Monthly Archives: September 2017

High School Spiritual Life Conference, 28 September 2017

High School Spiritual Life Conference

Southside Christian School

Held at Brookwood Church

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday-Friday, September 28-29, 2017

Summary Notes of Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal

Kevin Nunnery, Brookwood Church High School Pastor, welcomed all of the students to Brookwood, expressing excitement about what was going to take place spiritually during the two day of the Spiritual Life Conference, and he also hoped this event would be a start of a very positive ongoing collaborative partnership between Brookwood Church and Southside Christian School.  

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Southside Christian School Director of Discipleship and Campus Pastor, greeted the students and asked everyone to be good stewards of the Brookwood campus, discarding garbage and respecting the property.  He expressed belief that great things would happen during the retreat.  Pastor Colin called out all of the classes one-by-one, with raucous cheers ensuing.  

Pastor Colin asked everyone to be actively engaged in and involved with all activities.  Pastor Colin reviewed the first rotation.  Freshmen and sophomores would be competing in Ultimate Capture the Flag; juniors and seniors would initially be working on a team-building activity.  

Pastor Colin reviewed the rules of Ultimate Capture the Flag. 

Ultimately, each group would hear Pastor Tim Veenstra’s first message prior to lunch.  

After lunch, the activities would include Session 2 of Pastor Tim, a small group discussion, and transition time back to school or homes.

Pastor Colin introduced Tim Veenstra as the main speaker for the two days.  Pastor Tim and Pastor Colin have been friends since their college days at Indiana Wesleyan University, serving together at a church in Indiana (Pastor Tim as High School Pastor and Pastor Colin as Middle School Pastor).  Students offered a warm welcome of applause to Pastor Tim.

Pastor Colin prayed for a blessing on our time together.

Pastor Colin asked everyone to be competitive and to have fun, but he also encouraged the students not to prove their masculinity or demoralize the other classes.  The main purpose was for everyone to have fun and to bond as classes.

In the heat of a Southern fall, the four classes gamely competed well in 2 games of Ultimate Capture the Flag (9th vs 10th and 11th vs. 12th). 

Lesson 1

By Pastor Tim Veenstra

I heard the Ultimate Capture the Flag game between the freshmen and the sophomores was an epic competition.  Did anyone faint outside?  It’s 70 degrees back in Indiana.  Having four seasons is one of the the greatest things for me, personally.

Pastor Colin is my best friend.  You have no idea how blessed you are to have Colin at this school.  He is the real deal.  He passionately loves Jesus.  He lives that out.  We have laughed and cried together in the good, the bad, and the ugly of life.

Let me tell a little a bit about myself.  I have some pictures to help me.  [Pastor Tim projected a number of PowerPoint slides throughout the day.]

Jesus is my first love.

The second love of my life is my wife, Kelby.

I get over-the-top in my love for my dog, a rescue dog who is half-angel by day and demon at night.  I have no kids now.

My next love is the Michigan State Spartans.  Those are my people.  I love them.  I’m more basketball than football.  I believe Michigan State will win the national championship in basketball this year.  You heard that prediction first from me.

I love Chipotle.  You folks are all about Chick-fil-A.  I stopped to get Chipotle during my 11-hour drive from Indiana yesterday.

I love volleyball.  I don’t love watching it.  I love playing it.

Finally, I love my church.  I love the place where I live.  I worked with Pastor Colin in this church.  I believe in the church — the global church.

What I want us to do today and tomorrow is to dive to a new level.  At a Christian school, you get bombarded by Christianity.  But this is something special we get to do today and tomorrow.  I’ve been at a lot of events like these.  You have to have expectation that God is going to show up.  Open up your heart for the King of kings to speak to you.  I’ve got passages.  I’ve got stories.  But we need to listen to God.

I thought about what the pros and cons of going to a Christian school are.  I went to a secular high school.  Immediately, this passage came to my mind:

Luke 1:80 —

And the child [John the Baptist] grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.  (English Standard Version)

John the Baptist was one crazy dude.  I love what it says here about John.  He grew.  He became strong in spirit.  He lived in the desert.  God did inner work with his character.  He went full-on in public ministry.

Some of you are in the desert now.  You will one day go off into the world, and your public ministry will be launched.

Let’s pray with expectation.  Pray open-handed, that God will meet with us in a special way. . . .

[Pastor Tim prayed.]

How many have been in love?

I’m not talking about loving your mom or dad.  I’m talking about a crush on someone of the opposite gender.

Back in my day, when I was a sophomore in high school, I had my eye on a junior girl.  I thought I was in love.  I prayed for her to notice me.  She and I were in a class together.  I got her phone number somehow.  Cell phones and texting were new things.  Guys, take note:  When you ask a girl on a date, do not ask through a text!  Girls, do I get an amen?!  [The girls answered, “AMEN!”]

I was going to take this girl on an amazing date.  A hot balloon ride.  Memorized poetry.

So I sent a text message:  “Hey, I know you don’t know me well, but I’d like to get to know you better.  You’re an amazing, beautiful girl.  I don’t want another guy to sweep you off your feet.  Would you go on a date with me on Wednesday night?”

I thought about whether it was a good or bad idea to send the text.  Good, bad, good, bad?!  Life is short, I thought, so I sent the text message.  I froze.  I was paralyzed.  What had I just done?!  It was the worst decision in my life!

It seemed like an eternity, and she responded.  I opened her text message:  “Awww.  You are like the sweetest boy ever!  BUT I can’t go out with you this Wednesday.  How about another time?”

A normal guy would have been excited.  But I panicked.  I freaked out.  I had to follow through with the date.  What do I do?  What do I do?

I texted her back:  “Hey, I’m really sorry.  I meant to send that message to another girl.”

Can you believe that?!  She was “the one”!  But, when it got real, it was a horrible moment for me.

Can I be honest with you?  Is this not really the story of our relationship with Jesus Christ?  We make grand commitments to Jesus.  We commit to following Him.  When things get hard, we hold up.  We back away from our commitments.

The person of Peter is one of my favorite people.  He’s real and authentic.  I feel better about myself when I read about Peter.

Open your Bible to Mark 14:29-31 —

29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” 30 And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31 But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.  (ESV)

Peter was all-in.  He was loyal to Jesus.  He would not walk away from His Savior, even if everyone else fell away.  Jesus told Peter he would disown Him three times.  But Peter insisted emphatically that he would not disown him, even if he had to die with Him.  Peter made a big, bold proclamation.

Flip ahead to Mark 14:72 —

And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.  (ESV)

Peter disowned him.  He broke down and wept.  He was not all-in.

Now, process your own faith journey.  We are at different places in our journey.  You may have made the commitment to follow Jesus.  What’s your self-awareness?  Are you truly following Jesus — pursuing Him — above anything in your life?  Be honest with yourself.

One of the students at our church is a huge four-wheeler.  Trevor does this semi-professionally.  Here he is in a photograph of him soaring in the air on a four-wheeler.  It looked so easy.  I had never done it before, but I thought, I could do this.  I hopped on the quad.  The guys were psyching me up.  I looked to make some massive air!  I knew how to shift.  I was flying toward the ramp.  I hit the ramp.  No joke, I thought I was flying, soaring through the air.  I was higher than he was in this picture.  Then, I fell off, hit the ground, and broke my hip.  But, in the air, it was an epic moment.

This is actually how high I got.  [The photograph showed him only a foot off the ground.] 

We lack self-awareness of whether we are actually following Jesus Christ.

Let’s talk about the person of Jesus.

How many of you have committed your life to Jesus?  Raise your hand, if you have.  [Most hands went up.]

We commit our lives to someone we may not even know.  We say we know Him.  And we pledge our lives to Him.

Once, in Kenya, I was overlooking the savanna with the sun coming up.  We were doing a prayer exercise to focus on the person of God.  We picked one word to draw us back to Him when we got distracted.  I picked the word, “Jesus.”  When I got sidetracked, I would say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.”  I had a moment.  Jesus is amazing!  Jesus Christ, God, came in human flesh, in the form of a helpless baby, grew as we have grown, showing us a new way to live.  He wants us to live with an abundance of joy and love.  He stuck up for the outcasts.  He called out the hypocrites and the overly-religious.  He healed so many people through His life-giving force.  Holy smokes, there is no one I would want to surrender my life to and follow than Jesus.

Open to Luke 9:57-62 —

57 As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” 58 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 59 To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 60 And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” 61 Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” 62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”  (ESV)

Three possible followers of Jesus came to Him.  The first said he would follow Jesus wherever He went.  Jesus replied with the idea that he had no way to lay his head.  What?!

Another man came, but he needed to bury his father first.  Jesus told him to proclaim the Kingdom of God instead.

A third man said he would follow Jesus, but he wanted to say goodbye to his family.  Jesus said he was not fit for service to him.

Jesus seemed harsh in his response to these three men.  But this is the take-away.  To follow Jesus, He was saying we have to leave comfort behind us — not always — but during the journey there will be brutal missions, like Jesus pursued on His way to his death in Jerusalem.  He was clear that his followers would have to sacrifice comfort.

We love comfort.  I love my bed.  I love my pillow.  I love the fan going when I sleep.  I love to plop on the couch to watch Netflix.  My mind can turn to mush.  We love comfort.

If you truly choose to follow Jesus wholeheartedly, you will surrender comfort at some time.  Are you willing to make that sacrifice?  You may have to sacrifice friendships and comfort with people.  You have to do relationships right.  Christ calls you to forgiveness.  Sometimes you have to leave your friends and find new friends.  Sometimes, you have to find friends who want to follow Jesus.

My wife gave me the gift of sky-diving.  The place looked sketchy.  I was going to trust these people with my life?!  One man looked like a mountain man.  His hair was all over the place.  He had a tie-dye shirt.  He made me uncomfortable from the start.  I listed my profession as a pastor.  He said, “We got a preacher man here?!”  He told me to sit down.  I wanted out.  But I got really convicted.  I wanted nothing to do with him.  Later, he asked, “How can you believe in that mother-f’in God?!!”  The guy was brutal.  I asked him about his beliefs.  He believed in aliens.  I got him talking about Jesus.  He said, “Where was Jesus when my daughter was sexually abused and raped by a man?!”   He laid out his pain.  To him, God was not a good and loving God.  Here I was with this guy.  I told him I understood that life is rough sometimes.  God didn’t want any of that pain to happen to him.  Jesus took pain on Himself for us.  It’s not about comfort or safety in our bubbles.  God calls us out of comfort.

God also calls us out to ask a deep heart question:  “Are you really willing to put Me first — above all else?”

Burying your father is a big deal — a significant life moment.  Jesus was testing these men to see what was first in their lives.

What is first in your life?

Jesus?  Is He really?  Is He really first in your life?

One of the scariest passages is in James 2:14.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  (ESV)

James is blunt in his book.  The call to following Christ is so much more than a verbal commitment.  Most of us made this commitment as a little kids, and we don’t really understand what the commitment means.

