was found.

God does not crush us on our sin. He runs toward us! Sin is significant. Sin is weighty. But our sin cannot keep us from His love.

We sin. We repent. We sin again. We repent. How many times can I go back to the Father?! The next day? The next week? The next year?

We can’t seem to get over the same sin, and we wonder how many times God will forgive us!

Somehow, He NEVER runs out of forgiveness. One act of righteousness — His perfect life, death, and Resurrection — makes YOU righteous. Righteousness is given TO YOU. You are also given life. God allows you to walk in the newness of life. Where sin increases, grace abounds all the more.

You and I — if we put our faith in Jesus — we belong to Him! He is our Father. We are His kids. This is who you are — righteous, children of God.

You don’t have to earn His love! You are His kid! And you will slowly become more like Jesus. You walk in the newness and fullness of life.

Your sin is a big deal, and grace abounds all the more. God loves you.

You have to receive that gift. If you have never accepted that gift, I invite you to accept the Good News of the Gospel. God loves you more than you you can imagine. I want to encourage you to listen to God’s voice and receive His gift. If you have already received that gift, I encourage you to reject the enemy’s lies and receive God’s unconditional love. His love is endless. His grace is an ocean deep. Nothing can change that. Nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus.

Can I pray for you?

Cam prayed.

We worshipped again through song.

Pastor Colin asked us to close our eyes. He asked us to think about our sin, God, and His forgiveness. Do we dwell on guilt and shame? Do we punish ourselves? Do we try to work ourselves back into God’s good graces? What do we think of our Heavenly Father? What do we think about how God receives us after we have sinned? Our new identify comes with a robe, ring, the fatted calf, and a new person. Receive the gift of grace. Remember your new identity. If nothing changes [in wrong ideas about God], nothing changes. See God as a loving, benevolent God. He sees you with joy and love.

Pastor Colin encouraged the students to — in the next 24 hours — find a trusted person to consider the truth of our relationship with God.

We concluded the evening with worship through song.

Mr. Henderson prayed over the group before we left the SLC.

High School Spiritual Life Conference, Session 2, 05 October 2021

Fall High School Spiritual Life Conference, Session 2
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, HS Principal
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
6:00 p.m.
Swain Barn
Woodruff, South Carolina

Thanks to the Swains for allowing us to occupy their beautiful property!

Thanks to HS SLC organizers Carla Evans and Pastor Colin Urbanick!

Thanks to the SCS staff who participated on this evening: Erin Bowers, LeeAnn Jacobs, Pastor Colin, Dr. Sam Barfell, Carla Evans, and Amanda Mashue!

Pastor Colin welcomed everyone and prayed that hearts and minds would be open to the Holy Spirit’s work on this night.

We worshipped through song as a group.

Thanks to the lead worshippers: Brett Henderson (lead vocals and guitar), Ashlyn DeVaney (vocals), Jake Evans (guitar), and Kaitlyn Moll (vocals)!

Thanks to Cam Hill, speaker.

Cam

The process of spiritual formation — becoming more like Jesus — is what God wants for us.

Sin and Satan distorts that process.

Spiritual formation does not usually occur in radical leaps. For most of us, it’s step-by-step.

Why did you come tonight?

Do you believe God wants to speak to you tonight?

He knows all about each and every one of you. He’s not too busy. He loves you. He knows you, and He wants to speak to you.

He wants you to live the purpose He created you for.

He wants to speak to you in ways I do not know. But He knows.

Here’s what He needs from you: Pay attention. Listen. God is here with us — always. God wants to speak to all of you.

I have 3 kids under 5. They are amazing. When my first was born, I was thrilled and terrified at the same time. The hospital sent her home with us! Why?! I had no idea what I was doing! Babies can do nothing on their own. Now she is 4, and I take her rock climbing. She is talking in complete sentences. She is learning Spanish in an immersion program. Those changes didn’t occur overnight. The growth happened every single day. I didn’t see it. She was so close to me.

My wife is a gardener. When we got our fig tree, no figs grew. Now, the tree produces hundreds of figs every growing season. Good trees produce good fruit.

James wrote that desire brings forth sin and death.

