Fitness Test

Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Yesterday, my 17-year-old son and I took a fitness test. It’s the first step in the 60-day Insanity workout program. We’ll repeat the test every two weeks so we can chart our progress.

I thought the test was hard! My son outscored me on every exercise. My wife and daughter also took the test and I’m not sure I want to know how I compared to them. I’m okay coming in second, but I don’t want to be fourth! Of course the object of the test isn’t to compare myself to others. It’s to set a benchmark so I can see my own progress.

So this test got me thinking about spiritual fitness. What would it be like to take a spiritual fitness test? Not to compare myself to others, but to simply chart my own progress. Is their such a test? Does God give tests?

Yes, God does give tests. Here are a few examples…

Genesis 22:1-2 says:

Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” he replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

Deuteronomy 8:2 says:

Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.

John 6:5-6 says:

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

I Thessalonians 2:3-4 says:

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.

Clearly, God tests us. And 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says we’re also to test ourselves:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

So if our goal is to become more and more like Christ, it shouldn’t be too hard to measure our progress, right? Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-8…

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

When it comes to your relationships–how are you doing compared to a year ago? If you’re married, are you becoming less selfish? Are you valuing your spouse above yourself more than you used to? Do your interests come first or do your spouse’s interests more often come first? Do you look out for your own advantage or do you serve your spouse by meeting his or her needs?

When it comes to your character and your emotions–how are you doing? In Galatians 5, we see:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Which are more evident in you–the acts of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Would your spouse agree? Would your children? Your roommate? Your friends or co-workers?

If you test yourself and aren’t happy with your grade–hold on until tomorrow. There’s a very simple way to start improving your “score.”

I didn’t say it’ll be easy. Just simple.

Whose Opinion Matters More?

Posted: January 31st, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

According to Merriam-Webster, an “opinion” is: a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter.

One person’s opinion on a movie may be very different than another person’s opinion. I’ve heard many people rave about the film, Les Miserables, but also know several women who walked out part way through the film. Same film. Different opinions.

You and I have opinions on all kinds of matters. I think football is the greatest game ever invented and soccer is boring. You may think just the opposite is true. Neither of us is wrong. We just have different views.

You and I also have opinions about ourselves. I may think you look fit and healthy, but you may think you need to lose ten pounds. I might think your new hairstyle looks great, but you might hate it. Neither one of us is necessarily right or wrong. We just have different opinions, right?

But what if your opinion of yourself is different from God’s opinion of you? Is your opinion equal to His?

Ephesians 1:4 says:

“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.”

Holy and blameless. Does that describe you?

You may be tempted to say it doesn’t. After all, you know all the things you’ve done wrong. You’re well aware of the mistakes you’ve made and the sins you’ve committed. You know how selfish you are. You can think of so many times you’ve been unkind, angry or impatient. So, holy and blameless? No way.

And yet, God says in Christ you are holy and blameless. Before the creation of the world, before you’d taken your first breath, before you’d done anything good or bad, God chose you to be holy and blameless in His sight.

But how can that be? Knowing all that you’ve done wrong–how can God see you as holy and blameless?

Because you are in Christ. And Christ is in you. And God sees you as He sees Jesus.

Maybe you don’t see yourself as holy and blameless. But God does.

So whose opinion matters more? Yours or God’s? And if your opinion of yourself doesn’t line up with God’s opinion of you…who needs to adjust?

One last thing–if you have never placed your faith in Christ, then you need to know God doesn’t see you as holy and blameless. Read Ephesians 2:1-6 and you’ll see that you are an object of God’s wrath. Your sin has separated you from Him. And a holy and righteous God cannot let sin go unpunished. Either you will have to pay for it or you can receive the gift of forgiveness Christ offers. It’s a choice we all get to make.

Everyone has a Story

Posted: August 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I went to lunch today at a friend’s restaurant. Last week at this time, he was in Houston at MD Anderson waiting for the results of his latest scan. Unfortunately, he found out the next day his cancer is back.

While at his restaurant, he pointed out a guy who has a similar type of cancer that’s even more advanced. The doctors told him there’s nothing more they can do. If you were to see my friend or this other guy, you’d never know they had cancer.