In Ephesians, Paul declared that it is by faith we are saved.  But James said it was about faith and deeds.  Paul was saying what it takes to become a follower of Jesus — accepting a free gift of grace.  James said that, after becoming a follower of Jesus,  our lives must show that we are followers of Jesus.  Fruit of the Spirit will naturally grow in our lives.

Even the demons proclaimed Jesus to be God.  I pray that our commitment will be more than that.

Let’s pray. . . .

Pastor Colin reminded students not to have their cell phones out during these two days.  

We moved on to individual class activities.  Class officers explained all of the Homecoming activities, and each class created at least 1 class cheer/chant for Homecoming.  Pastor Colin also directed the students through a team-building activity of each class, asking all of the students to order themselves by birth order on a curb without stepping off the curb and with only 3 people speaking on each team.  Success in this activity depended upon teamwork, clear instructions, and positive leadership.

The students enjoyed a lengthy lunch period of mostly Chick-fil-A box lunches.  Pastor Colin asked that the campus be spotless after lunch.  

Colin reviewed the point totals, which carry over to Spirit Week of Homecoming on October 2-6.

Freshman:  200 

Sophomores:  0

Juniors:  100

Seniors:  100

Pastor Tim asked that Pastor Colin award the sophomores 1 point.  Pastor Colin did so!

Pastor Colin held up the spirit stick which will be awarded to the class with the most points at the end of Homecoming week.  Pastor Colin complimented the ninth graders for working so well as a group.

Pastor Colin asked everyone to stand for some “stretching.”  They did so.

Pastor Colin asked everyone to sit down, sit straight, and breath through their noses repeatedly for 10 seconds.  Most did so.   

Pastor Colin asked everyone to hold their hands out to receive what God would want them to receive during Pastor Tim’s next message, and Pastor Colin prayed for the afternoon session.

Lesson 2

By Pastor Tim Veenstra

Turn to 1 Samuel 3:4-10 —

Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down.

And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.

And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

10 And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.” (ESV)

Samuel was training under Eli the priest.  Samuel heard a voice at night.  The Lord called once and twice, but Samuel thought it was Eli.  The Lord called Samuel a third time.  Eli realized that the Lord was calling Samuel, so Eli told Samuel to respond to the Lord the next time He called to him.

You’ve got to understand when the Lord is calling you.

When I was in high school, we went on a houseboating trip.  Our youth groups lived on houseboats.  It was an amazing week spending time with Jesus.  One day, our youth director told us of a “special adventure.”  That afternoon, we got our boats out on the lake.  The youth pastor had set up cliff jumping.  This was to be our afternoon exercise.

I was really excited about this!  I had been a swimmer and diver.  This would be nothing for me.  This photograph shows the actual spot of the jump from the cliff.  There were 10-foot, 20-foot, 35-foot, and 60-foot spots for jumping.  I was an adrenaline junkie.  I jumped off from 60 feet!  It was exhilarating.  It was a rush.  We jumped, swam, climbed, jumped, swam, climbed, jumped.

Then, my buddy double-dog-dared me to do a flip off the 10-footer.  I did!  And the 20-footer!  No splash!  I was killing it.  And he dared me to flip from 35 feet.  Nailed it!  Perfectly!  I was psyched!  You all know what was coming next.

My buddy triple-dog-dared me to jump off the 60-foot spot.  I thought I could die.  What do I do?  What do I do?  Other people on the trip yelled up to me not to do it!

One voice pierced through the haters and doubters.  My Dad was on that trip!  He cried out, “Tim, you’ve got to do it!”  I look back on that, and I think how well my Dad knew me.  He knew I would regret not jumping for the rest of my life.  He yelled, “Don’t tell your Mom!”  I jumped, flipped, returned to the upright position, but I kept flipping and flipping until I landed a FULL ON BELLY SMACK!  I felt for my teeth to see if they got knocked out.  Everyone was freaking out.  I mumbled, “I had to do it.”

Of all of the voices, my Dad knew me.  I knew my Dad’s voice, and I listened to his voice above all of the voices.

In John 10, Jesus talks about this concept with us.

John 10:27 reads,

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  (ESV)

God speaks to us.  God does speak to us.  But it’s amazing how many of us struggle to know God’s voice.

Seniors, I don’t know you’re thinking now.  Is it college?  Is it work?  Where is God’s voice in this?  How do I know God’s voice?

God continues to speak to us and to reveal Himself to us.  The Father will speak to us.  God sent the Spirit to speak to us.

God speaks to us in many ways, so we can listen to Him.

His first method of speaking to us is through the Word of God.  If something contradicts the inspired Word of God, those ideas do not come from God.

A man recently told me the Lord saod he should divorce his wife in order to marry another woman, whom God had also told to divorce her husband, so they could be marrried.  That is NOT the Word of God.

Understand that the Word of God is one of the main instruments of God speaking to you.  Are you in the Word?  Are you obeying the Word?

Too many people are following the world and popular teachers.  Some are saying this Bible is for an earlier time.  That is one of the greatest lies from the pit of hell.  Guard your heart and protect yourself from such thought.  The book is true!  If you believe the Word is no longer true, what would constrain you?

Pastor Colin and I had a great friend.  After he graduated from college, he and his wife challenged the Bible.  They wrestled with God.  They neglected the truth written on these pages.  His life is an absolute mess right now.  He now believes the Word is no longer true.  This man and his wife are now divorced.

Spend time in the Word.  Some of you might think it’s boring.  There is so much to the Bible.  It’s so rich.  A 60-year-old Bible teacher told me the Word is continually teaching him.

Find a version which is easier to read, if you need to.  Start small, and let God develop your love for the Word.

Another way God speaks to us is through “inner awareness.”  Some people call this a stirring, pushing, or leading.  Again, though, you can get off-track with this method, but this is very biblical.

Paul went on many missionary journeys.  In Acts 16, Paul had planned him to go in one direction, but the Spirit did not allow him to go in that direction, leading him to another location.

I saw this in my life in my own heart.  I took a group from our church on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic.  One day, we were going to do door-to-door evangelism.  Before we set out for the day, I had an inner awareness moment.  I had been journaling on our flight to the D.R.  I drew a picture.  I drew this picture of a person who was welding.  My words were “let’s re-connect.”  The Lord reminded me about that drawing.  I needed to look for someone who was welding.  I asked the others in the group to keep their eyes open.  Within 2 minutes, a girl yelled out to me.  A guy had been welding, and he looked just like the drawing!!  I was freaked out.  I wondered what would happen.  His name is Francisco.  Here’s a photograph of him.  I started a conversation through a translator.  I showed him the drawing.  It was an amazing God moment.  He had been a part of the Catholic Church.  He had walked away from his faith.  He believed he had committed so much sin that he couldn’t be saved anymore.  We talked to him.  We invited him to some evening community activities.  He saw a drama of the Gospel.  The next day, he gave his life to the Lord!  Still to this day, he is following the Lord!  He has built basketball hoops for the community.

A third way God speaks to us is through other people.  God can use others to speak truth into your life.  God used His Prophets to speak truth to His people.

A fourth way God speaks to us in dreams and visions.  Again, this is scriptural.  There are many narratives of God speaking to His people through dreams and visions.

Clearly, He will speak to us, but will you listen for His voice?

There are way too many voices speaking into your life, creating a ruckus.  Social media has increased the number of voices.  Families speak.  Media speak.  Friends, family, pastors speak.  Can you hear God’s voice and truth among all of the other voices?  Are you really listening?

There are different forms of listening:

PSEUDO-LISTENING is non-listening which appears to be listening.  You act like you are listening, but you are not actually listening.  People show up to church, acting like they are listening, but they are not listening at all.  They are guilty of pseudo-listening.  We listen to too many other voices in our mind.  We are not listening or hearing.  Pseudo-listening characterizes many of us when we should be listening to God.

We also IGNORE others as listeners when it’s convenient.  We act like we don’t hear others, but, for example, we know full-well what our parents are asking us to do.  We select what we want to listen to.  This is Jonah’s story.  God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites.  Jonah went the other way.

Another form of listening is DEFENSIVE LISTENING.  We shut ourselves off to certain topics.  We put up walls.  We put up a defense to the ideas.  How have you put up walls, perhaps against a certain person who is trying to speak into your life?

ANALYTICAL LISTENING is a back-and-forth thought about issues, overthinking ourselves to death.

The healthy listening is COMPREHENSIVE LISTENING.  We hear.  We listen.  We obey.  We respond, “I’m in.”

Ask some healthy questions:

Does the voice align with Scripture?  If it does not, it’s not a voice from the Lord.

Will the calling bear good fruit and further God’s Kingdom?

Do wise Christians in my life approve of what I’m hearing, encouraging me in this direction?

You still need to listen for the voice of God.  We don’t do well with silence.  We struggle with silence.

Right now, I want you to sit in silence.  Sit up straight.  Both feet on the ground.  For 2-3 minutes — which will feel like forever — be absolutely still.  Don’t fidget.  Close your eyes.  Be quiet.

[Everyone seemed to do so.] 

[Pastor Tim broke the silence.]

You have to carve out the time for silence to hear from the Lord.  Be like Samuel.  Respond in the silence, “Speak, Lord.  Your servant is listening.”

Be with Him, before you can do things with Him.

[Pastor Tim prayed to close his talk.]

Pastor Colin asked for applause to encourage Pastor Tim.  [The students did so.]

Pastor Colin prepared students for the small group time and the preferred locations.

At various locations on the Brookwood campus, we met as small groups after Pastor Colin reminded us of the group members (scrolling on the screens).

Day 2, Middle School Spiritual Life Conference

Middle School Spiritual Emphasis Activities

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday-Friday, September 21-22, 2017

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

In Sabre Stadium, students consumed Krispy Kreme doughnuts, and Pastor Colin Urbanick, Director of Discipleship / Campus Pastor, prepared the students and staff for the day’s activities.

A new competition was added for points:  several tug-of-war contests, complete with much cheering, friendly battles, and faculty involvement as well.

Pastor Colin prayed and dismissed everyone, and all of the teams rotated through a new set of 6 field games until lunch.

Lunch included the option of Hungry Howie’s personal pizzas.

Spiritual Life activities began in the Fine Arts Center around 1:00 p.m.

Pastor Colin Urbanick called for all of the points to be brought to and tabulated by P.E. Instructors Priscilla LeGrand and Kristi Speaks. 

Pastor Colin brought a number of students for the day’s “fashion show,” to determine the overall winner of the “best dressed” for the day.  He appointed a group of faculty members to serve as judges.  Much chanting and cheering for favorites ensued. 

Pastor Colin thanked the students for picking up their trash on this day.  

Pastor Colin asked the students to turn to a neighbor and ask, “What has been a highlight of Spiritual Life Conference so far?”

The students engaged in conversations about that question.  But, again, chanting and cheering broke out.  (Apparently, the air conditioning and lunch had re-invigorated the hot, sweaty, tired, thirsty students.)

Pastor Colin announced the red team and blue team finalists in the “fashion show,” who remained onstage.  He announced the winners of 50 points as the red team!  Again, great cheers!  (Pastor Colin had great difficulty calming and quieting the students.)

