Dr. Stephen Cutchins has served the local church for more than fifteen years and now serves at First Baptist Church North Augusta as Senior Pastor. He holds a Doctorate of Ministry degree with an emphasis in Christian Apologetics which he currently teaches at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in North Carolina.
In Summer of 2016, Stephen was accepted to the Ph.D. in Leadership Studies program at Dallas Baptist University. Dr. Cutchins is a writer and author of the book PROVE IT-Defend the Christian Faith. He is also a contributing author for the 2016 Nelson’s Annual Preacher’s Sourcebook. He is a Christian leader who helps curious and growing people answer hard questions about life, leadership, and learning so they can know who they are and defend what they believe.
Stephen currently lives in Augusta, GA with his wife, Wendy, his two daughters, Madelyn and Sarah. His hobbies include running, golf, and tennis. In early 2011, he completed his third marathon and he has since completed numerous half marathons. His passions are spending time with his family, teaching the Word of God, making disciples, and talking to people about God’s amazing grace.
Stephen was born in Atlanta, GA and, after graduating from high school, he earned both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Music Education from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. Before becoming a Pastor, he was a Band Director for the Fort Mill School District in South Carolina and served as a part-time church music director. During that time, he was very active as a freelance trumpet player/instructor in the Charlotte, NC area and also served as the adjunct trumpet professor at Wingate University in Wingate, NC.
In 2008, Dr. Cutchins completed a Master of Arts in Religion degree at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC where he went on to complete his Doctorate of Ministry degree in 2012. While attending Seminary in the evenings, Dr. Cutchins served at Stough Memorial Baptist Church for nine years. During his tenure there, he held the positions of Worship Pastor, Elder, Youth Pastor, and Pastoral Director of the Grace Life Academy.
In January of 2013, Dr. Cutchins moved to the Asheville, NC area where he served as the Pastor of Worship at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, NC. While there, he began teaching both on campus and online classes for Fruitland Baptist Bible College. In addition to teaching New Testament and Homiletic classes, Dr. Cutchins taught the first classes on Christian Apologetics at Fruitland Baptist Bible College in the Fall of 2014.
In 2015, Stephen joined the Executive Team at Hyde Park Baptist Church of Austin, TX. During his time there, he planned and led worship for a weekly televised worship service as well as supervising a team of worship leaders and technology teams to lead worship services on multiple campuses. Dr. Cutchins also taught and preached on Sunday mornings and mid-week services. His book on apologetics, Prove It, was published during his time in Austin, TX and he also planned and led a two day regional Apologetics Conference with over 500 participants in collaboration with Southern Evangelical Seminary.
How would you feel if you had everything that you needed in life?
I want to suggest as Christians; we already know how that feels. According to the scriptures, we have all that we need through our Lord Jesus Christ! You know, there is a difference between wanting and needing.
Are you wanting more than you need?
The thing you want may not be the thing you need. Let’s take a journey through Psalm 23 and see how God’s provides what we need so we don’t need to want for anything.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
He Shepherds Us
“The Lord is my shepherd.”
As a shepherd, David’s words paint a beautiful picture of God as he expresses what God does for each of us. David knew how much work it takes to care for sheep, tending to them and protecting them. What David was to his sheep, God had been to him and is to us now.
He Provides For Us
“I shall not want.”
When all we want is the Lord, we find contentment and lack nothing. I often hear people talk about God’s provision, and they make it sound as if God is a genie in a bottle waiting to fulfill their every desire. In reality, we can decide not to want by acknowledging that our Shepherd provides everything we need.
He Give Us Rest
“He makes me lie down in green pastures.”
Rest is essential, but spiritual rest and nourishment through the Word of God should be our highest priority. We can’t pour from an empty cup, and our Lord waits for an opportunity to meet with us so He can fill us up.
He leads us
“He leads me beside still waters.”
Like any good shepherd, He leads us to waters of rest where He gives us a place of stillness and peace.
He Restores Us
“He restores my soul.”
Our souls are often battle-weary and depleted. If we allow Him, He will restore us through worship, His Word, and time in the secret place with Him.
He Guides Us
“He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.”
God is the one who reveals righteousness, guiding us the whole way when we choose to listen. The path He sets before us takes us on a good and safe journey because God directs us.
He Is With Us
“I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.”
“I will fear no evil for You are with me.”
There is nothing to fear, no matter what we are walking through, all the valleys, all the darkness, God is bigger, and He lights the path for us. He is our constant in a dangerous world, and above all, He is faithful.
He Comforts Us
“Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
Our Shepherd carries this instrument to defend us from attack, but it’s also protection from ourselves; to correct us when necessary.
He Protects Us
“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”
This promise is pretty incredible; God is honoring us before our very enemies, the ones who want us to fail. As you walk humbly, God will elevate you as He sees fit, and there is not one person who can stand in the way of that.
He Anoints Us
“You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
As God hosts us before our enemies, He lavishes us with a refreshing of peace and protection through His oil, His overflowing goodness. He doesn’t just provide; He provides abundantly.
