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.

Are You Tormenting Yourself?

Posted: May 14th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

birds 300x200 Are You Tormenting Yourself?

Worry: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts. To give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

To torment oneself. To dwell on difficulty or troubles.

Do you do that? Do you worry? I hate to admit it, but I do. It’s a serious character flaw. It’s a great weakness and sin for me.

My mother used to worry a lot. When I was young and thought I knew everything, I once said to her, “Just don’t worry.” If she was still alive, I’d apologize. Telling someone to just stop worrying isn’t helpful. It’s like telling someone to stop feeling sad. Or stop feeling jealous.

I’ve said it before, but you can’t just change your feelings. You have to change your thoughts.

Several days ago, I dropped my wife off at the airport early in the morning. As I was leaving airport, there was a bird flying down the road in front of me at eye level. I was following the bird like it was a car in front of me. Finally, it changed direction and flew out of sight. As I continued home, I became aware of more and more birds. They’d fly across the road right in front of me. They were next to the road and would take off just as I passed them. They seemed to be everywhere I looked.

Then it hit me. “Look at the birds.”

In Matthew 6:26-27, Jesus says:

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

Several verses later, speaking again about our material needs, Jesus says:

“These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:32-33)

When I torment myself with disturbing thoughts or dwell on difficulty or troubles, I’m acting just like someone that doesn’t even know Jesus. I’m completely forgetting that my heavenly Father knows all my needs. In fact, He knows them better than I do.

Jesus has a solution. It’s to seek the Kingdom of God above all else and obey him (live righteously). Then the Father will give us what we need.

What about you? Are you worried about getting your needs met?

“Look at the birds.” And remember what God has promised. Choose to seek Him and obey Him. He will come through for you.

How to Change Your Feelings

Posted: April 30th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Earlier today, I was talking with a friend who had some skin cancer removed this week. He has to wait nine more days for the pathology report to learn whether the cancer cells were contained or if they’ve possibly spread to his lymph nodes. I commented about how hard it would be to wait for nine more days. His response was, “I don’t care. God is sovereign.”

What my friend is really saying is, “I don’t have to care, because I know God does and He’s the one who’s in control.”

His thought or belief is: God cares about him and is in control of whatever happens.

The feeling that results is: peace.

Thoughts produce feelings.

If I had three pieces of information about someone, I think I’d be able to accurately tell you how they were feeling…whether they were: Happy? Hopeful? Anxious? Worried? Peaceful? Stressed? Calm? Fearful? Angry? Discouraged? Loved?

Here’s what I’d need to know:

1. What do they read?

2. Who or what do they listen to?

3. Who or what do they look at or watch?

Given that information, I’d know how someone was feeling. Why?

Because if I know what they’re filling their mind with, then I’ll have a good idea what they’re thinking. And if I know what they’re thinking, then I know how they’re feeling, because again, thoughts produce feelings.

How do you feel today?

If it’s something negative like fear, worry or anxiety, then the solution is to change your thoughts. And of course that’s much easier said than done. My friend didn’t just wake up this morning and start believing God was sovereign. I guarantee that’s a belief he has cultivated for many years.

What thoughts have you been cultivating for many years? Are they true? Are you believing the truth about God? Yourself? Life? Or have you mostly filled your mind with ideas and principles from the world system?

Your feelings will let you know.

In Philippians 4:4-9, Paul writes…

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Regardless of what you’re going through–peace can be yours. You can present your requests to Him and His peace will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. And you can choose to think about the things that are true and to put them into practice and the God of peace will be with you.

I’m not suggesting this is easy. It’s a battle. A moment by moment battle. And it’s fought in the mind.

Anything good is worth fighting for, right?

Take an inventory of your thoughts today. Where are they coming from? If you’re feeling anxious or fearful–stop for a moment and trace your thoughts back. What thought led to that feeling? What truth needs to replace the wrong thought? We have to learn to do this because…

Thoughts produce feelings.

The Best is Yet to Come

Posted: April 28th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Someone I used to work with was killed by a tornado last night along with two of his children. He leaves behind a wife and seven children. Others I know suffered damage to their homes.

