Monthly Archives: December 2018

“Santa Strikes Back”

Mark Sandlin — one of the most kind, humble, thoughtful, intelligent, creative people I know — recently recited one of his original poems — to the Southside Christian School International Homestay Program host parents at their Christmas dinner on Monday, December 17, 2018 — and to the SCS Upper School Staff at our annual Christmas party on Tuesday, December 18, 2018.  If you would like to read what I think is a brilliant commentary on Christmas commercialism — even and especially by Christians — “Santa Strikes Back,” read on. . . .

“Santa Strikes Back”

By Mark Sandlin

At the North Pole one day, on the couch for a snooze,

I thought, “Maybe I’ll hop in my sleigh for a cruise.

The weather is too cold to sit here homebound;

Maybe Santa will go do some poking around.

Maybe take in some sights and then just make a stop

To see an American Christian bookshop.”

I’m scolded so often, you see, in December

For not causing people the Lord to remember

For promoting just toys and not holy behavior

Not honoring rightly the birth of the Savior

So I’ll see if the Christians do better down there

Than me–and I added some dye to my hair

And I quickly changed clothes so I’d be incognito

(Mrs Claus, as I left, handed me a burrito)

Well, the bookshop was much bigger than I had thought,

The parking lot vast–but I fought for a slot.

The glass doors whooshed open and then closed behind,

In the entrance a Bible verse hung on a sign.

The verse said, “I lift up mine eyes to the hills,”

So I lifted mine up, and saw stuffed to the gills

A gigantic warehouse with stuff beyond measure;

A superstore strangely named “Heaven in Treasure”.

Well, I couldn’t tell which one was more in demand,

The Scripture itself, or “Footprints in the Sand”.

There were Testamints—breath mints marked “John 3:16”;

And cookbooks that introduced Bible cuisine.

There was oil for anointing and prayer cloths for healing,

And angel mobiles dangling down from the ceiling.

There were holy land mustard seeds ready for planting,

A “Prayer of Jabez” Room for sitting and chanting,

Toy armor for children marked “Fight the Good Fight”,

And a whole sep’rate room selling “Paintings of light”.

There were CD-rom games and a chance to invest in

A Holy land tour led by Charlton Heston.

There were all kinds of frog items, that seemed quite odd,

Till I saw FROG means “Fully Relying On God”.

There were Scriptures on every spoon, ashtray, and cup

(Hohoho! — but you know I’m not making this up.)

And the Bibles! The choices just made the mouth water:

A Bible for mother, a Bible for daughter,

Taped Bibles for people too busy to read,

Bibles for every conceivable need.

Bibles for teens who want God to be cool,

Bibles so small you can take them to school.

A Bible for sisters, a bible for brothers,

A bible for golfers, for singles, for lovers!

Bibles with God less severe and less bloody,

Self-esteem Bibles with God as our buddy.

Spirit-filled Bibles for those with afflictions,

Co-Dependency Bibles for those with addictions.

And each new translation with slight variation

Caused the consumers to buy with elation

With new Bible frenzy they thought it a must

To buy them and take them to gather new dust.

There were Bibles in every shape, color, and size

So many to choose that it dazzled the eyes.

I opened a fancy one just for a minute;

A leather deluxe–and I saw these words in it:

St Paul wrote, “We don’t peddle God’s Word for profit”;

I slammed the Book shut and thought: Oh Paul, come off it.

These “peddlers” invest!–they deserve a return!

Who’s it hurting if they make some money to burn?

Well then I proceeded to walk past the piles

Of Christian stuffed animals lining the aisles.

Action figures of Moses and Jesus and Paul

And aerobics praise videos lined one whole wall.

The small section marked “Christian Classics” was bare,

So that Left Behind (Book 18) could be placed there;

While Augustine, Luther, and Spurgeon, and Foxe

Were hastily stored in a small cardboard box.

But the huge music section took up half the space!

All the sounds of the world with a fresh Christian face.

Urban and rap and bee-bop, instrumental;

Electronic, Fusion – and experimental;

Celtic and blues and acoustic and rock;

Screaming guitar or traditional Bach!

Country and western, or folk songs, or jazz;

They had all the same music the other guy has.

More music than I’d seen in many long moons;

The Devil no longer has all the good tunes!

I looked all around at the blessed merchandise

All of heaven was here, and at fair market price.

