Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 1 Comment »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, Jesus, seeking God | No Comments »
Yesterday, we talked about taking a spiritual fitness test. If we’re honest, most of us would say we’re not doing as well as we’d like to do. At least that’s what I’d say. I’d always like to be further along. I’d like to bear more fruit. I’d like to be less tempted by the same old sins. I’d like to know God better than I do.
Can you relate?
Today, let’s look at the only way we’ll ever truly make progress in the Christian life. The “secret” is found in John 15. You can read the whole chapter here. We’re just going to look at one verse though. Verse 5 says:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It’s really that simple. Remaining in Jesus results in a life that bears much fruit.
The secret isn’t working harder or longer. It’s not trying harder. It’s not following a list of rules.
The secret is to remain in Jesus. So how do we do that?
Let’s take a look at a few passages that might help…
And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33)
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Let’s not ever lose sight of this very simple truth: God is a person who wants to be loved and sought after.
He doesn’t need our love or attention. He doesn’t need us for anything. But He does want us. He wants us to love Him and seek Him and make Him our top priority. He wants us to surrender total control of our lives to Him. That’s what it means to remain in Him–surrendering to Him and loving and seeking Him.
Then as we remain in Him, we bear much fruit as He produces His life in us and through us and we become more like Him.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
It’s a very simple concept. It’s just not easy to practice. Naturally, we don’t want to surrender. We want to maintain control over our lives. We think we know what’s best for us. We’re not always convinced God is looking out for us. And so we assume control and go our own way…which always results in less fruit, less of the life we really want.
If you’re not happy with where you are, if you’re continuing to struggle with sin, if life seems void of joy and peace and purpose…then it’s time to get reattached to the vine. And then remain there by seeking Him. Remain there by making your love relationship with Christ more important than anything else.
The branch just remains and bears whatever fruit the vine produces.
Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, God's word, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, sex | No Comments »
Why are you here? On earth, I mean. Why do you exist?
If the atheist is right, then questions of meaning or purpose are irrelevant. If the universe exists purely by chance, then you and I have no purpose. Of course, we could each assign a purpose to our own lives, but there’s nothing beyond that. There’s no higher purpose. Without God, we exist by accident and ultimately have no meaning.
Have you ever wondered why famous or wealthy people commit suicide? They seemingly have it all–money, houses, cars, vacation, jewelry, power and popularity. And yet, some choose to end their own lives or waste away consumed by drugs or alcohol. Without a purpose and significance, I’m left with two choices–end my life or numb my life. Without a genuine purpose in life, without true meaning, our lives are empty.
But if God created this life and knows how it should be lived, then there’s a third option: I can align my life with the truth. I can choose to believe God and live according to His purposes and plan for my life.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he begins by writing “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
A saint isn’t someone who has lived an exemplary life or performed a miracle of some sort. A saint is someone who has been set apart by God for His purposes. If you have placed your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you are a saint. You have been set apart from the world system, from your former way of life, from the bondage of sin and from the power of Satan. God has assigned meaning and significance to your life. He has a plan for you.
Is it possible to miss God’s purposes and plan for our lives? Absolutely. When we continue to live according to the world’s plan, then we miss out on what God says is true and all He wants to do in and through us. The world’s plan is easy to identify. It is primarily concerned with the accumulation of material wealth and possessions, maximizing pleasure and/or giving my life away to a someone or something other than Jesus. Ultimately, the world’s way of doing life comes down to this–does whatever I’m doing make me happy?
What do you desire most? What are you passionate about? What do you spend your time and money on? The answers to those questions will help you figure out whether you’re living for God’s purposes or your own.
The truth is this: God calls us saints. He says we are set apart for His purposes and plans.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Real life is found in a relationship with God through Jesus. And as we walk with Him through life, we discover the work He has for us to do. Meaning, happiness, peace and fulfillment come as a result of living our lives aligned with God’s purposes and plans for us.
You are a saint. God has set you apart. He has given meaning to your life. If life often feels busy or hectic or meaningless or ordinary, then be sure you’re aligned with God’s truth. Are you making your relationship with Him your number one priority? And are you seeing your life and family and work as an opportunity to serve Him and reflect His glory and goodness to those around you?
You are a saint. And you can begin living like one today.
Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
I learned a number of years ago that well-meaning people sometimes need to be ignored. Good people, nice people can sometimes be the most discouraging.
God was leading me to take a step of faith. A big one. And the more I obeyed and trusted Him, the more He confirmed I was doing the right thing. I’d never been more sure of a direction from God. In numerous ways, He encouraged me to believe Him, not my feelings or circumstances.
That didn’t mean He was also speaking to those around me though. I’m sure to others, my path looked foolish, irresponsible, even reckless. Some of the most discouraging people were some close friends. Either by the questions they asked, the comments they made or even the look on their faces–they were discouraging me from continuing to believe God.
In Mark 5, a man named, Jairus, comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to come heal his 12-year-old daughter who’s dying. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, some men come to tell Jairus his daughter has died. Verse 36 says:
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Sometimes we have to ignore others, so we can believe God.
If God is leading you to take a step of faith, then trust Him and take the step. Just understand you will very likely encounter resistance, skepticism and discouragement from those closest to you. During those times, you will need to go back to God and spend time in His word and in prayer to receive encouragement and strengthening in your faith. And the bigger the step of faith, the more you will need for God to confirm His plan.
Let me close with a word of caution. Before you choose to ignore someone’s counsel–be sure you are hearing clearly from God. We cannot always trust our desires. Our feelings will often lead us astray. God will never lead you to do anything that contradicts His word.
A man once told me he believed God had led him to have an affair with another woman. No, those were his own sinful desires that led him into an affair and a deceived mind that allowed him to conclude it was God.
The more time you bathe your mind in God’s word and in prayer, the more confidence you can have in taking bold steps of faith.
So is there someone you need to ignore so you can believe God?
Posted: August 4th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, forgetting God, God's word, remembering | No Comments »
It happened again yesterday. A young child was left buckled in his car seat while his great-grandparents were in a store for two hours. They simply forgot he was in the car.
The outside temperature was over 100. It was closer to 140 inside the car. The little boy never had a chance. Because not just one person forgot, but two.
Forgetting can be devastating.
Can you imagine how that couple feels today? And the grandparents? And the parents? They’ll never get over it.
Robyn and I once forgot our second daughter in her car seat. Fortunately, it wasn’t hot and the van was parked inside the garage. It only took us a few minutes to realize we’d left her.
As human beings, we have a remarkable capacity to forget. We forget appointments. We forget birthdays. We forget why we just walked into a room. We forget children in their car seats.
Forgetting doesn’t always lead to death, but there are other serious consequences. And we’re all vulnerable. Everyday.
That’s why in Deuteronomy 4, Moses said to the nation of Israel, “watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget” and “remember the day you stood before the Lord your God” and “be careful not to forget.”
It’s why in Proverbs 4, Solomon says, “Do not forsake wisdom” and “hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life.”
We forget God. We forget His instructions. We forget what He’s done in our lives.
And then we live as if He practically doesn’t even exist. We face problems on our own. We worry. We become consumed with anxiety. We wear ourselves out trying to get our needs met. We chase after things we think will bring us happiness and fulfillment, but only leave us wanting more.
All because we forget Him.
Here’s a simple test to see if you’ve forgotten God: if you want anyone or anything more than you do God, then you’ve forgotten Him.
He isn’t meant to be a compartment in our lives. He’s not an add-on. He’s not an app to amuse us when we’re bored.
He’s the point. Of everything. There is no other point.
Have you forgotten that?
The newspaper included a suggestion for remembering there’s a child in the backseat. Place a stuffed animal in the car seat. Then whenever you buckle a child into the seat, move the stuffed animal to the front seat with you. Seeing the stuffed animal reminds you have a child back there.
Maybe you and I need a stuffed animal. Something to remind us there’s a Point. And we’re not it.
Posted: July 16th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, God's word, marriage, Relationships, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
Seaside Park, NJ
There’s no place I’d rather be on a hot summer day than the beach. I love the smell of the salt water. I love hearing the waves wash ashore. I love the feel of the hot sun and cooling off in the water.
The more time I spent in the water though, the more I had to be aware of the tendency to drift. The waves were rarely coming in straight at the shoreline. They were at an angle. So whether I was just relaxing in the water or riding waves, I was naturally drifting. If I wasn’t paying attention, it was easy to look up at the beach and realize I wasn’t even close to where I’d entered the water.
