Monthly Archives: July 2018

“What Troubles Your Heart?”

On Sunday, July 15, 2018, Cheryl’s brother Harry and sister-in-law Carol joined us at Eastside Presbyterian Church — in part, because we are proud of our church and the people who make up this body of Christ in Greenville. Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth preached another provocative message. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s sermon, “What Troubles Your Heart?” please read on. . . .

“What Troubles Your Heart?”
From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series
By The Rev. Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, July 15, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“The Word we study has to be the Word we pray. My personal experience of the relentless tenderness of God came not from exegetes, theologians, and spiritual writers, but from sitting still in the presence of the living Word and beseeching Him to help me understand with my head and heart His written Word. Sheer scholarship alone cannot reveal to us the gospel of grace. We must never allow the authority of books, institutions, or leaders to replace the authority of ‘knowing’ Jesus Christ personally and directly. When the religious views of others interpose between us and the primary experience of Jesus as the Christ, we become unconvicted and unpersuasive travel agents handing out brochures to places we have never visited.” (Brennan Manning, in The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out)

Passage of the Week:

1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God;[a] believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”[c] 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Footnotes:
a       John 14:1 Or You believe in God
b       John 14:2 Or In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you
c       John 14:4 Some manuscripts Where I am going you know, and the way you know

[English Standard Version (ESV)]

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

We’re going to look at just a few verses at the beginning of John today. These are some of the best and well known verses of the Bible.

So how’s your heart this morning? Are you troubled? Perhaps you had a fight with your spouse on the way to church. You screamed at each other on the way, and then, when you were greeted by someone here, you acted as though everything was fine. Perhaps your child is struggling, so you’re struggling. Maybe you’re focused on all of the troubling news of the world. There are so many reasons to be troubled.

But Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

Is that a message just for the disciples, or is that a message to all of us?

Why would He have made this comment to His disciples? Their hearts were troubled. Jesus was always calm. He ministered with compassion. He was not troubled. Yet, here, He said they were troubled. He had told them He was going away. Where was He going?  Someone would betray Him. “Is it I?” They all must have asked. Peter would deny him three times before He was crucified. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled,” even though their worlds would be rocked.

Isn’t that how it is with all of us today? We have troubles. Life is difficult. The most underlined verse of the Kindle Bible is “. . .do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6, English Standard Version)

Do not be anxious about anything. Why? People are troubled. Suicide rates are rising. The culture is busy. No wonder we are not at peace.

What’s interesting is our solutions are not really working. More money doesn’t take our trouble away. We get busier. We’re after something, which only makes our situations worse. We don’t have time.

Chuck Swindoll has talked about busyness ruining relationships. Our calendars are filled, but our families are fractured. Churches have programs for everyone, but we’re only busy, not transforming. How are you dealing with your troubled soul?

Jesus’ answer is in Chapter 14. “Let not your heart be troubled.” He gives reasons why our hearts should not be troubled.

TRUST GOD!

The first reason? We should trust God. The word, trust, is ambiguous here in the Greek. There are implications to that ambiguity. We have options. “Trust in God” and “Trust in Jesus.” Or “Trust in God,” and, because of that trust in Him, trust in Jesus.” The disciples had been with Him for 3 years. They had seen Him perform miracle after miracle. He told them that He and His Father were one. But their hearts were troubled, even though they were in the presence of the one who had performed these miracles.

When times get tough, we have trouble trusting. A Baptist minister once said that there is no situation he could get into that God could not get him out of. Once, the pastor was piloting a plane, and he was in a nosedive. The plane was out of control, and the instructor was not helping him. The minister corrected the problem. He was upset at the instructor, who told him, “There is not one situation which I can’t get you out of.”

Trust God. Don’t let your heart be troubled. Trust Jesus. Things would get back. But He said, trust me. Trust me. Trust me.

JESUS IS PREPARING A PLACE FOR YOU!

The second reason for not allowing our hearts to be troubled is that Jesus is going to prepare a place for us, that we might also be where He is. God is inviting us into His house. That’s a promise to His people.