“Gold and silver,” said Peter and John, “Have I none,”

But if they could see this place they’d sure have some fun;

They’d see we’ve progressed, that today our faith frees us

To make a small fortune by marketing Jesus.

And to think I’m the one who is cut up and diced

‘Cause I “corrupt Christmas”–well they corrupt Christ!

If I do secularize, well, it’s just once a year

But they commercialize Scripture year-round, around here.

Well, I pondered inside what to make of this place,

Till the answer just struck me right smack in the face:

WWJD—that stuff filled one whole shelf:

That’s it! What would HE do, if He stood here Himself?

Jesus was patient and loving and kind,

And always had others’ welfare on His mind;

He was wise and discerning and righteous and true–

Jesus would understand just what to do.

And with that in mind I bent over a tad,

To get a last look at some little doodad;

I bent very close to examine the labels,

Then, briskly, I overturned all of the tables.

After all, really, what WOULD Jesus do

If He came here and browsed for an hour or two?

Well, it took only moments but seemed to take days,

To run through the store overturning displays.

I left nothing upright, though I left I confess

One plaque on the wall that said “God bless this Mess”.

Well, alarm bells rang out, and the doors auto-locked,

And store guards surrounded me, armed, triggers cocked.

The customers all started shouting at me,

And some kid in a Veggie Tales shirt bit my knee.

The sprinklers came on, and the cashiers were screaming,

When I woke–to discover that I had been dreaming.

Before I could reach for my knee and say ouch,

I discovered that I was back home on my couch.

Well that was some dream as I’m sure you can see;

It was stranger than strange what had happened to me.

But as I awoke I began to recall,

That none of it really had happened at all.

What ridiculous fiction! What pure fantasy

My afternoon dream had presented to me!

So I rose from the couch and I tucked my shirt in,

And thought, “Maybe I’ll just take my sleigh for a spin.”

The weather is too cold to sit here homebound;

Maybe Santa will go do some poking around…

“The Victorious One”

On Sunday, December 16, 2017, Lead Eastside Presbyterian Church Pastor Mark Auffarth preached a very encouraging sermon on victory in face of suffering. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Mark’s message, “The Victorious One,” please read on. . . .

“The Victorious One”
From the “Jesus in the Psalms” Sermon Series
By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, December 16, 2017

Quote of the Week:

“The gospel is good news for losers, not winners. It’s for those who long to be freed from the slavery of believing that all of their significance, meaning, purpose, and security depend on their ability to ‘become a better you.’ The gospel tells us that weakness precedes usefulness—that, in fact, the smaller you get, the freer you will be.” (Tullian Tchividjian, in It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News)

Passage of the Week:

21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[a] me from the horns of the wild oxen!
22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted[b] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!
27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

Footnotes:

[a] Psalm 22:21 Hebrew answered
[b] Psalm 22:26 Or The meek

Psalm 22:21-31, English Standard Version)

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

She stood on a beach, holding her tiny infant son, who was very close to her heart. The tears welled in her eyes, as she stood near the river’s edge. She walked into the river. She stood for a long time with the child, holding him tightly. Then, she threw the baby to his watery death. A native missionary often witnessed such acts. He came upon her that day. With compassion, he knelt with her. She confessed her sin and her offering of the best she had. She wept. He told her about his love for Jesus and Jesus’ love for her. Through Him, her sins could be forgiven. She had never heard this before. She asked, “Why had he not come 30 minutes before?” If he had, her son would not have died.

Death by suicide is increasing in our country. Drug overdose in the leading cause of death in the United States. There seems to be an increasing hopelessness. We’re not good at suffering, but many people are suffering. The easiest way to deal with suffering is to numb it and ask us to take it away as soon as possible. We are living, as Henry David Thoreau once said, “lives of quiet desperation.”

Why don’t most people look to Jesus when they are suffering? His way is any way but instant gratification. His way of suffering — dying to self — following Him when it seems counterintuitive — his way is meditation, silence, stillness, knowing He is God. We must wait on Him to act. He usually doesn’t act on our timetable.

His birth was celebrated by angels and shepherds. But it wasn’t a celebration for Him. He humbled Himself to become a part of Creation. He suffered persecution and opposition from the religious leaders. They mocked Him. They cast lots for His clothing. He had “ a long obedience in the same direction” (the words of Eugene Peterson), all of the way to the cross.