After lunch, I was in Wal-Mart and got into a conversation with the greeter that probably lasted thirty minutes. As we talked, she told me she started singing in bars in 1958 at the age of 13. She’d make more money in two nights than her dad did in two weeks working for Philips Petroleum. At one point, she and a guy named Harold Jenkins won a singing competition. Harold later changed his name to Conway Twitty.

She also knew Janis Joplin who called her one day and told her to get to Love Field (Dallas) where she’d pick her up. In a plane. Janis said they were going to a concert in upstate New York. The year was 1969. The concert was Woodstock.

This woman has a story. So does my friend. We all do.

Everyone has a story.

Some of us are in a good part of the story. Health is great. Job is going well. Finances are in good shape. No major relationship problems.

But others are in the midst of a story they never wanted.

The person who cut you off in traffic has a story. Maybe he’s been unemployed for two years and is embarrassed every time his wife and kids have to go to the store to buy groceries with food stamps. And now he’s late for a job interview that could change everything. He didn’t mean to cut you off. He was just in a hurry and didn’t see you.

The girl who sits near you in class has a story. She’s friendly, pretty and smart. But her dad is an alcoholic. Sometimes things get out of hand. That’s when he hits her mom. Like he did again last night. They’re too scared to call the police.

The man in line behind you at the store is addicted to pornography. The shame and guilt are killing him.

The woman in front of you buying the diapers isn’t buying them for her baby. They’re for a baby shower she’s going to. She has no children and recently miscarried for the third time.

I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to forgetting all this. Someone was tailgating me the other day and it made me furious. Later, I thought about how I should have stopped in the middle of the street and had a “talk” with the person. I felt wronged and wanted revenge. But what if it was someone who was late for something important or just had to go to the bathroom really bad?

That person had a story. I just didn’t care.

What if I did care though? What if rather than being angry, I just pulled over so I was no longer in the way? And if pulling over wasn’t an option, what if I simply took the time to remember that everyone has a story. Including tailgaters.

What if my prayer for others was the same as Paul’s greeting in Ephesians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Isn’t that what we all want and need? Grace. And peace. From God our Father. And from Jesus.

The next time you and I are tempted to get angry or defensive or ignore someone we cross paths with–what if we at least took the time to ask God to give them grace and peace?

Because everyone has a story.

What’s yours?

If you’d like to share it as a comment, I, and hopefully others who read it, can pray for you.

The Bait and Switch in Marriage

Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A man and a woman meet. They like each other and soon begin dating. There’s some real chemistry and things start to get serious. It’s not long before they’re talking about marriage.

She’s attracted to him because he’s so attentive to her. He asks her questions and actually listens to her answers. She loves their long talks. When they can’t be together, he’ll talk on the phone with her for hours. He sends her text messages throughout the day to say how much he misses her and how he can’t wait to see her. She loves how he buys her presents for no reason and how he’s always leaving encouraging notes around her apartment.

He’s also not afraid to talk about his relationship with God and how important it is to him. He even prays with her.

She knows he’s not perfect, but as far as she’s concerned, he’s pretty close. She figures if it’s this good while they’re dating, then it can only get better once they’re married.

He’s attracted to her for different reasons. First, she enjoys watching him play flag football. And she likes hanging out with him while he plays video games. She even cooks for him, cleans his kitchen and does his laundry whenever she’s at his apartment. Once in awhile she’ll comment about how messy he is, but he knows she’s only teasing.

He also loves the fact that she’s excited about sex. While they’ve been dating, he’s tried to take things further than she wanted, but she keeps saying she’s committed to waiting until they’re married. He’s okay with that because from everything she’s said, he knows their sex life will be fun, frequent and fulfilling.

Fast forward two years. They’ve now been married for nine months.

It’s Sunday afternoon and he’s heading out the door to play football. As he’s getting in his car, she says, “Seriously? You’re going to play football? You couldn’t get up for church, but you have time for football? Besides, I thought we said we were going to spend the day together?”

“Come with me,” he says. “We can grab something to eat after the game.”

