about pastor Jim

pastor jim suttle

Writing out a testimony is always an interesting and difficult thing to do.  So much could be said, so many details. Yet to do so simply, with some sort of interest level and most of all, with a hope of glorifying God – is difficult to do!

In my mind, a testimony is that – not so much a narration of a whole life, but declaring the great things God has done!  I think of the Apostle Paul’s accounts of his testimony, and always it encourages me and helps me.  In some small remote way, if you are reading this, I hope this does so for you as well.

my past

I love Paul’s reckoning of his life in 1 Timothy 1:13-15


although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.


Jesus came into this world to save sinners!  Paul thought he was the chief sinner and thus the best example of God’s grace.   But the truth is, the chief sinner is me!   Actually, I am convinced that every Christian in their right place ends up feeling this very thing – that they are the most difficult and hard case they know.   That God’s grace in them is extreme and wonderful!  I feel that way!

I did not grow up in a Christian home.  My upbringing was a mix of no church or religious upbringing to something very similar, which is going to the Unitarian Church.  I won’t say much about the Unitarian church, except to say it is humanistic, polytheistic (worshiping all gods as the same) and more.  For me, if I went, it was just to hang out and look for girls.  I grew up knowing virtually nothing about the Lord or His wonderful truth.


In my early teen years, I was searching for life, for meaning of life.  God has created us for a  relationship with Him and we are empty outside of that.   So like many in my generation, I searched for meaning, satisfaction, hope and more in so many avenues.   As I look back, it seems like every three to six months of my teen years I would look into something new to find life in.  Like many I tried the party lifestyle, drinking and dabbling in drugs. I tried relationships, intellectual pursuits, philosophical pursuits and more.  In my mid teen years I became a convinced existentialist.  What does that mean?  Well, simply, an existentialist thinks we just “exist” for no purpose, rhyme or reason.  Honestly, this is the logical outcome to both humanism and evolution.   In the end, such a thought holds nothin, really means nothing.  There is no purpose, plan, or meaning in life outside of just “existing”.  


Near the end of my sixteenth year, I was becoming more convinced than ever in the thoughts of existentialism.  I began to feel that life itself had no hope, joy or purpose.  As I look back on this, I can see that without the Lord’s intervention, I was on a course and thought process that eventually would have led to suicide.  Honestly, I had already begun to think about it.  If nothing meant nothing and life was filled with the pain and sorrow that it is…then ending life meant nothing but early relief.   It was a dark road I was on.


About this time, actually about nine months before this, my best friend moved in with me.   His parent lived in Saudi Arabia at the time doing some contract work. He stayed with us so he could finish up high school in Albuquerque.  It turns out that he was actually a Christian, but he  was in a rebellious and backslidden state at the time.  He and I did lots of bad things together from stealing, playing hookie from school and lots more.   During that year, God was drawing my friend, Mike, back to Himself.  Mike began listening to Christian music again…and occasionally I listened with him.  There was something in that…a tinge of light.  I actually went to a concert or two with him.  I bought a couple of Christian tapes and listened to them even on my own – wow! 


During the summer between my Junior and Senior year, Mike and I went on a camping trip up into the Jemez mountains.   As I look back on that trip, it is almost hard to put into words, but on that trip, God made Himself real to me.   Heading up to the mountains I was an existentialist playing with some Christian thoughts.  But coming down from those mountains, I was born again!  Life was fresh, alive and so exciting!  Purpose, meaning, hope and more flooded my soul.  It was a new day!  I was alive…and God made Himself known to me and made me His!  Wow!

Excited over what God was doing, Mike and I came back from the mountain trip – hoping to go to church!  He had not really been going…but now wanted to. I wanted to.  We woke up in the mountains that Sunday morning in June 1994 and packed up, heading back to Albuquerque to actually go to church!   We did not make it in time for a morning service, it always takes longer to pack up than you like!   So, we decided to go to an evening service.  Problem is, neither of us knew which church to go to.   Playing game of chance, we chose a church near my home.   We made it to church, sat there…and well – it was a little odd.  I did not know what to do or what was expected.  Then a lady got up and spoke in tongues…and well, it was a little weird.  I made it through that service…but I was confused.

