Cancer of the Heart

Posted: February 1st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Have you ever heard of someone having heart cancer? I haven’t.

Lung cancer. Prostate cancer. Breast cancer. All kinds of cancer, but not heart cancer.

In a review of 12,000 autopsies, only seven people were found to have had a cardiac tumor. The Mayo Clinic only sees about one case a year. So it’s a very rare cancer, at least medically. But spiritually, I think it’s a different story. Spiritual heart cancer is pretty common. It’s called pride. And I have it.

I really didn’t think I had it, but I do. The symptoms tend to mask themselves as other things that actually look healthy. On the surface, everything might look good. Underneath though, when we start to examine motives and hidden thoughts, we find this deadly spiritual cancer wreaking havoc.

I don’t know how it might show up in your life, but I’ll give you some examples of how it does in mine.

My pride, this spiritual heart cancer, causes me to fear others more than I fear God. It makes me to want to look better than I actually am. It causes me to value my reputation–what others think and know about me–more than I value what God thinks and knows about me.

In essence, my reputation is my idol. It’s what I worship. It’s what I have to preserve. It’s what comes before everything else.

So how does all that play out in my life?

Well, because I want to be thought well of and to be liked, I will hold back from being honest. Why tell you what I really think and cause tension or conflict? Rather than speaking the truth in love, I won’t speak at all or I’ll tell you what you want to hear. And that’s neither truthful nor loving.

When it comes to my desire for a strong marriage and family–is it because it pleases God or because I want to look good to others? And what is my reason for working out? To be healthy or to simply look better? When I give to others–is it because I’m being generous or because I want to be liked?

The truth is that nothing we do is from a totally pure heart. I’m not talking about that though. I’m talking about pride that has begun to rule in my heart, not just taint my motives a little.

This morning, I was reading in Mark 2 and 3. Jesus has entered the town of Capernaum and experiences some confrontations with the Pharisees. I encourage you to read the passage. It’s very fascinating to note the reaction the Pharisees have to what Jesus is doing.

The Pharisees are watching Jesus closely, waiting to catch Him breaking the law. Every time He does something they don’t approve of–they confront Him either directly or indirectly. And each time they confront Him, they become more bold in how they do it until Jesus turns the tables and confronts them. When He does, it says:

He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

The more I think about the Pharisees, the more I identify with them. These were guys who were trying to do the right thing. They were trying to please God. Outwardly, everything seemed fine. But the problem was their motives were all wrong. Their hearts were far from God. They did things to be noticed by others, not to genuinely please God.

They were filled with a spiritual cancer of the heart. Pride was killing them and they didn’t even know it.

Maybe pride manifests itself differently in your life than it does in mine.

Maybe you always have to have things your way. And so you manipulate. And complain. And criticize.

Maybe your pride causes you to think too highly of yourself. You overestimate your strengths. You don’t listen to others. You don’t solicit feedback. And if others give it, you dismiss it. They really don’t know what they’re talking about, right?

Or maybe you have to be in control. You have a plan for your life and you’re going to see it through. God is mainly here to help you accomplish your goals. It doesn’t occur to you that God isn’t interested in your plans or your goals. He’s interested in you living in submission to Him and doing whatever He calls you to do.

If you’re like me, your first thought is that pride really isn’t a problem for you. And that’s what I would have said a week ago. But my heart is not only prideful, it’s also deceitful. “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

I wish I could say I have three action steps to deal with a prideful heart. But I don’t. I need the Great Physician to heal me, but I just don’t know what the course of treatment will look like yet.

Pride is like a cancer that has spread to multiple organs, so I don’t think there’s a quick fix.

Stay tuned.


The Biggest Troublemaker

Posted: January 18th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Who is causing you the most trouble right now?

Is it your boss? Unreasonable deadlines? Micromanaging? Lack of encouragement?

Is it a friend or roommate who’s acting selfishly?

Is it a family member? A child who won’t listen? A spouse who doesn’t understand?

So who is it? Right now, who in your life is causing you the most trouble?

I don’t know who it is for you, but I’ll tell you who it is in my life. It’s me. There’s no one else in my life who even comes close to causing me the problems and trouble that I do.

If there’s tension in a relationship, it’s because I chose to act selfishly or respond poorly. If there’s stress, it’s because I procrastinated or over-committed. If there’s debt, it’s because I bought something I shouldn’t have. If I have a migraine, it’s because I’ve chosen to worry myself into one.

And what’s at the root of my problem-causing?

I don’t believe God. It’s that simple. Rather than trusting Him, I assume I’m going to have to take care of myself because He’s not going to come through. Or I believe I know what’s better for me. So I do what I want. What will give me pleasure. Or make me happy. Or comfortable.