She slams the door and watches him drive off. She can count on one hand the number of times they’ve been to church together.

He has a great time with the guys, but also loses track of time, so he doesn’t get home until almost 7:00 p.m. He finds his wife in the bathroom, leaning over the tub scrubbing it. He gives her a playful slap on her butt and says, “Hey babe, what’s for dinner? I’m starving!”

While still bent over the tub, she slowly turns her head to look at him. He’s never been accused of being the sharpest guy around, but even he knows something is wrong. Her eyes look more like death rays. Her lips are closed tight. And it looks like she might actually be biting her tongue. She glares at him for a moment and then goes back to scrubbing.

They don’t speak to each other the rest of the night.

She goes to bed at 9:00. He had hoped they might have sex, but that’s out of the question. Of course that’s nothing new. It’s usually out of the question. He can count on one hand the number of times they’ve had sex in the past few months.

This day, nine months into marriage, is the beginning of the end. Six months later, they’ll be divorced.

So what went wrong?

It was the bait and switch. You know the game–a retailer advertises a low-priced product knowing there are only two in stock. Once in the store, the salesperson tries to sell the customer a more expensive item. Or a hotel offers a great online rate, but at check-in, the guest is charged a mandatory “resort fee.”

We thought we were getting a great deal, but got taken instead. Bait and switch.

It happens in marriage, too. Someone thinks their spouse will be what they “advertised” (the bait), but not long into marriage, the switch occurs.

He’s no longer interested in his relationship with God.

She doesn’t see what the big deal is when it comes to sex. She figured he’d just get over it.

He’s really not into long talks like she thought he was.

And the cute habits he had when they were dating are now just really annoying to her.

If you’re not yet married–you need to be sure your future spouse is really who they appear to be. Now isn’t the time to have blinders on. Ask your friends what they see that maybe you’re missing. And don’t think you’re going to be able to change your spouse once you’re married. If you have concerns now, you’re going to have regrets later.

If you are married, you owe it to your spouse, yourself and to God, to be the person you represented yourself to be. Don’t be guilty of bait and switch. If you are not committed to meeting your spouse’s needs, you are committing fraud. You took vows to enter into a covenant with your spouse–to put his or her needs before your own, to remain faithful until one of you dies.

If you’re doing all you know to do and your spouse isn’t, I’m sorry. I know it’s a hard, disappointing, painful place to be. I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t. Continue to do what’s right. Continue to love your spouse. Be committed to meeting their needs. And know that it will require God’s strength and wisdom.

If you’re the spouse who’s committing fraud, then you’ll also need God’s strength and wisdom to repair the damage that’s been done. If you start today, maybe it’s not too late.

How to Get God’s Attention

Posted: May 16th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

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?

Satan’s Most Powerful Weapon

Posted: April 13th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Screen shot 2012 04 12 at 3.32.56 PM 300x241 Satans Most Powerful Weapon

I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about sixty miles south of New York and sixty miles east of Philadelphia. Now I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas. I love it here, but I do miss the beach.

From my home in Fayetteville, it’s about 800 miles to Panama City Beach, Florida. Let’s say it’s my goal to drive there for a vacation this summer. Let’s also say it’s your goal to stop me from reaching my destination and the only rule is this: you can’t physically touch me, my car or the roads between my house and the beach.

So for example, you can’t dig an enormous hole around my house so I can’t even leave and you can’t blow up the bridge that crosses the Mississippi River.

How would you stop me from going to Panama City Beach this summer?

I can think of several ways you might be able to stop me or at least delay me.

You could try and convince me that Panama City isn’t all that great. Even though I’ve been to many beaches, I’ve never actually been to that one. So you could tell me it’s too crowded or too expensive or too far. If you could cause me to doubt how good Panama City is, then maybe I wouldn’t go.

Assuming I didn’t have a GPS, you could give me wrong directions or place detour signs along my route. I might eventually find my way there, but it would take longer and be much more frustrating.

