Monthly Archives: August 2016

“Don’t Make Football an Idol”

I was honored to speak at the Southside Christian School football chapel before the Ware Shoals game on Friday, August 26, 2016.  I tried hard not to brag about my own accomplishments as a football player; I hope my words didn’t come across that way, but I also praise God for the ways that He used the sport to mold me and shape me into the man I became.  If you would like to read the outline of that message, “Don’t Make Football an Idol,” please read on. . . .

 

“Don’t Make Football an Idol

By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal, Southside Christian School

 

Friday, August 26, 2016

 

 

Football was an important part of my life.

 

I was the fat center on the flag football team in an elementary school of 1,200 students.

 

I battled to become the starting nose guard of a team in a junior high school of 1,500 students.

 

I started as a linebacker on a state championship team of over 100 juniors and seniors in a high school of 2,750 students.

 

<Here I am as a 16-year-old.>

 

<This is my actual jersey.>

 

I was a 3-year starter on a Division-III university team.

 

<Here I am as a 21-year-old.>

 

<This is a Winona State University jersey.>

 

I served as an assistant varsity coach of a Class 3A state championship team.

 

<Here I am as a 27-year-old.>

 

In spite of football’s importance in my life, I am pleased to say that I never raised the sport to the status of an idol.

 

I also experienced very enjoyable success as a singer in high school choir, as a competitive debater, and as student body president.

 

As you heard, I played on a state championship team and coached a state championship team, but God kept me humble.

 

In college, my teams were 6-34, with an 0-11 senior season.  Still, God allowed me to be selected by the head coaches as the Most Valuable Player of the Northern Intercollegiate Conference.

 

I say those things not to brag but to give God the glory.

 

I was not a big linebacker.  I was 5’10,” 185 pounds.

 

I was not fast.  My best 40 time ever was 4.9.

 

But I loved the game, had a nose for the ball, and loved to hit people.

 

I was never a follower of Jesus when I played and coached football.  I became a believer as a high school principal at 36 years of age.

 

I often wonder how much better a football player I would have been with the Holy Spirit taking residence in me!

 

Football is an important part of your life.

 

But football is not the most important part of your life.

 

In Colossians 3, verses 1-17, Paul indicates what should be most important in your life, and that is how I close today. . . .

 

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.  In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. 11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

 

. . .Do your very best tonight, Sabres!  “. . .whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  (ESV)

 

Let’s pray. . .

“What Does ‘Success’ Look Like in Our Church?”

When I first became a follower of Jesus in 1994, Valley Church Lead Pastor Quintin Stieff used to rightly proclaim from the platform that his responsibility as the main preacher was to “comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”  Touche.  Today, Pastor Mark Auffarth of Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina similarly got my attention with his message, “What Does ‘Success’ Look Like in Our Church?” If you would like to read by summary of and editorializing about this message, please read on. . . .

“What Does ‘Success’ Look Like in Our Church?”

By Pastor Mark Auffarth

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Text:  John 13:34-35

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal, Southside Christian School

It is so easy to say, “Love one another.”  It’s so difficult to do, though.  We are all too often in this life for ourselves.

We should be looking for the “wonder-working power” of God.

Andy Stanley wrote a book, The Seven Practices of Effective Churches.  He wrote that Practice #1 is “Clarify the ‘Win.'”  What does it mean to “win” in a church?  What are we, the church, about?

We help one another follow Jesus.  We should talk to one another about what is “under the hood.”  What motivates us to follow Jesus?  Would we lay down our lives for our friends?  Would we lay down our lives for our spouses?  Our children?  Our fellow church-goers?  Our co-workers?

We’ve got to look to Jesus as our example.  We talk often about the selfless act of Jesus dying on the cross for us, but Jesus laid down his life continuously for others.  He taught.  He healed.  He had compassion.  (Matthew 9:35)

What do you see when you see people?

Jesus saw people who were “harassed” and “helpless.”  In the Greek, harassed means “dejected, troubled, distressed.”  Circumstances of life were pressing down on people of Jesus’ time.  Helpless, in the Greek, means “lying discouraged on the ground.”  These are the people Jesus saw.

