Monthly Archives: April 2018

SCS Teacher and Staff Appreciation Day, 27 April 2018

On Friday, April 26, 2018, the Southside Christian School staff was greeted with music from the 1950s when they entered the Fine Arts Center for devotions.  Such was the 50s theme for the 2018 SCS Teacher and Staff Appreciation Day, overseen by VIP Director Julia Given and her outstanding VIP parents.  If you would like to read my summary of this 10-minute celebration, please read on. . . .

Teacher and Staff Appreciation Day

Southside Christian School

Friday, April 27, 2018

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

Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent, greeted everyone and opened in prayer.

VIP Director Julia Given read from Matthew 20:25-28 —

25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,   27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,  28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (English Standard Version)

Mrs. Given indicated the phrase, “servant leadership,” had jumped out at her as she was recently considering this passage. She shared information from an article about servant leadership. Jesus set the pattern in his own actions on our behalf. We must follow His example. SCS has an abundance of servant leadership in the school, she said. We all use our gifts to bless students and parents.

Six staff members have served Southside Christian for at least 30 years:  Bob Jones, Don Woodward, Terry Dietrich, Jorge Garcia, Cathy Woolf, and Martha Bunn. Mrs. Given thanked these people for their dedication and gifted them with a special treat.

Madeline Smith, a fifth grader, wrote and recited a beautiful poem.

Jack Shubert, a senior and President of the Student Government Association, shared words of appreciation for the teachers. He talked about the importance of relationships between/among students and teachers. He said he could count on his teachers of the past and present to ask about how his life is going. “Teachers truly care,” he said. Relationships are important. Teachers can change the direction of a student’s day. He reminded the staff of how amazing relationships foster a higher desire for learning. “These are adults with really tough jobs who still find immense joy in their work and in Jesus Christ,” he said. The lives and testimonies of teachers, staff, and volunteers affect the lives of students on a daily basis. He thanked everyone for their efforts.

Julia reminded everyone to take advantage of the fun from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

“Death Means Life”

On Sunday, April 29, 2018, Eastside Presbyterian Church Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth preached a message with profound implications for any Christian. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, “Death Means Life,” please read on. . .

“Death Means Life”
By Pastor Mark Auffarth
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, April 29, 2018

Text:

17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

20 Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him. (John 12:17-26, English Standard Version)

Quote of the Week:

“Our god is the thing, or person, which we think most precious, for whom we would make the greatest sacrifice, and who moves our heart with the warmest love. He is the person of thing that, if lost, would leave us desolate.” (Alan Redpath)

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer (All errors of transcription are mine alone.)

If you’ve been following the series on John, you may be wondering why we have skipped the Triumphal Entry. I preached on that passage for Palm Sunday, so I decided to skip the Triumphal Entry, but perhaps we’ll come back to that passage at a later time.

In this text, large crowds had been following Jesus, especially after He raised Lazarus from the dead. The crowd went out to Bethany. Lazarus, Martha, Mary, and Jesus were at this gigantic banquet.

Eventually, Jesus cleared the money-changers from the Temple. He was famous. The crowds were growing. The Pharisees were more frustrated. They agreed to put Jesus to death when they had the chance.

Greeks came to Jesus. They wanted to see Him. Jesus was huge. Even the Greeks were coming. People from outside of Jerusalem were trying to find Him. What a great moment for Jesus! He could grow the movement! The only problem was He was not interested in growing a movement. That’s not why He had come.

Jesus had humbled himself to suffer the indignities of poverty, broken relationships, self-serving systems, and unfairness. He preached the good news of the Kingdom. He preached that He was the fulfillment of prophecy. His Kingdom was not of this world.

The disciples believed Jesus’ Kingdom and popularity would sweep them into power. Here came the Greeks. They wanted to see Jesus.

Jesus saw the time for God to be glorified! Let’s do this thing! Let’s get after this! The hour had come! The disciples must have been pumped.

Would they wage war? Would Jesus be crowned King?

Jesus let the wind out of the sails. He was saying the direct opposite of what the disciples were expecting.

I have two points today:

The way up is the way down.

The way down is the way up.

THE WAY UP IS THE WAY DOWN.

According to research, Millennials are striving for and struggling with perfectionism. They are trying to meet society’s high expectations of them through perfectionism.

We have told our kids they can achieve their dreams if they chase them hard enough. It’s simply not true. It’s damaging. Achievement equates with love. If they can’t achieve, they’re scared to death of not being loved. Do you understand the pressure on young people, in this regard? They are asking themselves, “Will I be good enough? Will I achieve what people say I can achieve?” If everyone is outstanding, no one is outstanding.

Not just young people are feeling the pressure after The Fall. Before The Fall there was no pressure. Adam and Eve worked, and they loved it. They had great joy. They did not tie their self-worth to their work. They didn’t have to be the end-all, be-all. They rebelled. They lost touch with their significance. They lost their original purpose. They then found significance on their own. Such is the pursuit of mankind since The Fall.

