Monthly Archives: September 2018

“Proverbs: God’s Wisdom for Life,” 28 September 2018

On Friday, September 28, 2018, Dr. Sam Barfell — Superintendent of Southside Christian School in Simpsonville, South Carolina — presented his latest installment of a Bible study centering on the Proverbs.  If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Barfell’s devotional for all employees of the school, please read on. . . 

“Proverbs: God’s Wisdom for Life”

By Dr Sam Barfell, Superintendent

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, September 28, 2018

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

Good morning, everybody!

We are in the book of Proverbs. I hope you are enjoying Tim and Kathy Keller’s book.

Pursuing wisdom is a good thing.  We started with the fear of the Lord. We asked what a Proverb is. We talked about how wisdom is multi-faceted. We also asked about foolishness. Last week, we asked how we could become wise. We look to “part two” of that issue today.

The fifth marker of wisdom is GENEROSITY.

Proverbs 3:9-10 English Standard Version (ESV)

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

 

BE GENEROUS. The Lord is working on me in this regard. We are currently discussing “courageous generosity” in my Wednesday morning men’s group. I couldn’t come up with any examples of my courageous generosity.

Only about 10% of church-going people tithe. Most people tithe 1-3%.

Are we not wise because we are not generous?

The sixth marker of wisdom is learning from adversity.

Proverbs 3:11-12 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

 

LEARN FROM ADVERSITY. Be prepared for inevitable suffering. Discipline can either draw us to Christ for His mercy — or draw us away with our rebellion.

The seventh mark is doing justice.

Proverbs 3:27-28 English Standard Version (ESV)

27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,[a]
    when it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

 

DO JUSTICE. Justice is practical aid to neighbors when this opportunity is within our power. It’s not a lack of charity when we fail to provide. It’s injustice.

Lastly, today, we should “just get it.”

Proverbs 4:7-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.

 

JUST GET WISDOM! Do not forsake wisdom. Do not forsake the pursuit of wisdom. We are to seek, pursue, and treasure wisdom. We should ask for and receive wisdom.

James 3:13-18 captures how to become wise.

James 3:13-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Father, I ask that you would give us wisdom. I need it. We need Your heart and mind. My wife Jen and I want to know truth and love. We need wisdom as we serve students at school. We need Your wisdom! I pray we seek, pursue, and treasure wisdom. I pray that these markers would be marks of our lives. God, help us, I pray. I ask these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

“Who Am I? Who Is God? Is He Worth It?”

On Thursday, September 27, 2018, Upper School Student Body Chaplain Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten delivered the message during both the Middle School Chapel and High School Chapel.  I so appreciated her authenticity and vulnerability.  If you would like to read my summary of Mary Elizabeth’s message, “Who Am I? Who Is God? Is He Worth It?” please read on. . . . 

“Who Am I? Who Is God? Is He Worth It?”

By Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten

Southside Christian School

Middle School Chapel and High School Chapel

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal (All errors are mine alone.)

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Southside Christian Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship, welcomed the audiences and introduced Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten, Upper School Chaplain, as the chapel speaker.

Pastor Colin asked the high school students to check for an e-mail about the upcoming service day in October.

Pastor Colin reminded the seniors that we were leaving for the Senior Retreat around 10:30 p.m. on Friday, September 28th, returning to school around 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 30, 2018.

Pastor Colin prayed to open the chapels. . .

High School French Teacher Brett Henderson (on guitar and lead vocals), Upper School Choir Director Fred Barrett (on keyboard and back-up vocals), sophomore Rebecca Rinkliff (on back-up and lead vocals), and High School Mathematics Teacher Brad Scott (on percussion) led the middle school chapel audience and high school chapel audience in worship through song.

Mr. Henderson prayed as a bridge between worship through song to worship in the Word.

Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten

If you ever see me in the hallway, and you have questions, please come up and talk to me. I’d love to know you personally.

I want to tell you about my story of being saved and where I am now.

I have grown up in a Christian home. I have always gone to church. The Bible has been prevalent in my life. Until my 8th grade year, the Word did not have that much effect on me. I’ve tried to live a good Christian life. It’s been comfortable.