He Is Faithful To Us
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”
He will relentlessly pursue us with His goodness and mercy as we allow Him.
He Gives Us A Place On Earth And In Heaven
“And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Intimacy with our Father will always be available. What does this mean for us? He is allowing full access, full fellowship. We have the pleasure of dwelling with Him while we are on Earth and in the heavenly places when it’s time to meet our Father.
Which promise of Psalm 23 do you have a hard time believing?
According to David, we have all that we need through our Lord Jesus Christ!
But remember, there is a difference between wanting and needing.
Are you wanting more than you need?
The thing you want may not be the thing you need.
Let me encourage you to talk to your Shepherd this week and ask Him to reveal His promises for you in a specific way.
Have you noticed the unique aspects of all the social media platforms feeding us information daily? Twitter provides condensed one-liners, Instagram comes in the form of catchy pictures, Tik-Tok teaches us trendy dance moves. Then there is Facebook, the highlight reel of strategically chosen snapshots of people living their best life.
I often wonder what these social media platforms would look like if they instead showed the “highlight reel” of our sins and mistakes. I want to suggest that we know what that looks like, at least in our own lives. The reel is in our minds, and Satan is the “feeder,” sending us daily reminders of all the past and present sins in our lives.
Satan is cunning, conniving, and cut-throat. He has repeatedly proven that he is no respecter of persons and looks to destroy anyone who chooses to follow Christ. He will say, do, and remind you of anything that will keep you from remembering that your sins have been paid for IN FULL.
In the book of Hebrews, we see that God promises not to recall our sins. “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” – Hebrews 8:12
In Revelation, Satan is called the accuser of the brethren. Why? Because the enemy is a liar, he will accuse you day in and day out to instill fear that we aren’t worthy of living as new creations. Satan knows that if he can keep you dwelling on your past mistakes and failures, you will never be effective for the kingdom.
John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Satan’s primary purpose is to keep your eyes OFF of the One who saved you. The enemy knows how dangerous YOU will be to his plans if you walk in your TRUE authority.
Here are my questions for you today:
Do you watch your “sin reel” each day?
What do you do with it?
Do you use it as a testimony, or do you allow it to bring you fear and shame?
Whatever your answers are, LISTEN UP! You don’t have to give the enemy or your “sin reel” one more minute of your mind or time. Paul revealed to Timothy three reasons why this is true.
“For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of (1) power and (2) love and (3) self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7
1. POWER – USE IT TO GROW
Yes, it’s ok to look at our sin and use it to measure our growth because we learn from our mistakes, but there should be no condemnation.
1 Corinthians 15:57: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Romans 8:37: “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
2 Thessalonians 3:3: “But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.”
Remember, you have the power of the Holy Spirit on you, in you, and flowing through you.
2. LOVE – USE IT TO HELP OTHERS
God loves us so much, he sent his ONLY son to die for us. He sacrificed so much for us. We should be willing to share the same love to help others. Don’t be afraid to use your past sin as a warning for others who are on the same dangerous path you once were.
2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
When dealing with sin and shame, people tend to think they are the only ones with shameful pasts or struggles with things like lying, stealing, pornography, adultery, and many others.
1 Peter 5:8-9: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.”
Don’t let them stand in isolation without sharing you were in bondage to these things too.
Love them enough to show them God’s mercy and work in your life and how through Christ’s love you are now walking in freedom.
3. SELF-CONTROL – USE IT TO WALK IN GOD’S AUTHORITY
God gives us self-control and a sound mind so we don’t have to succumb to the distractions the enemy throws at us. You don’t have to play games with the enemy anymore.
Isaiah 54:17: “No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”
Combat every “sin reel” the enemy feeds you with scripture, worship, or prayer. More importantly, God gave us the WEAPON OF WARFARE, the WORD.
2 Corinthians 10:3-5: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”
Use the Sword of the Spirit to slice and dice the enemy’s tactics.
Zechariah 4:6: “Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
I challenge you this week to change your daily scroll from the “sin reel” to the “glory reel” and play the moments of glory God has in your life over and over.
Your past prepares you for your future. Recognize it, grow from it, but don’t live in it.
As Christians, we see culture paint an interesting picture of what is considered an “influencer” these days. It may even appear these “influencers” are celebrated for such disgusting perversion while Christians are hated for spreading hope and speaking truth.
The week before Easter, I posted this video about a popular “artist” that has released a song and put out a product, a pair of shoes that he’s calling “satan shoes.”
This rapper, Lil Nas X, has reportedly taken some Nike shoes and infringed on their trademarks by modifying them with some very concerning things. To be quite honest, it’s sick. These “satan shoes” are reported to have a drop of blood in them. They also display the satanic symbol on the outside and inside of them. He even went a little further with this, making the shoe launch a limited edition and only offered 666 pairs of this product. Of course, 666 is the mark of the beast. Now, the launch of this project is not the only sad thing going on here. It’s reported these shoes sold for over $1000 a pair AND sold out in minutes.
The “artist” launched these shoes simultaneously with his new song that takes demonic and perversion to a whole new level. It’s not even worth describing, but it’s drawn quite the response from many people.
