Monthly Archives: February 2018

“Upper School Assertiveness Training”

On Friday, February 23, 2018, Southside Christian middle school small groups and high school small groups met during the chapel period to role-play and process scenarios on effectively communicating with perpetrators of  bullying, mean, and inappropriate/illegal behaviors.  The training included assertiveness training for those who are the objects of the inappropriate/illegal behaviors and for bystanders.  If you would like to read the summary of the training outline, please read on. . .

“Upper School Assertiveness Training”

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, February 23, 2018

Objective: To review the various types of bullying and increase assertiveness skills

The E432 Vision is the biblical vision toward which our culture must be continually striving in all school programs, including extracurricular activities.

E432 is a catchy abbreviation referring to Ephesians 4:32 — “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”  (ESV)

Consider this definition of bullying — “Someone deliberately and repeatedly doing or saying things to hurt or control another person.”

Types of Bullying:

  • Physical
  • Considered the “old school” type of bullying
  • Students are more reluctant to fight in school because of the “zero tolerance.” (You fight — you go home.)
  • Common traits:
    1. Hitting
    2. Slapping
    3. Pushing
    4. Shoving
    5. Stealing
    6. Damaging another’s property
  • Verbal
  • Most bullying begins with this type.
  • All physical fighting results from verbal bullying. The key phrase to remember is “repeated and persistent.”
    • Trash talking
    • Name calling
    • Persistent teasing
    • Insults
    • Vulgar and incendiary language
    • Racist comments
    • Sexual harassment- most popular form of verbal bullying
    • Spreading rumors about the victim’s sexual behavior is a subject that hurts the worst and can create the most damage.
  • Psychological — most common type of bullying
  • This is a frequent technique used by girls, but boys have the ability as well.
  • This includes:
    • Premeditated exclusion or isolation that occurs many times between friends
    • Starting rumors/Gossiping
    • Making someone look foolish
    • Humiliation
    • Destroying reputations
    • Making fun of someone’s strong commitment to faith (i.e., scorners and mockers)

Activity Objective:  To increase assertiveness skills from a biblical perspective

Supplies: One copy of the activity is found on the next page; one pair of scissors; note cards; a hat; one cup or brown paper bag.

Group Size: 2 to 12 members

Introduction: The purpose of this activity is to increase assertiveness skills and equip students to be ready with an answer that is filtered through biblical truth, as they face difficult/challenging situations. Scripture states to be ready to give an answer of the hope that is within you.

Psalm 72:12-14 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 He will rescue the poor when they cry to him;
he will help the oppressed, who have no one to defend them.
13 He feels pity for the weak and the needy,
and he will rescue them.
14 He will redeem them from oppression and violence,
for their lives are precious to him.

  • In this passage, God clearly leads us in how we should respond to any type of bullying. When we feel weak or oppressed, notice how He responds to us: 

1 Timothy 6:17-19 New Living Translation (NLT)

17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.

  • The overriding principle in this passage is not just the idea of being generous with money, but with the resources God has entrusted to you, perhaps influence. The passage stresses to be rich in good works and generous to those in need — whatever that need may be.

1 Peter 3:14-16 New Living Translation (NLT)

14 But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. 15 Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. 16 But do this in a gentle and respectful way.  Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ.

  • Ultimately, who are you surrendered fully to? God or people?  Whom do you “fear” — God or people?

 

Process:

  • Explain the purpose of the activity.
  • Divide students into groups of two.
  • Cut each role-play out and place into a hat or cup (already done for you).
  • Provide each group with the “I” statements.
  • Review the “I” statements as a group.
  • Each group chooses a role-play out of the hat or cup.
  • Allow the groups a few minutes to review their role-play before acting them out.
  • Require one partner to do what the slip of paper says and for the other one to use one of the “I” statements from the activity found on the next page.
  • Once each group has done their role-plays, move on to the discussion questions.

Special Consideration

  • Provide one-on-one assistance with participants, as needed.
  • Explain words, as needed.

Definitions for the Group:

Assertiveness — “Confidently and positively self-assured,” a skill regularly referred to in social and communication skills training.

Being assertive means being able to stand up for your own or other people’s rights in a calm and positive way, without being either aggressive, or passively accepting “wrong.”

Aggressive: A person who is aggressive does not respect the rights of others. This person often uses “You” statements. This person often blames the other person.

Example: “You made me feel upset; it’s all your fault that I failed the test.”

Passive:  This person does not stand up for his or her own personal rights. The passive person has a difficult time saying “no” to others, often allowing other people to take advantage of him/her.

Example:  “Um, yeah, I guess it’s okay.”

Discussion Questions

  1. What did this activity require you to do?
  2. Why is it important to use “I” statements?
  3. What would happen if you did not stand up for yourself and just did whatever people asked of you?
  4. How might people think of you if you bully them and simply make them do what you command?
  5. In what ways do adults act like bullies?
  6. In what ways do children act like bullies?

Social Interaction and “I” Statements

Directions: Review all the “I” statements below. Provide each group a copy of the “I”

statements to refer to. Cut out each role-play at bottom of page and place in cup or hat.

I prefer not to

 

I don’t want to, but thanks anyway I don’t want to

 

I don’t think that would be best for me

 

I won’t allow it

 

I’d rather not

 

I feel it would be best if

 

I think it would be better if

 

What I really want to do is
I am not interested I don’t appreciate it

 

I do not like that idea

 

Tips for using “I” statements:

  • Be sure to use an “I” statement.
  • Speak clear and firm.
  • Use a respectful tone when speaking to the other person
  • You are precious in God’s sight and have the right to stand up for yourself and others.
  • If someone won’t take “no” for an answer, walk away and tell someone you trust.

Role-plays

—————————————————————————————————-

You are aware that someone is stealing something from the locker room

—————————————————————————————————-

A classmate invites you to cut school with them

—————————————————————————————————-

Somebody wants to cheat off your test or asks you to copy your homework

—————————————————————————————————-

Someone cuts in front of you at the lunch line

—————————————————————————————————-

Someone is messing with your food at lunch or takes your food

—————————————————————————————————-

Your friend is inviting you to vape with him/her

—————————————————————————————————-

Your friend posts something negative about another student on social media

—————————————————————————————————-

A friend is in a conflict with another student and wants you to exclude him/her

—————————————————————————————————-

Your friend group is constantly mocking someone because they’re different (ethnicity, financial status, personality, abilities)

—————————————————————————————————-

You hear a classmate make a racist remark to someone

—————————————————————————————————-

Someone sends you an inappropriate picture or asks you for an inappropriate picture

—————————————————————————————————-

Someone is spreading a rumor/lies about someone

—————————————————————————————————-

 

“Real Men”

On Sunday, February 25, 2018, Eastside Presbyterian Pastor Mark Auffarth continued in his #MeToo sermon series, addressing the issues surrounding biblical manhood.  If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, “Real Men,” please read on

“Real Men”

From the “#MeToo” Sermon Series

By Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“The measure of a man’s greatness is not the number of servants he has, but the number of people he serves.” (John Hagee)

Text: John 4:1-14 (English Standard Version)

1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), 3 he left Judea and departed again for Galilee. 4 And he had to pass through Samaria. 5 So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.[a]

7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Footnotes:

  • John 4:6 That is, about noon
  • John 4:14 Greek forever

Summary of Bob Stouffer

We’ve been looking at the #MeToo movement. Today, we look at “real men.” Previously, in our John preaching series, we had looked at the woman at the well. I want to return to that passage in this message about real men. Let’s pray first, to prepare our hearts and minds for this message.

