Thankful

Posted: December 22nd, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 Thankful

20 Days of Believing God (Day 18)

I wouldn’t consider myself to be someone who is ungrateful.

But then I realized that I often focus on what I don’t have. What I’m lacking. What I still want.

And so I feel discontent. Disappointed. Sometimes like I’m failing.

So today I thought I’d turn it around…for once…and focus on what I do have to be thankful for. Both big and small. Here’s just a partial list…

Jesus. He loves me. He’s forgiven me. He’s for me. He’s committed to me. He died in my place.

Robyn. She’s amazing. An off-the-charts blessing. I hope I get to be married to her for another 30 years.

Rachel, Erica, Amy and Rob. My kids are such a blessing to me. They’re walking with God and making good choices.

Richard and Ross. My sons-in-law serve their country and my daughters well.

Wes and Tyler. My two grandsons are a great joy.

My health. Other than an occasional cold or headache, I’ve rarely been sick.

My friends. The ones I grew up with, the ones I have now, the ones I rarely see…

My sister. Who doesn’t think like me or vote like me!

The ministry of Young Life.

A house to live in and cars to drive.

Air conditioning in the summer and heat in the winter.

A pocket-sized computer I carry around that also functions as a phone, a camera and video-recorder.

Football. The opportunity I had to play it and now only watch it. What a great game!

The opportunity to write books and create courses.

Parents who loved me, supported me and encouraged me.

Readers who like my books and ask for more.

The Bible, through which God speaks, leads, convicts and encourages.

My MacBook Pro.

Snow. I love it.

The beach.

Hawaii.

The opportunity to have visited 49 of the 50 states so far. I’m coming for you one day, Nevada.

Pie. Oh, I love pie. Pecan. Pumpkin. Blueberry. Coconut Cream.

Ice Cream. Especially when it’s really hard and has some crunch to it.

Naps.

Couples who’ve entrusted me with their pre-marital counseling.

Books.

Did I mention my wife? And kids?

God’s faithfulness. Even when I doubt.

And His patience. Boy, do I need that!

The backyard swimming pool we had when I was a kid.

Getting to go to the Razorback basketball game tonight with Robyn and Rob.

God’s provision for me and my family.

Beautiful sunsets.

The aroma of fresh, hot cinnamon rolls.

Music.

Hearing my grandsons laugh.

Sex.

The anticipation of heaven.

Meaningful work to do.

So many wonderful memories.

Young Life camps.

A fire in the fireplace on a cold night.

Cold water after a run on a hot day.

The smell of freshly cut grass, which always reminds me of football.

I’ll stop there for now. I’m sure there’s a lot more I could add. So thank you, Lord, for Your love and faithfulness and kindness toward me. You’ve been way better to me than I deserve.

So what are a few things on your list?


Ask God to Surprise You

Posted: December 11th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

 Ask God to Surprise You

20 Days of Believing God (Day 7)

I just sent an email to my subscribers and suggested they plan a surprise for their spouse this weekend. Nothing elaborate. Just to be intentional about meeting each other’s needs. Surprising each other is a fun way to keep the mystery and excitement alive.

Just when I think I’ve seen it all…Robyn will do or say something that surprises me. And I love that! It means I don’t have her figured out. It means she’s growing and changing…as I hope I am. By the way, being committed to your personal growth is a great way to head off any potential boredom in your marriage.

If you think about it…you’re really not married to the person you exchanged vows with on your wedding day. You’ve both changed. You’ve learned and experienced new things. Don’t ever stop. Keep growing.

So back to the subject of this post. Would you ask God to surprise you?

You may have one of two reactions to the idea of asking God for a surprise.

The first is: “Whoa! Be careful what you ask for!”

The second is: “A surprise from God? Bring it on!”

Your reaction reveals a lot about how you view God.

The first reaction tells me you view God as someone who really isn’t on your side. Someone who’s looking for any excuse to throw a problem into your life. Ask Him for a surprise and you’re asking for trouble.

The second reaction tells me you view God as a loving Father who delights in His children. You know He loves you and wants only the best for you. Ask Him for a surprise and you begin to anticipate His goodness being expressed toward you.

If asking God for a surprise makes you nervous, let me encourage you to meditate on the following passages. Your view of God may need a realignment.