It’s times like these as Christians, the future seems bleak, and we can feel like we are losing a battle with culture.
Here is the reality… * Our leader was murdered 2000 years ago * We’re going to be hated because they first hated Him * We’re going to have trouble because the enemy only has plans of evil for us
But as we reflect on this past Easter Sunday and the Good News that Jesus is alive and well and available to ALL, I can’t help but rejoice even in this storm because I know God is still in control.
So Satan can have his shoes. He can wear them all the way to the end of his journey. I have no interest in walking a mile in Satan’s shoes because he can’t stand up to the power of our Savior. Jesus has the VICTORY! No matter what happens in this world, Satan shoes and all.
The truth is, this is just the latest installment of Satan’s failed plan to try to drag down the message of Christianity. Jesus tells us in John 16:33, “TAKE HEART, because I have overcome the world.”
No matter what happens in this world, Satan’s shoes and all, God has OVERCOME THE WORLD! No matter the trials and tribulations you face, Jesus has the victory. No evil will ever be able to stand up to the power of our Savior.
Regardless of who appears to be winning in the world right now, remember God reigns supreme. Through Him, we fight FROM victory, not for victory.
Be encouraged. Stand strong. Be the light in the darkness. Be the salt to preserve a corrupted world. TAKE HEART, because HE has overcome the world!
One of the fundamental questions any organization has to answer is, “who is in charge here.” It may seem like an easy question to answer, but my years as a leader have taught me that this question is often ignored. In our homes, workplaces, and relationships, submitting to leadership is non-negotiable if we want to avoid disfunction and achieve our best.
If everyone is in charge, no one is in charge.
Even when organizations take the time to develop comprehensive organizational charts, there is always a natural human tendency to drift over time. I believe this drift is a direct result of our struggle to submit to leadership. We all need to be reminded of the danger of blurring the submission lines when they aren’t supposed to be blurred.
Blurred lines lead to messy lives.
Recently, I was watching a group of kids walk down the halls of our church in a line. Two leadership lessons stood out. First, the teacher was giving clear instructions that the kids were following. Second, a line leader was setting the path and the pace of the group as they walked down the hall together. It was easy to see that the kid at the front was happy to be in the Line Leader’s role.
All the kids submitted to the Line Leader’s leadership, who submitted to the teacher’s supervision. As a result, the kids successfully walked down the hall in an orderly manner and arrived safely at their destination. Submission is so foundational and straightforward that a group of kids can understand and benefit from it. However, submission is also simple to mess up.
If we fail to submit, we submit to fail.
Identifying the missing link of submission helps explains why the churches struggle to keep momentum. We are not submitting to Christ. I often tell my church that there is one man in charge of every decision made at our church; that man is not me. Every Pastor and every church in every town reports to the same guy, Jesus Christ. He is the great Teacher, and He calls some to serve as Line Leaders. If we don’t get this simple lesson, we will buy into the lie that ignoring submission issues will make them go away.
I love these profound words from Dr. Tom Constable, “If God said it, it’s worth listening to.” Through Paul, God spoke about “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ” in Ephesians 5:21.
The word “supporting” is a suitable synonym for the concept of “submitting” that Paul has in mind. Our motivation for submitting is built on love and respect. Submission requires that we trust God, respect others, develop Godly character, and do the right thing. The profound mystery of the Gospel calls for submission to Christ by His church.
When it’s clear, submit.
Christ modeled this very concept of submission in at least three ways. As you journey through the scriptures that follow, remember, if God said it, it’s worth listening to.
1. Jesus displayed His submission to the Father by quoting scripture.
And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:3-4)
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” (Matthew 4:8-10)
2. Jesus displayed His submission to the Father through prayer.
And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)
And going a little farther He fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Again, for the second time, He went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)
3. Jesus displayed His submission to the Father by accomplishing His purpose.
For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me. (John 6:38)
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name. (Philippians 2:5-9)
As you reflect on Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection this Easter week, I encourage you to identify one way to submit to Christ in the small things. Then, take action! A simple place to start is with prayer.
This phrase, “stop it,” may seem counterintuitive since my previous post was titled “DO. NOT. QUIT.” However, the two ideas work together. In order to say “yes” to the right things, we must be willing to say “no” to the wrong things. In order to keep going, we must be willing to let some things go along the way.
Take a minute and think about all the things you are saying “yes” to right now? You may even want to write it down so you can see the full impact of where your time is spent. Is your list full of a bunch of things that would be considered good, but maybe not RIGHT for you? You may even feel numb with busyness because you aren’t doing the RIGHT THING that God has specifically for you.
I recently learned there is a rare condition called Congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP), in which a person cannot feel (and has never felt) physical pain. Because feeling physical pain is vital for survival, CIP is an extremely dangerous condition.
It is common for people with the condition to die in childhood due to injuries or illnesses going unnoticed. Burn injuries are among the more common injuries. We need the sensation of pain to let us know when our bodies need extra care. It’s an important signal.