Maybe you can relate. Think about it…

No one else puts unhealthy food in your mouth. No one else makes you look at pornography. No one else turns on the TV and compels you to watch it instead of exercising. No one else stands over you until you’ve put in an hour on Facebook instead of reading your Bible. No one else forces you to make credit card purchases you can’t really afford.

You get to choose. And so do I. No one else.

That means that we have tremendous power to help ourselves…or hurt ourselves. And what I find is that when I make choices that don’t line up with God’s way of doing life, I hurt myself. I get into trouble. I dig myself a hole.

And for me, it all comes down to whether or not I will believe Him. Will I trust that He knows what is best for me? That He has my best in mind? That when He gives a command that it’s meant to protect me and provide for me?

Our problems aren’t caused by a lack of money or someone else treating us poorly or bad weather or the policeman who pulls us over for speeding. Our biggest problems are caused by us.

Again, we get to choose. That means we can’t ever say things like, “She just makes me so angry!”

She can’t MAKE you do anything. You get to CHOOSE how you will respond to whatever she does. You can choose to trust God in the heat of the moment. You can trust God to defend you so you don’t have to defend yourself. You can choose to trust God so you don’t say things that will make the situation worse.

But we won’t trust God if we don’t know Him. And we won’t know Him unless we commit to spend time with Him.

And we won’t even commit to spend time with Him if we continue to insist that the problem is someone or something else.


Something Better Than Prayer

Posted: August 12th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Other, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Before I get started, some disclaimers:

  1. I don’t believe in formulas. In Chemistry? Yes. In life? No. God isn’t a predictable science experiment. If we do A and B, God is not obligated to do C.
  2. Life is messy. We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world. Bad things can happen even when we do the right things.
  3. Mixing a fervent prayer with the right measure of faith doesn’t always yield the results we want. See #1 and #2.
  4. I don’t believe people get cancer and die because they didn’t have enough faith.
  5. Sin does not always prevent God from blessing us. If it did, none of us would be blessed. Ever.

Those things being said, I’ve been thinking about prayer and obedience the past few days. Now I don’t mean to pit them against each other, but go with me for a moment. Which is better–prayer or obedience?

I guess the next question would be: better for what?

How about–better for getting what we desire?

We desire better health. We desire a new car or house. We want to get married or see our current marriage improve. We want to pay our bills on time, get out of debt and have a little left over for a vacation once in awhile.

Is it better to pray or obey?

I can already hear you saying the answer: Both!

And I would agree with you. It’s obviously better to do both, but my sense is that many of us only do one. We pray. We pray for God to intervene. We pray for Him to rescue us. We pray for Him to change someone’s heart. We pray for a breakthrough.

But often, we don’t obey Him.

A couple weeks ago while driving home from a weekend out of town, I stopped for gas at a little country gas station. As I came out of the store, I noticed a very obese woman sitting in her car smoking a cigarette.

Now imagine this woman begins to experience a chronic cough and shortness of breath. Not hard to imagine, right?

She has a choice now: she could begin praying God will heal her or she could stop smoking, eat healthier and exercise. We would think she was foolish for only praying, but not changing her habits, right?

I wonder how many of us get into difficulties with our finances, our relationships or our own medical issues and beg God for a miracle or some kind of breakthrough, but what may be better is for us to simply obey Him. And then add our prayers.

In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving instructions to the Israelites before they cross the Jordan River to take possession of the land of Canaan. In chapter 28, Moses goes into great detail about what will happen to them if they fully obey God and carefully follow His commands. And he goes into even greater detail about what will happen if they do not obey.

There’s no mention of prayer. God’s blessings are contingent upon their obedience, not the fervency of their prayers. God graciously instructed them on how to live and was very clear about the blessings or curses that would follow their choices.

It’s not just Moses though. In John 15:1-11, Jesus is teaching His disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches. Apart from Him, they can do nothing. In verses 7-8, He says:

If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you…” Isn’t that another way to say, “if you obey me?” Obedience plus prayer results in much fruit bearing.

Jesus goes on in verses 9-11 to say:

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

We remain in Jesus’ love by obeying him. And what is the result of doing that?

Joy. Complete joy.

Isn’t that ultimately what we all want? Complete joy?

So what are we to do about the difficulties we find ourselves in?

Let’s take our finances for example. If we’re in a mess–are we continuing to spend beyond our income? And just as importantly, if not more so, are we giving? 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says:

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Are we crying out to God to give us relief from our financial difficulties, while choosing to sow sparingly? God promises we will reap generously if we sow generously.