The bottom line of our society is performance; if we perform, we make it, bringing significance. The pressure is overwhelming. We get anxious, because we’ve wrapped our significance in achievement and success. Or we see ourselves as “failures.” All of our self-worth is conditional. Author Phillip Yancey calls this a “world of un-grace.”

I love watching the old guys my age when they played basketball. I have watched interviews of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson — Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. The common denominator of these guys is living in the past of what they were. Their bodies don’t work that way anymore today. It’s all about what they did and how they measured up in the past, with their identities wrapped-up in their past performance.

This is the standard of the world. Performance relates to every sphere of our lives. When we do something well, we feel good about ourselves; otherwise, we feel bad about ourselves.

Jesus says the man who goes up will go down. Jesus accepts us for who we are. Why would we not accept ourselves for who we are? He’s talking about our constant self-promotion. He’s talking about significance gained through performance. It’s about this rat race toward significance. We want to feel good about ourselves. He said that results in misery. That agenda drives us toward misery. There’s little grace for us in this culture. Every single religion other than Christianity is about measuring up to be accepted by God. It’s an un-grace world.

THE WAY DOWN IS THE WAY UP.

Jesus used the seed analogy. The seed is is buried in a different form. It disappears. It goes away. It’s not longer existing in its present form. It cannot sprout unless it dies. He was talking about Himself. He needed to die, so those who were dead could be raised to new life.

Jesus is not in the business of tweaking us to make us better. His whole point is putting the old man to death and raising the new man in new life to Christ. The new man is a new creation. We are new creatures in Christ. Our life is found in Christ. This is our new identity. He made us alive in Christ, even when we were dead in our transgressions. It’s sheer grace.

Why do we always trying to pop-up our old selves? We fight for our reputation. We fight when we think we’re right. We have conflict because we want our own way. We have little humility — little love. Surely we know what’s right. All of our old man is associated with the culture’s definition of success. We don’t want anyone pointing out anything about us that indicates anything but success.

Jesus said we were new in Him. He was our reputation. Why would we hold onto the old stuff? We’re fighting for our identity of the old life. The performance mentality is drilled into us our entire lives. We’ve got to believe what Jesus says to us. We’d rather believe what the culture has indoctrinated us to believe.

We justify our actions. If we were honest, we’d have to admit that we’re moral failures and hypocrites much of the time. We live as though God’s love is in jeopardy, related to our performance.

But our lives are found in Christ. All kinds of good things flow from that truth. We don’t hate ourselves. There is godly self-acceptance, the way Jesus has accepted us. Jesus has accepted us. We should go with that.

He says we must follow and serve. It’s two sides of the same coin. Our life is a life of grace and confessing and following and serving. We must not be engaged in selfish desires. We seek to honor the One who gave us life. He offered us a new life.

How do we do this?

Jesus was saying the hour had come for His death. His greatest glory was in His greatest weakness on the cross, where He gave up His life for His people. Death equaled glory. That principle applies to us as well, doesn’t it?! Death equals glory. We need to reorder our scale. When we measure up, we feel glory. Yet the principle of the Gospel is weakness when we need a Savior!

He gave Himself up for our sin. Our glorious moment comes when we die to self and look to Christ for life. Who likes to die to self? We can see that play out in a thousand ways.

Our spouse can tell us things that hurt, but which bring glory.

We confess our sins to each other, and we experience glory! We know we need a Savior when we admit our insecurities, anxieties, depression, and sin.

The way down really is the way up.

Why are we so allergic to this? Because we have believed our world more than we have believed our Savior.

I want to invite you today to believe in our Savior. No one else has died for you. He gave His life for you. The Holy Spirit is praying through groaning. The Father loves you. The God-head is working on our behalf, yet we are defending our rotten reputations as if they are reputations to defend.

We have a much more glorifying life before us. Can we be okay with weakness and insecurity? Can we be honest? Can we be a church like that? Can we believe the Gospel? The Savior gave His life for us.

It’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

Small Groups, 26 April 2018

The 2017-2018 Southside Christian middle school and high school small groups met for the final time on Thursday, April 26, 2018.  If you would like to read the outline provided to small group leaders by Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship, please read on. . . .

Small Group Questions

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Warming Up

Take some time to talk about highlights and lowlights of this past year.

What is one thing you wish had happened this past year? Or a regret from this past year?

What are some things you are looking forward to for next year?

What is one thing you wish you had done differently in small groups?

In the past year what is one thing that God has been or is currently teaching you?

Going Deeper

Potential Activities:

(Feel free to utilize one of the activities below for your small group time.)

“I See Notes”

  1. Grab one sheet of paper per student in your small group (one for you, too).
  2. Hand the sheets out and have students put their names on them.
  3. Have everyone hand his/her sheet to the right.
  4. Set a timer for a minute or two.
  5. Then have students write something encouraging.

