Monthly Archives: March 2019

“Humble, or Proud?”

On Thursday, March 28, 2019, the Southside Christian Middle School Chapel featured speaker Missy Schrader, Middle School Bible Teacher; and High School Chapel featured a panel of Pastor Colin Urbanick, SCS Campus Pastor/Director of Discipleship, Nathan Forrest, Pastor of Summit Church, Jim Thompson, Pastor of Fellowship Greenville, Ryan Donell, SCS High School Bible Teacher, and Lindsay Donovan, a SCS Teacher. If you would like to read my summary of those chapel activities, please read on. . . .

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

Pastor Colin Urbanick welcomed everyone to chapel.

During Middle School Chapel, Steve Mason, Dean of Men, announced changes to chapel dismissal, section-by-section. Students were very attentive and respectful.

Pastor Colin asked the students to turn to each other and tell what they were planning to do for spring break in two weeks.

During the Middle School Chapel, Pastor Colin reconvened the audience, preparing the students for the special opportunity to engage in worship through song and consideration of God’s Word. He told the students that the lyrics of the songs remind us of who we are as children of God. We sing these songs to reflect that “God really is who He says He is.”

Pastor Colin prayed to open the chapel.

During the Middle School Chapel, High School Bible Teacher Ryan Donell (on guitar and with vocals) led the audience in a time of worship through song.

Mr. Donell prayed as a bridge between worship of God through song to worship of God through the Word.


“Humble, or Proud?”

By Missy Schrader, Middle School Bible Teacher

I believe in the Holy Spirit. Without my saying anything to Mr. Donell, those three songs fit perfectly with my message today!

I need your participation today. We’re going to start with a game you like: “Would You Rather.”

Would you rather constantly have dry eyes or a runny nose?

Would you rather always be hungry or always be tired?

Would you rather be able to, for the rest of your life, go to any amusement park free or go through any drive-thru?

Would you rather have to eat a whole box of dry pasta or a cup of uncooked rice?

Last one: Would you rather be invisible or be able to fly?

Eyes on me. I have a different “Would You Rather?”

Would you rather receive God’s grace or have Him oppose you?

I’m going to read a lot of Scriptures today.

First, let’s look in James 4.

God gives grace generously. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Would you rather be proud or humble?

Let’s look at some people in the Bible today, in that regard.

Look at the Pharisees in Luke 16.

The Pharisees dearly loved their money, and they mocked Jesus, who told them they loved to appear righteous, although God knew their hearts. They seemed like they were holy, but they were not. They appeared righteous, but God knew their hearts. They obeyed their own rules. They were all about their rules. They were completely self-righteous. Their hearts were sinful and evil. God was not pleased with them.

In Luke 18, Jesus told a story to people who had great confidence in their own righteousness — people who scorned everyone else. They were self-righteous. They were judgmental of others. Were they really righteous? No, they were self-deceived.

One of my favorite family friends is tone-deaf. In college, he took a piano course. At the end of the year, he was a part of a recital. He put his hands on the wrong keys. He played the whole song that way. The audience thought it was horrible. He believed he had “killed it.” He was completely self-deceived. It was terrible. That’s how the Pharisees were. They had great confidence in their own righteousness. They were proud. They were self-righteous. They were condemning of others.

In Luke 18, two men went to pray. The Pharisee thanked God he was not like sinful people, including a tax collector. The Pharisee was proud, self-righteous, and self-deceived. He was not righteous at all. The tax collector humbly would not lift his eyes to heaven, asking for God’s mercy. He had remorse. He was humble. He saw his own heart, and he knew he was sinful.

Jesus told the listeners that the sinner was justified, not the Pharisee. The exalted will be humbled. The humble will be exalted. The tax collector was justified. He was humble.  He knew he was a sinner who needed a Savior to be made right.

Luke 7

Another story involves a Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home. An immoral woman brought a jar to the dinner to honor Jesus. She wiped Jesus’ feet with her tears and hair. She cried because she knew she was sinful. How did she feel about her sin? She was sorry. She was repentant. She had sorrow over her sin. She knew she was broken. Let’s see what happened.

The Pharisee was critical of Jesus for allowing a sinner to wipe his feet with her tears and hair. He was self-righteous. Jesus answered. He told a story about men who could not pay their debts. The man whose debt was heavier was more grateful for the cancelled debt. Jesus lauded the woman for greeting him with her kisses. The Pharisee had done nothing to welcome Him. She had shown much love. The Pharisee had shown little love. Jesus forgave her sins. She had come humbly before Him, weeping about her sin, and He forgave her. The one who forgives and loves much is forgiven and loved much.

Let’s look at one more piece of Scripture: Luke 18.

A blind beggar near Jericho asked about Jesus approaching. He shouted out for mercy from Jesus. Others nearby sought to quiet him. Jesus asked, “What do you want me to do for you?” He wanted his sight. Jesus restored his sight. The man was humble, asking for forgiveness and mercy. He knew he was needy and broken. He feared God. He knew who God is. His faith healed him, according to Jesus.

So what? What is your response to all of those passages?

Would you rather be proud or humble?

I said we’d come back to James. God gives grace to the humble, so humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and He will come close to you. Purify your hearts. Let there be sorrow and deep grief for your sin. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up with honor.

So what?

Humble yourselves before the Lord.

So what else?

Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.

Weep over your sin.

Cleanse your hand. He will lift you up!

It’s about Him, not about you. Jesus is righteousness. The Pharisees thought they were righteous. They were self-righteous. They didn’t know they were not right with God. We don’t have to hide our brokenness. Our best best good is like filthy rags, Paul wrote.

Jesus took all my bad and gave me all His good. It’s not self-righteousness. It’s His righteousness.

Would you rather be proud or humble?

[Students: “Humble.”]

We have to confess our pride. His grace pours out on us. He gives us His perfect righteousness.

You’ve been amazing. Let me pray for you.

Dear Jesus, I confess my pride. I confess that I think too highly of myself. I am self-deceived. I don’t think I need you. I am arrogant. I think my good is because of me. Jesus, cover me with your righteousness. I will give you all of my praise and glory and honor. Amen.