Recently, I had struggles. I feel as though God is farther from me than I care to admit, especially since last year. I’m not sure about the cause. I was busy during my junior year, and my relationship with God was less of a priority. I was taking little steps away from God. Then I was far away from God. How had I even gotten there, when I realized the gap between God and me? I didn’t know how to close the gap.

When that was happening, I found out that my Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s been going through chemo and will be doing so for the next 9 months. My anxiety kicked up. I’ve had tough questions for God that I was afraid to ask. Was I the only one asking these questions? I know he’s been with me, but it’s been a bit of a struggle. I still feel as though God has been distant. I felt ashamed. I’m still there.

I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Job said to God, “I look everywhere, and I do not see You.”

David said, “I am exhausted from crying out with no answer.” His throat was parched from crying out, and his eyes were tired from looking for Him.

The Israelites cried out, “Does He even care?”

A father of a sick child who was not healed by the disciples in Mark said, “Can You even help me, Jesus?” He was questioning God’s abilities and presence in his life.

If these people are asking these questions — and struggling with issues — why shouldn’t we be struggling, too? These doubts have been a reality for thousands of years.

If you are struggling, you can ask valid questions of God. We get frustrated. We see others who are thriving in their faith, but we are not. We thought we knew about relationship with God. God used to be so evident, but it seems as though God is no longer pursuing us. So we fall into comparisons of where we used to be or where other people are, so we push off our Bible reading, justifying our lack of pursuit. We look to others things — grades, sports, people —for worth and validation. And God is in the back of our minds. We tell ourselves we will get to God later.

I wish I had a 3-step plan to fix this, but I don’t. I shouldn’t do that. So I won’t. There are no quick and easy answers. Jesus would share parables, ask questions, and walk away from people. That may be frustrating.

There are much bigger issues at stake. The problem is we treat symptoms rather than the problems.

My mom was a nurse. My dad is an orthopedic surgeon. Anytime we were sick, my parents would tell us we would be fine. Once, my sister told my Mom that her throat hurt. This happened daily. Eventually, my sister went to the doctor, who diagnosed strep throat. Until she saw a doctor, saw a doctor with this diagnosis, and got antibiotics the problem continued. We go to WebMD, look for our symptoms, and believe we will die because of a disease which affects .5% of the population!

You go on a retreat. You are left wanting more. You are focusing too much on symptoms, not the root causes. We are, then, wrong in our diagnoses. We sometimes ask for signs from God to fix the symptoms, not the real issues. There is much more important at stake than symptoms.

You know the story of Job in the Bible. God was talking to Satan. Satan pointed out the unfaithfulness of the people. Job was faithful. Satan said that Job was faithful only because God had blessed him. He challenged God to take all of the blessings away, and sure he would curse God. God allowed everything [except his own life] to be taken away from Job.

For dozens of chapters, several men are pointing out the reasons for Job’s problems — that Job had done something wrong. God eventually interjects Himself. God would speak, and Job was only to listen to him.

We too often come to God and ask Him for what we want. Like Job, we need to listen to God.

Teachers make big points with louder voices. Sometimes, they slow down and whisper to get you to listen to what is important. A pause or silence doesn’t mean they are not speaking. It just means you need to be silent and listen.

God pursues us as much as when we are lost as when we are found. We can saved. We can be in relationship with Him. Is He still working or speaking? Yes, he is working actively and fully. Busyness, doubt, and influences around you are making it difficult for you to hear from God. Everything is calling us directly away from Him.

This is the heart issue I want to talk to you about. You must fight for Him, for intimacy with Him, believing He is worth the fight. I can’t tell you to fight for God if you don’t think He’s worth it.

God never gave Job the answer about why all of the bad things happened to him. God asks [rhretorically], “Who are you to question me?”

And Job gained a new understanding of God. Repentance is going back to God. Job runs back to God. He had heard of, but now he had seen God. He knew who God was.

We believe. We cry out, “Help us in our unbelief!” It may not seem as though God is there, but we need to renew our understanding of who God is.