(i.e., “I see a leader in our school,” “Loved to see your transparency in the group,” “You’re an amazing singer,” “You’re a super gifted athlete,” “I see God doing something big in your life,” etc.), or a prayer you have for them.

Do this until everyone has had a chance to write something for everyone in the small group.

“Get Off the Bus”

  1. Put one student on the “Hot Seat.”
  2. Set a timer for a few minutes. (2-3 — time will go fast!)
  3. While that student is on the “Hot Seat,” the rest of the small group takes time to speak truth and encouragement into their lives (i.e.,  “I see a leader in our school,” “Loved to see your transparency in the group,” “You’re an amazing singer,” “You’re a super gifted athlete,” “I see God doing something big in your life,” etc.)

When things die down, or your time runs out for that person, have the next person take a seat. (Don’t be afraid to do it yourself!)

“Senior Prayer”

  1. If you have any seniors in your small group, have everyone else in your group surround one senior, lay hands on them, and pray over them.
  2. Do this for each senior in your group individually.
  3. THEN, flip the prayer. Have all your seniors pray over each underclassman one at a time.
  4. Feel free to ask students for prayer requests, so students can be direct when praying for them.
  5. Feel free to model this for them as you do it.

“Imitating Jesus Christ”

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, Southside Christian School Campus Pastor Colin Urbanick presented information to the Upper School staff during morning devotions. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Colin’s disciple-making presentation, “Imitating Jesus Christ,” please read on. . . .

“Imitating Jesus Christ”

By Pastor Colin Urbanick

Upper School Staff Devotions

Southside Christian School

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal (All mistakes in the summary are mine alone.)

Good morning! Welcome!

Hopefully, we can finish-up our “Learning Pathway” today.

Let me pray over your day and over your week. . . .

[Colin prayed a beautiful, heartfelt, Spirit-led prayer.]

If you are ever interested in good disciple-making material as a part of your summer reading, this book  [which Colin held up in his hand] was written by Mike Breen, a man who actually lives in Greenville:

Creating a Discipling Culture

INFORMATION is the first step in the Learning Pathway process. This step happens a lot in classrooms, churches, restaurants, and coffee shops.

IMITATION is really our bread and butter, where amazing things happen. This is a part of the process that is missing in many churches [and Christian schools]. We get a lot of information in our churches [and schools] — amazing content — we are not lacking in information — but we are lacking in face-to-face human contact. Ministry has become less face-to-face and more information-driven. We Google information. We aren’t picking up conversations with others. Here, imitation, is where life-on-life disciple-making occurs. Remember the example of Dietrich Boenhoeffer opening his home to the students he was discipling; such was access and life exposure.

Let me give an example from my own life. Last month, I was meeting with my school small group. I asked how I could pray for them. The guys clammed up. This was an opportunity for me to disciple these guys. I talked about having to deal with the hardest person in my life to love. When we talk about forgiveness, we don’t just want them to know “about” forgiveness; we want to know “how” to forgive [and, then, to actually forgive]. I had a chance in that moment to be transparent about not being able to love this person. I needed their help. The guys must have been thinking I was a pastor who should be super-forgiving. This was an opportunity for me to expose my life to these students. None of us has arrived. We invite students into our journeys. I asked the students to pray over me. They wanted more details. Then, they got up, circled around me, placed their hands on me, and several of them prayed over me. I’m still working on my walk with Christ, too. It’s not enough to teach about forgiveness. You’ve got to demonstrate forgiveness.

Jesus did this all of the time. He taught the disciples to pray. Jesus often practiced prayer. Their request for teaching about prayer was after they had already followed Jesus for quite some time, which gives me encouragement. This is the beautiful opportunity of life exposure.

My question of us today is. . .

Is my life worth imitating?

I’m not asking anyone in this room to be Jesus. But we can be imitators of Jesus.

Do we have lives worth imitating?

If we’re afraid of exposing certain aspects of our lives, we should continue to look for ways to intentionally invite students into our lives.

Have a great day!

“Meet Me in St. Louie!”

On Thursday-Sunday, April 19-22, 2018, 83 Southside Christian High School students and 11 chaperones traversed a 13-hour journey by Champion Coach bus to and from St. Louis, Missouri for the school’s annual Fine Arts Tour and competition in the

Six Flags Music in the Parks Music Festival. If you would like to read my summary of the Fine Arts Tour activities, “Meet Me in St. Louie!” please read on. . . .

“Meet Me in St. Louie!”

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

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer (All errors in reporting are mine alone.)

We kicked off the Tour from SCS at 6:30 a.m. E.S.T. on Thursday, April 19, 2018, the only day of school missed by the students and chaperones, since the High School Service Day was scheduled for Friday, April 20th.