[Mark prayed.]

Steve Brown was one of my seminary professors. I used to lead worship for him. I spent a good bit of time with him. He mentored me. He affirmed me. He has the gift of encouragement. When he does something, I pay attention. Within the past couple years, I went to hang out with him at the lunch place he frequents. They know him in there. On this particular day, a waitress was a little over-the-top with her service to him. I asked him what was up. Steve told me that, during the previous week, a gentleman was rude and nasty to her, and he felt the need to defend her. Steve told the guy to “stop it!” He stopped. The waitress was so grateful to Steve. Why? Because he valued her. He was saying, “You are important.” She felt safe with him. He gave her dignity. As a result, he was willing to wait on him hand and foot this week.

Brothers, there are two ways to look at women: Either they are objects to be joked about and played with or they are created in the image of God and to be treasured.

Are you a safe place, or do women feel uncomfortable with you, men?

This passage is one in which Jesus deals with a woman, giving us an example of a “real man.”

What we have is Jesus at a well after a journey through Samaria, an area of “mixed breed” people, according to the Jews. The Jews were racist in hating the Samaritans. There was a Samaritan woman at a well. There was Jesus at the well.

There are so many surprising things about this interaction. First, this woman was not an upstanding citizen; she was an outcast in her own society. She went to the well by herself. That says a lot about her. Second, she was a Samaritan. Jesus should have hated her. Three, she’s a woman. A self-respecting Jew would not have been caught interacting with a woman, let alone a Samaritan woman. Women could not be judges. They had no status or rights. They could not testify in a court of law. Four, she was a woman in an adulterous relationship after 5 marriages. She was filling the void in her life with men. There may have been many, many more men with this woman. A Jew wouldn’t have been caught dead with this woman.

What did Jesus see? He saw a woman He had created. He saw beyond the cultural issues. She had dignity and worth. Eve was created from a rib of Adam. She was taken out of man. She was the physical counterpart of man, deserving the man’s unswerving loyalty. She was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. This is innate dignity. It doesn’t matter who the woman was or what she had done. She could have been a prostitute, stripper, Playboy bunny, or woman who has slept around.

You are worthy, women. You have dignity no matter who you are, what you’ve done, or how you have been marred by sin. Anything less is wrong.

Jesus treated this woman with dignity. What’s His aim for her? He wanted her to thrive. He offered her living water springing up into eternal life. I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s back up.

We’re talking about real men today. How can we treat women based on what we see here?

A REAL MAN’S REPUTATION

First, most men are consumed by their reputation. They will fight for their good name. All of the men being accused of sexual harassment or abuse in this #MeToo movement have at least initially tried to deny the allegations in an attempt to protect their good names.

Is Jesus concerned about his reputation here? No, His reputation is irrelevant to Him. He speaks to her. The disciples couldn’t believe Jesus was talking to this woman. The Greek word for their reaction meant “wonder” and “surprise.” Jesus wasn’t concerned with what people were thinking about Him. Jesus could have done anything He wanted to this woman, and the Jews would have applauded him, advancing His reputation in the eyes of his own people.

Isn’t it true that the measure of a man is the way he treats people when no one is looking? He’s not trying to build his reputation. He’s courteous and loving when he doesn’t “have to be.” It’s not about reputation at all. It’s all about dignity and respect and love.

A REAL MAN’S HUMILITY

The second thing I see in this interaction is Jesus’ humility. He showed Himself to be in need of water, and He put her in a position to meet that need. He needed her help. When had been the last time she had been asked to help anyone?! A Jew was asking her for help! He lowered himself to talk to her.

Over the centuries, there has been more oppression of women than not. Men have dominated women and subjugated them with power. Men have dominated oppressed women. Men steal away power from women. Men attempt to increase their sense of status to offset their insecurities.

Is this relevant in Greenville today? It’s all too relevant and all too true in our society. Many women in his room have lived through unspeakable things they do not talk about, because men were “all about themselves.” It’s about insecurity and desire for power. Men, this is the call of Jesus to true humility in our lives.

A REAL MAN’S COMPASSION

Third, Jesus’ words dripped with compassion. She wanted this living water from Jesus. She thought literally about not having to come out as often to the well, if she had the living water. But, obviously, Jesus was not talking about physical water.

HE is what she needed. She had made poor choices. He exposed her sin in the gentlest ways. Instead of running from Him, she is amazed by Him. She was so amazed that she ran back to the other Samaritans. He had offered her hope in the person of Himself.

This woman deserved no compassion for the choices she had made, yet Jesus, the perfect one, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Holy One, the one with no blemish or sin, was gentle with this sinful woman!! He showed her compassion.

Are we compassionate, men? This is what our women want from us. I’m not that good at it. I’ll be honest with you. I’m not that gentle. I wish I were more gentle. Women need men who will not steamroll over them to accomplish their agendas.

A REAL MAN’S LOVE

Fourth, what is the bottom line for Jesus? He loved this woman. It’s love. Love is so misused. In our society, love equates with sex or a feeling. The love of Jesus here was a pursuing love. He had been on a journey. He was tired. Did he “feel” like engaging. Probably not at all. But he pursued her. He denied Himself, and He pursued her. Love pursues! If you love someone, you pursue the other with love, so the other can thrive. This is true love.

The men accused in the #MeToo movement abused women and moved on to the next victim. Their “love” was self-serving.

Ours is a fallen condition. Lust and fantasy are pervasive, even in the church. Marriage can get mundane. Work. Kids. Schedules. Conflict. Ruts. We get tired. We long for excitement in our lives. Vacations. Money. The easy life. We see a woman at work or church, and we get excited about the thought of “what if.” We desire to be with her. Our wives can’t measure-up to our fantasies. You don’t know someone until you live with that person. Things progress. Your wife seems less and less attractive. No matter how excited, or what you feel, that’s not love. Having sex with whoever you can is the opposite of what Jesus was doing here in this passage.

Loving a woman well is to never subject a woman to the horrors of adultery, and all of the consequences. Loving well, we want each other to thrive. Adultery is the opposite of thriving, no matter how you feel. Real love is to promote the other person, so s/he will thrive. Emotional and physical adultery is not love. It’s a completely self-centered pursuit, leading to disaster, especially if children are involved.

The best way to love is to pursue your own wife. Think of her welfare. Help her to thrive. I’m being pretty straight with you. It’s pretty quiet in here. I’m not trying to beat you up, men.

I have another point, in that regard. When you look at pornography, this is not loving THOSE women well. The women in these situations are allowing themselves to be used, but they still have dignity, and they don’t deserve to be “abused” by us. It’s not love.

Why is this so powerful in our lives, men? What can we do to stop the abuses and consequences? It’s sometimes more than we can handle.

Where do we get the power?

