Monthly Archives: May 2017

“What Will You Be Remembered For?”

On Sunday, May 28, 2017, I celebrated my brother-in-law Harry Butler’s milestone birthday in Nashville, Tennessee — in part — by worshipping at First Baptist Church.  If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Brandon Owen’s message during the contemporary service I attended, please read on. . . .

“What Will You Be Remembered For?”

By Pastor Brandon Owen

First Baptist Church

Downtown Nashville, Tennessee

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Text:  Ephesians 4:1-3

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Summary by Bob Stouffer

I’m excited to talk to you about these things this morning!

In Chapter 4 of Ephesians, Paul makes a shift from the first 3 chapters.  

We read Paul’s letters a lot.  They sound similar.  He was a very good writer.  We should not be tricked into missing the power that is in this familiar passage.  

We don’t make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit well.  We should.

We are to live a life worth of the calling to which we have been called.

Have you found your calling in your life?  Do you love your job?  I do.  Here, in America, we are so blessed.  We wake up most days, energized by what lies ahead.  

Finding our calling sometimes depends upon “success.”  The word, “vocation,” is derived from a Latin word for when deep hunger and deep gladness collide, according to Frederick Buechner.  

My wife is a really good nurse.  I’m so proud of her.  There’s no doubt in my mind that she has met God where He has fixed her with talents and abilities.  The world needs good health care professionals.  That job makes her glad.  Doctors are also needed in leper colonies an refugee camps, and workers need to be glad in those environments as well.

God marries desires with what the world needs, but what Paul was talking about here is bigger than that.  In Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians, Paul went into what the individual Christian is to do.  In Chapter 4, Paul shifts to what we’re supposed to do together as the body of Christ.  Calling here points to a way of life for all of your life and every part of your life.

During the summer, we’re going to move through Hebrews 11 and the heroes of the faith.  The first — and one of the longest biographies — Abraham — is a case study in what Paul is trying to get at in this passage from Ephesians.   God promised a great amount of land to Abraham’s offspring, yet there were no offspring yet, so Abraham was confused.  

It’s a strange story.  God called Abraham.  He asked Abraham to cut several animals in half, and God reaffirmed His promise to him.  This is a covenant affirmation.  The blood flowed, and the path sealed the covenant, with the people walking through the path.  They were to live up to the promises made, or they believed their lives would be taken from them.  God reaffirmed His covenant, and Abraham did not have to walk the path; a blazing torch, represented God, like Jesus Christ going through the path for us on the cross.  There was a dark and dreadful darkness, but Abraham did not have to walk the path.

It is so fun to look at all of the ways that the Bible talks about Jesus.  Jesus did this for you!  Yes, we have all fallen short.  Based on who we are, we should walk the blood path.  We are depraved.  There’s some good in you, but you are tainted by sin.  There’s nothing WE can do to achieve salvation.  This story of Abraham is pointing to JESUS doing everything to make a way for us to be saved.  We were completely dead, but, in Christ, we are fully alive.

And we are to live a life worthy of the calling to which we have called.  We are to give Jesus our complete loyalty, following Christ as a precedence over everything else (N.T. Wright).  

We have failed to live up to the covenant, but the blazing torch took our place!  As the church.  As a gathering of people.  As a congregation specific to live out God’s will.  Such is a beautiful truth about this text.  This gathering is not separated from the every-day-ness (if that’s a word) and ordinariness of life.  

A street address is more accurate to our responsibility than a worldwide geography, according to Eugene Peterson.  Disneyland is a Mecca.  We are mesmerized by Mediterranean cruises.  Our callings, though, start and end in our ordinary lives where we are.  

Has anyone moved into your neighborhood?  Has someone had a new baby?  Did someone get some brutal news this week?  Faith happens where we are, or it doesn’t happen at all.  God’s calling is for specific times and places.  All we do must point to others in Christ.

In a recent podcast, the host mentioned what their church looked like, because she attends a church that doesn’t meet in the same place every week.  The people meet in each others’ homes.  Location is so ingrained in us when we speak of the church.  But our calling as a community of believers should no longer be the place where we go.  We are members of God’s church.  We are called to care for one another.  

We suffer.  We see suffering.  What’s going on?!  Children were killed in a terrorist bombing this week.  Read about the atrocities in Somalia.  Refugee populations are growing.  Suicide rates are going through the roof.  Loneliness abounds; it is all around us.  

Think back to your Greek mythology.   Cisyphus had to roll a boulder up a hill, only to see it roll back to the bottom, with his responsibility to keep rolling that rock up that hill.  Over and over again.

God told Abraham that He would provide.  There was hope.

Victor Frankl spent time in German concentration camps.  He “studied” the despondency of his fellow inmates.  He would whisper to other prisoners that life still had meaning.  The story of suffering was set in an even larger story about purpose.  We have to have faith in something or someone bigger than ourselves.  Life is not about what we want from life; life is what life wants from us.  He called people to right action and right conduct.

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.  Abraham was ready to do it.  And God provided a sacrifice in place of Isaac.

Do you feel like you’re pushing a rock up a hill?  Do you believe your life has meaning?  Is it possible for you, as followers of Christ, to grasp that redemption is the “end” of this story?  Such is your “calling,” so the world may know that Jesus is the blazing torch, providing a way to live forever.

Don’t ask what God’s mission is for your life.  Irish theologian Christopher Wright tells us to ask what kind of “you” God is trying to fashion for God’s mission.  Then, he will secure your calling.