The second half of Psalm 22 is quite the dramatic change in mood and tone. At first, He was suffering on the cross. He is calling out from the cross. He called to God. He acknowledged that God “had” rescued Him. This was right before He was going to give up His Spirit. He would be victorious in death!

Why do I think He is uttering these words while He is still on the cross? “He has done it.” That’s the same phrase He said on the cross. “It is finished. Father, into Your hands, I commend my Spirit.” We had this moment when he understood the victory! This goes along with Hebrews 12. Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him.” He knew the victory!

I’d like you to see some things about these verses.

First,

HE HAS A HEART FOR US.

Hebrews 2:10 indicated that all things exist from and by and for Him. Jesus was perfected in suffering. The source of sanctification is Jesus. There is union in the one who died and the one He died for! He would tell of the names of the brothers. You may be ashamed of you, but Jesus is not ashamed of you! He is not ashamed of those for whom He died! He sings God’s praise! He sings the names of those who follow Him! It’s an astounding concept. Have you heard the music? You can’t hear the music when you’re busy.

In The Magician’s Nephew, Aslan the great lion [the Christ figure] sings creation into being. It’s a grand call to worship. One person refused to hear the song. The consequences were staggering. He missed the point. He heard and felt things he did not want to hear or feel. He believed the lion only to be roaring. He thought to himself that he must have only imagined the lion singing. He succeeded in his stupidity. He couldn’t have heard anything else, even if he wanted to. He heard snarls. He heard growling.

Maybe this gospel stuff about Jesus sounds like growling to you. The Resurrection may seem preposterous to you. Maybe, if you sit and listen, you’ll hear the Lion of Judah singing over his people. He’s not ashamed of us. He’s glad to call us sisters and brothers. What is our response? Verse 23: Honor him. Revere Him.

Second,

HE HAS A HEART FOR THE NATIONS.

This is a prophecy of The Great Commission. Jesus gave instructions to His disciples. We are to be His witnesses to the end of the earth. These are our marching orders. One thousand years before he gave those instructions, we had this Psalm, Psalm 22. This has been the plan from the beginning. People from every tribe and tongue are to join the throng of followers!

The ways His people are to worship and glorify Him and fear Him and to be in awe of Him. It has to do with the “music.” Do you hear the music of Jesus? Or is it being crowded out by the busy-ness?! Have you been on Woodruff Road?! I haven’t heard any music on Woodruff Road! I heard things I shouldn’t have heard on Woodruff Road the other day!

Music comes in silence, rest, and through cultivated seeking. You will hear the melody. This beautiful Psalm penetrates and soothes our weary souls. He’s singing to our tortured souls. Do we want to be affected by The Great Commission? Take time to hear the beautiful music our Savior is singing over us. This singing is what soothes our agitated souls.

We may think rest comes from elsewhere. Family during Christmastime? A gift? Getting along bettter with my spouse? Making more money? Doing better at work?

Jesus says, “Stop! Rest! I am your rest. I am the rest for your souls.” We experience healing. It’s a long obedience in the same direction. It’s about time for spending time in silence, solitude, praying. He will meet our needs. We will love like our Savior loves. This is how we perpetuate the Gospel. Our kids know if we’re at rest or not. Our children will proclaim our righteousness, as we propagate the Gospel. The precious words of Jesus on the cross take new meaning. “He has done it. It is finished.”

Our souls are weary, because we’re trying to accomplish what He already accomplished. We’re trying to serve our lives up as productive, so we will be accepted. “It is finished.” This is good news. Even the woman throwing her baby in the river can be forgiven.

Is this only noise to us — hearing about Jesus over and over and over again? Let him warm up your soul. Let the music penetrate your soul. It’s not going to happen in our microwave culture! It’s a long obedience in the same direction. He’s won victory.

An author has written that, in a location of Eastern Europe, three monuments of great scale were built to remember magnificent defeats in 1916, in 1938, and in 2010. These events will be forever remembered by these proud and thriving people. Sometimes, defeats are so magnificent that they must be memorialized.

On the foothills of another city, there is another place where a magnificent tragedy occurred. But, by His wounds, we are healed! By his cross, we are saved! Death may have won he day, but life everlasting secured unbreakable victory!

Have you heard the music?

