“How’d It Go?”

“How’d It Go?”

By Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Monday, June 27, 2022

“How’d It Go?”

I imagine those few words were the first used by parents of the nine young men of Southside Christian High School who served at the Red Bird Mission of Kentucky on Tuesday, June 21 through Friday, June 24, 2022 as one of this year’s JTerm opportunities.  Red Bird is a United Methodist organization which provides important medical and construction services to families who would otherwise not be able to afford these quality-of-life matters.

Why would the parents not be curious?  This was a unique choice by their sons.  Who would give up the better part of a week of summer vacation, ride in a 14-passenger school bus over circuitous mountain roads, eat camp food (not Mom’s or Dad’s), sleep in hard bunk beds, and toil in 90+ degree temperatures, instead of sleeping in and living life on their terms for that week? 

I can believe these 9 high school students might not fully describe their experiences to their parents or others, and I intend to offer a full explanation of my experience, which will perhaps fill in some of the blanks  with a testimony for those parents and for those who are curious about this JTerm experience.

Assistant Varsity Football Coach Allen Lowy deserves credit for casting this vision about a year ago.  Neither he nor I had ever had a direct experience with Red Bird Mission prior to this trip.  We were excited about over 20 participants, including male and female students and additional chaperones  striking out for this trip during the first week of January, 2022.  Unfortunately, COVID closed-down Red Bird during that week, and we re-advertised the option for June, 2022.

We had no idea if a single student would commit to this June JTerm, but we were thrilled by the firm commitment of Coach Lowy and the final 9 participants, including 2 rising ninth graders who threw their hats in the ring.  The group was an excellent mix of ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth graders. 

In particular, Coach Lowy is to be commended for his participation.  Most people do not know that he gives so willingly of his time and abilities to the football program and school as a whole.  Coach Lowy lives near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  During summer training and the football season, he lives in the Greenville area away from his bride and their brand-new grandchild.  He will often make the drive to and from the Sunshine State.  We were thrilled to have him along with this JTerm trip.  He served as my co-pilot as we navigated the roads of South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky.

Please celebrate the highlights of our JTerm trip:

Extremely safe travel to and from Red Bird! (I never take safe travel for granted.)

Good camaraderie and no major disputes among the students or chaperones!

A mission organization doing noble work on behalf of impoverished families in the Appalachians

Daily devotions

A fun “Talent/No Talent” talent show!

A very meaningful Thursday evening service of testimonials and Holy Communion

Three members of our 11-member group offering positive and articulate testimonials about our construction experiences

Good accommodations – 9 meals and air-conditioned cabins for evening rest

A project manager who showed extraordinary patience and empowered young men to perform previously untried construction work (God bless Bob Pohli!)

An ideal number of workers who seldom stood around waiting for work; ALL were willing to pitch in and help at a moment’s notice, including the heavy lifting of unloading and reloading trucks at the end of each day

Patience and perseverance during very hot days with very little shade during the work

Mental and physical toughness in digging 22 post holes through significantly hard ground and mountain rocks

Joy and laughter in the midst of challenges

Bonding of the students and chaperones

Hopefully establishing a mindset of service among all of the participants

ZERO major injuries (with power tools involved)!

Two trips to an (amazingly) nearby Dairy Queen after our 2 most difficult days of work

Most importantly, SUCCESSFUL completion of a 50-foot ramp for a man who is awaiting surgery in the near-future, with several months of wheelchair use

The genuine appreciation of homeowners Sam and Tina

I personally believe that at least 1 mission trip should be included with every JTerm season, and I also advocate for ALL of our school trips to include some mission component.  Jesus came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45).  As followers of Jesus, we are actually obligated to be outward-focused in looking for and praying for service opportunities in our local communities, state, nation, and world. 

            God bless Coach Lowy and our 9 warriors who so effectively represented themselves, their families, their school, and, most significantly, their LORD!

“Sextortion on the Rise”

“Sextortion on the Rise

“What it is: The FBI has issued a warning about an increase in sextortion plots targeting teens.

“Why you have to talk to your teens about this: So-called “sextortion” typically works like this: an adult, posing as a teen, strikes up a conversation with a minor target over an app, game, or social media platform. The target is encouraged to send an explicit photograph or video. Once this material is acquired, the conversation takes a turn as the perpetrator threatens to publicly release the compromising material if monetary demands aren’t meant. The victims often face panic at this potential humiliation, and sometimes, tragedy ensues. Several victims of these plots have died by suicide already this year. A particular horrifying element of this scheme is how quickly it can escalate — in one case in California, a young man said goodnight to his mother at 10pm and by 2am, was dead by suicide. In another case in Michigan, investigators estimate only six hours elapsed between the first contact with the extortionist and a teenager’s death. You can check out and share the FBI’s tips for what to do in these cases, and you can also let your teens know that if something like this does happen to them, they don’t have to face it alone. They can always talk to you, day or night, and together, you will come up with a solution.”