In a Christian school, we hear big Christian ideas, but we are called to worship God for the rest of eternity — daily, chasing after Him. We cannot figure Him out in this lifetime. We’ve got to fight to listen to God. He is so worth pursuing. We can’t move past the truth of never fully understanding God. We need to run back to God — not to “feel” Him, but to “know” Him.

Maybe it’s as simple as waking up 15 minutes earlier and reading your Bible. Maybe it’s involvement in a small group. Maybe it’s as simple as having an honest conversation with God about where you are right now. Remember that He is faithful and good. Who He is should be enough. Listen for God in the midst of trials and questions. Listen to who He says He is. One passage makes sense to me now: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10)

You’re going to take some time right now to sit quietly and determine where you are right now, and then we’re going to sing one more song.

I ask these three questions daily:

  1. Who am I? I determine where I am on this day.
  2. Who is God? I remember what He has done for me.
  3. Is He worth it? We need to get to the core of who God is.

Do you think He’s worth it? Don’t give a canned answer. It’s just you and God. There’s no reason to give the Christian response. There should be a moment-by-moment submission to God.

I’ll pray. . . .You, God, are here before we even call Your name. I pray that truth is evident. We can have confidence in You. We will not doubt Your love or goodness. We will live our lives remembering who You are. You have not forsaken us. You are still pursuing us. I thank You for gathering us here today — simply for the sake of being in your presence.

“Love in Action”

I am so pleased to be a colleague of Southside Christian Lower School Principal Rob Brown.  He is a fine man of God, excellent leader, and wonderful friend.  Add those those superlatives “an impactful preacher.”  On Sunday, September 23, 2017, Rob preached a wonderful sermon on love at Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina.  Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth reminded everyone on this day that he was preaching on the driving values of the church, and he rightly pointed out that those values are for naught without love.  If you would like to read my summary of Rob’s message, “Love in Action, please read on. . . .

“Love in Action”

By Rob Brown, Elder

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Quote of the Day:

“Eulogy-virtue love is a cruciform love, the kind that compels us to broaden our embrace, to move toward the ‘other,’ to include the ‘other’ in our ‘us,’ because Jesus has included us in his.  The hard love, the battlefield love, the tenacious and strong love, agape — this is the love that leads Jesus and the people of Jesus to love their persecutors even better than their persecutors love each other.” (Scott Sauls, in Befriend)

Passage of the Day:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned,[a] but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[b] it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Footnotes:

  1. 1 Corinthians 13:3 Some manuscripts deliver up my body [to death] that I may boast
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:5 Greek irritable and does not count up wrongdoing

 

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

Heather is a graduate of Yale University, an Ivy League school, but she chooses to live in a trailer park.  She lives on-mission as a member of her church community.  She leads Bible studies.  She provides transportation for the people in the trailer park.  This is love in action.

We can give time to others.  We can teach Sunday school.  We can include others.  We  can speak truth into others. We can encourage others.  We can challenge others to seek God’s purposes.  Followers of Jesus must exercise the gifts of the Spirit in love.

Paul is painting a picture of love in action in 1 Corinthians 13.  In Corinth, people worshipped idols and practiced sexual immorality.  [Paul called the Church of Corinth away from those sinful practices to a Christ-like love.]

PURPOSE OF LOVE

What is the purpose of love?

When we act — when we use our spiritual gifts — we must act out of love.  We are God’s hands and feet.  We steward our gifts — on God’s behalf — in the name of the King — for the advancement of the Kingdom!

We speak, prophesy, exercise faith, and give.  We exercise these spiritual gifts IN LOVE, or our acts are meaningless.  Without love, our actions are meaningless.

In Love Does, author Bob Goff exhorts us to get to the “do” part of faith.  LOVE DOES.  We often think about loving, but we do not act.  We do not love.

This love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape love — selfless, sacrificial, unconditional.

In Befriend, Pastor Scott Sauls reveals that we should be tenacious in our counter-cultural love, even to those who persecute us.

Bill Strickland sought out my brother after our Dad’s death.  Bill wanted to give a car to my brother.  But the car was broken down, so they gave their time, sweat, and money together to restore a [vintage] ’65 car.  Bill carried out the purpose of love by reaching into the life of my brother.  This was agape love at work.