It’s he Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

“Create in Me a Clean Heart”

On Friday, December 14, 2018, Dr. Sam Barfell brought another encouragement message from them Proverbs. Dr. Barfell closed his devotions by saying, “As discouraging is our deceitful heart is the encouragement of God’s ability to create new hearts in us.” Such is the essence of this day’s devotions. If you would like to read my summary of Scripture and Dr. Barfell’s words of encouragement, “Clean in Me a Clean Heart!” please read on. . .

“Create in Me a Clean Heart!”

From a Study of the Proverbs

By Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, December 14, 2018

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

Good morning, everybody! Happy Friday!

Last night, in this very room, we experienced an amazing fine arts concert! It was something very special! Congratulations, fine arts faculty!

This is an interesting week. One of our families, the Tollisons lost their 19-year-old son. Please minister to this young man’s siblings, Garrett, a SCS senior, and Ellie, a SCS seventh grader.

It was also the 2-year anniversary of Jacob Oaks’ death this week. Rebecca and Robert would appreciate your prayers.

Let’s move onto some joyous news.

Sarah and Josh Poss are expecting #3! Congratulations, Sarah! I appreciate your bright smile and positive spirit! It’s a joy to celebrate this with you!

Sheila Wyer is now a grandmother! Sheila, Patrick, Auntie Mary Kate, Hunter (SCS ‘10) and his wife welcome Luke!

We have been talking about significant topics from the Proverbs.

Actions shape the heart.

And the heart shape our actions.

That’s an interesting paradox.

It’s important to act biblically. You’re not being unkind when you are sincerely kind to someone when you don’t feel like it.

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from the heart.

The Kellers also talk about the discerning heart and deep waters of the human heart from the Proverbs.

Proverbs 15:14

“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” [English Standard Version (ESV)]

Proverbs 20:5

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (ESV)

Sometimes we intentionally and unintentionally hide our motives in our hearts. Our hearts can be deceitful.

Consider Jeremiah 17:9-10 —

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,

    and desperately sick;

    who can understand it?

10 “I the Lord search the heart

    and test the mind,[a]

to give every man according to his ways,

    according to the fruit of his deeds.”

Footnote:

[a] Jeremiah 17:10 Hebrew kidneys

We don’t even know how deceitful and wicked our hearts are.

God’s grace is even more powerful in covering our deceit, wickedness, and sin.

We can’t understand our hearts fully.

But God can!

Laurie Loper sent me an e-mail about our heart being deceitful, citing other passages of Scripture—

Ezekiel 36:26

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (ESV)

There’s hope. Scripture gives us hope. God can give us a new heart.

Psalm 51:10

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right[a] spirit within me.” (ESV)

Footnote:

Psalm 51:10 Or steadfast

My wife makes our house beautiful. There used to be a framed piece of art in the bathroom. I prayed that verse in the bathroom daily!

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[a] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (ESV)

Footnote:

[a] 2 Corinthians 5:17 Or creature

Surely that new creation includes our heart.

Hebrews 10:22

“. . .let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

As discouraging is our deceitful heart is the encouragement of God’s ability to create new hearts in us.

“Rules”

On Thursday, December 13, 2018, Southside Christian middle school and high school small groups gathered to discuss the following questions.  Perhaps the parents of SCS would be interested in discussing the same questions over a meal.  If so, please read on. . . .

“RULES”

Questions

Middle School and High School Small Groups

Starting Off:

  1. Highlights/lowlights since we last met?
  2. This is our last small group before the break. What are your plans for Christmas break?   What is one thing you are looking forward to?   What is one thing you are NOT looking forward to?
  3. If you could change one law in the U.S., what would it be?

Discover:

  1. What are the positives and negatives of rules?
  2. Let’s read Colossians 2:20-23 and Romans 7:5-6. Can we paraphrase these passages?
  3. What do these passages have to say about the effectiveness of “The Law” and “Rules”?
  4. Why do lists of religious rules often have an ​​appearance ​​ of wisdom?
  5. Do rules really provide ​​no power ​​ in changing us (Paul’s words in Colossians)? Why do you think that might be?

Nurture:

  1. What are some areas in your life you have tried to change through your own grit and determination? How did that go?
  2. Have you ever been in a spot where you have needed God to help you? How did that turn out?

Act:

Two recommended options:

  1. Partner up and pray for one another in the areas you need God to change in your lives or
  2. Individuals share with the whole group the areas they need God to change and the small group leader prays aloud for those students.

“Knowing the Heart”

On Thursday, December 7, 2018, Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent of Southside Christian School, presented a devotional from the Proverbs to all of the employees of Southside Christian School. If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Barfell’s devotions, “Knowing the Heart,” please read on. . . .