“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  (Luke 11:11-13)

The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”  (Zephaniah 3:17)

Does God use trials and difficulties in our lives? Absolutely. He uses them to conform us to His image and strengthen our faith. That’s not my point here. We’re talking about how you and I view God.

So how about it? Are you up for asking God to surprise you? This is certainly a good season for presents and surprises. Ask God for one. See what He does.

Leave a comment if you’re in. I’ll join you in asking!

And believe He always has your best in mind. He’s not looking for an excuse to give you a scorpion.

One last thing…if the idea of asking God for a surprise feels selfish and instead you feel you should be doing something for Him…can I lovingly suggest that maybe you’re not seeing God as a gracious Father who delights in you. Maybe it feels like you need to do whatever you can to try and please Him.

Here’s a thought…could it be you’re already pleasing to Him? And He’d really enjoy surprising you with His goodness?


The Person I Didn’t Expect to Meet in College

Posted: February 4th, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2015 02 04 at 2.16.40 PM 300x167 The Person I Didnt Expect to Meet in College

I grew up in Brick, New Jersey, a beach town about ninety minutes south of New York City and ninety minutes east of Philadelphia. It was a great place to live. I had great friends and loved my high school experience.

What I didn’t love so much was church. At best, it was boring and irrelevant. For me, the best part was watching the old people try to park. It’s not that I didn’t believe God existed. I just didn’t think He had very much to do with my daily life.

We attended church fairly regularly as long as my parents woke up on time. I did my best to remain as quiet as possible on Sunday mornings, hoping they’d oversleep. Sometimes it worked and I got to stay home.

After high school, I went away to college at Cornell University. The first thing I did was stop going to church. I just didn’t see the point any more. And my parents weren’t there to make me go.

Some time during the fall semester after practice one night, a guy spoke to the football team I played on. I don’t remember anything he said other than if we wanted a free “Athlete’s In Action” magazine we could sign up for one. So I did.

A few months later, this guy named Bruce gave me a call. He wanted to meet with me. So thirty-three years ago today on February 4, 1982, he and I got together at the student union (that’s it in the picture). He asked me questions about my life, my family and church. After awhile, he opened this magazine and started talking about God.

Basically what he told me was this: God loved me and had a plan for my life, but because I (along with everyone else) had sinned, I was separated from God and couldn’t experience His plan for me. Then he got to the good news. He said when Jesus died on the cross, He was being punished in my place.

There was one more thing he said to me: I had to make a decision. It wasn’t just enough to know those other things. I had to decide whether or not to place my trust in Jesus. Forgiveness for my sin was a gift, but I had to choose to receive it.

In all my years of attending church, I’d never heard that before. I believed in God. I knew Christmas was a celebration of Jesus’ birth. I knew Easter was about his death and resurrection. But I don’t ever remember hearing I had to actually decide what to do with Jesus. In that moment though in the student union, it was like the light came on.

Bruce explained I could practically express my faith in Jesus by praying, by asking Him to forgive my sin and to make me the person He wanted me to be. There was a prayer written out in the magazine, which he slid across the table to me.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t fully grasp the magnitude of what was happening, but as I looked down at that magazine, I knew what I was about to do was really important. And so I read the words to the prayer very slowly and thought about each word. When I was done, Bruce and I talked a little more and set up another time to meet.

As I walked back to my dorm that day, I knew something was different. Something inside me was changed. I actually remember the sky being more blue. And the craziest part was actually having the desire to read the Bible and attend church.

I met a lot of people in college. Just never expected to meet Jesus there.

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.” (John 1:12-13)


When the Waiting Doesn’t End

Posted: January 1st, 2015 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

DSCN1111 300x225 When the Waiting Doesnt EndWhat are you waiting for?

A spouse?

A baby?

A job?

A restored relationship with a child?

Results of a medical test?

Healing?

There’s nothing easy about waiting. Especially when it feels unfair. When the waiting wasn’t brought on by anything you did or didn’t do.

Do you remember the story of Joseph, Jacob’s youngest son? He was Jacob’s favorite son and that made his eleven older brothers jealous. Of course, Joseph didn’t help himself by telling his brothers about the dreams he had about them bowing down to him. Joseph may have lacked diplomacy, but most teenagers do.

