High School Spiritual Life Conference, 28 April 2021

Day 2 of the Southside Christian High School Spiritual Life Conference was held on Wednesday, April 28, 2021. If you would like to read my summary of the evening’s activities, please read on. . . .

High School Spiritual Life Conference

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

6:30 p.m.

Swains’ Barn

Staff present: Bob Jones, Diana Baker, Colin Urbanick, and Jadan Anderson

25 students in attendance

Outside games in beautiful S.C. weather

Meal of assorted deli sandwiches, chips, and water

Exhortation by Pastor Colin Urbanick, SCS Director of Discipleship / Campus Pastor

Singing led by 2 City Lights Church lead worshippers

A remarkable rap performance of the Gospel to encourage the students

Oliver Wong, Lead Pastor City Lights Church

The Resurrection has power.

Father, it is powerful to hear the Gospel in lyrics and story. I pray You would speak to us. You are our unshakeable God. Steady us, Lord. Amen.

I shared some of my story last night. [See my immediately previous blog post.]

At 16, I discovered bravery and gave my life to the Lord. I did not have Christian role models. My parents actually tried to persuade me not to make that decision.

A youth pastor I knew opened the car door for his wife. I wanted to be like that dude. He pastored in a mega-church of 10,000. He later has an affair and took his life.

Following Jesus is always good and not always easy.

I was a big fish in a small high school pond. I was a small fish in a huge college ocean. I was diagnosed with a disease, and the doctors said I would be on dialysis. I heard about the affair and eventual suicide death of my youth pastor, and my faith was shaken.

But power lives in our weakness, Paul said. We play roles that are easier than being ourselves. We need to stop believing what others think and say about us. You need to stop bullying others. Life is not about appearances. God is speaking to us on our pain.

Jacob is at the end of his life in this account from Genesis 32.

God shook Jacob.

Jacob had previously pretended he was his brother.

Jacob came back to his brother with fear of his brother. He sent his strength out ahead of him with a caravan of “stuff.”

Jacob was alone on the dark. Nothing to lose. Nothing to prove. No control.

We do not have control. The Spirit alone gives us self-control.

God wrestled Jacob down and game him his new name and identity.

God wrenched Jacob’s hip.

We, too, are wrestling with God. Nothing to gain. Nothing to lose. The LORD alone will give the blessing.

Jacob finally “got it.” God has time on His side. He will wait 20, 40, 60 years for you.

God asked, “What is your name?”

Jacob.

God said his new name would be Israel. He is the one “God would fight for.”

Jacob had been his own worst enemy. God had to chase him.

Until Jacob became weak, he would always take credit for his blessings.

God calls a loser a winner.

Israel was a champion.

Jesus was humble and weak. He suffered. He died. And he was a champion.

We chase after things which mean nothing.

We need to chase after God.

We too often live in a name which is not ours. We need to live in the name which is ours.

I had been a peacekeeper all of my life. When I came to know Jesus, I became a peacemaker.

Marriage is a “good struggle.” God is teaching me through marriage.

It’s good to have your rhythm thrown off. God chases us. He wrestles with us. He makes us claim His blessing and His name for us.

I have had to do a lot of wrestling with others and self, but I am finally able to be Oliver.

Surrender. Have no agenda. Be ready. Let the Word keep you steady. Be you. Wait for God to show up. He will speak to you in the Word when you spend time with Him and, consistently for at least a month, journal about what he is saying to you. Be ready to preach to yourself and to others.

High School Spiritual Life Conference, 27 April 2021

The 2-day High School Spiritual Life Conference of Southside Christian School in Simpsonville, South Carolina kicked off well on Tuesday, April 27, 2021. If you would like to read my short summary of the first day’s activities, please read on. . .

High School Spiritual Life Conference

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

6:30 p.m.

Swains’ Barn

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

Games outside

Meal of pizza, chips, and water

Staff members in attendance: Dr. Sam Barfell, Jen Barfell, Bob Jones, Kathy Turner, Carla Evans, Amanda Mashue, Colin Urbanick, Erin Bowers, Diana Baker

Around 45 students were in attendance.

Singing was led by the City Lights Church Worship Pastor and Ashton Becks.

Oliver Wong, Lead Pastor, City Lights Church

Community

You are named and a member of the community.

[All named themselves and shared their favorite Disney character. This activity produced laughter, engagement, and buzz of conversation.]

I grew up in a non-Christian home and a divorced home.

I am from Hong Kong and Indiana.

My dad is Chinese and all about honor.

My mom is Caucasian and is one of 8 blonde sisters.