“Knowing the Heart”

A Study of the Proverbs

By Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent

All-Employee Devotions

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, December 7, 2018

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

Good morning!

Happy Friday!

I have seen the weather forecast for snow on Sunday and Monday. I pray for a snow day! I will call a snow day, if we need to do so.

Last Friday, I did Thanksgiving with my family. Thanks to Denny Vauters for doing devotions last week. I was actually “here,” as I FaceTimed with Dr. Stouffer.

On that Friday and weekend, Jen and I celebrated Thanksgiving, Richard’s contract with St. Francis Hospital, their move to Greenville, Lauryn’s 29th birthday, our anniversary, and Brandon and Elyse’s engagement! Pray for Brandon as a new believer. We’re going to do another book study together. Jen and I covet your prayers for Elyse and Brandon.

We are in the book of Proverbs. We’ve looked at two broad categories: (1) Wisdom and (2) Knowing God.

The next broad category is Knowing the Heart:

  • Understanding the Heart (today)
  • Reordering Desires
  • Understanding Temptations
  • Understanding Emotion
  • The Seven Deadly Sins
  • What do you know about the human heart?

The human heart is most deceitful above all things, and it’s desperately wicked. There is the biblical exposition on your heart and my heart.

Have you reckoned with your deceit? Have you reckoned with the wickedness of your own heart?

The heart is so wicked we don’t know how bad it is. That’s the human heart.

Proverbs 4:14-16 reads,

14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,

    and do not walk in the way of the evil.

15 Avoid it; do not go on it;

    turn away from it and pass on.

16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong; they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.

(English Standard Version)

Actions shape the heart, the Kellers have written in their commentary on the Proverbs.

Our hearts hold our deepest trusts. Actions somehow shape the heart. If I’m upset with someone, I often tell myself I’m not going to be kind to that person. That’s unbiblical thinking. In such cases, we need to be loving. Act in a loving manner, and your heart will follow. Your heart will get in line with your actions.

Jesus told us to love our enemies. Love them with your actions. Be loving. Let your actions shape your heart about hard-to-love people.

Here’s the other side of that. Your heart also shape your actions. We have been commanded, above all else, to guard our hearts.

We must watch the words we say, where our eyes go, where our feet go.

I have an 18-year-old truck. It has 233,000 miles on it. It’s my little buddy. Every time I see his brother, the Ford F-150, I want to own that truck! My eyes have influenced my heart. I have to have that truck! That’s the influence of the heart on our actions.

I must make sure my mind, my gaze, and my imagination are oriented to biblical truth.

Above all else, guard your hearts.

Proverbs 4:23-26 reads,

23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,

    for from it flow the springs of life.

24 Put away from you crooked speech,

    and put devious talk far from you.

25 Let your eyes look directly forward,

    and your gaze be straight before you.

26 Ponder[a] the path of your feet;

    then all your ways will be sure.

Footnote:

[a] Proverbs 4:26 Or Make level

(ESV)

Let’s pray. . . .

“The Unfulfillment of Life Outside of God”

On Thursday, December 6, 2018, during the Middle School Chapel and High School Chapel, Senior Class Chaplain Harrison McDermott exhorted the students and staff in attendance to find their fulfillment in God alone. If you would like to read my summary of Harrison’s chapel message, “The Unfulfillment of Life Outside of God,” please read on. . .

“The Unfulfillment of Life Outside of God”

By Harrison McDermott, Senior Class Chaplain

Middle School Chapel and High School Chapel

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, December 6, 2018

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

Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor and Director of Discipleship, welcomed all of the students and staff, asked them to discuss what they were looking forward to during Christmas vacation, exhorted the audience to worship God through son, and prayed to begin the chapel.

High School Bible Teacher Ryan Donell (vocals and guitar) led the middle school audience in a time of worship through song.

A team of High School French Teacher Brett Henderson (vocals and guitar), senior Coby Greene (percussion), and senior Mary Elizabeth Baumgarten (vocals and keyboard) led the high school audience in a time of worship through song. Mary Elizabeth prayed as a bridge between the time of worship through song to a time of worship of thee preaching of God’s Word.

Pastor Colin expressed appreciation that student leaders have spoken in Southside Christian chapels, and he shared his excitement about Harrison McDermott, Senior Class Chaplain, speaking on this day. Pastor Colin prayed over Harrison and his message.