Are we asking God to heal our high blood pressure, but eating a diet full of unhealthy food? God has given us healthy foods to eat for our enjoyment and good health.

Are we desperately pleading with God to heal our marriage, but not practicing the principles in Ephesians 5:22-33 or reading a good book on marriage or attending a Weekend to Remember marriage conference or seeking counseling? Sure it takes two to heal a marriage, but are we at least doing our part?

God not only gave us His commands for our own good, He also gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to obey them. He has instructed us on how to live this life. But are we listening? Are we following through on what He’s already told us?

I’m not at all suggesting that obeying God is somehow better than praying to God. But I am saying that if we’re praying without obeying, then I can’t help thinking God is saying, “I’ve already answered your prayer. You’ll discover it as soon as you obey me.”

Last thing: it would be worth re-reading the five disclaimers I started with.


Spiritual Heat Stroke

Posted: July 20th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

“Get away from the water!”

Ask any high school football player who played prior to just a few years ago and he’ll probably tell you he heard a coach yell, “Get away from the water!” more than once in his life.

Things have changed though.

There was a mandatory parent meeting at my son’s high school last night for the parents of the football players. One of the topics was hydration and heat related illnesses (heat exhaustion and heat stroke). None of it was new information for me because I’d heard much of it at the parent meeting for junior high football last year. And the year before.

My son’s junior high football coach is one of the toughest I’ve seen. He’s a great coach and excellent teacher of the game. He has high expectations of the players and pushes them to perform. But he also frequently stops practice for water breaks.

Last night, the head varsity coach made it clear that his players could get water during practice whenever they needed it. No player would ever be told he couldn’t have water. And if an assistant coach denied water to a player–he probably wouldn’t be coaching there any more.

When I played high school football between 1977 and 1980, the conventional wisdom was that drinking water was a sign of weakness. Going without water made you tough.

Now we know how absolutely stupid that kind of thinking is. Now we know football players die from becoming dehydrated and over-heated. And a coach knows they’d probably be sued by the parents of any player who became ill during practice because he was denied water.

Of course staying hydrated isn’t just for athletes. We all need water to function. A lot of us are probably dehydrated and don’t even know it. It’s especially true during the hot, humid summer months.

Screen shot 2011 07 20 at 7.45.20 AM 300x194 Spiritual Heat Stroke

Much of the United States is currently experiencing high heat and humidity. That large pink area on the map is an “excessive heat warning.” The heat index for Ames, Iowa today is forecast to be around 117 degrees. Ames, Iowa. 117!

This is a plant in my front yard. It not only requires a lot of water, but it’s in a spot that doesn’t get hit by the sprinkler. This morning, I filled a 2-quart pitcher at the kitchen sink and watered this poor plant. I filled the pitcher twice. As you can see, it needed it.

IMG 2252 225x300 Spiritual Heat Stroke

It’s not too strong a statement to say: water is life. Ask this plant. Or my son when he starts football practice on August 1.

It’s not just water that’s life though.

In Deuteronomy 30, Moses is speaking to the nation of Israel just before he dies. He’s giving them their final instructions before they cross the Jordan River to take possession of the land God promised to give them. In verses 19 and 20, he said:

“This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

The Lord is your life.

It was true for Israel. It’s true for me.

And it’s true for you. The Lord is YOUR life.

In Jeremiah 2:13, God said it this way:

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.”

A cistern is a receptacle to hold water. When we turn away from the source of living water, we naturally look for “water” (life)  in other places. We try work, pleasure, relationships, possessions or anything else we can think of to fill our souls. What we don’t realize is that those things are broken cisterns. They can’t hold water. They won’t work. They won’t give us life.

Sadly, we will hear of a football player dying of dehydration and heat stroke somewhere in the United States this summer. His core body temperature will rise to 108 degrees and his internal organs will begin to fail. And it will be a totally preventable death.

Just like your death. Or mine.

Are we dying and don’t even know it? If we could examine our “spiritual organs”–would some of us find they’re shutting down? That we’re close to losing our spiritual lives and we don’t even know it’s happening?

I’m not even talking about heaven or hell. I’m simply talking about living life as it was intended.

You and I were created to live in an intimate friendship with the One who created us. We exist for His pleasure. And He commands us to seek Him and know Him and love Him. But we’re trying to find life in people and things who, like us, can’t provide it.

If we’re not drinking deeply of living water by spending time in God’s word and in spiritual conversations with others who are also drinking deeply, then we’re dying. We just are.

Maybe when you see your lawn turning brown or a plant wilted from lack of water or you think about all those football players out on the practice field this summer–you’ll let it remind you that your soul is in desperate need of the living water only God can provide and that His word is a constantly flowing spring. And that whether you feel it or not–you’re dying without it.