Agape love drove Jesus to the cross.

DEFINITION OF LOVE

What is the definition for such love?  Verses 4-7 give us the definition.

Love is about the other person.  It’s not cheap.  It’s messy.  We are vulnerable in such love, C.S. Lewis once said.  God calls us to a risky, costly type of love.

Love is the ultimate virtue and pursuit.  Jesus said the law was summed up by loving God and loving others.

Our skill sets are nothing without love.  We can be exhausted by that list in verses 4-7.  We cannot love this way apart from God.

We must move beyond ourselves, expanding our “us.”  The church is the only organization which exists for the benefit of its non-members.  Love causes us to hold each other accountable for showing love to others.

Love is the power that works inside of us.  Love never ends.  There is power in this kind of love.  This is the love of Jesus.  This is the love Jesus gave to us.

Jesus befriended the unrighteous.  He met them in their messes.  He invested in others.  The woman caught in adultery.  Zacchaeus.  The Samaritan woman at the well.  Jesus reached into the lives of others , preparing for the ultimate act of love on the cross.  He was love in action.  When we did not deserve it, He brought us to Himself.  We must receive this love of Jesus.

We are not just “believers,” but “participants” (Bob Goff).  Do the faith!  Live it out!  Take action!

LOVE IN THE CHURCH AND COMMUNITY

What does this look like in our church and communities?

As an elementary principal, I am called to love my students, teachers, and parents well.  As a father, husband, church member, and community member, I am to help all around us to follow Jesus.

It’s messy.  He works in us.  He produces fruit in us.  We move into the lives of others.

It’s not our actions that matter most to Jesus.  He still loves us.  His love compels us to love.

Love outlasts our abilities.

What do you remember about the people who have loved you?  Love is a person before it can become a verb (Scott Sauls).  You remember the people who loved you well.

Jesus loves us at our best and worst.  He calls us to a new life, called and equipped in love.

What is your greatest opportunity today?  In your family?  With a co-worker?  With a student?  In your neighborhood?  In the workplace?

Let’s expand our “us.”

Go and love others as God has loved you.

“Proverbs: God’s Wisdom for Life,” 21 September 2018

On Friday, September 21, 2018, Dr. Sam Barfell exhorted the employees with his next installment from the Proverbs. Paradoxically, we both actively seek and receive wisdom.  If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Barfell’s message, please read on. . . .

“Proverbs: God’s Wisdom for Life”

By Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, September 21, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal (All errors are mine alone.)

We’re in the Proverbs.

We have talked about the fear of the Lord. We have defined what a proverb is. We asked, “What is wisdom?” Wisdom is like looking at the many facets of a diamond. And we asked what the opposite of wisdom is — foolishness.

Today, let’s ask, “How do we become wise?

BE RIGHTEOUS.

Proverbs 2:20-22 English Standard Version (ESV)

20 So you will walk in the way of the good

    and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land,
    and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

 

There’s an unusual paradox about how we get wisdom. We must seek and pursue and cry out for wisdom like a treasure. We pursue wisdom, but we also receive wisdom as a gift from God. God gives us both the incentive to pursue and the faith to receive. He will not hold wisdom back.

The righteous and the wicked are contrasted throughout the Proverbs. The righteous disadvantage themselves to advantage others. The wicked advantage themselves to disadvantage others.

DON’T DELAY.

Proverbs 1:28-29 English Standard Version (ESV)

28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord. . . .

 

Wisdom comes through pursuing, acquisition, and experience over time. We can’t delay wisdom, or, when sudden crises or calamities occur, we may not have wisdom at our disposal. The Olympian trains for the Olympics day by day by day.  [We need to train for wisdom day by day by day.]  Learn grace and wisdom in daily disappointments, Keller wrote. Do not delay on pursuing wisdom.

SUBMIT TO HIS WORD.

Proverbs 3:5-6 English Standard Version (ESV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.

 

A very familiar passage. Do we submit to the Lord or the cultural beliefs of the day? We must submit to His Word and will.

