Roe vs. Wade | An Open Letter

JUNE 24th, 2022

An open letter to our church family…

The US Supreme Court issued a landmark decision today overturning Roe vs. Wade in a six-to-three decision after nearly fifty years.

Let’s be clear. We celebrate this decision because we are a life-affirming family of faith. We believe God is the Author of life, and life begins at conception. I want to encourage and lead our church to be life-affirming on every level and in every way. All people, from the unborn to the abortion provider, are loved by God and created in his image.

Let’s be gracious. I want to challenge you to speak the truth with tremendous grace in one-on-one conversations and on all platforms, especially social media. God calls us to be the salt and light to our dark world and do so with humility and grace. We remain committed to being kind, caring, and empathetic to women and families in difficult life situations that cause them to consider abortion.

Let’s be realistic. The overturning of Roe will not end unplanned pregnancy nor the realities of abortion. Abortion will not be overcome by legal measures but by the Holy Spirit’s ongoing work in people’s lives. God works through us to be redemptive in all things and to speak the truth in love.

Let’s be prayerful. Join me in praying for God’s power and protection during these divisive days. Pray for the protection of the unborn and their parents and those who provide support to them: their extended family, friends, churches, and others. Over the next month, I believe our church family should prayerfully consider taking up an offering for a local crisis pregnancy center.

Thank you for your Christ-centered support of life-affirming work as a church family. May the Spirit move powerfully among us for God’s glory and the good of all people.

Pastor Stephen

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Martin Luther King Jr.

To understand Martin Luther King, Jr., a brief overview of history is helpful. In 1777, the Vermont legislature became the first to abolish slavery. “By 1820 slavery was no longer a national establishment. It was a southern enterprise. Of the 1.5 million slaves in the United States, 99 percent resided in southern states and territories” (Phillips, 2000, p. 6). 

When Lincoln was elected to the presidency in 1860, the South revolted, and seven states seceded from the United States before he could even be sworn into office. Those seven states formed the Confederate States of America. Within six months, eleven states had left the Union. “When Confederate troops fired on the Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina— a four-year war, the bloodiest in American history, began” (Phillips, 2000, p. 11). Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, and declared that more than three million slaves in the rebellious southern states were free.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in 1929, just before the Great Depression. He was brilliant and graduated high school at the early age of fifteen. King later earned his doctor of philosophy from Boston University’s School of Theology. He became “the most important civil rights leader in the twentieth century” (King, 1996, p. ix). He was high energy and an action-oriented man with something to say about the state of affairs regarding American racial equality. 

“The America he addressed was different from the America of today. It was a nation whose racial wrongs were sanctioned by unjust laws” (King, 1996, p. ix). His task was one that would require a great deal of discipline, patience, and courage. He established himself as a leader in a movement that would change the tone of racial equality in the United States of America. King believed that “if America is to remain a first-class nation, it cannot have second-class citizens” (King, 1996, p. 67).

“Dr. King once said that when a crisis is placed right out in the open, leaders will naturally emerge out of the situation” (Phillips, 2000, p. 334). King was a man who cared deeply about people. Perhaps this was because he had a pastor’s heart. He also encouraged his people to care for each other. “Dr. King was able to provide people with a sense of hope. Even when things look their bleakest, he would express optimism: ‘Somehow, I still believe we’re going to get there,’ he’d say” (Phillips, 2000, p. 338).

The Leadership of Martin Luther King Jr.

Great leaders are judged by their ability to make leaders. It is simply not enough to evaluate a leader’s effectiveness by the number of followers they can accumulate. Leaders make leaders. “A leader must know who he is, and who he is dealing with; and then he must lead” (Brookhiser, 2009, p. 238). 

James Burns has been identified by many as one of the key writers on leadership. Burns wrote that “transforming leadership, while more complex, is more potent” (Burns, 2012, p. 4). In this statement, Burns is differentiating transformational leadership from other types of leadership. 

Northouse picks up this thought and says further that “transformational leadership places a strong emphasis on followers’ needs, values, and morals” (Northouse, 2016, p. 177). 

Heifetz emphasizes that leadership should be more normalized than glamorized. One of his main points is to normalize leadership activity rather than elevate it to an exclusive position of authority. “Leadership takes place every day. It is neither the traits of the few, a rare event, or a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” (Heifetz, 1994, Kindle Location 4320). 