Poor Diet

Posted: June 15th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Diet tips. Diet plans. Diet pills. Diet foods.

Diets for men. Diets for women. Diets for children.

Bikini diet. Abs diet.

The South Beach diet. The Atkins diet. The Full Plate Diet. The Maker’s Diet.

Low-carb diet. Low-fat diet. Low-sodium diet.

Gluten-free diet. High-protein diet.

Liquid diet. Vegetarian diet. Kosher diet.

We spend a lot of time talking about diets, don’t we? At least in America we do. I’m not so sure the rest of the world is as crazy as we are. Or as unhealthy.

This map shows the percentage of obese people in each state, based on the Body Mass Index. (I have problems with the Body Mass Index calculation, but for our purposes here, it’ll do.)

Picture 7 300x161 Poor Diet

Picture 91 Poor Diet

Source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, CDC

You’ll notice that Arkansas and all of our surrounding states (except Texas!) are leading the way in the percentage of obese people. Arkansas is usually near the bottom in most rankings. Too bad we picked the area of obesity to be a leader.

The word “diet” comes from the Greek word “diaita.” It means “a way of life, mode of living.”

Apparently, our way of life, our mode of living in this area of the country is to be overweight, out of shape and unhealthy. And as tragic as that is, I wonder if that description would also reflect our spiritual lives.

Before the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River to take possession of the land God had promised them, Moses spoke to the people and said:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.

One of the things God was accomplishing in the desert was teaching His people “that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.”

As food is to our body, God’s word is to our spirit.

So how is your spirit today? What have you been eating? What’s your diet like? Your way of life? Your mode of living?

Do you have a regular, daily intake of God’s word? Do you read it? Listen to it? Talk about it? Apply it?

If you missed a meal today, you’d feel it almost immediately, wouldn’t you? I know I would. As I write this, it’s almost lunch time and my stomach is letting me know it’s time to eat.

But do we ever feel hungry when we miss a meal of God’s word?

It’s like we’re being offered a five-course gourmet meal prepared by an award-winning chef, but we politely decline with, “No thank you, I’m not very hungry.”

Imagine how shocked our chef would be if we told him we weren’t hungry because we’d just filled up on a box of Twinkies and a 2-liter of Coke.

“But didn’t you know I was preparing this delicious meal for you?” he’d ask.

Yeah, we knew.

We fill up on work responsibilities, relationships, television, internet, games on our phones, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, hobbies and whatever else, then have no time or appetite for God’s word.

We’re spiritually obese.

If you tried to run a mile right now–how would you do? Could you make it? Would you have to walk most of it? Would we have to call for the paramedics?

Your performance would give us a pretty good picture of your fitness level.

But how about your spirit? What kind of shape is it in?

Is your spirit so out of shape that when a test or trial comes you’re unable to carry the load and you’re left gasping for spiritual breath?

We do not live on bread alone. We need God’s word to survive.

If you aren’t consuming generous portions of God’s word on a consistent basis–you need to know…you’re slowly killing yourself.

Do you know why most people fail on their diets? It’s because they never make it a way of life, a mode of living. They use it to try and compensate for years of unhealthy eating and then once they’ve shed a few pounds, they go right back to their poor diet, their poor way of life, their poor mode of living.

It’s time to eliminate the junk and start feasting on what God offers.

As food is to our body, God’s word is to our spirit.

If you need a little help getting started on a good diet of God’s word, check out my e-book. If you have a Kindle or iPhone, you can get it here. It’s a 40-day devotional to help you develop a healthy spiritual diet.


Top 10 Ways to Quickly Strengthen Your Marriage

Posted: September 29th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Last week, I posted “45 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I had a request for how to strengthen a marriage, so here are my top 10 ways to quickly strengthen your marriage:

1. Meet your spouse’s needs. First, you need to know what they are. Become a student of your spouse to find out. Write down everything you learn. Then start meeting those needs.

Yes, it’s that simple. Easy? Not always. Simple? Yes.

If you’re trying to come up with some needs, here are a few to get things kick-started: conversation, alone time, words of encouragement, romance, a hug, quality time with you, help with the housework, sex, a weekend away, an extra hour of sleep, respect, a phone call “just because”, a massage, etc.

Keep in mind, you’re looking for your spouse’s needs, not your needs. Also, while you’re at it, discover some wants and meet those, too.

2. Be third. God first. Spouse second. You third.

I know you also have needs and wants that aren’t being met and you may be giving a lot more than your spouse, but choose to meet your spouse’s needs even if yours aren’t being met.