During the High School Chapel, panelists answered tough questions of the faith.

Pastor Colin

Fifty percent (50%) of high school graduates will walk away from the church and their faith. Statistically, that’s true. There are several reasons. Students have bad experiences. Maybe they were not committed to the church in the first place. Many will leave the church because no one allowed them to ask the hard questions about faith. They don’t have answers to those tough questions, so their worldview crumbles.

Some of you aren’t interested. Please be open to what these panelists have to say today. You won’t be interested until a professor drills you with a non-Christian belief. Press into — lean into — these questions. Challenge these people’s answers. You have to decide. If we have time at the end, we’ll take your questions and push back against answers.

Pastor Colin prayed before the panel discussion.


Jim: Traditional standard evangelical belief about hell is that hell is true. Who are we to judge God? Heaven and hell are not opposite in the Bible. Heaven and earth are interposed. Heaven is God’s space. Earth is man’s space. Hell is an imposition with heaven and earth. Hell is present. It depends upon how you define place. N.T Wright says hell is a place and space where people no longer become truly human. You’re created to worship and appreciate God in His world. Hell is a place where that doesn’t happen. If you minimize hell, you minimize the cross of Jesus. He put an end to separation of God from humans. Hell is not meant to scare people. Hell points people back to Jesus.

Ryan: That was really good. I’d like to add information about another tradition, the Eastern Orthodox tradition. This tradition worked on doctrines which deviated from traditional envisioning of hell. There have been different beliefs about hell in church history. Scripture talks about hell as a reality which continues. Hell is dehumanizing. You may not think that sin is a big deal. But Christ bore the awful load of ALL sin on the cross. We deserve punishment. Look at Jesus. Look at the cross. Look at the hell Jesus suffered. That’s how God thinks about sin. You also see God’s love for you on the cross. He suffered hell for all, not for just one person. I need a God whom I can trust as good. I can trust a God who was slain. He was slain, so I can trust him.

Jim: If you repent of your sin, you believe that God is working good even in your sinful state. You have to see the interconnectedness of the entire Bible.

Lindsay: I do not have degrees related to theology. But I did turn away in college, and I have a testimony of returning to the faith. By the grace of God, He rescued me. How could God send people to hell? We have a sense of entitlement in the culture today. Everyone gets a trophy. We have the same attitude about heaven. We’re entitled to heaven. We are not entitled. We don’t deserve it. He loves us and grants us grace.

Nathan: How could God send people to hell? I am a strong justice person. Mercy and grace are not firmly embedded in my soul. God can be just and merciful at the same time. When you are a victim of atrocity and depravity and wickedness of man, it is easier and easier to see that God cannot be apathetic toward evil. Statistically, for example, the state which has the most reports of domestic violence is South Carolina, and the number one county is Greenville. Some of you in this room watch domestic violence directly, and there are zero consequences. And you see the wounds. Do you think God could look at you, saying He loves you and will do nothing? I’ve been in orphanages with small children given up only because of a disability; they will spend the rest of their lives handcuffed to a radiator. That is evil. As a foster dad, I see children as victims of such atrocities. A DSS worker walked into a home recently, and the floor was covered with feces. Justice and love for people devastated by sin will ultimately result in justice. If you’re a female, you have 1 out of 4 chance of being sexually assaulted. God’s love of you causes him to move toward justice with the sinner. God’s love even for the perpetrators sent Jesus to the cross.


Pastor Colin: How do we respond to people with these questions? These are loaded questions. There has to be a balance of grace and truth. How do our responses work practically?

Ryan: I ask people to tell me what they mean by the question, and who they think God is. I want to see where they’re coming from. I try to figure out the motivation of their questions or comments. Are they doubting, or they writing Christianity off? We can’t customize our answers.

Jim: Reject a white blue-eyed Jesus. Reject a Jesus who demands a particular political party. Reject the wrong-headed idea of Jesus in objectors’ brains. The answers are not yes, no, on, or off. Go back to the cross and the empty tomb. Everything points to Christ. Likely, their presuppositions are in error, to which you can agree. Following Jesus does not involve boxing Him in. It takes time to explain these things to others who object. Don’t be lazy. Don’t play the game of simple answers.

Nathan: Skeptics typically don’t ask intellectual questions. Their questions and objections are deeply emotional. You loved a person who is gone. You know they didn’t care about Jesus. It’s messing you up. My soon-to-be 9-year-old daughter was going to have surgery, and it was deeply personal, as she thought about dying and whether she would go to heaven or hell. Questions are typically driven by fear, grief, or anguish. The skeptic longs for you to engage him, his fears, and his sorrow. The Gospel is not a cerebral answer. It’s an existential experience. Jesus is the best hope and answer.

Lindsay: You go to this school, so you have answers that most people don’t have. So you have answers. But people want relationship with you. You can’t walk up to people and tell them that their lifestyle wrong. They will listen to you when you have a relationship with them.

We don’t live in a Disney musical.

Colin: I don’t want to. That would be a living hell!

Ryan: Moses and Paul dealt with people by arguing with God, praying that they could take the offender’s place in death. Moses and Paul were willing to be damned for these sinful people. That’s how much they cared about the people they were shepherding.

Jim: Skeletons in God’s Closet is an excellent book on war and hell. Christians are scared to talk about these things. It’s a good analysis on hell. At one point in the book, the author talks about a man with a huge rap sheet. Is the jailed prisoner’s life about protection of society or punishment? Hell is a protection from God’s new heaven until he establishes His final kingdom.


Pastor Colin: I grew up in the 90s. The thing then was “True Love Waits.” The statistics indicated a high percentage of people who experienced “True Love Waits” actually had sex before marriage. It’s a difficult question.

Jim: I got a phone call 3 days ago from a guy I taught here 7 or 8 years ago — one of the finest guys I have ever known. He just got engaged. He is a virgin. His fiancée is not.  She told him this a while back. She is from a different country. The first place he told her that he loved her was a place she had previously had sex with another man. He wondered whether he should marry her after he found out about her promiscuous lifestyle. The way she was raised — sex was a flippant thing. He was raised in Southside Christian School; he was so guilt-ridden about sex; for him, having sex was to not please God. The place this conversation needs to start with sex is about sex within marriage as beautiful intimacy. Sex is commanded and encouraged by God within the boundary of marriage. But we want blessings our own way. Sex will bite back, because God made sex for marriage. Don’t be guilted into this belief. Don’t fail to see sex appropriately. The way you think about his now will have ripple effects. How you think and act now will influence your marriage in the future.