What do YOU see when you see harassed, helpless people?

Most people in Jesus’ time were poor and oppressed by the Roman government.  There were 400 years of silence since the Old Testament prophets.  Where was the Messiah?!  The people were like sheep without a shepherd.  And the sheep were “bleating” in distress.

Doesn’t that describe the human race?  Aren’t we just a flock of restless sheep?

Sure, we are nice to one another.  But we are called to lay down our lives for one another.  “I lose, so you win” should be our mindset.

But our true state is described well in James 4:1.  Desires battle within us.  We want something, and we don’t get it.  Our own desires — or the annoyances of others — cause quarrels.  We put ourselves first.

A needy person comes along.  And we pass judgment on him, because it makes us feel better about ourselves. Such is the work of the enemy.  This is what we do.  We feel better about ourselves — for a time.

What Jesus did, when he saw the harassed and helpless, applies to all of us.  He had compassion on harassed, helpless people.  They were sheep without a shepherd, acting out what they knew.  They were not well.  Their souls were not at rest.

What do YOU do when you see people who are not at rest?  Do you judge?  Or do you have compassion?

Let’s make 4 applications to our lives from this text.

#1, First, look at yourself.

We judge ourselves.  We are hardest on ourselves.  We are not content.  Self-help books proliferate our shelves.  Our hearts are restless.  We think no one has compassion on us.  We walk into rooms and immediately look to see where we stand [in the pecking order].  We compares ourselves to others.  We believe we are either better or worse than others.  Both categories are of those who are not at rest.

Jesus told the people he would give them rest.  His yoke is easy; his burden, light. He saw the people as harassed and helpless.  He had compassion for the people.

Every sin is related to this issue.  We essentially ask ourselves, “Am I loved?”  If not, we will seek things [other than God] to numb the pain:  pornography, excessive TV, shopping, eating, exercise, etc.  We all have numbing choices.

If your yoke is not light, nor your burden easy, you are not following Jesus!  Set your soul on Jesus!  Jesus made you exactly how He wants you.  But you keep running away from Jesus!

We need to have compassion on ourselves.

#2, Another application is to marriage.

Problems in marriage are related to our sin.  We pass judgment on our spouses.  They are sheep without a shepherd.  They have no rest.  We don’t need judgment.  We need compassion.  The harassed and helpless need rest.  We should not react harshly or with the silent treatment.  We show no compassion.

We must lead our spouses compassionately to the only One who can soothe their restless souls.

Compassion leads to positive action.  Jesus healed the restless, harassed, helpless people.

WE are not the answer.  JESUS is!

Do we believe Jesus will give us rest?!

Lead your spouse to Jesus.  Lead your spouse to cool meadows to find drinks of cold water.  Be a spouse of mercy.

#3, What about your kids?

We too often treat their disrespect and disobedience with anger and harsh penalties.  Our anger is more about us and not about our children.

Our kids are suffering from restlessness.  Could we look on our children with more compassion?  Would that thought temper how you deal with your children?  Take your children to Jesus.

#4, What about the people around us?

Compassion, not judgment.

It’s so easy to get angry.

Others need compassion, rest, soothing.  This is what we all need.  Why would we desire it for ourselves but deny it to others?!

Show compassion for others.  Lay down your lives.

A high school basketball team in Gainesville, Texas has a fan base of zero.  The team is formed of felony offenders in a juvenile correction facility.  For good behavior, the Tornadoes earn opportunities to play against other teams.  The spectators of an opposing team decided it was not right for the Tornadoes to have no fans.  So they organized their people to cheer for the Tornadoes.  Support and encouragement and cheers lifted up these boys’ spirits!

This is what Jesus did for us.  We were — we are — helpless and harassed.  We try to show everyone we are following Jesus.  But we are sheep without a shepherd so much of the time.

The Christian life is about Jesus.  Jesus has compassion on us.  He loves us.  He accepts us, even though we sin.  There is freedom in the Gospel.

When you see helpless, harassed people, what do you see?