What’s the alternative? Pull back and wait until your spouse goes first?

How well do you think that’s going to work?

I know it won’t be easy, but you will reap what you sow. Be the bigger person and begin serving your spouse. See what God does.

3. Pray together. If this is a scary thought to you, then start small. Before you go to sleep tonight, hold hands and say, “Lord, thank you for my husband/wife.” If it’s not so scary, then take a few minutes to pray for each other.

4. Believe God. Difficulties are inevitable, so learning how to deal with them as a couple is critical. The most important thing you can do is focus your attention on God, not your circumstances. Your financial crisis, medical issue or rebellious child may seem overwhelming, but it’s not to God. He has a solution and He has peace for you. Read Hebrews 11:6.

Choose to trust Him and not give in to worry, fear and anxiety. Those negative emotions will only poison your marriage.

How do you begin believing God, not your circumstances? There’s no substitute for spending time reading the Bible. In it, God has revealed Himself, His purposes and His ways. As we discover who God is and how He works, our capacity to trust Him is enlarged. Difficult circumstances no longer seem insurmountable when seen through God’s eyes.

5. Be your best. About 18 months into marriage, Robyn and I attended a “Weekend to Remember” marriage conference. During that weekend, I realized what a poor job I was doing as her husband. I decided then to be the best husband I could be. That was in 1987. While I’m far from perfect, I’m much further along than had I never made that decision.

6. Give grace. Your spouse is going to blow it. A lot. What are you going to do then? Keep score? Hold a grudge? Punish? Where will that get you?

What if instead, you gave grace and forgiveness? The way God does to us. What if you chose to treat your spouse the way you want to be treated when you fail? Again, I know this isn’t easy, but that leads to the next point…

7. Be filled with the Holy Spirit. In Ephesians 5, Paul gives instructions to husbands and wives. It’s some heavy stuff. And in our own strength, it’s impossible stuff. So prior to giving those instructions, in verse 18, he said, “…be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

To be filled with the Holy Spirit means to be under his influence. In fact, Paul compares being drunk to being filled with the Spirit. When someone is drunk, they speak and act in a way that indicates they’re under the influence of alcohol. When we are under the influence of the Holy Spirit, we will speak and act like He desires.

How can you be filled with the Holy Spirit? Simply by surrendering control of your life to Him. You can be in control or He can. He’s not going to fight you for control. He’s going to wait for you to give it to Him. When you do, you will experience His wisdom and power in your life.

8. Get healthy. You can’t change your spouse, but you can change you. Commit to getting healthy both physically and emotionally. If you’re not eating right or exercising, then you won’t feel well. If you don’t feel well, you won’t have the energy to invest in your marriage. If you don’t know where to start, click here.

You also need to commit to good emotional health. If your leg is broken, you’ll have an extremely difficult time running a mile. It would be painfully obvious that what you need is a doctor to set your leg in a cast, so you can heal.

The problem with our emotional health is the broken things are less obvious. The consequences are no less serious though. If you’re walking around with unresolved issues from your childhood, hurt and resentment from a previous marriage, a bad experience in a legalistic church or some other emotionally traumatic event, then you do not have the emotional health required for a successful marriage. You just don’t. So get help.

How do you know if you need help?

If you often feel angry, anxious or depressed–you need help.

If you need _______________ to feel good, relieve stress, unwind or shake off a bad day–you need help. Put whatever you want in the blank: food, alcohol, drugs, pornography, shopping, sex, gambling, chocolate, etc.

If you often feel guilty or ashamed–you need help.

If you are verbally abusive to your spouse–you need help.

If you’ve ever hit your spouse (or been hit)–you need help.

If you’ve lost any hope of your situation getting better–you need help.

Find a Christian counselor and make an appointment. Do it today. You’ll be stuck until you do.

9. Be playful. Sure marriage takes some work, but it doesn’t have to be all work. Lighten up a little. Have fun with each other. Take a walk. Take dancing lessons. Take a shower (together). Go on a bike ride. Cook together. Send each other suggestive text messages. Go to a dollar store and buy each other five gifts. Exchange them over coffee and dessert. Play a game. Put the kids to bed early, order Chinese food and watch a funny movie.

Just enjoy each other and laugh together. Like when you were dating.

10. Get away. If you can afford it, spend a couple nights in a bed and breakfast or hotel. Don’t take any work. Leave the laptop at home. Turn off your phones. Focus on each other. Eat some good meals. Take walks. Talk about your dreams. Consider attending a “Weekend to Remember” for your weekend away.

Getting away from the normal routine of life will do wonders for your marriage. If you can’t remember the last time you got away, then schedule something now.