Chaperones included all of the following:

  • Kimberly Graham, Fine Arts Department Chair and Strings Director
  • Carolyn Hutchinson, Band Director
  • Fred Barrett, Vocal Music Director
  • Russ Graham, SCS Parent and Husband of Mrs. Graham
  • Gary Hutchinson, High School Bible Instructor and Husband of Mrs. Hutchinson
  • Kathy Nelson, SCS Nurse
  • Jan Steenback, Upper School Bible Department Chair and Teacher
  • April Silvaggio, Upper School Parent and VIP Fine Arts Parent Representative
  • Stephanie Davis, Accompanist
  • Bob Jones, Upper School Assistant Principal
  • Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal

Thank you, Champion Coach and all drivers for your friendly, extraordinary service to all of us!  Their driving throughout the trip — especially through incessant rain on the return trip in the mountains — was second-to-none!

Hotel accommodations were excellent. As is the case with similar trips of this type, SCS provided 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. private security in the hotel hallways, so students were safe in their rooms. The students presented a consistently positive collective Christian witness to others in the swimming pool, hallways, dining area of the hotel, and all stops in St. Louis!

On Friday, April 20th, our day started with a delightful Gateway Arch experience. Apart from the understandable queasiness of some about heights from the Arch observation area at the summit, a good time was had by all on this beautiful, bright, and sunny morning.

During the afternoon on this day, we visited an outlying camp with a daunting climbing wall, long zipline, tall trust wall, and indoor tye-die t-shirt making. The daring courage, mutual encouragement, and perseverance of everyone was truly inspiring. (The old principal even braved the thrill of the zipline!)

The major evening activity on this day was a Mississippi Riverboat cruise with live music and a truly amazing prime rib and chicken dinner, topped off by a choice of carrot cake or marble caramel chocolate cheesecake.

Saturday, April 21st brought the competitions for the music festival. ALL — and I mean ALL — of the SCS ensembles performed extremely well, representing the school and Christ with excellence. We have MUCH for which to be proud of the following accomplishments—

Six Flags Music in the Parks Music Festival

St. Louis, Missouri

Saturday, April 21, 2018

  • Strings: Superior, 1st in Class, and Best Overall Orchestra for ALL Classes!
  • Sounds and Sabres: Superior, 2nd in Class, Mixed Chorus II
  • High School Choir, Superior, 1st in Class, Mixed Choir I
  • Grace Notes, Superior, 1st in Class, Women’s Chorus
  • Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten was THE ONLY individual recognized for excellence as a soloist, Outstanding Vocalist.
  • Band: Excellent rating, 2nd Place in Class

I praise God for the extremely high standards of our directors, and their wonderful discipling of our student musicians! I praise God for our students’ incredible preparation and performances!

The students were highly motivated for their quick “wardrobe changes,” so we could enjoy our six hours at the Six Flags amusement park during Saturday afternoon. Students and chaperones alike thrilled to exciting rollercoasters. Arcade games resulted in “interesting” prizes. (Ask your student, parents!) “People watching” was certainly fascinating as well. I am so glad to report no major injuries or illnesses on the Tour, a remarkable feat for a trip of this type.

We ended our Saturday with an AMAZING barbeque dinner at Pappy’s, which has been recognized for the best ribs in the United States. (I certainly attest to that honor!)

We began our return trip to South Carolina at 8:30 E.S.T. on Sunday, April 22nd.

We had intended to stop for “church” and a short devotional requested of me in the morning, but rain prevented our gathering as a full group throughout the day.

If I had offered the devotional, I would have reminded all of us to thank God, receive God’s congratulations, and to love God and others as God loves and delights in us.

My devotional outline follows—

DEVOTIONS

Sunday, April 22, 2018

God put three simple points on my heart for this short devotional:

#1, God is a God we should thank.

#2, God is a God who is pleased by you.

#3, God is a God who loves you.

First, it should be obvious that God is a God to Whom we must give thanks.

You will certainly recall when Jesus healed 10 lepers. . .

Give thanks to God!

And give thanks to others!

Thank YOU!

. . .

Anyone like to offer thanks to others around you this morning?

Secondly, God is pleased with you.

Paul wrote to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. And I will be handed a crown of glory!” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

When Jesus greets those of us who follow Him as Lord and Savior of our lives, we will hear, “Well done, you good and faithful servant!”

This is essentially the same as God saying to us, “Congratulations!”

We, too, should seek to say when we are pleased by others.

Whom would you like to congratulate today?

. . .

Well done, you good and faithful servants!

Finally, God Is a God of love.

Of course, we know that God IS love!

God loves!

John the Baptist baptized Jesus. After Jesus emerged from the water, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:16-17)

God says to you today, “I love you!”

God loves you no matter your music contest score, GPA, or athletic contest finish.

God loves us. The Great Commandment calls us to love Him and others.

Do not leave love or kind words unsaid or acted upon.