Sin in our lives starts small. We don’t think much of it. We have good desires. But the desires grow into idolatry. We take, rather than give. We cheat on exams. Who really cares? You look at porn. It’s a “small” thing. Sin is a “small” thing. Sin nearly always starts small, but sin never stays small. Sin will grow. Sin is dynamic and growing. The changes are so subtle. You look back and say, “How could I have ever done that?!”

In 2015, 12 members of an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina gathered. A White man came to the church. They pulled out at a 13th chair. He participated for an hour. He pulled out a gun. He killed 9 of the 12 church people. He was a racist. He was 21. He was a kid. That was pure evil. He wasn’t always like that. He did not grow up with racist values. Eventually, he went to Internet sites which grew his prejudice and racism and death.

Sin, fully grown, brings forth death.

You might say, “Not me. My sin is small. My sin will not grow like that.”

Such is what the enemy wants. He wants you to hide your sin in the dark and grow it.

My prayer for each of you and for myself is to think of the power and destructiveness of sin.

We need to take sin seriously.

Four men lowered a paralyzed man through a roof to Jesus. According to Christ, sin was harder to heal than his physical paralysis. It was easy for God to create. It was easy for God to knit you in your mother’s womb. It was hard for God to heal sin; it cost Him His life. He gave His all. God takes sin seriously. Should we not, too?!

The good news is that sin did not defeat Jesus, and Jesus defeated death.

A Pharisee thanked God that he “was not like other sinners.” He did not think his sin was that bad. The tax collector cried out to God for mercy. He knew he needed God’s grace. Some of you feel powerless against your sin. But God is more powerful than your sin. Cry out to God: “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”

Take your sin out of the dark and into the light. Confess your sin in community.

God loves you. He sacrificed His life because He loves you. Confess your sin, where it is growing in the dark. Put your sin in the light. We all struggle with sin. Let us all be free to confess and repent with each other. Take action to move away from your sin.

Create boundaries. Make effort. It’s worth it. Move toward something greater. Replace sin with something better — Jesus and His Kingdom. Desire the Kingdom. Desire the fruit of the Spirit for your life. Long for peace, joy, unity, and justice.

Cam prayed a blessing over all of the students.

We worshipped through song.

Pastor Colin set up a time of individual pr small group worship through prayer.

We worshipped one final time through song.

SCS High School Spiritual Life Conference, Session 1

Opening High School Spiritual Life Conference Chapel
Session 1
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
Southside Christian School
Tuesday, October 5, 2021
9:40-10:35 a.m.

Pastor Colin wished everyone a good morning and Happy Tuesday. He welcomed everyone to the first session of the Fall High School Spiritual Life Conference chapel.

Pastor Colin encouraged everyone to take incremental steps in following Jesus and being conformed into the image of Christ through the HS SLC activities. “No one forces growth on us,” Pastor Colin said. There are good opportunities for spiritual growth, or we put such growth “on the back burner.” We must CHOOSE spiritual growth as a priority.

Pastor Colin reminded everyone about the Tuesday night and Wednesday night SLC activities at the Swain Barn (the address being shared via mySCS). Pastor Colin indicated prioritization of prayer, worship, and time in the Word from Cam Hill, our speaker for the entire HS SLC. Cam is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. He pastored at Summit Church for 8 years. He now works with his own non-profit organization. Cam is equipping leaders to expand the Kingdom of God.

Pastor Colin brought Cam forward, so he could pray for Cam and the Fall HS SLC activities. He asked us to hold our hands out in anticipation of how the Holy Spirit would work through the SLC activities.

Pastor Colin prayed.

Cam Hill

Everyone is being formed today. Everyone is “becoming someone.”

Life is a river flowing in a particular direction.

Today, tomorrow, the next day — if you coast through life — it doesn’t mean you are in neutral. You are being formed by things of which you are unaware. That should be terrifying to anyone without purpose. We should not be formed subconsciously by un-Christlike things.

Jesus proclaimed, “You have heard it said. . .BUT I SAY TO YOU.” Jesus got the people of his time to be conscious of what was shaping them.

During these SLC sessions, I want to talk about words which form us, but these are not words we speak to each other. We don’t read about these words. We don’t see these words on Instagram. All of these words span all of human history. These words ARE received. We are shaped by these words. These words are spoken by a person we don’t even see. Jesus refers to him as the father of lies. Lies are the native tongue of Satan. This person is a murderer, but we too often hold this person’s words in our hearts. He is like a roaring lion prowling, seeking people to “devour.” We are too often formed by these lies.