Obviously, these all work better and more quickly if you both commit to do them, but don’t wait for your spouse. (Read #2 again.) Do what you know to do. Start right now. Trust God with the results.

Okay, here’s a bonus one:

11. Be your spouse’s biggest fan. While you’re studying your spouse looking for needs, also be on the lookout for strengths. What is your spouse good at? What do they enjoy doing? What are they passionate about? What gets them excited?

Once you have those answers, encourage them to pursue those activities, ideas or dreams. Cheer them on. Help them. Help find the resources to make it happen. Do whatever you can to help the vision become reality.

As often as you can, say, “I’m so proud of you.”


45 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage

Posted: September 22nd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

In no particular order…

  1. Assume your way is right and your spouse’s way is wrong.
  2. Fail to discover or understand your spouse’s needs.
  3. If you happen to stumble upon your spouse’s needs, just don’t meet them.
  4. Never put yourself in your spouse’s shoes or try to see things from any perspective other than your own.
  5. Secretly view pornography or spend time in online chat rooms.
  6. Don’t ever talk about money, sex, children or your schedules.
  7. Never address your past–things like your parents divorce, abuse, addictions, etc. Just limp along emotionally damaged.
  8. Put your Bible somewhere out of sight, then try to forget where it is.
  9. Keep score of all the good things you do and all the bad things your spouse does.
  10. Tell your spouse, “This is just who I am. You should just accept me.”
  11. Take for granted everything your spouse does. Never express appreciation.
  12. Don’t resolve conflicts as they arise–let things build up.
  13. Develop as many friendships and interests apart from your spouse as you possibly can.
  14. Don’t be gracious or forgiving. Make your spouse pay.
  15. Avoid showing affection, including hugs, kisses and holding hands
  16. Erode trust by keeping secrets and telling little lies.
  17. Develop at least one strong relationship with someone of the opposite sex with whom you can share your marriage problems.
  18. Compare your spouse’s flaws and weaknesses with others’ strengths.
  19. Let yourself go physically by not exercising, never trying a new hairstyle, not showering or buying new clothes.
  20. Put all of your money and energy into the wedding day, but invest nothing in all the days after the wedding.
  21. Take advantage of every opportunity to get your feelings hurt.
  22. Limit sex to no more than once a week.
  23. Avoid texting, emailing or calling each other throughout the day.
  24. Accumulate as much credit card debt as quickly as possible.
  25. Criticize, correct and interrupt your spouse in front of others.
  26. Flirt with others, but not your spouse.
  27. Try to be as inattentive as possible. Television, the newspaper, your phone or a laptop are helpful distractions.
  28. You probably can’t avoid buying a Christmas gift, but you should never buy gifts just for no reason. Your spouse’s birthday should be recognized with a card only. Slip a $20 bill in it to make it worse.
  29. Develop routines and stick to them. Meals, dates and sex should be predictable. Boring if possible.
  30. Don’t read any books, listen to any podcasts or attend any conferences that could strengthen your marriage.
  31. Go to bed at different times.
  32. Keep your spouse insecure and on edge by occasionally mentioning divorce.
  33. Keep raising the bar and moving the target so your spouse will always feel like a failure.
  34. Place your work, your children and your hobbies above your marriage.
  35. Make mountains out of mole hills.
  36. Assume the worst about your spouse. Never give the benefit of the doubt.
  37. Fail to anticipate trials and difficulties in the following areas: finances, health, in-laws, child raising, communicating with each other, etc.
  38. If it’s absolutely necessary to apologize, then be sure it’s followed with the word “but.”
  39. Use absolute statements whenever possible. For example: “You never help around the house.” Or, “You’re always complaining.”
  40. If your spouse confronts you about something, even if it’s done in a nice way, be sure to have a list of grievances to counter with. Under no circumstances should you admit fault.
  41. Make your own comfort, security and pleasure your top priority. Don’t invite your spouse to join you in living for a cause bigger than yourselves.
  42. Keep things serious. Playfulness is for kids.
  43. If you are angry or upset and your spouse asks if you’re okay, answer by saying, “I’m fine.”
  44. Watch TV, spend time online and/or bring work home, so that you’ll be able to say you just don’t have time to read your Bible or talk with your spouse.
  45. Don’t attend church together and under no circumstances should you pray together.

Feel free to add to the list by leaving a comment…

Also, now that we’ve covered the ways to kill a marriage, check out this post for ways to build a strong one.


Does This Worry You?

Posted: May 1st, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

We’re going to press “pause” for today on the “Prayer God Always Answers” series. Instead, I’m going to address a topic of great worry and concern for many of us.