In Greek mythology, the sirens were gorgeous but dangerous creatures living on rocky shores. They sang mesmerizingly beautiful songs, luring sailors to their deaths on the sharp rocks. They couldn’t stop the passion. Odysseus, the mythical hero, wanted to hear the sirens’ song, so he told the crew to tie him to the mast. He went mad with passion and desire. But the ship was safe. When Jason later passed by the sirens, he took Orpheus along. Orpheus was a supremely gifted harpist who made the rocks dance, and the sirens began to sing. His music was more beautiful than the sirens’ song, so Jason sailed past safely.

My dear brothers, the music of lust will impale us on the rocks. It’s beautiful and enticing, but I’m here to declare the much more beautiful music of Jesus. Jesus went to a cross, giving His live, so you can be rescued from impending doom. He didn’t care about His own life. Have you heard the beautiful music of Jesus?! See the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ! He gave His life, so we could be free from our self-serving passions and desires.

Only a deeper desire will replace your other desires. Seek a great desire. Seek the Lord Jesus Christ! You’ve got to see Him!

If you haven’t seen Jesus as the greatest passion that has ever been, it’s a process. It’s not all-or-nothing. His music screams, “I forgive you! I forgive your lust! I forgive how you have objectified women! I forgive that path, which leads to destruction!”

It’s only found in Christ.

That’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

“Hunger for the Bread of Life! Thirst for the Living Water!

On Tuesday, February 20, 2018, I presented new devotional information from the Word of God and David Platt’s book, Follow Me.  If you would like to read my notes, “Hunger for the Bread of Life!  Thirst for the Living Water!” please read on. . . .

“Hunger for the Bread of Life! Thirst for the Living Water!”

From the “Follow Me” Upper School Devotions Series

By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal

Southside Christian School

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

INTRODUCTION

Lord, I pray for open hearts and minds — undistracted souls — for us to hear and apply Your Word to our lives TODAY. May we grow in the grace and the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ TODAY. Amen.

Jonathan Edwards once pointed out that faith fuels emotional response and greater devotion to the Lord.

David Platt stated in his book, FOLLOW ME, that intellect and emotion allow us to draw closer to our heavenly Father. (106)

Jesus fed the multitudes, equating the physical need to satisfy hunger with the spiritual need to fill the soul with truth. (107)

In John 6:35, He declared Himself to be the “bread of life.”  We must hunger for the bread of life!

In John 4:10, He had sought to give His “living water” to the Samaritan woman at the well.  We must thirst for this living water!

He told others, “He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35, New International Version)

We hunger and thirst for so many other physical and spiritual desires, some of which are not bad in and of themselves.

HUNGERING AND THIRSTING FOR THE WRONG THINGS

But we too often hunger and thirst for the wrong things.

Satan planted the notion that Adam and Eve should desire the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. They desired the wrong thing.

What are the wrong things for which we hunger and thirst?

How do we conquer the sin of our misdirected affections?

Some of us work hard to change our actions with a list of do’s and don’t’s in a process which is outside-in. (111)

According to Platt, the other right way is to, from the inside-out, let “Christ overcome us with the power of his satisfaction.” (111)

HUNGERING AND THIRSTING FOR GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS

To what extent, do we WHOLEHEARTEDLY hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness?

Platt wrote, “You and I have cravings that are designed to be satisfied by our Creator. God hardwired us with desires for water, food, friends, meaning and purpose, and each of these cravings is intended to drive us to God as the giver of all good gifts and the soul source of all satisfaction.” (107)

“. . .our deepest craving is not for something but for Someone.” (109)

“Our ultimate satisfaction is found not in the gifts we enjoy but in the Giver who provides them. . . .” (109)

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

So I remind myself that I am to DELIGHT IN the spiritual disciplines.

We must declare our love for the Lord — with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.

How?

Through Worship

We must fix our eyes on God and worship Him CONSTANTLY.

Through the Word of God

We must regularly read, study, meditate upon, and memorize the Word of God.

We must thirst for God’s Word and God’s will to transform us.

“The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. . . .They are more precious than gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb. . . . In keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:10-11, NIV)

These same thoughts are prominent throughout the entirety of Psalm 119 as well.

On Sunday, as I was reading my 2018 BIBLE IN ONE YEAR devotional, Nicky Gumble, the creator of Alpha, stated the following about the Word of God in relationship to a three-week period prior to marrying his wife Pippa:

“Thankfully, there have been very few times since our relationship began that I have been apart from my wife Pippa. However, before we were married, there was a period of three weeks when I was away. In those days, without email or mobile phones, our only way of communication was by letter.

“I wrote every day. She wrote every day. I remember so well the feeling of intense excitement and joy when I saw the handwriting on the envelope and knew that a letter from Pippa was inside.

“I would quickly take the letter and go off to a quiet place by myself to study it! The actual letter wasn’t valuable, but the fact that it was written by the person I love made it so precious to me.

“The Bible is a love letter from God to you. What makes the Bible so exciting is not the book itself, but the fact that through it we encounter the person we love.”

Platt asked in his book, “Do you love [God and] God’s Word greatly?” (116)

We say we do.

How do we sincerely show that love for God and His Word? I mostly do, but on some occasions, honestly, I go through the motions.

Through Prayer

How much do we crave communion with God through prayer?

Following Jesus — discipleship — involves time alone with God and with His Word.

Through Confession

We must confess our sins to God. I have been praying Francis Chan’s prayer for this year — that I would hate all sin — and that I would hate my sin first and foremost.

Through Thanksgiving

We express thanksgiving to Him for His forgiveness and grace and mercy and strength and peace and on and on and on.

Through Testimonies

We offer Him appreciation for our salvation.

We share our testimonies freely with others — as I challenged you last week to do with your students.

Through Fasting

We fast to draw closer to Him and depend upon Him.

We desire the character of Christ.

Through Giving

We give generously to others — of our time, talents, and treasures — like the testimony of the JTerm 2018 Dominican Republic student giving $110 of her birthday money to the students of Freedom School!

Platt wrote, “A disciple of Jesus does not give because of a feeling of obligation or guilt; a disciple of Jesus gives because he or she is overwhelmed by grace.” (120)

Through Evangelism

We must share the Gospel message — the “Good News” — with others who need to FOLLOW Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives.

Platt: “This is the heart of following Jesus: enjoying God as Father through Christ the Son. And when this is a reality in your life, then your reason for living is utterly revolutionized.” (121)

Let’s pray. . . .

“Status”

On Sunday, February 18, 2018, Eastside Presbyterian Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth began a new “#MeToo” sermon series, taking the contemporary issues of sexual assault and abuse captive to a biblical worldview. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, “Status,” please read on. . . .

“Status”

From the “#MeToo” Sermon Series

By Pastor Mark Auffarth

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Text: Matthew 28:1-10 (English Standard Version)

1 Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2 And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4 And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6 He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. 7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8 So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9 And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

Footnotes:

  • Matthew 28:6 Some manuscripts “the Lord”

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

Hashtag Me Too (#MeToo). Some of you may want to know what that means. Women have banded together to accuse perpetrators who have sexually assaulted them. We’re going to talk about a few things God has to say about #MeToo. Let’s pray for God to show up.

[Mark prayed.]

There is a huge wave crashing in the United States with the #MeToo movement. Women have long endured the advancement of powerful men. It seems as thought that’s no more. And that’s a very good thing.