You could also tempt me to go somewhere else. You might try telling me how great Chicago is and how much fun it would be to see a Cubs game at Wrigley field this summer. That would have me headed in the opposite direction from Panama City. If that didn’t work, you might try getting me to go to a different beach, like Fort Morgan, Alabama. That would probably seem like a much better idea to me since I’ve been there before and enjoyed it.

As a part of any of these strategies, you could also enlist other people to go along with your plan. Hearing from several sources that Panama City isn’t very good or that Chicago is a much better idea might convince me to change my mind.

Here’s my point–because you can’t actually touch me, you would have to somehow deceive me or tempt me to not go to Panama City Beach for my vacation.

And that’s exactly how Satan keeps us from moving in the right direction toward God and His will for our lives. Because he ultimately has no power over us, all he can do is lie to us and tempt us.

Of course, he’s very good at that. Jesus called him the “father of lies.” (John 8:44) In Genesis 3, Satan deceives Adam and Eve. In Matthew 4, he tries to even tempt Jesus. In Revelation 12, John refers to Satan as the one who “leads the whole world astray.”

We’re dealing with a very powerful, very intelligent, very evil being. His every intention toward us is evil and destructive. And his most powerful weapon is deception.

As powerful and evil as he is, the truth is stronger. Don’t ever doubt that. God and the truth of His word is more powerful and effective than anything Satan can throw at us.

To deceive means: to cause to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid.

Satan’s strategy in your life is to get you to accept something as true when in fact it’s false.

Here’s why deception is such a powerful weapon–the thing you’re believing seems to be true to you. If you knew it was false, you wouldn’t believe it. But that’s the very problem–you don’t know that what you’re believing is a lie.

Sometimes we can believe something for so long, it just seems to be true. Does that make it true? No, but it can seem to be true.

What are some of the lies we believe that may now seem like truth to us? Well, the list is endless, but here are a few:

  • I’ve done things God can’t forgive.
  • I’m not worthy of God’s love.
  • I’m a disappointment to God.
  • I’m a bad person.
  • I’m not smart enough or pretty enough.
  • If God was good and loving, He wouldn’t have let __________________ happen.
  • If I get this job or this person or this house or this pair of jeans, then I’ll be happy.
  • I know I shouldn’t _______________, but it won’t hurt me if I do it anyway.
  • I need _______________ to feel good.
  • God let me down, so I will need to take care of myself and do things my way.

So why is all this important? Because my view of God and my view of myself will determine everything I do. Everything.

For example, if I believe I’ve done things God can’t forgive and those things have made me unlovable, then I will act accordingly. If I believe God can’t forgive me, then why seek Him? Why trust Him? If I’m so bad that He can’t even love me any more, then why even try to do what’s right?

Here’s a way you might be able to identify whether or not you’re being deceived: if you believe something about God or yourself that you would never expect someone else to believe, then it’s probably a lie and you’re being deceived by it.

For example, if you’re telling yourself that God is angry and disappointed with you because of something you’ve done and that He sees you as a bad person, then stop and ask yourself, “Would I tell my best friend to also believe this?”

You would probably remind your friend of God’s love and grace and forgiveness. If that’s what you would do for a friend, then why would you not do it for yourself?

It’s because you’ve been deceived.

In John 8, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

We are set free from Satan’s lies and deceptions when we know the truth. We know the truth by holding to Jesus’ teachings.

God is good and He has a good plan for your life. Satan will do whatever he can to keep you from experiencing God and His goodness, but his only real weapons are lies. He will try to deceive you and tempt you to live your life in the way you think is best, not the way God has laid out for you in His word.

At the root of extra-marital affairs, addictions, abusive behavior, cheating on your taxes or any number of wrong behaviors is a lie. A lie that leads to deception. A lie that tempts us to go our own way.

Our defense, our only defense, is to know the truth of God’s word, so we can reject the lies before they take root in our minds and deceive us into thinking they’re actually true.

Bobby Petrino and the Lesson of Good Friday

Posted: April 6th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

My two favorite college football teams have been rocked by scandals in the past seven months. First, it was Penn State. Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator, was accused of sexually assaulting young boys. University trustees felt head coach, Joe Paterno, didn’t do enough to stop Sandusky, so they fired him. Joe died of lung cancer a couple months later.