A friend with cancer seems to be getting worse, not better, despite numerous rounds of chemotherapy and now experimental drugs.

I have several friends whose marriages are struggling.

Others I know are praying and hoping and waiting for God to answer their prayers for guidance, for jobs, for miracles.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation.

In my immediate family, we’re not in the midst of tragedy, but there are days when I feel a low-grade sadness. It’s like having a fever of 99.1. You don’t feel terrible, but you know something’s just not right. My two youngest children will graduate next month–my daughter from college and my son from high school. My daughter will then raise her support and move to Germany where she will serve with Young Life doing college ministry. My son will report to basic training for the Navy this fall. I will greatly miss both of them as I do my two oldest daughters.

I will miss the days Amy and I used to run together. I will miss our lunch dates. I will miss making my son’s lunch to take to school. I will miss all those days of picking him up after football practice. I will miss having all my children together on Christmas morning. There are many, many things I will miss.

I’m reminded that loss and sadness and suffering and death were never meant to be. They are consequences of living in a broken world.

Fortunately, we catch glimpses and get tastes of what life was supposed to be. A meaningful conversation with a friend. A delicious meal. Being together as a family. A warm, sunny day without a care in the world. The thrill and pleasure of sex between husband and wife. And actually believing, beyond a doubt, that we’re loved by God.

I was 19-years-old when I first understood that my sin had separated me from God and that I needed to be forgiven. It was during my freshman year of college that I placed my trust in Jesus to forgive me. So I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what it was like to not have an assurance that I was forgiven, that heaven was a certainty (not just a wish or a hope) and that no matter what I face in this life–God’s grace is sufficient.

I cannot imagine dealing with the loss of a spouse or child, facing cancer or enduring unmet longings without the confidence that there’s more than this life, that God’s love is real and unending. Evil doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win. Both were defeated when Jesus died and came back to life. And one day, He will return, not as a suffering Savior, but as the Supreme Ruler of the universe He created. He will come back to earth and make things right, as they were meant to be.

Sadly, for those who reject Christ’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life, this life is as good as it will get. The pain, the loneliness, the grief…those are just a taste of what’s to come.

But for those of us who have trusted Christ, the best is yet to come. For now we may grieve and suffer and long for how things were supposed to be (and will one day be), but our greatest joys and pleasures are ahead of us. Jesus said…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)

The Zombie-Like Christian Life

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

zombie 203x300 The Zombie Like Christian Life

Let’s be honest. How would you describe your Christian life?

Would you describe it as frustrating or fulfilling? Are you most often discouraged and defeated or joyful and hopeful? Do you feel like God is more disappointed or delighted in you?

If the Christian life hasn’t been working so well, take a moment and read the following three verses…

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Kind of depressing, isn’t it? (I promise this will get better.)

Here are some of the key words:

  • dead
  • transgressions
  • sins
  • ruler of the kingdom of the air (referring to Satan)
  • disobedient
  • gratifying…our flesh
  • deserving of wrath

So who is Paul describing here?

You. Me. All of us.

Our bodies were alive, but we were dead. Like zombies.

We were living according to the ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. And 1 John 5:19 tells us “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Satan is the one pulling the strings behind the world’s systems and values, so when we live according to the world’s principles, we’re living according to his principles.

And because we had no spiritual life in us, we naturally gratified the desires of the flesh and followed its desires and thoughts. We didn’t have anything else.

Again, kind of depressing. (It’s about to get better though.)

I don’t know about you, but before I placed my faith in Christ, I didn’t know any better. Living according to the world’s principles and gratifying my flesh was all I knew. I was concerned with making life work according to the only principles I knew (the world’s) and doing whatever I could to gratify the flesh.

Then something happened.

I met Jesus when I got to college. The God who’d previously been irrelevant, changed my life. Here’s how Paul describes it…

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

But. The whole passage hinges on that one word. But.

“But because of his great love for us…”

Rather than describing the wrath we deserved, the rest of the passage tells us what he did for us, how he did it, why he did it and what we have to look forward to. All because of His great love for us. It’s worth reading it again. And again. And again. Until it sinks in.