Can we celebrate when someone lays down his life for another?  That is a “win” in the Christian life.  That is the Gospel.

The Gospel changes everything.

 

 

“Conversations with Lincoln”

I have read much about Abraham Lincoln.  Only an amateur historian, I think I can still present an solid case that he is THE greatest President, if not leader, in United States history.  He led the nation through one of the darkest eras of our history; our country would have been so much better off during Reconstruction, if he had survived through his second term of office.  So I was recently drawn to a new book about Lincoln, which I finished over the weekend:  Conversations with Lincoln: Little-Known Stories from Those Who Met America’s 16th President, by Gordon Leidner (Sourcebooks, Inc., 2016).  My brief review follows.

I was looking for an easy, light read after the first week of a new school year (a good week, I might add).  I figured Conversations with Lincoln wouldn’t tax my comprehension skills too vigorously.  Little did I know I would be so deeply affected by the stories in this book.

In this book, we gain insights about our 16th President from the testimonies of those who directly witnessed his character and competence — politicians, children, soldiers, colleagues, and common citizens alike.  Author Gordon Leidner traces Old Abe’s life from anonymity to his ascendance to power and his assassination.  This book is not complicated.  Abraham Lincoln was a fairly complicated man, but all of the stories in this analysis bring great clarity to his greatness.

Why was Abraham Lincoln great?  He cared about people.  He loved even his enemies.  He loved and sought diligently to preserve the United States of America.  Even when maligned by those who opposed him, he was forgiving and good-natured in response.  He listened.  He helped people.  No matter a person’s station in life, he treated each and every one with dignity.  In the stories of this book, an overwhelming character trait was his kindness.  And he took it upon himself to empathize with others, while death, tragedies, incivilities raged around him; in these stories, he is described with a palpable sadness for all things negative happening to our country during his Presidency.  He was certainly no Jesus Christ — but he was a Christ-figure, if ever there were one.

People were forever changed by their interactions with U.S. President Abraham Lincoln.  He is an example to every leader who would want to earn the love, admiration, and respect of those she or he leads.

“When You Blow It! Regaining Control”

Cheryl and I are “church shopping” in South Carolina.  This is a long and frustrating process, after we have been used to such great Bible churches for the past 22 years, because there are so many great churches in the South.  Southside Christian Lower School Assistant Principal Sherri Broyles (who, by the way, just finished her Master’s degree!) invited us to her church, Infinity Church, and, on Sunday, August 21, 2016, we attended and were fortunate to hear an excellent sermon by Pastor Johnny Dyer.  If you would like to read my summary of and editorializing about his message, “When You Blow It! Regaining Control,” please read on. . .

“When You Blow It! Regaining Control”

By Pastor Johnny Dyer

Infinity Church

Fountain Inn, South Carolina

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Text:  

“For though the righteous falls seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.”  (Proverbs 24:16, New International Version)

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal, Southside Christian School, Simpsonville, South Carolina

Let’s say you have nailed aspects of your life.  Let’s assume you have committed your life to the Lord.

Then, you blow it.  At that point, you may feel like a crummy Christian.  That’s how the devil wants it.  He wants to convince you that you are defeated.  “Talk back to the devil!” A.W. Tozer said.  Talk back with self-control, one of the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

When you stumble, get back up. Again.  And again.

Self-control allows us to be directed by the Lord, rather than being directed by our own desires or emotions.  Marshall your energies wisely, according to the Spirit’s direction.

Jack London wrote a story, “White Fang.”  White Fang, a wild dog, had been mistreated in his early life.  He came to a new master, Scott.  He came to love Scott.  Early during their time together, White Fang killed a number of chickens.  Scott sought to teach him not to kill chickens.  White Fang respected his master and learned.  Even unattended by his master, when White Fang was among chickens, the dog lay down and slept, and he did not kill chickens.  The dog had learned to love and please his master.

That’s a fictional account.  We have a greater Master who empowers us with His Spirit.  God has placed the Holy Spirit in you, if you declare Jesus as Lord and Savior of your life.  THAT is biblical (self) control.

