Posted: September 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, fear, God is good, God's love, God's will, God's word, Jesus, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
Would you say you’re following Jesus or you’re kind of hoping Jesus will follow you?
In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
In Jesus, we find our way. We find the truth. We find life. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re looking elsewhere. Rather than wholeheartedly following Jesus, it’s like we’re trying to take him along with us.
I think His disciples tried that too. Mark 4:35-36 says: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.
Jesus and His disciples are on one side of the lake and Jesus wants to cross over to the other side. But do you notice anything strange in those two verses?
I’ve always thought it was interesting Jesus is the one who has the idea to go to the other side of the lake, but it says the disciples “took him along.” Maybe it’s because some of them were experienced fishermen and Jesus was just a carpenter. Sure, they thought, Jesus might be able to build a boat, but He doesn’t know anything about sailing one. So as they all climb into the boat, they think they’re taking him along with them. Not the other way around.
I wonder how often I live like that. Do I simply go about life and expect Jesus to tag along?
Well, it doesn’t take very long for things to go wrong. Verses 37 and 38 say: A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Isn’t it interesting the fishermen are now freaking out? And the one they were taking along is now taking a nap.
In a panic, they wake Jesus up and ask the question we’ve probably asked ourselves, “Don’t you care?” When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, isn’t that what we want to know? “God, do you care about me?” I’ve wondered. I’ve asked.
We find our answer in the next two verses:
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Can you picture it? One moment there’s a furious storm. Dark clouds. High winds. Waves are breaking over the boat. Death seems certain.
And then in the next instant everything is calm. No wind. No waves. Just the disciples…and Jesus…floating on a calm sea. Can you see Him looking out across the water from the stern of the boat and then turning to the twelve men with Him and asking, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
What storm are you facing? Maybe it’s a financial storm. Or a health storm. Or a marriage storm. Or something else. Are you wondering if God cares? If He’s able or willing to help?
Do you think maybe we’re most afraid when we think we’re the ones taking Jesus along with us? Would we be less afraid, less panicky if we were the ones doing the following?
To follow Jesus, I have to believe Him. I have to trust that He has my best in mind. I have to be confident in His love and care and concern for me. But if I don’t really know Him, then I can’t really trust Him and what I’ll do is live my life as if He’s tagging along with me.
What about you? Who’s following who?
Posted: August 15th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: adventure, answers to prayer, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, seeking God | No Comments »
Several days ago, I flew to Seattle, so I could make the drive back to Northwest Arkansas with my daughter, Erica. She’s going to live with us for a month or so while her husband is in Army Ranger training at Ft. Benning. Our drive took 37 hours over three days and covered over 2,300 miles. And we had a great time!
One of my goals on the trip was to visit Montana and North Dakota–two of the three remaining states I’d never been to. We hit Montana on day 1 and North Dakota on day 2. You can see on the map that we only briefly visited North Dakota. The original plan was to cross the entire state before heading south, but somewhere out in Montana, Erica asked how close we were to Mt. Rushmore.
That question changed everything. We scrapped our original plan and started heading south, but we did make it into the southwest corner of North Dakota so I could check off my 49th state! The only remaining state is Nevada.
We arrived at Mt. Rushmore late in the afternoon. Because they don’t allow dogs in the memorial area, Erica and I took turns waiting in the car with Titan. Yes, we had Erica’s German Shepherd along for the trip. As you can see, he was not a fan of the backseat.
Prior to a couple days ago, I would have said I’d like to see Mt. Rushmore some day, but honestly, it was not high on my list. I don’t feel that way now. It was awe inspiring. The pictures don’t really do it justice. To give you some context–George Washington’s eyes are 11 feet across. Each of their faces are as tall as a six-story building. If you’ve never been–I highly recommend you go.
It was a reminder that it’s good to have a plan, but it’s better to know when to flex. Had we been unwilling to change the plan and head south–we would have missed seeing Mt. Rushmore.
One of the things I couldn’t help noticing was all the broken rock below their faces. Most of the pictures I’ve seen of Mt. Rushmore are close ups so I never noticed all the rock that was blasted away to create what we see today.
That got me thinking about our lives. God is in the process of making us the people He already sees us to be. The sculptor of Mt. Rushmore could see the image of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. His task was to remove enough rock so we could see it too.
God’s doing that in our lives. He sees who we really are. He sees us as “holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) He’s slowly, patiently, lovingly removing the stuff from our lives that hide the real us.
After we left Mt. Rushmore, we still had a five hour drive to get to Sioux Falls for the night. As we were heading east on I-90, this storm was closing in on us:
That little blue circle just west of Wall was our location at the time. We made it out of that area right before the storm crossed I-90.