“Christianity: A Team Game”

On Thursday, May 18, 2017, Southside Christian School Student Body Chaplain Jack Voigt delivered an excellent speech during the annual Athletic Banquet, comparing those in the body of Christ to “members of a team.”  If you would like to read the text of Jack’s speech, please read on. . . .

“Christianity: A Team Game”

By Jack Voigt, Student Body Chaplain

Southside Christian School

Athletic Banquet Speech

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Joe Namath, a former quarterback for the New York Jets, once said, “Football convinced me that life is a team game,” and I think he hit the nail on the head, especially if we’re going to live biblically. There are a lot of parallels between football and the Christian life.

As a football player, the words “team game” carry a much heavier weight than going to play on Friday nights. There was nothing that I did by myself as a football player. It was all the time–from offseason workouts at 6:30 a.m., to summer football camps, to 7-on-7s, to 2-a-day practices in the heat, to team meetings and bus rides. We dedicated ourselves to something bigger than ourselves. We had a common goal in mind. We had to set aside our differences and selfish desires to reach this great prize of winning a championship.

In Philippians 1, the Apostle Paul is writing to the church in Philippi from Rome, where is under house arrest. He talks to the church like they are a team on a mission. He says “. . .I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.”

Brothers and sisters: That is talking to us, too. The Christian life does not leave much room for us to strive alone. In the same way — and to an even greater extent — we Christians are called to live as though we are on a team making a championship run. You are supposed to encourage your brothers and sisters and pick them up when they fall. When they slip up, we are supposed to be there to point them back to the right track, which is to speak gospel truths into their lives, to remind them of the good news of Jesus and what we are running toward.

Imagine how gospel-centered our lives would become if we gave the same attention to our brothers and sisters in Christ as we did to our brothers and sisters on the field! Paul says that, if we were to  live like that, it would be a clear sign to our opponents of their destruction and our salvation! How cool is that? He says, “Hey, guys, your best apologetics are to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel! When unbelievers see this, their destruction and your salvation will be as clear as day to them!”

So here’s my challenge to all of you who claim the name of Jesus: Don’t let yourself do this life alone. God didn’t design it that way. He made us intentionally to live in community. Surround yourself with other believers who have committed their lives to God’s mission, not their own. All of the medals, trophies, plaques, and awards are going to fade away. None of it will matter. If sports aren’t over for you yet, they will be sooner than you think. It won’t last. When we come before God, all that we’re going to care about is him in the fullness of his glory. You won’t be thinking about the play you could’ve made or the game you should have won. It will be all about Him. Live in light of that truth now.

Jim Elliot said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” So I would implore you: Make the mission of your life one in line with God’s work. Surround yourself with a team who will strive side by side with you for the faith of the Gospel. Through this, God will use us to change the world.

So, brothers and sisters, go change the world.


Edited by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal

“Jesus: The Center of History”

On Sunday, May 21, 2017, Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth continued his sermon series from the book of John.  If you would like to read my summary of this message, “Jesus: The Center of History,” please read on. . . .

“Jesus: The Center of History”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Quote of the Week:

“The good news is that Christ frees us from the need to obnoxiously focus on our goodness, our commitment, and our correctness.  Religion has made us obsessive almost beyond endurance.  Jesus invited us to a dance. . .and we’ve turned it into a march of soldiers, always checking to see if we’re doing it right and are in step and in line with the other soldiers.  We know a dance would be more fun, but we believe we must go through hell to get to heaven, so we keep marching.”  (Steve Brown, in A Scandalous Freedom)

Text:  John 5:16-30

16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

19 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father[a] does, that the Son does likewise. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.


  1. John 5:19 Greek he

Summary of Bob Stouffer

A man named James Francis wrote a sermon called “One Solitary Life.”  He talked about Jesus, the son of an obscure woman in an obscure village.  Jesus never owned a home.  He never went to college.  He never put his foot in a big city.  Jesus had no credentials but Himself.  While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him.  He was betrayed.  He went through the mockery of a trial.  Jesus was nailed on a cross, dying between two thieves.  And today He is the center of history.  No one has affected this earth as much as this one solitary life.

What will we do with Jesus this morning?

He has changed the course of history.  We can argue for that just from reading history.  You can’t reject Christianity unless you do something with Jesus, because Christianity is Jesus.  Let me remind you of who Jesus is.

He makes 3 outrageous claims in John 5:16-30 —

  1. Jesus claimed to be equal with God.
  2. Jesus claimed to be the ultimate judge.
  3. Jesus claimed to be the giver of life.


In our previous passage, Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath.  The religious leaders were angry.  This was unthinkable to them.  Jesus made this man work on the Sabbath.  In the micro, Jesus had healed the man.  What a wonderful thing for the man.  Jesus healed him.  The man got up and walked.  In the macro, Jesus was setting the religious leaders up for the ultimate confrontation.  Jesus would die for the sins of His people, and these religious leaders would be instrumental in his death.  

Jesus just wanted to teach His followers who He is in this passage.  He responded that His Father was working.  And He was working as well.  There were dozens of rules against work on the Sabbath.  Does God have to obey these rules?  Does God cease from His work on the Sabbath?  If He stops on the Sabbath, the sustaining of the universe ends!

Jesus told them His Father was always at work, including this day.  They were good with that.  Then, He said, “And I, too, am working.”  He is saying He is God!  That was clear as a bell to those religious leaders!  What an outrageous claim!  He went well beyond the claim that He was a religious leader.  He said, “I am God.”  This made the religious leaders furious.  He had made himself “equal with God.”  They were angry.  That’s why they crucified Him.  He claimed He was God.  He said He was deity.