BE TEACHABLE.

Proverbs 3:7-8

Proverbs 3:7-8 English Standard Version (ESV)

Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh[a]
    and refreshment[b] to your bones.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 3:8 Hebrew navel
  2. Proverbs 3:8 Or medicine

 

Trust. Submit. Be teachable. In the multitude of counselors, there is great wisdom.

When Jen and I were raising our kids, I remember being on the deck at the back of our house on night, covenanting to a “circle of safety” for our children — to protect their relationships with potential spouses. It was a special evening for our family. We talked to our kids about that. They all committed to the circle. We are not wise in our own eyes.

[Be righteous. Don’t delay. Submit to His Word. Be teachable. Seek and receive wisdom.]

 

Small Group Questions, Southside Christian School, 20 September 2018

On Thursday, September 20, 2018, Southside Christian middle school and high school small groups met to discuss the following questions:

Take time to review highlights and lowlights of the past week and weekend.

What was your greatest take-away from the Spiritual Life Conference?

What is one thing you want to see happen during this school year?

What ground rules should we establish for the effective working of this small group?

The small group leaders were asked to share their testimonies of saving faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives.

The leaders were also asked to give opportunity for students to ask questions during the testimonies.

The leaders were asked to give students the opportunity during upcoming weeks to share their own testimonies.  A chunk of time could be set aside for this purpose during each of the times that the small groups meet.

“Allow God to Grow You, So You Can Make a Difference!”

On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, I had the distinct privilege of hearing Dr. Richard Blackaby deliver an impactful message at the Child Evangelism Fellowship fundraising banquet at Taylors First Baptist Church in Taylors, South Carolina.  If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Blackaby’s message, which I have entitled, “Allow God to Grow You, So You Can Make a Difference!” please read on. . . .

“Allow God to Grow You, So You Can Make a Difference!”

Dr. Richard Blackaby, President, Blackaby Ministries International

Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) Fundraising Banquet

Taylors First Baptist Church

Taylors, South Carolina

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Summary of and Editorializing by Dr. Bob Stouffer, Upper School Principal, Southside Christian School (All errors are mine alone.)

I became a Christian at 7 years of age.  You can find Christ as a child, and it sticks.  I wish I could tell you that I experienced a giant leap of growth as a Christian during every year of my life since then.  My last leap forward was three and a-half years ago.  I was serving the Lord, but God got my attention.  He wanted more from me as a grandparent, when we were expecting our first grandchildren.

I refused to be carried away with grandparenting.  I didn’t want to be one of those obnoxious grandparents who show you every new picture of their grandchildren!

Three and a-half years ago, I went from 0 to 3 grandchildren in 15 days!  Twins were born first and then another grandchild within that time period in Atlanta, where we all live.

It was a Saturday morning.  I woke up in my own bed after an intense time of traveling away from home.  I wanted to rest in my bed.  The phone rang.  My son and his wife were on their way to the hospital for the birth of the twins!

I have a Ph.D., but, at that moment, I became an idiot!  I had no gas in my car!  We were running on fumes!  My wife, Lisa, was frustrated that I had not put gas in the car in anticipation of these births!  But the twins were two weeks early!  I drove up to the gas pumps.  The nozzles were covered because they were out of order!  I finally got gas!

But I hadn’t had coffee!  Nor breakfast!  I told my wife we needed to drive through the McDonald’s!  We got our food and squealed out of the parking lot!  I careened into the hospital parking lot.  I let Lisa off.  But, then, I saw her run out of the hospital!  She told me we were in the wrong hospital!  We raced to the right hospital.

I asked where the people in the hospital needed me.  They “needed me” in the hospital waiting room!  While I sat in that waiting room, I watched TV accounts of racial violence, scandals, and a terrorist shooting.  I was flooded with mixed emotions.  THAT was the world my twins were entering.

FINALLY, one of the twins was available to us.  There was 1 grandchild for 2 grandparents!  I maneuvered and stepped in front of my wife!  I picked up the child.  I wished I could see into the future.  Will he know Jesus?  Would he marry well?  I remembered the TV news.  Pornography would look to find a foothold with his inner being.  A professor would one day challenge his belief in God.  His friends would laugh at him when he hesitated to do whatever immoral act they were doing.