Coach LeGrand announced the competition point totals for the day, indicating that the totals were as close as in any year of her 14 years.  The winner, by a score of140-137, was the red team!  Pandemonium ensued, and Pastor Colin again struggled to maintain order.

Colin expressed appreciation for our “fun couple days.”  He called everyone to a calmer state.  The students were cooperative.  He indicated the games were about having fun and gathering as small groups to connect better with other students.  We were gathering this afternoon to better understand Jesus and to become more like Christ.

Pastor Colin asked Middle School Chaplain Jake Evans to pray for the afternoon activities.  Jake did so.

Pastor Will Plonk, Lead Pastor at the Downtown Campus of Grace Church

You all ready?!

It is not a coincidence that I have red on today.  

It’s good to be here with you today to share.

We’re going to be in Galatians Chapter 5, the last 3 verses.

24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

What were a couple things that stood out from yesterday?  What did we talk about.  Get your mind moving again.

Student:  “Compartmentalizing.”

What does that mean?

Another student:  “Separating yourself, doing certain things in one context and then doing and saying different things in other places.”

Yet another student:  “Our heart affects our actions.”

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.  Remember, our heart is the control center dishing out the orders to us.  Something is motivating you to think, speak, and act.

Have you ever done something and you thought, that’s not really me?

I went to Clemson University.  One of my friends was popular.  I was not.  He loved Clemson football.  I followed him, so we could get front-row seats of the student section in Death Valley.  We painted up.  [Pastor Will projected a photograph.]  That’s me with dreadlocks.  That’s me painted up.  I didn’t really care about football.  Why would a guy do that to himself, if he didn’t care about football?!  I didn’t know what was going on at the game!  

My question for you:  Do you ever find yourself in a place when you’re acting a certain way when you don’t really feel that way, especially as it relates to your attitude about Jesus?  

We know what answers are expected of us.  We say all of the right things.  You know what others want you to say.  You’re wearing a mask.  On the inside, you don’t love God.  Jesus is not in the command center of your heart.  My fear is that you would look as I did.  Painted up.  And you don’t know Jesus.

Jesus had things to say about how people dressed up on the outside.

To Jesus, the Pharisees were “white-washed tombs” which looked great on the outside but were dead on the inside.  

What Jesus wants from you is that your heart — that your passion — that your motivation — that your desires — the thing that gets you up in the morning — is Him.  You “want to” do these things for Jesus; it’s not because you “have to” do these things.

I want to talk about heart change.

In Galatians 5:24, Paul wrote,

 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Those who belong to Jesus — who have been saved by Jesus — those who are His children are different than any other “religion” in the world.  Those who belong to Him allow Jesus to uproot the bad things in our hearts.  Get rid of the gossip, lying, looking at things you shouldn’t look at, the bullying.  He wants to nail those things to the tree.  Jesus wants to nail the bad heart and passions to the tree.  He wants to destroy your bad heart, passions, and desires.

That’s my first point:  Let Jesus destroy your bad heart (sinful passions and desires).

One of my favorite things is to go spear fishing.  Look at some of these pictures.  [Pastor Will projected a photograph of him with big fish in both hands.]  Do you notice that all of the holes in the fish are in the heads?  Once, I went after a grouper.  I wore a weight belt.  I wanted to get down deep to get the bigger fish.  I found a grouper looking at me.  He had big mangly eyes.  I had to get him.  I dove down.  The grouper backed into a hole.  The hole was actually a crevasse.  I knew I couldn’t get him in the head.  I let go of the spear.  I got him in the body.  He still had a lot of energy and flailing in him.  I swam up.  He swam down.  Remember, I had weight belts.  I thought that grouper was going to take me down.  I swam and kicked.  I swam and kicked.  I got the fish up!  I got the fish on the boat!  I  was so excited.  It took all of my energy.  Why?  I didn’t get him in the head.

Here’s why I tell you that story.  If you take your bad heart to Jesus, giving it to Him, your life will change; but if you take your behaviors — reading your Bible, praying, going to church — it’s like shooting that grouper right in the belly.  You will fight to “do better” your whole life.  You will war with “doing,” and you’ll wonder why you’re not changing.

This text is about Jesus wanting to shoot your bad heart, passions, and desires in the head.

What are your sinful passions and desires?

At Clemson, I was consumed with “fitting in.”  That was a sinful passion and desire.  I should have trusted in only Jesus loving me. 

For some of you, it’s recognition and attention.  You’ve got to be the funny one.  You get frustrated with other funny ones.  Then, you try to distance your group from the other funny ones.

On teams, you want to be the best.  You practice hard in music, sports, or drama.  

For others of you, it’s about pleasure.  You’re constantly consumed by food, social media, interaction with others.

For some of you, it’s escape.  You hate chores.  You hate homework.  You want to play video games.

What are those sinful desires — the bad heart — from which Jesus wants to free you.  

When the desire is nailed to the cross, the sinful desire can no longer grow.  Crucify your desires on the cross.

Verse 25

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 

Every other faith says we should follow the law and the law’s leading.  This passage from Paul indicates we must follow the Spirit’s leading.

The “something else” of your heart is Jesus Christ.  Let Him loose in your heart, and allow him to lead you in every part of your life.

My second point today:  Let Jesus lead you everywhere.

I used to hate coffee.  But then I met the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks!  It was so good.  It was great.  It shifted my horizon. Now, I’m a coffee snob.  That’s embarrassing.  I like good coffee.  I used to advocate against dependence on coffee!  This change slowly happened to me.

Pokémon Go.  Do any of you play?  Two years ago, that game spread like wildfire.  It was a fad that came and went.  There are trends.

Jesus wants to start in your heart and change everything about your life.  He wants to get inside of you.  You’ve got to start letting him into your heart, your passions, and your motivations.

How do you find joy in God?  How are you motivated by Jesus?  How can you get to a point when you think about him all of the time?  Not just reading the Bible to let people know that you’re reading my Bible.  No, reading the Bible so you can get to know Jesus better.

Here’s what I want to invite you to do:  Ask the people around you and ahead of you to answer the following questions:

How do you find joy in Christ?

How do you find passion in your prayer life?  Do you want to pray?  If so, how?  How do you want to pray 

How do you have more fun in your friend group than the students who are not following Jesus?

How would you find meaning in school that would be motivated by Jesus?  How can you find purpose in school that is motivated by Jesus?

Jesus wants to nail your bad heart to the tree.  He wants to make your heart new.  He wants to lead you.  He wants to remove compartmentalizations in your heart.  It’s better to be honest than to compartmentalize.  Everyone around you would prefer you being honest — being the real you — than they would for you to give everyone around you the “right answers.”  

Jesus wants to control every part of your life — not by the law but by His Spirit. 

Verse 26

Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

You should not be conceited, self-promoting, arrogant, or prideful.  When Jesus changes your heart, your behaviors always change.

That’s my last point for you:  When Jesus changes your heart, your behavior always changes.

The Good News of Christ is that heart change through Christ will make you look, think, speak, and act like Christ.  

I painted my face as a Clemson fan, but I wasn’t really a Clemson fan.  

God sees you as you are when your heart changes for Jesus, because that’s who His Son is. 

Make Jesus the commander in the command center of your heart.

Can you change your behavior without your heart changing?  You can, temporarily.

Can you change your heart by changing your behavior?  No.  

Once your heart changes, your behavior should be changing, and you should be ever-growing in the likeness of Jesus.  You should learn how to read the Bible, pray, and repent of your sin more meaningfully.  You will run to God faster when you truly want to please God by letting Jesus reign in your heart.  

When I first went to Clemson, I was a new Christian.  Remember, I was the guy who kicked holes in my parents’ bedroom door.  At Clemson, I tried to learn how to play the guitar.  A mature Christian friend walked up to me.  He asked me how I was going to use my guitar for Jesus.  I hadn’t even thought about that.  It was so natural in his mind to think about how the things we do were always for God.  He believed that, when my heart changed, my behaviors would change.

That has to be true for you.  Ask that same question my friend asked of me.  How is soccer glorifying God?  How are your friends glorifying God?  Are you reading your Bible to enjoy God?  Have you confessed your sin to anyone recently?  Is it okay to be broken in front of others?  Is it okay to be messed up?  Are you gossiping?  These kind of friends will help you get your heart back into alignment with what God wants.

Here are a couple take-ways:

These honest conversations need to start in Christian community.  You are in a great place here.  It’s easy to talk Clemson football with Clemson fans.  It’s easy to talk South Carolina with South Carolina fans.  That’s why it’s incredibly important for you to be involved in a local church.  More mature Christians will guide you, be honest with you, have conversations with you.  You need to get to a place when you can ask questions that will make you feel foolish.  This Christian school is a great place.

The other thing:  It can’t end there.  You can’t just talk.  You’ve got to start doing.  I challenge you to serve.  I challenge you to serve.  Service means that you give of yourself and your time and your energy and your money.  Find a place to serve.  Give something you don’t “have to” give.  In the local church, you can help kids who are younger than yourselves.  Look down a couple grades and help a student connect to God and others.  

Let me leave you with this.

Galatians 6:7

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.

Whoever is in the command center of your heart will result in others seeing behaviors of Jesus.  If Jesus is not there, no one will see those behaviors.  

Let me pray. . . 

Pastor Colin asked for a round of applause for Pastor Will.

[They did so warmly and enthusiastically.]

Pastor Colin expressed appreciation for Pastor Will’s faithfulness to the Word, and that he had challenged us to seek change in our lives. 

Pastor Colin indicated we would head to small group time for discussion of Pastor WIll’s message.  

We discussed a number of different. questions and truth presented by Pastor Will.

Steve Mason, Dean of Men

I hope you had some great conversations with the others in your small groups.

I want to challenge you to PROVE IT.  You all stood up yesterday.  I’m going to hold you to your commitment to end some of the negative actions in the school.

Please listen with your ears, and listen with your hearts now.

Prove what you have said and learned to others and, most importantly, to God.

It’s so easy to say you are going to do something, change, and live for God by being the example I need to be.

But, when we come back on Monday, the proof is not there.

I’m going to be asking you several questions.

Are you a FOLLOWER of God?  Does your live prove it, from the point of this Spiritual Life Conference on.  I see some of you smirking, talking, playing with things.

​OR just a FAN of God? 

God has to be in the front, in the forefront of your thinking and your actions.  That’s a follower of Jesus Christ.  We’ve got too many fans here.

Look what the Bible says:

​​I John 1:26  

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

You should live as Jesus did.  Did Jesus put people down to the point of hurting people’s feelings, looking at things you shouldn’t look at, gossiping?  No!

​​Colossians 3:10  

Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image ​​​of its Creator.

You were created in the image of God.  You bear God’s image.  Do you recognize that the others around you are image-bearers of God?   But we tend to make fun of people who act the way God created them to dress, talk, or act.  You’re making fun of the image of God created in that person.  How dare we!  It got really quiet in here.  We are created in God’s image; we should respect that image in all other people.  We’re not better.  