Tim Keller once gave an analogy. Two women of the same age, socioeconomic status, educational level, and disposition were given identical work. The work was boring. There was one difference between the two women, though. The first woman received 30,000. The second woman made $30,000,000. The first woman said to the second woman, “Isn’t this insane? How boring!” The second woman says, “No, I whistle while I work!” She had significant hope for the future.

We are irrefutably hope-based people. Our hope? We have a home. Jesus is preparing a place for you. Does that resonate with you? That resonates with me.

There is not a more famous movie than The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy clicks her heels at the end. “There’s no place like home.” She ends up in Kansas. She ends up in her sweet spot. She wanted to get home. We all long to be home, where we’re loved, where we feel at rest, where we can experience peace.

Did you see the movie, Lion. An Indian boy was with his brother, looking for spare change. The boy went into an empty train. He woke up 1,500 miles away in Calcutta. He was eventually adopted and raised in Tasmania. But he wanted to get home. He approximated the distance he spent on the train and tracked down the roof of his home on Google Earth! He recognized his roof! He was able to find his home. He reconnected with his mother. True story. He wanted to be home.

Wanting home is in our DNA. We disagree about how we can “get home.” We have a deep longing. The Romantics dreamed for a better place; that’s why I identify with them.  We long for a place where everything and everyone is at rest. We wake up and believe everything is right with the world. Do you long for that?

We make decisions about what will bring us peace and joy and rest. But we never seem to find it. Why not? We’ve been duped. We’ve been told we can find it right here on earth. Whatever you’re pining for will make life so much better. It’s just a longing for home. But we’re not home yet.

C.S. Lewis once said that we were made for another world.

Longings are powerful.

What are we longing for? We’re longing for home. Some of you wish your spouse would treat you better. Maybe you confused that longing for longing to be home. We want better jobs, for our kids to be close by, for a rebellious child to turn to Jesus. We’re longing for home.

The next time you’re trapped in your struggle with lust, remember you have distorted your desire to be home. Pornography will not satisfy. The longing is a powerful thing. Recognize what we’re longing for.

Jesus tells us, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in me. And I will tell you what will make your life right.”

I looked in Revelation 21. John the author, saw the holy city. God would live with His people. God would wipe tears, death, crying, and pain away. God will make everything new. Jesus is there. God makes things new. It’s not about what we’re going to get. It’s that Jesus is there!

He was troubled, so we wouldn’t have to be. He endured the wrath of God. He died. Do you see what a Savior we have? This Savior is eminently trustworthy. He is preparing a place for you. What do we have to be troubled with? We will never face the wrath of God. Our sins are forgiven — past, present, and future. They’re gone! We will not suffer the wrath of God on our lives, because Jesus bore it all on the cross.

The future is bright! We get to go home. And that makes all of the difference today.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that the most effective Christians in this world are the ones who hope for the best in the next world.

Do we trust?

It’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

“The High Price of Anxiety, Worry, and Depression”

In a recent blog post, I recounted my experience with an area panel of school principals, counselors, and teacher.  We were asked what kept us up at night as educators.  I was not at all shy about giving my number one concern, which brought a cascading response of confirmation from all of the other educators.

We are very concerned about the mental health of our students.

Students are experiencing a disproportionate amount of anxiety, worry, fear, depression, and suicidal ideations.  I think back over my 39 years as an educator, and I’d say this is an alarming trend for this generation.

What are young people so anxious about?

As with any past generation, they want to fit in and be accepted by their peers.  They want to be successful academically and extracurricularly.  They desire relationships with their friends and others in school communities.

So what’s different about this generation?

Electronic devices are distracting too many young people from depth of relationship, the very sense of belonging which would give their lives greater purpose.

For that matter, our “smart” phones are making all of us “dumb.”  Have you ever lost track of time looking through the layers of information from app to app on your phone?  Guilty, as charged, I am!

Generation Z maintains Snapchat streaks even when they are grounded from their phones — by giving passwords to their friends and asking them to keep the streaks alive.

If a middle school or high school student doesn’t get enough “likes” on their social media accounts, he returns incessantly until the approval ratings improve, getting depressed when no one notices him.

Young people are presenting false facades and multiple avatars, hiding from their parents and hiding their authentic selves from all others.