When we sense pain, we pay attention to our bodies and can take steps to fix what hurts. Pain also may prevent us from injuring a body part even more. The sad truth is just because you don’t feel the heat doesn’t mean you won’t get burned!
This condition can be the same thing with our spiritual life. If you doing all the wrong things to feel important or fill your time to avoid your feelings, you will not be able to sense the signal your body sends that you need to scale back or take care of yourself or refocus your efforts to what God wants for you.
In the same token, it’s like someone saying the same thing to you so much that you tune them out. You are numb to their direction, you aren’t heeding the warning or correction. Paul had some strong words of correction to the church in Ephesus. “That is not the way you learned.” – Ephesians 4:20
We are not to live the way we used to live because we are not the people we used to be. The Bible was written to be obeyed and not simply studied. This matters because our new life in Christ affects the way we live life. This explains why we have such deep hurts.
How do we move away from our sin and push toward holiness?
I suggest the answer is found in two little words …
Stop walking the way you walked.
Stop thinking the way you thought.
Stop excluding God the way you tried.
Stop desiring more and more just to be unsatisfied.
WHY? Because you and I know better! If we don’t get this, we will keep living a broken life, on auto-pilot doing all the things, that aren’t RIGHT for YOU. Remember, just because you don’t feel the heat doesn’t mean you won’t get burned!
TAKE HEART THESE POWERFUL WORDS FROM Charles Spurgeon: “What settings are you in when you fall? AVOID THEM.What props do you have that support your sin? ELIMINATE THEM. What people are you usually with? AVOID THEM.
There are two equally damning lies Satan wants us to believe and if we take the bait, we will find ourselves in a compromising position leading to a downward spiral:
Just once won’t hurt.
Now that you have ruined your life, you are beyond God’s use and might as well enjoy sinning.
LEARN TO SAY NO! It will be of more use to you than being able to read another language. I invite you to meditate on the following (almost 800 years old) prayer For Ordering a Life Wisely by Thomas Aquinas:
“O merciful God, grant that I may desire ardently, search prudently, recognize truly, and bring to perfect completion whatever is pleasing to You for the praise and glory of Your name. Grant to me, O Lord my God, that I may not falter in times of prosperity or adversity, so that I may not be exalted in the former, nor dejected in the latter. May I not rejoice in anything unless it leads me to You; may I not be saddened by anything unless it turns me from You. May I desire to please no one, nor fear to displease anyone, but You.”
If you didn’t evaluate and make a list at the beginning of this post, you should. Spend some time in prayer and really ask God to highlight HIS MOST IMPORTANT work for YOU!
We all have goals, dreams, and achievements that we meticulously plan out in our lifetime. Each new year, resolutions are made, and we get fired up to do new things.
But how often do we quit, sometimes before we ever get started? How often do we let pushback distract us and diminish our drive or the fire God placed inside us?
My challenge to you today …
DO. NOT. QUIT.
If I asked you, “What are you in danger of quitting,” how would you answer?
“I already quit.” OR
“I’m just so tired; I can’t keep going.”
This video of Heather Dorniden, now Kampf, is a highly decorated runner with an impressive string of accomplishments.
As you see in this video, what’s most impressive was the moment she won first place in the 600-meter dash—after falling flat on her face. Now that is what we call making a comeback.
Often, we can be discouraged because we can’t see the results. We expect things to happen quickly and on our terms, but God doesn’t always move quickly. He’s strategic according to the purpose He has for each of us. Whatever the Lord has put in front of you, don’t back down. Keep moving forward, keeping doing the great work.
DO. NOT. QUIT.
Let’s see how Nehemiah responded.
Nehemiah 6:3 “And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?”
We see Nehemiah refusing to come down, refusing to give up. He had enemies looking to distract him and cause him harm, but he knew he wouldn’t leave. He was not going to let any pushback get in his way.
In the same way, you and I have a great work, a divine purpose, a God anointing. When we operate under the will God has for our life, we live under the safety and shelter of His wings. He will strengthen us, give us power through Him, and a firm foundation in Him to be able to press in and press on no matter the circumstances.
No matter how many times you fall, the obstacles get in your way, or the people intentionally work against you, keep getting back up. Push back is inevitable, but in the words of Winston Churchhill, “If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
DO. NOT. QUIT.
God placed the dream or purpose in your heart for a reason, which means something to Him. So, it should mean something to you too! Quitting shouldn’t be an option.
I love this quote by William Clubertson, “It is important to start right, but it is imperative to end well.” This Clubertson quote models God’s character in excellence and parallels Colossians 3:23-24 beautifully. God calls us into excellence, working heartily for him and not men. When we push on, even against resistance, we are serving Him in excellence.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.
God has given us the Holy Spirit, so we have the strength to endure, but we have to access it daily. We are made strong in Him, and as we work in excellence, we bring glory to God.
But the inheritance in Colossians is our reward too. At the end of your life, all the people who pushed back and distracted you, where will they be? Who’s opinion really matters here? Let’s stay focused on what’s important.
DO. NOT. QUIT.
We know that perspective is everything. This picture of a sumo wrestler and a kid can represent both sides of resistance with a slight change of perspective.