Who is God to you?  Jesus is too big of a figure in history — a third of the world identify with Christ– you’ve got to consider the impact of Jesus on the world!  Who is Jesus to you?  You claim he’s just a prophet, a great teacher with wonderful words.  He claimed to be God Himself!

C.S. Lewis pointed out that Jesus was not “merely a man.”  What Jesus claimed clearly indicated Jesus was a liar, lunatic, or Lord.   Jesus did not intend to present Himself only as a teacher or prophet.  You can’t afford to be wrong on this point.


Put yourselves in the shoes of the religious leaders.  You were a diligent student of God’s law.  You zealously invented new laws.  You memorized long passages of Scripture.  No one could lecture you about God’s Word.  You were a strict adherent to the 39 laws of the Sabbath.  Who did this man, Jesus, think He was?!  He had the gall to tell the religious leaders that He was equal with God, and that He was the ultimate judge.  Jesus asked them to honor Him, as they honored the Father.   Jesus was a “nobody” to them.  He was lecturing them about a God they purported to know.  

What Jesus do you worship?  Is He Jesus in your pocket when you need Him?  Is He the wonderful moral teacher?  Is He the Jesus who died for your sins as insurance against hell?  Are you mad at Jesus, because He hasn’t shown up like you want him to show up?  Or is He your Savior and Lord?

You have to make a decision about Jesus?  He’s everything or nothing.  There’s no middle ground.


There is physical death and spiritual death.  Because of Adam and Eve’s fall, all people have died spiritually.  We are dead in our trespasses and sin.  Real understanding of who God really is comes back to Jesus.  It is appointed for all men and women to die.   All people will die physically.  

Jesus has an answer to both kinds of death.  At the end of time, every single person who has died will rise again.  He will give them new bodies.  He will give them physical bodies.  Not all people will spiritually live.  Those who have done evil — rejecting Jesus, the ultimate evil, that’s He’s nothing, a lunatic, or a liar — when they are raised, — they will be condemned eternally.  This is what the Bible teaches us.

Those who believe cross over from spiritual death to spiritual life.  The Father had sent the Son into the world to save, not condemn, the world — to be a sacrifice for their sins of His people.  Jesus is the only way.  That’s not a very popular statement in today’s culture.  But no one else could die for our sins.  We needed a perfect, ultimate man-God to die.  There’s no other way to take care of the sin problem.

We’ve been considering intellectual concepts.  These are important doctrinal statements.  But what I would like you to see is how excruciating it was for the Father to send His Son.  The Father also suffered.  It was a great sacrifice to Himself.  

Some of you have read the novel by Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, about two men who loved the same girl.  The two men looked like twins.  They were both in love with Lucy.  One man was a drifter who had not done much with his life; he was so in love with Lucy, he bears his soul to her.  Though she was fond of him, she married the other man, a member of the aristocracy; during the French Revolution, he, as well as the other members of the aristocracy, were sentenced to death.  

The poor drifter could let this situation go, so he would have a clear path to Lucy.  He loved Lucy, and he also knew Lucy loved his aristocratic counterpart.  The drifter entered the aristocrat’s cell, drugging him, switching clothes, and asking the guard to smuggle the aristocrat into a waiting coach with Lucy.  The drifter had traded places with the aristocrat, willing to go to the guillotine and death.  Prisoners awaited their execution.  A girl realizes the identity of the condemned drifter.  She asked, “Are you dying for him?”  She asked to hold his hand.    She took such strength from this man’s sacrifice, even though he was not dying for him.

We can look at the Bible as doctrine and rules.  But the essence of the Gospel is this kind of love.  Jesus came not to condemn the world.  He was tortured beyond recognition.  God poured out His wrath on Jesus, turning His back on the Son.  

This is the Jesus who died for you!  He loves you!  He doesn’t want you to die!  He died for you.  There is no other God like this!  There is no other “religion” like this!  There is no other person in history like this!  I would invite you to fall on your face and worship Him.

Jesus changes everything.  

“Beyond All Hope”

On Sunday, May 14, 2017, Pastor Mark Auffarth expositionally unpacked the Word of God with great passion at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.  If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Mark’s message, “Beyond All Hope,” please read on. . . .

“Beyond All Hope”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, May 14, 2017


Quote of the Day:

 “We must say to ourselves something like this: ‘Well, when Jesus looked down from the cross, he didn’t think, I am giving myself to you because you are attractive to me.”  No, he was in agony, and he looked down at us — denying him, abandoning him, and betraying him — and in the greatest act of love in history, he STAYED.  He said, ‘Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.’  He loved us, not because we were lovely to him, but to make us lovely.”  (Tim Keller, in The Meaning of Marriage)

Text:  John 5:1-14

 1After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?” The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath. 10 So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” 11 But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’ 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13 Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” (English Standard Version)

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

I want to wish all of the mothers a happy Mother’s Day.  Happy Mother’s Day!  It’s also another big day for Anne and me today.  Thirty-four years ago, my wife said, “I do” to me.  It’s a real testament to her faithfulness, since I have dragged her all over the world with me.  She told me recently that, if I go somewhere else, she’s going without me!

So we have the scene of a pool set before us.  The pool was near the north Sheep’s Gate of Jerusalem.  For many years, scholars thought this location was allegorical, because they did not know the understand the location.  But archaeologists found that exact pool as it was described by John in the Scriptures.