The modus operandi of the devil is planting seeds in the hearts of people. And, then, he waits. He waits for us to self-destruct.

There’s a character in a TV show — Nathan. He’s terribly insecure. He longs to be loved and respected. Then, he gets that love and respect. The villain of the show whispered in his ear. It was so subtle you wouldn’t even notice. Nathan’s behavior changes. He’s consumed with being in charge. He’s no longer satisfied with his role. He spirals into a life of isolation, alienation, and self-hatred. He spit at himself in the mirror. He hates who he has become. The negative spiral started with the whisper which planted a seed in his heart. The enemy had planted lies in Nathan’s heart.

In the next few days, we need to examine Satan’s lies, and we should examine ourselves.

The first lie we should examine is this: “If they — the people around you — really knew what was in my heart and mind — the corrupted, twisted truths about me — they would not love me.”

Cam prayed for the Holy Spirit to direct our minds and hearts to the truth of God’s Word.

Let’s look to James 1:12-16.

12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. (English Standard Version)

We will be tested and tempted. James assumes we will be tested and tempted. But blessed be the man who stands up to temptation.

Each of us is unique in our temptation. The enemy wants you and me to believe that we are uniquely wretched and our desires are uniquely twisted.

The soil of insecurity is rich soil for sin to grow in. The enemy wants us to be filled with insecurity. We think we alone are experiencing temptation.

We are baited by our own desires. Satan wants us to withdraw from community.

We all have blind spots. We can’t see in our peripheral vision. Your community is God’s gift to you, so you can see your blind spots. People speak into your life, so you can see what you can’t see on your own.

I grew up camping. We’d tube down the Mohican River in Ohio. One time, I was on a log. I was 7 or 8. I looked in the water. I had no care in the world. My Dad screamed, “STOP!” I moved rapidly in the opposite direction. A snake slithered in the water. My Dad saw what I could not see in my blind spot. My Dad yelled, “STOP!” I had a gift that day. I had the gift of community — a father who could see what I could not see.

Life is not meant to be lived alone. We were made for community. God looked at Adam and said, “It’s not good for man to be alone.”

Instagram is NOT community. That’s a sorry excuse for what God created you for. Community is honest, vulnerable, depends on love, trusting. We must give people permission to speak into our lives.

The enemy draws us away from community. The enemy baits us. We’re lured and enticed by desires. These passions come from inside us. When we get isolated, we become vulnerable for a trap. The enemy sets traps. He wants you to stumble into the trap. That trap is internal. Temptations give birth to sin. The desire is internal. The desire is deeply personal, which causes us to identify with those twisted desires. We begin to feel shame. Then, shame causes us to withdraw from community. Satan says, “You have no worth.” Shame keeps us from opening up in community. Shame says, “You should feel bad about who you are,” not what we’ve done. We further isolate. And we become vulnerable to the enemy’s attacks.

Why is the enemy trying to do this? It’s the perfect environment for you to believe his lies. The devil is a liar.

ALL of us face temptation. ALL of us have twisted desires. ALL of us face temptation. It’s called “being human.” Welcome to humanity! All of us are struggling.

The blessing comes for those of us who remain steadfast in the midst of temptations. The greatest gift in these situations is a community of people who recognize that we are fearfully and wonderfully made and made in the image of God.

God looks at us in our sin as people who give into desires and temptations — AND HE LOVES US ANYWAY. He gives us a new identity. We are new creations in Christ Jesus. We are children of God. It is a level playing field. And we enter into a community which is different than any other community. We are honest with each other. We can go to God the Father with our sinful desires. He already knows. He searches hearts and minds. You don’t have to give the Instagram version of yourself. He gives you a new identity. You value is infinite! The God of the universe gave up everything for you! He loves and treasures you! That’s your identity! That’s who you are! That truth allows us to be vulnerable in community. The God of the universe accepts you and will never reject you. He’s King of kings! He’s Lord of lords! Such gives us security to enter into honest community.

And, then, we create an environment in which people are honest and share our greatest struggles. We Christians can create community that each of us is searching for and longing for. People should look at Southside Christian School as students who a community like that.