“The crime of sextortion might be relatively new, but extortion via sex is not. For as long as humans have been around, people have wielded sex as a weapon to hurt the people around us and get what we want. Things become even more complicated and tragic when money is involved. Humans have a knack for causing incredible pain and suffering to those around us. Sextortion and things like it are just a particularly pernicious part of this. It leverages both the human desire for connection and closeness, and our pride and fear of feeling shame.

“To understand how easily sextortion can happen, put yourself in the headspace of a teenager. Social media has, perhaps, made you lonely and desperate for connection. Someone offers that connection, someone seemingly innocent and just as lonely as you are. All they ask for in return is a sensitive picture. If you’re a teen, you’ve likely seen in movies and on the internet that taking nude pictures is basically normal. So you send one, or some, and the next thing you know, the full weight of what you’ve done comes crashing down as the person you think you’ve connected with turns out to be your enemy. Even for the most confident and outgoing teen, it can feel like there’s no way out of this.

“It’s essential that you have conversations with your teen about this, because it can happen to anyone. Connection is something that humans crave right in the core of our being. When we’re missing it, and someone offers it, it’s easy to justify doing almost anything to fill that craving. Emphasize to your teen that there is no shame in making mistakes, even big ones, even if those mistakes seem like the end of the world. They aren’t. There’s nothing people can’t come back from. When Jesus’ disciples asked him in Matthew 18:21-22 how many times they should forgive those who have done wrong, Jesus’ response is this: “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” In Jesus, there are infinite chances to come back and change.

“The entire book of Habakkuk is about a man crying out to God for his seeming indifference towards evil. But God responds by telling Habakkuk that there is no evil He can’t see, no evil He doesn’t care about, and most importantly, no evil that is greater than He is good. As you talk to your teens about this potential danger in particular, remind them that God is sovereign, and they can always lean on Him; no matter what’s happening to them, what they’ve done, or what’s been done to them. Remind them that there is no reality in which they aren’t loved, despite anything they’ve done or that’s happened to them.

“Here are some questions you can ask your teen to help get a conversation started:

  • How much do you know about sextortion? How can you protect yourself against it, and how would you react if it happened to you?
  • Do you believe you are valuable to God? What do you think makes you valuable?
  • Do you feel you have ways to find connections in real life?”

(The Axis Premium Culture Translator, 04 June 2022)

“Reduction of ‘Interaction’ with the Bible”

This data is a bit discouraging in the body of Christ:

“What it is: The most recent State of the Bible report compiled by the American Bible Society showed that trends in curiosity about the Bible came to an abrupt end in the last 12 months.
Why it’s striking: Since 2018, when the American Bible Society started collecting data on Bible use, Bible users have accounted for 47 to 49 percent of US adults. Since April 2021, that number sank down to 39 percent. Based on that statistic, the ABS says that nearly 26 million Americans reduced or stopped interacting with the Bible within the past year. Even people who typically read the Bible regularly decreased their Scripture interaction, the survey indicates. If you have found yourself relying less on the Bible in the last few months, you’re not alone, and a course correction will work best if it’s done in community with an accountability partner, a church group, or as a family activity.” (AXIS Premium Culture Translator, 13 May 2022)

“Where Do Young People Look for Guidance and Support?”

Parents and Grandparents: The following data is startling, even if not necessary valid, reliable, or generalizable. We are competing with the culture and spiritual forces of evil for the hearts and minds of Generation Z. This Axis blurb gives you questions which would stimulate good conversation about trusted guides and support.

“In a YPulse poll of where Gen Z turns for guidance and support, religion didn’t even crack the top ten. Instead, young people said that they were most likely to draw inspiration from their favorite musicians. Seventeen percent of survey participants even said that they didn’t have a person or community outside of friends and family that they would turn to for advice. Influencers and comedians were also sources of guidance that young people in the survey named. Lots of the 1450 young people who participated also named their therapist as their go-to source of guidance in life outside of their friends or family. Maybe we shouldn’t read too far into this data point—after all, it is a relatively small survey conducted by a marketing firm. But it’s worth understanding who, exactly, is speaking into our kids’ lives as they navigate big decisions.
Conversation starters:
• Who would you say is your go-to friend when it comes to getting advice? Why do you trust their advice so much?
• Is there any person or institution that you admire in terms of achievement? Would you ask them for advice?
• What are some red flags that show us a person should not be a source of inspiration or advice?”
(Axis Premium Culture Translator, 13 May 2022)

“You Can’t Sit with Us”

I was privileged to sit under the teaching and preaching of SCS graduate Tim Wadsworth during the Southside Christian High School Chapel on Thursday, May 12, 2022. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Tim’s message, “You Can’t Sit with Us,” please read on. . .

