Reminded of Grace

Posted: April 8th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other, Truth | 1 Comment »

Yesterday, in another blog I contribute to, I wrote about how messed up we all are and how deeply sin has affected us. Yet because of God’s grace, we are forgiven and completely accepted. God is not disappointed or angry with us when we sin. I concluded with encouragement to reaffirm that grace to our children.

Today, I had to confront someone close to me about some issues that had been brought to my attention. Would I respond in anger or with disappointment?

My words from yesterday immediately came back to me.

Rather than being angry or disappointed and causing this person to feel shame or guilt, I expressed love and grace and discussed the issues in a way that called the best out of this person. The response I received could not have been any better.

I haven’t always done it this well. I have failed many times.

What made the difference this time? Simply remembering God’s grace. I need it. So do you.

You’re going to sin. I will, too. We don’t need to be manipulated and made to feel bad. We need to be reminded of the grace of God that covers our sin and calls us to something greater.


Expect Opposition

Posted: April 3rd, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Other | 1 Comment »

I posted about it recently, but it shows up again in Nehemiah 4. Opposition.

If you’re attempting anything for God…you’ll experience opposition. Don’t be surprised by it. Just expect it. And don’t be surprised by the source of it.

The Jews who were rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem were ridiculed by their enemies, but they were also reminded by fellow Jews that bad stuff could happen. You may not expect your friends or co-workers to be your opposition, but through their negative talk, they can be just that.

If Nehemiah and the other workers had listened to the negative talk coming from every direction, they would have become discouraged and given up. Read the chapter and pay particular attention to verses 7 to 12.

Unfortunately, our faith can often be very fragile. It may not take much opposition for you to become discouraged or fearful or anxious, so be very careful in choosing the people with whom you will share your dreams and goals.

Look for friends who will feed your faith, not quench it.


Heaps and High Places

Posted: March 19th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | No Comments »

In 2 Chronicles 29-32, we see the reign of King Hezekiah. Check it out.

One of the things Hezekiah did was to invite people from all over Judah and Israel to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, something they had not been doing. After seven days of celebration, “the whole assembly then agreed to celebrate the festival seven more days; so for another seven days they celebrated joyfully.”

The party was so good they just kept going for another week. How awesome is that?

So what happened after this great mountain top experience? Did they fall into sin again? Did they go back home and forget the Lord? Not this time.

There were at least two positive outcomes of the celebration:

1. When they went back home, “the Israelites…smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. They destroyed the high places and the altars…”

In other words, they got serious about worshiping the one true God. They got rid of their idols and lesser gods.

2. Hezekiah ordered the people living in Jerusalem to give to the priests and Levites and “as soon as the order went out, the Israelites generously gave the firstfruits of their grain, new wine, oil and honey and all that the fields produced. They brought a great amount, a tithe of everything.”

The giving went on for four months. There was so much given that they piled everything in heaps. Hezekiah asked the priests about the heaps.

The chief priest said, “Since the people began to bring their contributions to the temple of the Lord, we have had enough to eat and plenty to spare, because the Lord has blessed His people, and this great amount is left over.”

So here’s what I wonder…does celebrating God lead to true worship and generous giving? And does a lack of celebration keep us in bondage to idols and inhibit our giving?


Conflict

Posted: March 17th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | 1 Comment »

Conflict is what makes a great story. The protagonist wants something, but is thwarted by internal and external obstacles. He must keep moving and growing to overcome those obstacles so he can achieve his goal.

Think about the movies we love. Lord of the Rings. Star Wars. Rocky. They all have great characters who must overcome great obstacles.

What we love in books and movies, we don’t like so much in real life. At least I don’t.

I don’t want to overcome obstacles. I want God to remove them before I get to them. I want things to be easy.

That doesn’t make a very good story though. Good stories need characters who overcome.

Are you overcoming?


News Boycott

Posted: March 16th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | 2 Comments »

Do you watch the news? If you do, I’m curious…why?

It’s almost always bad.

And what I really can’t figure out are the news talk shows where people sit around and talk about the bad news. It’s bad enough to report it and listen to it, but to talk about it for an hour or watch other people talk about it, well, I just don’t get it.

Now some might say I’m in denial, that I’m refusing to acknowledge how bad the economy is or that it’s important to be informed.

Well, that thinking is a load of you know what.

Has God lost control of the universe because America (and much of the world) is in a recession? Have His promises lost value as the stock market has?

It’s not denial to refuse to watch the news. It’s denial to fill your mind with bad news, then live under a cloud of fear and impending doom. You’re denying God’s care and promises.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”

Are you afraid? Worried? Anxious?

What are you allowing into your mind? Do you start the day by reading the newspaper? Do you end your day by watching the news?

No wonder you’re filled with negative emotions. Stop it. Turn off the negativity at the source. Boycott the news. Replace it with the truth of God’s word. Go ahead, give it a try.

Don’t stop there though, encourage someone else to join you. You’re going to infect others with your thinking anyway…why not infect them with truth, not fear?


When You Don’t Know What To Do

Posted: March 13th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | 1 Comment »

Have you ever been in a situation that was so bad, so hard or so confusing that you didn’t even know what to do? You just felt stuck. Paralyzed.

I’ve been there.

Maybe you were facing a mountain of debt or an overwhelmingly bad medical diagnosis or a spouse who was ready to walk out. Maybe you’re facing one of those now.

I wish I had an easy answer for your situation. I don’t.

