Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, seeking God | 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.
Posted: January 29th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, God's love, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, trials, Truth | No Comments »
I’ve never been in the military, but I have two sons-in-law who are currently serving. Richard is a Marine and Ross is an Army Ranger. They’ve both been deployed to Afghanistan and know what it’s like to fight in a war.
For most of us in the United States though, we just don’t have much experience with war. Other than isolated terrorist attacks, we haven’t seen a war fought on our soil since the Civil War 150 years ago. We just don’t know what it’s like to have someone trying to kill us or to hear missiles exploding in our cities.
I wonder if that makes it easy to forget we actually are in a war.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Something happened to us when we placed our faith in Christ. God changed us. He gave us a new nature. Our spirit came alive. And He blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. But there’s something else going on in the heavenly realms…
Ephesians 6:10-12 says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms and that is also the place in which we must do battle. But as Paul said, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We’re not fighting an enemy armed with guns and grenades. We are battling evil beings in an unseen realm. That is why in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul wrote:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
There’s a battle being fought for control of your mind. God wants you to know the truth, believe it and live by it. Satan and his demonic forces of evil will attempt to lie and deceive, so that you will live in fear, worry and anxiety–and never experience the life God has for you. Satan will tempt you to get your needs met in ways outside God’s will. Your enemy will try to convince you that God is angry or disappointed with you. He wants you to feel defeated and discouraged.
So Paul says we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Do you know what they are?
He also tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against Satan. Do you know what armor is available to you?
Are you aware of the lies or deceptions you may be believing?
If you’re a little unsure about how to answer those questions–let me encourage you to dig into Ephesians yourself. I could give you the answers to those questions, but you’ll get so much more benefit by discovering the answers yourself. You can read the entire letter in about fifteen minutes. What if you were to read it once or twice a day?
Spiritual blessings await you–things God has already accomplished on your behalf. But Satan doesn’t want you to know what they are or to ever experience them. So you’re going to have to fight. Like you, I wish life could be easier, but it’s not. We need to deal with life as it is, not as we wish it could be.
By the way, Paul mentions the “heavenly realms” a couple other places in his letter to the Ephesians. For the first ten people to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the other two verses–I’ll send you free copies (PDF versions) of my 40 day devotional book, “I Believe God”, as well as my book “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.”
Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
I learned a number of years ago that well-meaning people sometimes need to be ignored. Good people, nice people can sometimes be the most discouraging.
God was leading me to take a step of faith. A big one. And the more I obeyed and trusted Him, the more He confirmed I was doing the right thing. I’d never been more sure of a direction from God. In numerous ways, He encouraged me to believe Him, not my feelings or circumstances.
That didn’t mean He was also speaking to those around me though. I’m sure to others, my path looked foolish, irresponsible, even reckless. Some of the most discouraging people were some close friends. Either by the questions they asked, the comments they made or even the look on their faces–they were discouraging me from continuing to believe God.
In Mark 5, a man named, Jairus, comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to come heal his 12-year-old daughter who’s dying. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, some men come to tell Jairus his daughter has died. Verse 36 says:
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Sometimes we have to ignore others, so we can believe God.
If God is leading you to take a step of faith, then trust Him and take the step. Just understand you will very likely encounter resistance, skepticism and discouragement from those closest to you. During those times, you will need to go back to God and spend time in His word and in prayer to receive encouragement and strengthening in your faith. And the bigger the step of faith, the more you will need for God to confirm His plan.
Let me close with a word of caution. Before you choose to ignore someone’s counsel–be sure you are hearing clearly from God. We cannot always trust our desires. Our feelings will often lead us astray. God will never lead you to do anything that contradicts His word.
A man once told me he believed God had led him to have an affair with another woman. No, those were his own sinful desires that led him into an affair and a deceived mind that allowed him to conclude it was God.
The more time you bathe your mind in God’s word and in prayer, the more confidence you can have in taking bold steps of faith.
So is there someone you need to ignore so you can believe God?
Posted: August 17th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, forgiveness, grace, Holy Spirit, marriage, sex, sin, trials | 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.
