Life’s Heavy Fog

Posted: October 27th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

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Recently, I was in Toms River, New Jersey with two of my kids visiting my mom. We walked on the boardwalk, ate pizza at the Sawmill in Seaside Heights and watched my old high school win a football game. I also got to see some friends I grew up with, but hadn’t seen in years. And I was able to show my kids where I grew up in Brick Township.

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My daughter, Amy, got to practice her German with my mom who speaks it fluently.

So a week ago at this time, we were getting ready to drive back to Philadelphia for our flight to Charlotte and then our connecting flight to Northwest Arkansas. Things started out smoothly…

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time. We checked-in, went through security and had dinner before our 7:25 p.m. flight. The flight to Charlotte, NC was uneventful. In Charlotte, we had an hour or so before our flight home. At our gate, I ran into a friend who was heading home after a business trip. We boarded on time, took off and were about ninety minutes into our flight when the captain made an announcement.

He said there was heavy fog around the airport and visibility was down to a quarter mile. To land, he said they needed visibility of at least a half mile. At this point, we were probably within twenty or thirty minutes of landing, but he said we were going to head back to Charlotte. When we deplaned in Charlotte, US Airways had agents at the gate calling out names and giving us our updated itineraries.

My friend’s new flight left two days later. Another guy was booked on the same flight only the next night. I wasn’t holding out much hope for what we’d get, but a minute later my name was called. They had re-booked us on Delta for the next morning at 7:15 a.m., which would get us home to Northwest Arkansas before noon. We were given a discounted hotel room and finally got into bed around 1:45 a.m. Our shuttle back to the airport was at 5:00 a.m., so we set our alarms for 4:40.

After a couple hours of sleep, we returned to the airport in Charlotte and boarded our flight to Cincinnati. Everything was again going well. At the start.

Our flight from Cincinnati departed on time and an hour or so later, we were beginning our descent into Northwest Arkansas. And that’s when the captain made his announcement. The fog from the previous night hadn’t lifted yet, so we were unable to land. He said we were going to circle in the area and wait for it to lift.

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Those aren't clouds, that's the ground fog covering the airport.

I’m not sure how long we circled, but it was long enough for the captain to make another announcement. He said we were safe, but were beginning to run low on fuel. So we turned to the west and headed toward Tulsa where we would refuel. By the time we landed in Tulsa, refueled and made it back to Northwest Arkansas, the fog had lifted and we landed safely.

When we’re in the midst of a fog, it’s tough to see. Planes can’t land. Drivers can’t see ahead. People can’t even walk. A friend was telling me that his wife had gone out for a walk that Monday morning when the fog was still in place. It was so thick, she had to go back home because she was afraid of bumping into something. My wife, Robyn, could only go 25 mph on her way to pick us up.

How do you respond when you find yourself in the fog?

Whether it’s something minor like a delayed flight or something major like cancer or being laid off from your job, you and I have a choice. We can believe God is still good, loving, faithful and all-powerful and can work in the midst of whatever circumstances we find ourselves in or we can panic, get angry or become discouraged.

God’s vision isn’t limited by the fog you’re in today. He still sees. He still knows what He’s doing. He knows exactly when the fog will lift. And until it does, He will walk you through it. You’re never alone. He never expects you to figure things out on your own.

In Matthew 16, Jesus told His disciples it was necessary for Him to go to Jerusalem where He’d suffer and be killed, but come back to life on the third day. Peter pulls Jesus aside and reprimands Him for talking like that. Here’s how Jesus replies:

Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Why did Jesus react so strongly to Peter? Wasn’t Peter just trying to look out for a friend? Get away from me, Satan? Peter is a dangerous trap?

Like Peter, it’s easy for us to view life from merely a human point of view, not from God’s. When we do, we not only lose our peace, but we fail to see the plan God is working out around us. And His plan always takes precedence over our plan.

What if rather than asking God to remove our difficult circumstances (which is always what I want him to do!), you and I chose to trust Him to take us through the fog and accomplish His greater plan in our lives?