“You Can’t Sit with Us”
By Pastor Tim Wadsworth, Director of Student Ministries at North Hills Community Church in Greenville, South Carolina
High School Chapel
Southside Christian School
Simpsonville, South Carolina
Thursday, May 12, 2022
9:40-10:20 a.m.

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

I was a lifer at DMC.

After graduation from high school, I pursued a professional career as a drummer.

Then, I went to Liberty University.

I’m excited to be with you today.

I want to be vulnerable with you.

We’re taking 300-400 youth group members every week through the hurt and baggage of following Jesus.

I recognize that not everyone in this room is a follower a Jesus. Just because you go to a Christian school doesn’t mean you are a follower of Jesus.

We do have followers of Jesus in this room.

I want to talk to you about something everyone will go through, follower of Jesus or not.

Look at these photographs of my boys — five years ago and now.

Let me tell you about Levi and Judah.

Levi is either going to be a lawyer or need a lawyer. He’s hilarious. He keeps our family laughing.

Judah is 8 years old. God had made him as a kid on the autism spectrum. He loves Jesus in such a pure way. His people skills can be whacked. There is no fear of man in students on the autism spectrum. People skills do not come naturally to Judah. The reason I share Judah’s story with you is because he has a hard road ahead of him. He’s got extra hills he has to take on in his life. As he’s getting older — now in the second grade — our biggest fear for him is rejection.

Rejection is something that all of us have to experience. It’s the kind of “you are not like us, and you don’t fit in with us” rejection.

Recently, my son came home and told us that kids had told him, “You can’t sit with us.” He burst into tears when he told us. I held him for several minutes. He had gone to sit at a table, and he wasn’t allowed to sit with those students. My heart broke. I wanted to go to school and beat up those second graders. I wanted to go to the parents. I was upset. I was sad. I was broken-hearted for my kid.

The other side of me? Rejection is real. You’re going to be rejected, especially if you are a follower of Jesus. This is a crazy time to follow Jesus. In my youth, we were respected for following Jesus. Following Jesus opens you to attack — because of views on abortion, sexuality, and other issues. You’re going to face rejection. People will say you’re a bigot. You’re going to face certain “you-can-sit-with-us” issues. What is that in your life?

What do you do when people of the world say, “You can’t sit with us”?

I sat down with Judah. I put my arm around him. I told him, “Hurt people hurt people.” Why did I tell him that hurt people hurt people. I was trying to take his focus off himself and onto the people who had hurt him. If you’re known as a mean jerk, I ask, “What’s going on in your heart?”

I want to remind you about your identity in either the things of this world or your identity in who you are in Christ Jesus.

Test and see what I say by looking at your Bible.

Remember this first statement:

“I am accepted.”

No matter where you’re from or what you’ve done, you are accepted. We live in a culture that does not want to accept people or lifestyles. We can be accepted in the club or rejected by the club. We live in a culture in which acceptance is an odd commodity.

How do we know that, as followers of Jesus, we are always accepted? Remember yourself who you are IN JESUS.

Three verses support this assertion.

Think first of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 —

“. . .do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (ESV)

God “bought you with a price.” God gave you His Son. I love everyone in this room. If someone came into this room to bring you harm, I would protect you. If my two boys were here, I’d stand first in front of them. That’s what a father does. God gave Jesus. Why? Propitiation.

Propitiation? Jesus was the only person who could satisfy God’s wrath toward you and toward me. His blood bought you with a price. So, now, we can be friends, not slaves, to Yahweh. You are accepted because of what Jesus did on the cross. The Creator of everything did things this way. Jesus satisfied God’s wrath. Wrath and hell don’t “sell” well. We have to understand that we are accepted not because of what we have done, but because of what Jesus did.

You are complete with everything God intends you to be. The world will tell you that acceptance is because of money, jobs, and the way you act. The Bible calls you into a counter-cultural sense of identity.

“I am secure.”

You are secure. It’s hard to be around insecure people. They cut down other people and make themselves seem better than others. They tend to be shallow.

You are secure in Jesus. Listen to Romans 8:28 —

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[a] for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)

Do you see the incredible security that comes with Jesus? When rejection stands at your doorstep, find your identify in the security of the living God.

Philippians 3:20 —

“. . .our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. . . .

Judah is accepted. You are accepted. Your security comes through Jesus.

“I am significant.”

There is only one of you. Your DNA is unique.

Why are we significant?

John 15:16 —

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” (ESV)

Here’s why you are significant, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. God thought of you. He knew when He would create you. He knew how He would create you. You are not significant from grades, your family, what others think of you.

I hope this is freeing for you, because we are going to face rejection.

When you hear, “You can’t sit with us” in your life, I hope you claim the truth of the Scriptures.

Satan came to kill, steal, and destroy.

Remember, you are accepted, you are significant, and you are secure.