People came to this pool because they had dire physical needs.  This pool was supposed to be a place of healing.  Perhaps they believed a spring with healing properties was bubbling up in this location.  

A man was there.  He “had a weakness.”  He couldn’t walk.  He couldn’t get in the pool.  Jesus came up to him.  Jesus asked, “Do you want to get well?”  Of course, he wanted to be healed!  That’s why he was there!  It seems like a silly question, unless there is a deeper meaning.  And, of course, with Jesus, there would be a deeper meaning.  There WAS something else.

Jesus turned water into wine as a precursor of the Wedding Feast of the Lamb in heaven.  

Jesus had a deeper purpose with Nicodemus when He told the man that he must be born again.

At the well, Jesus should not have been talking to a sinful Samaritan woman about “living water.”

When Jesus talked to the official who desired healing for his son, Jesus pointed to Himself. 

Jesus’ question to the infirm man was much deeper than the question on its face.  “Do you want to get well?”   Jesus came to heal and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor!  Jesus asked about more than physical healing.  He was declaring the year of favor in the Lord.  

If you have the fruit of the Spirit, you have great healing, ultimate peace and joy and peace and patience in your soul.  Do you want to get well?!  YES!

I want to look at three points today

The Prerequisite for Healing

The Heart of the Healer

 The Hardship of Healing


Do you remember the runner Jim Fix?  He ran 80 miles a week.  He wrote a book on running.  He appeared to be in tip-top shape.  But at 52, he died of a massive heart attack while running alone on a Vermont road.  His wife Alice believed Fix had no idea he had a heart problem, because he never went to the doctor.  The doctors didn’t believe Fix could have detected the blockages to his heart.  

There is a prerequisite to healing:  You’ve got to admit that you’re sick.  You can’t deny truth.  If your body is sick, your body’s sick.  You can’t walk away from it.  It’s a huge step to admit that you need help.  

This man at the pool understood that he was physically sick.  In fact, he was desperate.  He hoped against hope that someone would let him into the pool.  This is what Jesus’ Kingdom is all about.  Jesus came as a “doctor” to the sick, not the healthy.  

We manage our guilt.  We suppress our guilt.  We have dark places in our heart we don’t want to explore, because that is too painful.  We want to walk away from it.  Jesus won’t let this man walk away from his condition.  [“Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.”]

Do you want to get well, or do you only want out of your physical circumstances?  

Jesus healed him instantly, but Jesus went after something much deeper than physical disability.

Are you overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit?  Are you bubbling over with joy for your enemies?  I’m guessing we’re all struggling in that regard.  Maybe we need healing, too.


Perhaps we have a hard time admitting that we need to be healed, and perhaps it’s because we don’t know the healer.  You cannot will the fruit of Spirit.  We are commanded to give evidence of the fruit, but the fruit is the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  We’ve got to know the healer.   It’s about the healer.

Jesus came up to this man at the pool and told him to get up and walk.  And he did so!  

What is your image of Jesus in your mind?  There are all kinds of Jesuses.  Compassionate Jesus who makes it all about grace?  Angry Jesus who clears out the Temple?  Powerful Jesus?  Wimpy Jesus?  He shows different sides of Himself, depending upon whoever he is talking to.  He is compassionate with the downtrodden.  He didn’t mince words with the religious leaders.  

As always, in His plan, He has a macro plan and micro plan.  He includes the big plan with the small plan of our own lives.  His micro plan was to heal this man’s weakness.  But the macro plan wanted to confront the Pharisees.

Here’s what we know about Jesus:  He had this attitude toward the multitudes.  The crowds followed Him.  And He had compassion on them, because “they were like sheep without a shepherd.”  He knew they were going to turn against Him.  He know they would shout, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!”  He cast out their demons.  He fed them.  AND STILL He had compassion on them.  Why?  Because that’s why He came to earth!  He came to earth for the broken, for those who didn’t have their acts together!  He was light who came in the darkness!  For the most part, the world rejected Him.  

That’s how we are.  We run from the light.  We hide.  We don’t want to see our brokenness.  But Jesus wants to bring us into the light to heal us.  The enemy has convinced most of us that Christianity is about doing the right thing.  It’s about learning a set of morals to live well.  That’s wonderful.  But that’s not Christianity!  That’s not what it is.  Christianity is about a healer, the one who came for sick people.

Do we understand who Jesus is?  He is full of compassion for people who don’t have it together.

Not only does he have a heart of compassion, but he is all-powerful.  The healing showed His omnipotence.  He sustained all things by His powerful word.  He is sustaining your breath, your heartbeat, and the blood taking nutrients to your body.  He sustains everything!  He is actively sustaining all things!  Do we understand that power?!  It’s nothing for Him to reverse a physical infirmity.  That’s power!

He can change our circumstances instantly, if He wants to.

Do you want to be healed?  Admit your need.  He can move mountains and move spiritual fruit into your life.  He took pity on a poor man who had been in this condition for 38 years.  He can heal you.  He can.  That’s the power of the Kingdom. 

Why wouldn’t He notice you and me?  I think He does.

I saw an account of an interview with Bono,  who is completing a musical project based on the Psalms.  He was asked about the greatest thing Bono had learned from the Psalms.  Bono said, “God listens.”  

Why wouldn’t He listen to you?  He came for us!


This man experienced great healing.  So why don’t we all experience this healing, as we’d like to experience?  Why don’t we experience the power of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?  Joy so often escapes us in our lives.  He promises peace, but we are plagued by fear and anxiety.  He promises love, but we struggle to love our loved ones well, let alone our enemies.  We ask for physical healing, and healing doesn’t come.