My Dad and Mom never told me, “I love you.” Such was not generally the case for their generation. But I knew I was loved by them unconditionally. A week before my Dad died in 2016, he turned to me and said, “I love you.”

Do not let words of thanks, kindness, love, affirmation, encouragement, or congratulations go unsaid!

I again say to ALL of you today,

“Thank you!”

“Congratulations!”

“We love you!”

To God—and to God alone—be all praise and honor and glory!

Amen!

Please close your eyes, bow your heads, and sing our closing prayer together, if you know this simple praise chorus.

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!

For one of the few times of my life, I actually slept in a vehicle for the final time of our journey.  It was a restful sleep, because these students and chaperones interacted so marvelously together for 4 very full days. I am QUITE proud of the students, in particular. In my 38 years as an educator—years which have included many trips of this type—I cannot remember a more enjoyable experience.

I will take the risk of offering “special thanks” to Kimberly Graham for “orchestrating” her first Fine Arts Tour as Fine Arts Coordinator (pun intended) with distinction. Mrs. Graham’s leadership, attention to detail, and decision-making for the Tour can only be described as extraordinary.

Congratulations to the directors, musicians, and parents for your commitment to the fine arts at Southside Christian School!

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

Praise Him, all creatures—here, below!

Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Aaaaaaaaa-mennnnnn!

“The Potent Power of Expediency”

On Sunday, April 16, 2018, Eastside Presbyterian Church Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth preached a message on the pragmatism in Jesus’ day and the pragmatism in our day, even among Christians. If you would like to be challenged by Pastor Mark’s message, “The Potent Power of Expediency,” please read on. . . .

“The Potent Power of Expediency”
By Pastor Mark Auffarth
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, April 15, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
And wretches hang that jurymen may dine.” (Alexander Pope)

Text: John 11:45-47 (English Standard Version)

o45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for[f] Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.

Footnote:

  *   John 11:56 Greek “were seeking for”

Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer

We are jumping back into the book of John. Let us pray together. . . .

If you’ve seen the classic science fiction movie Matrix, you know that, in this movie, computers take over the world. Human prisoners are kept in pods, given a false reality through electrodes. The computes take energy from humans. Though the world is controlled by the computers, a few people have escaped, living in a ship, attempting to elude their captors. Life in the ship is difficult. The food is poor. The circumstances are not good. One man decides he wants to go back to the computer. I have a clip of this man dealing with the false reality.

[The short movie clip illustrated this concept.]

The man was tired of hardship. He would rather live in a fantasy world.

I wonder if that might also describe some of us. We tend to live in the moment. This describes what is going on with the scribes and the Pharisees in today’s passage.

Lazarus had just been raised from the dead by Jesus. Many believed. But some went to the scribes and Pharisees to report on what He had been doing. They were so bothered that they called a meeting of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews headed by the High Priest. People on the Sanhedrin had great power.

They had been trying to discredit Jesus. They asked, “What are we accomplishing?” The more they sought to discredit Him, the more Jesus’ influence grew. They were against Jesus. They wanted the people to stop believing in Him. They acknowledged, clearly, that He had raised Lazarus from the dead. So what’s the disconnect for them?

They’re focusing on the wrong thing. Could it be that he IS the Messiah?

Never mind the truth. They were terrified that people following Jesus would revolt against the Romans, making Him their King, and Rome would crush the Jewish people. They, in turn, would lose their place of prominence. Their life —the way they knew it — would be over. Never mind that He was raising people from the dead! That was irrelevant to them! It’s a strong fear that resulted in them ignoring Jesus as Messiah!

In THE SECULAR CITY, the book outlined how the U.S was declining into secularism. The culture is defined by pragmatism. Pragmatism is a philosophical system first talked about by a man from Harvard in the Metaphysical Club. This author came to the conclusion that we cannot understand metaphysical reality. How can we live in a world in which we cannot discern truth? “That which works.” That’s pragmatism, the only philosophical system indigenous to the United States. (We invented country music, too — and jazz.)

Pragmatism is about expediency. So it seemed as though members of the Sanhedrin were pragmatists. Never mind who Jesus might be. They were going to fight against Him. They didn’t understand His miracles. Their real-life way of living was being threatened, so they needed to do something about it.

Expediency has infiltrated the church. We have no money; we have room on our credit card; we buy. Buy now. Pay later.

We do it with food. We eat all kinds of things we know aren’t good for us. We don’t see our arteries, so we don’t know about the clogging or cholestoral. That’s why we struggle with this type of expediency.

My wife Anne was talking to me last night about an island of trash the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean. There are thousands and thousands of miles of trash. Why don’t we do something about it? Plastic sells. The trash is way out in the ocean. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind. This is called expediency, or pragmatism. Most people won’t recycle. But it’s God’s world, and we should protect it. That is expediency of the here-and-now by what works for us in the moment.