I know some of us are worked up about global warming, ah, I mean climate change. For others, it’s the current occupant of the White House. Maybe for you, it’s terrorism or the prospects of a nuclear Iran. If none of those issues are particularly upsetting, then you’re probably worried about the economy and whether or not you’ll have a job in six months.

What I want to talk about today though is even more worrisome, for some of you, than any of those major world issues. It’s something you’ve dreaded. It’s something that can cause a great deal of anxiety. For some, it can just about bring on a full blown panic attack.

What is it?

Swimsuit season.

Yes, the baggy clothes of winter are gone. Spring is in full swing with it’s short sleeves and shorts. While it means we’re revealing much more of ourselves than we were in winter, we still haven’t let the world see the full leg (for women) or the stomach (for men).

But now it’s May 1st and we know it’s only a matter of weeks. Where I grew up in New Jersey–it’s almost time to head to the beach. Where I am now in Arkansas–some will start heading to the lake soon.

If the idea of putting on a swimsuit and parading around in front of your family and friends is only slightly more appealing than a root canal, then let me try to help. There isn’t much time, but you can still make some progress.

Before we start, let me say that if you’re more concerned with your body than your spirit, then you’ve got your priorities wrong. This body won’t last. Your spirit will. Sure, it’s good to have a healthy, fit body, but it’s even more important to have a healthy, fit spirit. Paul wrote:

“…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7b-8

Godliness has value in this life and the life to come, but physical training or fitness does have value, so let’s take a quick look at how to lose some unwanted pounds and feel a little better about slipping into a swimsuit in the next few weeks.

First, the disclaimer: I’m not a registered dietician or health professional. I used to be a certified fitness professional, but I’m not now. I’m just going to tell you what works for this 47-year-old-fellow-swimsuit-wearer.

If you want to lose fat and build muscle (for women, you’ll just look more toned, not bulky), try this:

  • Eat five or six small meals per day. This is much better than skipping meals or eating three big meals. Be sure to eat some protein at every meal.
  • Eat lean meat, vegetables, salad, eggs, beans and nuts. If it’s not on that list, don’t eat it. If you want to add in a little cheese or a piece of fruit each day, then go ahead, but you will slow your progress.
  • After about four weeks, add in some whole grains: brown rice, whole wheat and oatmeal. Also, try a little more fruit. Don’t overdue it on grains or fruit though. Too much will slow or even stop your progress. You’ll need to play it be ear and decide what works for you. The key is to find something you can live with long-term.
  • Give yourself permission to cheat one or two meals per week. Not per day! You don’t want to feel deprived all week, so have something to look forward to: pizza, ice cream, cake or whatever.
  • Drink mostly water. If you want some coffee, tea or a diet soda–go ahead, but absolutely no drinks that contain sugar or corn syrup. By the way, get in the habit of reading food labels. Sugar=bad.
  • Do something five days a week to raise your heart rate. Walk, run, climb, swim, bike–I don’t care what it is. Just do it for 30 minutes. If there’s nothing you like to do, then at least find someone you can enjoy doing it with. Exercise to the point where you’re breathing harder than normal, but can sustain it for 30 minutes.
  • Shape and tone your body by lifting weights three days a week. If you’re not sure what to do, then I highly suggest hiring a personal trainer for a month. If that’s not an option, then ask a friend who knows what they’re doing. This site also has some great information.

If you stick to it, you should easily lose a pound or two of fat per week. You’ll also be building some muscle, so don’t freak out if the scale isn’t moving as quickly as you thought it would. Pay attention to how your clothes fit, not the number on the scale.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment. Your question may help someone else, too.


New Year’s Resolutions DO OVER

Posted: January 20th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

It’s January 20th, so it’s highly likely that many of us have already failed at keeping our New Year’s Resolutions. That’s okay. We’re going to start over today. It’s allowed.

Let’s start with one big goal: get healthy in 2010.

Now let’s break it down into body, mind, spirit and emotions. Here’s why…

Several years ago, I allowed myself to become stressed to the point that I was experiencing physical symptoms. My blood pressure was high and my mouth was breaking out in ulcers. I’ll spare you the details, but my mouth and tongue were covered with them. It was very, very uncomfortable for about three weeks.

Because I was believing wrong thoughts, I was worrying. Worry snowballed into anxiety, which led to physical symptoms.

My blood pressure is now under control and I haven’t had another outbreak of ulcers, but I still occasionally experience physical symptoms related to stress. Shortness of breath and migraines are two of them. Fortunately, neither are frequent.