We all want to be accepted, fully known, and fully loved. We want people to know us fully and still accept us. We’re terrified that we will be rejected if we are fully known. So we offer a “version” of ourselves on social media. That’s why we spend so much time in front of a mirror before you come to school. When you do that, you’re not loved, because you’re giving someone a fake version of who you are, so you walk around empty. Christian community is the only place where we can find that we are fully known and loved.

Christian community began after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. You are accepted by God in Jesus. We can be fully known and fully loved. And we should invite others into that honest community.

Let me pray for you. . .

Pastor Colin stated his experience at SCS indicates the wide desire of students to create a community of honesty. “It’s exhausting to be someone else. Nothing changes if nothing changes,” he said. He believes God is at work through this idea presented by Cam. “Are we creating environments which encourage vulnerability?” Pastor Colin asked.

Pastor Colin prayed to close the session.

Pastor Colin invited everyone to come to the Fall HS SLC sessions on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

“A Man After God’s Own Heart”

On Thursday, September 23, 2021, I attended the special chapel for students not yet signed up for small groups. If you would like to read my summary of that chapel period, please read on. . . .

High School Chapel
Southside Christian School
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Fine Arts Center
9:40 a.m.

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship, welcomed everyone to the Fine Arts Center. He referenced the names, locations, and leaders of small groups on the screen.

He explained that the purposes of small groups:
SUPPORT: Support one another. Build trust.
STIR: Stir and encourage one another. We do not want to be complacent in our faith.
SENT: We are sent into the world to expand the Kingdom of God.

If students missed signing up for small groups, they could come to Pastor Colin; he couldn’t guarantee the results, but he would try.

Pastor Colin expressed excitement about Chandler Davis speaking on this day in the Fine Arts Center.

No chapel is scheduled for next week, because of Middle School Spiritual Life Conference.

The week after will be the High School Spiritual Life Conference.

Pastor Colin prayed over the small groups.

Pastor Colin sent the students assigned to small groups to their designated locations.

Pastor Colin stayed in the Fine Arts Center to set the framework for the days when small groups meet and those who are not assigned to small groups are meeting in the Fine Arts Center instead.

Pastor Colin introduced Pastor Chandler Davis.

Pastor Colin prayed over Chandler and for the students to be hearers and do-ers of the Word.

“A Man After God’s Own Heart”
By Chandler Davis, Student Pastor, Church of the Mill

Anyone sitting next to your best friend?

When we think of best friends, you probably know my best friend, Zach Blanton [High School Mathematics Teacher at Southside Christian]. We are tatted together. That’s how close we are.

When you think of best friends, who do you think of in movies and TV shows?

We’re going to look at friends at 1 Samuel 18. We’re going to take a look at a tale of three friends.

We have been created to be relational and have friends. That’s the whole idea behind Southside Christian small groups for spiritual growth. I push small groups in my church. Whenever the next time that you can sign up for small groups, do that.

So, the tale of three friends.

We are not created to be alone. My friend Zach Blanton will be there for me at any given moment.

We have been created to have friends.

But I want to encourage you to choose the right friends.

GOOD FRIENDS

The first kind of friends are “good” friends. David and Jonathan’s hearts were knit together. Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own. There are good friends out there. A good friend is loving. Jonathan loved David. The same passion that drove David drove Jonathan. They were warriors. There was spiritual depth in their relationship; David loved God, and Jonathan loved God. I want to be around people who love God as much as I love God. You should want to be around people like that.

John 13:34 calls us to love one another. We need to love each other. And the world will change.

1 Corinthians 13 focuses on living-out that love as the body of Christ. Our good friends love us and want the best for us. God is a God of love. He so loved the world that He sent His only Son to die for us (John 3:16).

Some young men have told young women in this school that they “love” the other. Some young women have told young men that they “love” the other.

Let me tell you about my wife. I met my wife in college. Previously, I had used the word, “love,” to benefit me — a selfish love. I vowed not to ever again say, “I love you” unless I truly loved a young woman with a 1 Corinthians 13 love. I proved my love to my wife before I said, “I love you,” and she believed me.

Jonathan was a loving, faithful friend. He made a covenant to David. A promise. We serve a God of promises. God has made covenant with his people. God is faithful. He keeps covenant (Deuteronomy 7:9). Our friends should be faithful friends. Jonathan and David’s friend relationship thickened and strengthened.

Are you a good friend to others? Are your friends loving and faithful to you?