Doesn’t He care?  Of course, He cares.  We just looked at how he cared about this man by the pool.  But he wants to go much deeper, which is the heart of the healing.  

This man got up and walked, but it didn’t make his life easier.  The religious people were mad, because he was breaking their rules.  He was not supposed to carry his mat on the Sabbath.  They were focusing on the “little” thing in these circumstances. 

Jesus made him well.  He told him to pick up His mat and walk.  So he obeyed!  The man didn’t care about the Pharisees at the point of his healing.  He took up his mat and walked.  

What we have here is the essential nature of being a Christian, and it comes from the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6.  You are not your own.  You are bought at a price.  Christianity isn’t just about praying a prayer.  It’s so much bigger than that.  It’s about a whole new identity.  There’s a change of ownership in our lives.  It’s not about fitting Jesus into our worlds.  That’s not Christianity.  Christianity is “I have a new owner.”  Someone else is calling the shots!  I am now His!  I have been bought at the precious price of the shed blood by Jesus Christ!  He bought us!  We are His!

Do we want to be healed?

This man took up his mat among people who could have made his life miserable.  Christianity is not about do’s and don’t’s.  It’s not about judging others.  It’s not any of that.  Christianity means we’re under new management.  We’re no longer in charge.  We are bought with a price.  Are we healed every time?  No.  That’s not your decision.  If Jesus is in charge, He knows what He’s doing.  Under new management means under new management.  We belong to Him.  He calls the shots.  If He’s calling the shots, He’s calling the shots.  He’ll do what He wants to do, because He’s God and He’s sovereign!  He didn’t save us because we were lovely; he saved us because He wants to make us lovely.

When will we live as though His being the sovereign King is true?

Stop it!  Stop managing your life!  Stop managing your guilt!  Be still and know He is the sovereign God who heals you.  Focus on Him!  As watchmen, wait for Him.  This is not instant gratification.  One day, you will be healed.  The world only gives you temporary satiation.  Be still, and know that He is God.  Be in his presence.  Be quiet before Him.  Sit in silence before Him.  Go to Him.  It’s long-term, and, when you get down the road a ways, looking back, you will see that you have more peace and joy in your heart.  Pursue Him, and he will give you joy and peace.  It’s a long-term thing.

Here’s my question for you:  Why wouldn’t we run to Him?  Why wouldn’t we want to be under His power and authority?!

If you don’t believe in Jesus, remember that Christianity rises and falls with Jesus.  It’s all we got!  You can’t reject Christianity until you decide what to do with Jesus.  Try to find out who Jesus is.  Is He who He said He was?

Who are you going to serve?  You’ve got to serve somebody.  Our first duty is to find our Master.  The only Master who gives freedom is Jesus.  This requires death to self and everything we want.  We say to Jesus, “What do YOU want?”  It’s not about having your best life now.  That’s not the Bible.  That’s not Christianity.  We must take up our crosses, deny ourselves, and follow Him.

Do you want to be healed?  Follow Him.  It will be hard, but it will be good.

We don’t just “check out” Christianity.  We can’t place conditions on Christianity.  If Christ is really God, then all of the conditions are gone.   Anywhere the Lord’s will touches our lives, we must submit.  Jesus is not just a supplement.  

That’s the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

And — I’ll change it up today — Jesus changes everything!

“By the Word of His Power”

On Sunday, May 7, 2017, Lead Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth exhorted the congregation of Christ-followers to come to Jesus just as we are — and to come too others with the hope of Jesus — just where they are.  If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Mark’s message, “By the Word of His Power,” please read on. . . .

“By the Word of His Power”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Pastor Mark Auffarth

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Text:  John 4:43-54

43 After the two days he departed for Galilee. 44 (For Jesus himself had testified that a prophet has no honor in his own hometown.) 45 So when he came to Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, having seen all that he had done in Jerusalem at the feast. For they too had gone to the feast.

46 So he came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you[a] see signs and wonders you will not believe.” 49 The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.51 As he was going down, his servants[b] met him and told him that his son was recovering. 52 So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour[c] the fever left him.” 53 The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.54 This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee.  (English Standard Version)


  1. John 4:48 The Greek for you is plural; twice in this verse
  2. John 4:51 Or bondservants

Quote of the Day:  

“Men will allow God to be everywhere but on his throne.  They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars.  They will allow Him to be in His almonry to dispense His alms and bestow His bounties.  They will allow Him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends His throne, His creatures then gnash their teeth.  And we proclaim an enthroned God, and His right to do as He wills with His own, to dispose of His creatures as He thinks well, without consulting them in the matter; then it is that we are hissed and execrated, and then it is that men turn a deaf ear to us, for God on His throne is not the God they love.  But it is God upon the throne that we love to preach.  It is God upon His throne whom we trust.”  (Charles Haddon Spurgeon)

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

Good passage.  People come to Jesus in desperation all of the time.  The saying is that there are no atheists in foxholes.  I don’t know if that’s true, or not, but, when you’re facing the enemy, many do come to Jesus.  When he was fighting in war,  my uncle expected at any time to be wiped out on the front line (not in the foxholes), but God protected him.

You’re desperate, and you come to Jesus.  Some people make big promises to God.  This happens all of the time.  That’s what I think is initially going on in this passage.  

I’d like us to think of three things about this passage today:

Wrong motive, right person.  

Wrong focus, right action.  