If it doesn’t sink in, then we naturally default back to living the way Paul describes in the first three verses. That’s when life gets frustrating. Here’s why…

Before we knew Christ, we only knew one way to do life–the world’s way. And so we followed the thoughts and desires of the flesh and did the best we could to get our needs met. Things didn’t always go our way, but there were no thoughts of an entirely different way of life. There was also no internal conflict. We didn’t have the flesh pulling us one way and the Spirit pulling us the other way. We only had the flesh.

But now when we choose to do life the old way, we have the pull and conviction of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us of the new life. The better life. The Christ life. He will not let us feel good about the old way of life.

When we’ve placed our faith in Jesus and then choose (intentionally or not) to live according to the ways of the world and we follow the thoughts and desires of the flesh, we don’t ever experience true life. What we get is a zombie-like Christian life. It’s like we’re alive, but not really. We’re not dead any more, but what we are sure isn’t pretty.

Are there areas of your life (work, money, food, sex, a relationship, etc.) you’re continuing to live according to the ways of the world? Has gratifying the flesh taken priority over pleasing God?

Give Him control. Seek Him through His word to discover His ways of handling those areas of your life.

It’s time to move from undead to fully alive.

Change Your Identity to Change Your Marriage

Posted: February 13th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , | No Comments »

couple silhoutte 200x300 Change Your Identity to Change Your MarriageI love watching the Olympics. I especially love the winter games. Every event is fascinating to me. I’m in awe of anyone who can cross country ski 18 miles. Or ski down a mountain at 70 miles per hour. Or do a 1080 on a snowboard. Years of dedication and hard work go into competing at that level. Not every Olympic athlete wins a medal, but they all have a goal of being the best they can be.

What if you approached your marriage with the same perspective?

Winning a gold medal is an incredible achievement, but it’s not even close to being as important as your marriage.

So what if you decided to be the absolute best husband or wife you could be?

One of the very first things you will have to do is see yourself differently. An Olympic speed skater has a different mindset than the person who throws on a pair of skates for fun once in awhile. An Olympian thinks like an Olympian, talks like an Olympian, trains like an Olympian and competes like an Olympian.

If your goal is to be the very best husband or wife you can be, then you’ll need to see yourself that way. Your thinking and your focus will change. Old thoughts or habits that don’t line up with your new identity will be replaced with actions that put your spouse before yourself. A great husband focuses on his wife’s needs, not just his own. And a great wife focuses on her husband’s needs, not just her own.

The best thing you can do for your marriage is to decide right now that you will be the best husband or wife you can be. Your new identity is “world class husband or wife.” It’s okay if you make mistakes. It’s okay if you don’t feel like a gold medal spouse. The best Olympic athletes still fail big sometimes, but they pick themselves up and keep going.

Of course changing your identity is just the first step. The sacrifices, the training, the learning, the hard work–all that comes next, but it begins with a decision. It begins with choosing to adopt a new identity. It has to start there, because if you don’t believe it first, you’ll never live it out.

Pulling Back the Curtain

Posted: February 12th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Curtain Pulled Back 300x204 Pulling Back the Curtain

Do you ever wonder why God does some of the things He does? Or doesn’t do other things?

I do.

Do you ever ask, “Why God?” or “God, where are You?”

I do.

Let’s be honest, we don’t have God figured out. And never will. In fact, in Isaiah 55:8-9, God says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This is His universe. It’s His story. He’s under no obligation to explain Himself to us.

Sometimes that can make life painful or confusing, especially when our prayers go unanswered. We pray for things that mean a lot to us, but nothing happens. At least not anything we can see. It can feel like God isn’t listening or if He is listening that He doesn’t care.

In John 11, I believe God pulls back the curtain and lets us see what He’s up to during those times when life seems to be falling apart and He doesn’t seem to be showing up.

Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, is sick. So naturally, his sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” That’s a really interesting way to talk about someone. “The one you love.” Obviously, there’s a special friendship there.