A lady survivor of sexual assault started the hashtag in 2006. This year, Ashely Judd accused Harvey Weinstein. The hashtag was reignited by Alyssa Milano, with 40,000 re-tweets overnight! The former Olympic doctor will spend the rest of his life in jail because of his sexual abuse. Roy Moore’s history of preying upon underaged girls because a major factor in the Alabama election. Matt Lauer. Garrison Keillor. The list goes on an on. Time magazine named the “Silence Breakers” as their 2017 Persons of the Year.

Here is their video, with some editing of objectionable content.

[The short video was played.]

[One of the women in the video said, “I know the power of patriarchy. I know what men can do when they are angry.”]

[Another woman stated, “I felt ashamed that I hadn’t spoken out sooner.”]

[Yet another woman said the #MeToo movement “took away the power of the perpetrator and put the power in the hands of the victim.”]

So many accused so many men for sexual harassment and sexual movement.

Some believe this is a witch hunt. But it’s an encouragement that women have been empowered.

This movement should be no surprise to us. Since the Age of Enlightenment, men have been the center of all things.

In Ogden, Utah, a school instituted the rule that girls could not say no to any guy who asked them to dance for Valentine’s Day. The dance organizers didn’t want anyone to feel excluded. But they were taking away the mutual consent from the little girls. You had a problem. The school changed their mind. This is what we’re coming to.

Mutual consent can mean different things to different people. Women are saying, “No means no.” Now, we’re finding some men are rationalizing in their minds abusive behavior as what they believe to be perfectly fine behavior.

Harvey Weinstein would hold scripts over potential actresses’ heads, unless they would do as he wished, or he would ruin their careers. He was a very powerful man in Hollywood. Many women caved into the pressure.

What do we do about that?

Recently a teaching pastor at a mega-church, accused of, many years ago, doing things to a teenage girl as a youth pastor, which was wrongful behavior. She claimed it was not consensual. He claimed great remorse and successfully processing the restoration in that previous church. He had been a teaching pastor in his current church for a number of years. His present church forgave him and gave him a standing ovation when he confessed this past sin one Sunday.

I’m all for forgiveness, but I don’t know how that church’s actions speak to the young lady in this situation.

This is happening over and over — even in the church. It’s everywhere. Here’s the essence of harassment or abuse — treating women like objects, not people — to satisfy craving without relationship. If you’re hungry, you go eat. If you crave sexuality, you go for it. It’s sin! It’s stripping women of their dignity given at Creation. Women were created in the image of God.

We should treat all woman as we treat our mothers and sisters. How do we treat our mothers and sisters? We want the best for them. We do anything in our power to help them thrive. We will protect them at all costs. We would lay down our lives for them. This is our call as men to the ladies.

Men, I’m wondering how we are doing in this regard. We may not have sexually harassed or abused women in our body of Christ, but none of us is free of guilt from objectifying women. We can look down at Harvey Weinstein, but our thoughts are not far from thoughts of adultery.

How will we deal with these issues?

We need to confess our sins. He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This movement has been painful for some of you here today, resurrecting some abuse or harassment in your lives, ladies. It’s not your fault. It’s not the way you dressed. Even if you dressed provocatively, there’s nothing right about abuse. It’s not the things you said, the places you went, or the things you did!

So what about the #MeToo Movement?

Is it a good thing in light of the Gospel?

The Gospel is all about exposing sin. This movement is exposing sin. All of this stuff is bubbling to the top — what men in power have been able to do.

I would also offer a biblical critique of the movement.

Women are not objects. Those inside and outside the church can agree on that point. But we disagree on the reason.

There is not one ideology of this movement. One lady in the #MeToo movement said that women are pure, and this should not be done to them, because women are pure. We know from the Scriptures that men and women are not pure. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We’re all guilty.

What gives a woman her status or importance? For most of history, women have been second-class citizens.

I chose the Resurrection as the passage to point out the biblical point of view. You might wonder why in the world I did that! Well, I’m going to tell you!

Jesus came to pay the price, investing in His disciples, equipping them to share the Gospel against great opposition. The Chief Priests and Pharisees thought they had done away with the movement with the crucifixion. But they didn’t! The Resurrection occurred!

Who would you pick to be the witnesses to the Resurrection, the biggest event of history? You certainly wouldn’t tell a woman! Her testimony wasn’t even valid in court in Jesus’ day. And you certainly wouldn’t tell a woman like Mary Magdalene, a third-class citizen. Brothers and sisters, this was a thunder clap! Jesus appeared to these ladies first! Why?! Because He was making a statement! Jesus was saying that women were just as important as men in a day when women were maligned and pushed down. These women were His witnesses!

We know that ladies are different from men, no matter what people are saying today. It’s getting almost comical. I could say I was a seven-year-old girl, and you would have to believe me. Men and women are different. They have different roles to play. Let me state this uncategorically: Ladies, don’t you ever believe you are second-class citizens, because the God of the universe made you in His image and gave you dignitty! You are important! You are important to this church!

There’s another big difference between the church and the people of the #MeToo movement.  The #MeToo movement wants justice and payment. Should the perpetrators pay? Yes, of course!  But the Gospel is not about judgment. We as people of the church — as the church — as the body of Christ — we leave judgment to the state, and we are about forgiveness. We want forgiveness.

Luke 17:3 says that repentance should lead to forgiveness. I’m not saying let anyone abuse you. You might have to forgive him with a baseball bat. Perpetrators must be exposed. Perpetrators are trapped and need Jesus.

You can expose out of anger or out of forgiveness. Big difference! That’s a big difference between the #MeToo movement!

I brought up with the staff that I was going to preach on this topic. Deborah and Sheri both encouraged me to do this, but it brought up a lot of emotion, the same as for many other men and women in this room.

Deborah wrote me two e-mails. I’m going to read Sheri’s testimony, with her permission.

[She very much appreciates that the pervasiveness of sexual harassment is being brought to light. Respect on both sides must be the key. Women pay a big emotional price for sexual abuse. Being alone as a woman makes them vulnerable. She had previously been harassed by a man in a coffee house for months. The mental strain was on her, not on the one causing the strain. He didn’t get it no matter what she said. She didn’t want to identify as a victim. She was molested as a kid, but that didn’t define who she is. She nailed the situation to the cross. She saw herself as a daughter of the King, not a victim.]

That’s powerful. Thanks, Sheri.

There’s real freedom in forgiveness, something the hashtag movement is not offering.

Perhaps more of the most compelling statements came from all of the Olympians who accused the doctor. The very last one at the sentencing hearing to offer words to this doctor was his first victim. She stated that he had become a man fed by perverted desires, no matter the cost to the victims. The opposite of what he had done was for her to love sacrificially. On that basis, she indicated that God’s love compelled her to, by God’s grace, love this way and to forgive him. Good deeds would not erase his depravity. The Bible he carried into that courtroom indicated that he had caused these children to stumble, and a milestone of guilt should be around his neck. His guilt should be crushing. “That is what makes the Gospel of Christ so sweet,” she said, extending grace and mercy where it cannot normally be found. She hoped that he would receive the forgiveness from God, which she extending to him as well.