Also, a good friend is selfless. Jonathan stripped himself of his robe and weapons, giving them to David. He put David before himself. Jonathan made himself vulnerable. Jonathan was King Saul’s son, the next-in-command. Jonathan could have made this relationship all about himself. But he was selfless. He put David in the friendship ahead of himself.

Philippians 2:4 calls us to be selfless. We are to look “to the interests of others.”

Are you that kind of friend? Are your friends like that with you?

BAD FRIENDS

The next kind of friends are “bad” friends. We put up with these friends a lot. We get distracted by them. They bring us down. They cause us to be late to practices, and, because of them, we study less.

The bad friend is Saul. He was jealous of David. Saul and David were warriors. David had killed more Philistines. He was angry about David getting the attention. He believed the people would give David the Kingdom. Jealousy rotted Saul’s whole world. We must not have jealous hearts. Saul was also unfaithful. Jonathan was faithful to David. Saul was not faithful to David. David would play his instrument to calm Saul. But Saul threw a spear at David on two occasions. Saul was unfaithful man and friend.

Some of you are jealous. Others are smarter or work harder or are starters on teams ahead of you. You get into a spirit of jealousy. Jealous friends are bad friends.

Some of you have friends who will not work out problems with you. They drag you through the dirt. Some of you drag others through the dirt. You seek to bring people down even more.

Revelation 21:8 talks about the faithless as destined to the lake of fire that burns through the second death.

Saul also had selfish ambition. His mission was to kill David. He appointed David to leadership in Saul’s army — to get rid of him. He wanted David to be killed. But David became even more successful on the battlefield. He honored God by being a good friend. Saul wanted to bring David down. But David’s popularity grew.

Some of you have that same mindset. You want to bring others down. Girls think too much about what a guy thinks about them. Some of you are worried about popularity and how many followers you have on Instagram. That’s selfish ambition.

Good always triumphs.

When I was in high school, I wasn’t going to sleep around with girls. I would not go to the parties. I would not trade those decisions for popularity.

THE GREATEST FRIEND

The “greatest” friend is greater than any Snapchat or Instagram influencer. Jesus Christ wants to be friends with you. He is THE greatest friend.

In John 15:14-15, Jesus talked about laying His life down for His friends. The Son of God — the one present at Creation — the one who stepped down from heaven to come to earth — wants to be friends with you! He wants to be a friend with you even when you don’t want to be a friend to Him and even when you don’t want to spend time with Him.

You’re too worried about what other people think of you. There are people sitting next to you, asking for more in friendship. Jesus can provide so much more for you as a friend.

Commit and confess the Lordship of Jesus Christ over your life. I’m not going to assume that everyone in this room is a Christian.

Some of you have bad friends. Cut them completely out of your life.

Some of you need to be intentional about being a good friend. A small group of students started praying 30 years ago for the first See You at the Pole prayer gathering. Now, millions pray around flagpoles once a year. You can do something through people in this room to cause a huge impact. All you need to do is be a good friend.

Accept the greatest friend. If you are not a friend of Jesus, you are an enemy of Jesus. You may not want to hear that. Good will always triumph. Believe in your heart and confess with you heart that Jesus died for you.

I’m going to pray for you to close. . . .

“Punishment vs. Discipline”

The following devotional impacted me greatly. Did I really understand the difference between “punishment” and “discipline”? As a parent and grandparent, how are we discipling our children and grandchildren?

“Punishment vs. Discipline”
A MORNING DEVOTION FROM BRYAN CHAPELL
byFaith Magazine
September 16, 2021

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights (Prov. 3:11-12).

We may create some shock by asserting, “The Lord will never punish his children,” but that is actually the truth. We understand this truth when we see how God’s Word distinguishes discipline and punishment.

Punishment is designed to inflict a penalty in response for a wrong. God will not punish his children because the penalty for all our past, present, and future sin was placed on Jesus. Jesus paid it all!

Discipline is a different matter. The goal of discipline is not to inflict a penalty but to promote maturity.

Punishment and discipline may feel similar (both hurt) but their goal is very different. Punishment imposes harm for past misdeeds, but discipline intends help for future blessing.