HS Chapel Summary, 05 May 2022

Former SCS Bible Teacher and Pastor Nathan Forrest and SCS alumnus Jack Voigt, ’17, engaged in a Q&A period during High School Chapel on Thursday, May 5, 2022. If you would like to read my summary of their highly engaging back-and-forth conversation over questions submitted by SCS High School students, please read on . . .

High School Chapel
Featuring Pastor Nathan Forrest and Jack Voigt, SCS ’17
Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal (All mistakes are mine alone.)
Thursday, May 5, 2022
9:40-10:20 a.m.

[Pastor Forrest had distributed pieces of paper for students to write down questions for a Q&A time between him and Jack.]

[They were allowed to ask any question they liked, as long as the question could be answered in front of the entire group. The questions could be anonymous.]

[Students took a few minutes to write their questions.]

Jack, what are you doing now?

I graduated from Anderson University. I’m going to another school to learn about the Bible — Southeastern in Wake Forest.

What do you want to do?

I’d like to be a Professor of New Testament at a Bible college.

What’s the biggest theological question you’re grappling with now?

Jack: I’m still dealing with all questions. That’s a hard question. What about you?

Nathan: Real practical — I’m trying to figure out how to love a middle school daughter. I feel like I’m missing.

[Students passed their questions to the aisles.]

What is your favorite book of the Bible and why?

Nathan: I love Leviticus, because Leviticus takes all of the heart of God and how He shapes the culture and rhythms of life.

Jack: The Psalms teach us how to pray, giving us words to pray.

If a Christian commits suicide, will s/he go to heaven?

Jack: That’s a delicate question. One helpful passage is the end of Romans 8. Paul lists things that could but don’t separate us from God’s love. Through Jesus, who loves us, we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS. Nothing can separate us from God’s love through Christ Jesus our Lord. I think you can put suicide on that list. That’s a brief answer.

Nathan: It’s a good question.Some of you know those who have committed suicide. There’s a lot of grief and an incredible amount of fear. There is not a verse in the Bible which indicates that taking your life prevents you from going to heaven. To Jack’s point, straight fear is behind suicide, and fear is one of the most frequent emotions to which God speaks. He moves toward people in fear. There is safety and security and confidence in God’s love.

What is your favorite color? (Mine is pink.)

Nathan: Blue, because I got nothing else.

Jack: Navy. I’m a Sabre.

Do you like water or dessert?

Jack: Long-term survival depends on water, but, if I’m a table, I’ll choose desert.

Do you believe in magic? Yes or No.

Jack: Yes

Nathan: What is magic but mystery explained.

Why did the chicken cross the road?

Jack: To get to the other side.

Why do you think the Catholic church is corrupted?

Nathan: I’m not an expert on the inner political actions of the Catholic church. Power structures and hierarchies and ranks lead people to higher ranks, which motivates people to use, manipulate, and not seek unity. Think of the American political system. We can easily get side-tracked by power and miss Jesus.

Jack: I’d echo that. It’s not only the Catholic church that has corruption. You’ll find corruption in many places. Why is the church corrupt, in general? It’s made up of people. We miss the point sometimes.

How would you advise students to handle shame surrounding past mistakes and family trauma?

Jack: I get that. Shame can work at a whole lot of different levels. It’s an exhausting way to live. You’re afraid your rock is going to get turned over. You might think your value is diminished. In the Gospel, we have an answer to that. In John 8, I think, religious leaders caught a woman doing something really bad. They can legally stone her. Jesus steps in. He says, “If anyone of you has not sinned, you can throw the first stone.” They drop their rocks. He tells the woman to go and sin no more. If you can put yourself in her shoes, people look to shame us for what we’ve done, and the first place we can turn is Jesus. Trust in Him. He will not shame you. He welcomes us back when we are sorrowful.

Do you have stuff when you were at Southside Christian?

Jack: I didn’t become a Christian until my senior year. People wouldn’t have known that. It’s an easy game to play. I talked the talk. I learned the game well for 12 years. There are things that I did which were idiotic. Even today, I was here 5 years ago, no one is thinking about what I was doing in high school. I can only turn to Jesus. Bible school doesn’t cover me up. Jesus is kind, and he forgives you. He doesn’t hold things against you.

Nathan: We think that we will be abandoned when our sin is known. God pursues you. He meets you. He deals with it. We’ve all got things. The enemy loves to wreck us. Family trauma is tough. I have a great marriage. We foster. I deal with the little souls dealing with trauma. If stuff happens to you when you’re little, your brain tells you everything is on you. The enemy loves to twist that knife. Brothers and sisters, the real sweet thing is that, whatever is in that story of your past, the worst of the worst, we are invited into the opportunities to invite others into His family and to sit with Him. Another thing is, though, you need to talk with someone about trauma. Therapists and counselors are wise people who listen to you well.

How accurate are the Bible’s different translations, and how reliable are they?