Yada, Yada…It’s Not Just a Seinfeld Episode

Posted: October 23rd, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

In my last post, we looked at Genesis 15 and Abram’s encounter with God. Nothing in Abram’s circumstances would have led him to believe he was going to be the father of nations and that the entire world would be blessed through him. Why? He was old and childless and so was his wife, Sarai. But God is never limited by what’s happening in the past or what’s happening now. And because He is faithful to His promises and already sees the future, we can be confident in Him.

In verse 6, we see…

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith. (Genesis 15:6)

After Abram believes…

Then the Lord told him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land as your possession.” (Genesis 15:7)

What happens next is fascinating…

But Abram replied, “O Sovereign Lord, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it? (Genesis 15:8)

Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever sensed God answering your prayer or leading you to a promise in His word, but then almost immediately you start to doubt or wonder if it’ll really happen? One minute you’re fully confident God will come through, but in the next moment, like Abram, you’re asking, “Lord, how can I be sure?”

God made a promise to Abram, but the circumstances were stacked against him. He believed…but…but how could he really be sure?

The Hebrew word for “sure” in verse 8 is the word “yada”. It means “to know, to learn to know, to perceive, to know by experience…” In Genesis 4:1, “Now Adam had sexual relations with his wife…”, the word for sexual relations is “yada.”

So how does God respond to Abram’s question?

The Lord told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” 10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half. 11 Some vultures swooped down to eat the carcasses, but Abram chased them away.

12 As the sun was going down, Abram fell into a deep sleep, and a terrifying darkness came down over him. 13 Then the Lord said to Abram, “You can be sure that your descendants will be strangers in a foreign land, where they will be oppressed as slaves for 400 years. 14 But I will punish the nation that enslaves them, and in the end they will come away with great wealth. 15 (As for you, you will die in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.) 16 After four generations your descendants will return here to this land, for the sins of the Amorites do not yet warrant their destruction.”

17 After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. 18 So the Lord made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egyptto the great Euphrates River…

God responds by entering into a covenant with Abram. The smoking firepot and flaming torch represented God as He passed between the animals that had been slaughtered and laid out as sacrifices by Abram. This was how a covenant was confirmed. In essence, the two parties to a covenant would pass between the dead animals and say something like, “May this be done to me if I break this covenant.”

What’s significant is that only God passes between the slain animals. Only God obligates Himself to fulfill the covenant.

God says to Abram in verse 13, “You can be sure…” Abram asked how he could know or be sure (yada) God would come through. We can’t see it in our English translation, but in Hebrew God says to Abram “yada yada.” In God’s reply, the word appears not just once, but twice. It’s like saying, “You can certainly be sure.” Abram wanted to be yada. And God said you can be yada yada.

God doesn’t lie. He doesn’t go back on His promises. He’s faithful and He’s able to come through for you. When God says it, you can be sure. You can be certainly sure. You can be yada yada.

God Sees Your Tomorrow

Posted: October 19th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Think about time for a moment. You and I know what happened yesterday. At least we think we do. I have to wonder how often we think we know what happened yesterday or last week or ten years ago, but we actually have the story wrong. So let’s say we sort of know what happened in our lives in the past.

We also know what’s happening now. We know what our needs are. We know the status of our relationships. We know how the current conversation is going. We see the condition of the world, how much money we have in the bank and how healthy, or not, we are. But once again, we don’t have the full or even correct picture.

We think we know how we’re being perceived by others, but often we don’t. If you’re married, how often have you made what seemed to you to be an innocent comment only to have it turn into a full blown argument with your spouse? Misunderstandings happen all the time. We think we know a lot more than we really do.

So we have some limited grasp on the past and on the present. What we don’t know is the future. We have no idea what will happen tomorrow or next week. We have our plans. We have our hopes. We have what we think is going to happen, but we can’t see into the future. It’s pretty much a mystery to us.

That’s never more evident than in Genesis 15 where God speaks to Abram (later he becomes Abraham) in a vision. He tells Abram, “Do not be afraid, Abram, for I will protect you, and your reward will be great.”