King had this life-long approach and expression of leadership. He did not merely hold a position of power and authority or mystically become a great leader. King learned, adapted, and grew through various seasons of life. Heifetz further points out that “every time we face a conflict among competing values, or encounter a gap between our shared values and the way we live, we face the need to learn new ways” (Heifetz, 1994, Kindle Location 4320). King had this type of need for learning. 

Strengths

Dr. King had many strengths, but his greatest strength was his ability to speak to people with passion and clarity. “Modern scholars have acknowledged Martin Luther King, Jr., to be one of the great orators in American history— and have ranked his ‘I have a dream’ speech with Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address” (Phillips, 2000, p. 88).

King delivered one of his most remembered speeches in 1963 at the centennial signing of the Emancipation Proclamation. “Although many of the phrases and themes that appear in ‘I Have a Dream’ had often been repeated by Dr. King, this is his most famous and most often quoted speech. He delivered it before the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963” (King, 1996, p. 101). King is quoted as saying, “one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free … so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition … in a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check … instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check” (King, 1996, p. 102).

More than just a great speaker, King was dedicated to being an activist as well. He was known as a patriot who regularly risked his life to fight for racial equality in America. Another of his strengths was his implementation of nonviolent assault. “King believed that only through a massive nonviolent assault would conditions change for black Americans” (King, 1996, p. xi). He taught that nonviolent campaigns consisted of four steps. First is the collection of the facts to determine whether injustices are alive. The second is negotiation. The third is self-purification. Fourth is direct action. 

King believed that people needed to learn to respect each other and live together in equality. “This means that no individual or nation can live alone. We must all learn to live together, or we will be forced to die together” (King, 1996, p. 19). King was also a great advocate of servant leadership. He taught and spoke regularly on the different types of love and emphasized agape love. However, he also believed that “nonviolent resistance does call for love … a very stern love that would organize itself into collective action to right a wrong by taking on itself suffering” (King, 1996, p. 44). King desired to be a servant leader. His heartbeat for this is captured by his words in two different speech excerpts.

“And so Jesus gave us a new norm of greatness. If you want to be important – wonderful. If you want to be recognized – wonderful. If you want to be great – wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s your new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it … by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. Because everybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant” (King, 1996, pp. 189-190).

“If any of you are around when I have to meet my day, I don’t want a long funeral. And if you get somebody to deliver the eulogy, tell them not to talk too long. Every now and then I wonder what I want them to say. Tell them not to mention that I have a Nobel Peace Prize, that isn’t important. Tell them not to mention that I have three or four hundred other awards, that’s not important. Tell him not to mention where I went to school. I’d like somebody to mention that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to give his life serving others. I’d like for somebody to say that day, that Martin Luther King, Jr., tried to love somebody. I want you to say that day, that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try to feed the hungry. And I want you to be able to say that day, that I did try, in my life, to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say, on that day, that I did try, in my life, to visit those who were in prison. I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity” (King, 1996, p. 191).

Challenges

One of the challenges of King’s approach was the slow nature of how change would be realized. King acknowledged this himself. “I do not want to give the impression that nonviolence will work miracles overnight. Men are not easily moved from their mental ruts or purged of their prejudiced and irrational feelings. When the underprivileged demand freedom, the privileged first react with bitterness and resistance” (King, 1996, p. 60). Another challenge in King’s work was the uphill battle of fighting his time’s injustices without breaking the law. Many times, the law was against King and his movement. He responded to this with a landmark philosophical statement.

“I would agree with Saint Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all. A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of Saint Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality” (King, 1996, p. 89).

King also struggled with the apathy of many of the people that he was trying to help. On occasion, he would be as critical of his people as he was of the people who opposed him. He wanted his people to rise up and realize their power and potential. “Power is not the white man’s birthright” (King, 1996, p. 165). The following excerpt exposes the frustration King felt toward his people’s apathy and their violent reactionary response to racial slurs from white people. 

“It is always amusing to me when a Negro man says that he can’t demonstrate with us because if someone hit him he would fight back. Here is a man whose children are being plagued by rats and roaches, whose wife is robbed daily at overpriced ghetto food stores, who himself is working for about two-thirds the pay of a white person doing a similar job and with similar skills, and in spite of all this daily suffering it takes someone spitting on him or calling him a nigger to make him want to fight” (King, 1996, p. 129).