We out ran our storm, but you might be in the midst of one. See if this has ever happened to you…
You’re on a particular course in your life when you sense God leading you in a new direction. So you step out in faith toward this new adventure…and that’s when the storm hits. Maybe you accepted a new job, but discovered your new boss is horrible. Maybe you moved to a new city, but after arriving you learn the job you had lined up fell through. Maybe you were convinced this was the right person to marry, but six months into marriage it feels like the biggest mistake of your life.
I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to experiencing God’s will. It doesn’t happen every time, but I’ve seen it often enough to recognize it. Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances we’d like to see changed and so we pray and seek God…and then we see Him open a door to something different, something new, something better.
Then things take a turn for the worse and we wonder what’s happening. We wonder if we heard God wrong or if we’ve made a terrible mistake. Sometimes we begin doubting God’s love and goodness. We reason that if we were in God’s will and He was a good God, then we wouldn’t be in the midst of whatever storm we’re facing. So either we made a mistake or God isn’t all that good.
That’s not true though. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 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. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors 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.
Call it a desert or call it storm–there are some things we only learn when the pressure is on, when our circumstances are making us uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Don’t give into discouragement. Press on through the storm. God is using it to humble you and teach you. He knows what He’s doing.
Well, we made it home safely on day 3. As I write this (day 4), my daughter is driving another 700 miles to Ft. Benning in Georgia, so she can see her husband for a few days. She will have covered 3,000 miles in four days!
A few final thoughts from the trip…
Shared experiences create powerful bonds. I’ll always remember and treasure the three days Erica and I shared together.
Being in a place where you can see the horizon in all directions helps put things in perspective. It reminds you how small you are and how big God is.
Lastly, I’m not really a “pet person”, but I find it doesn’t take me long to get attached to a good dog.
Posted: April 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, creation, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's word, Jesus, trials, VY Canis Majoris | No Comments »
Our sun is 93 million miles from earth and contains 99.99% of the mass of our solar system. To try and give some perspective–one million earths could fit inside our sun. Huge, right? But there’s a star named Betelgeuse that is anywhere between five and thirty times larger than our sun. It’s hard to begin to even comprehend something that large.
We’re not done though. The largest identified star in our galaxy is named VY Canis Majoris. It is 1,800 to 2,100 times larger than our sun. How do we even begin to think about something that large? Fortunately, someone has done a little math for us to try and bring things into perspective.
If you were to fly non-stop in a Boeing 747 at 550 mph, it would take two days to fly all the way around the earth.
It would take 206 days to fly all the way around the sun.
And to fly all the way around VY Canis Majoris, it would take 452,965 days. That’s 1,241 years.
Now consider this…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:1-3)
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
The same Jesus who spoke VY Canis Majoris into existence, along with hundreds of billions of other stars, says to you today:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Jesus created the universe and is sustaining all things by His powerful word. He is holding all things together. You can trust Him to sustain you and hold you together as well.
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: March 14th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, seeking God | No Comments »
There’s something we have to understand about God before we can understand anything else. It’s a foundational belief on which all other beliefs are built. And if we fail to correctly understand it, we will misunderstand almost everything about God, ourselves and this life on planet earth. So here it is…here’s the thing we absolutely have to understand…
God is a lover and wants to be loved in return.
That’s it. That’s what we have to grasp. If we don’t, nothing else will make sense. Follow me on this for a moment.
Many people, including many or most atheists, look at the suffering in the world and either decide God doesn’t exist or that He’s evil. And I get that. I understand why they’d feel that way. Millions of people are starving to death. Others are being killed in wars. Women are raped. People are robbed and murdered. Children are abused. The wealthy enjoy life like the poor cannot. Governments are corrupt. The list could go on.
We don’t have to look very far to find enough evidence to conclude God either doesn’t exist or He’s not as good as we’ve been led to believe. I mean if God is truly all-powerful, then a good God would also put an end to suffering, wouldn’t He?
But if it’s true that God is a lover and wants to be loved by us, then free will is a must. And free will means just that–we are free to choose. I am. You are. The rapist is. Everyone is. We all get to choose how we’ll live.
We can choose to love or hate. Give or steal. Serve or be served. Sacrifice or act selfishly. Tell the truth or lie. And we can choose to love God or hate Him or ignore Him or whatever we want to do with Him. It’s our choice.
I suppose the response could be, “Well then I want no part of a God who places being loved over the suffering of human beings.”
And if that’s how you feel–that’s your right. You get to choose what you believe. But if God exists and wants you to love Him in response to His love for you–your opinion of Him or anger at Him isn’t going to change reality. In other words, you can choose to not believe in God because you don’t like Him, but it’s not going to change Him.
Personally, I believe God exists. I don’t believe He’s evil, but I do believe He’s hard to understand sometimes. I also believe He’s good–not based on the current condition of the world, but based on the fact that 2000 years ago, He was nailed to a cross to be punished in my place.