Naturally, the sisters, just as you and I would, expect Jesus to come and heal their brother. That’s not what Jesus does though. Instead, He pulls back the curtain for us and gives us a glimpse into the spiritual realm. He lets us see He’s up to something far bigger than just healing someone. In verse 4, Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.”

Jesus pulls back the curtain with the words “so that.” What’s really going on here? The sickness will not end in death “so that God’s son may be glorified through it.” With that being the primary mission, what happens next in verses 5 and 6 makes sense…

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…”

The whole story hinges on the word, “So.” Lazarus is sick. He’s loved by Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha, are loved by Jesus. “So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, Jesus immediately departed for Bethany.”

No, that’s not what happens. Jesus doesn’t immediately depart. He waits. For two days.

Two days may not seem like very long, but it is when someone you love is dying before your eyes. It’s a long time when you’re crying out for God’s help, but no answer appears. Most likely, you’ve prayed for something for much longer than two days. Maybe it’s been two months. Or two years. Or ten.

When the answer we want doesn’t come or doesn’t come quickly, it’s easy to lose heart, isn’t it? It’s easy to give up. Sometimes we begin to question God’s love and goodness. I’ve done that. I’ve doubted Him. And I’ve gotten angry. I’ve allowed disappointment with life to become disappointment with God.

But behind the circumstances you and I are facing, there’s always something bigger going on. The big story is God’s glory. When God shows up by either changing our circumstances or giving us the peace and endurance to keep going…He is glorified. Those around us get to see God at work.

The story of Lazarus continues though and we get to see the curtain pulled back again.

When Jesus gets ready to leave for Bethany, He tells His disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”

He does it again. He pulls back the curtain and lets us see what’s really going on. He says He’s glad He wasn’t there to heal Lazarus, so that they would believe.

When you and I face painful or confusing circumstances, when life throws more at us than we think we can handle, let’s remember God is at work growing our faith. He wants us to see Him at work so our capacity to trust Him grows.

God sees your situation. He knows the desire of your heart. He’s aware of the unmet need. He’s not unconcerned. He loves you deeply. So…maybe He hasn’t answered your prayer yet…or in the way you wanted Him to, so that He will be glorified and so that you will believe. Will God always answer the way we want? No, but when He doesn’t, we still have the promise of His peace.

Whatever you’re facing today…remember to pull back the curtain and take a peek at what God is up to.

Family Reunion

Posted: January 30th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a family reunion. I think the last one was about twenty-five years ago. Since both of my parents have passed away, I haven’t done a very good job of staying in touch with my extended family.

My mom’s side of the family is spread out now. My dad’s side of the family is mostly in Pennsylvania. Robyn and I have lived in Arkansas for the past twenty-five years, which has made it difficult to visit family or attend reunions.

Two of my children, Rachel and Erica, are already married and live far enough away that we don’t see them very often. My daughter, Amy, is about to graduate from college and is most likely headed to Europe to serve with Young Life for a few years. And my son will soon be enlisting in the Navy. It’s not like I’ll never see my children again, but it’s not the same as when they were little.

A number of years ago, it occurred to me that up until a child graduates from high school, you see him or her almost every day of their life. But after they graduate, there are many more days you will not see them for the rest of their life. At least that’s been the case for me. After high school, I went off to college and spent very little time in my hometown after that.

I think it’s good and healthy to establish a new life, independent of parents. That’s especially important when a child gets married. Being overly bonded to parents is not a recipe for a healthy marriage.

And yet, I do hope Robyn and I can live near our children some day. I want to know them and enjoy a relationship with them as adults. I want to know my grandchildren when they come along. And if I live long enough, I’d like to meet my great-grandchildren.

And that brings me to something I am beginning to pray. My prayer is that Robyn and I would be able to have a family reunion some day with all of our descendents and their spouses. I did a little math…if our four children were to each have just two children of their own and then those eight children got married and had two children each…after ten generations there would be over 8,000 of us.