Money, food, garbage — We can talk about any number of other things we do in our culture, but there is something deeper and more dangerous here. It has to do with our relationship with God. What did Jesus claim as His purpose on this earth? He came that we could have life — life in full — abundant life. We tend to equate fullness with our circumstances. Everything’s got to work right? Many preachers preach this way, saying we can have our best life now, and God love to give whatever we want. That’s expedient thinking.

Relationship with God

Life is not about our circumstances. Abundant life is deeper at a heart level. Our relationship with God is restored as a result of Jesus’ work on the cross. He made us alive in Christ. Jesus came to restore our relationship with the Father, and the purpose of our lives is restored.

Relationship with Ourselves

And our relationship with ourselves is healed. He restores us from our woundedness. He heals with the balm of Jesus’ forgiveness on the cross.

Relationships with Others

Our relationships with each other begin to change. None of these relationships have anything to do about the circumstances of our days. When our relationships are healed, our circumstances become less important to us. Circumstances are not the main things in our lives.

But it is so easy to focus on our circumstances and to make our decisions accordingly.

It’s becoming a hostile world for Christians. It’s fine for us to believe in Christianity in private, but not publicly. Recently a U.S. Senator asked the candidate for Secretary of State about homosexuality, and he has gave the typical Christian position. The Senator was incensed with him; he could not hold that biblical conviction and also be a public policy leader!

If you’re in a university classroom, it’s one of the worst places to be as a Christian.

People believe Christianity is the problem in the world. Somehow, it’s not about other religions like Islam.

Jesus’ final command to the church was to make disciples. We’ll get pushback. Most of us are afraid and uncomfortable about pushback. Most of us are avoiders of conflict at all cost. What if we can’t answer their questions? What if I lose my close circle of friends? What if I make them angry?

We live a very comfortable life, and we don’t want to make a mess of our lives. We do what’s good for us right now.

Living in the present can backfire. When Christians keep quiet about our faith, the very thing they fear — opposition to our message — will only increase, because we will not be salt and light in our communities. We need to be people of the Word — backed by deed.

The very thing the Pharisees and scribes feared came to pass, because they refused to accept the reality of Jesus as the Messiah. They rejected Him outright. They wanted what they wanted in the NOW.

Jesus needed to be put to death to end the problem once-and-for-all. God’s will and man’s sin dovetailed here. But God’s sovereign plan will not be thwarted. They were ready to murder to save their way of life. They prophesied that Jesus’ death as a means of making His people one. God saved His people through a despicable act of the Sanhedrin!

They sealed their own fate. Their biggest fear became a reality. The elimination of Jesus led to a revolt of the Jews, the very thing they feared. The Romans squashed the revolt in 70 A.D.! The Sanhedrin was no more. This paradox is not lost to the readers of John in 90 A.D. They thought they were saving their skin, but this act actually brought about their demise!

We struggle to trust what God promises in His Word.

Let’s be careful with expediency — what seems best in the moment. Blind bliss does not end in bliss.

Everyone will die. We must think about that. We don’t like to talk about death. We must think about ultimate reality. We live in the moment too much. Expediency has impacted the church as well.

If you’re not a believer here this morning, you may think that your life simply ends. What hope do you have? If there is no afterlife, what is the point of life? Look at the evidence for Jesus.

Perhaps you’re a believer with no joy. You may be asking what “abundant life” is all about.

Maybe you’re living a life of expediency. You may think Jesus has abandoned you. You may be living as a practical atheist, as if God does not exist and He is not directing your steps.

This life is a mist — over in a heartbeat. Life goes so fast. Is this life all there is? We live our lives so desperate about our reputations and feeling worthy. Life is so temporary. It seems like yesterday when I was in high school. I was with the Kerschners. They wanted to introduce us to their parents, an “older” couple. When we met the “elder” Kerschners, we found out we were the same age!!

Jesus gave up His life for us. He is enough. He says, “I. . .am. . .enough.”

One of my mentors, Dave McCarty, indicates that the Gospel is “bad news” to those who believe their works will bring worthiness. We too often treasure our own worthiness, rather than Jesus’ worthiness. We are proud. But there is hope. Jesus came for frauds and failures. We “qualify” for God’s grace. The Pharisees were frauds, just like us. What if we lost everything today? Would Jesus be enough for you? If He is enough, you’re no fraud. Beware of the level of the Pharisees, said Jesus.

There were two High Priests there on this day.

Caiaphas acted in fear, that he would not lose his position.

The other High Priest, Jesus, acted in love and selflessness.

This is Christianity! The Savior came not to condemn the world, but that we might be saved.

How can we act in expediency? Jesus is the lover of your soul. He is enough.

That’s the Gospel, and it changes everything.

“Ask, Build, Connect, Show, and Share!”