[Pastor Colin closed the High School Chapel with prayer.]

“The Missionary Mandate, Part 2”

On Sunday, March 24, 2019, Eastside Presbyterian Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth preached Part 2 of his “Missionary Mandate” sermon as a part of a missionary weekend at the church. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Mark’s message, please read on. . . .

The Missionary Mandate: Part 2”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Quote of the Week:

“If a commission by an earthly king is considered an honor, how can a commission by the Heavenly King be considered a sacrifice?” (David Livingstone)

Scripture of the Week:

John 17:20-26 (English Standard Version)

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

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

Several years back, we took a team to the coast of Costa Rica, truly one of the hottest places on the planet. It’s hot. We went, and I led this team. On the Sunday we were there, I preached at the church service there. I was cracking and popping. It was so good. I was taking notes on myself! I was the center of the universe! The service ended. It was wonderful. But, the next night, Lanisha Wedman shared her testimony, and people wept. It was her first time out of the country and speaking to people. Clearly, the Lord used her in mighty ways. People sought her out to speak to her. We’ve invited her to speak today.


I don’t know where to begin. That trip was amazing. We all went to different homes. We shared our testimonies. I kept thinking I didn’t belong there. All of the other people were long-time followers of Christ. I asked God why I was here. When I went down to the coast, teenage girls with their children were in school together. This was the best they could do. There was no child care.

Mark was translating what I was saying. I saw so much of myself in these girls. The things they were doing, I had already done. I had my children when I was young. I told them that “I did, but I stopped.” Christ was in me! I told them to look at my tattoos and my piercings. But still Christ loved me. The young women were weeping. Had I said something wrong? I had actually connected with them through the poor choices I had made. I had found a friend — Jesus — who loves me and my children. And I have found a family here in this church — your support, your love, and your encouragement. I look forward to how my kids will be different because of you. Thank you, and I love you all.


If you think you know what God is doing, He’s probably not. He might be doing things you have no idea about. I would love for everyone in our church to go on a short-term mission trip, which opens your eyes to the worlds of different people. Think about that.

We’re coming to this passage today, asking for the Spirit to be powerful in our midst, hoping the Spirit will pour out, so we can understand who we are in Christ. We seek power to live the mission God asks us to live in this world. May God be glorified!

There’s a magazine in Britain called The Spectator. An article in that magazine was called “Amazing Grace.” The writer was amazed that British missionaries were still working in foreign lands. One missionary doctor and his wife had been kidnapped in Nigeria for more than 3 weeks. They were doing medical work and preaching the Gospel. They “were foot soldiers of a less fashionable aid work.” White Christian missionaries were talking unapologetically about God, dangerous as it was. Prior to their arrival, the child mortality rate was 45%. Due to their work, the mortality rate was reduced to 2%. The witch doctors sought treatment themselves! The God the doctors served was greater than the gods they served.

We are no less on-mission than this missionary couple. We are people filled with the Spirit of God. We can love well and give witness to a Savior who came to the backwaters of the earth to sacrifice His life for us.

Jesus was giving His final instructions prior to His crucifixion. He prayed FOR US in this section. We were the ones who would one day believe. We are all called to this work of witnessing to others. People sought the British missionary doctors, because they were experiencing healing. They had been released physically from bondage. They could be released from their spiritual bondage. The message pulls people together. The message gives people courage. The bottom line is that it’s a message of power. How can this be?

First, consider one of the most important things to grasp: WE HAVE BEEN GIVEN A NEW IDENTITY. We must all be one. There is a union. What’s with all of this “in” stuff? Those are statements of identity. Jesus wants us to know who we are. What’s that mean? In 2 Corinthians, Paul talks about all of us being new creations IN CHRIST, reconciled to God. Our old nature no longer defines us. We are IN CHRIST. This. . .is. . .our. . .life. It’s completely new — totally different. It’s not about us and our mission. It’s about Christ and His mission.

But we live as though Jesus had not come and the Holy Spirit is not in us — as though no one cares about us — as though the world is always against us. We live with an orphan mentality. But we are new children with a new Father — He in us and we in Him.

Tim Keller tells us a child does not understand his true condition to know the breadth of Christ’s salvation. The fault is in ourselves. We must recognize what we have IN CHRIST. He is in us. Jesus is in us. And Jesus is in the Father. We’ve been made alive in him, resurrected to a new identity. We have the power of the Holy Spirit in us, and, with that, comes a new mission — so the world may believe that the Father has sent us. This is our new identity, mission, and purpose.

Why would others believe, even if we are on a strong mission? The second thing I want you to see is that WE ARE GIVEN UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. The Father loved Jesus. We should love others as the Father has loved and does love Jesus. Jesus was perfect. He was a perfect child. He always did His Father’s will. At His baptism, the Father said, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” This is how the Father loves His Son, and this is how the Father loves us.

It’s what we long for! We’re looking for love! We’re looking for unconditional love! This is what we have been longing for! Jesus promised unconditional love for us. It’s the love of the Father for us. His love makes us adopted children of God! We have been adopted into His family!

What does that mean for us? We are absolutely secure. Do you feel absolutely secure? I feel insecure a lot of the time. But that insecurity doesn’t come from the Father. Those whom He foreknew — those He knew way ahead of time, before the foundation of the world — it’s the intimacy — a love He pours out on us! We are declared righteous. We will be glorified. This is a statement of security.

He who began a good work in you WILL complete His work in you. This is the kind of love that the Father has lavished on us. This is how much He loves us! There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! No one can bring any charge against His elect! Christ died and was raised! No one will separate us from the love of Christ. Nothing will separate us from Jesus. We are more than conquerors!