​​Revelation 3:15-17  

I know your deeds; you are neither cold nor hot. How I wish you ​​​were one or the other. So because you are lukewarm — neither hot nor cold — I am ​​​about to spit you out of My mouth! You say, ‘I am rich; I have grown wealthy and need ​​​nothing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind,

Are you hot for God?  Are you on fire?  Do you live for Him?  Or are you cold?  You do things you know you shouldn’t do.  You go back-and-forth, depending upon where you are.  God doesn’t want lukewarm people in this school.  He doesn’t want people to put on fake lives.  Stand up for those who are being picked on.  Don’t smirk at people who want to worship in Chapel.  We’re making fun of people who want to be Christians IN A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!  

Where are you?  Are you encouraging those who are living for God?

​​Matthew 7:21-23   

Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom ​​​of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven… And then will I ​​declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

We need to follow Jesus!  We sin.  The blood of Jesus washes away that sin.  Out of appreciation, we should follow Him.

​I have questions for you:

​​When was the last time you stood up for someone instead of mocking them for being like Christ?

​​When was the last time you were more excited for chapel than for a concert or ​​​​movie?  Some of you sit in chapel and slouch, but you pay more attention at a movie or concert.

​​When was the last time you shared what God was doing in your life with a friend?  Share what God is doing in your life with others.  We share about football games.  Why not share what God is doing?

​​When was the last time you asked a friend to pray for you?  Anybody going through something difficult right now?  Have you asked someone to pray for you, in that regard?  You’ve got friends who believe that God can help.  Ask for prayer.

Does your heart reveal God?

Prove this!  Everything you do, do they show God?  Are your actions godly?  What you put in front of you eyes — are those things godly?  Our lives should point to Him.

​Matthew 12:34  

For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Some of your hearts may be dark, gross, and perverted.  I see lots of you who are the friends you need to be, and you’re honoring and glorifying God by your actions. 

​James 3:14-16   

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast ​and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, ​unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and ​every vile practice.

We’ve got that right now.  Students have left because of the disorder, bullying, and targeting that is going on in our school, because of selfish ambition, the motivation of self over others.  We think we’re better.  We think we’re entitled.  The Bible doesn’t say that anywhere.  We owe everything to God.

​Matthew 12:36  

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless ​word they speak. . . .

You’re going to give an account of your carelessness.

​​What about your time at SCS?  You have great opportunities in chapel, Bible, with your teachers, our sports programs.  You have great opportunities

​​​WASTED?

Unfortunately some of you are wasting your opportunities for academic and spiritual growth.  Others of you are open to the music, songs, Bible studies.  Don’t waste this time.  Stand up and be a witness.  It should be so easy at a Christian school to be a Christian witness!  In college and the real world, it won’t be so easy.  

​​​WITNESS?

Be a witness!

​​James 3:10  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. . . .

We can bless and curse out of the same mouth.  Cursing should not come out of your mouth.  Does your heart reveal God?

Are you guarding your heart?

Prove it!  

​Your heart is under constant attack every day — every second of your life.

​​1 Peter 5:8    

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a ​​​roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

He wants to devour you — to take you down.  You are under attack.  How in the world do you guard your heart against these attacks?

​​Proverbs 4:23  

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Follow these steps:  

​​​Ask God to clean your heart. 

Psalm 51:10  

Create in me a pure heart, O God, ​​​​and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Guys, get those bad things out of your computers and phones.

Ladies, clean up the bad stuff in your text messages.  

Get the junk out of your heart.  

​​​Ask God to change your heart.   Or the junk will come right back in.  Put God’s Word in place of the junk.  Memorize Scripture.  

Romans 12:2   

And do not be conformed to ​​​​this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind

Don’t be like the world.  Renew your mind.  Be transformed.  

​​​Ask God to focus your heart on Him.   

Joshua 1:8   

Keep this Book of the Law ​​​​always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to ​​​​do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful 

I challenged my small group today to read from the Bible daily.  The students have 14 days to read the Bible 14 days until we meet again as a small group.

Do you treasure God?

Prove this!  Do you love God so much that God is your ultimate want?  Do you treasure God?

​Matthew 6:21  

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

​What do you treasure most?

When you wake up in the morning, what’s the first thing you want to do?  What do you treasure most?  It should be God.

​​Cell phones?

​​Sports?

​​Friends?

​​Music?

​​Grades?

​Challenge: 

Do you spend more time in your cell phone or God’s Word ?  

Once I gave this challenge to my Bible class.  Spend as much time in the Bible as you do on your devices.  Why not?!  What do you treasure?  What do you want your heart to reveal?  

Prove that you want to change.  See what God can do in your life.  I promise you it will be life-changing.  

I want you lives to prove what is in your heart.

Treasure your time and relationship with Christ.

[Genuine applause.]

Pastor Colin closed the time by reminding us about having joy and life abundant as Christians.  

Pastor Colin reinforced Pastor Will’s point that God is in the business of changing hearts.

Pastor Colin encouraged the students to get plugged-into a local church, as Pastor Will had exhorted the students earlier.  

Pastor Colin thanked Coach LeGrand, the VIP volunteers, and teachers who had taken time to spend time with and pour their love into the students during the Spiritual Life Conference.  

Pastor Colin closed the Spiritual Life activities in prayer.

Day 1, Middle School Spiritual Emphasis

Middle School Spiritual Emphasis Activities

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday-Friday, September 21-22, 2017

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Students gathered in Sabre Stadium for Krispy Kreme doughnuts, fellowshipping, and team selfies.

Pastor Colin Urbanick prepped the entire Middle School student body for the day’s activities.

After dismissal from the stadium, students  participated in 6 rounds of unique and fun games.  Students competed hard; by lunch time, they were hot, sweaty, tired, and thirsty (even with the refreshments provided by VIP)!

Lunch included the option of a Chick-fil-A box lunch in the (air conditioned) Cafeteria.

The students and staff moved to the Fine Arts Center for the next set of activities.

Pastor Colin conducted a “fashion show” of the best red and blue team dress of the day.  The blue team won 50 points for their attire!

Mrs. Priscilla LeGrand, Physical Education Teacher, indicated it was “homework” for all students to take a shower on Thursday night!

She then announced point totals for the morning competitions:

Blue:  72 points

Red:  36 points

Much cheering ensued (from the blue team).  Booing was not allowed.

All new games were scheduled for the next day (Friday).

Pastor Colin indicated it was time to unwind for the activities of the afternoon.  

Pastor Colin introduced Will Plonk as the speaker.  Pastor Plonk is the lead pastor of Grace Church’s downtown campus.

Pastor Colin indicated that the desired outcome of the Spiritual life days was transformation — that we would look more like Jesus as a result of Pastor Will’s messages and our small group discussions. 

Pastor Will

I am excited to be here with you this afternoon.

I did student ministry for 4 years at Grace.  For three years, I worked with Young Life.

Middle School are good years, but they can be hard years.

I was one of those kids who didn’t know what to do with my hair.  I had jelled and dyed my hair blonde.  I was a skater kid.  It’s an interesting time, Middle School.

We’re going to be in Matthew 12.  Take out your Bible, please.  

[Pastor Will projected a photograph.] This is my wife and two daughters.  We just added a third daughter. This is a photograph of her.  [Pastor Will projected another photograph of a baby.]  Her hair is red.  Isn’t that crazy?!

We’re going to talk about “the spiritual law of the harvest” over the next two days.  Listen carefully, and you will hopefully understand yourself better and why you do what you do.

Jesus established this law from Galatians 6:7 —

“Don’t be misled — you cannot mock the justice of God.  You will always harvest what you plant.”

A lot of you are not farmers, but you can still understand this spiritual law.  If you take an apple seed, put it in the ground and fertilize it, what will you have over time?  An apple tree.

If you take an orange seed, put it in the ground and fertilize it, what will you have?  An orange tree.

If you take an acorn, you will get an oak tree.

What you plant, you will harvest. 

And what goes in us will come out.  Who you are is what you produce.

I have a confession to make.  How many of you think that third daughter on the screen was my baby?  It’s not my baby!

[Pastor Will projected a new photograph of a mother, father, and that baby.]  These are that girls’ parents.  They have red hair.

Look at a photograph of one of my daughters.  She looks like me.  It’s difficult for me to have a red-headed child.  Why?  Because of genetics.

It’s the same spiritual law.  You produce what you are.  This is an important spiritual truth for you to ask.  What are you thoughts, behaviors, actions?  Who are you?

Look at Matthew 12:33-37 —

33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  (English Standard Version)

It makes sense.  Good trees.  Good fruit.  Bad trees.  Bad fruit.  

Is that true of the world in general?  If a basketball player is good, he scores, maybe he can dunke, he’s blocking shots.

How about an actor or actress?  Good actresses and actors make good films.  They are in multiple shows.  You know their names.

A surgeon.  If that surgeon is good, they have done many successful surgeries.

If someone is a good friend, how would you know that?  You get presents from them.  You trust them.  They spend time with you.

Look inward now.  If you are a good son or daughter, what do you do?  You obey your parents.  You’re respectful.  

This is one for Southside Christian:  If you’re a good student, what do you do?  You answer questions in class.  You get good grades.

Here’s another one:  If you’re a follower of God, what do you do?  Share the Gospel.  Read the Bible.  Glorify God. 

Think about something very deeply.  There is a cultural thought that you can have a good heart and do whatever you want to do.  You can be good person, but your actions don’t match your outward appearance.  You can call yourself a Christian, but your behaviors are not in alignment with the Scriptures.  It’s a thought that a lot of Christians have.  

How do you know if you’re a Christian?

Jesus says that His disciples have to pick up their crosses and follow him.  He didn’t say we need to read our Bible, go to a Christian school, have all of the Christian answers.  Jesus believes this:  You can identify a tree by its fruit.  Our actions, thoughts, and behaviors indicat what’s on the inside.  That’s what Jesus believes.

It’s not that the fruit is determinant of the heart.  You can staple apples to orange trees, but it would not make apple trees.  Jesus wants us to know that the fruit represents what we are.

It’s easy to claim to be a Christian, but at the same time you can spread gossip like wildfire.  You can say you love God, but your private lifestyle is not consistent with what you say.  Maybe you’re angry a lot.  Maybe you bully others.  You can say you are a servant of Christ, but you only draw attention to yourself.  You can tell a tree from its fruit.

My second point from verse 35.

“The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Your heart determines what you say, what you think, what you do.  A treasury and storehouse inside of you is producing your actions.   The heart is a command center.

Here is a Star Wars battleship.  [Pastor Will projected a photograph of the battleship.]  Lasers don’t get shot out accidentally.  Ships don’t dock coincidentally.  Those actions come from the command center.  Someone gives a command. The actions occur.

Your heart determines what you do.

Your heart determines what you say.

It’s true. 

Here’s the most important question I can ask in my two days with you.  It may be the most important question you can ask yourself.

Who’s in the command center of your heart?

You know the right answer.  Jesus is the right answer.