Drifting is easy and natural. It doesn’t require any effort at all. The culture has a way of helping us drift. We slowly adopt its values. We lose our perspective. Things that used to be important to us no longer are.
We naturally drift toward isolation in marriage, not toward oneness.
We naturally drift toward adopting the world’s values, not God’s.
We naturally drift toward indulging our flesh, rather than feeding the Spirit.
Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
Have you drifted? If so, you’ll have to be intentional to get back to where you need to be.
The apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Today would be a good day to admit you’ve drifted and surrender control of your life to God. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been in His word, then it’s time to start again. If you need a plan, try reading three Psalms, one chapter from Proverbs and one chapter from the New Testament each day. It’ll probably take twenty minutes.
You’ll also need someone to do this with. It’s much easier to stay on course with help. Who can you invite to join you?
Being in God’s word and sharing your journey with others is the only way to prevent yourself from drifting away.
Posted: June 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, God's character, God's love, seeking God | No Comments »
Very early in His ministry, Jesus was walking by one day and John said to two of his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God!”
So the two disciples start following Jesus.
Jesus turns around and sees these two guys following Him and asks them, “What do you want?”
I’m thinking that maybe these guys were taken off guard by the question because they reply by saying, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”
Really? That’s the best you’ve got? “Where are you staying?”
That’s not even an answer, it’s a question. Maybe that’s the best they could do on a moment’s notice. But you and I have more than a moment, so how would you answer the question? If right now, Jesus asked what you wanted, how would you respond?
Do you want more money? A better job? Or maybe just any job at this point? Do you want a spouse? Or a different spouse? Do you want a baby? A house? A car? To no longer be lonely or afraid or depressed?
What do you want? Think about it. Take your time. But give it some thought.
Now what if you gave Jesus your answer and then He looked into your eyes and said, “What do you really want?”
What would you say then?
Posted: May 28th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's character, God's word, pain, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
In Mark 7, there’s a fascinating encounter between Jesus and a deaf man who also has trouble speaking. Here it is…
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”
What I find so interesting is how Jesus heals this man. First, He sticks his fingers in the man’s ears. Then, He spits on His fingers and touches the man’s tongue. And with a deep sigh says, “Be opened!”
So why did Jesus stick His fingers in the man’s ears? Why touch the man’s tongue with His saliva? And why the deep sigh?
In the verses immediately preceding these in Mark 7, Jesus told a woman whose daughter was at home and possessed by a demon that she could now go home to her daughter because the demon had left. Jesus could heal and drive out demons without actually being present. He could just speak it and it would happen. So why not just heal the deaf man by speaking?
Have you ever noticed that our “Why? questions often don’t get answers? Asking why really doesn’t get us anywhere. Even if God told us why something happened, we probably wouldn’t be able to grasp it. And sometimes I think our why questions are more of a demand that God explain Himself to us than a legitimate request for understanding, at least that’s true in my case.
Asking “How?” God will do something isn’t much help either. God is infinitely powerful and creative. We can’t possibly imagine all the ways God could meet our needs. Just because we can’t see how something can happen doesn’t mean God can’t see it.
So what do you need God to do?
Provide financially? Heal you? Restore a relationship? Comfort you? Open a door to a new opportunity?
Don’t waste your energy trying to figure out how God will do it. He’s got the “How?” questions all figured out.
The deaf man couldn’t have possibly imagined the unconventional, unexpected way Jesus was going to heal him. Maybe God wants to be just as unconventional and unexpected in your life.
Make it your goal to seek Him and trust Him. There’s great reward in it.
Posted: May 16th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, forgiveness, God's love, God's word, Holy Spirit, seeking God | No Comments »
When we pray, we want to know God is listening.
When we’re in a crisis, we want to know God sees and is going to help.
When we have an unmet need, we want to know God is aware and is already working out the solution.
We want to know we have His attention. That He’s really there. That we matter to Him. That He truly cares about us.
Well, there’s good news and bad news. We’ll go with the good news first.
The good news is that we do have God’s attention. He really does exist. We matter greatly to Him. And He cares about us more than we can even begin to understand.