When his brothers see an opportunity to get rid of Joseph, they take it. They sell him to some traders on their way to Egypt. Once in Egypt, they sell him to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh’s officials. God is with Joseph causing everything he touches to prosper. It’s not long before Potiphar puts everything in his household under Joseph’s leadership.

Meanwhile, his brothers report to their father that Joseph was killed by some kind of wild animal. They even take Joseph’s coat and dip it in some blood, so Jacob will be convinced. Nice guys, his brothers.

Joseph is not only a capable leader, he’s a good looking guy, which catches the attention of Potiphar’s wife. She is constantly after him to sleep with her. And Joseph is constant in his refusals. One day when they’re alone together, she again demands he sleep with her. When he tries to leave, she grabs his cloak, which he leaves behind. She’s had enough of his rejection, so she falsely accuses him of trying to rape her. Potiphar is furious and has Joseph thrown into prison.

And there he languishes. Innocent. Falsely accused. Unfairly imprisoned.

The head of the prison gives Joseph some responsibility and soon everything under his leadership is going well because God is still with him. Still though, Joseph is a slave, in prison, in a country not his own, for something he didn’t do.

After some time has passed, a couple of Pharaoh’s officials end up in prison with Joseph. They each have a dream one night and God reveals the meanings to Joseph. When one of the officials is released from prison, as Joseph had predicted, he returns to his service to Pharaoh. Genesis 40 ends with this sentence, “The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.”

Waiting is hard, but isn’t it even harder when you’re waiting and you get a glimmer of hope, when it feels like God is about to change your circumstances, when He’s about to come through…and then nothing happens? You thought your spouse was changing, but then reverts back to former behavior. The interview went so well, but there’s no call back. You were sure the next test would show you were getting better, but it doesn’t.

There’s no mention of Joseph losing hope or becoming bitter, but it had to be a struggle for him. Yes, God was with him, but he was just a regular guy. Like you and me. And like us, he had to choose to believe God, not his circumstances, especially because there wasn’t an immediate change for Joseph. Chapter 41 begins this way, “When two full years had passed, Pharaoh had a dream…”

Joseph has already been in prison for some time. And now two more years pass.

That’s a long time to wait. And not see an end in sight.

Maybe you can relate. You’ve been waiting and hoping and praying. And there’s no end in sight to your waiting.

Next time, we’ll take a look at what was happening that Joseph couldn’t see. We’ll see how God’s unseen hand was at work. For now, know that God sees you. He knows what you’re going through. He knows your pain and your fears. He knows your frustrations and discouragement.

He has not forgotten you. His peace and joy are available regardless of your circumstances, difficult people, unmet needs and unfulfilled dreams.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)


The Zombie-Like Christian Life

Posted: February 24th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

zombie 203x300 The Zombie Like Christian Life

Let’s be honest. How would you describe your Christian life?

Would you describe it as frustrating or fulfilling? Are you most often discouraged and defeated or joyful and hopeful? Do you feel like God is more disappointed or delighted in you?

If the Christian life hasn’t been working so well, take a moment and read the following three verses…

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

Kind of depressing, isn’t it? (I promise this will get better.)

Here are some of the key words:

  • dead
  • transgressions
  • sins
  • ruler of the kingdom of the air (referring to Satan)
  • disobedient
  • gratifying…our flesh
  • deserving of wrath

So who is Paul describing here?

You. Me. All of us.

Our bodies were alive, but we were dead. Like zombies.

We were living according to the ways of the world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air. And 1 John 5:19 tells us “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” Satan is the one pulling the strings behind the world’s systems and values, so when we live according to the world’s principles, we’re living according to his principles.

And because we had no spiritual life in us, we naturally gratified the desires of the flesh and followed its desires and thoughts. We didn’t have anything else.

Again, kind of depressing. (It’s about to get better though.)

I don’t know about you, but before I placed my faith in Christ, I didn’t know any better. Living according to the world’s principles and gratifying my flesh was all I knew. I was concerned with making life work according to the only principles I knew (the world’s) and doing whatever I could to gratify the flesh.

Then something happened.

I met Jesus when I got to college. The God who’d previously been irrelevant, changed my life. Here’s how Paul describes it…

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:4-10)

But. The whole passage hinges on that one word. But.