In Genesis 12, God had promised to make Abram into a great nation, but some time later, Abram and his wife Sarai (later she becomes Sarah) still have no children. So when God tells Abram to not be afraid and that He will protect and reward him, Abram does what any of us would do. He looks at the past. He looks at the present. And he replies to God with:

“O Sovereign Lord, what good are all your blessings when I don’t even have a son? Since you’ve given me no children, Eliezer of Damascus, a servant in my household, will inherit all my wealth. You have given me no descendants of my own, so one of my servants will be my heir.”

I was struck by the words “since” and “so.” Abram considers his past and his present situation and draws a logical conclusion. “Since you’ve given me no children…a servant…will inherit all my wealth…so one of my servants will be my heir.”

I do that all the time. I evaluate my circumstances and draw a wrong conclusion. God may have said one thing, but because I can’t see how it can be true, I believe something different. And that almost always leads to fear, worry or anxiety. Isn’t it interesting that the very first thing God says to Abram is, “Do not be afraid.”

What are you afraid of today? What’s worrying you? What circumstances or situations have you evaluated, analyzed and agonized over and still not figured out how to fix?

Here’s what we, or at least I, fail to remember: God is never limited by what has already happened or what is happening now. He is never limited by anything or anyone. There’s no situation too hard for Him. He sees what He will do tomorrow. And next week. And six months from now.

Then the Lord said to him, “No, your servant will not be your heir, for you will have a son of your own who will be your heir.” Then the Lord took Abram outside and said to him, “Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!”

When God makes a promise, He not only has the ability to fulfill it, He already knows exactly how He will do it. He sees it as already done. There truly is no reason for us to worry. No reason to panic. No reason to become discouraged and quit. Like Abram, there’s really just one correct response:

And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.

Moments of Doubt

Posted: September 24th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Have you ever felt confident you were in God’s will and then later wondered if you’d made the right decision?

Have you ever had a strong conviction about something only to later completely change your mind?

Do you sometimes feel strong in your faith and in the next moment feel filled with doubt?

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. I know there are times when I feel totally confident in God’s faithfulness and yet a minute later I’m filled with worry and fear.

So what’s going on in times like those? And what can we do about it?

In Matthew 11, Jesus has just finished giving instructions to his disciples before he sends them out to do ministry. Jesus then went out Himself to teach and preach in the surrounding towns. That’s when John the Baptist, who’s in prison, sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question.

“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” Clearly, John knew who Jesus was and felt inadequate to even baptize Him. In the gospel of John, he said of Jesus, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

So what changed? Why is John now wondering if Jesus is the one or if he should keep looking?

Why do you and I start to wonder? Why do you and I start doubt and question God? Why do we doubt His goodness and faithfulness?

I know for me it happens when my circumstances aren’t very good, when difficulties aren’t getting better, when I expected God to work in a certain way and He didn’t.

Maybe John expected to be released from prison. I’m sure he must have prayed about it. It’s easy to become discouraged and begin to doubt when we don’t see God act in the way we’d like or as quickly as we’d like. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but maybe he also had expectations that Jesus would be a political or military savior as well. God had shown him that Jesus would take away the sins of the world–maybe John thought that would also mean overthrowing the Roman occupation and letting him out of prison.

So what does Jesus tell John’s disciples?

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”

Jesus is revealing Himself to the lowly, to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners and to the humble. He’s restoring their physical health and He’s offering spiritual health to those who believe in Him. His kingdom is advancing among “the least of these.” He’s not setting up an earthly kingdom though. Not yet.

Then Jesus ends with, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”

I feel like Jesus is saying, “John, I know it’s hard right now. I know things haven’t gone like you expected. And yes, I could get you out of this right now if I wanted to, but that’s not why I’ve come. You know why I’ve come, so don’t give up, John. Keep trusting Me. Don’t turn away now. Your reward is coming.”

And so is your reward if you don’t turn away.

“It’s Never Been This Bad”

Posted: September 19th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

It seems that way, doesn’t it?

Racial tensions are high.

Radical Islamic terrorists are killing innocent people in more and more countries.

Political divisions in the United States run deep.

The federal government continues to run up debt with no end in sight.

Behaviors that used to be wrong are now seen as right and a dissenting opinion isn’t welcomed.