During the school year, students will complain about having so much homework that they stay up to the wee hours of the morning, although, if they were honest with others, many of them would have to admit that they wasted significant evening time on their devices.

This generation wants to “do it all.”  With no or limited boundaries, they take the hardest classes, do the most homework, work jobs, lead school clubs, attend church events, participate in sports, work their phones, and stay up well into the next days as a signs of their frenetic pace to get ahead.

I am to blame.  I helped raise my own daughters — one essentially from Generation Z and one a Millennial.  I didn’t do my own daughters any favor by modeling poor behavior myself or failing to place greater limits on their overextended activities.  For years, my talented younger daughter was playing soccer year-round, plus whatever other sport was in-season; my wife and I were running ragged in our vehicles from practice-to-practice and game-to-game.

I would like to encourage the parents in my reading audience to do a self-assessment of your own lives and the lives of your schoolchildren.  Do you, personally, need to create more margin in your schedule?  Have your children bitten off too much to chew?  Should you ask for those devices at 10:00 p.m. and expect your children to get their necessary sleep at night?  (There’s an important topic for a later blog entry.)

The Bible says not to fear, worry, or be anxious.  We know God will never leave nor forsake us.  He who has begun a good work WILL see it through to the day of completion.  The Lord will never leave nor forsake us.  We are to be strong and courageous.  Of course, our relationship with Jesus Christ is our most important source of strength and perseverance through the challenges of our lives.

All of the employees of our school work hard at loving and pouring into the students, but sometimes students need extra help from trained professionals.  A licensed counseling professional comes to our school one day a week.  Just this past week, I met with a professional counselor who is available to more clients; he has 10 years of teaching experience, and he earned his Master’s degree from Liberty University, so he takes a Christ-centered, biblically-directed approach to counseling.  If you are interested in pursuing his services in the Greenville, South Carolina area, his name is Josh Neuer, his website is joshneuer.com, and he can be reached by phone (864-660-3844) or e-mail (josh@joshneuer.com).

A couple months ago, I realized that I had not fully processed a number of issues since my move from Iowa to South Carolina (my Dad’s death, “loss” of long-time friends, a new job and community, my overbearing need for success, etc.), so I sought the services of a Christian counselor, and it has made a big difference.  None of us should be so proud to deny our need for professional help, and ALL OF US in the body of Christ can certainly do better to invest time and energy in each other, so we all know that we are valued members of our communities.

Take heart!  Jesus has overcome the world!  He came to give us life in abundance!  For the joy set before Him, he endured the wrath of God, became sin for us, and defeated death at the cross!

I have become a collector of articles about anxiety and depression, because I am so concerned about this generation.  I want to educate myself about how to help them, not complain about them.  What good does it do to channel negative energy?  We need to commit positive energy to solutions.

If you are interested in this topic, you may want to read 1 or more of the following articles:

“Principals Focus on Serving Student Social-Emotional Needs,” by Dian Schaffnauser, The Journal, https://thejournal.com/articles/2018/07/02/principals-focus-on-serving-student-social-emotional-needs.aspx

“Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering from Severe Anxiety?” by Benoit Denizet-Lewis, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/11/magazine/why-are-more-american-teenagers-than-ever-suffering-from-severe-anxiety.html

“Educators Employ Strategies to Help Kids with Anxiety Return to School,” by Samantha Raphelson, https://www.npr.org/2017/10/16/558097820/educators-employ-strategies-to-help-kids-with-anxiety-return-to-school

“Depression and God’s Grace: You Are Not Alone,” by Eric Metaxas, BreakPoint, http://www.breakpoint.org/2017/11/breakpoint-depression-gods-grace/

“Suicide Replaces Homicide As Second-Leading Cause of Death Among U.S. Teenagers,” by Alicia VanOrman and Beth Jarosz, https://www.prb.org/suicide-replaces-homicide-second-leading-cause-death-among-us-teens/

“The Silent Tragedy Affecting Today’s Chlidren,” by Victoria Prooday, https://yourot.com/parenting-club/2017/5/24/what-are-we-doing-to-our-children