What kind of grandfather would he need?  Will he want to be a Christian because of me?

I realized I was not the grandfather I should be.  As a grandparent, your grandchildren check you out for credibility.  I needed more credibility.  I made a commitment on that day to be that kind of grandfather.

And I have become that obnoxious grandparent who shows pictures of his grandchildren all of the time!

One thing you should remember from tonight:  WHEN YOU STOP GROWING, OTHER PEOPLE SUFFER.

Be the witness you can be, or others will suffer.  Give and serve, or others will suffer.  I’m a Christian author and speaker, but I had become complacent.

In Matthew 17:14 and following, we learn about Jesus going onto a mountain for The Transfiguration.  Three disciples went with Him.  Nine others went off to minister in a village.  A father with a child troubled by an evil spirit came to the 9.  This father had probably gone to everyone he thought could help him and his son.  This man begged the disciples to free his child.  But they could not help him or his son.

Jesus arrived.  He rebuked the demon and healed the boy.  The 9 had little faith.  But nothing is impossible with God!

Every person comes to a point when he comes to the end of himself.  Your skills will not be adequate.  At this point, you can either grow, or you may go away and quit.  The 9 had quit.  They had all failed.  It hadn’t been their day.  They didn’t want to linger around their failure.  Jesus was upset.  Much had been given to the disciples.  Much had been expected of them.

On whom or what have you given up?  A prodigal?  Yourself?

When you quit, you declare that even God is not powerful enough.  When God’s people give up on others, such is the worst situation for those people.  With God, all things are possible.

CEF wants to leave no child behind.

I’ve been a leader my whole life.  I’ve had lots of success.  I have had to do hard things.  I’ve never thought I could not find solutions.  And the only time I had a problem I could not solve was at home.

My middle child was home from school during a school day.  My wife called me.  My 15-year-old son was refusing to go back to school.  He had faced a lot of adversity.  I had fixed a lot of adversity in my work.  I didn’t have time for this boy’s problems!  (This was the boy who had gotten a lip ring, quoting my book on grace!)

Leaders fix problems.  I drove home.  I  thought I’d come in calmly.  He was not buying my calm approach.  I went to my problem-solving techniques.  He thought I saw HIM as the problem.  I asked him to project into the future.  He didn’t scare easily.  I resorted to shameless bribery: “What’s your price?!”  He couldn’t be bought!  Finally, I exclaimed, “You’re going to school because I said so!” It was the worst example of parenting in my life.

But I was his only Dad.  So I cried out to God!  “What does this boy need?!”  And God said to me, “He needs a different father!”  I realized my failure would cost my son.  I asked God to do with me what He had to do with me.  I put what I thought I knew about parenting aside.

That boy today?  Well, he doesn’t have a lip ring!  He went to North Greenville University.  Two weeks ago, he got a Ph.D. in apologetics.  It was that son who called me FIRST to let me know that my grandchildren were on the way!  Where would I be if I had not humbled myself with him?

You can make a difference in the lives of children.

My Dad [Henry Blackaby, author of Experiencing God] is the greatest man I know.   Here he is in the White House, shaking hands with President George W. Bush in 2006.  My Dad has been in the United Nations and the Pentagon.  He and I wrote a book about spiritual leadership in 2001.

My Dad and I went to a conference of 2,500 pastors.  The plan was for me to speak first as a “warm-up act.”  And my Dad would close our time as presenters.  On the last night, my Dad wanted me to speak after him.  He wanted me to extend a call to the pastors to recommit themselves and their ministries to God.  I said no one would listen to me after he spoke!  How would I preach to an audience which included my Dad?!  I did as he wished.  At the end of my talk, I told the pastors there was more of God to experience.  I called them forward.  At first, they did not come.  Then, I sensed movement in the room.  I thought the janitors had come in to clean up!  But that movement was one man on his knees, fervently praying to God.  That one person was my Dad!  He is the greatest man of God I know.  God “told” me, “That’s WHY he’s the greatest man of God!”  My Dad wanted to get closer to God.  He said yes to Jesus for me!  I want to be that same blessing to others.