Of course, King would be firmly against fighting in response to verbal slander. But his point here is more focused on the apathy that had developed regarding the day-by-day conditions of life for his people. King wanted to “strategically and intentionally set out to persuade others to take up the ‘weapon’ of nonviolent direct action” (Phillips, 2000, p. 62).

King was a transformational leader who embodied servant leadership. 


Shaken-Up Soda Can


Recently, my daughter, Sarah, and I went on a coffee run and sat in the cafe talking about life. She brought up COVID-19 and how some of the challenges she faced made her feel like a “shaken-up soda can.”

I encouraged her to go back and write about it, as I was sure many could relate. When I shared it with my team, I was shocked by how many could identify with her.

What you read below was written and edited by my daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Cutchins. 

I hope you are encouraged by her story (and her first public blog). 🙂 


from the teenage life of sarah elizabeth cutchins…

I’ve found myself thinking bad thoughts on many happy occasions, just because my brain is so fit to think negatively or in a “glass-half-empty” mindset. My emotions get the best of me many times, and not all of them are positive.

The past year has taken an enormous mental toll on me, which is hard to forget when most of my thoughts circle back to terrible things that happened last year. But I find that it helps to have a single thought when those things come back to mind. It’s really simple, but it’s effective. It’s changed a lot about me and a lot about the way I think.

“There’s no use in thinking over things that have already happened. It’s better to focus on the moment and keep moving forward.”

It states that it’s better to think happy thoughts at happy times because, let’s be honest, this world isn’t always happy. It’s a dying and deteriorating world without God. I spent a lot of time alone during quarantine, which led to me having trouble connecting with people. I felt lonely and depressed; I fell into a routine I hated. It was terrible. The worst part was that I wasn’t connecting with God, and I knew it but did nothing.

I hated myself for it, which caused even more negative thoughts about myself to arise. I suffered in silence because I knew that thousands of other people were going through way worse, including my parents and my sister. It caused a lot of pent-up emotions, and in turn, caused me to hide what I felt a lot of times.

When happy things came around, like church events or fun things, at the smallest moments, I found myself going, “At the end of this, I have to go straight back to what was happening before,” and I felt depressed and angry.

I focused more on the negatives than the positives during even the joyous times. I wasn’t connected with God as I am now, so everything I felt was sitting inside me like a shaken-up soda can. I didn’t know what to do to get relief, and it was so frustrating I felt like I couldn’t breathe sometimes. Even when I think of it now, I feel terrible, and I want to sit on my bed and let everything out.

The relief and the joy I found when I realized God was there the entire time overwhelmed me in the best way. I started listening more to sermons, getting more involved in church, finding God, investing time in Him, the list goes on.

I slowly began to feel happier, and the negative emotions just lessened. I’ll admit, they’re not all gone, that’s for sure, but focusing on God made a big chunk of it melt away. Focusing on happy things when you’re not exactly feeling happy can be extremely difficult, and I speak from experience.

When you take a moment to realize that all the stuff happening is only temporary and that God is ALWAYS there for you, a lot of your burdens will lift. It may not all go away, but at least it’s an improvement.

In a world full of negativity and hate and depression and anxiety and just, everything, it’s so easy to be sidetracked and focus on that stuff instead of keeping your eyes on God, and what He wants, and what kind of relief and joy He will bring you.

This Christmas season, I implore you to give more attention to God and what He has to offer instead of what this selfish and human world can make you bear.

~Sarah~

December 2022


SELF-CARE IS NOT SELFISH


Have you ever considered the simple truth that all you have to offer is YOU? If that is true, what are you offering? Is what you offer to those around you full of exhaustion and anxiety, or are you serving up your best?
 
Too often, daily tasks like sleeping enough, eating well, exercising regularly, connecting with people we love, engaging with meaningful hobbies, and making time for personal reflection take a back seat to the busyness of life. Why is that? Why do we sometimes feel we must constantly work and help others?
 
Jack Nevison did a study that showed 50 hours on the job yielded only 37 hours of productivity. However, if you raised it to 55 hours on the job, it caused a drop to only 30 hours of useful work. When we push past 50 hours in a week, we don’t get more done.
 
To make a difference, you must take care of yourself. You are all you have to offer. If we don’t get this, we will burn out and quit before completing the work God has for us. Self-care drives success and significance. So let’s explore the topic of “rest” and take note that even God rested after all of His work. 
 