What if we blow it?  How do we regain self-control?  Let’s look at 5 R’s in answer those questions today.

  1.  We must RECOGNIZE and accept responsibility for our lack of self-control.  We too often justify our sin.  We evade responsibility.  It’s always been like that since Genesis 3.  Adam and Eve sinned.  Adam blamed Eve.  He even intimated blame of God by saying that He had created her!  Eve blamed the serpent.  We must face problems and responsibility for those problems, or we will not conquer our problems.  David had many dark moments in his life.  One of the darkest moments involved David’s sin with Bathsheba.  David crossed the line to adultery and murder.  David should have been at battle with his soldiers.  Instead, he was lounging in the palace.  He had been described as “a man after God’s own heart.”  He could have stepped back and accepted responsibility for his sin with Bathsheba, but one sin led to another.  Uriah was an honorable man.  In this situation, David was dishonorable.  David could have stopped even at this point.  But he proceeded with the “execution” notice of Uriah.  The Prophet Nathan confronted David with a story of a shepherd who stole and killed a poor shepherd’s beloved sheep.   Nathan said, “You are the man” [who stole Uriah’s wife and life].  What had been going on in David’s mind? David came to his senses and confessed his sin in Psalm 51.  Verses 3-6 of that Psalm capture his mindset well:  3For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.  4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.  6Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.  David quit making excuses and accepted responsibility for his actions.  What keeps us from coming clean with God?  We want our own way, not God’s ways.

2)  We must REPENT of sin, and ask forgiveness.  1 John 1:9 is a good verse to remember, in this regard:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (ESV)  God cleanses us after repentance.   He forgives and purifies us.  Change your mind.  Do a U-Turn back to God.  Re-calculate your route like the GPS.  We cannot save ourselves.  Only Jesus saves.  Repentance should be an every day act of the Christian.  Take God’s side or perspective in every matter.  Repentance should be immediate.  Do not cloud your fellowship with God.

3)  We must RENOUNCE our sin.  Consider Proverbs 28:13 — Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.  (ESV)  Determine in your heart that you will not go the way of sin again.  Plan for victory!  Imagine a godly response to all situations.  Foresee evil, and hide yourself from evil.  

4)  We must RESTORE relationship with God and others.  In Matthew 5:23-24, Jesus addresses this issue well:  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”  (ESV)  Be reconciled to God and to your brother — those whom you have offended.  Say, “I’m sorry.  Please forgive me.”  Don’t respond like a jerk to a jerk.  Clear the air in the way of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ road is narrow.  Walk down that path.

5)  We must RELY on the Holy Spirit to get you back in step with Him. Think about Galatians 5:25 — If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  (ESV)  Go in the way Jesus has impressed you to go.

This is not a plan to fail.

This is a plan to succeed when you fail.

“Unashamed”

In early-May, 2016, during the 8th grade trip of Oskaloosa Christian School, I was able to read only the first few dozen pages of Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae’s book, Unashamed.  Student Nick Pfalzgraf had purchased the book in the Mall of America, and, for some strange reason, I was drawn to the message.  Nick, I, and the book separated at the end of the class trip, and I only two days ago (August 18, 2016) took up the reading of this book again.  What a quick read to the end!  If you would like to consider my ideas about Unashamed, please read on.

I have no real interest in horse racing, yet I read and loved Sea Biscuit.  I have NEVER watched an entire crew race, but the true narrative in The Boys in the Boat was mesmerizing to me as a reader.  Why would I be interested enough as a native Iowan to read about wealthy Texas oilmen in a lengthy book like The Big Rich — and then thoroughly enjoy the details of these “original reality show stars”?

I am not a fan of hip-hop or rap music, but I was absolutely enthralled by Lecrae’s Unashamed (B&H, 2016).

Let me be clear upfront.  I am not drawn to rap or hip-hop music.  I do not listen to this genre.  With raw, uncensored artists, the lyrics are horribly offensive to me.  It is well documented that words in some of these pieces are misogynistic, anti-authority, pro-violence, and vulgar — to say the least.