“But because of his great love for us…”

Rather than describing the wrath we deserved, the rest of the passage tells us what he did for us, how he did it, why he did it and what we have to look forward to. All because of His great love for us. It’s worth reading it again. And again. And again. Until it sinks in.

If it doesn’t sink in, then we naturally default back to living the way Paul describes in the first three verses. That’s when life gets frustrating. Here’s why…

Before we knew Christ, we only knew one way to do life–the world’s way. And so we followed the thoughts and desires of the flesh and did the best we could to get our needs met. Things didn’t always go our way, but there were no thoughts of an entirely different way of life. There was also no internal conflict. We didn’t have the flesh pulling us one way and the Spirit pulling us the other way. We only had the flesh.

But now when we choose to do life the old way, we have the pull and conviction of the Holy Spirit. He reminds us of the new life. The better life. The Christ life. He will not let us feel good about the old way of life.

When we’ve placed our faith in Jesus and then choose (intentionally or not) to live according to the ways of the world and we follow the thoughts and desires of the flesh, we don’t ever experience true life. What we get is a zombie-like Christian life. It’s like we’re alive, but not really. We’re not dead any more, but what we are sure isn’t pretty.

Are there areas of your life (work, money, food, sex, a relationship, etc.) you’re continuing to live according to the ways of the world? Has gratifying the flesh taken priority over pleasing God?

Give Him control. Seek Him through His word to discover His ways of handling those areas of your life.

It’s time to move from undead to fully alive.


The Healing

Posted: August 21st, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Every once in awhile I like to re-post this short story I wrote a number of years ago. It’s about legalism, grace and healing.

THE HEALING

Phil entered the restaurant, sat down in a booth and waited for his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The lone waitress approached and took his order. Water. No ice.

Phil watched her walk away—a little too closely—then quickly chastised himself. She was somebody’s daughter after all.

This had always been one of his favorite restaurants, although recently, he was having second thoughts. The surrounding neighborhood had declined and the resulting clientele reflected it. The rough looking guy at the bar was a perfect example. He watched him take a bite of his burger and drip ketchup on an already dirty t-shirt. Then he wiped his mouth with a hairy, muscular arm. Phil wondered why someone would order a hamburger in a Mexican restaurant.

The clock behind the bar said 5:01 p.m. He checked his watch just to be sure. His watch said 5:00, which he knew was correct. He was right on time. That was important. It was important to be faithful in little things, he reminded himself.

He glanced at the TV. He couldn’t hear, but could see a CNN reporter on the beach covering the latest hurricane. This one was bearing down on New Orleans. Phil couldn’t help thinking it was God’s judgment on an immoral city. He prayed this would be their wake-up call.

The sloppy guy at the bar took a swallow of his drink. He was wearing a red, rolled up bandanna around his head, which brought little control to his long, unwashed hair. His threadbare t-shirt and faded jeans with holes in the knees completed the look. If he even had a job, he was probably a day laborer at a construction site.

When the waitress brought his water, Phil noticed her eyes were red and puffy. He also couldn’t help noticing how low her shirt was cut. Entirely inappropriate, he thought. He probably ought to say something to the manager. He thought of his eight-year-old daughter, Emily, and how he and his wife, Jennifer, had stressed the importance of modesty to her. He knew she’d never wear a shirt like that.

“Can I get you anything besides water?” the waitress asked. “A glass of wine, maybe?”

“No,” Phil said. “I’m fine with water.” Phil didn’t drink. His wife, Jennifer, didn’t share his conviction though, which often concerned him.

Phil checked his watch again. 5:03 p.m. Jennifer was late. Why she couldn’t be on time escaped him. This was their standing date each month. Las Palmas, 5:00 p.m., first Friday of every month. It meant leaving work ten minutes early, but he was willing to make that sacrifice. He said a brief prayer asking the Lord to help Jennifer grow in the area of time management and consideration for other people’s time.

Phil picked up a menu out of habit, but he already knew what he wanted. The #5 dinner special was what he always ordered. A few months ago, he’d tried the #4, but he’d been disappointed. He decided it was better to go with the safe choice than try something different and not like it. “Better safe than sorry.” That’s what his mother always said.

Jennifer was always ordering new things. Half the time she didn’t like what she got. He often cautioned her on her selections, but she didn’t listen. It wasn’t that he cared about what she ordered—it just bothered him when she started picking off his plate because she didn’t like her meal. He said a quick prayer that she’d make a wise selection for dinner tonight.