Any lack of personal holiness — what do I mean by that? — any time we wander away — when we sin — is because we have not believed the Gospel promise. He loves us. He has justified us. We are His. We are His children. We look for love in all of the wrong places. We are new creatures. It’s time to live as though we are the loved people that we are.

I remember asking my son Robby when he went to this first day of high school how he would feel if — no matter how silly he acted — everyone would love him unconditionally. How would that change his day? He said he would be free. He wouldn’t worry. I told him that’s how God feels about him. That’s how God feels about YOU. Jesus wouldn’t have gone to the cross and later withdrawn His love because you sin; He loves us unconditionally.

Third, HE GIVES US HIS GLORY. The Father gave glory to the Son. The Son has given us His glory. My Mom gave me a definition of glory a few weeks ago. Glory is the radiance of God’s worth, manifested in his intrinsic perfection. We don’t get all of the blinding, blazing glory, but what does it mean that we get his glory?

God receives glory when His communicable attributes are on display. We are not omniscient, but we can love. We’re not perfect with love, but we do love. One of His major communicable attributes is mercy. God cannot act against His nature and attributes. He’s long-suffering. He must punish sin and wrong-doing, but He must show mercy. He is all-merciful.

The cross was the focal point of Jesus’ mission. Jesus demonstrated love and mercy on the cross — to satisfy God’s sense of justice. His glory shined everywhere! His death on the cross was supreme glory! His mercy was on full display.

What glory do we get? We get to show love and mercy! This is who we are. This is our new identity. This is our new purpose. This is our new mission. We show others what Jesus did. We lay down our lives for each other. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 84, especially verses 5 and 6. We are on a road to Zion, the mountain of the Lord. The nations are streaming to this location. We will get there one day. As they go through the desert, they make it a place of springs. Is there a better calling for our mission? Is there a clearer statement of our role as missionaries?

As we are traveling to Zion, we make the place where we are a place of heavenly springs. There is so much glory in that. This is what He wants us to do. This is what Jesus did for us. He laid down His life for us. We must lay down our lives for Him.

How do we do this? Jesus loves me, and I want to be a lover of people, making Greenville a place of springs. It’s not a hidden agenda. It’s just who we are! It’s just who we are! The lover of our souls gave His life for us, so the world might believe He sent Him to us — and that we might go on His behalf.

Brothers and sisters, this is our mission. Today is Mission Sunday. We have a separate fund for missions, and it’s based on gifts through Faith Promises, so we can keep missionaries on their fields and can keep working on making their places places of springs.

We ask you to consider making a Faith Promise that helps fund these missionaries. Think about contributing to that fund. We want to see God’s glory shine. How do you feel about your identity? I often don’t feel as though I am a child of God. You may think similarly. I need you in my life to tell me that I am a child of God. And we need to tell each other we are children of God.

That’s what Jesus was praying here. He was about to die.

That’s the Gospel.

And the Gospel changes everything.

“Gently Restore, and Bear Each Other’s Burdens”

On Friday, March 22, 2019, Southside Christian School Advancement Director Denny Vauters offered a devotional to an all-employee gathering of SCS employees from Galatians 6:1-2 as his text. If you would like to read my summary of Mr. Vauters’ message, “Gently Restore, and Bear Each Other’s Burdens,” please read on. . . .

“Gently Restore, and Bear Each Other’s Burdens”

By Denny Vauters, Director of Advancement

All-Employee Devotions

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, March 22, 2019

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

Good morning, Southside Christian.

I want to give you a quick update from Dr. Barfell and Jenny. It was a productive, busy day at the Mayo Clinic. They do appreciate your prayers. They are encouraged by your prayers and positive messages to them.

Consider the following text for today:

Galatians 6:1-2 (English Standard Version)

1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I was thinking through those passages. Sometimes we catch students in the act to teach them how to behave. This is right where we live. Ever caught students in sin? Sometimes it’s obvious. They lie. They disobey. Sometimes we hear about their misbehavior through the grapevine.

I have a couple take-aways from this passage.

Our students will sin. It’s not to be taken light of. It’s not to excuse sin. Paul gives us instructions on how to handle that. So when the student sins for the 476,000th time, it’s a time to show the grace of God to that student. The entire story of the Bible is of restoration.

And restoration is to be done with gentleness, not harshness. We want to make things right. We confront not to be proven right or to catch them in the act. It’s to be done in the spirit of gentleness.

Our daughter Lindy falls all of the time. She cries. Dozens of times a day, we pick her up. And she’s off and running again. In the same way, we should gently pick up students.

We do this because we sin ourselves. If we’re not walking with Christ, we’re not going to be in a position to help our students to restore after sin in their lives. We come alongside students, gently restoring, because we have been restored by Christ.

We also bear one another’s burdens. We must be willing to build deep, meaningful connections with students. The weight of sin is heavy. Our students are burdened by their sin. Some students don’t care. They may think God is harsh. They may not have a gentle, forgiving father-figure in their lives, so they have no model of their Heavenly Father.

When we restore, with a spirit of gentleness, we show the love of Christ. John commanded us to love one another. We restore with gentleness and love.

Let’s ask God’s help to restore students with love today.

[Mr. Vauters prayed for everyone in the audience.]

Happy Friday, everybody!


On Thursday, March 21, 2019, Southside Christian middle school small groups and high school small groups gathered during the chapel period to discuss questions related to “idolatry.”  If you would like to consider those questions, please read on. . . .


Small Group Questions

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Starting Off:

1. Highlights/lowlights since we last met?

2. If there was one thing you could do with your life, and you know it would succeed, what would you do?


1. We see idols all the time in the Bible.  Do you think there are idols today people are dealing with? If yes, what do they look like today?

Leader note: A few ways Tim Keller defines an idol:

i. Anything more important to you than God

ii. Anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God

iii. Anything you seek to give you what only God can give

iv. Whatever makes you say: “If only I had ​that thing​, then I’ll feel my life has meaning and significance.”

v. Greed/materialism

vi. Lust for achievement/success

vii. Seeking approval of man for fear of man

2. Have someone read OR paraphrase Romans 1:25 —

“. . .they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”  (English Standard Version)

How does Paul describe idolatry in Romans?

Leader note: “The Exchange of truth for a lie is the essence of Idolatry.”