“Three Reasons for Teen Unhappiness and What to Do About It,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, Growing Leaders, https://growingleaders.com/blog/three-reasons-for-teen-unhappiness-and-what-to-do-about-it/

“Depression Becoming More Common Among U.S. Teens,” by Lisa Rapaport, Reuters Health, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-teens-depression-idUSKBN13922P

“Stressed Childhood Might Raise Risk for High Blood Pressure Later,” HealthDay News, https://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/high-blood-pressure-health-news-358/stressed-childhood-might-raise-risk-for-high-blood-pressure-later-716860.html

“An Antidote for Students’ Stress,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/antidote-students-stress/

“What to Do About a Stressed Out Teen,” by Dr. Tim Elmore,  https://growingleaders.com/blog/stressed-teen/

“Overwhelmed? 10 Choices You Can Make to Start Overcoming,” by Brandon Cox, https://pastors.com/overwhelmed-10-choices-can-make-start-overcoming/

“Tragic Killer of Our Youth,” by Kurt Bubna, https://pastors.com/tragic-killer-of-our-youth/

“Depressed Teens,” by Eric Metaxas, BreakPoint, http://www.breakpoint.org/2017/06/breakpoint-depressed-teens/

“Cannibas Use at 18 Linked to Depression in Young Teens,” by Amy Wallace, Health News, https://www.upi.com/Health_News/2017/07/17/Cannabis-use-at-18-linked-to-depression-in-young-teens/3671500317250/

“Our Narrative: One Variable to Reduce Student Stress,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/narrative-one-variable-reduce-student-stress/

“The A, B, C’s of Building Coping Skills in Your Students,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/abcs-building-coping-skills-students/

“Yale’s Most Popular Class Ever and What We Can Learn from It,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/yales-popular-class-ever-can-learn/

“In High School, the Kids Are Not All Right,” by David Tow, Edutopia, https://www.edutopia.org/article/high-school-kids-are-not-all-right

“Teen Suicides Up 70+ Percent over a Decade,” by Breck Dumas, The Blaze, https://www.theblaze.com/news/2018/03/20/teen-suicides-up-70-percent-over-a-decade

“Find Your Happiness in Christ: A Message from Randy Alcorn to High Schoolers,” https://www.epm.org/resources/2015/Oct/7/find-your-happiness-christ-message-randy-alcorn-hi/

“Five Helpful Responses to Teen Anxiety and Depression,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/five-helpful-responses-to-teen-anxiety-and-depression/

“Americans Are a Lonely Lot, and Young People Bear the Heaviest Burden,” by Rhitu Chatterjee, https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/05/01/606588504/americans-are-a-lonely-lot-and-young-people-bear-the-heaviest-burden

“The Role of Social Emotional Learning in Overcoming Anxiety,” by Dr. Tim Elmore, https://growingleaders.com/blog/the-role-of-social-emotional-learning-in-overcoming-anxiety/

“Why Kids and Teens May Face Far More Anxiety These Days,” by Amy Ellis Nutt, The Washington Post, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2018/05/10/why-kids-and-teens-may-face-far-more-anxiety-these-days/?utm_term=.cbbb964e9508

“The Plan Is the Plan!”