Phil glanced at the guy at the bar and saw he was looking over at him. He turned back to his menu and decided it was time to find a better place for their monthly dates. This place had gone downhill.

Out of the corner of his eye, Phil saw the guy get up and start walking toward him. He hoped the guy was leaving, but he wasn’t—he was headed right for Phil.

He approached the table and asked if he could sit down. Phil tried to explain about the regular date night and how his wife was on her way and how he really didn’t think it was a good idea, but the guy only smiled and sat down anyway.

“Do you mind if we talk?” the stranger asked.

“Do I know you?” Phil replied.

“Not really,” the guy replied and then just sat there looking at Phil.

“Is there something I can do for you?” Phil asked. “Like I said, my wife is on her way to meet me for dinner.”

“I know. I heard what you said. I just want to talk for a few minutes.”

“About what?” Phil asked.

“You.”

“Well, not to be unkind or anything, but I don’t know you and I’m sure we wouldn’t have much to talk about.” It crossed his mind to just get up and wait for Jennifer outside, but he decided to stay. “So what’s on your mind?” Phil said with just a hint of superiority in his voice.

“Did you notice your waitress was crying?” the stranger asked.

“Well, I noticed her eyes were a little red.”

“Did it occur to you to ask her why she was crying?”

“No, it didn’t. It’s none of my business. If she wanted me to know, she would have told me,” Phil said.

“Would you like to know why she was crying?”

“Like I said, I really don’t think it’s any of my business, but if you feel the need—go ahead and tell me.”

“Before I tell you—let me ask you a question. Why do you think that her crying is not any of your business?”

“What do you mean? Of course it’s not any of my business. It’s not any of yours either.”

“Hmmm. So you see a young woman who’s obviously been crying and you assume it’s not any of your business.” The stranger looked past Phil for a moment and then continued. “Okay, let me tell you why she was crying. Brandy was upset because she received a phone call from the health clinic about an hour ago. The biopsy was positive. She has cancer. She also has a three-year-old daughter and she’s afraid of what will happen to her daughter if she dies.” After a moment he added, “And she doesn’t have medical insurance.”

Phil wasn’t sure what to say. He took a sip of his water and glanced at the door, hoping to see Jennifer walk in, but she didn’t.

“That’s a sad story, but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do about it,” Phil said. “I guess her husband will take care of their daughter.”

The stranger just stared. Phil hoped he would leave or Jennifer would come quickly.

“She doesn’t have a husband. She’s never been married.”

Phil didn’t say it, but he couldn’t help thinking that you reap what you sow. If she hadn’t gotten herself pregnant then she wouldn’t be facing such a mess.

“She was raped one night after leaving work. Never told anyone. A few weeks later, she discovered she was pregnant. Now she works two jobs to support herself and her daughter.”

Phil felt bad for her, but still didn’t see how this was his problem. He had enough of his own problems to worry about. He’d just gotten the notice that Emily’s private school tuition was going up 15% next year. How was he supposed to pay for that?

The stranger interrupted Phil’s thoughts. “Would you like to pray?” he asked.

Phil was surprised by the question and for a moment said nothing. “Ah, no thanks. I’m good,” Phil said.

There was another moment of silence. Phil noticed how sad the stranger looked—almost like he was going to cry.

“Don’t you pray?” he asked.

Phil was starting to get annoyed. He’d come here for a nice meal with his wife—who was late again—and now he had to deal with some nut who wanted to pray. If there was a manager around, he’d complain. That reminded him that he was going to mention the inappropriate way the waitress was dressed. Of course, considering her situation, he decided to let it slide this time.

“Actually, I do believe in praying. I pray every morning. I’m also an elder at my church. Do you even go to church?” Phil asked.

“But you don’t want me to pray for you?” he asked, ignoring Phil’s question.

“No, like I said, I’m doing fine.”

“Yes, you did say that, didn’t you? May I ask you how you know you’re doing fine?”

Phil was surprised by the question and didn’t know quite what to say. He usually had a good, correct answer for most questions, but this one caught him off guard. The guy must have seen the puzzled look on Phil’s face because he asked the question again.

“What I mean is—how do you know how you’re doing? To whom are you comparing yourself?”