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, during both Southside Christian School chapels, Pastor Colin Urbanick preached a rousing message of challenge to the middle school and high school students — that they would not sit idly by and would answer Jesus’ command to be missionaries in their spheres of influence. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Colin’s message, “Ask, Build, Connect, Show, and Share!” please read on. . . .

“Ask, Build, Connect, Show, and Share!”

By Pastor Colin Urbanick

Southside Christian School

Middle School and High School Chapel

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal (All mistakes are my own alone.)

Pastor Colin welcomed the students to Middle School and High School chapel.

Pastor Colin said he wanted to shake things up a bit in the middle school chapel. He asked the students to turn to someone nearby to listen, take at least one prayer request, and then pray for 3 minutes.

Pastor Colin indicated middle school students may be wondering if they can do anything to help build God’s Kingdom, and he encouraged the students with the truth that prayer is one of their best avenues, in this regard.

Again, Pastor Colin prompted the discussion and prayer, indicating he would close the 3 minutes with his verbal prayer over the entire audience.  

The students engaged in conversation and then prayer.

Pastor Colin indicated to the high school audience that, while many students are on the Fine Arts Tour next week, the rest of the student body would be serving others around them on Service Day (Friday, April 20, 2018). The students would meet at school initially. They would be signing up on RenWeb.  He asked students to keep their eyes open for placements on the balcony bulletin board.  If the students had questions, they should go to Pastor Colin.

Pastor Colin indicated we all have the privilege to participate in Christian school with the family of God.  Christian school communities can worship with other people, never taking that for granted.  

Pastor Colin prayed to close this opening to chapel. He prayed that we are not to be bystanders in the spiritual growth of others around us, partnering with God. He prayed the students would resist any thought that God can’t use students in this way.

Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent, introduces a special high school chapel guest, Diane Kleckner.  Dr. Barfell, Mrs. Kleckner, Athletic  Director Mike Johnson, and Track and Field Coach DeAnn Walpole stood on the stage as a group.  Dr. Barfell invited the entire staff to stand in front of the stage.  Dr. Barfell indicated that the school track had been dedicated in the memory of Coach Kleckner during the first annual Frank Kleckner Memorial Track Meet in February, and the school wanted to broaden the audience of the people knowing about that honor by repeating a ceremony this day during chapel.  [Frank Kleckner died tragically in an automobile wreck in May, 2017.]  Dr. Barfell spoke very positively of the influence which Coach Kleckner had on him personally, on his colleagues, on his track and field student-athletes, and on the entire school community.  Dr. Barfell read the inscription on the stadium plaque of dedication, and he read Scripture which characterized Coach Kleckner’s life.  Dr. Barfell also read about Coach Kleckner’s conversion experience at a Billy Graham Crusade in San Jose, California (a notation from his original SCS application form).  Mrs. Kleckner addressed the audience, indicating to the students and staff that he loved all of them as much as the students and staff members loved him.  Long, sustained applause came from the student audience.  

During Middle School Chapel, Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten (on keyboard and vocals) and Upper School Vocal Music Instructor/Director Fred Barrett (on guitar and vocals) led the student body in a time of worship in song. Mr. Barrett prayed as a bridge from worship through song to worship through the Word.

During High School Chapel, Mary Elizabeth (again on keyboard and vocals), Coby Greene (on percussion), and High School French Teacher Brett Henderson led the student body in a time of worship and song. Mr. Henderson prayed as a bridge from worship through song to worship through the Word.

Pastor Colin Urbanick

I want to introduce two friends of mine, Lucio and Rosita.

[A photograph of Lucio and Rosita on the screen.]

There is nothing particularly unique or amazing about these people, but they live in a place called Juarez, Mexico, which was once one of the most dangerous places in the world, because of the battles between drug cartels. But these people believed God could work in a special way through them to impact people in Mexico, America, and all over the world. Two very normal people decided God wanted to use them for amazing things. Right now, they are missionaries in Juarez, but they move back and forth between Mexico and the United States.

I wish I could introduce you to Mike Stringfellow. He was in his 70s when I met him. He was a tool and die worker before he retired. He had an amazing impact on middle school students day-in and day-out. He wanted to participate in God’s work.

Many of you remember Jack Voigt, our student body chaplain last year, a normal guy whom God used. He’s now influencing others as a freshman in college. God uses him.

Remember the amazing guy, Frank KIeckner. He was an awesome individual. He knew God wanted to use him. I saw tears all over the room when Dr. Barfell talked about Coach Kleckner today [during high school chapel]. He believed he was a missionary sent to do something amazing. He had impact on countless lives. So many of the people he influenced are not in this room over the years he coached and taught at Southside Christian.

All of those people were unified by the belief that God wanted to use them. We want to, as human beings, be a part of a larger story in life. That’s why we go to epic movies. Young people all over the world want to be a part of relief efforts. That’s the story of humanity.

Charles Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  These people said yes to what God wa doing in their lives.

