Spiritual Narcissism



Have you ever met a spiritual narcissist?

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.

Don’t become a spiritual narcissist!

Let Jesus drive!


The Battle Between Our Ears



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.

FINDING PEACE

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.

  1. Identify the weakness in your armor.
  2. Take action and armor up before you become weak and battle-weary.
  3. Find accountability and link your shields together in faith.
  4. 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.


GOD ♡’s IMPEЯFECT PEOPLE


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. 

image of empty church pews

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
  • MOSES stuttered
  • 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.

God Loves Imperfect PeopleThe 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”
man reading bible, david and goliathDavid 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.


What Happens When We Die?

Have you ever wondered what happens when we die? 

The End of my father’s life was a journey in pain management. I can still remember being woken up in the night. I received the phone call that I had dreaded since the day he was diagnosed with kidney failure years before: “Your father has died.” His presence in my life up to that point had been constant and stabilizing. A new and unwelcomed normal began to take over my heart. 

The days and years after my Dad’s death were not easy ones. The Bible called me to an eternal perspective saying, “blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4), and reminded me that it is better to spend time at a funeral than a party (Ecc 7:2).

But, what was it like for my Dad? 

What was it like for him when he died? 

The Bible has a lot to say about death. 

It offers hope.

When we die, we are not IN CRISIS – but IN CHRIST.

The truth is, any time that we deal with death, it’s difficult. Death never feels right, and I think God agrees that death should not happen. I don’t think it was ever His intention for us to be in a world where death exists. That is why He sent His Son to save us from death to life through faith. 

He sent His only son to solve the problem. 

He DID solve the problem!

Many of us are in a season of loss. Times where life takes more away than it gives. One of my favorite promises comes from the 23rd Psalm: “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.” 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 reminds us, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.”

Here is a concept I hadn’t considered before reading this Psalm from chapter 116:15 “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Why would death be precious? Because He has something for us on the other side of this. In Philippians 1:21, Paul expresses, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

My friend, Dr. Charles Goodman, said it this way, “It’s a win-win situation.” Remember, when we die, we are not IN CRISIS – but IN CHRIST. There is an afterlife from a Christian perspective. Paul described it in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18.

“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

When we die, we are not IN CRISIS – but IN CHRIST.

Paul said the last enemy to be destroyed was death and also asked, “Death, where is your victory, where is your sting?” The great mystery that Paul explains is that we are not just asleep, but we are transformed into the glorified version of ourselves.

  • But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. (1 Thessalonians 4:13)
  • “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” (2 Cor. 5:8)
  •  “He will wipe away every tear; death shall be no more; no more pain, no more suffering, no more crying.” (Revelation 21:4)
  • “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matthew 10:28 )

Did you know that two people every second are dying without faith in Christ around the globe? That is 154,937 people every day. That number is staggering to me. Death is going to grip all of us. It is the common ground on which all humanity stands. However, what happens when we die is determined by our relationship with God through faith in Christ. Who is close to you but far from God? 

“Let not your heart be troubled— BELIEVE IN ME.” ~Jesus~


Good. Better. Best.



If you are missing a little joy, it may be that you are only operating in “good.” It may even be that you are only operating in “better.” But you’re not getting to the “best” yet. Excellence is doing the best you can with what you have. The fine-tuning of a Christian’s life is not about moving from bad to good; it’s about finding excellence

Good —>>> Better —>>> Best 

When you get into this level of excellence, you really CAN rejoice in all circumstances. If we don’t get this, we simplify our options down to only two choices: either bad or good. This explains why so many of us settle for good enough when we have access to the greatness of God, doing the best with what you have.

In order to get things moving from good to better to best, you often have to say “NO” to things that are just good or better to get the best. It may seem awkward to say “no” to something good, or “no” to something better. However, when you say “no” to something good, and when you say “no” to something better, that creates space for you to say “yes” to the best opportunity.

Here is the truth.

To say “YES” to the BEST THINGS, you are going to have to say “NO” to the things that are just better and “NO” to the things that are just good. Not simply good, not slightly better, but the very BEST that God has for us! In the opening section of his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives us three areas where we should move from good… to better… to best, and experience the excellence of God in our lives.”


1. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT THOUGHTS 

“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Paul 

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share.

Who can you encourage today? Do you have kind thoughts about someone? Do you appreciate them? If so, let them know!

Remember: The mind is a powerful thing to waste. If you have kind thoughts about someone, don’t keep it to yourself. But, also remember that everything that comes in your mind doesn’t have to could out in your conversations. 

Avoid the Really Awful Thoughts (RATS). Think about it, if someone brought a box full of rats into your home or your workplace and unleashed them, that would be nasty. You would think that is gross.

