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).
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.
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.
By Pastor Tim Veenstra
Turn to 1 Samuel 3:4-10 —
4 Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” 5 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.
6 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.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him.
8 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. 9 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).