We must come to the point of absolute dread over our sin.

And we must see the grace extended by the Lord Jesus Christ in the face of our sin.

This is the Gospel.

And it changes everything.

Southside Christian Small Groups, 15 February 2018

On Thursday, February 15, 2018, Southside Christian School middle school and High School Small groups met to discuss as many of the below questions as possible.

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

We met initially in the Fine Arts Center for a time of worship through song.

Pastor Colin welcomed the audiences. He made some announcements about small groups.

Pastor Colin prayed to begin the chapels.

Upper School Vocal Music Director Fred Barrett served as lead worshipper for the Middle School Chapel.  By prayer, Mr. Barrett bridged the time between worship in the Fine Arts Center and our time in small groups throughout the campus.

Lead worshippers for the high school chapel were High School French Instructor Brett Henderson (on guitar and as a lead vocalist), Avery Anderson (on piano and as a vocalist), Madison Buck (as a vocalist), and Coby Greene (on percussion).  By prayer, Mr. Henderson bridged the time between worship in the Fine Arts Center and our time in small groups throughout the campus.

Small groups were dismissed to their respective locations of the building for the following discussions and activities.

POSSIBLE OPENING DISCUSSIONS/ACTIVITIES:

How has life been? We have not seen each other for awhile. Let’s take time to catch up. How was your Christmas break?

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

If you could spend the day with any person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?

Paper Pick-Up Challenge

All you have to do is fold a sheet of paper like a tent and place it on the ground (vertically, to make it easier, horizontally to make the activity more challenging). Then, planting just one foot solidly on the ground, the student should try to pick up the sheet of paper with his/her mouth. The student can’t let his/her hands or any other body part touch the ground until s/he is standing back up with the sheet of paper.

“Game of Things” (https:/www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWJqydlq5_U)

You don’t need the physical game to play. Create strips of paper for responses. Have students create the topics (for instance, “things you shouldn’t do at a funeral” or “things no one says during finals week” or “things you never want to hear before going in for surgery”).

DIGGING DEEPER:

Small group leaders were not obligated to cover all of the questions below; these questions were simply resources for the leaders to help unpack what Pastor Colin talked about the previous week in chapel.

If you could describe yourself in one word, what would it be?

Do you know what your name means? Does that meaning fit you?

Have you ever been “branded” or “labeled” before? (You may just want to ask and allow students to think about this idea, rather than answer outloud.)

Let’s read Matthew 28:19-20 from the English Standard Version:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Footnote:

  • Matthew 28:19 Or into

Think back to what Pastor Colin said last week. What does it mean to be “baptized in the name of the Father”?

Let’s read Romans 8:14-15 from the ESV:

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[a] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Footnote:

  • Romans 8:14 See discussion on “sons” in the Preface

What do you think Paul is saying in this passage?

How would you describe a healthy family? What do they do and how do they love one another?

How would you describe orphans? What do you think they do or think? How do they act and treat others?

How do you think Christians do at “being family”? When people from the outside look in, what do they see, hear, and think? Does the “church” (or “body of Christ”) look like a family or an orphanage?

How do you think SCS does at “being family”? When people from the outside look in, what do they see, hear, and think? Does SCS look like a family or an orphanage?

What do you think would happen if students at SCS actually started to look at one another like they were actually brothers and sisters?

How could we start to make SCS more like a family of brothers and sisters?

What could we as a small group do to see this start to happen?

“Fiery Flame Throwers or the Frozen Chosen?”

I was given the privilege of stepping into the pulpit and offering exposition of the Word on my chosen topic of worship and discipleship during the Sunday morning worship service on February 11, 2018 at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.  If you would like to read the text of my message, “Fiery Flame Throwers or the Frozen Chosen?!” read on. . . .

Fiery Flame Throwers or the Frozen Chosen?!”

From the “Helping One Another Follow Jesus” Sermon Series

By Dr. Bob Stouffer

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“Who will deny that true religion consists, in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actions of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?  That religion which God requires, and will accept, does not consist in weak, dull, and lifeless wishes, raising us but a little above the state of indifference.”  (Jonathan Edwards)

TEXT:

Acts 3:1-10

1 Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.[a] And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple that is called the Beautiful Gate to ask alms of those entering the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked to receive alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, as did John, and said, “Look at us.” And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And he took him by the right hand and raised him up, and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up, he stood and began to walk, and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and recognized him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Footnote:

  1. Acts 3:1 – That is, 3 p.m.

English Standard Version (ESV)

TESTIMONY

[Without introduction, Bob Smith gave his testimonial about his wrong heart for worship when visiting a church early in his life as a Christian.]

OPENING

Be honest with yourself:

  • Have you ever held similar thoughts or beliefs like Bob’s?
  • How did you feel or what were you thinking when you walked into this sanctuary today?
  • Did you “feel” like worshipping God?
  • Should feeling have anything to do with worship?
  • After our singing, confessing, praying, and giving today, are you closer to God?
  • To what extent do we “choose” a heart of worship?
  • Do you get uncomfortable when you see more demonstrative expressions of worship?

In this sermon series, we have been considering biblical truth on how to help one another follow Jesus.

Through worship, we should be helping one another follow Jesus.

God commands us to love Him with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.  So each of us should be worshipping Him with all of our mind, heart, soul, and strength.

Cheryl and I very much enjoyed the recent Chris Tomlin / Matt Maher concert at Bon Secours in Greenville.  The worship experience was very unique throughout – at one point, Chris Tomlin’s pastor from Nashville came onstage and preached a really cool message from the Psalms and the ideas of this book, Holy Roar, which the two of them wrote in 2017.

Pastor Darren Whitehead has identified 7 Hebrew words of praise used in the Psalms.

He described worship related to. . .

  1. Holding out hands as if to throw a stone or arrow,
  2. “Being clamorously foolish” in worshipping the Lord, (More on that in a moment.)
  3. Celebrating in song and music,
  4. Thanking God for all that He has provided AND “for things not yet received,”
  5. Kneeling and blessing God,
  6. Spontaneously singing hymns and songs, and
  7. Commending glory and triumph in shouts and loud tones.

According to Paul, in Colossians 3:16, we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in [us] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God.”  (ESV)  THAT is “full” worship.

True worship focuses us on God, rather than our worries, fears, heartaches, and sufferings.  “Instead of focusing on the things out of [our] control, [we] turn our attention to the One who is in control.”  (Holy Roar, p. 62)

We ought to get used to a more unbridled worship, because, once we get to heaven, we will be worshipping constantly.

Charles Spurgeon once stated, “Praise [on earth] is the rehearsal of our eternal song.  By grace we learn to sing, and in glory we continue to sing.”  (Holy Roar, p. 92)

Of course, we know the passage from Revelation 7:9-12, which forms the basis for our weekly service-ending declaration:

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice [a “holy roar”], ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’  And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen!’”  (ESV)

THAT will be everlasting worship to anticipate in the future!

But worship is an important element of discipleship, as the Kingdom breaks through NOW.

As the body of Christ at Eastside Presbyterian, we can – AND MUST – help each other in worship as a part of our discipleship.

EXPOSITION OF THE TEXT:

So why does Acts 3, verses 1-10 illustrate worship?