After that service, I went and plopped myself on the hood of my 1965 Mustang and just was thinking a mile a minute.   Was what happened up in the mountains real?  Was I really a Christian?  Is this what church is like – I felt so out of it and so disconnected.  I did not know how to put it all into words, but I was confused.  Mike was with me and tried to explain some things to me….but it just did not make sense.  A young lady walked past my car and turned.  She asked why I looked so down and depressed.  I had no idea what to say, I fumbled over a sentence or two.  Then she informed us that this church we just attended was her parents church, she came for them, but then left immediately after to make it to her own church.  It seems their service started later.  She asked us if we wanted to come.  Why not, I thought, I am bummed out anyway.  So, we followed her.  We followed her all the way into the parking lot of a shopping center on Eubank and Snowheights in Albuquerque.  It seemed this church we were going to was in a shopping mall!   A little weirded out, but interested, we followed and joined a packed in this church that met in a mall!  

Simple story…I was home.  I wish I could say it better, but I walked into that church, Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque, and I was home.  What I felt in the mountains with the Lord, I felt in this place.  It was warm, alive and real.  The pastor, Skip Heitzig, came out and sat on a stool.  He was wearing an Izod shirt and he taught us from the Bible in the most simple, straightforward and exciting way!   Fascinatingly enough, the place he was teaching from that evening was in the gospel of Luke, in one of the only passages of the Bible that I had really read at that point of my life!  The joy I felt, the life I felt, could hardly be contained!  It was real!  God was real..and I was alive in Him. 


God was doing some amazing things at that point in time in Albuquerque.  A young group of people, many of whom were new converts, began to hang out constantly and I hung out with them.   In this group of people, I met a beautiful young lady – Joanne Bradley.   Attracted to both her and her character – I spent more and more time with her. Unlike me, she grew up in church and had such a wonderful history I did not have!  It was so exciting.  Without boring you with all the details, we began dating – and it was a joy.   Pretty soon, we began to kick around the idea of getting married.  True, we were young – both only seventeen – but the idea was exciting.   Now, as I look back on that time, I can see God’s hand all over it, bringing into my life the love of my life, my bride and best friend.   I know God was at work, but I also have to be honest, there was a lot of me in this as well.

As Joanne and I started talking about getting married, more and more people were against it.   The funny thing about opposition in a teenagers life is that if often causes them to only want to rebel more.  That is exactly what happened.  Joanne and I decided to get married that next year!  It was not because she was “in trouble” or pregnant as some assumed – it was simply because we were stubborn and going to get married no matter what others said.  That is exactly what we did!  On July 26th of 1985, I was joined in marriage to my beautiful bride!  Being a parent now of teenage girls, I can tell you this, such a prospect is not something I would welcome for them!  Yet, for us – it was wonderful.  We grew up together in amazing ways! I am so thankful for God’s hand in orchestrating our lives.  For the next four years, through bumps and some bruises, of course, our marriage grew and grew. 

GOD PROVIDES our family

In 1989, our first daughter, Katie Marie, was born.  It was such a joy.  Joanne and I had been married almost four years and this addition only opened up our lives so much more.   Two years later, Elisa May was born!  We watched these beautiful young girls grow and then moved to Roswell in 1994 when they were five and three years old.   In Roswell, Christine Nicole was born in 1995 finishing out our family of five.  Me, the only male, and four beautiful females!  I was and am way outnumbered!   Why were we in Roswell?....Well, let me back up a couple years....

GOD called me to ministry

At this point in my life, God began the next big change in me…He called me to be a pastor!  I love how Paul put it in that 1 Timothy passage:

And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, (1 Ti 1:12)

God enabled me, God counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry.  The idea of counting faithful does not mean that I was faithful or worthy, to count someone faithful has the idea that God treated me as such, not because of me, but because of Him.  He “accounted” to my account faithfulness, not of me or in me, but in Him…and He put me into ministry. 

I am kind of a slow learning…and a little hard headed, so God had his work cut out for me.   In high school, I had taken several of those tests that help you figure out a probable vocation for life.  In it, I tested and proved to be one that would probably work best in something without managerial oversight or public responsibilities – something like an engineer or the like.  Honestly, as I realized this about myself, everyone agreed and my guidance counselors concurred.  I set two basic governing “rules” for future employment.  One – I did not want to be in charge of, manage or lead other people.  Two – I did not want to ever have to speak in public.  You might think I am kidding, but these were very honest conclusions!  Leading and speaking were two things that were way outside my natural course.   So…as God began to call me to what He had for me…it was wild to see that it came head on with my perceptions of what I would do with my life.