The marriage rate is at an all-time low.

The Ebola virus is spreading.

The United States has lost control of its southern border.

Christian values, once seen as good and noble, are now viewed as intolerant and unacceptable.

It’s never been this bad. Or has it?

I imagine first century Christians who were being persecuted by the Roman Empire felt it was pretty bad. And those who suffered through the plague during the 1300′s when millions of people died probably felt it was as bad as it had ever been. The Great Depression seemed like the worst it had ever been. And World War I. And World War II. And the list could go on.

In Matthew 10, Jesus is giving His disciples instructions before He sends them out to do ministry. Here’s part of what He told them:

16 “Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves. 17 But beware! For you will be handed over to the courts and will be flogged with whips in the synagogues. 18 You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell the rulers and other unbelievers about me. 19 When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time. 20 For it is not you who will be speaking—it will be the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

21 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed. 22 And all nations will hate you because you are my followers.But everyone who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one town, flee to the next. I tell you the truth, the Son of Man will return before you have reached all the towns of Israel.

24 “Students are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master. 25 Students are to be like their teacher, and slaves are to be like their master. And since I, the master of the household, have been called the prince of demons,the members of my household will be called by even worse names!

26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all. 27 What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!

28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. 30 And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

32 “Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.

34 “Don’t imagine that I came to bring peace to the earth! I came not to bring peace, but a sword.

35 ‘I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 36 Your enemies will be right in your own household!’

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

40 “Anyone who receives you receives me, and anyone who receives me receives the Father who sent me. 41 If you receive a prophet as one who speaks for God, you will be given the same reward as a prophet. And if you receive righteous people because of their righteousness, you will be given a reward like theirs. 42 And if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded.”

I’m pretty sure if I’d just been given those instructions, I’d be thinking it was as bad as it’s ever been. We’re going to be arrested? Flogged? We’re going to stand trial? Family members will betray each other?

What Jesus said to His disciples two thousand years ago is just as applicable today…

  • “Don’t be afraid.” He says it three times.
  • If we love anyone, including family members or our own lives, more than Him, then we’re not worthy of Him.
  • If we acknowledge Him on earth, He’ll acknowledge us before the Father.
  • If we give up our life for Him, we’ll find it.

Is the world in worse shape than it’s ever been? I have no idea. And it’s really not the point.

Jesus is.

9-11 Thoughts and Memories

Posted: September 10th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

World Trade Center 300x197 9 11 Thoughts and Memories

Thirteen years ago today, I flew to Denver with some colleagues for a meeting. I went for a run the next morning. When I got back to the hotel, I learned the first of the two World Trade Center buildings had been attacked. I went back to my room, turned the television on and watched as the second tower was attacked.

I attended our scheduled meeting, but was very distracted. It wasn’t long before we learned all air traffic had been grounded, so we wouldn’t be flying home that day. We decided to keep our rental car and began the drive back to Arkansas on the afternoon of 9-11.

I realized that day that life had changed. We would now be a country at war. Having grown up in New Jersey and seen the New York city skyline countless times, the attack on our country felt personal to me. I also knew my children would grow up during war time.

Today, my oldest daughter is married to a Marine. He has fought in Afghanistan. My second daughter’s husband is in the Army. He has also fought in Afghanistan. My son graduated from high school this year and enlisted in the Navy. After basic training, he will try to qualify for a role in a Navy Special Warfare unit.

As we’ve seen in recent days, the war against terrorism goes beyond Iraq and Afghanistan. The Islamic State and other Muslim terrorist groups are on the march in numerous countries. They see Jews and Christians as enemies to be destroyed, not other faiths to live in peace with.

By the way, I do not believe all Muslims are evil or terrorists. I had lunch last week with a friend of mine who is a Muslim. My family has been to his home for dinner. And a number of years ago, our family had a Muslim man living with us.

There is, however,  a radical element of Islam that is bent on destroying the nation of Israel, the United States and other western countries. Because they cannot be negotiated with, I believe they must be defeated. And that means war. When the nation of Israel entered the Promised Land, God instructed them to kill the inhabitants of the land. These were people who had turned from God, hardened their hearts against Him and were worshiping false gods and idols. It was so bad they even sacrificed to these gods by burning their own children.