Harrison McDermott

Good morning, everyone. I’m the Senior Class Chaplain. I’d like to start with a video of the G.O.A.T himself speaking — Tom Brady.

[At 30, Brady had already won 3 Super Bowls. He had been underrated and overlooked initially as a professional football player. He knows how to win. He was playing under a $60 million contract at the time. With all of that fame, he believed there was “something greater out there” for him. “It’s got to be more than this,” he said. He didn’t know the answer to fulfillment.]

That’s an interesting video. He is probably one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. He is married to a super model. He has children. By all measures, he is “successful.” In spite of his success, he said he was missing something [when this “60 Minutes” segment was filmed].

Think about politicians today. They earn big paychecks. They have affairs to gain something new and exciting. They launder money, risking all they have to gain something that will bring them fulfillment.

This is important to me, because it’s in my own life as well. Around middle school or early high school, I was drawn to the “Friends” sit-com. A character in that show — Joey — “the man” — is a guy who gets all of the girls. I wanted to be Joey. I would literally go into social interactions and think about what Joey would do! That was never successful. I never felt joy or happiness.

Once I got past that, early in my freshman and sophomore year, I turned to porn — to gain joy through pornographic images. But that did not give me happiness either.

Even today, as a senior, I struggle with my appearance to bring me happiness. I try to feel better.

Whether you’re a famous athlete, influential politician, or Upper School student, we struggle with this problem and come up short. We look to things other than God to bring us joy? Why? Why do we do that?

The answer comes through Genesis 1-3.

God spoke Creation into existence. He did something special and unique. He created man in His own image, very different from the rest of Creation. He breathed life into us. There is something different about the special and intimate relationship God has with human beings (than He does with the rest of His Creation). God cares for us. He made a partner for Adam. Eve.

In Genesis 3, Eve believed she would find more joy if she knew good from evil on the same level as God by eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. She could be like God if she ate of that fruit. Satan made her believe that this fruit would give her more fulfillment than God could give her fulfillment.

Let’s say there’s a couple — a boyfriend and girlfriend. They have a very good relationship. One person sees another person. This person leaves the partner, hurting and killing the relationship. The pursued person is not nearly as fulfilling as the original relationship. Such was not expected. Instead of turning back to the original relationship, the person moves onto another person for fulfillment. And another. And another. Again and again. They never find what they are looking for. None of the new relationships are fulfilling as the original relationship.

What’s the point?

We were created for intimate relationship with God. When we pursue substitutes, those relationships are not fulfilling. We are missing the intimate relationship with God by substituting other things for Him.

How do we fix these longings and desires? What’s the answer? We want to be consistently filled with joy.

Turn to John 6 for the answer. A crowd of 5,000 men — and women and children — were hungry. Jesus turned a small quantity of food into enough for this entire crowd, plus a surplus. It was amazing. It was a miracle. There were not huge quantities of food at this time. Famine was common. Today, I can get food quickly, and it’s no big deal. This was a unique feast from Jesus.

The people Jesus had fed — who had witnessed the miracle — were confused about how Jesus got across the Sea when he was not in the boat. (He had walked on water to the disciples.) They traveled on boats to find Jesus. They sought Him because of the ways that Jesus had been the source of their provision. He had been excited about the previous day’s feast. They didn’t come to Him because they loved Him. He knew their hearts. He knew they thought bread would bring them happiness. He said He was from the Father. They wanted a sign. He declared Himself to be “the bread of life.” He offered Himself to them. They wanted physical bread, but He knew the bread would not ultimately fulfill them. He alone could fully and ultimately satisfy them.

How does this apply to us? Jesus is telling us to stop killing ourselves for good grades, to stop worrying about appearance for popularity, to stop seeking sex and friendships as means of feeling fulfilled.

Jesus told you to come to Him.

Maybe you think that’s not you. You serve in your church. You memorize Scripture. You do well in Bible class.

Look at John 5. Jesus had healed a lame man on the Sabbath. The religious leaders were rebuking Jesus. In verses 39-40, Jesus told those men that they needed to come to Him. These men had memorized the first 5 books (the Torah) in the Bible. They believed their fulfillment came through their knowledge of the Scriptures, but they needed to come to HIM for fulfillment. They did not want to accept Jesus. He spoke to them — and He speaks to us today — no matter who we are or what we seek — to come to him for our joy and fulfillment.