If Jesus is truly in the command center of your heart, it wouldn’t be odd that Jesus would tell you to think, say, and do.  You ask yourself, “Would Jesus really want that?”  He wants alignment with His Scriptures.  

How do you look at social media?  What images do you seek?  How do you text?  What language do you use?  Would you cheat on tests if Jesus were in the command center of your heart?

You need to ask the question:  Who is in the command center of your heart?

Jesus was talking to the Pharisees here.  They looked very spiritual.  They had boxes on their wrists with Scriptures.  The tassels represented their prayer lives.  They would communicate beautiful, articulate prayers in public.  People would think they were good people.

In verse 34, Jesus called them a “brood of snakes.”

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 

That point would have been crazy at that time.  Jesus had called them a family of snakes.  He called them snakes! 

I know what it’s like to compartmentalize in Middle School and High School.  Compartmentalization is dividing parts of our lives in segments.  You can act one way at home and then live a completely different life in your church and Christian school.  You know all the right answers.  People might think you were a good Christian, but, if there were a magnifying glass on your life, you know your life doesn’t line up.  

Your heart must change through the influence of Jesus Christ.

You need to figure out the areas of your life which are compartmentalized and misaligned.

You have to say all of the truth.  You have to be candid with yourself.  Tell of of yourself to Jesus, so He can rule in your life 

Look at Verse 36-37: 

I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

This is hard.  We will give an account for every idle word we speak on Judgment Day.  Careless words indicate misalignment.

When my drove short distances, he would use headphones to listen to audiobooks.  He wouldn’t pay attention while he was driving.  We were driving to my friend’s house.  A dog ran out from a house toward our car.  I yelled at my Dad.  He hit the dog.  We stopped and got out.  The owners were sad.  What my Dad did was not intentional, yet that dog would never come back to life.  A simple thing ended a dog’s life.  Jesus is saying here that simple misalignments can be a big deal.

My last point:  God will judge us for our actions, not our hearts.

Once when I was in high school, as a paper boy, I would bag the 600 papers, and there would be trash all over the floor of our living room.  I didn’t like to clean up the room.  My parents would usually clean up the mess.  I was lazy.  One day, I came home, and all of the trash ended up in my room!  I came downstairs.  I asked why the trash was in my room.  My Dad said, “You left it in my living room.”  I came down and threw the trash back into his living room!  That’s not a good thing to do.  I went upstairs and locked my room.  My Dad couldn’t get in.  He didn’t do anything then.  He told me to expect that the door would be off the hinges.  He did that!  I closed the door to my parents’ bedroom and kicked a hole through the door!   Isn’t that crazy?  I had lost all respect for my parents.  I had anger problems inside me.  I thought Jesus was in my heart.  The thing that was ruling my heart was me.  I was the one ruling.  Small things became big deals to me.  Will wanted to be king and ruler of his life. 

Here’s what I want you to know.  Here’s what is incredibly important for you to know.

You may walk away from here wanting to get better.  That would be the same as stapling apples to orange trees.  But, if what you do is to examine your behavior and why you do the things you do, Jesus can change you from the inside-out by ruling the command center of your heart.

I’ve got a couple tools for you to engage in self-examination:

Where am I being willfully disobedient?  What are you still choosing to do, even though it’s not consistent with God’s expectations for you?  You look at things you know you shouldn’t look at.  What are the things you are choosing to do?

Where are you compartmentalizing?  Where have you divided your life?  Where do you act differently?  In your small groups today, the worst place to compartmentalize is in small groups.  Answer the questions the way that your heart really feels and your mind really thinks.  Be candid.

Ask a question which can change your life:  Do you have a truth teller in your life?  This could be a friend, a parent, or someone from church.  They tell you the truth because they love you.

Are you a truth teller?  Do you care about others enough to tell the truth even when others don’t want to hear it?

There is a beautiful truth from John 1.  The word — logos — was made flesh.  He came full of grace and truth.  He wanted to lavish grace on you.  He wanted to lavish you with love.  He came so others could follow Him.  He doesn’t want you to compartmentalize.  He came with both grace and truth.  He wants to get into your life and change your heart.  Only if He changes your life can your behavior change.

Let me pray. . ..

Pastor Colin reinforced some of Pastor Will’s points.  God intends us to turn a corner by becoming more like Jesus.

Pastor Colin indicated that we needed to have a “family talk” about where we’re at as a Middle School.  He invited Vivian Welkner, Dean of Women, to give a family talk.

“From the Ground Up”

By Vivian Welkner

One thing I love to do is garden.  I love to prepare that red clay of South Carolina with mushroom compost and fertile soil.  I prepared the ground well.  I loosened up the hard clay.  I did some planting last Saturday.  [Mrs. Welkner held up a beautiful pot of flowers.]  These are pansies.  This little plant had no flowers on Saturday.  There was not one flower.  I watered it one time.  Today, obviously, look at the flowers, how healthy and thriving.

Today, I want you to see how amazing is the timing of this message.  I did not even know what Pastor Will was going to say to you today.

We have a problem in our school, and I want to ask for your help.

You are given seeds of truth every day.  Your heart is that soil.  Your teachers are throwing seeds of truth into your heart.  What is happening with those seeds?

Pastor Will brought a good word to you, but some of you weren’t listening.  Some of you are not in tune with what he’s saying.

“What are your roots drawing life from?”

The soil of  your heart is key to promoting deep, strong roots which produce fruit.  If your heart is heart, there will be no fruit.

Jesus told a parable:  

3 Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seeds. 4 As he scattered them across his field, some seeds fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate them. 5 Other seeds fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seeds sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plants soon wilted under the hot sun, and since they didn’t have deep roots, they died. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted! 9 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.  (Matthew 13:3-9)

This is a matter of fruit inspection.

Here is Jesus’ explanation of that parable:

“Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!  (Matthew 13:18-23)

Good soil and producing good fruit are inseparable.

Inspect your fruit!  What kind of fruit are you producing?

Here’s a litmus test:

What are you like on social media?  Do you like everything that people can count on your “likes,” or do you post jerky comments?

What do you like on social media?  What you like says a lot about you.  What do your text messages say about you?  Instagram?  Facebook?  A private account no one knows about?

What do you share on social media?

What do other people share with you?  What would give someone the idea that it’s okay for someone to share inappropriate things with you?

You will be known by the kind of fruit you are producing.

You will also be known by the kind of fruit those closest to you are producing.  You may not participate or be involved with inappropriate behaviors, but you will be known by the company you keep.

The fruit you produce affects others, not just you.

When your roots are unstable, others suffer.

When my roots are not rooted in Christ, people around me suffer.  When I am not in the Word of God — that fertile soil — I get critical and super-ambitious.  I put others down without realizing it.  My husband and I are one, but, when I am not in tune with the Holy Spirit, it hurts him and it hurts my children.

My family calls me out on it.  My daughters, 24 and 21, call me out.  I stop.  Then I confess, repent, and ask for forgiveness.

Your unstable roots will cause suffering of those around you.

This is how these behaviors have manifested themselves in our school.  There are students in our school who are suffering.  

Girls and sometimes guys leave our school every year because of these issues– because of the ways they have been treated.  Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about. [Several hands went up.]  Thank you for being honest.

It should not like that here. Southside Christian School should look and be different than any other school in the world!  Ours is a CHRISTIAN school. 

I know that there are lots of girls and guys in this room who know how to be a good friend, and love and care for one another, but all of that good is being overshadowed because of these other issues.  How many of you are frustrated?  Nod if you’re frustrated.  [There was much head-nodding.]

I want to empower you.  I want to ask you to be bold in your faith.  Step into the situations with love and respect, saying, “We’re not going to do this here.”  

People are taking abuse day after day after day.  How many of you know what I’m talking about.  [Again, several hands went up.]

It begins with what your roots are tied to.

Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.  (Colossians 2:7)

Ours should be an attitude of gratitude not entitlement.  

You may be one of these people.  I’m talking about you.  You have to go to the Scriptures.  You have to feed your roots.  [Mrs. Welkner again held up the pot of flowers.]  Look at these beautiful flowers.  The soil is good.  

Because someone is different, you may not let people into your friend group.  Jesus was inclusive.  He did not leave anyone out.  He is your example.  He went to the downcast.  That’s who He went to.  He ignored the outside.  He saw the inside.  This is how I want you to see each other.

What best reflects our school — the works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit?

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.  (Galatians 5:19-21)

Paul struggled with this — desiring to do what is right, but battling with the sin that caused him to do wrong.  We all battle with this. The Holy Spirit is our only hope!

Here’s a little secret.  Sin makes you stupid!  Let that sink in.  You might even observe someone doing stupid and ask, “How could they do or say something so stupid?!”  Sin makes you stupid!

We want to see more of the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.  (Galatians 5:22)

Ask yourself:  Are you certain that you are a child of God?  You might not even get convicted when you do something wrong.  Please come talk to me, Mr. Mason, Mr. Jones, Pastor Colin, or Dr. Stouffer. 

If you are a Christian, what are your roots drawing life from?  The scriptures or the world system?  We are drawing life from our cell phones.  If taken away, you have a melt-down.  That’s weird.  It’s a phone!  Take your phones, and put them away for awhile.  Watch for the changes.  Phones are good things which can be used for bad things as well.

What does your life and the life of our school have more evidence of?  The works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit?

Solution:  Recognize where you are, spiritually speaking.   What is the soil of your heart reflective of?  Give your life to Jesus/recommit your life to Him- You are not alone!

I want to leave you with this passage:

Oh, the joys of those who do not

    follow the advice of the wicked,

    or stand around with sinners,

    or join in with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord,

    meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

    bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

    and they prosper in all they do.

(Psalm 1:1-3)

You’ve been amazing.  You’ve been attentive.

Come and talk to me if you want to commit to being a part of the solution to this issue in your life and in the life of our school.

Stand right now, if you’re willing to make that commitment. 

[It looked as though every single person was standing.]

What I take away from everyone standing is that you want to be part of the solutions.

Laura DeCastro wants to start a 7th grade Bible study, so we’re going to start one.

[Applause.]

I want to ask the rest of you to be creative.  We’re open to your suggestions.  We want you to own this.  

I want to close this time in prayer. . . .

Pastor Colin dismissed the football players for the day.

Pastor Colin indicated the locations of the small groups.

We discussed Pastor Plonk’s and Mrs. Welkner’s comments in small groups.

Following the small group discussion, we came back for a period of Pastor Colin de-briefing for this day and preparing for Day 2 of Spiritual Emphasis.

“Light of the World”

On Sunday, September 17, 2017, Lead Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth challenged the congregation to actually believe that Jesus is the light of the world before all of us as Christians can BE the light of the world.  If you would like to consider my summary of Mark’s message, “Light of the World,” please read on. . .

“Light of the World”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series: A Study of John

By Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Text:  John 8:12

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'”  (English Standard Version)

Quote of the Day:

“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 heaven, so we keep marching.”  (Steve Brown, in A Scandalous Freedom)

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

[Mark spoke in the persona of someone who would have been observing Jesus at the time of His earthly ministry.]