Wrong understanding, deep faith


Jesus is in Cana, where he had performed his first miracle, turning water into wine; He saved the groom from great embarrassment in that situation.  Twenty miles away is Capernaum.  A  man from Capernaum came to Jesus.  He was an “official.”  He had heard about Jesus.  Word had spread like wildfire.  He may have wondered about the miracle of Jesus turning water into wine. 

The man went to Him.  He begged Jesus to heal his son.  He’s desperate.  He’s begging Jesus.  He had means and access to the best medicine and medical care.  He wasn’t just a country bumpkin.  He had probably gone to many doctors and specialists.  But the child was near death.  Nothing was working.  He had to go to Jesus.  He begged Jesus to come back to Capernaum with him.

This Jesus was not the mild, docile Jesus.  He said the man only cared about what Jesus could give him.  The man wanted a better life the way he wanted his life.  Jesus was the God of signs and wonders.  The man would see many.  But the man’s motive was all wrong.  

The book of John attempts to give the reader insight into who Jesus actually was, and that people would have life in His name. 

Nicodemus had come to Jesus.  Under his own ability, he was trying to live righteously.  Jesus went right to the heart of the matter with Nicodemus.  Righteous actions weren’t enough.  Nicodemus needed to be “born again.”  Jesus was his answer 

Then, Jesus went to a woman who was a heretical Samaritan.  He shouldn’t have been talking to this woman.  But He was very gentle.  His approach was not direct.  He started by asking for water, which could be the “living water” welling up in her soul.  He went deeper and deeper with her.  The message is the same.  Jesus was her answer.  “I AM the one you need,” Jesus told her.  That’s two different methods.

In this passage, Jesus approaches the official of the Roman court in an entirely different way.  Jesus pointed out that this man only wanted what was best for him and his life.  

We’ve got to meet people where they are.  That’s the incredible thing about Jesus.  He met people where they were.  This man had the wrong motive.  Jesus pointed out that wrong motive right when he needed to hear it.  

You might be here because you’ve got nowhere else to turn.  Your motive may not be right.  But the point is that you’re here.  You’ve come to the right place.  Jesus will sort out your motives.  Come to know Him.  What we see with this man and Jesus is that Jesus certainly has the power to perform miracles, but what’s so amazing about Jesus is Jesus the person!  He came as light in the darkness, giving people the right to be children of God.

You’ll come with wrong motives, but the point is TO COME!  He won’t always answer you right away, because He has deeper things to teach you.  He was glad this man came to him, but he didn’t give him what he wanted right away.  Jesus is a heart surgeon.  In this case, He worked on the motives of this man’s heart.  He wants to work on our hearts, so we can see our self-centered motives.


So what does the official do when Jesus rebukes him for his wrong motives.  The man acts as though he doesn’t hear.  Jesus comments went right over his head.  Jesus and this man were on two different planes.  He was so worried and focused on his son.  He was very persistent.  He was not going to take no for an answer.  

Is persistence with Jesus a bad thing?  No!  A widow was bothered by an adversary.  She wet again and again to a judge, who blew her off.  After awhile, the judge was tired of her persistence, so he gave her what she wanted.  God teaches us about persistence.

God calls us to be persistent in prayer.  Where has this man gone off the rails here?  We should acknowledge God’s position in heaven, His holiness, His greatness, and His Kingdom before we even ask for our daily bread (as Jesus taught about in the Lord’s Prayer).  “Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.”  

This man wanted the healing.  Did he want healing for the sake of building God’s Kingdom?  He was desperate.  He needed something taken care of in his life.  I’m not sure this official understood who Jesus was.  We understand that; we would have been right there with Him, if we had a child who needed to be healed.

Jesus healed the son.  He doesn’t always do that, but, in this case, he did.  Why did he do this, even though the man’s motives were wrong?  Why would He respond to wrong motives?  Because that’s how Jesus rolls!  We have this gracious God!  Who of us comes to Jesus with impure motives, yet he responds graciously to us?  All of us!  

Jesus makes us evaluate our motives.  He’s working, even if you don’t see Him.  Sometimes, He does supernatural things.  No matter what your motives, go to Jesus, and He’ll sort your motives out.  If you’re in a desperate situation this morning, you’ve come to the right place.  You need to go to Jesus!  He’s brought you here for a reason.  It’s not an accident that you’re in this sanctuary.  If your motives are impure, welcome!  Welcome to The Church of Impure Motives!  Go to Jesus!  He’s the only one who can sort it out!  He’s the only one who can help us see deeper things!  He’s the only one who can take us together as the church in His Kingdom!

Perhaps this man was skeptical.  Though this official didn’t fully understand who Jesus was, he took Jesus at His word.  


This man was under the impression that Jesus had to be physically present for his son to be healed.  He begged Jesus to come the 20 miles to his son.  He didn’t understand who Jesus was at all.  Jesus didn’t have to work up a sweat.  He didn’t have magical words.  He didn’t have to make a holy water potion.  He didn’t have to make a big show.  He didn’t need any of that.  He told the man to go home.  His son was healed!  THAT’S POWER!  His was a mere utterance of a phrase!  This is the Jesus we serve! 

If He’s not doing it, there must be some reason to teach or transform us!  He has his plan for people — at the word of His power!  He’s Creator.  He created the universe by His Word!  This is the Christian view of God.  Jesus was the exact representation of the Father; together, with the Holy Spirit, they created the universe.  It’s His will to create!  