People also join the church to be a part of something bigger themselves. We re-tweet. We re-post videos. We want to be a part of something bigger. God ingrained that desire within everyone in this room.

God has always intended to use His people. Even in the beginning in the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam and Eve a plan, purpose, and jobs. God is using His people all over the place. This happened in the Old Testament and the New Testament. He wanted to use Israel as His chosen people. He intended for His people to be a blessing to others around them.  The Benevolence Project, for instance, is intended for God to work in and through us to serve others.

Unfortunately, we too often create checklists for God.  But He wants to re-create us.

How many have you been baptized?

[Numerous hands went up.]

We are normally baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I wondered what that meant when I was a kid. Was it religious jargon?  The water brings us into a new identification with Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior — firmly rooted in the Father, Son, and Spirit.  Remember, we’ve been unpacking the change of identity when we become Christians.

We are baptized in the name of the Father. That makes us family.  So everyone around you are brothers and sisters. But we too often act as orphans and actually mistreat others around us.

We are also baptized in the name of the Son. We are servants to the least of these, such as Jesus did.

Finally, we are baptized in the Holy Spirit. We know a lot about God the Father and God the Son, but we get caught up in question marks when talking about the Holy Spirit.  How is the Holy Spirit working in your life today?  The Holy Spirit prompts us to be missionaries.

Please go to John 20:21.

Jesus had been resurrected. He stood among the disciples. He showed them the piercings of his hands.

And then He said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”  (John 20:21)

He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

They didn’t hunker down and ride out the storm. Jesus was sent by the Father to demonstrate who God is, and He then sent the disciples to do what He had done — like Lucio, Rosita, Mike, and Frank. We are sent people. We must not be idle people. He chooses to use us.

When we’ve been baptized by the Father, we are family.

When we’ve been baptized by the Son, we are servants.

When we’ve been baptized by the Spirit, we are missionaries.

Let’s have a quick family talk here.

Maybe you’ve bought into the lie that you’re just a bystander in God’s Kingdom work.  We judge each other’s friend groups. I hear this from middle school and high school students. Maybe we think we should be “judges,” rather than missionaries. But missionaries are loving people, expressing the love they have experienced from the Father. Enough with the judging.

Let’s be missionaries. If you identify as a Christian, you are a part of the family of God. It is not enough to sit idly by. He is intending to use you. He doesn’t have to use us. But He wants to use us as a part of his bigger story.

Maybe you’re waiting for a later time or until you have a new friend group or when you will be more “perfect.” That latter reason was something I struggled with. I believed that for years and years and years. God uses imperfect people and crooked sticks all of the time. We cannot sit idly by. God wants to use us to further His Kingdom. If you don’t believe that, open up the Bible and see how God used imperfect people.

I want to make another point.  You are not here by accident. The fact that you’re in this school is not an accident. The fact that you sit next to a certain person in class or chapel is not an accident. We too often think everything is happenstance. The reality is that God is placing you in the lives of others around you. Frank Kleckner was not here by accident; he said yes to God, and he was used by God during his life. IHP students, you are not here by accident.

You are a missionary. You don’t have to go to a deep, dark jungle of Africa to be a missionary. A missionary believes God is sending you no matter who you are or how imperfect you are.

Jesus used imperfect people. Peter, a bumbling fool at times, was a messed-up person whom God used, even though he had denied the Lord.

God is in control. He is placing people in your spheres of influence. Maybe you think you’re a bystander, but that could not be further from the truth.

Maybe you’re not a Christian. Maybe you’ve never thought about this. Dr. Barfell told me that some of you committed or re-committed to the Lord during the chapel just before Easter. If that’s so, you are now a missionary.

Maybe you don’t want to be a part of this. The reality is we need God, and He chooses to use us for his Kingdom work and His glory. God is inviting you into relationship with Him.

During the Middle School Spiritual Life Conference, Jonny Mac [the speaker] asked an important question about how you can make God great through you. Maybe our passion has trickled-away.

I have four words of application for you:

ASK.

Ask God how He can send and use you in the day and many moments of the day. Just one person can make a difference. Address the problems in our school. You can change any apathy or legalism. Ask God to change negative situations. Ask, “God, where are You sending me?” God is faithful to show you. Want to be His missionary and to change negative situations.

BUILD.

Build relationships around you. You will need to be more vulnerable and spend time with others, not talking about and playing Fortnight as much. You can’t fill needs without knowing the needs.

CONNECT.

You cannot do this alone. Hopefully, you’re in a church and youth group. You have teachers here. We try alone. We fail. We give up. Put yourself around others. Don’t operate in silos. The bond you build with people in missionary trips causes you to believe you can change the world. God wants you to do that here, in this place. Your family is your “mission trip group.”

SHOW and SHARE.

Show and share what God has done in and through you. God intends to use you.

Where are you being sent? You are missionaries. You are not bystanders.

We love you. Have a great rest of your day.