This was such a great time to be in Jerusalem.  There were crowds.  There was singing.  I was with friends, exploring passageways, up and down.  We were celebrating the fruits of the harvest.  People were celebrating the God of the universe who had brought His people out of Egypt and through 40 years in the wilderness.  Manna had sustained those people.  Somehow, God had miraculously done this for them.  He had led them by day with a pillar of a cloud and by night with a pillar of fire.  We were there to celebrate for 8 days.

I want to tell you something really cool that happened at the end of the festival.  My friends and I had gone down to the Temple.  Water was being poured over the altar.  We went into the Court of the Gentiles.  In the next Court, there were four big golden lamps.  People were dancing and shouting.  The lights were so bright you could see the Temple Mount for miles away.   And we wanted to be part of that.

There was scuttlebutt about this man named Jesus, who was from Nazareth.  We wondered who of any importance could come from Nazareth.  We had heard that some people thought him to be the Messiah.  The religious leaders were having no part of that.  The leaders were angry.  We heard they wanted to kill Jesus.  And, during the ceremony of the lights, there He was!  Everyone cheered and cried.  And then He spoke.

He said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.”

[Mark broke character and continued the sermon.]

Can you imagine that scene?  So dramatic.  That’s what happened.  No wonder the Pharisees were angry.  He was declaring Himself to be the light of the world.  He wasn’t just claiming that He would lead them to the light.  He was claiming to BE the light.  Jesus had declared the truth about Himself, among people who did not see, recognize, or know Him.  He laid down His life to prove that He was the light of the world.

The Jews were celebrating the harvest and deliverance from Egypt.  They would have been celebrating Psalm 27:1:

“The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?”  (ESV)

The Lord would be their everlasting light.  The sun would set no more.  The Lord would be the everlasting light.  Days of sorrows would end.  Jesus was speaking in Old Testament overtones.

Jesus said, “I am that I am.  I am the light of the world.”  He had been in the burning bush!

Do people believe us when we say we are the light of the world?

Do people really know who Jesus is?  People will say that he was a great teacher who taught others to love one another.  Whoever you are — whatever you want to be — Jesus preached love.  That Jesus is the Inclusivity Jesus.  I see that all over Facebook and other social media.  We are made to think that we should pursue whatever we believe to be important.  Sleeping around is fine and preferable, so you get to know each other better.  Addictions are not your fault; you’re just sick.  Jesus would want us to love whoever we like.  Gay and lesbian people can marry.  And pornography can really help your marriage.  You don’t have to listen to anyone who disagrees with you; you simply continue down your path, and “unfriend” those who don’t agree with you.

Is this really what Jesus taught when he told us to love one another?

What has been lost in all of this is Jesus’ claim that He is the light of the world.

People have lost sight of Jesus and have become their own lights.  Such is our tendency since the fall.  We follow our own path, or we shine a light on paths other than the one which leads to Jesus.  Ours has become a man-centered religion in the same way as the Pharisees had moved people so far off track away from God.  They didn’t even recognize God standing right there in front of them!

In America, we believe we should do whatever we want.  Jesus’ declaration today is just as important as when he declared it in the Temple on that day.

Some people ignore Jesus.  He is not the light of the world to them.  They have settled on other definitions of Jesus.  If you are in this camp, are you sure?  Jesus is a force to be recognized.  He had no status.  No position.  From the lowest of low.  And he changed the world through a rag-tag group.  Are you sure you want to follow your own light?

Really, what I want to talk about today is not secular people, but people who say that Jesus is the light of the world.  We believe the Scriptures.  We believe what He said.  We believe Jesus is the light of the world.  Do we?

We like the idea of turning our cheek until someone wrongs us.

We like the Kingdom with all peoples and tongues, but, then, when given opportunities, we are uncomfortable around those who are different than us.

We agree we should be giving our financial resources to the work of the church, but we give out of the excesses of our money.

We believe Jesus when He says we should help the poor, but we think poverty is equal to laziness.

We believe we should love our enemies, but we are quick with our opinions when people don’t agree with us.

We circle the wagons in fear.  We sin, but we don’t want to be soft on other people’s sin.  We want ecstasy, not transformation.

How much of God do you want today?

By whose light are you living?

When Jesus says He is the light of the world, He is saying that everything we look at must be seen from that light.  C.S. Lewis said the sun has risen; by that light, we see everything clearly.  [The Son has risen; by that light, we see everything clearly.]

The problem is that people who walk in darkness often don’t know they are walking in darkness.

Visitors to a website are asked to share general experiences in their lives.  One statement — “I prefer darkness over light” — was met by one response from a woman who indicated that it was easier for her to hide in the darkness, that she was free from what she was and who she wanted to be, and that darkness is bliss.  Is this what you want — ignorant bliss?

What we don’t know won’t hurt us, we think.  But that’s not true.  We’ll have cancer whether we go to the doctor or not.  Some people keep issues on the surface, because they are terrified of being discovered.  Anger is preferred to loneliness.  What keeps us in the dark?

A school teacher had lost her life savings to a swindler.  Her dream was shattered.  She went to the Better Business Bureau.  She had known about the Better Business Bureau, but she hadn’t gone to the Bureau, because she was afraid that the BBB would encourage her not to make the investment.  We are terrified of what’s inside and what could happen.  We’re terrified by the dark corners of our lives.

What Jesus is saying — “I am the light of the world.  Everything in the light will be life-giving.”

If a Jew came into contact with a leper, he could become a leper.  Jesus touched lepers!  Did He become a leper?!  No!  The lepers were healed!

A child was dead.  The people came to mourn her death.  Jesus touched her.  From Him came life!  She rose from the dead!

A woman had been bleeding for years.  She touched Jesus.  She was healed!  Life flowed from Him!

Jesus touched a blind man.  And the blind man could see light and had the mental capacity to see!

This is what Jesus does!  He continually brings light from brokenness.

We run from Him like cockroaches — for fear of what the light might reveal about our lives.

During this festival, Jesus stood in the middle of this hostile crowd, declaring the truth, because He wanted people to know the truth.  And six months later, He entered Jerusalem in the last weekend of his earthly life.

I found out this week that a couple we’ve known for years — the woman had had an affair with her pastor, which had almost divided the church.  You didn’t see that on Facebook.

We push toward comfort and avoidance of pain at all cost.  But Jesus wants to take those sins and transform us in the light.

Jesus knew what would bring people peace.  But they beat him.  They crucified Him.  And He willingly submitted to His Father, who poured out His wrath on His Son.  Jesus took our sin on Himself.  He diverted God’s wrath from us.  Wow!

Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me, you will never walk in darkness.  You will have the light of life.”

That is the Gospel.

The Gospel changes everything.

Summaries of SCS Chapels, 14 September 2017

On Thursday, September 14, 2017, the separate Middle School and High School student bodies came together for worship and exhortation about small groups.  If you would like to read my chapel summary for this day, please read on. . . 

Middle School and High School Chapel

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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

MIDDLE SCHOOL CHAPEL

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Director of Discipleship / Campus Pastor

Welcome!  Come on in!  Move on in!  One person per seat.

I have asked Jake Evans, our Middle School Chaplain, who oversees the spiritual lives of your grades, to share how God has been challenging him and teaching him.

Jake Evans, Middle School Chaplain

Recently, for the past 4 or 5 years, God has been teaching me about fear.  A while back, my family had gone to Disney World.  I was sick.  We went back to the hotel.  I slept.  I was fine.  But later I was diagnosed with abdominal migraines, similar to migraines which affect the brain, and abdominal migraines became an ongoing problem for me.  Abdominal migraines are linked to motion sickness.  I became terrified to get into the car, for fear that I would get sick.  I was home schooled.  I stayed at home all day.

2 Timothy:1-7 gave me hope at this point of fear:

“. . .God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”  (English Standard Version)

Fear is not something that God has given me.  Fear came from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  After they sinned, the Bible mentioned they were in fear of God.  Later, God tells his people to not be afraid —  to be bold and courageous.  The Bible says not to fear.  Why do we fear?

We will fear.  We are sinful.  What do we do in response to fear?

Psalm 34:4 has an answer:

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  (ESV)

Psalm 34:4 tells us us to call out to the Lord, so he will answer us in our times of fear.  We must pray and trust God.  There is no reason to be afraid.

[Genuine student applause followed Jake’s comments.]

Jon Walker Bolding, Middle School Student Government Association Representative

I’m going to pray for you guys. . . . Dear Lord, thank you for this day.  I pray for the people in Florida, who are without power, food, and homes.   Thank you for gathering us every day in our Bible classes and to these chapels every week.  Thank you for everything you’ve given us.  In Jesus’ name, I pray.  Amen.

[Genuine student applause followed Jon Walker’s prayers.]

Fred Barrett, Upper School Choral Director

Mr. Barrett, on keyboard, led vocals of worship through 3 hymns, praise, and worship songs.

Pastor Colin

I am so grateful for Mr. Barrett, and the opportunities to sing God’s truth.

Next week are our Spiritual Life days.  Many of you have been through our Field Days.  On Thursday and Friday, the mornings will look very much like past Field Days.  You’ll be on the blue team or the red team.  Get decked-out, and be ready to have fun!  We want to see our school come together and bond as a community.  Please come ready to go.  An e-mail will go out to all of your parents with more details.

Lunches can be whatever you bring or a Chick-fil-A box lunch that can be charged to your account.

Will Plonk of Grace Church will come and share with you in the afternoons.

Small groups will meet after those sessions to discuss what Pastor Plonk has shared with us.

Let’s shift gears. . .

One of my favorite things to do in the fourth grade was to bake.  I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven.  How many of you have owned an Easy-Bake Oven.  Girls?  Guys?  Say what you will, but I loved that Easy-Bake Oven.  These packets contained who knows what chemicals.  Water completed the mix.  A light bulb baked those things.  I think my life was shortened from eating the chemicals in those dishes.

I thought I would be a baker or cook when I grew up.   I baked stuff with my Mom.  I watched her techniques.  I observed.  I learned by watching.  Then, she invited me to join her in the effort.  I had jobs.  I mixed the chocolate chips into the cookie dough.  I was connecting with my Mom.  I learned by observing.  Eventually, I learned by doing.

Also, I would watch my Dad shave.  I would sit on the counter, watching him.  How did he do that without cutting his face open?  He’d go with and against the grain of his face.  My Dad gave me a fake razor to learn by doing.

When we look at the life of Jesus, there are lots of things Jesus did in discipleship through proximity with others.  Twelve guys followed and observed Him closely, as I had observed my parents.  Jesus did the exact-same thing with His disciples.

We must place our lives next to the example of Jesus and His disciples.  My parents had discipled me about how to cook and shave.  And we need to do the same thing when we are doing life together.

We get caught up in Jesus’ miracles.  But we can often overlook what Jesus was doing with his 12 disciples.  They walked in togetherness, doing life with each other.  They didn’t want to do things apart from one another.