I lived in 2 worlds — Ft. Wayne, Indiana and Hong Kong, China. I did not speak the language, and I wanted to fit in. I was the only Chinese cousin in Indiana.

No matter who you are, someone wants to put you in a box. The culture attempts to define you. If you don’t look like that, the culture shuns you.

I wanted to dress, speak, and use grammar that helped me fit in. That takes a lot of energy to connect and belong.

What does that cost us, becoming the people others want us to be?

So this passage involving Jacob illustrates that point.

Genesis 27

Jacob dressed up like Esau to get the blessing.

He wrestled constantly until he finally wrestled with God and suffered an injury which defined him for the rest of his life.

Who are you when there is nowhere to hide? Who are you? That is an important question. Others will assign roles for you and try to define you.

No one else can answer that question for you.

No one can define you accurately BUT GOD.

2020 is a year of “shaking.” Shaking is a gift. Shaking will show you what is not shakeable.

Being shaken might lead you to understand and believe who you really are.

Isaac liked Esau more. He was a manly son.

I had a cousin like that. There is only one favorite.

Esau was supposed to get the blessing and the birthright.

Rebecca favored Jacob. Jacob was a mother’s boy.

Jacob put on an outfit to get the blessing intended for Esau.

All people are made in the image of God, and all have value in God’s eyes. Some parents make idols of their children. They can’t see things straight, because their hearts are wicked.

The low, slow voice leads us to idols. We envision the things we want in others. We would do anything for approval and the blessing.

Rebecca wanted the blessing for Jacob. She made her son be someone he was not.

Jacob knew this was wrong. But he did what his mother told him to do.

Jacob wanted affirmation. He was willing to be someone he was not. Jacob [“the deceiver”] said he was Esau. The voice was the voice of Jacob; the hand was the hand of Esau. The story didn’t fit.

We can say we are Christians, but we will often be and do things other than who God calls us to be.

Isaac blessed Jacob. It’s a mixed blessing. It has only a little bit of God talk.

We are influenced by our families. Out of idols come masquerades.

No one can give the blessing but Jesus.

We are all trying to determine our identities. Some people never find their identities during their entire lifetimes.

Jesus alone should determine our identities.

Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The father showed grace to the younger son who squandered his inheritance, AND he confirmed that he would always be with his older son!

Jesus turns no one away. He blesses everyone who comes to him.

Who are you?

Who are you?

Only Jesus can tell us who we really are.

Someone’s telling us who we are.

Listen to God. Listen to God, who will tell who you are.

[We closed in a time of prayer about these truths in groups of 5 or 6. We prayers for each other and for a positive culture of the school.]

[We sang one praise song to close the first night.]

Pastoral Prayer, 14 March 2021

It is always a privilege to pray corporately in the body of Christ. If you would like to consider the prayer we prayed at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday, March 14, 2021, read on . . .

Pastoral Prayer

Led by Bob Stouffer

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Father God, we worship You today in so many ways. Help us to be still now, to empty our minds of distractions, and to concentrate on You alone as our great and glorious God.

We have just worshipped You by our CONFESSION. We have all fallen short of Your Son’s character and commands.

Father God, we worship You by RECEIVING YOUR FORGIVENESS AND RECONCILIATION, so freely given.

Father God, we worship today through our PRAYERS. We are so grateful for this time to engage with You in corporate prayer that directs our attention off ourselves and onto You. . .


. . .We pray for Colleen Sams, as she prepares for her grandmother’s death. May Colleen and her family be comforted at this time.


. . .We pray for the rest, sleep, and relief from pain for Sally Carter — and for Dick’s continuing loving ministry to her.


. . .We pray for others in our body who need healing and relief from pain.


. . .We praise You that Stacey Rostek has completed her chemotherapy treatments, is feeling well, and her MRI’s have been clear all year!


. . .We pray that the cancer does not return.


. . .We pray for wisdom about the details of opening more ministry as the virus effects decrease.


Father God, we also worship You today by FELLOWSHIPPING joyfully with each other. How grateful we are that so many of us are safely gathering together to support and encourage each other.


Father God, we worship You today with our SINGING. May we think of, believe in, heartily worship through, and genuinely act in accordance with the truth of the song lyrics.


Father God, we will be worshipping You today by remembering the death and Resurrection of your Son when TAKING COMMUNION. May we never take for granted that physical act of commemorating the Gospel and our own salvation gained by Christ’s birth, sinless life, substitutionary death on the cross, and conquering of death!

Father God, we worship You in our GIVING — either online or here in Your sanctuary. We pray our giving will be pleasing to You — with generous, sacrificial, and joyful hearts.