Whenever you’re tempted to doubt that–go back to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
You and I were completely alienated from Him. We were rebels. We were objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). And yet God reached out to us. He demonstrated His love for us. God Himself took on the punishment we had earned for rebelling against Him.
It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it? We focus so much of our attention on our circumstances that it’s easy to lose sight of God. When I focus on what I see around me, God seems small. And unconcerned. Even uncaring.
And that leads us to the bad news: Even though we have God’s attention, God doesn’t have our attention.
We’re more concerned with our ways, our plans, our desires and our goals. We’re not all that interested in doing life God’s way. We just want Him to bless our way. And it frustrates us when He won’t cooperate.
I’ve said it before, but God isn’t in the habit of pushing His way to the front. I was talking with a friend this morning whose wedding I’ll be performing on Saturday. He was telling me about how hard it was to put the seating chart together for the reception. Who should sit near the front? Who’s going to be in the back?
It occurred to me that if God was invited to a wedding, He’d sit in the back. Unless He was invited to come to the front. Where He belongs.
And that’s what we have to do. We have to invite Him to come to the front. Of our lives. Of our marriages. Of our families. Of our work. Of our everything.
It’s His rightful place. It’s where we need Him to be. It’s how life is supposed to work.
But God lets us choose Him. Or not.
Know this: you have all of God’s attention. The degree to which you will experience the life He has for you will depend on the amount of your attention that He has.
You and I were not designed to live apart from an intimate, growing love relationship with God. And that begins by placing our trust in Jesus to forgive our sin. Then we grow in our relationship with Him and experience His wisdom and power and blessing as we surrender ourselves completely to Him and ask the Holy Spirit to be in control of us.
You have God’s attention. Don’t wonder about that any more.
The real question is: Does He have yours?
Posted: May 9th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, faith, God's love, God's word, Jesus, Relationships, seeking God | No Comments »
This morning, I turned the switch on a lamp at our church and nothing happened. I tried flipping the switch on the power strip it was plugged into, but still nothing. I tried plugging the extension cord into another outlet, but it still didn’t work. Next, I replaced the bulb. That didn’t work either.
I was about to throw the lamp in the garbage when I saw the problem. The lamp was plugged into the power strip and the extension cord was plugged into the wall outlet, but the power strip was not plugged into the extension cord. I could have tried a hundred light bulbs, but they were never going to give off light because there was not one bit of power flowing into the lamp.
No power. No light.
You already know where this is going, don’t you?
And yet, knowing isn’t enough, is it?
It wasn’t enough for me to know the lamp wasn’t getting power, I had to do something.
How many of us know that the power, the wisdom, the grace, the everything we need for life comes from God, but we fail to do anything about it? We never get ourselves plugged into Him.
Instead, we plug into the world. And we miss out on the life God has in store for us. But we also make a mess of our lives, our relationships, our finances and anything else we touch.
God offers to give us wisdom, but we settle for the principles of the world. God offers us His power, but we’re content to struggle in our own strength. God offers to supply our needs, but we’d rather anxiously run about supplying them ourselves.
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not true–I do want God’s wisdom and power and provision.”
Do you? Do I?
In John 15, Jesus said:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
If you and I want a truly different life than we’re experiencing, then we need a truly different source of life.
Jesus said to remain in Him just like a branch remains in the vine. Are you and I that connected to Jesus?
We don’t find Him online or on Facebook or on television or in a playlist of our favorite secular songs. We don’t find Jesus as we hurry out the door to go to work or to class. We don’t find Him in the relationship with the person that doesn’t even know Him.
Have you noticed that God doesn’t push Himself on us?
He doesn’t demand we do things His way. He doesn’t step in and override our choices.
He invites us to seek Him. He doesn’t make us.
He offers His wisdom and power. He doesn’t force us to accept them.
He lets us choose Him. Or not.
Has your light gone out? Have your choices made a mess of things? Do you lack the power or even the desire to live according to God’s ways? Has all motivation to read the Bible gone?
Nothing will change until You get plugged in again.
It’s time. Today. Right now.
Don’t stay unplugged any longer.
Turn off the noise. Pick up your Bible. Listen to God. Talk to Him. Tell Him You need Him and you want Him. If you don’t want Him, then at least tell Him you want to want Him. Ask Him for help. He’ll give it.