Without God, our problems and pushbacks feel as big and robust as the sumo wrestler.
BUT with God … we are the sumo wrestler, and our pushbacks are feeling the resistance of His power when trying to push against us!
This is such a great visual as we look at our obstacles and realize we have the power through Christ to stand firm as people and circumstances push against us.
Let’s be inspired today by Nehemiah. Let’s look at everything in our lives God asks us to do as “great work” for Him and settle in our hearts and minds; we won’t be coming down, we won’t give up. NO MATTER WHAT! Be encouraged, get back up, keep fighting and watch our BIG GOD redeem the time lost and make all things excellent when you’re doing it for Him!
DO. NOT. QUIT.
LIFE APPLICATION: If this is something you’ve struggled with, let’s get a pen and paper. Write down the work God has asked you to do, but you have lost hope or vision before completing it. I encourage you to spend some time in prayer with Him and ask Him to reignite your fire and passion. Ask Him for big God ideas and let Him cast vision in your heart today.
Tough question for you today … do you think you are making a difference?
I am more and more convinced that we overestimate what can be accomplished in five weeks and underestimate what we can complete in five years. We overestimate what can be accomplished in one season of life and underestimate what we can achieve in a lifetime.
Are you actually measuring your success to see the difference you’re making? If you aren’t measuring, it may seem like you are spinning a web of busyness, but aren’t getting anywhere. It may even feel fruitless…if you are feeling fruitless, give it time.
I heard a pastor once say, “God doesn’t move slow or fast, He moves strategically.” We can learn a valuable lesson from this; that while He does want us to be fruitful, the planting you are doing today must be strategic even if we never see the fruit.
If we don’t get this, we will confuse being planted with being buried.
Many of the best things in life take time.
In John 15:1-11, Jesus paints such a beautiful word picture of a vine with branches. The vine is Jesus; we are the branches. The vinedresser is the Father, who prunes us with His Word.
Let’s not be naive, pruning can be painful! Let me encourage you to abide as God prunes. We know that to abide in Christ means to remain in Him. Trust that there is purpose in the pain. Allow yourself time in the surgery room, being still, waiting on God as He performs surgery.
There is promise in the pain, even if the situation doesn’t make sense, even if you are unable to see Him working. Release your expectations and only expect good in the end. Because if God is doing surgery, His purpose is always to bring you healing.
We all know it is hard to stay still when you’re in pain. I’m reminded of when our oldest daughter, Madi, was little, and we pulled her first tooth. It was tough for her to sit still. She kept squirming around as we tied a string around her tooth. She was scared of the pain, but it had to happen. Once the tooth was out, she was ready for the new tooth to grow into place.
As branches, we are to bear fruit. Fruit is the gift that keeps on giving because of the seeds, which leads to replication. Paul charged Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2, “what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”
But as we have all experienced, these things take time.
A pastor friend of mine used to say…
“You can’t plant apple seeds in the evening and expect to have apple juice in the morning.”
The truth is, there is no such thing as a fruitless Christian. This is because Christians never work alone. They should never work alone, and in actuality, they can never work alone. If you have been trying to work alone, ask yourself why.
The reality is, we are never alone because the power of the Holy Spirit is working in us. But we must be willing to submit our lives to His leadership. Submission will be the most humbling experience of your Christian walk, the most necessary act for fruitful ministry, and the only thing that will get you out of what pride trapped you in.
Another reason we can never work alone is the spiritual resistance we experience from the enemy. He is always hanging around waiting to pounce on us when we are down. Jonathan Edwards said, “When the church is revived, so is the devil.” The devil wants nothing more than to steal your hope.
Hal Lindsey, in his best-selling book, The Terminal Generation, observed that “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope.”
As the old hymn says, “our hope is found in nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness … I dare not trust the sweetest frame but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life we need in this world and the next.
Hell has no exit, and Heaven has one door.
Jesus reminded His disciples in John 15:5, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” Warren Wiersbe said, “The fear of the Lord conquers every other fear.”
Remember, there is no such thing as a fruitless Christian.
So let me ask you, what are you planting?
Our challenge this week … protect the seeds in your soil. Then, give it some time while you abide in Him.
Narcissism is the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s idealized self-image and attributes. The term originated from Greek mythology, where the young Narcissus fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.
Doing all the religious and right things often gives us a feeling of self-importance. As a result, all the praise and the admiration from others can spin out of control very quickly if we aren’t walking in humility. As Christians, we are IN CHRIST!
It’s not about us … but sometimes we like to make it all about US.
When we do that, we trick ourselves into thinking that we don’t need God’s grace and that we can do it without God’s help. This is called works-based salvation. Works-based salvation is a type of spiritual narcissism that can lead to anxiety, loss of important relationships, and eventually lead to burnout.
Narcissism is the reliance on self or knowledge rather than reliance on God and the Holy Spirit.
Self-righteousness is like a bottomless cup; you can pour and pour, you will never be able to fill it. Why? Because pouring yourself into yourself adds nothing to you.