Nathan: It depends upon the translation. Most translations are really good. The gap between Alexander the Great’s life and the time of the first record of his life is 1,000 years. No one talks about Alexander the Great as a myth. The gap with the Bible is 50-100 years from Jesus’ life to record. It’s accurate.

Jack: I’ve been taking classes in Greek and Hebrew. I love those languages. The more I read those languages, the more I see that the English translations are very good. The best Bible scholars in the world have developed these translations. I love the ESV. If that’s hard and clunky, read The Message. Eugene Peterson was a Bible professor before he became a pastor and paraphrased the Bible in The Message.

Why should I stay at this school?

Nathan: One, human beings and drama among high school students is going to be true of every high school. I would also say, having worked with schools internationally and nationally, and having a lot of friends in public schools, the big difference is the teachers. By and large, the faculty and staff actually want your good. In public schools, I can’t say that with confidence. The reason Southside Christian is good is because teachers really love you. They make mistakes. They’re human like you. We’re going to disagree. But they actually do care and want to point you to Jesus.

Jack: There can be a temptation to believe that people are out to get you. There was a group of guys a year older than me in high school. They were doing stupid stuff. It was destructive for life on that path. I heard them talk all of the time about the teachers and administration trying to get them. But I saw that the teachers and administrators cared about them. We all have hard times with rules. This is a trust exercise. Work really hard to understand that rules are for our good. I’m preaching to myself.

What’s a rule you don’t like now?

Jack: Students are not allowed to drink. I don’t have a problem with alcohol. That’s the rule. I need to obey that rule.

Is being gay no worse than stealing a candy bar? Aren’t all sins equal?

Nathan: Are all sins equal? That’s a loaded question. All sins are sins. God looks at sin as sin. Stealing candy bars is a sin. Homosexuality is a sin. God’s reactions to sin vary. The woman caught in adultery — that was a sin — a big deal. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” Religious leaders who attacked Him — he called them snakes and whitewashed tombs. Jesus tells us that all sin has weight, but the consequences vary. And it should be that way.

“Who or What Is Shaping You?”

Kevin Nunnery has been very faithful in his long-term relationship with Southside Christian School. If you would like to read the text of his High School Chapel message to the SCS High School Chapel audience on Thursday, April 28, 2022, please read on. . .

Summary of High School Chapel Activities
By Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
(All mistakes are mine alone.)
Thursday, April 28, 2022
9:40-10:20 a.m.
Fine Arts Center

[As students filed into the Fine Arts Center, a video of an ethnically-diverse group of lead worshippers was playing on the screen.]

[Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor/Director of Discipleship, welcomed the students to Chapel.]

[Pastor Colin asked students to briefly discuss what they were looking forward to next year. Students did so for about a minute.]

[Pastor Colin again announced the Blood Drive on Friday, April 29, 2022. Students could earn service hours, comfy passes, graduation cords, and monetary rewards from The Blood Connection for their participation.]

[Pastor Colin again announced The Mercy 5K road race benefitting Lead Collective on Saturday, April 30, 2022. This was a great opportunity for students to “serve and love their neighbors.” Pastor Colin indicated this as a simple way to volunteer, serve, minister, and enjoy good food and fellowship.]

[Pastor Colin announced a few empty slots for the June, 2022 JTerm Dominican Republic Freedom trip. Students should message Pastor Colin on mySCS. He played a brief video about the ministries of Freedom School.]

[Following the video, Pastor Colin shared his own testimony of Freedom’s extremely positive influence on him. He encouraged students who might believe their faith to be stagnant at this time to join the June trip and sign up for the January trip to the D.R. as well.]

[Pastor Colin introduced Pastor Kevin Nunnery, who serves as a high school small group leader at Southside Christian and High School Pastor at Brookwood Church. Pastor Colin asked Kevin a number of questions by way of introduction. Kevin has been serving in ministry for 17 years, almost half of his life. They also announced that today was a “holiday.” NFL Draft Day! What has kept Pastor Kevin around for 17 years? Kevin’s pastor made a significant impact on his life; he wants to do similarly. Kevin also believes students need ministry support today.]

[Pastor Colin invited all of the students in the audience to join him in praying over Pastor Kevin.]

“Who or What Is Shaping You?”
By Kevin Nunnery, High School Pastor
Brookwood Church

Where’s my small group? Good to see you all.

Who/what is shaping you?

All of us are being shaped, molded, and discipled by someone or something.

Take 10 seconds to pray or reflect over this question.

[There was absolute silence.]

When you were little, did you play with Playdoh?

If you played well with Playdoh, come on up here.

[Several students came forward. Kevin gave every student 2 minutes to create something beautiful. The audience would serve as the judges after they were finished.]

[The students worked on their creations. A timer was on the screen. Kevin called for cheers. He reported 3 of the 4 middle school chapel creations as flowers and the winner Olaf from “Frozen.”]

Let’s see what we’ve got!