Don’t quit!

Nothing is impossible for God!  You can see miracles!

Allow God to grow you, so you can make a difference.

Ten years ago, adults and buildings “drove” me.  Today, I realize the children are our hope.  May we be the people God wants us to be!

“Overflowing with Thanksgiving”

On Sunday, September 16, 2017, Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth preached a very unique sermon on discipleship. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, “Overflowing with Thanksgiving,” please read on. . . .

“Overflowing with Thanksgiving”
From the “What We Value” Sermon Series
By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, September 16, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“For those who feel their lives are a grave disappointment to God, it requires enormous trust and reckless, raging confidence to accept that the love of Jesus Christ knows no shadow of alteration or change. When Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened,’ He assumed we would grow weary, discouraged, and disheartened along the way. These words are a touching testimony to the genuine humanness of Jesus. He had no romantic notion of the cost of discipleship. He knew that following Him was as unsentimental as duty, as demanding as love.” (Brennan Manning, in The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat Up, and Burnt Out)

Passage of the Week:

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

(Colossians 2:6-7, English Standard Version)

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

One of the key ways to helping one another follow Jesus is to pray for one another. To see the truths of this sermon today, we have to be in it together. Christianity is not a spectator sport. It’s a team thing. When someone is weak, somebody else is strong. I need you. You need me. God has put you in this church for a reason.

Today, as we look at discipleship, I want to talk about what it means to be a Christian and to grow in Christ. It’s not complicated in one sense, and it’s very complicated in another sense.

I was having a discussion with my wife about discipleship — about what discipleship means. We had varied thoughts. You so often think of one person teaching and another person learning. For me, it’s simple. It’s about being a disciple of Christ — following Him — learning how to better follow Him.

One passage in Colossians summarizes discipleship—Colossians 2:6-7.

6 Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

That’s it. It’s easy, isn’t it? It’s a simple formula. Why do we struggle so much?

But what does this passage mean?

JESUS AS LORD

I want to look at the phrase, “receive him as Lord.” A Muslim convert once prayed a prayer comparing his life to pulling needle and thread through cloth. He is the thread being pulled through the cloth by the tailor. What an analogy. The thread follows the needle.

I relinquish control so the Lord can take control of my life. We relinquish control to Him. That’s easy to say and so hard to do. That’s what Christianity is — submission to a higher authority. We receive Him as Lord. God exalted Jesus to the highest place — that every knee should bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord!

Jesus is Master and Ruler. This is the issue for Christians. This is the issue of living the Christian life. Who or what will be Lord? So many other things vie for that authority.

If you are a Christian — if you say you are following Jesus — you [typically] do not consciously walk away from him. It’s a subtle thing. We drift from our walk. We get distracted by other things which meet our most intimate needs at the moment. The Israelites worshipped Baal when they saw that worship work for those who worshipped Baal. It was subtle.

When Jesus was performing miracles, the people wanted to make Him King by force. Did they want to follow His every whim as His subjects? No. He was meeting their intimate needs, feeding them, so they wanted to make him King. They didn’t care if it was Jesus or Grandma Moses.

Brothers and sisters, we do the same thing today. We worship the idol of fitness, because it promises approval from others around us. We worship success, rights, tolerance, political correctness — whatever it is that we think will fulfill our needs. We call all of these things necessity.

But Jesus won’t have any of it! If He is Lord, nothing in our lives can hold a claim over us, if we call ourselves Christians.

Tim Keller compares the Lordship of Jesus Christ to a “life quake.” Whenever Jesus comes into a person’s life, there is a “life quake.” He is God! Any view, idea, view, conviction, or behavior — IN EVERYTHING — he must have the supremacy. That’s Christianity.

When Christians make statements about abortion, homosexuality, or transgenderism, we’re not in charge. Jesus is in charge. For those who are following Him, we find out what He thinks about these issues. Some things are clear but not popular or politically correct. But Jesus has supremacy over these issues. It’s not about what I want to do. It’s about what He wants us to do.