To simply put an end to suffering, God would have to put an end to free will. He’d have to take away our ability to choose, which would take away our ability to love…our ability to love each other or Him. And then it seems like we just may as well not exist.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“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.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)
I wonder how much suffering would end if we simply did our best to obey the two greatest commandments.
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | No Comments »
I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6
Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.
I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?
And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.
But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.
Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?
The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming. I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.
Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.
Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.
We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.
God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Posted: December 18th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, evil, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, pain, Sandy Hook | No Comments »
Why didn’t God stop what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School? Surely He saw it coming. He saw how disturbed the killer was. He saw the planning. He saw him driving to the school.
Couldn’t God have prevented the murder of innocent children and teachers?
Did God not care? Is He really not as good as we’d like to think?
How are we supposed to think about all this?
Let me answer by asking another question: where do you think God should draw the line in stopping evil or sinful behavior?
We’d probably all agree we’d like to see God stop the murder of innocent children. We’d also like to have seen God stop what happened on 9-11. And we’d sure be okay if God had stopped World War II and the extermination of six million Jews.
We’d also like to see God stop the rapist and the child molester. And the drunk driver who crosses the center line and kills a mother and her baby.
But what about a burglar or bank robber? Should God stop them?
What about shoplifter? Maybe you don’t feel so strongly about that…unless of course it’s your store. And does it make any difference if it’s a homeless person shoplifting food?
What about the guy who’s about to cheat on his wife? Or the mom who’s always yelling at her kids? Should God stop them?
Should God stop the teenage girl who eats too much? Should God stop the bully who relentlessly teases the weaker kids on the playground? Should God stop the guy who keeps looking at pornography on his phone?
Should God stop you when you’re exceeding the speed limit or texting while driving?
Should God stop you when you’re being lazy or unkind or selfish?
In other words, should God just make us do stuff?
Where would you like God to draw the line? Should He stop other people or you too?
It fascinates me that God doesn’t demand His own way. He doesn’t make me choose what’s right or best. He doesn’t make me seek Him or trust Him or love Him or obey Him. He wants me to, but He doesn’t make me. And He doesn’t make you.
I believe God wants to be wanted. So He lets me choose whether or not I will come to Him and do life His way. And He lets you choose, too.
That means He also lets everyone choose.
“Soon the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone. The lowly will possess the land and will live in peace and prosperity.” (Psalm 37:10-11)
Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: email@example.com
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, perseverance, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
The older I get–I’ll be 50 in a couple weeks–the less I seem to understand. I had much more figured out a couple decades ago.
I’m probably less sure about more things than I’ve ever been, while still remaining solid on my core beliefs.
At the core, I believe there is a God who has existed forever, although I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain how that can be.
I believe He created everything from nothing. And if that sounds too wild to believe, consider the alternative–that everything came from nothing WITHOUT A CAUSE.
I believe God is good, although His definition and mine don’t always agree. I believe He loves me, but sometimes I believe it by faith. I believe He wants to have a relationship with me, which is pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. I actually matter to Him.
I believe without a doubt that Jesus is God and that He walked around on the planet He created a couple thousand years ago, but I also understand how a lot of people didn’t even recognize Him as God. I’m not sure I would have either.
I believe that sin earns death, I’ve sinned and therefore I’ve earned death. And by death, I mean hell.
I believe what Jesus said in the book of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that sounds really exclusive. And it is. But I believe He meant it.
I believe if I place my trust in Jesus, He forgives my sin and paves the way for me to experience the relationship God desires to have with me and that ultimately I desire to have with Him, but don’t always act like it.
I believe it’s a big deal, a really big deal, in fact, that we believe God. He likes to be trusted. And it’s a big deal to Him when we don’t trust Him. A bigger deal than we realize.
Beyond that, I’m less sure about stuff.
Like why some people are healed and some aren’t.
Like why some prayers are answered and some aren’t.
Like why some people are born with severe disabilities and others are born with beautiful, perfect bodies.
Like why bad people prosper.
The list could go on.
I think where I’m landing is this–we’ve got to cling to what we know to be true and learn to live in the mystery and tension and confusion of the rest. We’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to patiently endure. We’ve got to hang on.
Persevering. Patiently waiting. Trusting.
Those are big themes that run throughout the Bible. They’re a big deal to God. So they’ve got to be a big deal to us. Bigger than our need to know and understand and have everything make sense. Bigger than our need to understand everything and fit it all in our neat little boxes.
I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s just absolutely awful. Maybe you’re unemployed, you can’t find a job and bankruptcy is the only option. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re lonely or scared. Maybe you were raped. Maybe everyone ignores you.
I know you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. You’ve begged Him to help you. But things have gotten worse, not better.
I don’t have an answer. I can’t explain it. But I encourage you to not give up. Don’t turn your back on God. With whatever strength you have left– seek Him and trust Him.
This life is short. Your reward is coming.
Whatever you do–don’t give up.
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.