Let’s look at this truly amazing narrative.

Peter and John continued their Jewish custom of prayer at fixed times of the day.

John Calvin believed their practice in this case was intentional evangelism (in Guzik, Blue Letter Bible).  In other words, they were looking for opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

This lame man had been carried to the gate of the temple like it was any other day for him.  Praise God for the people who got him there on this day!  But he was ready to settle into the grind of begging for money.

We can imagine him seeing the typical blurred shapes of passing bodies, with no real concentration on the people themselves.

“God [however] wanted to completely change his condition.”  (Guzik)

The lame man begged for money from Peter and John.

And, then, what a remarkable sight we can see in our mind’s eye:

Both Peter and John looked intensely into the eyes of this man, who is expecting money.

The lame man fixed his gaze on Peter and John, expecting a handout.

Peter boldly declared, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”

The man expected money on this day.  He probably wasn’t seeking personal interaction.  He certainly must not have anticipated that he would be healed on this day!

Prompted by the Holy Spirit, and in the name of Jesus, Peter told the man to “rise up and walk!”

“It was one thing [for Peter] to say, ‘Rise up and walk,’ but it was another thing entirely to so boldly take the man’s hand and lift him to his feet”!  (Guzik)

The Holy Spirit had obviously directed Peter to take this man’s hand, and, in faith, lift him to his feet!

And the man — a man who had not been able to walk since birth — received a gift of infinitely more value – his mobility!

This healed man responded so well.  He attached himself to Peter and John, entering the Temple with them.

Peter and John helped this man follow Jesus by leading him into the very place where he could worship the Lord!

And the healed man used the gifts which God had just given to him – walking and leaping.   He began to praise and worship God.  (Guzik)

The testimony of this man’s healing amazed the crowd gathered in the Temple.

Perhaps he was a familiar beggar at the Temple.  Even Jesus, during His earthly ministry, might have passed by him there.  He had been lame.  But then he walked and leaped and praised God!

Please focus on this man’s response to his healing.

The man leaped!

He worshipped God!

This scene made me think of David when he returned the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem [recorded in 2 Samuel 6:16-23].

David leaped and danced and worshipped God.

Michal, his wife, attempted to shame David for what she saw as his outrageous attire and behavior.

But David confidently and joyfully declared to her, “. . .I will celebrate before the LORD.  I will become even more undignified than this. . . .”  (2 Samuel 6:21, 22, NIV)

Here is the “clamourously foolish” worship of which Tomlin and Whitehead spoke in Holy Roar!

C.S. Lewis once said, “The most valuable thing the psalms do for me is to express the same delight in God which made David dance.”

David’s actions were centered on God, not on himself.

Peter and John were centered on God, not on themselves, ready to do anything the Holy Spirit directed them to do – which, on this day, included the incredible privilege of participating in God’s healing of this lame man.

APPLICATIONS

Let’s apply this passage to our own lives.

Okay.  So none of us entered this sanctuary today after having been healed this very moment of a disability which has prevented us from walking for our entire lives.

If such is the case, I will GLADLY give up the pulpit RIGHT NOW for your testimony, and we would all be “filled with wonder and amazement at what [has] happened to [you]”!  (Acts 3-10b)

However, all of us have ample reason to be filled with wonder, amazement, praise, and worship for our great God of the universe!

Can you be more “undignified than this” in your worship?!

How can we help each other follow Jesus through our worship?

First of all, we’ve got to show up on Sunday mornings.

Attendance does not necessarily equate with discipleship or drawing closer to God, but showing up is the first step to worship.  You – and you alone – are a unique part of the body of Christ.  If you are missing, the body is not fully functional.

Second, our focus is not on self but fully on God.

Francis Chan once said, “Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves.  His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him.  Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?”  AMEN!

Third, the Word of God should be woven through every aspect of worship.

The Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well that we are to worship “in spirit and truth.”  (John 4:24, ESV)

Jayson D. Bradley has stated, “It isn’t until we’re able to rightly prioritize God above everything else in our world that we can begin to worship in spirit and truth.”

In Acts 3:1-10, Peter pronounced healing in the name of Truth – Jesus Christ of Nazareth!

Fourth, love of God is foundational to worship.  The Great Commandment calls us to first love God with all of our being – and to love all others around us as God’s image-bearers.

Henry Ward Beecher once said, “I never knew how to worship until I knew how to love.”

Augustine of Hippo said, “Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back.  Kindle and seize us.  Be our fire and our sweetness.  Let us love.  Let us run.”

Fifth, we’ve got to be intentional in our worship of God.  We must come with hearts ready to give our all to God, rather than coming with a consumer mentality of what the church is going to do for us.

In Romans 12:1, Paul called followers of Jesus Christ to engage in worship as an intentional act:  “I appeal to you. . . by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”  (ESV)

Sixth, we come not to be entertained.  We worship enthusiastically to please God!

Noted Pastor John Ortberg once said, “In the context of worship, amusement is a waste of time and a waste of life, and therefore a form of sin.”

I definitely do not believe Ortberg overstated his point.

Listen to what R.C. Sproul once had to say:  “The worship to which we are called in our renewed state is far too important to be left to personal preferences, to whims, or to marketing strategies.  It is the pleasing of God that is at the heart of worship.  Therefore, our worship must be informed at every point by the Word of God as we seek God’s own instructions for worship that is pleasing to Him.”

Seventh, worship is all about God, not “feelings” or “experiences.”

Listen to what Graham Kendrick has to say in that regard:  “Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand. . .[worship] is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Finally, we must be positive examples of worship to the others around us – not as a “show,” but as a positive witness.  This is how we help others follow Jesus through worship.

John Piper has said, “From your heroes you pick up mannerisms and phrases and tones of voice and facial expressions and habits and demeanors and convictions and beliefs.  The more admirable the hero is and the more intense your admiration is, the more profound will be your transformation.  In the case of Jesus, he is infinitely admirable, and our admiration rises to the most absolute worship.  Therefore, when we behold him as we should, the change is profound.”

Paul wrote, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)

He might just as easily have written, “Worship Christ as I worship Christ!”

We help each other follow Jesus by sincerely expressing the mannerisms, phrases, tones, facial expressions, habits, demeanors, convictions, and beliefs which cause others to know and follow Jesus.

What is your example of worship to others?  Parents, what are your children seeing from you as acts of worship?

How vibrant is our worship of God on a Sunday morning?  On this Sunday morning?
For that matter, how vibrant is our worship of God ALL of the days of the week.  We should be in a constant state of worship, drawing close to the Lord and relying on the direction and power of His Holy Spirit.

Did you know that the Hebrew root, “avodah,” translates to worship AND WORK?

Regarding our worship at church, are we fiery flame-throwers or the frozen chosen?

Now, please don’t misread that question as my call for this church to become charismatic in our worship.

I was raised to believe that my faith was a private thing, and our worship tradition didn’t include any behaviors which would have distracted someone during the service.

For instance, I’m not a hand-raiser, generally.  I think you would, however, see me closing my eyes at more introspective moments of singing, and I would definitely be swaying to the music, even though I can’t dance, nor can I walk and chew gum at the same time!

There are times when I look at church congregations – not ours – and I don’t see a lot of vigor or joy or even energy in acknowledging the Lord.