Then earlier this week, Arkansas head coach, Bobby Petrino, was involved in a motorcycle accident. He suffered four broken ribs, a cracked vertebrae and some cuts and bruises on his face. What wasn’t known until yesterday was that he’d also had a passenger with him, 25 year-old, Jessica Dorrell, a young woman he’d recently hired to work in the football program. Last night, Petrino admitted to an “inappropriate relationship” with her. Petrino is now on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of athletic director, Jeff Long’s, investigation.

I was saddened and disappointed by the Penn State situation and I feel the same way now. If there’s one lesson that comes from these two situations, it’s this: sin destroys.

Bobby Petrino, despite a 21-4 record over the past two seasons, could end up losing his job. He has brought shame and embarrassment on himself, his family and the University of Arkansas. And sadly, the woman with whom he had the “inappropriate relationship” was engaged to be married soon. The website that contained the details of her wedding has now been taken down.

Sin destroys. It destroys us and those around us. The consequences may not always be immediate or even noticeable, but that only means sin is doing it’s destructive work unnoticed, in secret. For now anyway.

Sin destroys. It’s a promise.

Before the nation of Israel crossed the Jordan River to occupy the land God had promised to them, Moses told them:

Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. Keep his decrees and commands, which I am giving you today, so that it may go well with you and your children after you and that you may live long in the land the LORD your God gives you for all time. (Deuteronomy 4:39-40)

God’s commands aren’t meant to rob of us of a good time, they’re meant to provide for us and protect us. They teach us how to live so that “it may go well” with us. The Author of life knows best how it should be lived. He knows that when we stray from Him and go our own way, the result is destruction. We see that destruction all around us, everyday.

There is good news though.

Today is Good Friday. It’s the day Jesus was betrayed and unjustly put to death. It’s the day my sin was put on the One who knew no sin. Jesus was put to death for the sin I committed. He took the punishment I had earned. He took my punishment and in exchange gave me His right standing before His Father.

I deserved death, but was given life.

I was an enemy of God, but through the death of Jesus, I became His child and His friend. I have peace with God through Christ.

What sin destroys, God redeems.

Yes, sin is destructive and carries with it consequences, but God is greater than the destructive force of sin. And He can even take the terrible consequences of our sin and use them for our ultimate good…if only we will turn from going our own way and begin to walk according to His ways.

Should Bobby Petrino still be allowed to coach the Arkansas Razorbacks? Well, he doesn’t really deserve to, does he? How can he, with any credibility, tell his players to be men of character after he betrayed the trust of his wife, his supervisor and the people of Arkansas?

But you and I are also guilty of betrayal, aren’t we? We betrayed Jesus. And instead of the punishment we deserve, by grace we’ve received forgiveness.

I don’t know what should happen with Coach Petrino. I just know I’m not able to throw the first stone. I’m a man in need of grace myself.

My hope is that Coach Petrino would come to know the forgiveness of Christ, because I care far more about his soul and his marriage than about how many games he wins.

“What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Who’s Ready to Throw the First Stone?

Posted: November 14th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

I’ve been a fan of Penn State and Joe Paterno ever since my cousin played football there in the mid-70′s. So I’m particularly grieved and saddened by the news that Jerry Sandusky, a long-time assistant coach, was sexually assaulting young boys over a period of many years.

I read the grand jury presentment last week–what those boys had to endure was awful, especially coming from a powerful male figure they trusted. I have a very dear friend who has suffered from sexual abuse, so I’ve seen how painful it can be.

Obviously, Jerry Sandusky is a sick man. And he will pay for his crimes. I don’t know this, but I suspect that what he did to those boys was done to him as a child. It doesn’t excuse his behavior by any means, but it may give us some context for it.

Sadly, Penn State officials, including Coach Paterno, knew of Sandusky’s actions, but nothing was ever done and Sandusky continued to enjoy access to Penn State facilities for years. It appears that the Penn State football brand was given higher value than the young victims who were suffering Sandusky’s abuse.