Receive Jesus, and walk in it. Let me give an example. I’ll try to tone down some edgy stuff today. It’s impossible to see a movie without sex in a romantic relationship. Sex is seen as nothing more than satisfying a need. It’s just an urge. It’s the norm. We’re no longer shocked by it. We can see this reality, walk away, think it was a great movie, and say, “That was a part of our culture.” Young people are growing up with this paradigm. After all, “My friends are all doing it. They seem okay. What’s wrong with it.” A youth pastor comes along and says how wrong that is — the damage it is doing. That’s so counter-cultural, swimming against the stream.

And we wonder why anxiety disorders, pornography, depression, and suicide are skyrocketing. We get dichotomies. The #MeToo Movement is in full force. And, at the same time, pornography is rampant. Maybe all of these issues are happening because we aren’t getting this right as Christians.

As Christians, we are not in control. Jesus has the right to speak into our motives and desires and emotions and choices. We need to give people permission to speak into our lives when we are kings of rationalization. We need this, brothers and sisters. I can’t emphasize it enough.

That’s Jesus as Lord.

JESUS AS SAVIOR

But we also need to understand that He is Savior. It’s so hard to go against the tide of the culture. We need someone deeper. Jesus is not a prude. He’s not against sexual intimacy in its proper context between husband and wife.

I am an advocate for counseling. I’m in counseling. It’s wonderful. I get to talk about myself for an hour! He listens! And he acts like he’s interested!

Medicine might or might not work. We have limits. We don’t know our selves very well.

What do we know about cancer? Really, we’re clueless. So we feed people with poison to half-kill them, with more success in some than others.

Think about relationships. Someone asked me about my daughter in Chattanooga. How would I answer? I don’t get women! That’s the honest truth. I love Anne, but I don’t get it after 35 years! You ladies don’t get us either! We struggle understanding each other from different perspectives.

Think about people from different cultures. I thought about a couple in Chile. She was American. He was Chilean. They could never overcome their marital presuppositions. And their marriage didn’t make it.

Think about our church trying to become more diverse. We think we understand. We pontificate as though we do. But we don’t fully understand.

We’re so surprised by the results. But here’s the thing about following Jesus. He knows us intimately — completely. He knows your guilt over broken relationships in the past. He knows the shame you are experiencing from the sexual relationship or pornography. That abortion you had, which left you devastated — He knows that devastation. He understands our anxiety and pain. He knows how we have disordered our lives. He knows our past abuse. He knows our hopeless thoughts. He understands how we feel — and why — with gentleness and tenderness. He went to a cross and was spat upon, beaten, and maligned for you. He paid the price.

Brothers and sisters, that’s a King worth following. Our lack of following Him as Lord is holding back the abundant life. I need a Savior for my sins! I say, “I will follow Him as Lord.” But it’s also about following Him as Savior!

Confess! Follow! Confess! Follow! Follow His Lordship again!

Who is Jesus to you?

Kevin De Young indicates that the greatness of God is clearly displayed in His Son. Who did Jesus’ disciples say He is? Who do we say He is? No one is as popular in the U.S. as Jesus. Not every Jesus is the real Jesus. There is a Republican Jesus, Democrat Jesus, Therapist Jesus, Starbucks Jesus, Open-Minded Jesus, Touchdown Jesus, Martyr Jesus, Gentle Jesus, Hippie Jesus, Yuppie Jesus, Spirituality Jesus, Platitude Jesus, Revolutionary Jesus, Guru Jesus, Boyfriend Jesus, Good Example Jesus, and then there’s Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God! Jesus is not just another prophet! He is Yahweh in the flesh! HE would establish God’s reign and rule! The Lamb of God came to take away the sins of the world! The Creator came to the earth to reverse the curse! This is the Christ prophesied throughout the Old Testament! This is the Christ prepared for by John the Baptist. He is not a projection of our mood or desires! He is more wonderfully terrifying than we have ever thought possible!

That’s Jesus!

He’s Lord!

And He’s Savior!

And to be a Christian is to walk in the same way we received Him—as Lord and Savior!

That’s the Gospel!

And it changes everything!