Punishment is for criminals. Discipline is for children. Punishment follows condemnation. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Punishment is for those of whom society disapproves. Discipline is for those in whom God delights. Punishment is administered with a scowl. Discipline is administered with tears. Punishment pours out wrath for a wrong. God’s discipline comes out of the heart of a Father.

So, even when we are in the throes of the worst discipline heaven can bring, we are loved no less. God only disciplines those he loves to turn us from sin and to him. Let God’s discipline turn you to the One who loves you enough to harm himself to help you.

Prayer:

Father, thank you for the love that disciplines me, so that I turn from the harm of sin and receive the blessings of my Savior. Help my heart to receive this love as you intend.

SCS HS A.L.I.C.E. Assembly, 20 September 2021

High School A.L.I.C.E. Assembly
By Russ Bryan, Executive Director of Operations
Southside Christian School
Monday, September 20, 2021
9:40-10:20 a.m.

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal

Mr. Bryan welcomed the high school students to the assembly.

The students quieted quickly.

He explained that one of his responsibilities is to teach students about being safe at SCS.

He was going to speak about violence and active shootings in schools.

This talk is intentional, since we are an A.L.I.C.E. school, and the student gatherings are required for ALICE certification.

He shared data about active shooting incidents in schools, malls, businesses, concerts, churches, etc. He shared specific locations of these incidents. The information is important at SCS, but “it could also save your life somewhere else.”

It makes no sense to gather tightly in groups when an active shooter could enter a location and kill more people as a result of that huddling.

Alert
Lockdown
Inform
Counter
Evacuate

These are the strategies of ALICE. We do not need to do all of the actions, perhaps only 1, and your life could be saved.

ALERT: Students, staff, and visitors can be alerted with factual information via the intercom. Or you may see the situation yourself. You are alerted.

Southside Christian School will not do an unannounced active shooter drill. When alerted about an active shooter, we believe the emergency is happening.

INFORMATION: Information will be “brutally clear.” No code words. Once upon a time, code words were used. But there will be people in the building who will not understand the code language.

You may have an opportunity to inform others. Use common sense. Choose the right time and location for informing others. You can’t inform until you are safe.

EVACUATE: Your first option in ALICE is to Evacuate. Leave quickly. Go away from violence. Don’t trample your classmates; imagine the problem if one person falls down in a crowded hallway while everyone is evacuating. Evacuation cannot be total chaos. Help each other get out. Don’t wait for your teacher. You have permission to “get gone.” Under control. Get away.

Evacuate to the wooded area of the north or the neighborhood to the east. We will drive through and pick you up from these areas when it’s safe to do so.

Evacuate through doors, if you can. You may, however, have to go through a window. You may have to break glass with an object. You have permission to do so if this is a life-or-death situation.

LOCKDOWN: If you are in a hallway with a shooter, you are a target. Lockdown. Barricade in a room, office, or restroom. Close the doors and lock the rooms down. Use pieces of furniture to barricade in front of the classroom door. Use a belt to make opening of the door more difficult.

Do not stand in front of the door; the door will not stop a bullet.

COUNTER: Buy time. Get ready to Counter. This is a last option. If you are countering, that means the shooter is close to you. Your option is to do nothing or to do something. This is your something.

The shooter is looking for a target. He’s got to find the target. He’s got to orient to the target. He’ll have to anticipate the kick-back of the gun. So countering disrupts the shooter’s attention and can prevent someone getting shot. This is the OODA Loop: Observe-Orient-Decide-Act. Disrupt the shooter’s OODA Loop to buy time.

Move, so you are a moving target.

Mr. Bryan played a video of blue dots appearing on the screen. We attempted to concentrate on each dot. A young woman screamed on the video to disrupt our concentration. He encouraged everyone to use noise as a disruption. The OODA Loop has been disrupted.

Throw objects to disrupt the focus of the shooter.

Another Counter technique is the “Swarm Technique.” This is dangerous and should only be used to protect your life or the lives of those around you from unavoidable harm. There is a very high chance that you might live through such countering, so this is a choice on your part. The idea is for multiple people to grab the shooter’s limbs and gun, using body weight to bring the assailant to the floor. Think “dog pile.” Once the shooter is on the floor, take away the gun.