I do not begrudge enthusiasts of this music to listen.  Such is their taste.  America is a free country.  Just as ours is a melting pot of ethnicities, the United States has embraced and even birthed new forms of musical expression, including hip-hop and rap.  You might find it strange that I was even remotely interested in reading Lecrae’s book, since I do not even listen to his music.

But good writing is good writing, and he had me from the first sentence.  Lecrae is a bright, creative, articulate Christian man who has a testimony to offer in this book and through his music.  His life story is truly compelling.  What a miracle that he is even still alive today.  Without giving away the details of his life, I would say that he faced challenges well beyond anyone who has gone on to such fame.

But fame he does not seek.  Fame found him.  Why?  Because God anointed him with a style of communication which resonated with people whose God-sized vacuum could only be filled with God Himself.  This college-educated and well-read Black man wants more for EVERYONE who listens to his music.

Lecrae’s chapter on biblical worldview development is, alone, worth the purchase of the book, but you will definitely also be caught up in the dramatic life experiences of this truly remarkable man.

The most inspiring aspect of this book is Lecrae’s willingness to simply yield to the Holy Spirit’s leading in his life, no matter the criticisms of secular and Christian music enthusiasts alike.  He no longer brings insecurities or need for approval to those who consider his lyrics.  He wants to simply be obedient to God’s direction through his art.

Shouldn’t any of us do similarly, no matter our vocational calling?!  Indeed.  So, if you are looking for a riveting testimony of God’s faithfulness in a person’s life, search no more.  Read Unashamed.

“Welcome All”

The first day of school at Southside Christian on Monday, August 15, 2016 was a half-day.  The second day of school on Tuesday, August 16th, included a 60-minute assembly.  I opened the assembly with the following words of exhortation:

“Welcome All”
By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal
Southside Christian School
Student Assembly
Tuesday, August 16, 2016

From the 3rd to the 8th grade, I was an outcast and teased by the “cool” kids until I found success in football, drama, speech, and choir during the 9th grade.

It doesn’t matter if you are in a single activity of this school — which I hope you will be — you are still valuable in God’s eyes, and you are valuable in the eyes of every staff member here.

We are family.

You don’t choose your family.

You didn’t choose the other members of this student body, nor the teachers.

We are all unique.

I can be very weird.  I admit it.  I’ve got a quirky sense of humor.

Every single person here has quirks.

Still, no one here should define others as “in” or “out” in this school. No one has a right to do so.
Come as you are.
I only this past weekend realized that the theme of last year’s yearbook was “Come As You Are”!

 

Come as you are.
Be who you are.

We are all family.

And functional families work well together in spite of their differences.
Jesus is my model.

He welcomed ALL.

Jesus welcomed people irrespective of their physical, emotional, or spiritual condition.
Those with evil spirits
Lepers
The blind and deaf

 

Immoral tax collectors
Children
Women
A woman with a bleeding disorder for 12 years
A woman caught in adultery
A Samaritan woman
Jesus met people where they were.

But He didn’t allow them to stay there.

We at Southside Christian. . .meet. . .you. . .where. . .you. . .are.
Some of you have not yet embraced Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of your life.  I hope you do just that before you leave Southside Christian.

Some of you can’t remember a time when you didn’t know Jesus.

 

Many of us are very committed Christ-followers.

Be that as it may, all of us — including me — need to look more like Jesus every day.

When we become like Jesus, we will be a community of people whom God can use to do great things in Simpsonville, Greenville, and beyond!

Jesus welcomed ALL.

I welcome ALL — no matter who you are.

I exhort each person in this room to WELCOME ALL.

 

If you do not WELCOME ALL, we will lovingly address those actions.

 

When you do WELCOME ALL, we will praise Jesus for your love.

 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

 

The following Scriptures inspired this post:

 

 

Mark 9:17-27

17And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. 18And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” 19And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” 20And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” 24Immediately the father of the child cried out [with tears], and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” 25And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” 26And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” 27But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

 

“Esther: A ‘Lifetime’ Movie”

Esther is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  Ironically, God is never once mentioned in Esther, but God is most obviously moving through the events of this narrative.  Today — Sunday, August 14, 2016 — I attended First Baptist Church of Simpsonville, South Carolina — and the preacher — I never caught his name — delivered a message on “character” from the book of Esther.  If you would like to read my summary of and editorializing about this sermon, “Esther: A ‘Lifetime’ Movie,” please read on. . .