God had given the inhabitants of the land of Canaan hundreds of years to change their ways, but they continued in their sinful ways. And so God used the nation of Israel to destroy them.

Terrorism is not new. The father of terrorism has been at it for a very long time. He is also the father of lies. In John 8, Jesus said:

Why can’t you understand what I am saying? It’s because you can’t even hear me!  For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

In the book of Revelation, John wrote about powerful, pain-producing locusts that are released during the end times: Their king is the angel from the bottomless pit; his name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon—the Destroyer.

The battles we see playing out on earth are the manifestations of the battles also being fought in the unseen spiritual realm. Satan–the liar, the murderer, the destroyer–seeks to “steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) In the same verse, Jesus said He came to give us “a rich and satisfying life.”

My other daughter just graduated from college and is moving to Germany to serve with the ministry of Young Life. She will introduce German college students to the One who offers that rich and satisfying life.

You and I, whether we like it or not, are in a war. As I type these words, my son is in the other room watching President Obama’s speech on dealing with the Islamic State (ISIS). I wish it wasn’t necessary for my son and sons-in-law to fight. But we’re in a war and I’m very proud of them for serving our nation and for ultimately fighting to push back the spiritual darkness on earth. I’m proud of my two married daughters who make great sacrifices being married to men in the military. I’m equally proud of my daughter who will leave the comfort of home and move to another nation for eight years because God has “…rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.”

What Do You Expect God to Do?

Posted: September 5th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Don’t you love it when someone exceeds your expectations? It could be your spouse who prepares your favorite meal while you relax. Or a server in a restaurant who anticipates your needs and meets them. It could be an online retailer who ships your order sooner than you expected.

On the other hand, it can be very frustrating and disappointing when we have expectations that go unmet. Even if our expectations were unrealistic or never even expressed, we can still feel disappointed.

When I meet with couples to do their premarital counseling, we talk about expectations they have for marriage. The more they understand their own expectations and their spouse’s the better off they’ll be. Unmet or unrealistic expectations are a relationship-killer.

That’s why it’s critical to understand our expectations of God and whether or not they’re realistic.

You’re probably familiar with the story in Genesis 6 where God sees the extent of human wickedness and decides to destroy every living thing on the earth in a flood. Only Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives will be spared along with pairs of animals. We don’t know exactly how long it took Noah to build the ark, but it’s safe to say it probably took decades.

In Genesis 7, the flood comes and completely covers the earth for five months. At this point, mankind has been wiped out. Only those in the ark survive.

Do you think Noah looked outside after those five months and said something like, “Okay God, mission accomplished. Take away the water now.”

I would have. I would have figured I’d done everything God asked, everyone was now dead, I’d been at this a long time and so it was time for the water to go.

But Genesis 8:1 says, “He sent a wind to blow across the earth, and the floodwaters began to recede.” Verse 3 tells us, “…the floodwaters gradually receded from the earth.”

God sent a wind? The floodwaters gradually receded? Really? Gradually?

If you read all of Genesis 8, you’ll see that Noah, his family and the animals were on the ark for a total of about a year. A year on a boat. With your family. And a lot of stinky animals. Noah was a righteous man, so maybe that means his expectations were realistic, but being under those conditions for a year would be really, really tough.

Without realistic expectations, I can see how Noah would have gotten very angry. I can understand it, because of how I would have felt. I would have reasoned that if God was powerful enough to cover the earth with water, then He could just easily make it all go away. I have the tendency to do that with problems that are much smaller than a worldwide flood.

Isn’t that how we want God to deal with our problems though? Don’t we want Him to just make them go away?

That’s not how He seems to work though. At least not in my life. More often than not, God works gradually. My problems or trials or weaknesses don’t just disappear overnight, they gradually recede as I trust Him and walk with Him. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

If you find yourself feeling angry or disappointed with God, check your expectations. Just because He’s all-powerful and loving, it doesn’t mean He’s going to snap His fingers and fix your problem. What I see is that God is more interested in helping me walk through problems rather than rescuing me from them.