To be honest, I think God actually likes it when we don’t know what to do. When we know what to do, or at least think we do, we tend to not seek His counsel. We tend to rely on our own ideas, our own wisdom, our own schemes. We do what seems right or best to us. And that’s usually not a very good idea.

The thing is, God’s ways are just so different than mine:

I don’t want to walk by faith. I want to see how things are going to work out.

I don’t want to suffer. I want to be comfortable.

I don’t want to wait. I want it now.

In 2 Chronicles 20, the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat, learns that “a vast army” is coming to attack him. It says, “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord…”

He called together all the people of Judah to seek the Lord. He leads the people in prayer and concludes with these words:

“For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.”

What “vast army” are you facing today? Is it a financial issue? A rebellious child? An addiction of some kind? Maybe it’s a negative emotion you just can’t shake…loneliness, anger, depression or worry.

How you exhausted your own strength and ideas? Out of options?

Maybe it’s time to say, “I don’t know what to do, Lord, but my eyes are upon You.”

It worked for Jehoshaphat. Check it out.

One last thought…

Don’t get discouraged if God doesn’t show up when or how you think He should. He rarely will, at least in my experience. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration if you simply present your circumstances to Him, tell Him you don’t know what to do…and then let Him be God and do what’s best.


Fully Committed

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | No Comments »

When I turned 16, I got on my bike and went looking for a job. I got hired at a Kentucky Fried Chicken (now shrewdly named “KFC”). My job was cleaning the dining room and emptying garbage. At the end of my shift, my skin would be slick from all the grease in the air. It was a nasty job.

The next summer, between my sophomore and junior year of high school, I worked for the school district. My friend and I would go from school to school cutting grass and weed-eating along the curbs. We started at 6:00 a.m. and finished at 2:30 p.m. (before it got too hot). It really wasn’t such a bad job. It just meant getting up early.

The next summer, before my senior year, I went to my dad with a request. I asked him if I could train for football instead of working. It meant I wouldn’t be earning any money and would need money from him. He gave me the okay.

So I continued through the summer the training program I’d been on all year. I lifted weights. I ran. I lifted more weights. I ran on the beach with other guys on my team. I worked hard…at football. And it paid off. I was named to the all-county team, played in an all-star game and received three awards. One was for outstanding defensive player of the year. Another was a scholar-athlete award. The third was for weight-lifter of the year. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the playoffs despite a 7-1-1 record.

I was fully committed to football in 1980. I didn’t play other sports. I didn’t have a summer job. I trained for football. That was it. I was fully committed.

What am I fully committed to now?

Well, I’m committed to a lot of things. Family. Job/ministry. Paying bills. Working out. A few friends. Writing in this blog.

But what am I fully committed to? Like I was to football in 1980.

The reason I’m asking myself the question is because 2 Chronicles 16:9 says:

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

So I wonder…do His eyes stop on me…or does He have to keep looking?


The Opposite of Prayer

Posted: March 8th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | No Comments »

The opposite of prayer is not prayerlessness. It’s anxiety.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

We have the privilege of presenting our requests to God, then enjoying His peace. We don’t need to live in a state of anxiety.

I’ll admit, it’s much easier said than done. I find it very easy to worry about my circumstances, to be fearful about the future.

The key is to present our requests to God and then leave them with Him. My requests have a way of following me around and continuing to produce anxiety. If that happens to you, just stop and present them again. Refuse to take them back. You can’t do anything with them, other than become anxious again.

They’re much better left with God who always knows what to do with them.


When God Seems Distant

Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | No Comments »

Do you ever feel like God is…I don’t know, not really playing fair?

For example, you have a need…it could be financial or for healing or just for wisdom to know what to do. So you pray and seek God. You trust Him to answer your prayer.

But nothing happens. Sometimes things get even worse.

At best, God seems silent. At worst, it can seem like He really doesn’t care or isn’t even being true to His own promises.

Has God stopped caring or is He really failing to honor His word?

No…it just feels like it.

That’s why I’ve got to constantly remind myself that God is good, loving, faithful and all-powerful. I also need to remember He’s more interested in growing my character and faith than making me comfortable.

So what can we do when God seems silent or distant or inactive?

Choose to believe the truth about Him. Continue to seek Him. Trust Him no matter what.

What other choice do we really have?


True Blessing

Posted: March 5th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Other | No Comments »

If I said to you, “I’m really blessed,” what would you think?

That I got a raise?

That my family and I are enjoying good health?

That my child earned straight “A’s”?

What if I said, “I’m out of options. I have nowhere else to turn. God is all I’ve got left. I sure am blessed.”

Or, “I just lost my dad after his battle with leukemia. I’m really blessed.”

Would it sound genuine to you? I don’t think it would to me. We don’t think that way. Blessing means more money, so we can buy more stuff and be more comfortable. Isn’t that the way we think? Be honest.

And yet Jesus said, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and His rule. You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. You’re blessed when you get your inside world–your mind and heart–put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.” (Matthew 5 from The Message)

Everything with Jesus seems upside down and inside out. It’s an entirely different way of living and looking at life. Jesus says things that make no sense to me. There are things He says I’d rather skip over.

Blessed (happy) when I’m at the end of my rope? When I’ve lost what is most dear to me? Really?

Only if He is my life. Only if I see anything that drives me to Him as a blessing. Only if my eyes are on eternity instead of what I can grab now in this material, soon-to-be-over life.

How are you defining blessing?