I think our body at Eastside Presbyterian should be open to different expressions of worship in our midst, particularly as we pray for an increase of diversity.

Our worship should be enthusiastic.  Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones, the great Welsh theologian, has argued that “a dislike of enthusiasm can be ‘one of the greatest hindrances to revival.’”  (in Holy Roar, p. 13)

Allow me to give testimony to my most memorable worship experiences:

  1. I have never been closer to God than when I am singing His praises among men of God. Some of the older men in this sanctuary will remember the height of the PromiseKeepers movement.  A very memorable worship experience for me occurred in 1994 when I had committed my life to the Lord as a 36-year-old man, singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” with 56,000 men at The University of Colorado in Boulder!
  2. I was swept into the PromiseKeepers movement with similar experiences in Chicago, Des Moines, Cedar Falls, Minneapolis, twice in Dallas, and with among well over 500,000 men at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. in 1997.
  3. Through my involvement with the Evangelical Free Church of America, I was fortunate to worship with Chris Tomlin at rallies on numerous occasions before he became a household name among Christians; and I have always been impressed by his sincere heart to draw people toward a deeper relationship with God.
  4. During the several times I have worshipped in African-American churches, I have thoroughly enjoyed the more demonstrative expressions of worship, even if the expressions pushed me outside my comfort zone a bit.
  5. When we moved from Iowa to Greenville, Cheryl and I visited almost a dozen churches for several weeks until Cheryl told me she didn’t care where I went to church on Sunday as long as I understood she would be worshipping at Eastside Presbyterian Church! I heartily agreed with her.  We love the friendly, welcoming community – the upbeat music – the opportunity to sing every verse of every hymn – the extended prayer – Mark’s Gospel-centered preaching – and the authenticity of the people who make up this church.
  6. My most memorable worship experience actually occurred during a funeral of all places. The Holy Spirit seemed to physically leap inside of me was at the memorial service of a 30-year-old woman who had died unexpectedly.  I have never known a more powerful grip on my heart, with the strength and grace of the Holy Spirit enveloping me.  How unusual to worship God in such a unique way.

These have been profound worship experiences for me.

CLOSING

To close, we are, too often, as the body of Christ, the “frozen chosen.”  We pour our hearts, souls, minds, and strength into so many other passions, but we fail to draw closer to the Lord, and we stifle our worship.  On any given Sunday morning, we are distracted, apathetic, lackluster, and going through the motions of worship.

Imagine this sanctuary lit up with a vibrant heart of worship.  What would you hear?  What would you see?  What thoughts would be going through our minds?

  • We would be on time and in our pews preparing our hearts and minds.
  • We would approach the presence of God with reverence and awe.
  • We would block out the distractions of what happened to us leading into the service.
  • We would not be thinking of what we were going to do later in that day or week.
  • We would be at peace with God.
  • We would sense His presence in this place.
  • The musicians would be examples of “lead worshippers,” not “worship leaders,” directing our hearts and minds to God, as they already do week-in and week-out.
  • Even with squeaky voices of joyful noise, we would sing every word with great enthusiasm, concentrating on the truths contained in those lyrics.
  • We would enjoy the music, even if the selections do not fit our personal preferences.
  • We would truly repent of our sins in our prayers.
  • As a body, we would thirst in agreement with the persons offering extended prayer to God.
  • We would give generously when the plates came down our rows.
  • We would hunger for the Word of God to be preached boldly to us.
  • We would have a strong desire for the preachers to speak the truth in love to us.
  • We would want to be challenged to be more obedient followers of Jesus Christ.
  • At the close of a service, we would pour our lives into others – listening actively, willing to get involved in the sloppiness of each other’s lives, being REAL and not engaging in “image control.”
  • We would have a strong desire to reach out with the truth of the Gospel, as God places people in our path during the coming weeks.
  • We would worship through our service to others.

When we are fully engaged in worship, God brings us into a stronger relationship with Him.  We are reconciled with Him and to others.  We are more committed disciples.  We will be more wholehearted followers of Jesus.

We are the church, Christ’s chosen instrument of redemption.  The gates of hell will not prevail against us when we are engaged in robust worship of God!!

One commentator made a keen observation about this healing by Peter and John in Acts 3:

“It is not the Church’s business in this world to simply make the present condition [of others] more bearable; the task of the Church is to release here on earth the redemptive work of God in Christ.”  (LaSor in Guzik)

Tim Keller once said:  “God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises ‘before the nations.’  We are called not simply to communicate the gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the gospel before them.”

Moses asked Pharaoh to set the Israelites free — that they might worship God.

Jesus’ Resurrection sets us free to worship Him!

The Resurrected King is resurrecting me!!!

THAT is the Gospel through worship.

And the Gospel changes everything!

CLOSING PRAYER

Let’s close in prayer by singing a short praise song together — to consecrate a greater heart for worship in the future.

If you know short chorus, please sing with me.  If you do not know the words, no worries.  Let the simple truth wash over you, as we worship through the hearing of God’s truth.

I love you, Lord!

And I lift my voice

To worship You,

Oh, my soul rejoice!

Take joy, my King,

In what you hear!

May it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear!

Do I hear an “Amen”?!

Amen!

Amen!

And AMEN!!

RESOURCES:

The Holy Bible.  English Standard Version.  2001.

Tomlin, Chris and Darren Whitehead.  Holy Roar: 7 Words That Will Change the Way

You Worship.  Brentwood, Tennessee: BOWYER & BOW, 2017.

“Joy Is Serious Business!

On Sunday, February 11, 2018, I led the Eastside Presbyterian Church adult Sunday school class in our continuing study of “The Psalms of Ascent,” from Eugene Peterson’s book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  If you would like to read my notes, please read on. . . .

“A Long Obedience in the Same Direction”

January 28, February 4, February 11, February 18, February 25, and March 4

Today:   Psalm 126, Chapter 8, JOY

Next Week:  Psalm 129, Chapter 11, PERSEVERANCE

OPENING

Tell a story in your own life when you experienced great joy.

I was trying to think about a time in my life when I have experienced the most joy.  I know that would have to be when Cheryl got pregnant after such a long period of our infertility.  I was in my English classroom; I can remember it as though it were yesterday.  The hallway wall of my classroom was all glass.  Cheryl appeared unexpectedly in the hallway after having been to the doctor for yet another pregnancy test.  Tears were welling in her eyes.  This time, instead of seeing tears of sadness, Cheryl was filled with joy!  And her joy brought me great joy!  I was so happy for her more than happy for myself.  Of course, the birth of Molly 31 years ago was a very joyous moment as well.

Of course, when I embraced Jesus as Lord and Savior in 1994, I experienced GREAT JOY!

On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the highest, how much joy do you have in your life?  What prevents you from having more joy? 

Many Christians have the reputation for being real sourpusses.  We’re often known more for what we’re against, rather than what we’re for.  The culture is prejorative in calling us puritannical, which, when compared to our over-sexualized society, WE ARE PURITANNICAL.  Persecutors of Christians ironically see us as hypocritical, legalistic, and Pharisaical.

The daughter of a rigid Presbyterian elder once described him as “entirely unselfish, and in his long life he never committed a pleasure.”  (p. 95)  We can sometimes be a bit “stiff.”