No matter who we are, we seek after things other than Jesus. Famous French mathematician Blaise Pascal pointed out that the void in our life can only be filled by relationship with God through Jesus Christ. We need Jesus to fill the void within us.

I grew up in a Christian home. I have attended church. I have heard messages like this. But I turned to things other than Jesus for fulfillment. We harbor an incorrect belief. We believe God is a task master. We believe we need to do the hard things and give up the best things in life to earn God’s favor. But the truth is that He is the best part of our existence. We need to seek Him and relationship with Him, rather than cheap substitutes.

When I think about my appearance, I am believing God is not enough. That’s the issue. We turn to this behavior, because we don’t believe the truth of the Scriptures. We’ve got to believe, say, and live this truth.

What steps could you practically take to find fulfillment in Jesus?

Approach this dilemma with prayer. Want God to change your life. Ask Him to change the source of your happiness, so it’s through Him. What if you’re not a believer? What if you haven’t chosen to follow Him? Repent of your sins, ask Jesus to be your Savior, and the God-sized hole in your heart can be filled.

Also, we must study the Scriptures. Here is where I learn the most about Jesus, especially in the New Testament. Pursue Jesus for your means of joy.

Lastly, think about D.A.W.G. This acronym stands for Day Alone with God. This can be one of the best days of your life. Think Clemson football. You spend an entire day with your family, watching football. Too many of us are willing to only send 15 minutes a day with God [if that]. We need to set aside significant time for God. Read His Scriptures. Pray. Walk and hike in God’s glorious creation. Discover the truths about Him.

If we pursue Jesus, we will not always feel great. It’s true that Jesus will never let us down. We will turn to other things. We revert to old patterns to find happiness. We will still struggle. It will be dangerous to expect that everything will immediately be okay. Remember the words of Jesus. He is the bread of life. What we pursue other than Him not give us happiness. Return to Jesus. He is the bread of life.

Harrison prayed to close his chapel message.

The worship team came back on stage to lead a final song of worship during the high school chapel.

“Jesus the Suffering One”

On Sunday, December 2, 2018, Eastside Presbyterian Church Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth tied all of the singing, prayer, sermon, and Communion together in worship of Jesus, the one who suffered on our behalf. If you would like to read my summary of Mark’s message, “Jesus the Suffering One,” please read on. . . .

“Jesus the Suffering One”
From the “Jesus in the Psalms” Sermon Series
By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor
Eastside Presbyterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, December 2, 2018

Quote of the Week:

“If Christ is God, He cannot sin, and if suffering was a sin in and of itself, He could not have suffered and died for us. However, since He took the most horrific death to redeem us, He showed us in fact that suffering and pain have great power.” (E.A. Bucchianeri, in Brushstrokes of a Gadfly)

Passage for the Week:

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
2 O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.
3 Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
4 In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
8 “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”
9 Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.
12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]—
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.
19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21 Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!

Footnotes:

[a] Psalm 22:3 Or dwelling in the praises
[b] Psalm 22:16 Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts like a lion [they are at] my hands and feet
[c]Psalm 22:21 Hebrew answered

(Psalm 22:1-21, English Standard Version)

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

We believe in Jesus when He said that the truth would set us free. We need truthful love. We don’t overlook each other’s sin. We speak the truth in a loving way, so we can be free and experience Gospel fruit. It’s not easy. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to be both loving and truthful.

You may think this Psalm to be a strange Psalm at Christmastime. But it is an appropriate Psalm at this time of year. Jesus was born to die. He humiliated Himself by being born in a stable. He set the glories of heaven aside willingly.

What would Orthodox Jews have to say about this Psalm? I did some reading and research on that subject. The biggest difference is in verse 16, the word, “pierced.” The Jewish translation is “like a lion.” What do “pierced” and “like a lion” have to do with each other. Not much. Crucifixion was a Roman thing. Was the Jewish text right? We have to be careful about disagreeing with God’s Word.

The Greek translation was “pierced.” Other Hebrew texts used the term, “pierced.” A number of other reasons point to this passage as referring to the Messiah. “Like a lion” is Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the Messiah. For the purposes of this sermon, we will stick with the Christian version of the word, “pierced,” since this is a Psalm about Jesus.