3. Have someone read OR paraphrase 1 John 2:1-2 —

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

What hope does this passage give us as we wrestle with idols in our lives?


1. What are some of the evidences that we worship idols?

2. What are some of the idols PEOPLE tend to worship?

3. What are some of the idols YOU tend to worship?

4. Based on what we read today, how would you explain what Jesus has done and is doing for us?


1. What are some specific idols you currently have in your life?

2. What does the Gospel say to you and the idol with which you are wrestling?

3. Pray as a group for victory over those idols!

“The Missionary Mandate”

On Sunday, March 17, 2019, Eastside Presbyterian Church Lead Pastor Mark Auffarth delivered a message on Christians always seeking mission, not just on mission trips or as missionaries — from his “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon series. If you would like to read my summary of Pastor Mark’s message, “The Missionary Mandate,” please read on. . . .

The Missionary Mandate”

From the “Who Is This Jesus?” Sermon Series

By Dr. Mark Auffarth, Lead Pastor

Eastside Presbyterian Church

Greenville, South Carolina

Sunday, March 17, 2019

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

Quote for the Week:

“The spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions. The nearer we get to Him, the more intensely missionary we become.” (Henry Martyn)

Scripture for the Week:

John 17:6-19 (English Standard Version)

6 “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8 For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.[a] 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them[b] in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself,[c] that they also may be sanctified[d] in truth.


[a] John 17:15 Or from evil

[b]John 17:17 Greek Set them apart (for holy service to God)

[c] John 17:19 Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God)

[d] John 17:19 Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

Geoff McDowell

When it comes to missions, we, as a church, want to encourage you to do two things — to give and to go.

One opportunity is to give a Faith Promise. One hundred percent goes to missions. There are cards in the foyer. We would love for you to pick up one of those cards. Pray this week how you might be involved.

And, this week, we wanted you to hear from someone who has benefitted from going. David Hammett is a junior at USC. I have fond memories of serving alongside of David on at least one mission trip. I have asked him to share today.

David Hammett

Two things come to mind. On mission trips, I have learned how to serve other people in our day-to-day lives. Most of my mission trips have not been large building projects. It’s the “mundane” stuff of life — sharing meals, helping kids with homework, playing games with them.

One of the other things I have gained by missions trips is that it is a great way to get to know people — eating meals, working with them, fellowshipping with them.

When I was a freshman or sophomore in high school, I got to know someone really well, and we are friends for life. When we are on-mission, we love people well and get to know them well.

Mark Auffarth

I’d love to see all of you go on a mission trip sometime. It can change your life and your perspective on everything.

We are in John 17. The theme this week and next are the same. Jesus is the only hope of the world. He gave His life for His people, and they are clinging to Him, because they have no other hope. Some do not believe. If you’re a non-believer, we’re delighted that you’re here and checking Jesus out. Jesus’ prayer in this passage is for His people. My remarks this morning are for those who believe in Jesus. If you’re not a believer, listen in — to see what we believe as Christians.

The year was 1935. Two American missionaries were serving in China. The wife was bathing their daughter. The city magistrate appeared at their door. He was urging them to get out of the city. The husband went out to investigate the situation. He took no chances. His wife and the baby were readying themselves to make their break. The Communists came upon them. Gunshots sounded in the streets. Looting began. A faithful cook and maid of the mission station stayed behind. They knelt in prayer. The invaders were at their door. Four Communist men entered. The missionaries asked if the Communists were hungry. The kindness meant nothing to them. They demanded money. They bound the man. Somehow, the baby was hidden. The Communists led the wife away. Eventually, the wife was also bound. The next morning, they were taken outside, with the entire town watching, first slicing the man’s head off. A few minutes later, they sliced off the wife’s head as well. Christians went in search of the baby. They got the baby out of China over harrowing roads. That’s the story of the Stams. They had only been married a couple years and been in China for a short time. They were willing to give their lives for Jesus Christ.

What does it take to have that kind of mindset and courage? It is that for which Jesus is praying in this passage. He was sent. So He sends us in the world. That’s the missionary mandate. He prays in this prayer the things we will need to minister with great courage and perseverance.

He prays for four things: Perseverance, Protection, Sanctification, and Mission.


Who are the ones the Father has given to Jesus? People were chosen from the beginning of time. The Father gave people to His Son — the ones the Son would die for. God lavished His love to before the beginning of time — and whom he will preserve for all time.

Left to our own devices, we wander off. We’re not that spiritual. He is a powerful force in our lives. In those section of Scripture, scholars believe Jesus was praying for the disciples who were with Him. They began the church, so I believe this passage also applies to us. All of these ideas apply to all of us. We should not fall away. We should not walk away from the faith. We should not walk away from God.

Is it up to us? Are we responsible for our own perseverance? Is this about spiritual disciplines in maintaining our Christianity? Is it about our obedience? To look at many Christians, you would say so. We’re neurotic and obsessed about our behavior. We too often live with guilt or a deluded sense that we are absolutely good Christians. We are “selfie” Christians — too inward-focused.

Are we worthy of God’s love? God did not love us because we were good. He loved us when we were bad. He loved us before the foundation of the world — before we had done anything good or bad. He’s not going to quit loving us when we mess up. This is God’s plan from start-to-finish. As Philippians 1:6 says, God will see His good work in us through to the day of completion. This is the freedom of knowing Jesus — to be who you are and to be loved beyond how you can comprehend. God gave everything to the Son, the Lord of all. He is asking the Father to help all of those the Father gives to him to persevere. You can’t thwart God’s plan.

How do we know we’re getting this? We’ll be unified. We will be one. Some Christian organizations and churches fall apart with disunity. Those groups are focused inward, comparing themselves to other people within the body. When we’re focused on being good, we are always comparing ourselves to others, and those comparisons are deadly. The Christian life turns into self-analysis and self-focus, the definition of sin. We focus on self in an inordinate sense. It’s not about how good we’ve been; it’s about how good He has been. Focus on how good He has been, and we can’t help but get better. It’s not a competition anymore. We are a group of beggars helping other beggars to find bread. When that’s the focus, unity happens. And we get it. The missionary mandate is about Christ.