Father God, we worship You in the READING, HEARING, AND PREACHING OF YOUR WORD. I pray the words of the message — and utterances of the message — and the meditations of our hearts will be acceptable in Your sight.

By all of these means, You should be the object of our worship, Father God.


To You alone be all praise and honor and glory!


In the precious name of Jesus our Savior, we pray. Amen!

“Prayer for ACSI Day of Prayer” (Tuesday, February 23, 2021)

What a privilege to be able to pray in school! I was privileged to pray with the entire high school staff and students of Southside Christian School in Simpsonville, South Carolina on the Day of Prayer sponsored by the Association of Christian Schools International (ASCI) on Tuesday, February 23, 2021. I was essentially also praying with and for all of the ACSI schools throughout the world. If you are interested in the content of my brief prayer, please read on. . .

“Lord, we are ALL created in Your image.  

As such, we have infinite value in YOUR eyes.

Let us find our value in that truth, not in what others think of us or how we compare ourselves to others, particularly through social media.

We are like You, Lord, but we are NOT YOU.

You are holy and righteous.

We sin. Please forgive our sin. Please move us away from our sin and bring us into a right relationship with You.

Thank You for sending Jesus to earth on an unprecedented rescue mission!

We praise You, Lord, that Jesus lived a sinless life!

Thank You that Jesus showed us how to love You and to love others.

We are humbled that He washed the dirty feet of His disciples and showed incredible patience with them and others during His earthly ministry.

Help us to love like that.

He loved us so much that He absorbed Your wrath on the cross — for OUR sin and for US!

We praise Jesus for dying a substitutionary death on the cross!

We praise YOU for mysteriously and miraculously raising Jesus from the dead!

We praise You for everlasting life that comes from following Jesus!

On this ACSI Day of Prayer, we would like nothing better than salvation for students who do not claim and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.

Lord, may your Holy Spirit continue to work in the minds and hearts of unbelieving students.

I pray all of these things in the mighty, matchless, all-powerful name of Jesus the Christ!

AMEN!”

“COVID-19 and the Mental Health of our Students”

Unfortunately, none of us is surprised by the following account. We MUST all be concerned about the mental, emotional, and spiritual wellness of our students.

“Did Youth Suicide ‘Surge’ in Locked-Down Las Vegas?” 


An alarming spike in adolescent mental health emergencies accelerated the nation’s fifth-largest school district’s plan to restart in-person learning. As of December, 18 teens in the district had died by suicide over the years.  

“For teens and the people who love them, it’s obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic has been mentally exhausting for middle school and high school students. Feelings of isolation, panic, and worries over being “left behind” topped the list of anxieties teens felt when schools shifted to online learning models. Emergency calls related to mental health went up in 40 states during the pandemic, and experts say it makes “conceptual sense” that teens feel traumatized by months of lockdown restrictions and like they have nothing to look forward to. We can’t completely grasp how the pandemic has shaped the world our teens will inherit, but being aware of how it’s impacted the teens under our own roofs is critical. Not every teen who needs help will ask for it, and some may be experts at keeping up the facade of strength and normalcy. Keep looking for those opportunities for open conversation and opportunities to ask your teen if they really are doing okay.”  (“The Culture Translator,” by AXIS, 05 February 2021)

“Talking to Your Teenager About Questionably Movie Language and Sexuality”

Bridgerton is the new streaming show taking Netflix by storm. Produced by Shonda Rimes (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy), it’s a highly addictive romance set in Great Britain in the early 1800s. While teen and adult audiences have been raving about the twisty plotlines and chemistry between co-stars, this show is decidedly made for mature audiences, with on-screen nudity and same-sex relationships par for the course. For all the dignified language of the nineteenth century, there’s also a fair amount of profanity. Households concerned about sexual content will likely find that this show is simply too steamy for their family.” (The Culture Translator, by AXIS, 08 January 2021)

“Talking to Your Teenager About the Election Results”

Any parents or grandparents in my reading audience might be interested in a news item from AXIS’s “Premium Culture Translator” of Friday, November 6. 2020 (below).

“. . .It seems like every media outlet is in a rush to point out what most Americans already knew: As election results reveal, we are essentially now divided into two ideological countries. And as parents of teens, you might already feel like there’s a civil war of sorts in your own household; one that hinges on how your politically-engaged teen envisions the future and what you think the country should be. So how do we defuse potentially explosive political arguments in our family life?