Zach Kneeland: “It’s a very tiny forest and tree monster.” Video was magnified on the screen for each creation.

Jon Talton: “It’s a flower.”

Libby Anne Austin: “A flower and a worm.”

Ethan Holman: “A truck.”

[Judging: The run-away winner was Jon Talton after cheering judged him the winner.]

So that was fun for me. Thanks for indulging me.

Here’s something I learned: Not everyone is gifted to shape and mold.

Remember the question: “Who/What is shaping you?” Hold that question in your mind.

If you’ve seen the show, “Nailed It,” you know this cooking show of non-professionals re-creating beautiful cakes in a period of time.

[Kevin showed a video clip of a “Nailed It” episode.]

I think that show is hilarious.

Again, I ask, “Who/What is shaping you?”

We are all being discipled and shaped by someone or something.

Two keys to our shaping are priority and proximity.

Priorities? Importance. Something you value over everything else. What are your priorities? How do you sink your time and money into something or someone? Those are your priorities.

Romantic relationships occupy your time and expense. Students in romantic relationships disappear from their friend groups.

Academic excellence can also be a priority. Some of you stay up until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. Some of that is poor time management. Some of that is that you are driven to get into the best schools. Grades matter. But your grades are not the most important thing about you. I’ve been a 4 churches. I’ve never been asked in interviews what my GPA was. If you are chasing after academic excellence, that priority is shaping you.

What about athletics? That’s not the best priority for you in life. We won 2 football state championships when I was in high school. I literally slept with a football. I wasn’t even that good. But football was my top priority.

Setting priorities above God — that’s common.

Consider your screen time. Some of you “doom scroll” through social media, doing damage to your self-image. Video games. Bingeing TV shows. Media of all kinds.

Proximity is another important consideration. The people close to you will mold, shape, and disciple you.

I’m not saying, “Don’t be friends with non-Christians.”

There are layers of friendships.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the people you’re closest to you should be pushing you closer and closer to Christ. We should be challenging each other spiritually.

I want to look at a well-worn verse — Romans 12:2.

“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of the world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

The world’s been a rough place for a long time. Paul is writing to Christians. He is challenging us to stop copying the behavior and customs of the world.

Check yourself. I went to a Christian college. You go to a Christian high school. You can fake your way through. Do you know and follow Christ, or do you know the facts about Him? God must shape us. Culture must not shape us.

The Bible changes the way we think. Let God change the way you think. Pray that He will speak to you. While I have never heard an audible voice from God, I have sense clarity and leading FROM GOD when I am in the Word and praying.

You’re more than what you do. You are not defined by what you do. If you’ve never heard that before, I hope you receive that truth today.

People are in your ear to “do this and do that.” God loved you before you were born. And He still loves you. He will always love you.

I’ve taught from every book of the Bible and about every subject. But this is a message in my mind.

Identity is important.

Community is important. People must push you closer to Christ.

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Some of you are dull spiritually.

Who’s sharpening you?

Don’t tell each other what you think you want to hear.

Be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Whom can you invite into your life to sharpen you? A friend? Coach? Teacher? Pastor Colin?

Friendship is significantly important in our lives. People want to pull you in the wrong direction.

Re-evaluate your relationship with Christ and that which is shaping, molding, and discipling you.

I’m going to pray for you. . . .

[Pastor Colin asked people to thank Kevin with their applause.]

[The students genuinely applauded.]

[Pastor Colin challenged the students with three questions:]

What was one “takeaway” from what you heard today?

What is one thing you may need to change/do after what you heard today?

How were you encouraged from something you heard today?

[Pastor Colin gave a short time period for student reflection on those three questions, and he prayed to close the chapel. He prayed we would not just be hearers but be do-ers of the Word.]

“Encouragement for Parents in Our Sexually Confused Culture”

“Encouragement for Parents in Our Sexually Confused Culture”
By Carl Trueman
April 21, 2022

“WHO Is the Point of the Bible?”

I was privileged to introduce former SCS Bible Teacher and present Grace Pastor and Lead Worshipper Ryan Donell for the High School Chapel on Thursday, April 21, 2022. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Donell’s message, “WHO Is the Point of the Bible?” please read on. . . .

Who has a pet?

Who has a cat?

I have a cat. I don’t like the cat at all. My kids love animals. They love cats. His name is Severus. Every morning, he comes to the back door, and he comes through the garage into our house. I point to the cat to go in the right way. This cat doesn’t understand my gesture. He just sniffs my hand.

My main question today: What’s the point of the Bible?

You’re in Bible classes. You’re in a Christian school. You’re in the Bible a lot of the time. We can still miss the point? Christians can miss the point.

I want to talk about a passage of Scripture where the people miss the point.

Let’s look at John 5:36-47.

36 But the testimony that I have is greater than that of John. For the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Jesus made an outrageous claim about his testimony. This sounds a little ambiguous and cryptic.