But that’s what we do in our minds sometimes. We just let these really awful thoughts (RATS) run around and wreak havoc. What we really should be doing is fighting these awful thoughts, these limiting beliefs, and replace them with liberating truths. The more we rehearse and endorse limiting beliefs in our thinking, the more they settle in and take up residence.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” – Romans 12:2

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share.


2. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT FEELINGS

“It is right for me to feel this way about you.” Paul 

Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. 

We are all experiencing strong feelings as we’ve come into 2021. But sometimes, we don’t clarify what those things are. It’s not just about information; it’s about the effects of the information on your heart.

How are you feeling right now? Have you been able to express that to someone? Our emotions are complex. Have you felt any of these core these center ones? Surprised? Bad? Fearful? Angry? Disgusted? Sad? Happy? We have all these words to describe our feelings because we have all these feelings. Let’s use them!

Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. 


3. WE NEED TO HAVE EXCELLENT PRAYERS

“It is my prayer that your love may abound.” Paul 

Too many times, we have prayers we don’t voice.

We never “arrive” — Our Christian journey is continually growing us, but we will not fully “arrive” until heaven. “There is no truer indicator of a Christian’s level of spiritual maturity than his prayer life. Prayer is much more than a duty; prayer is a compulsion for the spiritually mature Christian.” – John MacArthur

HG Bosch gave a beautiful illustration of the inherent idea of the separation that is found in the word holiness and comes from the world of nature. In the forests of northern Europe and Asia lives a little animal called the ermine, known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his white coat against anything that would soil it.

Fur hunters take advantage of this unusual trait of the ermine. They don’t set a snare to catch him, but instead, they find his home, which is usually a cleft in a rock or a hollow in an old tree. They smear the entrance and interior with grime. 

Then the hunters set their dogs loose to find and chase the ermine. The frightened animal flees toward home but doesn’t enter because of the filth. Rather than soil his white coat, he is trapped by the dogs and captured while preserving his purity. For the ermine, purity is more precious than life. O, that we all had the mindset of the ermine in winter!

REMEMBER: “The more holy a person becomes, the more conscious they are of their unholiness.” – Charles Spurgeon

Too many times, we have thoughts that we don’t share. Too many times, we have feelings that we don’t express. Too many times, we have prayers we don’t voice.


So, here are three ways to get the best and be the best today.

  1. Share your thoughts with one person.
  2. Express your feelings with someone you love.
  3. Pray for the people who matter most.

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. 


WHERE WERE YOU?



What do you do when you feel like life is spinning out of control? 

Where were you when 9-11 happened back in 2001? Or when COVID-19 hit in 2020? Or when you heard about rioting in the streets? Where were you when these things happened?

I mean to ask not only about your physical location but also about your emotional state. Where were you emotionally when these things happened? Where you feeling uplifted and the news brought you down? Or were you already down, and the news brought you even lower.

What was your reaction when you first heard the devastating news that President Kennedy was assassinated or when the Challenger exploded? Depending on your age, you may have only read of these dark moments in a history book.

Both of my teenage daughters, Madi (17) and Sarah (13), were born after 9-11. Although they have missed out on generations of tragedy, their generation has already come face to face with unprecedented levels of brokenness. Social media has made each awful moment hard to miss. As a parent, I find it challenging to moderate my girls’ level of exposure to news that can trigger intense feelings of disappointment.

Whether you were at the end of your coffee, your day, your week, or even your rope, we all felt the weight when the bad news came. There is a heaviness that hit us in those moments. Things felt out of control, and we all struggled to answer the question, “what do I do now?”

Brokenness is not always a bad thing. Remember, broken crayons still color. God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. Have you ever heard the phrase, “the grass is greener on the other side?” I have come to learn that the grass is greener where you water it. This truth is especially true in our spiritual lives. Prayer is the H20 of a healthy relationship with God. 

Before you react, reach out to God.

Hershel Hobbs shares this about Prayer:

An automobile has a battery, which is simply stored-up energy, that enables the machine to function. The motor, lights, radio, and so on draw energy out of the battery. However, an automobile also has a generator that replaces the energy drawn from the battery. If the generator does not function properly, the battery will soon be dead. Then when you need power to start the automobile, you will find that you have none.

Nothing is wrong with the rest of the mechanical equipment. It simply has no power by which to function. An automobile has a cable connecting the battery to the car’s mechanisms. If that cable is removed, the battery still has some power to spare. However, the power is not transmitted to the working parts of the automobile, so the car itself is powerless.

Christians are like that. We expend spiritual energy in life and ministry. For us to remain spiritually strong, that energy needs to be replenished. If not, in a crisis moment, we will discover the power is gone. On the one hand, Jesus said that Prayer is the generator that keeps our spiritual power constant. On the other hand, Prayer is the cable that connects us to the omnipotence of God.