“One thing to remember is that your teen probably isn’t showing up uninformed to their conversation with you. While you two might be consuming completely different news sources, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t mainlining information off of social media and YouTube. Don’t assume you’ve got more statistics on your side, or that the wisdom of your years gives you an edge in what you know about the news cycle.

“Second, and probably more important, don’t try to ‘win’ or beat your teen into submission when you’re talking about politics (or frankly, anything that you disagree on). It’s hard to hear someone we love expressing opinions that seem dangerous or misinformed, but reacting with anger and disappointment will just mean your teen stops sharing with you. If things are starting to get heated, you don’t have to contribute to the angst. Cooling off and saying a prayer for your teen’s heart beats browbeating and yelling, every time. Check out our recent blog on embracing healthy conflict with Gen Z for more.”  (Premium Culture Translator, by AXIS, 06 November 2020)

Pastoral Prayer, 01 November 2020

It is always a privilege to represent the Eastside Presbyterian Church family when praying the Pastoral Prayer during a morning worship service. If you would like to read the words God gave to me for prayer on November 1, 2020, please read on. . . .

Pastoral Prayer

By Bob Stouffer

Eastside  Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Forgive us our sins, Lord.

You are sovereign, Father. You are good, wise, gracious, and faithful. You are our rock, our shepherd, our peace.

We humbly offer ourselves as living sacrifices to You today.

Build in us —

Do in us — as You will today.

Relieve us of the bondage of self that we may better do Your will.

Help us bear witness to those we would help —

— Witnesses of Your power, Your love, and Your way of life.

May we do Your will today!

We pray for the upcoming election on Tuesday.

“We the People of the United States. . . .”

While we know this is the country of our citizenry, we also know the U.S. is not our home.

We should not wonder why there is so much discord and dissension in our country.

Of course, you know that sin is at our nature.

We have just repented of our sin.

May the repenting continue daily — moment-by-moment.

Our unique form of government was created “to establish Justice. . .[and to] insure domestic Tranquility. . . .”

We pray that we the people OF JESUS CHRIST will seek to establish justice and insure domestic tranquility in our spheres of influence.

Help us to make good decisions in elections, and to pray for those who are elected, no matter who they might be.

We agree with Pastor Derwin Grey of Rock Hill, South Carolina:

We are not the party of the elephant.

We are not the party of the donkey.

We are the party of the Lamb of God who has taken away the sin of the world! May our allegiance be exclusively to Your Son!

We pray that Christians all over our nation will be peacekeepers and agents of reconciliation, as Jesus has commanded.

As the father of a police officer, I pray for her and all law enforcement.

We pray, too, for peace in our families. 

We pray for your intercession in other ways, Lord:

Please give Your peace and grace to Bobbie Hanacek and her family.

We praise you for the healing of Joe Sams’ co-worker, Russ.

Please superintend peace and unity among Coleen Sams’ father and her sisters.

Please comfort and give Your provision for Greg Cornwell’s wife Anne and their son Ben.

Our brother Ward Bursley has rightly called on us to pray for the several areas of the world which are experiencing new waves of COVID-19, some of which are worse than the first waves.

We pray for the success of those who are working on a vaccine.

We pray for wisdom on the part of national leaders as they deal with the pandemic. 

We praise You, Father, that Sally Carter’s COVID-19 and flu tests came back negative, and that she is feeling better.

We praise You for the safety of Mildred, Oskal, and Sean after the earthquake in Turkey

We pray for Barbara and Bob Smith’s daughter — for the complete success, low pain, and rapid recovery from Anita’s ulnar nerve and trigger thumb surgery.

We praise you for the skills of Dr. Tim Dew, who performed the surgery.

In situations like these, which call for Your intercession, we claim the truth of Exodus 14, verses 13 and 14 —

“[We] Fear not, [we] stand firm, and [we will] see the salvation of the LORD. . . .[You] will fight for [us] , and [we] have only to be silent.”

But help us never to be silent about the birth, sinless life, death, Resurrection, and reign of Jesus!

Help us to be filled with a heart FOR HIM! When occupied with Him — more that the work for Him — how can we not be active in His service?!

Your Son Jesus is exalted! He sits at Your right hand in heaven! One day, He WILL come again! Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He. . .is. . .Lord!

In His mighty and strong name we pray.

Amen!!

Children, you are now dismissed for your morning activities.

“How Long, O Lord?!”

On Sunday, October 25, 2020, Pastor Mark Auffarth took a 1-week break from his “Is Jesus Worthy?” Revelation sermon series by preaching about lamenting in Psalm 13. If you would like to read my summary of his EXTREMELY ENCOURAGING message, “How Long, O Lord?!” please read on. . . .