The man was still not completely convinced.  The man had to ask when the boy was healed.  It was the exact moment that Jesus had spoken healing!  Finally, the scales were removed from this man’s eyes!  His son was healed!  Wow!  WOW!

This man and all of is family came to a saving faith in Jesus.  Brothers and sisters, do we know who Jesus is?!  Do we try to “pull Jesus out” when we’re in trouble?  He wants to do so much more.

Why do we go to Jesus?

He is all-powerful.

And he wants to heap grace on us.

This is Jesus.  He gave His life to people with all of the wrong motives.  We walk around in darkness.  We go to everything before we go to Jesus as a last resort.  Everything other than Jesus is a dead-end.  Sooner or later, you’re going to hit a brick wall, because He has His eyes on you, so He can transform you.  

We cover pain with money, but money can only go so far.  You can go to Google, because Google is “the sovereign one,” but Google will only get you so far.  You’ve got to come to the end of yourself.

I’m offering you only one thing:  JESUS.  That’s what He offers.  He offers Himself.  He promises to change your heart.  He will give you life.  He will begin to change your motives.  His best gift He can ever give you is to give you a brick wall, where the most faith action happens!  Transformation nearly always happens at hard times!  That’s how the Kingdom of God works!  You’ve got to hold onto Jesus, because He’s all you have.  He brings you to the end of yourself, and he gives you rest from your heavy burdens. 

One of our members, Mike McCorkle, has told me that he has learned this lesson over and over and over again.  He has a special gift of empathizing with others.  Most of you know we have been praying weeks for Joseph Ross, a baby who is very thin.  Mike wrote me a poem about Joseph:  “A Stricken Child.”  I want to read it to you. . . .

Could we want anything more for little Joseph Ross than to be in the arms of Jesus?  Could we want anything more for our children than to be in the arms of Jesus?  Only Jesus can “fix” anything.  We may think we have power, money, abilities, gifts.  But, in the end, we have nothing!  All we have is Jesus!  We have no hope without Jesus!  He gave up His rest and His life, so that we could have rest and everlasting life!  He, above all, understands our suffering.

That’s the Gospel.

It changes everything.

“National Day of Prayer”

National Day of Prayer

Prayed Over the Intercom at 8:05 a.m. on Friday, May 5, 2017

At Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal

Yesterday was the National Day of Prayer.

Please join me in praying today.  Let’s pray.  

Father, forgive me for somehow not remembering that yesterday was the National Day of Prayer.  Today, we right that error.

Forgive us for not praying enough.

Forgive us for not seeking to come into your presence on a consistent basis.

Forgive us for not loving you with all of our hearts, souls, and minds.

Show us, Lord, how to abide in Christ.

Show us how to more obediently follow hard after the direction of Your Holy Spirit.

We pray for the leadership of our country, the President, the Congress, the Governor of South Carolina, the legislature of our state, mayors, city councils, our school board.  We pray for increased respect for elected officials in spite of our differences.  We pray for unity in the United States.

Be with our school.  Strengthen the teachers and students with the grace, patience, and concentration which will allow all of us to finish the school year well.  

Help students to be ever diligent in completing their assignments and preparing well for their exams.  

I pray we will find joy in our work, despite the pressure and stress.  Give us all supernatural attention to your work in our lives.  

I especially pray for the seniors in the Southside Christian Class of 2017.  Guide their minds and hearts, as they anticipate their graduation just 3 weeks from today.  May this be an exciting time for them.  May the time also cause them to reflect on their good memories of this school.  

We love them; we appreciate them individually and as a class which has provided positive leadership for the school.  Bless them, Father.

We pray all of these things in the mighty and matchless name of Jesus the Christ.


“Wake Up!”

On Thursday, May 4, 2017, Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent of Southside Christian School, exhorted the Upper School students to “Wake Up!”  If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Barfell’s excellent object lesson and metaphorical biblical analysis, please read on. . . .

“Wake Up!”

By Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, May 4, 2017

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

[Nick Theaux, Dean of Men, asked the students to consider serving as volunteers for the 12th Man Cheer and Football Camp, facilitated by Coach Lowey.]

[Prior to the High School Chapel, Athletic Director Mike Johnson, Assistant Athletic Director Mike Sonneborn, and Assistant Athletic Athletic Director Nick Theaux celebrated the accomplishments of the following all-region student-athletes and basketball teams:

  • Chloe Greer
  • Hannah Fuller
  • Chris Chumney
  • Matt Kormylo, Region Player of the Year
  • Tim Doyle]

[Mr. Theaux opened the chapels in prayer.]

[A praise team of French Teacher Brett Henderson, Band Director Benji Allsep, Coby Greene, Abby Trimble, Alexis Burdette, Amanda Corts, and Nick Boggs led the chapel audience in praise and worship through song.]

Dr. Sam Barfell

Text:  1 Peter 5:8-11

 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (English Standard Version)

This is amazing passage of Scripture that preaches amazing truth.  I’ve been praying for this opportunity.  And I pray the Word will find a fertile place in your heart.  

We have to think.  This is serious.  We must be alert.  

We have an enemy.  Satan himself is our enemy.  He is real.  He is not a fictitious character.  He doesn’t run around with a pitchfork in a red suit.  This is a heavy conversation.

I have to tell you a story.  I’ll have some fun with the story.  I am going to use parts of my story to illustrate a point about Satan himself.  

How many of you have hunted wild turkeys?  [Several hands went up in both chapels.] On May 5, 2017, the South Carolina wild turkey season ends.  