Before you react, reach out to God.

When asked, “What is more important: praying or reading the Bible?” C.G. Spurgeon asked, ‘”What is more important: breathing in or breathing out?

Paul reminds us in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I don’t believe that Paul expected his readers to be in Prayer every minute of the day. However, he did want them to take Prayer seriously and to continue praying whenever possible.

The adverb translated “without ceasing” in those verses is also used to describe a hacking cough. Paul wanted his people to be people of Prayer. He was devoted to Prayer as a fundamental activity in his life.

In several of his other letters, Paul instructs his readers to devote themselves to Prayer. “Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all Prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” – Ephesians 6:18 

Jesus also went out of His way to encourage Prayer among His beleivers. “And He told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart.” – Luke 18:1

Before you react, reach out to God.

Many leading voices have also emphasized the importance of Prayer.  

  • “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of Prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” – Max Lucado
  • “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” – Martin Luther
  • “True Prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.” – Charles Spurgeon
  • “To get nations back on their feet, we must first get down on our knees.” – Billy Graham
  • “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work. Prayer is the greater work.” – Oswald Chambers

So let me encourage you. When life is rough, pray. When life is great, pray. What’s at stake here is our ability to keep going. If we don’t get this, we will go throughout our day without the power we need. There is never a bad time to pray, but this is a bad time not to pray. 

Before you react, reach out to God!


THE POWER OF 4



I hate reading, but I do read a lot.

Recently, this caught my attention, and I want you to know about it. 

The Center for Bible Engagement conducted an impressive study exploring the impact of Bible engagement on 400,000 Christians in North America. This study, Understanding the Bible Engagement Challenge: Scientific Evidence for the Power of 4, concluded that the quality of the lives of Christians who “DO NOT engage in the Bible most days of the week” is statistically the same as non-Christians.  

This study revealed THE POWER OF 4.

When you spend only 1-3 times a week reading the Bible, it has next to no impact on you.

As soon as people in the study passed the number three threshold and went into their fourth engagement with the Bible each week, they saw a significantly positive difference in how they felt and how well they dealt with hard times.

  • Feeling lonely dropped 30% 
  • Anger issues dropped 32%
  • Alcoholism dropped 57%
  • Relational issues (especially in marriage) dropped 40%
  • Pornography and other sexual sins dropped 62%
  • Feeling spiritually stagnant dropped 60%

This explains why so many people are hurting.

Hebrews 4:12 says, “The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”

  • Are you lonely? 
  • Are you dealing with unresolved anger? 
  • Are you struggling with an addiction? 
  • Are you in a relationship that is struggling?
  • Are you fighting a battle with pornography?
  • Are you feeling distant from God?

Are you ready to upgrade your life?

James 4:8 gives us our next step.

“Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” James 4:8 ESV

God speaks primarily through His Word. But remember, when you spent only 1-3 times a week engaging with the Bible, it has next to no impact on you. We all need to experience the POWER OF 4!

If we don’t get this, we run the risk of missing out on God’s many benefits, and our bad habits continue and increase. Get in the Word, and let it get in you. Are you ready to upgrade your life?

Let me invite you to experience THE POWER OF 4.


Tragic Loss of a Friend

Last week, we tragically lost our friend, Kenny Comstock. Kenny had a way of lighting up any room with his fun-loving personality and brilliant mind. He will be missed!

Kenny and his wife Melissa were killed in a car accident, and their funeral is today. They leave behind three children: Natalie (6), Camden (4), and Carver (1).

Please pray for these children who are now orphans.

Would you consider contributing to support the three children left behind?

https://charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/kenny-and-melissa-comstock-foundation/

Kenny served faithfully as Executive Pastor at Crossroads Church in Odessa, TX. Over the past four years, I studied, traveled, and learned alongside this incredibly smart and bright young man. He convinced me to stay in the program when I wanted to quit from exhaustion after being named Senior Pastor at my church.

Please pray for our cohort as we grieve and move forward in his absence.

Afterthoughts | July 19, 2020

 
 
Copy of Stephen & Wendy Podcast

LISTEN NOW: July 19, 2020


SERIES TITLE: BELIEVE

SERMON TITLE: “Without Measure” 

SCRIPTURE: John 3:31-36


On Sunday afternoons at the Cutchins’ home, we usually have some early afternoon coffee, and find ourselves discussing the morning message. “AFTERTHOUGHTS is our way of sharing the conversation and discussion with you. In each post, we will ask five questions to spark discussion over a cup of coffee.

DISCUSSION STARTER QUESTIONS

  • What stood out to you?
  • What did you think needs more discussion?
  • What were your biggest takeaways?
  • What did you find most challenging?
  • Why did you think this message was important?

 
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