Jesus and His disciples looked UP to God.  They looked IN to each other.  They looked OUT to serve others and share Christ with others.

Next week, we’ll be in groups competing, but we should also have an overwhelming sense of building community.

Open up your Bibles to Hebrews 10:23-25.

Follow along.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  (English Standard Version)

From this passage, what are the key values of small groups?

There are three I would like to talk about today:

  • SUPPORT
  • STIR
  • SEND

SUPPORT

One of our values in small groups is supporting one another.  The writer of Hebrews clearly values this outcome as well.  We are to encourage one another.  When we meet in small groups, we should trust one another and then consciously encourage one another.  Sometimes, we’re unsure of the level of trust.  Time is the number-one cure for gaining trust with people.  We need time with each other to build trust.  The goal is to trust one another and love each other like family.  Relationships and trust take time.  I didn’t just open up to Dr. Stouffer immediately when we first met.  Through time, we have built trust with each other.  Social media are deceptive.  We post our best to others publicly.  But we’ve got to share our weaknesses and struggles with each other.

In Scripture, Paul talks all of the time about all of us as brothers and sisters in Christ.  Those are powerful words and relationships.  We are supposed to love one another and look more and more like family, processing the stuff that we’re going through.

I am in a small group at my church.  It took time for all of us to build trust and speak truth into each other’s lives.  Last week, guys prayed over me, reminding me who I am in Christ.  That’s a goal for our small groups at Southside Christian as well.

John 13:34 is super-familiar to us:

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”  (ESV)

There is nothing new about love.  Love should be the staple of Christians.  But we should also be known about our love, even for our enemies.  People will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we love one another.  That’s the value of support.  We must love each other well.

STIR

The second value we should highlight is to “stir one another.”  You may have a brother or sister who annoys you by poking at you and stirring you up and riling you.  But the writer of Hebrews is trying to get us to consider how we can get each other going for the building of the Kingdom of Christ.  We “agitate” milk and chocolate syrup to make a glorious concoction of chocolate milk.  No stirring results in the syrup remaining stagnant at the bottom of the glass.

We come to a Christmas party with gifts.  We wouldn’t think not to do so.  In the same way, we must bring our gifts to the small group.

Jake and Jon Walker stirred each other up through their exhortation and prayer.  These guys are great, but they are special as the Holy Spirit stirs them up, and they stir you up.

I love the story of Peter watching Jesus walking on water.  The disciples may not have been that surprised to see Jesus do such a crazy thing.  They had seen Him perform miracles.  All of that changed when Jesus called Peter to come out with him.  Peter stepped out of the boat.  He took a few steps on the water.  The other guys weren’t as stirred-up.  Maybe they thought that experience wasn’t for them or for that time.  The new normal changed.  They may have thought they could do that and should have done that as well.

When we share in small groups, we stir each other up.  We encourage each other in ways that we can grow.  We challenge each other.  We build each other up.

Proverbs 27:17 captures this truth well:

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”  (ESV)

We need discomfort to grow.  Conflict, challenge, rubbing.

One thing that happens frequently in my small group from church is the sharing of other teachers in my group about how they can live-out their Christianity in their public schools.  I am stirred-up and challenged by those desires.

SEND

The last value of small groups is “sending.”  It’s not enough to develop a “private” faith.  Yes, we study the Word.  We meditate.  We pray.  But faith without works is dead, which is so clearly outlined in Scripture.  Works are the fruit of our faith.  Jesus modeled life, family, and community.  He sent 72 out in pairs.  They went and did something!  They were doing something with their faith.  We stir each other up, and then we send each other out to live out our faith in our families, churches, youth groups, athletic teams.  We can’t just circle the wagons.  We’ve got to support, stir, and send.  We can’t do life alone

I love watching plants grow.  Vines need structure.  Vines need trellises.  The Christian life needs structure.  Small groups provide structure in our Christian life.

Sometimes, we want so badly for community to be organic and natural with our best friends.  But not everyone looks the same in the Kingdom of God.  It’s accurate in Scripture that ALL of the different parts of the body of Christ must work together.  The “ears” can’t just hang out with the “ears” to do “ear stuff.”

In our small groups, let’s. . .

. . .Support one another,

. . .Stir one another, and

. . .Send one another.

HIGH SCHOOL CHAPEL

Mr. Barrett and Brett Henderson, Upper School French Instructor

Mr. Barrett (on keyboard) and Mr. Henderson (on guitar) led the High School students in a time of worship through song.

Pastor Colin

I am excited for today, when you will make your decision about small groups for the school year.

I am excited about Spiritual Life days coming in just two weeks.  I’ll talk briefly about that today.

Brookwood Church has graciously opened their campus for our High School.

Each grade has a color associated with your class.  You need to be decked-out in colors and activity dress code.

Freshmen and sophomores will compete against each other.  Juniors and seniors will compete.  You’ll earn points for the spirit days of Homecoming during the following week.

A gifted communicator from Indiana, Tim Veenstra, a friend of mine, will come and share with all of you.

There will be discussions in small groups.

On Thursday, you can bring your lunch, or you can charge a Chick-fil-A box lunch to your account.

Spiritual Emphasis days are required for everyone.

I’m going to open up a little bit today about small groups.

[Pastor Colin basically repeated the message about small groups he had delivered to the Middle School Chapel audience.]

 

“Sin and Grace”

On Sunday, September 10, 2017, Lead Eastside Presbyterian Pastor Mark Auffarth used John 7:53-8:11 to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”  If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Auffarth’s message, “Sin and Grace,” please read on. . . .

“Sin and Grace”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Text:  John 7:53-8:11 (English Standard Version)

7 53 [[They went each to his own house, 

8 1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. 2 Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst 4 they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”6 This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.7 And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. 9 But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”]]

Footnotes:

  • John 7:53 Some manuscripts do not include 7:53–8:11; others add the passage here or after 7:36 or after 21:25 or after Luke 21:38, with variations in the text

Quote of the Day:

“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.  Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, where he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.”  (C.T. Studd)

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

Your Bible might indicate that this narrative is not in the earliest manuscripts.  You may be wondering what that’s all about.  Our Bible today comes to us in some fragmented manuscripts.  In early versions, this fragment did not appear.  Studies of textual criticism have indicated the trustworthiness of the Scriptures, with 99% accuracy, although this narrative was a part of the 1%.  Most scholars, though, believe this to be an accurate passage.  None of the 1% refutes critical orthodox doctrine.

What we have here is a clash between the religious and the non-religious.   Some people follow religion very closely.  Some do not.  This narrative involves the Pharisees catching a woman in adultery and then presenting her to Jesus.  Who are the characters?  The Pharisees.  This woman.  And Jesus.

THE PHARISEES

The Pharisees had become increasingly frustrated with Jesus.  He had not respected their leadership or beliefs.  They were known for insisting upon the laws being strictly followed, according to the Scribes, not according to the Priests, who had cozied-up to the Romans.

The Pharisees studied the Scriptures and had placed their faith in the interpretations of the law.  The Pharisees were a respected group.  They got angry when Jesus told them they did not know God.  From their perspective, if anyone in Israel knew God, it was the Pharisees!  What was the problem?

The age-old problem went back to the Garden of Eden.  The Pharisees had separated God’s laws from Himself.  They knew about God, but they did not know God Himself.  Adam and Eve had allowed themselves to be duped.  God had told them they could eat from what were no doubt thousands of trees and plants — they had full freedom to enjoy any of the many tastes of the Garden — but, somehow, the serpent got them to forget about God’s over-abundant freedom, and he convinced them that God was lying to them about the one thing He was “withholding” from them.

When we focus on God’s prohibitions, we get a distorted view of God.  You might think you don’t do that.  When something “bad” happens to you, how do we react?  Perhaps we think we’re “bad” Christian, and we think we “deserved” negative consequences.  Usually, though, we get angry, because we believe we don’t believe we deserve what is happening to us, which is exactly the same thing that happened in the Garden with Adam and Eve.  It’s a mistrust of God and a mistrust of His goodness.  This is a work-based mentality.  We have to keep up the work to “earn” God’s favor.  That’s exactly where the Pharisees were at this time.  All of this is a focus on us, taking the focus off God, divorcing God from his law.  We get a distorted view of God.  I think we’ve all been there.

So, here are these Pharisees.  They brought this woman to Jesus, asking whether she should be stoned to death because of her adultery.  They separated God’s law from God Himself.  God was sitting there right in front of them!  They had totally missed Him!  They believed sin should result in punishment.  They were harsh with people who broke the law.  They looked down their noses at those who broke the law.  But that’s not the law at all.  The Pharisees taught about avoiding punishment through “fire insurance.”  The God of the Pharisees was a God of punishment.  That’s the essence of legalism.  But the law is actually a document of how to love Him and others well.

Brothers and sisters, we live with this fallacy every single day.  We wonder whether we will be punished.  We wonder whether we have done enough to earn God’s favor.  This is a complete misunderstanding of God.  The Lord is gracious, compassionate, abounding in love.  He does not “re-pay” us according to our iniquities.  Somehow, the Pharisees had missed that truth, and somehow we miss that truth as well.

THIS WOMAN

This woman gave into her base instincts.  More than likely, she was married.  Perhaps she got into an emotional affair, which led to adultery with a man who was not her husband.  She had gone down a destructive road.  What did she believe about God?  She had been trained in the law.  Why had she completely violated the law?  She had decided to go down this path, rather than the path to God.

God had come to a dark world.  Jesus was light.  This woman wanted what she wanted in the dark world.  She didn’t know God, either.  She was a religious person who knew she would be punished for not doing the right thing.  There was this floating guilt.  She, like we, are constantly thinking that we have not done enough to please God.  Perhaps she was tired of living under guilt, so she said, in so many words, “Forget it.  I don’t care.  I’m going down this road.”

JESUS

Jesus knew all of this, and He was brilliant in how he confronted both the Pharisees and this woman.  Of course, Jesus knew the law.  The woman was brought to Him.  He wrote on the ground with his finger.  He straightened-up and said, “If anyone of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone.”  This is an absolute confrontation of the Pharisees’ paradigm.

The Pharisees had so dumbed-down the law to principles of living and legalism.  They had missed the law of love.   They loved only themselves.  Jesus affirmed the law.  Yes, they had the “right” to sin this woman, according to the law.  But these men also sinned.  They felt they were so much better than this woman.  In affirming the law of Moses, Jesus confronted their misunderstanding of God.

One by one, they walked away.  They must have been shocked.  Jesus did something astounding.  He had confronted them, and then he confronted the woman.  They had not condemned her.   Neither would He condemn her.  The God of the universe forgave her.  But He didn’t leave it there.

“Go now and leave your life of sin,” Jesus said. He shook her foundation, too!  She had no idea who God was!  The Pharisees thought God was a harsh taskmaster, and He was not to be trusted.  The woman thought the same!