What happened at Penn State is terrible. Sexual assault. What appears to be a cover-up. And for sure there were misplaced priorities and a group of men who were morally weak and passive.

And yet, I hesitate to pile on and point my finger. Maybe what you and I have done doesn’t compare to what Sandusky did, but our sin was still heinous enough to put Jesus on a cross. If our sin was made public, we’d all be humiliated.

I would have been outraged had I witnessed Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy and I believe I would have taken action to stop him. But what if I wasn’t an actual eye-witness? What if I only learned about it later? Would I speak up? What if it was made clear I’d be risking my career? I want to believe I’d do the right thing, but I haven’t always done the right thing in the past. Have you?

Am I offering excuses or suggesting we go easy on Jerry Sandusky and the men who turned a blind eye to it all? No, there are consequences to our actions. The university president, Graham Spanier and Coach Paterno have already been fired. Others have already lost their jobs and been indicted. And if found guilty, Sandusky will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. As he should.

I believe anger, grief and disappointment are all appropriate emotions to feel in this situation, but for me, so are humility and compassion. I just know my own heart. I know where I’ve failed…and continue to. There are several reminders for me that come from this terrible situation…

  • Sin devastates and destroys everything in its path. When I choose to live independently of God and ignore His ways–there are always consequences. Some are easily recognized and some are hidden…for a time. But make no mistake about it–I will eventually reap what I sow (Galatians 6:9).
  • My only hope is to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. I do not have the power within myself to consistently do the right thing. I need God’s power. Romans 8 and Galatians 5 make this clear.
  • We are all in desperate need of grace and forgiveness. From God and each other. The officials at Penn State need it. I do. You do. So does Jerry Sandusky. In John 8, we read:

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

The Sin of King Saul

Posted: October 12th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Do you ever read about someone in the Bible and get frustrated with them? I guess that’s the kind way of saying it. Do you ever wonder what in the world that idiot was thinking?

I do. Over the past few days, I’ve felt that way about Saul, the first king over Israel.

This is a guy who had everything going for him. 1 Samuel 9:2 tells us Saul was “an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites–a head taller than any of the others.”

In 1 Samuel 10, Saul is anointed as king by Samuel who then tells Saul to go on ahead of him to a town called Gilgal. Samuel will follow along in seven days and offer sacrifices and tell Saul what he’s to do.

When Saul returns home after his encounter with Samuel, his uncle asks him what Samuel said to him. Saul fails to tell his uncle that he’s been anointed as king. I suppose you could call that humility, but I don’t think it is. It seems like the beginning of a pattern of shrinking back from responsibility, from stepping up to the calling God has placed on his life.

Later, when Samuel publicly brings the tribes of Israel out to indicate who has been chosen as king, the tribe of Benjamin (that’s Saul’s tribe) is chosen. Then each clan in that tribe is brought forth, and Saul’s clan is chosen. And finally, Saul is chosen from those men in his clan.

There’s a problem though–Saul’s nowhere to be found. So the people inquired of God, “Has the man come here yet?”

God answered them, “Yes, he has hidden himself among the baggage.”

What? He’s hidden himself among the baggage? That’s right. Saul was hiding. They had to go look for him.

Once Samuel explains to the people how this new kingship in Israel will work, he dismisses everyone to their homes. Saul returns to his home in Gibeah and was accompanied by “valiant men whose hearts God had touched.” But there were also some troublemakers who despised him. “But Saul kept silent.”

Are you seeing a pattern? He doesn’t step up. He hides. He keeps silent.

He’s not leading. He’s not accepting responsibility. He’s acting passively.

Um, I do that. Before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take a look in the mirror. And as I do, I’m not sure I like what I see.

How about you?

There’s more though…

Remember when Samuel told Saul to wait seven days? I posted about it here. Basically, Saul waited, but not long enough. Saul didn’t have his eyes on God, they were on his circumstances. That will always lead to feeling fearful, worried or anxious. And that never results in doing what’s right or best according to God.

Saul disobeyed and offered the sacrifices on his own, which was not for him to do. Rather than fear God, he feared his circumstances.