NOTHING + NOTHING always = NOTHING!
Instead, we should accept God’s righteousness rather than trying to accumulate our own. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tell us, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
If we are to be transformed into Christ’s image we have to take off the mask of self-righteousness and allow the Spirit to lead us.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” ~Paul~
Ephesians 2:8-10 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In just three verses, Paul delivers a powerful message in eleven keywords and phrases. Let’s break it down together:
1. GRACE: By grace, we have the riches of His grace that we could never earn or keep. His Grace is His free gift and His free power available to you as heirs to the Kingdom. So, REJOICE in that!
2. FAITH: The way we receive our salvation is through faith. Faith is not a “work”, it could never be a “work.” It does not merit salvation; it is only the means by which one accepts God’s free gift of salvation.
3. NOT US: There is nothing we could have done or ever could do to receive Him. We need Jesus, even to accept Jesus. He pursues us and calls to us and at the divine moment He set for us, we hear his call and even then we rely on Him to hear about His gift and promise for us.
4. GOD’S GIFT: When a person puts out their hand to take a gift someone else offers, they are doing nothing to earn or deserve that gift. The giver gets credit for the gift, not the receiver. Likewise, faith is the same way.
5. NOT WORKS: Are you trying to work your way into God’s favor, or worse, a never-ending cycle of approval from people? You may even try to stay busy to avoid having to deal with some areas of healing God wants to walk you through. You can do a lot of “right” things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s THE “God thing” for your life.
6. NO ONE CAN BOAST: All the glory will go to God for accomplishing salvation. As Jesus so graciously reminds us in John 14:6, “I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except through me.” It’s impossible for anyone else to be able to provide salvation.
7. HIS ARTWORK: Rather than salvation being a masterpiece that we have produced, believers are a masterpiece that God has produced. Even though we are all being conformed to His image and walking the same journey through sanctification, we are all different works of art.
8. CREATED IN CHRIST: As a master worker, God has created us in Christ Jesus. It is the kind of work only HE can do. “In Christ alone my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.”
9. FOR GOOD WORKS: Good works are not the roots from which salvation grows but the fruit God intends it to bear. When you are led by the Spirit, your tree will be filled with good fruit.
10. GOD PREPARED WORKS: God knew the plans for our life before the creation of the Earth. Nothing surprises Him, even when we try to take matters into our own hands.
11. WALK IN THEM: God orders our steps and has prepared them beforehand. We should go to Him and seeking His plan for our works. Everything we do for the Kingdom should be us walking out God’s plan for our lives, rather than the works we think we should do.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
Are you trying to do it by yourself?
Have you allowed spiritual narcissism to drive your motivation?
If you have, it’s ok, there is a solution. Seek His face, spend some time in the Secret Place with the Father and ask Him to show you what He wants you doing.
In her book “Get out of Your Head,” Jennie Allen suggests that the biggest battle that believers face is the battle between our ears.
To her point, I recently read that our brain produces 3,000 thoughts per hour. If we’re awake 18 hours a day, we are processing approximately 54,000 thoughts each day. How are you processing these thoughts?
Are you blindly following the rabbit trail, or are you intentional in guarding your mind? Are you taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ? Let’s take a deeper dive into what Paul is saying about this to the Corinthians.
“Take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6
Are you destroying arguments and lofty opinions that are raised in your mind that go against the knowledge of God? If your thoughts don’t line up with the Word of God, if they disagree with who God says you are, you’re currently losing the battle between your ears. This explains why so many people cry out to God, asking “why” when hard times come their way.
The unprepared Christian becomes a defeated Christian.
Be encouraged, though, if you want to overcome, your Heavenly Father has equipped you with the tools you need to fight the battle and WIN! Believe me when I say you can’t fix what you won’t face. If you don’t get this, you won’t stand firm in fearful times.
Here are four ways to get prepared and win the war ahead.
1. PREPARE FOR BATTLE.
It is imperative to recognize we live in a hostile environment with a hostile enemy. One of Satan’s most effective strategies, and therefore one of our greatest dangers as a believer, is the delusion and disbelief that warfare isn’t necessary.
Failure to plan IS a plan to fail.
As Christians, we must not ignore the malicious and deliberate conflict between good and evil continually raging in the invisible supernatural realm. But, don’t be discouraged! God’s strength is more than enough for each individual battle. When we choose to follow Him, there is no need to fear because God is on our side.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” – 2 Timothy 1:6-7
2. PUSH THROUGH THE EVIL DAYS.
Scripture is clear about Satan’s real and personal existence. He was once the chief angel, the anointed cherub, the star of the morning, who sparkled with all the jewels of created beauty—until he rebelled against his Creator and tried to usurp His power and authority.
Satan first appears in Scripture in the form of a serpent, as he tempted Adam and Eve. Jesus not only spoke about Satan but spoke with him. Paul, Peter, James, John, and the writer of Hebrews all speak of Satan as a personal being. Understand that Satan is real, and he has a game plan. He brought sin into the world, and the whole world now lies in his power. His ultimate desire is to turn you away from God and back to your sinful nature.