“Esther: A ‘Lifetime’ Movie”

First Baptist Church

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal, Southside Christian School, Simpsonville, South Carolina

Esther is like a blockbuster “Lifetime” movie!  [But the narrative is anything but fictional.  The details are all absolutely true.]

You’ve got a king.  The queen is kicked out of the kingdom.  There’s an orphan and a villain.

A party was in full gear.  The king, Xerxes, was inebriated.  He called for Queen Vashti.  She refused to appear.  Xerxes was angry.  He called his advisors together.  They advised him to find a new [and compliant] queen.  Vashti was removed as queen.  A “reality show” ensues.  A beauty pageant.  Esther [a beautiful Jewish girl] was chosen as queen.

Enter the villain — Haman.  [Enter the hero — Mordecai.]  Mordecai [a Jewish man] would not bow down to Haman, in violation of the king’s decree.  Haman was furious.  His wife told her husband that Haman had the power.  Haman ordered the building of gallows [on which Mordecai could be impaled].  Haman also convinced the king to sign a decree for the extermination of the Jewish people.

Wow!  What a twist!  Mordecai wept.  He contacted the Queen [Esther, whom he had helped to raise as an orphan].  Esther was [understandably] afraid.  The queen could not go to the king unless invited.  Mordecai exhorted her:  “. . .relief and deliverance for the Jews will rise for the Jews from another place. . . .who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” (4:14, English Standard Version).

Esther agreed to go to the king:  “. . .if I perish, I perish,” she said (4:16, ESV).  Esther found favor with the king!  She prepared a banquet.  The king could not sleep.  So [providentially] he read the book of memorable deeds and discovered Mordecai’s intervention to prevent an assassination attempt against Xerxes.  The king asked Haman how he should honor such a man.  [Ironically] the king honored Mordecai, rather than Haman.

Xerxes and Haman attended Esther’s banquet.  Esther enjoyed the favor of the king, who was willing to grant any request, up to the value of half of his kingdom.  Esther asked that King Xerxes save the Jewish people.  Xerxes angrily stormed out of the queen’s and Haman’s presence when he learned about Haman’s plot against Mordecai and the Jewish people.

Haman begged Esther for his life.  The king thought Haman was molesting the queen [and Haman’s death sentence was sealed].  The king issued a new edict that the Jews could defend themselves [on the appointed day of their destruction].  The Jews rejoiced.  Haman was executed on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.

What do we learn from this “Lifetime” movie?

#1, God will put us in the right place at the right time to serve Him and to accomplish His will.

It is no accident that certain people are around you — “for such a time as this.”  A man came up to me at 11:30 last night at a wedding reception, because he had need for spiritual conversation.  [When that occurred] I knew why I had stayed at that reception for so long.  Please pray for my opportunity with this man.

#2, God’s plan will be accomplished, even if we do not participate.

Why would you want to miss the accomplishment of God’s vision in Simpsonville and the Upstate through First Baptist?!!  God will show up.

#3, We cooperate with God to accomplish His work.

God is working all around us.  He just wants us to join Him in His work, as Henry Blackaby [and Claude King] encouraged Christians in the Experiencing God Bible study.  We are the hands and feet of Jesus Christ.

#4, We, too, need other believers to support us in our faith journey.

We need each other.  Christians should not be in isolation.  Coming to church doesn’t make you a Christian, but you go to church for spiritual nourishment [and to be your part of the body of Christ].  My friends, we need each other.  We need to pray for each other.

#5, God is at work in the hearts and minds of individuals, even those who don’t know Him. 

God used Xerxes in his plan to save the Jewish people.  God was involved.  God pursues a relationship with all of us.  [He is the “Hound of Heaven”!]  If you have never had the opportunity to embrace Christ as Lord of your life, today could be your day —

For such a time as this.