Jesus prayed protection for us. He asked that we would be kept from the evil one. There are three sources of evil — our own sin, the sin of others, and the work of Satan and his minions. We must keep our eyes on Jesus. He will change us. We bask in the freedom of His grace. We run to Him. Sanctification is His plan for your life. It’s His salvation from beginning-to-end. Let Him do what He’s going to do in our lives. How will He change us? It’s about Him.

Jesus does not want Satan to take us out of the world. He asks the Father for protection from the evil one. How will that happen? This looked like a tremendous moment of weakness. But He actually showed great strength in praying on behalf of the people who were killing Him. Jesus knew the prophecies. The evil one filled Judas, who betrayed Him. God’s plan would never be thwarted. Satan was pleased that the Son of God was beaten, mocked, and destroyed. But this was Jesus’ greatest moment of victory over death! God protected us at the cross!

Satan is still active, but he is a defeated foe. He has no power. He cannot thwart the ultimate plan of God. A theology indicates that good comes from God and bad comes from Satan, a sort of “Star Wars” theology of good and evil “forces.” You never know which one will win. Don’t you believe it! Believe in the great, sovereign God of the Bible! He is sovereign over every detail of our lives. He’s working all things for our good. This is the God of the Bible. The ending is not in doubt! The evil one will not win! He has no power!

A man was watching a wildcat in a zoo. An attendant entered with a broom. He swept the floor. The man had no weapon. He poked at the wildcat, who hissed at him. A man called the sweeper “brave.” The sweeper didn’t believe he was brave. The sweeper said, “He’s old, and he ain’t got no teeth.” That’s the evil one! He ain’t got no teeth! One day, the evil one will perish, and we will not have to contend with him any longer. Be close to the one who defeated Him. We have no power over him. But Jesus has power over him. We need to spend time with Jesus. Know Jesus. The evil one is a defeated for us.


The word, sanctification, means to “make holy, to consecrate.” Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us. This is incredible. Peter boasted he would never deny Jesus; a few hours later, he was denying Him. Here, Jesus said they had kept the Father’s word! They scattered at the arrest of Jesus. What does He mean that they had kept His word?

It’s the great exchange! He took our sin, and we get His righteousness! It’s not about our obedience. It’s about His obedience! He obeyed every jot and tittle of the law! And He did it for us! He has given us His perfect record of righteousness. Our identity is in Jesus.

Jesus gave Himself as a holy sacrifice, so we could be made holy. We are declared holy, yet we are still being made holy. There’s a declaration of holiness and the process of becoming holy. Hebrews 10:14 describes this perfectly. He has perfected, for all of time, as they are being sanctified. It’s the “already but not yet” part of His Kingdom.

We still live in a world of sin. He is working in us. He has made us alive in Him. We are becoming more like Jesus. This is all over Scripture, by the way. We have been saved, but we look forward to our salvation. We have been declared perfect, yet He is still working in us. As we commune with Him, He makes us holy. We must spend time with Jesus! It’s the only way we can become like Him and move forward in the Christian life.

The problem is we focus on everything else and ourselves. When we look to him, the byproduct is the fruit of the Spirit. Receive the Spirit by believing what you have heard about Jesus! We receive the Spirit by looking to Him. We love Him. He loves us. We focus on Him. And the Spirit works in us. This is the Christian life. Let’s stop being so neurotic about our obedience.


Step out in faith. He is powerful. He has declared us righteous. We know Him. We pursue Him. He has work for us to do. He sends us into the world. This is how the Gospel spreads in the world. It is through us. It’s not because we have great power or we are great examples. The power comes from God. We should be pleased that our names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

We go out on mission. He is sending us. We are to bring freedom for the captives. He brought us freedom from the evil one. He calls us to help others find this freedom.

So why don’t we want to take this message out there? We’re too busy taking selfies — not just about who we are — building bigger barns for bigger stuff — too focused on the here-and-now. If we go, some people are going to be hostile. We don’t like that discomfort. But some are going to get a whiff of Jesus, saying, “I want that. I need that.”

Next week, we’ll look in more detail about what it means to go. I will further develop the missionary mandate. Be here for the mission supper on Saturday, Sunday school, and church. And I want you to think more about the Faith Promise. What would God have you do? His Kingdom comes about because we are people who know who we are, that God has power over the enemy, and that His plans are for our good, so we can throw ourselves into this mission with reckless abandon.

This is the Gospel!

And it changes everything!

It really does!

“Remember Grace”

On Friday, March 15, 2019, Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent of Southside Christian School, presented a devotional from the Proverbs on “envy.”  If you would like to read my summary of Dr. Barfell’s message, “Remember Grace,” please read on. . . .

“Remember Grace”

By Dr. Sam Barfell, Superintendent, Southside Christian School  

An All-Employee Devotions from the Proverbs

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Friday, March 15, 2019

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

Welcome to Friday, another rainy day in South Carolina!

Two nights ago, we honored Jacob Oaks at the dedication of the Jacob R. Oaks Memorial Baseball Field at Sabre Park.  Jacob’s jersey is officially retired.  It was a very special evening. A group of alumni came to the game. Here is a photograph of them.  Rebecca loved the smiles on their faces.

This is a strange picture taken yesterday by [former SCS Superintendent] Stephen Reel, who was sitting somewhere on the planet, stranded by a blizzard in Denver. This is a photograph of Rob Brown and me on Dr. Reel’s computer.  I had the privilege of opening Rob’s online dissertation defense in prayer.  Rob successfuly defended his research, and he will be Dr. Brown on May 4th. [Hearty applause!]  Congratulations, Rob! Good work!

Let’s go now back to our basic outline of our study of Proverbs.

We’re looking at the 7 Sins.

For the past two Fridays, we looked at anger.  Today, we’ll look at envy.

Proverbs 14:30 [English Standard Version (ESV)]

A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.

Envy and jealousy are closely related. Godly jealousy is proper intolerance of an improper intrusion, a mark of love. God is jealous for our sole affection. God is a jealous God. He wants us not to worship other gods. That’s a wholesome jealousy. Paul talked about jealousy; he wanted people to have a pure devotion to Christ.