I wish Mark Auffarth would quit preaching just to me! On Sunday, July 8, 2018, Pastor Mark preached a pointed message, “The Plan Is the Plan” at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, please read on. . . .
“The Plan Is the Plan!”
By the Rev. Dr. Mark Auffarth
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, July 8, 2018
Quote of the Week:
“What are you really living for? It’s crucial to realize that you either glorify God, or you glorify something or someone else. You’re always making something look big. If you don’t glorify God when you’re involved in a conflict, you inevitably show that someone or something else rules your heart.” (Ken Sande, in Resolving Everyday Conflict)
Text of the Week — John 13:31-38 (English Standard Version)
31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.
Summary of and Editorializing by Bob Stouffer (All errors are mine alone.)
We come again to this passage in John 13. We looked last week at the passage and how we can more fully love one another. This is the night Jesus was betrayed. He was having dinner with His disciples. Later, in Chapter 17, he prayed for the disciples. We have a number of chapters and messages until He is crucified.
In his book, The Wycliffe Handbook of Preaching and Preachers, Warren Wiersbe spoke of the missionary Hudson Taylor. God used Taylor in China for many years to bring people to saving faith in Christ. Wiersbe talked about our plans and God’s plans in that book. We should ask for His plans and His purposes. We make plans all of the time, based on our knowledge and experience. We get impressed with our own wisdom. But our plans often fail. Often, our decisions are not the right ones. Sometimes, our actions are mistakes. We think we go down the wrong roads.
What we’re going to get from this passage this morning has to do with God’s plan. Verse 31 centers on the Son being glorified and the Father glorified through the Son. Everything Jesus did was pointing to this moment. He was glorified! The Father was glorified! This was the plan before time existed. No one or no thing could thwart the plan. No amount of sin from you or from me would change the plan. The plan is the plan! Do you understand the plan?
We’re going to look at three perspectives today.
  1. It’s God’s Plan. . .
  2. We Need to Trust Him. . .
  3. . . .Because It’s Not Our Plan
IT’S GOD’S PLAN.
God set Himself up as King in His Kingdom. Jesus declared Himself to be glorified, and the Father glorified Himself in the Son. We could do a whole sermon series on the relationship between the Father and the Son.
What does it mean for Jesus to be glorified? Jesus’ last words to His betrayer were “What you do, do it quickly.” He was at the point of no return. Jesus knew Judas would find the Chief Priests, who would gather soldiers for the arrest of Jesus. He would die the next day. Tonight was His last sunset. He was essentially saying, “Judas, get this show on the road.” Jesus was not surprised by the plan. He knew what Judas was going to do. He wanted to move forward with the plan. He knew he would be tortured and murdered.
We are Jesus’ treasure. He loves us. He willingly went to the cross for us. He came to seek and save us. He came to rescue us from our sins. He came to be a sacrifice to reconcile us to God. He took on God’s wrath. He did all of these things. But don’t miss the principal reason Jesus came.
He had been sent by His Father, and His joy was to engage in loving, purposeful obedience to His Father. That was His joy! That was His glory! He submitted to His Father’s will. He was anxious to carry out the Father’s plan. He wanted to do this! He wanted to obey His Father.
There’s a plan for our salvation. It’s not our plan, so we should stop trying to get God on-board with us. Remember the scene before the Battle of Jericho. The Lord Himself came to Joshua. “Are you for us or against us?” Joshua asked. “Neither,” God said. It’s God’s plan! Not man’s plan for life!
Some of you have lived through some very difficult circumstances, or perhaps you have done horrible things to others. God can use those things and circumstances.
The most highlighted phrase of 2014 in the Kindle was “because somethings happen to people, and they’re not equipped to deal with them” from The Hunger Games, a favorite series for young adults. Success is elusive to students in high schools and colleges. They’re driven by fear. They’re concerned about their self-worth and their futures. Isn’t that all of us? We are undone by uncertainty. We work hard to control our circumstances. We obsess over stuff. Then, someone gets cancer, or loses his job, or loses his job or a child tells the parent he is gay. What do we do with that? We love to sit back, question, and get angry with God.
We’ve never been promised an easy life. Will we give up sin easily? Sometimes, we need baseball bats upside our heads. Sometimes, it’s going to be really hard. But the plan is for our good to loosen our grip on the culture and our plans, so we can see God’s plans, which are so much better than ours.