It began with a desire, a desire from Him, to teach.   It was crazy, but I found myself listening to my pastor, listening to other pastors…and thinking – I would like to do that.  That is, teach the Bible.  The desire grew and grew.  Then one Sunday it seemed to me that three guys got together and all decided to ask me separately to teach a small Bible study. Now the truth is, they did not all meet and decide to do this together. Yet, it is true that on that Sunday, three separate guys approached me and asked me to consider teaching a Bible study!   Are the crazy!  Did they all get together and decide to torture Jim on this Sunday?  No…of course not….it was God.   By the end of that and several other encounters, I surrendered to God. I began to teach a Bible study…and I loved it!  God was in it, I loved studying, I even enjoyed teaching (once it started).   I thought to myself, I could do this the rest of my life.  I could have a job and teach a small Bible study and be totally content.

Yet….God was not content.  He had called me for me…and now that I was teaching, He began to work on me to take me further – and call me as a pastor.  I won’t walk you through all the details of how God did this, but it honestly lasted almost a year.  At the end of that time, again…I surrendered and agreed to the Lord to be a pastor.   It was and is an exciting journey.   If you want to know more of how I actually became a pastor…well, you can read the history of Calvary Chapel of Roswell on this website as well.   There are so many more details, but this is long enough already.   I simply want to say this…it is all God.  He saved me, called me, enabled me and is working in me.   I still feel slow…like He has more for me both with Him and serving Him.  In His faithfulness, I hope and pray to discover all that He has for me!

However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long-suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Ti 1:16-17)

my heart's cry

As I finish this “testimony”, it seems good to take a moment and go past the timeline, past some of the details and perhaps a little to my heart.   I am not sure everyone has or has to have a “life verse”, but I do.   There is a verse that in a thousand ways explains what I am…what I want…and where I am going.  That verse is found in Psalm 27, verse 4.

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. (Ps 27:4)

One thing – I long for this and feel far short of it, but I am after it.  I want to be a man who is about “one thing”, single minded and single hearted in seeking, loving and serving the Lord.  My hearts desire is that God would make me more and more a man of “one thing.”

That “one thing” is something that first and foremost “I desire of the Lord”.  I am solidly convinced that what I need can only come from Him, be of Him and His work in my life. I am a man who is growing in his understanding of his absolute dependence on the Lord.  In the little that I have obtained of understanding this dependence, I can honestly say – what I want in life, from life and out of life…is only from Him and has to be “of the Lord”, I desire His work in me.

It is this “one thing”, that "I will seek", not in my own effort, but seeking and praying for and looking for in great and greater dependence on Him.

What is that “one thing”?  Simple answer – God!.   I want to "dwell in" His presence.  I want to abide in Christ constantly, and with greater depth, feeling and understanding.  I know, have discovered and am discovering that life is found in Him.  My greatest desire is to be near Him, to know Him, love Him and be with Him in a dwelling and abiding way.

I long to see Him – to "behold His beauty".  There is such depth here, but the honest truth is that all through scripture, when our relationship with God is pictured at its highest, it is pictured as “seeing Him”.  Right now…we don’t see Him fully, but on that day – we will see Him as He is.  It is this responsive relationship, this responsiveness to God, His glory and beauty that I know heaven will be.  Yet, until that day…I want to grow in this.  With Moses, I find myself crying out to the Lord “Show me Your glory” – I want to know Him, see Him more!

I long to "inquire in His temple" – I long to know Him, to grow in understanding.  For me, there is an element in this request that ties into who I am as a pastor.  I want to be able in inquire from Him, to hear His voice…and then take that to share with His people.    Perhaps this is better said in another passage.  God said it this way to Jeremiah:

I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, And had caused My people to hear My words, Then they would have turned them from their evil way And from the evil of their doings. (Je 23:21-22)

As for me…I want to stand in His counsel…hear His Words and take those to His people, and help them to hear His words!  Yep, that is who I am.

One thing I have desired of the Lord, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the Lord, And to inquire in His temple. (Ps 27:4)