What’s sinful jealousy? A sinful jealousy is jealousy of someone. It eats us up emotionally and spiritually. Envy destroys. Envy rots the bones.

Proverbs 27:4 (ESV)

Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?

Envy is also evil. Envy is more dangerous than anger. Who can stand before jealousy? It’s more sinful than anger. When we want someone else’s life, possessions, and blessings — that is evil. Jealousy brings disorder and every evil practice.

Proverbs 23:17-18 (ESV)

Let not your heart envy sinners,
    but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
18 Surely there is a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 24:19-20 (ESV)

19 Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
    and be not envious of the wicked,
20 for the evil man has no future;
    the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

So where does envy come from? Envy comes from believing we deserve something — a twisting of grace. Envy comes from a preoccupation with the present.

The antidote for envy? Remember grace. We do not deserve God’s grace. Have the mind of Christ. Jesus took on the form of a human being to serve the Lord and accomplish the Lord’s will. Understand His grace. Have a proper perspective of God.

“Taught by the Spirit”

On Thursday, March 14, 2019, Southside Christian Upper School Teacher Mark Sandlin delivered an excellent message on the Holy Spirit’s role in our understanding of God’s truth.  If you would like to read my summary of Mr. Sandlin’s message, in the words of his own transcript, “Taught by the Spirit,” please read on. . . .

“Taught by the Spirit”

By Mark Sandlin, International Homestay Program English and Bible Instructor/Educational Technology Support

Middle School and High School Chapel

Southside Christian School

Simpsonville, South Carolina

Thursday, March 14, 2019

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

Pastor Colin Urbanick, Campus Pastor/Director of Discipleship, welcomed the students to chapel. He reminded people why we gather in chapel. He talked about learning and growing and worshipping though chapel experiences. Each student “has a choice” as to how s/he will respond to chapel, with disengagement resulting in a student missing what God has for the individual. It’s “not a time to relax and socialize.” It’s a time to hear from God’s Word, he said.

Pastor Colin prayed.

High School French Instructor Brett Henderson (on guitar and lead vocals) and senior Coby Greene (on percussions) led a time of worship through song.

Mr. Henderson prayed as a bridge between worship through song to worship through the teaching of God’s Word.

Mark Sandlin (All emphasis is original to Mr. Sandlin.)

If I were to ask you, “What is consistently the best-selling book in all the world?” what would you say?  — the Bible

“What is the most important book in all the world?” — the Bible

“What is the most life-transforming book in all the world?” what would you say?  — the Bible

“If you were stranded on a desert island and could choose only ONE book to have with you till the end of your days, which book would you choose?” –the Bible

But if I were also to ask you, “What book do you find really hard to read consistently?” –the Bible

“What book do you absolutely have to DISCIPLINE yourself, force yourself to try to read, even though you know that book is super important?” — the Bible

“What book more consistently bores you and makes you sleepy than any other book?” — the Bible

“What extremely important book have you (many of you, probably) never been able to actually finish reading (the whole thing)?” — the Bible

And it’s not just you! It’s not just children, or young people. I’ll let you in on a secret. Adults. Teachers. MINISTERS. Multitudes of Christians find the Bible very hard going. And that’s weird: It’s our Book! Our book of books! The most important book in all the world! It’s a thick book, yes, but it’s just ONE book, and multitudes of Christians can spend 10, 20 years just trying to read the whole thing all the way through ONCE. They can easily read 7 Harry Potter books this thick (and I’m not criticizing Harry Potter books; that’s not at all my point) within a few days of them hitting the bookstores–but can’t finish this one book after 20 years.

I used to teach at Bible colleges in Thailand, and one of my students, a future minister, future pastor, said to me, in front of the whole class, “Mr Sandlin, the Bible is the best sleeping pill.” And no one in the class disagreed!

That’s a problem. In fact, there’s no natural, rational explanation for that at all. It’s supernaturally weird that this book would be so hard to get through, to read regularly, to cherish. Especially when almost every person in this room would say, “This is the best book in the world!”

There’s a problem here. When I used to go into a Christian bookstores I could tell there was a problem. I go to the bookstore and I can see that the Bible is really, really important to Christians (because there’s a huge Bible section) but I can also see that Christians don’t like the Bible much nor understand it very well. I can see that by all the ways the publishers try to make the Bible more understandable, and more fun, and more relevant. I fall into the same trap; when my son was in elementary school I bought him a Bible with a gecko on the cover. I thought he’d like it more if it had a gecko on the cover–and he did. But if you think about it, how random is that? “An ancient, sacred, holy book. Now all it needs is a lizard on the cover!”

I wrote a poem once about going into a Christian bookstore; this is a small part of that poem, about the Bible section in a Christian bookstore:

[In the bookstore] There were Bibles in every shape, color, and size

So many to choose that it dazzled the eyes.

So many–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.

Bibles with maps and footnotes for the nerds,

Bibles with hyperlinks: click on the words!

Spirit-filled Bibles for those with afflictions,

Codependency 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.

I did not then and do not now believe that cool Bible versions or politically correct Bibles or brainy study Bibles will solve the fundamental problem of the Bible being, for most people, so hard to read and enjoy.

This book is a magic book; and that is the reason for the problem at hand.

Jesus said, “The words I that I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life…” John 6:3

“For all Scripture is God-breathed…” 2 Timothy 3:16

“…when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (There is a fundamental difference between the words of men and the words of God)

“…no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” 2 Peter 1:21

It’s a magic book, full of magic words, the words of God from the mouth of God (even from the finger of God sometimes), mostly given through prophets who were given special, occasional ability to know the thoughts of God and write them down, even when they themselves sometimes didn’t have a clue what those words meant.  (I’m thinking of, for example, Daniel, Ezekiel, and John the writer of Revelation.`)

Now, many people think that if we could only understand the background of the Bible, of the ancient languages, etc, we would understand the Bible. Those Christian bookstores are full of study Bibles. Have you seen those, where half of every page is footnotes? I used to have so much struggle reading the Bible that I preferred just reading the bottom of every page. Let me have man, please, explaining the words of God. Because I don’t get this book. But do you know who probably understood the cultural and historical background of the Bible better than anyone living today? I mean better than the smartest seminary professors? Who could speak Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, pretty much fluently? The people in these pages, the people who lived in Bible times. Those closest to Jesus should have understood Jesus’ words, right, even though we don’t? They were with the Master Teacher day and night for years; living with Him, walking with Him, eating meals with Him, they had every opportunity to ask questions. And yet we see passages like this:

JOSEPH AND MARY: …and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.” And He said to them, “Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand the statement which He had made to them. – Luke 2:48-50

THE DISCIPLES: He said to His disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this statement, and it was concealed from them so that they would not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this statement. — Luke 9:43-45

Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said. – Luke 18:31-34

Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?….We do not know what He is talking about.– John 16:17-18

And again and again the Bible is filled with examples of people (even the people of God!) who didn’t understand the Word and the Messages of God.