Have you thought that way?  Do you believe God is not to be trusted?  The Scriptures are filled with stories of God’s trustworthiness!  Adultery is obviously not to be taken lightly.  Adultery is a big deal.  Jesus was not making light of the adultery.  He forgave her.  Why?  Because in about 6 weeks’ time, He would die for her.  The Pharisees demanded perfection from this woman.  But she could not reach up to that bar.  Jesus didn’t condemn her, AND he was willing to pay the cost for her.  The Father threw His wrath on His Son.  That woman might have very likely been at the cross on that day.  Jesus gave His life for her on that day.

Jesus will never gloss-over sin.  In the case of the woman, He fully recognized transgression, and He would pay for the transgressions of the world.

There’s only way to forgiveness.  It’s the cross.

If we believe God is harsh or angry with us, we are harsh and angry with people.  I have to confess that I am like that a lot.  Is that my view of God?  I think it is.  We’re the Pharisees.

We often do what we want.  We’re this woman.

Both situations are misunderstandings of God.

We are righteous in God’s sight through the work of Christ, but we don’t believe it!   God wants a relationship.  This is love.  This is the Gospel.

Maybe you have a wrong view of God.  He is good even in your worst circumstances.  You can trust Him with your cancer.  You can trust Him with your loneliness.  You can trust Him with your finances.  You can trust Him with your children.  You can trust Him with your broken relationships.  You can trust Him with your sin.

You can can trust Him, because He’s a good God.

That’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

 

“What Is the Level of Your Obedience to God?”

On Thursday, September 7, 2017, Southside Christian Student Government Association President Jack Shubert exhorted the Middle School and High School Chapel audiences to carefully reflect upon Christ’s love as the primary motivator for obeying Christ through our own love.  If you would like to read my summary of Jack’s excellent exegesis (and other chapel announcements/activities), please visit my blogsite:

What Is the Level of Your Obedience to God?

By Jack Shubert, SGA President

Southside Christian School

Middle School and High School Chapel

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Text:  2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (English Standard Version)

14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[b] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Footnotes:

  1. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Or creature
  2. 2 Corinthians 5:19 Or God was in Christ, reconciling

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

[Tech Director Elisa Langdale played a really cool video to focus the attention of each audience with high-energy extreme sport activities.  If you are interested in viewing the video, the link follows:  https://youtu.be/GgriNs6NWB8]

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Director of Discipleship / Campus Pastor

How many of you paid attention to that video as you were coming in?

What is one thing you would like to do before you leave this earth?  What’s on your bucket list?  Talk about that with each other.

[The students discussed that question for 60 seconds.]

The Middle School Spiritual Life activities are coming up in just two weeks.

Middle School students, Will Plonk of Grace Church will be sharing with you for two days.  In the morning, we will be doing a lot of field activities.  We’ll have team colors.  You’ll hear about that in a week.  Come ready to have fun, engage, and connect with one another when we are competing and participating together.  Come ready to learn and grow, expecting to change.  We can connect with God in special ways.

High School students, you will decide about small groups and chapel next week.  You’ll be receiving a Google Form to declare your intentions.  In three weeks, Tim Veenstra, my friend from Indiana, will be coming to share with you.  We’ll have a lot of fun activities.  The seniors will be heading from that set of activities to their own off-site spiritual leadership retreat in North Carolina.  More details of those days will be coming soon.

Today, we have a chance to worship and refresh ourselves in the presence of the Savior, in spirit and in truth, and we get to talk about Him through singing and the Word.

Before we begin, I would like to take some time to read Scripture.  I want all of us to reflect on this truth.

Psalm 63 (ESV)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10 they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11 But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.

[Pastor Colin prayed.]

[In Middle School Chapel, Upper School Vocal Music Instructor Fred Barrett (on keyboard and with vocals) led the students in the singing of “Holy, Holy, Holy” and “It Is Well with My Soul.”  Mr. Barrett gave the amazing back story of Horatio Spafford writing “It Is Well with My Soul.”  Following the time of worship through song, Mr. Barrett prayed as a bridge to worship through consideration of the Word of God.]

[In High School Chapel, Mr. Barrett (on keyboard and with vocals), High School French Instructor Brett Henderson (on guitar and with vocals), and Junior Coby Greene (on the box drum) led students through 3 praise songs.  Mr. Henderson prayed as a bridge between worship through song to worship through consideration of the Word.]

[Pastor Colin exhorted the students to listen carefully to their peers during this year’s chapels.  Today, Jack Shubert had wisdom to impart.]

Let’s pray one last time before we begin. . .

Jack Shubert

Amen.

Good morning, everyone. I hope you are having a good week thus far.

Today, I want to talk about obedience to God, something we obviously need to have, so we can grow with God.

As I was preparing for this chapel, I thought to myself, through introspection, What has been something going on my life as a believer which I’ve had to deal with and struggle with in order to grow spiritually?

I’ve come to the conclusion that, as someone who has attempted to follow Jesus, to know Him, and to make Him known, these kinds of challenges are messy.

I started experiencing the messy change in my life in Middle School.  You are not alone.  Take heart.

If you have a testimony of being absolutely cured of your afflictions and temptations, praise God, but that’s not normal!

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 details the primary motivating factor for obedience to God as Christ’s love.  Christ’s love controls us and compels us.

We need to step back to think about Christ’s love.  What compels our blackened hearts to follow Jesus?  Christ’s love.  What is Christ’s love?

For our sake, God the Father made Christ to be sin, who knew no sin.  This verse absolutely floors us.  God made Christ, the perfect Son of God, to become sin in exchange for our sin.  The Father made the Son sin, so we would not experience eternal separation from God.

He made the Son of God to become sin for sinners.  How dark is sin, and how powerful is the love of Christ?!

We have primary and secondary reasons for obedience.

The primary reason is Christ’s love compels us to obedience.  That’s a primary motivator for us.  Our reason for obeying Christ matters.

Matthew 6:1 (in the ESV) reads,

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” (ESV)

The reason we practice righteousness matters.

In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul wrote,

“Give because you want to, not because a pastor goes off on tithing or out of guilt.  Having purity of heart when you’re giving is righteousness for the correct reasons.  Ultimately, then, we are led to joy.”  (ESV)

The love of Christ compels us.  This obedience is due to God’s grace in Paul’s life.  Paul saw the magnitude of Christ’s love in his life.  That’s why Paul was such a great missionary.  Paul saw, truly, in the most authentic way, the love of Christ in his own life.

If you have ever read Acts, you have read about Paul making a journey to another place, with God prophesying that he would be tortured and thrown in prison.  Paul struggled with this truth.  So take a moment to think about this obedience and the heart Paul had to have for Christ — to endure torture and imprisonment.  This was somewhere he HAD to go.  It was a level of obedience for a man.  This was not Jesus.  Paul had our same nature, and he had a high level of obedience.

At times in my life, following God is as easy as breathing.  And, then, knowing that torture and prison don’t await me, I am not obedient to God.  In the United States, we don’t have to worry about imprisonment for being a Christian.  Paul’s obedience was unwavering.  Christ’s love is unwavering.

Paul was obedient.   God’s mercy did not waver in Paul.  It didn’t at all.  You don’t find a shred of evidence that Christ’s love was at 95% for Paul.  Paul had faith in this unwavering love of Christ.  Paul said that all of the suffering of the world could not compare to the glories he would experience in heaven.  Paul could not be shaken.

God changed Paul’s heart when he experienced the grace of God.  He didn’t look for what he could receive from God.  His mindset was what he could give to God to praise His name.  Christ has an absolute affectionate gaze in love on you.  When we experience the Gospel, our hearts are rewired.  We are changed.  We think about what things we can do for Him because of this grace.  This grace ushers in humility.

Pre-school students are utterly selfish.  They will not share.  Those are blackened hearts.  That’s our default mode.  However, the old has passed.  The new has come.  The Gospel is so powerful that a utterly darkened heart is changed literally into a new creation, a completely different posture.  We cannot achieve this hope on our own.  We can only “achieve” it as a result of CHRIST’S love.  We can’t look at the world as what we can do to get things for ourselves.  We cannot live under this selfish banner.  Or we will be miserable.

We must abide in Christ.  That banner of selfishness will be stripped away.  When we understand this love, this obedience, this theme of grace incomparable to anything we have ever experienced, we have the ability to show grace to others.  Those who have not experienced this grace understand grace intellectually, but, at the point of showing grace, they don’t know how to do that.  It’s one of the things with which I struggle.  I have a hard time showing that kind of grace.  I too often hold people to an unachievable standard.  It’s all about “no excuses.”  I see people as “incompetent” if they cannot achieve a task the first time.

This is a primary motivator of obedience.  The love of Christ.

There are also secondary reasons for obedience.

There are a lot of reasons that I don’t cheat on exams.  If I get caught, I don’t like getting zeroes.  That’s a secondary reason.  The primary reason is that it’s immoral and a sin.  My old heart has been changed.  My heart is new.

Another secondary reason for obedience is that we has given us commandments for joy.

In 1 John 5:3 (in the ESV), the Apostle John proclaimed,

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” 

His commandments are not burdensome.  We must not live under a “have to” motivation.  Commandments are given for our joy.

David, in Psalm 119:103 indicated,

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (ESV)

I’ve never thought about reading the Bible as sweet honey to my mouth.  I’ve never thought of it that way.  But that’s what David said here.   This is a secondary motivation to obey God.  We must be pure in heart.  We find joy in our salvation and our obedience to God.

A final secondary motivation is that God is honestly “terrifying” — from the cellular level to how the planets rotate.  God controls it all.  God can do whatever He wants to do with me now.  That’s terrifying sometimes.  Nothing can stand in God’s way.  That power should motivate us.  God is immensely powerful.  If you make God to be a weak subject rather than the ruler of the universe, you lose out on the opportunity to be obedient.

In Hebrews 12, verses 7-11, the writer wrote,

It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11 For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (ESV)

God disciplines us as heirs of His thrones.  Fathers discipline their kids.  We must be obedient to God.

Ask yourself:

Where are you now?

What is your level of obedience?

What are your driving factors?

You may not be obedient at all.  I’ve had times in my life when it’s tough to be obedient to God.  I do what I want.

If we’re not careful in our self-reflection, we may pretend where we are.  You must have pure intention in this self-reflection.  You’ve got to be honest with yourself.  You might be deceiving yourself, or you may be honest with yourself.

We are called to openness, authenticity, and contrition.  Pure and authentic conversations between and among believers are not clean at all.  If you get down to it, and you’re not following Jesus, you will experience horrific churning of your heart.  You should feel emotions of sadness.  But take joy in what Christ did on the cross.  You can find your identity in Christ.

Be open and authentic, saying to God, “I’m in trouble.  I need you.  I need to be obedient to you every day.”

Have conversations with each other about where you are with God.  God knows everything, and He will always be with you and ready to heal you from your disobedience.

Let me leave you with a quote from John Piper, one of my favorite authors and pastors:

“Obedience does not consist in paying God back and thus turning obedience into a trade.  Obedience comes from trusting God for more grace — future grace — and thus, magnifying the infinite resources of God’s love and power.”

I’ll close in prayer, and you will be dismissed. . . .