There are days when God does move dramatically. Days when He shows up in some big way in our lives. And I love those days. But today is more likely to be a “gradually recede” day. And that will require me to have realistic expectations and walk with Him by faith.

Harmony or Disharmony?

Posted: August 26th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Harmony Matrix 300x225 Harmony or Disharmony?

If you’re experiencing frustration as you try to live the Christian life, it may be due to a conflict between your nature and your behavior.

In the matrix I sketched above, you’ll see that the person living in the lower left quadrant is experiencing harmony between their nature and their behavior. Their nature is sinful and generally speaking, their behavior is also. It doesn’t mean they aren’t happy at times or even much of the time. It simply means they are living consistently with their nature. Of course, ultimately they will feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied, because we were designed to live in relationship with God, and this person isn’t.

The person in the upper right quadrant is also living in harmony with their identity. This person has placed their faith in Christ, experienced forgiveness for their sin and has been given a new nature. They are relying on God for the power and wisdom to live according to their new nature. It doesn’t mean they’ve become perfect or never sin. It does mean they are in a process of becoming more like Christ and experiencing the life God intended.

The person in the lower right quadrant may be trying to live like they have a new nature. They may think they’ve placed their faith in Christ, but haven’t. They may think their own goodness or morality will please God. Ultimately though, they will become frustrated because their nature or true identity does not allow them to live the life God desires for them.

The person in the upper left quadrant is also frustrated. This person has trusted Christ and received forgiveness, but has forgotten or never understood their new nature. They have either reverted to living as they used to or have continued to live according to their sinful nature. They are looking to get their legitimate physical, emotional and spiritual needs met in ways that don’t bring fulfillment or please God.

Let me encourage you to read the passages I’ve shown in the matrix.

Which quadrant best describes you?

Obviously, we all want to experience the upper right one, where we experience love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. If that’s not you, it can be. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be easy though. It’s a battle.

Are You Ready?

Posted: July 19th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

If you could get a glimpse of your life five years from today, would you want to see it?

Are you sure?

If halfway through my senior year of high school I’d been given a glimpse of my life five years later, I wouldn’t have believed it. My life looked nothing like I expected it would.

For some of us, our lives will be better than we imagine in five years. For others, five years from now may mean a battle with cancer or unemployment. So would you want to know? I don’t think I would.

God isn’t really in the habit of telling most of us what’s going to happen in the future, but in Matthew 24, Jesus actually does tell His disciples what the future holds. He tells them He’s going to return to earth one day. And when He returns, some people will be rewarded and some will be punished. He never reveals exactly when it will be, but He gives signs to look for.

Jesus also says that when He returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day…

“When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day. In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 24:36-39)

On the day Jesus returns, people will be going about their normal lives. Just like they were in the days of Noah. And we won’t even realize what’s about to happen.

Does the world have a way of making you numb to the reality of Christ’s return? It does to me.

I’m not expecting Jesus to come back today. Are you? As I type this, it’s a beautiful summer day in Fayetteville, Arkansas. It’s mostly sunny and 78 degrees. I’m sure there are lots of people working in their yards, taking walks, enjoying time on the lake, playing golf, etc. They’re going about their normal lives.

I’ll bet no one is thinking Jesus could come back today.

But He could.

Are you ready?

Do you know who will be rewarded and who will be punished? Do you know on what basis Jesus will decide? Do you know what He expects of you until He returns?

If not, then you’re not ready.

My Dog Died 368 Days Ago

Posted: May 15th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

You’ll find over 570 posts on this blog, but today’s is a little different. I’m using a guest writer for the first time. The guest is actually my youngest daughter, Amy.  With her permission, I’m using a post from her blog, “Everyone Has a Story.” If you’re interested in following her journey, you can do so by clicking here. Here you go…

My oldest sister begged and begged our parents for a dog when my siblings and I were little. They finally caved when I was seven. And, y’all, I was the happiest seven-year-old in the world when we brought Ivy home. She was the most timid, shy, sweet, little beagle. And I fell madly in love with her.

Ivy was a family dog, sure. But she was my dog. And I was her human.