It’s a magic book. Supernatural. Jesus’ words were spiritual words, conveying spiritual realities and truths.

And how are we going to understand a magic book?

With a magic Teacher!

And we have One: The Holy Spirit.

John 14:25-26

“These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

John 16:12-14

“I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.

1 Corinthians 2:10-14

For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.  

(Slide) But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God,

for they are foolishness to him;

and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.  

The solution to the problem of an opaque, boring Bible is not a method, but a Person; that Person is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, the Spirit of Truth. The same Spirit who inspired the writers of this Book lives inside of us who have believed, who have been born again. And He can teach us and make this book come alive. The theologians call this ILLUMINATION (Revelation–Inspiration–Illumination); I didn’t come up with this concept myself.

But the Holy Spirit’s teaching ministry is not, I believe, automatic. We’ve got to pray. We’ve got to inquire. We’ve got to ask for His assistance.

But we will probably not seek His assistance if we don’t first believe that this is a supernatural book, and that we are BY NATURE, of the earth, earthy. That is our natural state. 1 Corinthians 2 says that “the natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God….” The natural man. For many years I had a Bible version that translated this verse interpretively; It said “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things of the Spirit of God…” For years I ignored this verse–because I do have the Spirit! It wasn’t till I realized that the plain original wording is “the natural man”. I well remember the day I was reading 1 Corinthians 2 and I realized, “Wait: I have a natural man. The natural Mark [that’s my name].”  The gray matter, the noggin, the thinking cap, my reasoning skills, my academic studies, my 2 master’s degrees, all of my brain power, and all the power of the Internet: all of my own natural resources brought to bear upon spiritual matters, according to this verse, were useless. That day these words were impressed upon me: The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, and cannot understand them. Does not accept; cannot understand. Does not. Cannot.

The verse was conveying bad news. But as this “bad news” began to truly dawn on me for the first time in my Christian life, I began to rejoice. I began to read verse 14 aloud. Right there in a public park I practically started shouting the verse. I almost started dancing, so great was my joy. Does not! Cannot! Hallelujah! What a relief! What good news this bad news was! Because what I, according to Scripture, could not do I saw that I need no longer strive to do.

Starting from that day the Bible came alive. I no longer tried to read 3 chapters a day, or whatever the Bible-in-a-year calendars said; if I wanted to park on one verse for a week, I would. There were no visions, I didn’t start speaking in tongues, and I didn’t do the close eyes put finger down approach. I kept reading methodically, for the most part, book by book. But I waited upon the Lord to teach me as I read. And in the years following, as long as I have honored the Holy Spirit in His teaching role (and I do have need to remind myself to do so) my enjoyment of the Scriptures has continued. The main discipline I have tried to maintain over the years, during my Quiet Time, is to pray and ask, as I read, for the Holy Spirit to teach me this Book, to open my eyes, not as some ritual lip service, but because I really need His help and want His help, and want the Scriptures to come alive.

Are you kind of like me? Do you struggle to enjoy the Bible? Have you struggled to figure out this book on your own? Is it possible you and I have been dishonoring the Holy Spirit? Leaving Him unemployed? Going around Him, asking everyone but Him, and getting little out of this book? Is it possible that, like me, you’ve been reading this book as though it was just any book and not a magic book?

Why not repent of that, like I did about 20 years ago (and still have to keep reminding myself to do), and ask Him to teach you the book?

Some additional thoughts and suggestions (not all of these were covered in chapel):

  • I don’t mean that no other “human” helps can be used. I myself am a Bible teacher; I’m human, and I explain the Bible to people; in fact teaching is one of the spiritual gifts. But not even spiritual gifts are ever meant to be exercised apart from complete reliance on the Holy Spirit.
  • I have maps in the back of my Bible; they are so helpful. I google verses sometimes (or look at a concordance), when I can’t think of where a verse is in the Bible. The people who write commentaries often have great insights. I’m not saying these helps should never be used.
  • I don’t recommend reading the Bible on your phone. There are way too many distractions and even too many tools and helps. The goal is to seek the help of the heavenly Teacher. Don’t insult and dishonor Him by reading the Bible while texting, or googling something. No. The phone is far too fun. Also, this (physical, paper) Book never has a low battery, and you can mark it up, and you have a much better sense of past to present, left to right, in a physical book. If you only take your phone and not a Bible to church, I beg you to reconsider.
  • Don’t read the Bible with only your intellect! Read it humbly, knowing that some of the most brilliant people in the world think this Bible is absolute foolishness, and even those people in the Bible closest to Jesus misunderstood the truths of this book until given insight by the Holy Spirit
  • Verse memorization is much easier once the Holy Spirit begins to impress verses upon your heart.
  • Don’t jump all over Scripture, especially if you haven’t yet read the whole Bible. Read sequentially, book by book and chapter by chapter. After you’ve really read and processed the whole Bible at least one time through, you can allow yourself more liberty.
  • You are not, as a general rule, listening for a voice. You are praying and reading by faith that the Holy Spirit delights to lead you into all truth, that’s one of his key roles. Read slowly and prayerfully believing that “He is (He exists) and that He earnestly rewards those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6)
  • This chapel message is not intended to promote anti-intellectualism. I am advocating a submission of the intellect to God, an admission that “His thoughts are not my thoughts”, that “In the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God” (I Cor 1:21).