Phyllis McGinley said at the beginning of this chapter from Eugene Peterson’s book, “I have read that during the process of canonization the Catholic Church demands proof of joy in the candidate, and although I have not been able to track down chapter and verse, I like the suggestion that dourness is not a sacred attribute.”

I can track down the chapter and verse!

Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Christians should give evidence of great joy ALL OF THE TIME!  In his epistle, James tells us that we are to “count it all joy” (James 1:2).

What would the church of Jesus Christ be like if we followers of Jesus had even a little more joy, especially in the hard times? 

Our friendships would be deeper.  Our witness would be more vibrant.  People would be drawn to our light.  Our worship would be more enthusiastic.  Our prayers would resonate more with others.  Our giving would be more generous.  Our humility and gratitude would be more evident.  Our service to others would be more authentic and less quid pro quo [something in exchange for something].

C.S. Lewis once paradoxically said, “Joy is the serious business of heaven.”

The famous evangelist Billy Sunday once proclaimed, “If you have no joy, there’s a leak in your Christianity somewhere.”

PSALM 126

Psalm 126 is one of the 15 Songs of Ascent.

Let’s hear Psalm 126 from The Message:

1-3 It seemed like a dream, too good to be true,
    when God returned Zion’s exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
    we couldn’t believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
    God was wonderful to them!”
God was wonderful to us;
    we are one happy people.

4-6 And now, God, do it again—
    bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
    will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
    will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

Let’s hear Psalm 126 from a more conventional translation of the Bible – The English Standard Version. . . .

1When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
    we are glad.

Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
    like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
    shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
    bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
    bringing his sheaves with him.

COMMENTARY

Jewish exiles were returning to Israel – either with David after his brief exile from Jerusalem after Absalom’s coup [2 Samuel 15] or with those who had been exiled to Babylon.  (In Guzik)

In his book, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an Instant Society, Eugene Peterson wrote, “Joy is characteristic of Christian pilgrimage [and discipleship].”  (p. 96)

“That is not to say that joy is a moral requirement for Christian living.  Some of us experience events that are full of sadness and pain.  Some of us descend to low points in our lives when joy seems to have permanently departed.  We must not in such circumstances or during such times say, ‘Well, that’s the final proof that I am not a good Christian.’ . . .Joy is not a requirement for Christian discipleship, it is a consequence.”  (Peterson, p. 96)

“We cannot make ourselves joyful.  Joy cannot be commanded, purchased, or arranged.”  (Peterson, p. 97, emphasis added)

I find it fascinating that Eugene Peterson categorizes this Psalm thematically as illustrative of joy, but he never once uses the word in his Message paraphrase of Psalm 126.  The translator of the ESV used the word, joy, 3 times [in a total of 96 words].

But don’t we “choose” joy?  What do I mean by that?

“The center sentence in [Psalm 126] is ‘We are one happy family’ (v. 3).  The words on one side of that center (vv.1-2 are in the past tense, the words on the other side (vv. 4-6) in the future tense.  Present gladness has past and future.”  (Peterson, p. 97)

Think of God’s faithfulness to you in the past.

Think to the future in anticipation of the joy you will experience in heaven.

I. . .HAVE. . .NO. . .IDEA. We think we do, but we have no idea.

Peterson:  “There is no reason to suppose that God will arbitrarily change his way of working with us.  What we have known of him, we will know of him.   Just as joy builds on the past, it borrows from the future.”  (Peterson, p. 99, emphasis added)

The Psalmist used a metaphor of climate.

Israel is an arid country.  In times of the Psalms, the physical desert was mirrored by spiritual dryness as well.  Sudden rainstorms could bring forth nourishing streams – metaphorically speaking, a “flood of God’s Spirit” could burst forth powerfully and dramatically.  The Jewish men and women repented; faithful prayer and service eventually bore fruit, and the desert became a garden.”  (Tim and Kathy Keller, p. 332)

“. . .a sudden rain makes the desert ablaze with blossoms.  Our lives are like that – drought-stricken – and then, suddenly, the long years of barren waiting are interrupted by God’s invasion of grace.”  (Peterson, p. 99)

“All suffering, all pain, all emptiness, all disappointment is seed; sow it in God and he will, finally, bring a crop of joy from it.”  (Peterson, p. 100)

The Jewish people certainly knew heartache and oppression; this Psalmist knew darkness, pain, exile, oppression, deserts, weeping.  (Peterson, p. 100)

But he was able to express his joy from the past, future, and present.

God had come through for His people yet again.

Nehemiah recorded this well:  “The joy of the Lord is your strength!”  (8:10)

Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is a poor modesty which is ashamed to own its joy in the Lord.  Call it rather a robbery of God.”  (in Guzik)

CLOSING

Tell me a story from your life when joy came in spite of circumstances. . . .

It would be a gross understatement to say that our 22-year-old daughter Hannah was a “handful” when she was young:

  • Angry at her birth mother for putting her up for adoption
  • Feeling out-of-place as a bi-racial girl in a nearly all white world
  • Learning disabilities which brought her struggles in school
  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder – rebellion on steroids
  • Kicked out of the Christian school at which I served as Superintendent

A real prodigal was she.

But I experienced redemptive joy in May of 2012.  She was the Iowa state champion in the largest class of schools – in the 100 meter, in the 200 meter, and as the anchor of the 4×100 meter relay team!

<Here are pictures which commemorate that day.>

The world seeks happiness.  Happiness is dependent upon circumstances.  If things are going well, I am happy; if things are not going well, I am unhappy.

Joy is not dependent upon circumstances.  We are to have joy in ALL circumstances.

Think carefully of the simplicity and profundity of the following statement from Jack Hyles:  “Happiness is untested delight.  Joy is delight tested.”

How so?

APPLICATION

S.D. Gordon:  “Joy is distinctly a Christian word and a Christian thing.  It is the reverse of happiness.  Happiness is the result of what happens of an agreeable sort.  Joy has its springs deep down inside.  And that spring never runs dry, no matter what happens.  Only Jesus gives that joy.  He had joy, singing its music within, even under the shadow of the cross.”

A commentator by the name of Horne wrote, “For thus thy blessed Master ‘went forth weeping, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief, bearing precious seed,’ and sowing it around him, till at length his own body was buried, like a grain of wheat, in the furrow of the grave.  But he arose. . . .”  (In Guzik)

Jesus sweat blood in the Garden.  Jesus was beaten.  Jesus was scourged.  Jesus was mocked.  FOR THE JOY SET BEFORE HIM, Jesus died a humiliating and excruciating death on a cross.  (Hebrews 12:2)

BUT HE AROSE!

AND HE CONQUERED DEATH!

Sinless God-man died in our place.  He overcame death, so we, too, who know Him as Lord and Savior  — we who are attempting to help each other follow Him – will know everlasting life!

That’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

We need to help each other find joy.  That’s discipleship.

Let’s pray. . . .

RESOURCES:

Guzik, David.  Enduring Word Bible Ministries.

Keller, Tim and Kathy.  The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms.

New York: Viking, 2015.

Peterson, Eugene.  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction: Discipleship in an

Instant Society.  Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press, 2000.