Psalm 13 (English Standard Version)

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
    and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
    light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
    lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
    my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
    because he has dealt bountifully with me.

“How Long, O Lord?!”

By Dr. MarK Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer (All mistakes are mine alone.)

We need to lament.

God answers our laments.

We cannot re-make the sinful elements of the world in which we live. But we can control our responses.

And we can help others see new and more Christ-centered perspectives of our world. We can help people understand the Kingdom of God.

We are tired.

We want to go back to the way things used to be — without pandemics, political turmoil, or dramatic social unrest.

This Psalm gives us 3 ways of dealing with our lives now:

We weep.

We recognize.

We remember.

WE WEEP.

We do not like this step. But we must weep. We must lament. We must open our hearts to God.

We must not always give prescriptions or Christian platitudes to each other.

We should not point out the irrational behavior of others.

We are not “bad Christians” if we do not have peace or abundance. We should not equate a lack of peace or abundance as God abandoning us.

God is not punishing us. Others may be punishing us. Each of us may be punishing ourselves in our own sin or negative self-chatter.

God loves us.

David was on the run from Saul. Had God abandoned him? David thought so, and he lamented that perception.

And weeping about bad circumstances is okay! Life is hard. We experience cancer, loneliness, this pandemic, struggles, bad news, politics, social injustice, and unrest, among other things.

It’s okay to weep!

We don’t have to agree with The Prosperity Gospel.

The devil, culture, and our own sin affects us.

Cry out to God!!

Put the weight of your problems ON HIM!!

We must not go into a corner and crawl into a ball.

These challenges are THE LORD’S problems.

That’s lamenting.

WE RECOGNIZE.

We recognize God as the only way out of our predicaments.

Who knows how long our struggles will last??!

Only God can solve our problems.

David’s need was to know that God had not forgotten him. God had not walked away from him.

He asked God to “light up” his eyes. He asked God to “bring his soul back to life.”

When I was in Minnesota this past summer, I consistently got alone with God in reading through The Healing Prayer. I spent valuable time in silence before God. God brought to mind the times in my childhood when I did not feel safe. Where was God when I was experiencing such unsafe feelikngs?! He was there the whole time! He never left me!

In Minnesota, God “lit up my life with hope and healing for my soul.” My circumstances had not changed! God revealed the He had NOT abandoned me at these times in my childhood. God had not walked away from me! He had been there all along!

Weep first. Mourning lasts for a night. Joy comes in the morning.

We will live in the midst of struggles. For how long?!

WE REMEMBER.

We can weep. He will light up our eyes.

Remember God’s grace upon grace upon grace upon grace!

God’s love is “hesed” love — devout, abundant, unwavering love!!!

God had given David the strength to kill bears, lions, and a giant!

David remembered how God had dealt bountifully with him!

God was the source of David’s salvation!

We sin. We deserve to be abandoned by God. BUT. . .HE. . .DOES. . .NOT. . .ABANDON. . . US!

God thinks we are the greatest. WE. . .ARE. . HIS! We belong to Him! His name is written on us! We will NEVER be abandoned by Him!! He will NEVER reject us!!

He sent Jesus to earth, and, on the cross, the Father abandoned His Son. Jesus went to hell on our behalf.

We are purchased by His blood!

That’s the Gospel!

And the Gospel changes everything!

We rightly sang “We Need Thee” to close the service.

1I need Thee every hour,
  Most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine
  Can peace afford.
 I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
  Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior!
    I come to Thee.
2I need Thee every hour,
  Stay Thou near by;
Temptations lose their power
  When Thou art nigh.
3I need Thee every hour,
  In joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide,
  Or life is vain.
4I need Thee every hour,
  Teach me Thy will;
And Thy rich promises
  In me fulfill.
5I need Thee every hour,
  Most Holy One;
Oh, make me Thine indeed,
  Thou blessed Son.

“Dozens of Coronavirus Infections Linked to Sweet 16 Party: What Is a ‘Superspreader’ Event?”

Parents, I so appreciate that our school parents are partnering effectively with us to manage COVID-19 safety on the homefront, as we attempt to do similarly at school. No matter our beliefs, opinions, or politics, we all want EVERYONE in our school community to be safe.

So the following article is quite interesting.

“Dozens of Coronavirus Infections Linked to Sweet 16 Party: What Is a ‘Superspreader’ Event?”

By Madeline Farber

Fox News

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

https://www.foxnews.com/health/dozens-coronavirus-infections-sweet-16-superspreader-event