WE NEED TO TRUST HIM.
Jesus has tried to explain what was going to happen to Him. He told His disciples over and over again that He would suffer and die. They never got it. Where He was going they “could not come.” Where was He going? They weren’t happy. Peter asked where He was going. Jesus said Peter would follow Him later. Peter wanted to “leave” then. Jesus was telling Peter to trust Him. Peter couldn’t come then. He would follow Jesus later. Isn’t this the essence of the Christian life — being able to trust when we don’t have a clue about what is going to happen? The Christian life is about trust.
Why is this so hard for us? A global communications firm publishes an annual “trust barometer chart.” Trust has plummeted across the United States, the largest drop among the general population, due to a lack of faith in government, business, and non-government organizations. We are in a crisis of trust — not linked to a a financial challenge — but at a time when the stock market is at a record high. Is it any wonder that it is hard to trust? It’s all around us. It’s pressing on us. We live in a cynical age about anything and everything. We don’t trust anything or anyone.
Jesus was saying that what He was going to experience was for His glory. A Psalm came to my mind when I was thinking about this passage. In Psalm 46, the Psalmist talked about God as the ever-present help in trouble. We must fall on our knees and pray, “No my will, but Yours, Lord.” We are terrified of God’s will for us, because it’s painful to pry our fingers off our own plans.
IT’S NOT OUR PLAN.
Dear, dear Peter — he’s always trying to change the plan. On an earlier occasion, Jesus had said he would die. Peter said, “No, you’re not.” Peter always stuck his foot in his mouth. When we look at life from our perspective — we know more than Peter did at the point of this account — we know that Peter would deny Jesus. We also know that the disciples would be transformed by the Resurrection. Peter went from fear to boldness, able to declare the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Put Peter’s words in perspective. He was willing to lay down his life for Jesus. Peter thought he was going to thwart the entire plan of God. He was going to defeat the people who were going to put Jesus to death. He wanted to do his own thing, as though Jesus needed him to fight for Him. A rag-tag group of disciples could not help Him. He didn’t need Peter’s help.
A kid in my high school band was a mediocre trombone player. I asked him what he wanted to do with his life. In the days of Doc Severinson’s “Tonight Show” band, this kid said he wanted to play in that band. This is called “clueless.” If that could make that band, I could pose for the men’s equivalent of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition!
We make plans. We act like we have a handle on life. But we don’t know anything. We have a minuscule piece of the pie.
We feel lonely. Just because we have people around us, doesn’t mean we can’t feel lonely. We seem to always have conflict with others in our lives. Others seem to have their lives together. Our lives seem to be falling apart. We focus on the circumstances of our lives. We are angry. We live with shame. We thought life would be better than this. We go to work to change things. Our culture says to believe in self and pull our boots up by the bootstraps. It’s absurd. God continues to reveal how clueless we are, and we rail against it. None of us wants to be the clueless one.
The plan is the plan, and we don’t get it. Let’s face reality. Jesus gave Himself. That’s where He found His strength. Not His will. God’s will. He sweat blood and endured suffering on the cross for the joy set before Him. Our plans are dead-end plans. He’s not going to let you go down that dead-end for very long.
The culture’s not going the way of Christ. There may be persecution for Christians. We may one day go to jail for our faith. Will we get angry?
God’s plan will not be thwarted. His plan continues to move forward.
Jesus knew the plan in John 13. He told Judas to move forward quickly.
Jesus wants two things from us. First, He wants us to trust Him. He will graciously give us all things. He loves us. Second, as Jesus loved us, we must love one another. Here’s the plan: Love God, soak in His love, and love others. That’s the plan. That’s the plan.
The plan is not for you to get rich, for your kids to be well-behaved — the plan is to love as you have been loved. Soak in God’s love. That’s the plan! Love people. We would be do well to get on our knees to pray that His Kingdom to come.
Have you ever thought your battle is a test? Do you humble your heart? Do you give instead of receive?
This is the Gospel.
And the Gospel changes everything.