On Pentecost, Peter referred to God speaking in advance of what everyone would experience in Jesus the Messiah. Christ suffered for us. May this truth be clear to us. Jesus endured agony at the crucifixion. He had been mocked, slapped, beaten beforehand. Imagine the agony. Imagine the agony of him being nailed to the cross, as it locked in place.

Jesus was concerned for those around Him. He called out to the women — that they should not weep for Him. He showed compassion to those who crucified Him, forgiving them in prayer to the Father. He was concerned for the thief on the cross. He called out to Mary, asking that John care for His mother.

At Noon, darkness fell. Darkness fell. James Montgomery Boice believed the darkness would shield Jesus from isolation. I’m not sure about that. Darkness could make Him feel more alone.

The first 21 verses of Psalm 22 detail three stages of the crucifixion:

CRY TO HIS FATHER
HIS PERSONAL AGONY
THE THOUGHT OF HIS ENEMIES

CRY TO HIS FATHER

Can you feel the agony He was experiencing? Jesus cried out to the Father, who was forsaking Him at the crucifixion. The Father abandoned the Son. Jesus had been in continual relationship with his Father, and now He was abandoned. He did this so we would never be alone.

When we feel abandoned, we get angry, and we get angry with God. God is enthroned as the Holy One. We can trust in Him. He ultimately will not disappoint. God will extend His good to His people. We will never suffer hell because of what Jesus did for us. We too often feel abandoned. We are pampered.

Yesterday, it was raining. I went to Costco. I brought a brisquit. It was three-quarters fat. I put it in a bag and took it back to Costco. I was annoyed about the bad cut of meat and the slow traffic. One hundred years ago, it would have taken a long time to get to Costco by horse and buggy! We are constantly annoyed.

Yet, here was Jesus on the cross. His Father sent the Son not to condemn the world, but that, through the Son, the world might be saved. He was scorned, mocked, and insulted.

HIS PERSONAL AGONY

He was in physical anguish, and people were crying out untrue things to and about Him. The fruit of the Spirit worked through the God-Man. He could have called legions of angels, but He showed love and self-control and forbearance. This is what maturity looks like in the midst of suffering.

He trusted His Father. The Father had been His God. Trouble was near. It was God’s plan to save His people! This was part of the plan. He worshipped His Father! Evil people surrounded Him. They tore at Him. He felt as though He was being torn apart. He was alone. He was in hell for us. His bones were out of place. He thirsted. He was being poured out like water. He had no strength. His heart melted like wax. He was alone on the cross. The Father was nowhere to be found.

HE THOUGHT OF HIS ENEMIES.

His body was pierced. This Psalm predicted what happened to Jesus on the cross. He cried out for deliverance. We will never fully understand what He did for us!

CONCLUSION

What are the implications? We can draw 4 implications.

First, there is no religion in history which can match this account. This is the ultimate story of grace. In other religions, we act to measure up for grace. But we have no way of meeting the standard. He met the standard, and He went to the cross for us.

Second, sin will be punished. Other religions talk about what the person does. One sin makes us law-breakers. The wages of sin is death. The only remission for sin comes from the shedding of blood. Jesus’ crucifixion is the payment for our sin! We cannot claim perfection of ourselves. Jesus was perfect.

Third, since Jesus died for us, He’s asking us to die for Him. We lose our lives to find our lives. We give up our lives. We give up our own path and ways. We submit to His path and His ways. We give ourselves for Him. This is the path of life and righteousness. We have so many opinions, and we create God [or gods] in our image. We need to let Him to be in charge and do what He wants from us with all of our hearts. He stayed on the cross. Why wouldn’t we give up our rights? Let’s teach our children to give up their rights to the One who gave up His rights for our sin.

Fourth, the way of Jesus is not the easy way, in spite of what the prosperity gospel preachers tell you. Suffering is a part of the human experience. It’s not easy to die to our own wants. No one likes to die. We have urges to defend ourselves. The way of the cross is the way of suffering. Forgiving someone is dying to self. “You have hurt me, but I will forgive you,” we should say. That is the hard way. That is the difficult way. We lay down our lives for others. Christianity is mocked every day on TV. It’s not the easy way, but it’s the way of life!

A couple women were seated next to each other at a Christian luncheon In San Bernardino, California. Terror struck. These two women used chairs as shields against the gunfire. Amidst the chaos, one woman said to the other, “I got you.” She shielded the other woman and died. That’s what Jesus did. He shielded us. He said, “I got you.”

That’s the Gospel.

And it changes everything.