In the Bible, we see Satan…
Opposing God’s work (Zech. 3:1)
Perverting God’s Word (Matt. 4:6)
Hindering God’s servant (1 Thess. 2:18)
Hindering the Gospel (2 Cor. 4:4)
Snaring the wicked (1 Tim. 3:7)
Appearing as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14)
Fighting with the archangel Michael (Jude 9)
Stand firm. In James 4:7, we are called to resist and stand firm, but don’t overlook the beginning of this verse, which says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God.” Brothers and sisters, if you are not submitted, I can assure you that you will not have the power to resist and stand firm.
Do you lack joy, feeling like a constant failure, always falling back into old patterns with no hope of ever getting out, comparing yourself to others? You are probably in a spiritual battle, getting bruised and beaten because you weren’t prepared.
Let’s take a look at Ephesians, where we see our need for God’s help and learn how to armor up for battle so we can be strong in the Lord.
“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-20
3. PUT ON THE FULL ARMOR OF GOD.
To operate in the fullness of Christ and battle with the power and strength of God, a believer must put on the full spiritual armor that He freely supplies. We must put it on daily, wear it intentionally, treat it as the life-long companion that it is, and allow it to equip us to resist Satan and his army.
The Belt of Truth. Being girded with God’s truth allows us to stand firm in every situation and helps us expose every area where Satan tries to spread lies or “half-truths.”
The Breastplate of Righteousness. Many, if not most, of the emotional and relational problems Christians experience are caused by a lack of personal holiness. Put on the breastplate of righteousness and allow it to protect your heart from all condemnation and corruption.
The Gospel of Peace. Today, the church is often guilty of supplying believers with the paper armor of good advice, programs, activities, techniques, and methods—when what they need is to be equipped to follow the Holy Spirit’s prompting to boldly share the Gospel with those whom He places in our lives. Let’s prepare to share the Gospel of peace everywhere we go.
The Shield of Faith. We cross a bridge with the faith that it will support us. We eat food trusting that it is not poisoned. We put our lives in the security of airplanes, trains, ships, buses, and automobiles, confident that they are safe. How much more confidence should we have when we take up the shield of faith? Before a battle, Roman soldiers would saturate their shields in water, ensuring the “fiery darts” used by their enemies would be extinguished upon hitting the shield. I encourage you to pick up your shield every day and saturate it with faith that nothing can overcome you because He is with you. These battle shields were also designed to connect so the armies could advance together as a strong wall, not allowing penetration. Don’t underestimate the power of linking your shield with your brothers and sisters in Christ.
The Helmet of Salvation. There are three aspects of salvation for the believer. The first is freedom from the penalty of sin, called Justification: “just-as-if I had never sinned.” Second, the gradual process of Sanctification, which is freedom from the power of sin as we continually grow and mature to be conformed to the image of Christ. Last but certainly not least is Glorification, freedom from the very presence of sin. This is eternal life with our Father in heaven, and the moment we will finally meet our Lord and Savior.
The Sword of the Spirit. This is the Bible—the Word of God. 2 Timothy says of the Bible, that it is Profitable, Infallible, Complete, Authoritative, Effective, Determinative, Defensive, and Offensive. It was Jesus’ weapon of choice when He was being tempted in the wilderness. He spoke the Word when the enemy tried to tempt and deceive Him, and it should be stored in our hearts as well in preparation for our daily battles. The Word is capable of not only inflicting blows but also deflecting the fiery darts of the enemy. Every time God’s Word is used to lead a person to salvation, it gives witness to its power to cut through Satan’s dominion of darkness and bring the light of life to a lost soul.
4. PRAY AT ALL TIMES.
In the words of my mentor, Dr. Norman Geisler, all means all, and that’s all that all means.
Pray at ALL times! In his Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan tells of Christian’s weapon called prayer, which, when everything else failed, would enable him to defeat the fiends in the valley of the shadow.
Prayer is the closing theme of Ephesians, and though closely related to God’s armor, it is not mentioned as part of it because it is much more than that. Prayer is not merely another godly weapon, as crucial as those weapons are.
We are to be in prayer at ALL TIMES because prayer is the very spiritual air that the soldier of Christ breathes. It is the all-pervasive strategy in which warfare is fought, and it’s also time spent cultivating a relationship with the Father.
During prayer, you aren’t just listing out your wants and needs, but you are getting still to listen and learn His voice, so when the enemy tries to whisper lies into the battlefield between your ears, you can quickly discern the lie and take the thought captive.
Each time his team loses a game, a well-known professional football coach tells the players in the locker room afterward: “Gentlemen, I told you how to win. You didn’t do what I told you, and you lost.”
Just like an athlete, a Christian can have great skills, the best training, the best equipment, and a good understanding of what he is supposed to do—and yet fail because he does not follow instructions.
If a football player does poorly when he fails to follow his coach, how much worse does a Christian fare when he fails to follow his Lord? Lack of obedience brings a lack of joy and peace. “The only joyful Christian is the obedient Christian.”
Let’s spring into action today and follow these steps to obedience so we can experience an abundance of joy and peace.