“Should Parents Be Friends with Their Kids on Social Media?”

There’s a provocative question.

I am a digital immigrant, not a native.  I love technology, especially when it works, but I am not intuitive about matters related to technology and social media.  My generation is still struggling to catch up with subsequent generations.

Social media used for good is awesome.  The downsides of social media can be horrific.  The principal of another nearby school called these scenarios “anti-social media.”

People — not just students — are using social media to the detriment of their personal relationships.  We like to blame the kids, but I also see adults, myself included, fixated on our “smart” phones and social media.

So, in light of that introduction, how do we answer this question: “Should parents be friends with their kids on social media?”

Of course, the answer will depend on the unique circumstances of each family and the relationships of the parents and children, but Dr. Tim Elmore offers some excellent insights in his short Growing Leaders blog post of Thursday, July 5, 2018 —

https://growingleaders.com/blog/should-parents-be-friends-with-their-kids-on-social-media/

It is no secret that I am a “fan” of Dr. Elmore.  He and his colleagues at Growing Leaders are the premier experts on this generation of students in high school and college.  He says so much in these 2 short pages.

Parents would be wise to better research and understand the realities of young people’s technology worlds.

If we are frustrated by the amount of time that our students are spending on their devices, we have the ability to speak into those situations.  We don’t have to be confrontational in those discussions.  Reasonable people can differ reasonably, seeking to agree upon good boundaries for device and social media use.

Dr. Elmore concludes this blog entry extremely well:  “It’s up to us, adult leaders, to model and equip today’s emerging generation to embrace excellent people skills.  While we do see a ‘new normal’ due to phones, there are some timeless relationship skills — like acknowledging others, asking good questions, expressing gratitude, showing respect and courtesy — that must be taught.  That is our job.”  (emphasis added)

“What’s Your Love Quotient?”

On Sunday, July 1, 2018, Lead Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth exploded a firecracker in my heart with his message, “What’s Your Love Quotient?” If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, please, by all means, read on. . . .

“What’s Your Love Quotient?”
From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series
By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, July 1, 2018

Quote of the Week —

“God teaches us to love by putting some unlovely people around us. It takes no character to love people who are lovely and are loving to you.” (Rick Warren)

Scripture of the Week — John 13:31-38 —

31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him. 32 If God is glorified in him, God will also glorify him in himself, and glorify him at once. 33 Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’ 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

36 Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered him, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” 37 Peter said to him, “Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times.

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

We are in our series on the book of John. We’re halfway. We’re getting there. We’re going to look at the same passage next week as well. This is a hard time. Jesus is telling His disciples He is going away.

From Tyler Edwards’ book, Zombie Church: Breathing Life Back into the Body of Christ, comes this idea: How will explosions affect those around the epicenter? Churches should be epicenters of these explosions into their communities. What would that look like for us as a church? What if people were talking about Eastside Presbyterian from a 20-mile radius?!

Isn’t that what Jesus wants from us? He wants us to give evidence of a strong “love quotient”?

Jesus commanded His followers to love one another. That’s how people would know we are His church.

What does Jesus mean about this being a “new” command? In Deuteronomy 6, we are commanded to love Him and others. “New” means “not been given before.” However, there are other meanings of “new.” New can also mean “remarkable.”

Jesus was asking us to do something far different than what the love which the culture is preaching. Our culture is “discipling” us. Jesus was saying we need to do something different. Society tells us love is about rules and how we behave. Jesus was saying to do something different — to go deeper at the motivational level of the heart.

Today, I would like to talk about two topics — legislating behavior and legislating the heart.

LEGISLATING BEHAVIOR

In his book, Fan the Flames: Living Out Your First Love for Christ, Joseph Stoll wrote about all of the laws commanded by man prior to Jesus’ arrival on the scene. Accountability was to men. Discernment was reduced. Legalism was a result. False standards of righteousness were rejected by Christ. Life was absolutely and completely regulated.

That’s what politicians do to us. They legislate rules which absolutely and completely regulate our behavior.

Some bizarre laws are still on the books. A law in California reads, “Any person may possess any number of live frogs to use in frog-jumping contests, but if such a frog dies or is killed, it must be destroyed as soon as possible, and may not be eaten or otherwise used for any purpose.” In Idaho, no humans may be eaten; this law is not enacted in the other 49 states! No cussing in Mississippi. We laugh at these rules. They’re ridiculous. But isn’t that what we do? We have rules for rules and rules. It’s nauseating how many codes, rules, regulations, and inspections are necessary for home ownership. No one wants to be sued. We sign documents in hospitals, so we know the possible consequences should things go wrong. We’re not that different from the Pharisees.

We’re not that different in the church. We say the Bible is the manual for life. We beat each other over the heads with the Word of God. Spouses use it against each other. Denominations instill fear in churches. We use the Bible to make our children tow the line. But we have forgotten something. It’s not really about our behavior.

LEGISLATING THE HEART

Jesus’ new command is about so much more than behavior. It’s still a command. Jesus said we are to love one another — beyond the behavior.