One of my parents’ rules about Ivy was that she had to sleep downstairs in her kennel at night. But Ivy didn’t like that. She howled and she whined and she cried herself to sleep in that stupid kennel. After one night of this, I decided I didn’t like this stupid rule either. After my parents went to bed, I would sneak downstairs, take Ivy out of her kennel, and bring her upstairs to sleep with me. I would then wake up early to take her back downstairs before my parents woke up. It didn’t take long before we kicked the kennel to the curb and my parents accepted that Ivy was gonna sleep with me every night.

Fast forward eight years.

When I was 15 and Ivy was 8, my parents replaced the carpet in our house. We were moving to Fayetteville in a year and they were trying to get the house ready to sell. Another stupid rule I didn’t like: Ivy was not allowed on the new carpet. My parents bought baby gates and a dog bed, and Ivy was to be confined to the kitchen where there was tile.

Okay… Ivy’s been sleeping in my bed for eight years. This wasn’t gonna go over well.

Fine. You’re gonna make my dog sleep on the cold tile. You’re gonna make your daughter sleep on the cold tile too then. And I moved my bedroom into the kitchen. Partly because I was mad at my parents and wanted to spite them. But mostly because I loved Ivy. (My parents and I have great relationships now. No worries.)

Fast forward a couple more years to Ivy happily allowed to roam the whole house, not just the kitchen, in Fayetteville.

She liked to sit on top of the couch and look out the window. She knew which cars belonged to her humans and which belonged to strangers, and when one of her humans’ cars pulled into the driveway, she would get so excited. She would jump off the couch and tap dance to the door to greet her humans. Her nails would click, click, click on the wooden floor, her tail would wag, and she would whimper for days as she licked and jumped.

This was only a problem when I was sneaking back into the house at 4am after a night out with a boy.

Most people who entered our home didn’t understand Ivy. They didn’t understand her timid, shy “lack of personality.” But Ivy had a big personality and only those whom she loved got see it. Ivy loved her people. And she loved them well.

She loved me well even when I didn’t want her to. Like when I was trying to be quiet at 4am. She loved me when I was happy. When I was sad. When my heart was broken. She just loved to love. And be loved.

Fast forward a few more years to the end of my junior year of college.

Ivy died around 2:00pm on May 10th, 2013, just 10 days before her 14th birthday. The vet gave us our options and my parents said that it was up to me. But all of the options sucked because they all left me without my dog. It was just a matter of when I would be left without her. How long would I selfishly, desperately hope the treatment would work, knowing that it wouldn’t, prolonging her pain and discomfort?

The one-year anniversary of Ivy’s death was this past Saturday. This past Saturday was also the day that I graduated from college. As happy as I was walking across that stage in heels that were slowly killing my feet, I couldn’t help but think that a year ago at this time I was telling the vet without a second thought to “just put her down.” It was the right decision. But I hated making it.

I don’t like when other people talk about Ivy. Even when it’s good things. Only when I bring her up is it okay to talk about her. I know that’s not fair or okay. But that’s how I’ve felt this past year, and especially these past three days as I’ve happily celebrated my graduation, while also mourning her death.

Josh Billings said, “A dog is the only thing on Earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

“Dogs give unconditional love so you will be teensy bit prepared for God’s love when you die and meet Him. Otherwise, God’s love would knock you flat.”

Those are the wise words from Trixie Koontz in Bliss to You by Dean Koontz.

I’ve spent the past three days thinking a lot about God’s love. Ivy was the sweetest gift God could have given seven-year-old me to show me, even just a tiny, tiny, tiny bit, how much He loves me.

I’ve never been in love. And I don’t have a child. So I know I haven’t experienced the capacity of how much a human can love. But I do know that I loved Ivy. And if I loved a dog that much… It’s overwhelming to think of how much more I can love. And it’s even more overwhelming to think of how much God loves me. I don’t even know how to fathom that kind of love. A fierce, unconditional, sacrificial, overwhelming, passionate love that makes my love for a dog look like nothing. I can’t imagine that kind of love. And yet it exists. And God loves me with that kind of love because He is that kind of love.

Mind blown.