I want all 8,000+ to come into a relationship with Jesus, to walk with Him and serve Him and to raise the next generation to do the same. And one day when we’re all living in heaven, I want to have a family reunion. I want to meet my great-great-great-great-great granddaughter…and her husband…and their children. I want to meet all of my descendents and their spouses. And for that matter, I’d like to meet those from whom I descended. Have you ever stopped to consider that all of us have descended from Noah and his wife? In that sense, we’re all related.

By the way, don’t think of a heavenly family reunion as floating around in the clouds as spirits. That’s not a biblical view of heaven. Read Genesis 1 and 2. Then read Revelation 21 and 22. Heaven will be on earth one day. Sure, the earth is a messed up place now, but it won’t always be this way. God is going to restore it to His original design. He’s going to make it new again, the way it was supposed to be before sin entered the picture.

Heaven will be on earth, where we’ll live together with God. We’ll work. We’ll play. We’ll eat and drink. We’ll learn and explore and discover. We’ll worship God. And we’ll live in relationship with each other.

I’d love to take a walk with one of my daughters and her daughter and her daughter and her daughter…

I’d love to grab a football and throw it with my son and his son and his son and his son…

I hope we get to have a family reunion in a meadow with a hill nearby so Robyn and I can walk to the top of it, look out over our descendents and rejoice at how greatly God blessed us.

Screen Shot 2013 12 17 at 3.27.23 PM 300x235 Family Reunion

My family...many years ago...

The Eyes of Your Heart

Posted: January 26th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Not everything is as it appears. In fact, nothing is as it appears.

After Jesus delivers His first public sermon, He comes down off the mountain and a man with leprosy approaches him and kneels before Him and says, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!”

Immediately the man was cured.

Soon after, Jesus is approached by a centurion whose servant was paralyzed and suffering greatly. Jesus asks the man, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion tells Jesus he doesn’t deserve to have him come to his home, but if he will just say the word, his servant will be healed. Matthew tells us that Jesus was amazed by the man’s faith. So Jesus says, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.”

After this encounter, Jesus goes to Peter’s house where he heals many people and casts demons out of others. When he sees the crowd around him, he gives orders to the disciples to cross over to the other side of the lake.

During the crossing, a furious storm suddenly comes up on the lake. The storm is so bad the disciples are afraid for their lives. Meanwhile, Jesus is sleeping. Can you picture it? Jesus has been in high demand. He’s healed many people. He’s been casting out demons. He’s tired. And despite a furious storm, he’s taking a nap.

Apparently, the disciples have not put two and two together. In the midst of the storm, they’ve forgotten who they’re with and what they’ve seen. They’ve forgotten how Jesus healed the man with leprosy. They’ve forgotten how Jesus commended the centurion for his faith. They’ve forgotten all the people Jesus healed right before they got into the boat.

All they can see is what’s right in front of them. They see wind whipping through their sails. They see the waves coming over the side of the boat. They see they’re only minutes from drowning.

What they’re not seeing is the truth. In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” The truth was that they were not going to drown. The truth was that they were going to safely cross over to the other side of the lake. Why? Because Truth himself was in the boat with them.

The disciples were only seeing with their physical eyes. And that will always lead to worry, anxiety, fear and even panic.

You and I simultaneously live in two realms. We live in the material, physical realm with car problems, health issues, relationship troubles, bills to pay and furious storms. But we also live in a spiritual realm. In Ephesians, Paul calls it the “heavenly realms.” And living in the heavenly realms requires we see with the eyes of our heart. Paul prays, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…”

If we are going to successfully navigate the storms of life, we must learn to see with the eyes of our heart. We will need the wisdom and revelation that comes from God’s Spirit. As Paul did, we will need to pray the eyes of our heart are enlightened. Why? Because our default mode is to only process life through our five senses and our common sense.

Walking by faith and seeing with the eyes of our heart isn’t natural. It’s supernatural. It requires we live in dependence on God’s Spirit and learn to listen to Him as we spend time in His word. It’s remembering every situation, every relationship, every problem you face…everyday single day…is simultaneously occurring in two realms.

Nothing is as it appears.

The truest thing about you and your life is what God says, not what you say.

The story, your story is rarely over when you think it’s over.

You’ll realize that only as you choose to see with the eyes of your heart.