When the police arrive, if you are holding a weapon, you will be treated as the suspect. Obey the officer IMMEDIATELY. Try to stay calm and communicate the location of the shooter, if known. Do not run at the police, especially if you are carrying the shooter’s gun. The gun should be in a secured trash can. The tone and language of the police may surprise you; they may not speak in Southside Christian-approved language. Officers will be focused n the threat, not treating the wounded.

We’d rather you have tools than to die in a dangerous situation.

Mr. Bryan played a video of an active shooter incident in a school which is somewhat similar to SCS. The video illustrated the ALICE acronym. 911. Accurate information to law enforcement. Response of officers. Lockdown. Barricade. Swarm. Placing the gun in a trash can.

The average event lasts from 5-12 minutes.

Active shooters displayed 4 to 5 concerning behaviors over time. It is most often someone from inside the school community. The shooter is experiencing multiple stressors. There are subtle and not-so-subtle social media posts. They have plans, and they tend to share their plans with others. When concerning behavior was observed by others, the most common response was to communicate directly to the active shooter (83%) or do nothing (54%). Concerning behavior was reported to law enforcement 41% of the time. Do not confront the troubled person directly; seek someone with professional expertise. Err on the side of letting authorities know about concerning behaviors.

Mr. Bryan opened the floor for questions. A student asked about evacuation. You may need to break a window or break drywall for evacuation for a nearby classroom. When the danger moves to another location, run and evacuate.

We don’t give a set of rules to follow. We’re giving you options. Every situation is different. You have permission to evacuate. We will find you. If you need to break a window, we’ll cover the cost.

A student asked if he could shoot one or more of the shooters if he were able to grab the gun. Law enforcement personnel are certified to shoot, but their hit rates are significantly lower when adrenaline is influencing their discernment. A student may not be as effective as he thinks he is, given the adrenaline rush. You don’t want to get in a gunfight.

“Thank you for your attention. May God protect us from any incident like this.”

“Jump in and Swim!”

“Jump in and Swim!”

By Jack Voigt, SCS ‘17
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
Senior Retreat
Southside Christian School
St. Christopher Retreat Center
Saturday, September 11, 2021
1:15 p.m.

I went to SCS for 12 years. I looked like a follower of Jesus. I really wasn’t a Christian until the fall of my senior year. [He recently earned his Bachelor’s degree at Anderson University in South Carolina, and he is now a seminary student in North Carolina.]

I was sitting on the edge of the pool while so many others were splashing and swimming in the pool. Christians shouldn’t sit on the edge of the pool.

Life is short. You and I just walked by a memorial to a 19-year-old who drowned here. I knew him.

We are going to Luke 9:57 and following today:

“As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (ESV)

That’s an intense passage.

These people seem intent to follow Jesus.

Jesus wants us to follow Him at any cost.

Here’s the context: Jesus had fixed His gaze on Jerusalem, where He would die.

This is where we find Jesus in Luke.

The first man said he was ready to have skin in the game.

Jesus responded in a weird way. He talked about birds and foxes. Insignificant animals have “homes.” He, Jesus, had nowhere to lay His head.

Daniel has prophesied about everyone following the “son of man.” This man who approached Jesus knew the prophecies of the son of man.

Jesus was the son of man AND HOMELESS?! Jesus turned this man’s thoughts upside-down.

Jesus is asking you whether nice things are more important than riches in Christ.

Interaction Number Two:

Jesus wants us to make His mission our mission.

In Christ’s day, family was everything. The last most important gift to a parent was a proper funeral.

He’s not saying you can’t go to your parent’s funeral, but he was saying that Jesus is more important than our earthly parents.

We are to proclaim the Kingdom of God.

The Father reigns.

Point Three:

We should not look back.

You have to be efficient as a farmer. Lines in crop fields must be straight.

We don’t look back and have an ability to follow Jesus.

Do you know the story behind “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”?

A missionary family interacted with African headhunters. One family in the village decided to follow Jesus. The chief was angry. He called the entire village together. No one could follow Jesus, He said. The chief said he would kill anyone who was a Christ follower. The sons of the new believers were killed, as the father watched. The wife was killed. Finally, the man himself was murdered. Based on this man’s courage and resolve to follow Jesus, many of the villagers, including the chief, decided that they wanted to follow Jesus!

I extend Jesus’ challenge to you: either jump in or do something else. Jesus will give you all you need to be a follower.

If you are in the pool, keep swimming.

If you are on the edge of the pool, jump in and swim!