Identify the weakness in your armor.
Take action and armor up before you become weak and battle-weary.
Find accountability and link your shields together in faith.
Submit yourself to God so you can stand firm and resist the devil.
Let this truth sink into your heart today because this is important, and it matters. It mattered enough to be written in the Bible, so it’s a part of your walk with Christ.
Don’t let the enemy win the battle between your ears because you decided to disobey the “coach.” Let’s live a victorious life in Christ.
Do you think God got a good deal when He got you? Someone once told me they don’t like going to church because churches are full of hypocrites. I beg to differ! Churches are NOT FULL of hypocrites. There’s plenty of room for more.
TRUTH: God is better at saving than you could ever be at sinning.
“God doesn’t work through us because we’re flawless. Rather, He works through us in spite of our imperfections. This generation has forgotten that the gospel message does not clean up and shine the outside of a person; it bores into the very heart and soul of a person and radically changes that person from the inside forever.” A.W. TOZER
We are coming up on Valentine’s Day. It’s become quite a commercial holiday, and legend tells us that it began as an act of love. According to britannica.com, there are several legends out there on Valentine’s Day’s history and how it all started.
Regardless of the sources on the world wide web, it’s no legend or myth that we are loved beyond measure by our Heavenly Father — it far surpasses any amount of roses, chocolates, or cards. The Creator of the universe sent His Son to die for us. He took our imperfections, our SIN, upon himself and suffered to death. Romans 8:34-39 reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of Christ for those who believe in Him. The good news is no matter how many steps you have taken away from God, it still only takes one step to get back.
“And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.'” Mark 2:17
I’m reminded of 20 imperfect people in the Bible:
EVE was tempted and deceived
ADAM couldn’t resist
NOAH got drunk and naked
JONAH ran from God
ABRAHAM was too old
SARAH was impatient
LOT chose the wrong company
SAMSON was fooled
DAVID had an affair
GIDEON was insecure
SOLOMON had 1000 wives
PETER had a temper
MARTHA was a worrier
THOMAS was a doubter
ZACCHAEUS was short
JOHN couldn’t stay awake
RAHAB was a prostitute
PAUL was a murderer
LAZARUS was dead
They were not perfect. I am not perfect. You are not perfect. Need more evidence?
Let’s get real. Let’s get on our knees before God.
Let’s learn from #10 on that list, David.
The Leadership of David David was not the default leader in his original family of origin as he was the youngest son. Typically, the younger siblings in any family will develop fewer characteristics of leadership than the other children. David was a man with a balanced character who was in rhythm with God. The Scripture calls him “a man after God’s own heart.” Although he was a remarkable man, David’s leadership life certainly took a toll on him personally and those close to him.
“True leadership, even when it is practiced by the most mature and emotionally stable person, always exacts a toll on the individual.”
David is a central figure not only in the Old Testament but in all of history. More is documented in the Bible about David than any other biblical character. God chose to commit a large portion of the text to present the good and the bad parts of David’s character and life. A total of sixty-six chapters of the Old Testament are dedicated to David. In addition, he is referenced another fifty-nine times in the New Testament. David stands out in history as a leader of leaders. His humble beginnings as a shepherd did not hold him back from becoming one of the most powerful men of all time. Further, he is one of the most pivotal personalities in the Christian heritage.
“David is the original alpha male.”
“A Man” There is no doubt that David was a man’s man. He is described as being very handsome and also a gifted musician and warrior. To say that he is a man is also to acknowledge that David was a fallen man and had sin issues. Many pulpits have painted a picture of David that is saturated with idealistic distortion. David struggled with many types of sins, including murder and adultery. Sleeping with Bathsheba while her husband was at war is an example of how David lost touch, at least temporarily, with his moral compass. David had numerous wives and concubines. Despite this fact, he seemed never to be satisfied.
“When David is at his best, he displays both competence and character. When he is at his worst, though he sometimes lacks competence, he always lacks character.”
“After God’s Own Heart” David is not just called “a man.” He is called a man “after God’s own heart.” Because God’s greatness was being expressed through David, he developed a balanced personality that lacked the rigidity seen in his predecessor, King Saul. David spent his time and energy seeking God’s perspective on his situation. David was more than just a great leader. He was a great spiritual leader who spent extended time alone with God. Because of this commitment to seeking out God’s heart, David had both faith and favor. He was a born leader who balanced his actions in a way that showed both strength and weakness as well as both assertiveness and compliance.
“The most important thing spiritual leaders do is to cultivate their relationship with God.”
“Who Will Do God’s Will” Psalm 119:1 declares, “How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord.” David was a man after God’s own heart who was also willing to do God’s will. He was not always understood or appreciated, but he had a clear focus on seeking out God’s will and doing it.
What about you? What is stirring in your heart while you hear David’s story? Are you willing to be a man or woman after God’s own heart? Let me encourage you to seek Him and His will for your life. Find an accountability partner, strengthen your relationship with the Lord and become the great leader God calls each one of us to become in our own unique way. Let’s make God pleased with the deal He made for each of us.