“Well, that’s really not what I meant,” Phil said. “I didn’t necessarily mean I was doing fine compared to other people.” Of course, he felt quite confident he was actually doing very well compared to others. “I just meant that my life is going well.”

“And what I’m wondering,” the stranger continued undeterred by Phil’s explanation, “is how you know. How do you know your life is going well? On what are you basing your assessment?”

Phil had never thought about it before. He was just—doing well. Life wasn’t perfect, but things were good. His job was good. His marriage was good. There was money in the bank. He, Jennifer, and Emily had their health. Things were good. The tuition bill was a concern, but not worth mentioning to a stranger.

“Well, like I told you—I’m an elder in my church, I’ve been married for 15 years, I’m doing well at work. Things are just…good.” Phil was now getting more irritated—at the stranger’s interrogation and Jennifer for being late. If she had been on time for once, he wouldn’t be stuck in this pointless conversation.

“It bothers you that your wife is late, doesn’t it?”

“What?” Phil asked. He must have had a startled look on his face, which he tried to hide by taking a long drink of water.

“Your wife. She’s late. That annoys you. If you’re honest, it makes you angry, doesn’t it?”

“Well, I don’t know that I’d go so far as saying I’m angry. Frustrated maybe. Look, it’s inconsiderate. If I’m on time, I expect others to be on time. I sacrifice by leaving work early, which means I need to go in early to make up for it.”

“I desire mercy, not sacrifice,” the stranger said softly to himself.

“What? Phil asked, unsure of what he’d heard.

“Phil, do you love your wife?”

“Of course I love my wife. What kind of a question is that?” Phil said.

“What does that mean, Phil? How do you love your wife?”

“What? How do I love my wife?” Phil replied. “Well, I just love her. She’s important to me and I care about her.”

“Do you put her needs before your own? Does she receive grace from you or does she feel like she must live up to your standards? Do you love her as your own body?”

“Do I love her as my own body? What’s that supposed to mean?”

Phil wanted to get up and leave, but he couldn’t. He thought about what to say, but had nothing. A minute passed. The stranger was content to just sit there in silence, looking at Phil.

“Phil, what if you’ve been using the wrong standard by which to measure your goodness? What if following your rules isn’t as important as loving your neighbor? What if the way someone looks, or dresses, isn’t as important as what’s in their heart? What if there’s nothing wrong with drinking a glass of wine, but there is with judging someone for doing it?”

Phil wished he could hide. It felt like his heart was being examined and it wasn’t going well.

“Who are you?” Phil said. “And by the way, how do you know my name?”

At that moment, the door opened, drenching the restaurant with the bright afternoon sun. Phil saw Jennifer enter and wave to him. He turned back to the stranger, but he was gone.

“Honey, I’m so sorry I’m late! Just as I was getting ready to leave, Emily spilled her juice and I…”

“Hey, slow down. It’s okay.”

“But I know how important it is to you for me to be on time and it’s almost 5:15.”

“Really, it’s okay. I’m just glad you’re here. Relax.”

Jennifer sat down and caught her breath. Phil looked over to see Brandy approaching the table. Her eyes were still red and swollen.

Before Brandy could ask for Jennifer’s drink order, Phil said, “I couldn’t help noticing you’ve been crying. Please sit down. Our order can wait.” Phil caught the look of surprise on Jennifer’s face.

Jennifer slid over and made room for her to sit. Brandy began to cry again.

Phil and Jennifer listened as Brandy shared her story. After she finished, Jennifer put her arm around Brandy and Phil took Brandy’s hands in his. His heart went out to her and he began to pray for her through his own tears.

***************************

On the first Friday of the next month, Phil and Jennifer walked in together, precisely at 5:47 p.m. Phil had gone home early that day and had lost track of time playing with Emily. Jennifer finally had to pull him away so they could eat.

Brandy ran to the door to meet them. She’d just gotten off the phone—the follow-up tests revealed the cancer was gone. The doctors had no explanation. Phil, Jennifer and Brandy hugged each other and cried tears of joy.

Brandy was healed.

And Phil was healed too.


What’s Your Plan to Get to Heaven?

Posted: May 6th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Did you catch what Phil Robertson begins to say at the 3:49 mark? “If you’re not a believer and you don’t believe God exists at all then the only hope you have is that He not be there. That’s your hope. Maybe He’s not there. What we’re saying is, ‘We trust that He is.’”