He made Himself equal to God the Father. He said He was the source of eternal life. He talked about the fullness of life and knowing God. He said His works are telling elements of his identity.

What’s the point of the Bible?

That’s the wrong question.

The question is “WHO is the point of the Bible?” The truth is about Jesus.

If you don’t “get” Jesus, you miss the whole point. You’re standing, looking at a hand pointing in a direction, and you don’t get it.

We do this with the Bible. Let me give you examples.

The car owner’s manual help you to understand things about your car. If you think about the Bible like a car owner’s manual, life is all about being in control and going where you want to go. What’s wrong? What needs fixing? We need to fix the problems to get where WE want to go. That’s missing the point. The Bible is not an owner’s manual.

Back in the 90s, student leaders and youth pastors would say that the Bible was a love letter. If you go to the Bible as a love letter, it’s a weird collection of genre for a love letter. It’s not a love text from Jesus to you.

Another popular notion is that the Bible is a rule book. It’s an encyclopedia of rules. That’s weird, too. Even “love your neighbor as yourself” is cryptic and ambiguous. How far do we go with our love as a rule?

The Bible is not like the answers in the back of a teachers’ textbook. It’s not a divine cheat sheet.

You miss that Jesus is THE answer. The Bible intends for you to “get Him.”

Do you get the point?

I’d place you in three categories.

The Searcher

The first category is the person searching the Scriptures. This person actually listens to the talks and the teaching. He or she is trying to understand the truth. They care. The Pharisees searched the Scriptures. The disciples did. But these people could miss the point of the Bible. For example, if you make the Bible a rule book, you can find two things you can do, and you can make yourself feel better than someone else, but that’s not super-helpful. In fact, it’s arrogance and pride. That’s not what being a Christian is. Some Christians get stuck on this. The point is to be with and become like Jesus.

Those Who Are Forced

Sometimes, you give up. You feel forced to search the Scriptures, because you’re in Bible class, which is required. Your parents mandate that you go to church. But you don’t want to search the Scriptures. You still have a choice. You can try and not “get Jesus.” You can graduate and walk away from the Bible. You’re just doing what my cat does, looking at the hand. You’re refusing Jesus. Jesus says, “Don’t refuse me. I’m offering you real life.” You don’t have to refuse Jesus. You have a real opportunity. No one can make that choice for you. YOU make that choice for you. That’s between you and Jesus. Please don’t refuse real life. You don’t have to be smart, talented, beautiful, handsome, or wealthy get it. He’s offering real life to everyone. It’s my offer to you today.

Those Who Are Pursuing Things Other Than Jesus

I do want to talk about giving up. For those who know they are not Christians — and for those who have said they are Christians — giving up and making that choice to walk away happens when the world draws you away. When we do that, we’re looking for life in someone or something else. Life is in Jesus. Where are you looking for life? Scholastic achievement? Romantic or sexual relationships? Changing your brain state with Zen, alcohol, some sort of high that makes you feel better about your life? These are real temptations. Athletic success? Social status that money gives or buys you? Vacations? Cars? Shoes? Christians do those things!

But that’s not the life Jesus promises.

I was a freshman at North Greenville University before I transferred to Clemson. I had known my wife-to-be for a long time. One day, I came to a Christian concert in the Southside Christian gym. She was there. I remember what she was wearing and how she looked. She, in that room, brought great change. I had known her for years. But on this night, I thought to myself: What am I doing with my life? I saw her, and I wanted to date her. We eventually got married, and we have been married for 17 years.

You can totally miss Jesus like I missed Lydia. I’m praying the lights come on for you, to get the life which Jesus promises to you.

And you have a choice.

I just turned 40. I’ve had horrible and beautiful experiences. All of the good and the bad pale in comparison to having Jesus.

I’ve got a 10-year-old, 8-year-old, and 5-year-old. I take them to a breakfast restaurant. I let them choose. If I got ticked about their choices, I would miss the point of just wanting to be with them. I want to hear giggles and smiles on their faces. I’m there for them. That’s my freedom. It’s about them. It’s about being with them.

Look to the source of great life. Jesus is in the middle of everything that’s good.

Let me pray for all of you. . . .

Do you have any questions about anything I said?

How do you transition from an addiction to a religious mindset?

That’s a phenomenal question. That’s a whole different talk. It depends upon the person. When I moved away from behaviors I did not want long-term, I first put my doubts on paper, an incredibly great exercise. Sit down with someone who can guide you through the intellectual exercise. If the problem is based on emotion, Re:Gen is a program at our church which allows people, in community, to break away from bad habits. You cannot change your mindset unless there is community, encouragement, and accountability. Fill in negative activities with “X” activity which is rewarding, enjoyable, not self-destructive, and God-honoring. Figure out why you’re making bad choices. The other people around you can help you take steps in more positive, Christ-centered directions. Reading Scripture and talking to God, even if you don’t understand, helps you make positive steps. Talk through your issues with others.