Some time later, Samuel gives Saul instructions from God to attack the Amalekites. God is going to punish them for how they treated the nation of Israel in the past. God commands Saul to spare no one–not people, not animals, not anything.

Saul carried out the attack and did what God commanded. Well, almost. Saul spared the king of the Amalekites. And they also kept the best animals.

That’s when God tells Samuel He’s grieved He made Saul king. So the next morning, Samuel set out to meet Saul. When he reached him, Saul said, “The Lord bless you! I have carried out the Lord’s instructions.”

But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of sheep in my ears? What is this lowing of cattle that I hear?”

Saul answered, “The soldiers brought them from the Amalekites; they spared the best of the sheep and cattle to sacrifice to the Lord your God, but we totally destroyed the rest.”

At one point, he tells Samuel that he kept the best animals because, “I was afraid of the people so I gave into them.”

What Saul does is make excuses. Eventually, he agrees with Samuel that he has sinned, but you still get the idea that he’s not truly grieved over what he’s done. He’s more sorry he got caught than sorry He disobeyed and grieved God.

Again, he’s not fearing God–this time he’s fearing the people.

I do that. I fear people. I fear their opinions or what they’ll think of me. And so like Saul, I will remain silent when I should speak up.

I don’t respect Saul and how he failed to lead well, accept responsibility and fulfill God’s call on his life, but before I’m too hard on Saul, I need to take inventory of my own life.

Do I get so focused on my circumstances that I lose sight of God…and as a result make sinful decisions?

Do I fear people more than I fear God? Does that lead me to be silent when I should speak the truth?

Do I make excuses when I fail to fully obey? Do I tend to view partial obedience as enough?

Do I hide from responsibility and act passively when I really need to be stepping up?

How about you?


Posted: September 7th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Other, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Have you ever read the Old Testament and wondered how God could just wipe people out? I mean there’s the the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jericho and all the nations in the land of Canaan.

It just seems like lots of innocent people are suddenly killed as a result of God’s orders. Where’s the God of love and patience? Where’s the grace and mercy?

Let’s take a look, beginning with the fact that there are a couple of wrong assumptions in what I’ve just said. First, no one is innocent. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:

“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

From the youngest child to the oldest adult–no one is innocent. Not. Even. One. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

Second, God doesn’t “suddenly” wipe people out. He is always patient. In the case of the Amorites who occupied the land of Canaan, God waited hundreds of years before judging them. They had centuries to turn from their evil ways, which by the way, included sacrificing their own children. Not so innocent, huh?

In 2 Kings 17, Israel is attacked and taken into captivity by the Assyrian empire. God makes clear to Israel why this happened. Because they had sinned against Him by worshiping other gods, something He had repeatedly warned them not to do.

The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and seers: “Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees…” 2 Kings 17:13

They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their fathers and the warnings He had given them. 2 Kings 17:15

The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn from them until the Lord removed them from His presence, as He had warned through all His servants the prophets.” 2 Kings 17:23

Has God been warning you? Is there an area of your life He has put His finger on?

Is it a relationship? One you need to end? One you need to restore? One you need to persevere in?

Is it your finances? Has God been telling you to give? Or stop using credit cards? Is there a debt you need to repay?

Is it your health? Do you need to eat better? Begin exercising? Rest more? Work less?

Is it a sinful habit? A habit that’s now become an addiction.

I find that God will warn me in multiple ways. It could be through His word. Or a phone call from a friend. Maybe through a sermon or podcast. Or it could be difficult circumstances or a medical condition that will only get worse if ignored.

Now I’m not suggesting He’s going to wipe you out if you continue to ignore Him. Based on my own sin and stubbornness, I can tell you He’s very, very patient and full of grace and mercy.

At the heart of our sin is unbelief. We persist in going our own way and ignore God’s warnings, because we simply do not believe Him. We assume we know what is best for us. We think our plans for our lives are better than His.

We’re wrong though. We’re arrogant too. How foolish of us to ever think we know better than God.

The only answer is to take His warnings to heart, turn from our own way and follow Him.

No matter what He’s warning you about, no matter what He’s telling you to do–it is always in your best interest to obey Him.