If you do believe in God, then you really have one of two directions you can go. First, you can try your best to appease Him and hope your best is enough. Up until the age of 19, that was my plan. I believed the key that would unlock heaven’s door was my good behavior. Of course the all-important question is: How good do you have to be?

I distinctly remember thinking as a teenager that because I hadn’t killed anyone I was qualified to get into heaven. I guess I thought it was okay to lie, steal, cheat, treat people unkindly, ignore those in need and have very little room in my life for God, but as long as I wasn’t guilty of murder–I was fine. My view was that heaven was our default destination and you really had to screw up big (like commit murder) to not make it in.

The problem with this view is obviously found in the definition of “good.” If it’s true that God created me and He created heaven, then what would lead me to think that my definition of good is the right one, that I get to determine the entrance requirements for heaven? Stop and think about it for a minute. It’s a really arrogant perspective.

If you’re trusting in your good behavior to get into heaven, let me encourage you to first find out what your god requires. And then get hard at work following his commands. And hope you don’t slip up. Hope you don’t somehow commit an offense he’s not willing to forgive. Sadly, I think you’ll find you can never quite shake that feeling that maybe you haven’t done enough. And that should motivate you to keep trying harder. As far as ever experiencing genuine, lasting joy or peace–forget it. How could you never knowing if eternal bliss or eternal punishment awaits?

So you can choose to believe God does not exist and then hope you’ve guessed right. Or if you do believe God exists, you can try to be as good as possible as defined by whatever god you’re believing in. Remember, you don’t decide what’s good or bad. He does. If this is your belief system, then your only hope is that you do enough good to outweigh your bad. Good luck with that.

The other option is to believe in the God Phil Roberston spoke of, a God who created us to live in friendship with Him. But because the human race has rebelled, we stand guilty before Him with no hope of ever being good enough to earn forgiveness. So a loving and moral God took on flesh and bore our punishment on the cross. Jesus died in our place and offers us the gift of forgiveness.

But a gift must be received. Have you received the gift of Christ’s forgiveness?

If this whole thing about Jesus seems like a fairy tale to you, then you’re back to either one of the first two options. You can hope God isn’t there or you can hope you’re good enough to appease Him.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (John 3:16-18)


The Vine and the Branch

Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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.


Predestined to be Adopted

Posted: February 5th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

My wife, Robyn, and I have never adopted a child, but we have many friends who have. A very good friend of mine and his wife adopted a little girl a number of years ago who has had some developmental issues. Parenting her has been very difficult at times and she continues to be a challenge.

If I asked my friend, “If you would have known then what you know now–would you still have adopted her?”

I’m pretty sure his response would be something like, “No doubt about it! She’s our daughter.”

I’d like to think I’d be able to answer the same way. And I’m very grateful it’s how God would answer. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul said:

In love, He predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will–to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the one He loves.

That’s a mouthful, I know, but let’s look at what Paul reveals to us about God’s heart toward us. In the previous sentence, we see that God chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. Now we see that He predestined us to be adopted into His family. Before you and I even existed, God chose to adopt us.

Was God surprised by our sin? Did we catch Him off guard? Did He have some regrets once He saw how we behaved?

Of course not. He saw all of our days before we took our first breath. He saw our selfish acts. He knew our evil thoughts. And yet, He adopted us anyway. Despite all of our sin, He made us His sons and daughters.

And He didn’t do it grudgingly. It was “in accordance with His pleasure and will.” God was pleased to adopt you. It was His will. He wanted you. He chose you. He adopted you. He made you His child.

And He has no regrets, because He already saw how you’d turn out. And so the result is “the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”

Think about that. God knew all about our sins and failures. And He adopted us anyway…by grace. And because we were adopted by grace and because He already knew all about us beforehand–there’s no danger of Him giving us back. We weren’t adopted because of our goodness. We were adopted in spite of our badness.

IT’S BY GRACE!

You are God’s child. In love, He predestined you to be adopted. And it was all by grace that was freely given to you in Christ.

If you have been living under a cloud of guilt and condemnation, then it’s time to start walking in the truth. You don’t have to be afraid that God is displeased and disappointed with you. You can live confidently in God’s love, because your Father has seen the worst about you and adopted you anyway.


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.