Thanks for listening. I appreciated the opportunity.

Comments at Starshine 2022

What a privilege to offer my comments about the juniors and seniors — and to them — during the Starshine 2022 banquet celebration on Thursday, April 14, 2022. If you would like to read my comments during that program, please read on. . .

Starshine 2022
Program Comments by Dr. Bob Stouffer, High School Principal
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Downtown Hiatt

1 It is good to give thanks to the LORD,
to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
2 to declare your steadfast love in the morning,
and your faithfulness by night,
3 to the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

How great it is to be at a Christian school and open with the words of Psalm 92, verses 1-4!

Indeed, tonight we WILL give thanks, sing praises to, and declare our steadfast love for the LORD!

That is a “call to worship” like you would experience at a church, and, while Southside Christian School is obviously not a church, we are a part of the body of Christ, and we should consider this event to be a worship experience.

Everything we do at a Christian school should be seen as worship — when we are walking through the halls, standing by lockers, listening in classes, sitting in the lunch room, acting on a stage, playing an instrument during a concert, participating in a club, competing in athletics, and AT STARSHINE.

Welcome, everyone, to Starshine 2022. A special welcome to our guests who are not Southside Christian students.

Tonight, I want to briefly address all of the juniors and seniors in the audience.

We honor YOU tonight. In all that you do, including tonight’s activities, do as unto the Lord.

We celebrate your accomplishments. As Jesus was making “The Triumphal Entry” to Jerusalem, some of the jealous power brokers called Jesus to silence the loud “Hosannahs” of the people waving palm branches. Jesus said he would not do so! Just as then, I say that even the rocks will cry out in celebration of you juniors and seniors!

Your classes have been very athletic and fiercely competitive: 7 of 11 team championships last year, back-to-back volleyball and football this year, a new cross country team championship in 2021, and hopefully championships to come this spring.

The closely-bonded community of actors and actors have been strong throughout your entire school careers, including wonderful performances of The Sound of Music in the fall and The Miracle Worker in the spring.

Leadership has been a strength of the upperclassmen. SGA leaders, Sabre Ambassadors, club officers, and others have stepped up to the plate and have led well.

We have loved the influence of International Student Program students! Thank you for enriching SCS culturally, intellectually, and socially!

We have enjoyed the work of juniors and seniors who are skilled writers and readers, brilliant thinkers, and articulate speakers!

Your classes have a heart for service, as seen through the activities of the Service Club.

Seniors, in particular, your Bible projects have reflected your sincere desire to see wrongs righted — corruption, sin, addictions, deconstruction, disease, sexism, racism, technology abuses, disabilities, mental health issues, human trafficking, sex and gender issues outside of God’s design, and abortion, just to name a few.

I have been thrilled to see the growth of so many of you from the 7th through the 12th grades. ALL OF YOU are beautiful. ALL OF YOU are created in the image of God! ALL OF YOU have inestimable value in the eyes of God!

To be perfectly transparent, many of us have also struggled through major challenges in recent years, and I am impressed with the “overcomers” in our midst. Life brings adversity. Jesus promised troubles and persecution. God uses all of the events of our lives for our good and His glory.

Some of my high school colleagues wanted to be heard by you:

Mrs. Susan LaFlam, Science Department Chair, said, “I have experienced some great leaders who use their influence for the good of the body. They are humble and persistent in adversity.”

Mr. Ethan Moore, Bible and AP English Teacher: “These students are personally endearing, intellectually curious, and unendingly authentic, three qualities which made teaching them among the most rewarding educational experiences–as student or teacher–of my life. ”

And my fellow high school administrators offer sage advice to all of you:

Mr. Bob Jones, Assistant Principal: “Some of you don’t realize what you have here at Southside Christian. Express your appreciation to your parents for their educational investment in you. Also, screen all of your thoughts through Scripture.”

Mrs. Carla Evans, Director of Student Life and International Relations: “Live without fear. Try new things. Go for it. Have confidence in yourself and what God has for you.”

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship: “In life, we sometimes ‘wing it.” There’s no handbook other than the Bible. Surround yourselves with Christ followers.”

Coach Nick Theaux, Assistant Director of Athletics: “Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Take a chance at getting to know people — and to be known by others — as a Christ follower.”

Here is the most important message of the evening. This is my “benediction.” Don’t miss these 52 words!

God always existed. He is eternal.

Mysteries of mysteries, the Father sent His beloved Son to earth on THE GREATEST rescue mission EVER!

Jesus lived a sinless life.

He died in our place on the cross. He took our sin. He bore the inexplicable wrath of His Father.

But He defeated death!

We celebrate that truth this week.

If you have never done so, embrace that truth today — and follow Jesus!

Let’s live lives wholly pleasing to God — TONIGHT and every night thereafter.