Two Saturdays ago, I harvested my wild turkey this season.  [In a photograph] Notice the camo, gun, and dead bird.  See Pastor Colin and my son Richard in this photograph.  There’s nothing like walking out of the woods with a wild turkey.  Those are wary animals.

Here’s how you kill a turkey.

This [in a photograph] is a boy turkey.  A boy turkey has a red head and red neck.  A beard grows out of his chest.  Kinda weird.  His only defense is the spurs on the side of his legs.  Otherwise, he’s helpless against coyotes and hunters.

This [in a photograph] is a girl turkey.  A girl turkey is called a hen.  A boy turkey is a Tom.  Every spring, the girl turkeys nest in the spring.  And it’s their mating season.  When you’re trying to harvest a Tom. The Tom gobbles.  The hen says, “Hey, I’m over here.”  They gobble back and forth to each other.  

The Tom flares all of his feathers to look as big and bad and strong and cool as possible.  The Toms travel in bachelor groups.  This is the real deal.  They strut.  It’s an amazing thing.

Here’s how you harvest a turkey.  You have to study and understand why turkeys behave the ways that they do.  A turkey’s vision is very acute.   But a turkey is not a smart animal.  But they have a wiring from God to sense danger.  They are heavy birds, so they don’t fly much, but they can.  

So you’ve got to wear camouflage from head to toe.  I’m trying to get to a position where a turkey can’t pick me up in his vision.  I don’t want him to see me.  His vision is acute.  He is wired to avoid me as a danger.  A slight movement can spook a turkey, and I’ve lost my opportunity.  You’ve got to hide.  You’ve got to outsmart that bird.

You’ve also got to use fake girl birds — decoy hens.  We want the Toms to see these hens and think, There’s a nice looking hen!  Then, we talk to the Tom in hen talk.  [Dr. Barfell demonstrated the call!]  If you’re good at doing this, that Tom is going to strut.  Then, the Tom sees the decoy, hears my call, and walks in full strut to the hen decoy.  And boom!  I blow him off his feet.  That’s where I come in.  I tricked the Tom.  I deceived him.

This is what happens.  [The photograph was of a plucked turkey ready for cooking!]

Here is his leg.  Here are his spurs.  His fan tail is drying in my attic.  I outsmarted that bird which has a brain the size of my thumb!

I tell you that story, and that’s fun.

But I have another thing to tell you.  We have an enemy trying to do the same thing to us.  Satan wants to bring us down.  He is “antideekos.”  He wants to put us on the wall as his “trophy.”  

Satan has a strategy.  He is the enemy.  He’s our adversary.  

The problem is that we live like the Tom turkey who has no idea what is going to happen.  We’re not smart enough in this part of our spiritual life.  We live as though we do not have an an enemy!  We are ignorant, too.  That’s the problem.  

John 10:7-10

 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  (ESV)

He has the agenda to steal, kill, and destroy.  He is the enemy of your soul.  He wants to trick you and deceive you.  We have to live like that’s real.  That’s real!

Scripture also tells us that Satan tempts us to lie (Acts 5:3), accuses us and slanders us before God (Revelation 12:10), hinders our works of righteousness ( 1 Thessalonians 2:18), employs demons to defeat us (Ephesians 6:11), tempts us to sin sexually (1 Corinthians 7:5), and sows tares (weeds) that stop the harvest (Matthew 13:37-39).

That’s the enemy’s agenda.  He disguises himself as an angel of light.

2 Corinthians 11:13-14

 13 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  (ESV)

The scariest horror movie about demon possession is not how Satan manifests himself.  He can manifest himself in that way, causing you fear, but, typically, Satan disguises himself as an angel of life.  He makes himself look really attractive, tempting you to his “fun.”  He hides himself.  He looks like his surroundings.  We dumb turkeys don’t even know there is danger.  He masquerades as an angel of life — something that seems really cool, positive, and “right.”

2 Thessalonians 2:9

The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders. . . . (ESV)

He displays counterfeit hens to deceive the Toms.  He doesn’t come looking reallly scary.  He makes his activity look really good and attractive.

John 8:44

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.  (ESV)

Lying is Satan’s native tongue.  He lies!  Satan lies!  Everything the enemy whispers in your ear is a lie.  Don’t do what Satan is tempting you to do.  Don’t do it!  It’ll sound good.  It’ll look attractive.  His native language is in lies.  He cannot tell the truth.  He is incapable of telling the truth.  Anything the enemy whispers in your ear is a lie.

I want you to wake up.  You have an enemy.  He wants to steal, kill, and destroy anything good in your life.  And he is deceptive.  He makes his activity look very good.  He wants to deceive you and lure you in. 

I’ve been talking to students in Christian schools for 38 years, and I can tell you countless stories of people who have been lured away from Christ, and that fall to temptation is always disastrous.

What lie is Satan whispering in your ear right not that you are believing or are drawn to?  

Let’s go back to the 1 Peter passage. 

 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.  (ESV)

The answer is to be part of a community of faith in the body of Christ.  The only way you won’t be wolf bait for the enemy is to rely on the strength of Jesus Christ in the community of faith, encouraging your friends to resist the enemy’s lies being whispered in your ear.  Let’s exhort each other to resist the temptations of the enemy.  That’s our power.  That’s our source of strength.  

Seniors, next year, you’re going to be in communities who don’t care about Christ.  You must be alert to the enemy when he whispers in your ear.  Be sober.  Be alert.  Be vigilant.  Your enemy prowls about like a roaring lion.