“And on the seventh day God finished His work that He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that He had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation.” (Genesis 2:2-3)
 

FOUR THINGS TO CONSIDER

1) Rest in the right order. 

How many of us always thought our day started in the morning? Let’s take a look at the creation story, as we see how God began each day in the evening, not the morning.

When God created the days, we find these words in Genesis: “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (Genesis 1:5 NKJV). 

This pattern repeats as God continues to create on each successive day. “So the evening and the morning were the second day” (Genesis 1:8 NKJV). 

As we see here, your day does not begin when you get up. It starts when you go to sleep. Rest begins your new day, not coffee. 

God began each day in the evening, not the morning. So should we. 

2) Rest in the right rhythm.

Mother Theresa said, “To keep a lamp burning we have to keep putting oil in it.” Resting is more than just a matter of convenience; it is a matter of obedience. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. (Exodus 20:8-9)

However, to obey God in rest, we have to repent of people-pleasing! There is no rest without repentance. Repentance is simply changing your mind to follow God’s plan for you instead of people’s plans for you. 

There are three fundamental ways people express their plans for you. Each of these levels has an increasing intensity and will require a higher level of assertiveness in your response.

LEVEL 1 – DESIRE: This is when people have the desire for you to do something or be at something. You can look at this as “wow, that’s nice they want me to be involved.” They give you room to say yes or no, and if you say no, they won’t get mad.

LEVEL 2 – EXPECTATION: At this level, people expect you to do things they think should be done. If you say no, they get mad. But just remember, to say yes to the right things, you will need to say no to the wrong things. 

LEVEL 3 – DEMAND: Sometimes, people forcibly try to make you do something that will take you outside of the will of God. Demanding people are dangerous people, especially when it comes to spiritual matters. Limit your exposure to these types of people, and be prepared to set up healthy and firm boundaries. 

Confession: Over the years, I have allowed expectations from people in my life to override God’s plan for rest. Let me invite you to join me in saying, as of today that ends.

3) Rest allows for physical recovery.

You need rest to be at your best because rest allows time for God to restore your passion. Self-care also fuels creativity. God rests first, then He works, and it’s a beautiful model to follow. 

The Bible teaches that those who do not work are lazy. However, the Bible says that those who do not rest are disobedient.

4) Rest allows your soul to catch up with you.

 Over the summer, I went on a month-long sabbatical where I disconnected from social media, the phone, email, and daily tasks that compete for my attention. Slowly as I let go of work, my soul began to catch up, and refreshment and happiness filled my heart. A key component to rest is contentment. It was so good for my soul to spend uninterrupted time with my family finding contentment in the simple things. 

Contentment is being satisfied with what you already have.

As we learn in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a “time for everything,” and the sabbatical proved to be my time for a soul revival and refreshing. I’ve noticed that the first place people tend to cut is self-care because it seems like an unnecessary luxury. But we can see above that sacrificing rest is not God’s desire or command for us. So if you are looking for a breakthrough, you may need to take a break. 

TRUTH: GOD REVEALS HIMSELF IN OUR REST

So which one of these everyday tasks do you need to reassess to be at your best?

  • Sleeping enough
  • Eating well
  • Exercising regularly
  • Connecting with people we love
  • Engaging with meaningful hobbies
  • Making time for personal reflection

If you’re unsure what you need to adjust, spend time with your Heavenly Father and ask Him. Remember, it is NOT selfish to rest. You are all you have to offer, which should be your best, and that can only happen if you rest.


Wanting More Than You Need



What do you need most today?
 
How would it feel to have it? 
 
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. 
 
PSALM 23
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.


Is your “Sin Reel” on repeat?



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.


SATAN CAN HAVE HIS SHOES


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!

 


ENSURING FAILURE



If we fail to submit, we submit to fail. 

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.

If we fail to submit, we submit to fail.


STOP. IT.


STOP. IT.

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. IT. 

  • 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: 

  1. Just once won’t hurt. 
  2. 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!

GET STARTED NOW

  • Stop one bad habit today.
  • Start one good habit today.
  • Ask one person for support and help.

I am praying for you!


DO. NOT. QUIT.


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?

“Nothing!” OR

“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. 

Colossians 3:23-24

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.