There’s no escaping the fact that our thoughts effect our emotions, which in turn effect us physically and even spiritually. It’s the reason I so often talk about the need to believe the truth about God, ourselves and this life. What we believe, effects everything else, so it’s not possible to get healthy, really healthy, if we ignore our mind and emotions.

It also works the other way. If I’m not taking care of myself physically, it will effect how I think and feel and how well I’m able to handle what’s going on in my life. For example, if I don’t exercise or eat a healthy diet and that leads to gaining 30 lbs., then I will not feel good about myself, I won’t have much energy and will very likely lack discipline in other areas of my life.

In the spirit of keeping things simple, let me suggest just two activities to strengthen each part of you: body, mind, spirit and emotions. We could look at a much longer list, but it would get overwhelming, at least for me. It’s better to decide on just a few key activities and stick with them than to have good intentions, but not follow through.

If you can implement just one activity in each area, then you’ll make good progress. If you can do both, then even better. So for a healthier, happier you in 2010, try the following:

Body

  • Exercise 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If you’re currently not doing anything, then just do something. Start walking. Let that turn into jogging, then running. If you don’t like running, then ride a bike, climb a hill, go for a swim or take the stairs instead of the elevator. Just do something to get your heart rate up. (I’d suggest adding in weight training, but we’ll save that for another time.)
  • For two weeks, try to eat only from the following list: lean meat, fish, vegetables, salad, eggs, nuts and fruit. If it’s not on the list, then try to avoid it. Also eliminate any drink with sugar in it. Read labels. See how you feel after two weeks. If you feel better, then keep going.

Spirit

  • Set aside some time to read God’s word and pray everyday. It helps me to also write in my journal during this time. The amount of time is up to you. Could be 15 minutes. Maybe 30. If you’ll do it consistently, I’ll bet you’ll soon find 30 minutes isn’t enough.
  • Don’t try to grow spiritually by yourself. You need community. Spend time with a friend, a small group or a mentor.

Mind

  • Choose to believe God, not your circumstances. It won’t be easy, but nothing will have a greater impact than this.
  • Re-read the two activities under “Spirit.”

Emotions

  • Get in the habit of evaluating your emotions. If you feel worried–ask yourself, “Why?” The same goes for fear, discouragement, anxiety, anger, loneliness, etc. Your emotions are a result of your thoughts. Trace the emotion back to the thought that caused it. Change the thought and eventually the emotion will change.
  • Get more rest and quiet time. Turn off the news. Go to bed earlier. Take walks. Leave work earlier if you can. Don’t feel like you must answer your phone or email 24/7. They can wait.

Marriage Bonus

If you’re married, the Bible teaches that God sees a husband and wife as one. So in a very real sense, your spouse is a part of you now. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:4, “The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.” He also wrote in Ephesians 5:28, “In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.”

That being said, here are a couple key activities to implement as husbands and wives:

  • Set aside 30 minutes every day to talk. You can do it while driving, walking, cooking, cleaning or exercising. You can do it sitting at the breakfast table over a cup of coffee. You can do it after the kids are in bed. Find whatever works for you. Just make an emotional connection by talking.
  • Make sex a priority. You’ll have to decide as a couple what that means for you. Every couple is different. Kids, work schedules and other factors all play into this, but I encourage you to make your sex life a high priority. Try this for the next two weeks: enjoy sex with each other everyday. Yes, everyday. For some of you, this will be very different than what you’re experiencing now. That’s okay. Do it anyway. For any of you who are already doing it everyday, well…carry on…

Yup, it’s January 20th, but it’s not too late to get healthy in 2010. If you’ve already blown your resolutions, then forgive yourself, forget the past and start over. You can make a lot of progress by the end of the month if you start now.


Who’s Watching You?

Posted: May 31st, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships | Tags: , , | No Comments »

When we moved a couple months ago, we got much closer to campus. We’re only 1/4 mile north of Razorback Stadium. It’s been great for ministry to college students.

It hasn’t been as great for my workouts. We used to live just a few miles from the athletic club. I could drive there in about seven or eight minutes. Now we’re on the other side of town. It’s not nearly as convenient, so I’ve been going much less frequently.

When a gym isn’t accessible, there are alternatives. One I like is to find some playground equipment to use to do pullups, dips, whatever exercises I can find a way to do. There’s an elementary school a couple hundred yards from our house, which has just what I need.

Yesterday afternoon, I ran over there to workout. When I got there, a couple young moms were there with their children. The kids were probably about three years old.

I started my routine of alternating pullups and pushups. After a few sets, I looked over to where the kids were playing. The little girl looked at me, dropped to the ground and did a couple pushups.

She’d been watching…and imitated me.

Who’s watching you?