Romantic love is at the heart at “The Bachelorette.” The whole ideas is that butterflies and feelings mean you are “falling in love.” We experience chemistry in friendships. Love is a feeling to too many of us. But this definition means that love can come and go. Our culture says love is how we feel about others.

This is a different kind of love from the love that Jesus is speaking about in this passage. As Jesus has loved them, so must the disciples love one another. How had Jesus loved His disciples? I came up with three ideas.

First of all, love involves the truth.

A man was having a dispute with Abraham Lincoln. The man was angry.

Lincoln said, “How many legs does a cow have?”

The man responded, “Four, or course.”

Lincoln asked another question: “If the tail were a leg, how many legs would he cow have?”

“Five,” the man replied.

But Lincoln offered a wise retort: “Calling a cow’s tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

We invent so many “truths.” The society tells us to “be in our truths.” These are “our” truths. Jesus said there was His truth. He told truth to the Pharisees. He told the truth, and they didn’t like it. The Pharisees were dead on the inside as “white-washed tombs.” Jesus told the truth to the down-and-outers. Jesus told the woman caught in adultery not to sin anymore. He was brutally honest with His disciples. He knew the right way. He knew the truth. He gave the truth. He was the truth. How can you say you have love for someone, if you see them doing damage to themselves and don’t say anything? That’s not love. We all have blind spots. We all see it. We don’t say anything. Love is being so concerned about someone that you are willing to engage in truth-telling to that person.

Truth can also become an end in itself. We beat each other over the heads with the truth.

Another element of Jesus’ kind of love is humility.

Jesus humbled Himself. He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. He humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross. Jesus set aside His heavenly splendor to become a baby, live in the home of a carpenter, get sick as a human being, experience fatigue, wash the feet of the man who betrayed Him, sweat blood in the Garden, and go to the cross. He entered into our pain. If we want to love someone, we’ve got to humble ourselves.

We must enter into the worlds of those around us. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Grieve with those who grieve. Life is hard. It’s hard to get our eyes off of ourselves. I think of my grandson Luke. He points at that which he wants when he wants it; we didn’t have to teach him that. You don’t have to teach selfishness.

I still struggle with selfishness. Have you ever had a fight with your spouse? If it becomes heated, it’s usually about a lack of humility. We want to “win.” Winning is our security.

Humility is seeing ourselves as God sees us and to see us as we really are. We look down on other people, because it helps us feel better about ourselves.

Humble yourself before others. Andrew Murray talked about humility as the perfect quietness of the heart, expecting nothing, at rest when no one praises us, kneeling to the Father in secret, subject to the Holy Spirit. I dare say we do not feel that way.

The last element of this love is sacrifice.

The greatest love shown was by Jesus when He lay down his life for His friends — and for His enemies. Love is intentionally going to others and wanting the best for them. Jesus laid down His life. Here He was with them. He knew He had to give His life for these men. It was an awful path. The God of the universe died for the world. We must believe He is the only way to the Father. There is no other way. Is this the kind of love that we love with? If not, we need more Jesus. We need a change of heart. We are to love as Jesus loves.

The Gospel tells us we are deeply loved. Given the certainty of our salvation, we can risk relationships by telling the truth in love. We’re secure. We can love someone well by telling the truth. We all need help. That’s what the Gospel does for us. Are we willing to lay down our loves for one another? Unbelievers will come to Christ only if we are truly loving one another, as Jesus called us to love.

Let this love soak over you seven days a week, not just on a Sunday morning.

Spend time figuring out how you can love someone well. Invite others to church. Let our love quotient and love radius be strong. It’s beyond “friendly.” We’re a friendly church. I’m asking for the next step. Build relationships, so you can say the truth. Confess your sins to one another. Take one another to Jesus.

In Philip Yancey’s book, What’s So Amazing About Grace? Yancey recounted an interaction between a man and a woman who had been reading about grace. She didn’t understand the concept. The news stations didn’t cover grace. Churches diluted or distorted Jesus’ message of grace. Can we “out-grace” others by the way we love one another? Sinners flocked to Jesus — not because He smashed them over the head with truth — but because He showed grace to them, and He loved them — as He loves us.

Are we willing to love this way?

That’s the Gospel

And the Gospel changes everything.