Posted: July 5th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, dad, father, Holy Spirit, legacy, parenting, Young Life | No Comments »
Last week, I was at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in the mountains of North Carolina. My excitement about what Young Life is doing around the world continues to grow. The more staff I meet, the more impressed I am with their vision, passion and commitment to reach every kid with the good news that they are deeply loved by Jesus.
As I got to observe and participate in the ministry that was going on last week, one thing stood out to me more than any other:
A dad has tremendous power to bless or break his children.
That’s not a new idea, I know, but as I listened to the stories of staff or campers, the common denominator in almost every wounded soul was the damage done by a dad.
Dad was abusive.
Dad abandoned the family.
Dad was an alcoholic.
And the effects on those telling their stories were tremendous. Often, girls sought validation and love by giving themselves sexually to guys. It didn’t work, of course. It only led to more rejection and feelings of worthlessness. But they were trying to fill a hole in their hearts created by their dads.
This does not diminish the power and influence of a mom. Personally, I believe being a mom is the hardest job in the world, but as I listened to story after story of broken lives, it was dad who was at the center of the problem.
We arrived at Windy Gap on Sunday, June 24th. That would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. He was a good man. A very good man. Especially considering what he experienced from his own father.
I never really knew my dad’s father. He died when I was very young. I do have a vague memory though of him chasing me with a stick. A stick with a nail in it. Maybe he thought it was funny. As a toddler, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t laughing.
My dad once described his father as a “mean man.” That sums it up pretty well, I guess.
My dad was anything but mean though. He was loving, kind, generous and encouraging. And the older he got, the more those qualities grew.
One of my favorite memories is my dad driving five hours to see me play a football game at Cornell and then driving us both five hours back to New Jersey so I could spend a weekend at home. We probably arrived home at 3:00 a.m. He drove the whole way and never complained a bit.
No man is perfect, including my dad. He made mistakes. There are things I wish he’d done differently. But I feel very blessed to have been his son. He could have easily followed in the footsteps of his father. He could have verbally abused me. He could have disowned me like his father did to him. But he didn’t. He stood in the gap between generations and chose to change history.
I imagine that my dad’s father didn’t have a very good father either. I imagine my great-grandfather was probably a “mean man” as well. So my grandfather was only passing on what was modeled for him. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it at least explains it.
My dad stood in the gap and changed history. He could have continued the legacy of meanness. But he didn’t. He changed history. He refused to let his past define him. He chose a better path. A better life. For himself. And his family.
It changed my life. And the lives of my children. My dad’s words and actions live on.
He’s been dead now for over seven years, but his influence isn’t dead. My grandchildren, whom I don’t yet have, will never know my dad, but they will be blessed by his life. Because I was. And because my children have been.
If you’re a dad, or hope to be one, you need to know the tremendous power you have in the lives of your children. You have the power to bless them or break them. I saw it all so clearly last week.
If you’ve been wounded by your father, I feel for you. I know your wounds and your pain are real. As a result, you may be angry or depressed or dealing with feelings of insecurity or loneliness or low self-worth. Don’t struggle alone. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor. Process the hurt and the pain. Don’t stay wounded.
It’s possible to move forward and experience the love and acceptance our earthly father’s couldn’t give. God is able to heal our wounds. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen, if we will walk with God, trust Him and believe that what He says is true, not what an earthly father said or did to us.
One last word to father’s–your every word and action is making a lasting mark on your children. Teasing your daughter about her weight isn’t funny. Ignoring your wife sends a terrible message to your children about marriage. Pressuring your son to play a sport he hates is slowly killing him. Watching porn after the kids have gone to bed isn’t really a secret. They know.
Which dad are you going to be?
The selfish ones I heard about last week who abused and abandoned their children?
Or are you going to be a dad who stands in the gap and changes history by being a blessing to your wife and children?
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4
Posted: May 23rd, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God's word, heaven, heaven is like, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, Relationships | No Comments »
Yesterday, we looked at what we can learn about heaven from Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22. In those chapters, we see God’s original design for the earth and how He will one day make the earth new. You can read yesterday’s post here, if you missed it.
Let’s continue our look at heaven by answering a few questions…
Are we going to eat and drink?
Yes, we will eat and drink. Genesis 1:29-30 says:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ”
And Revelation 22:1-2 says:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
It looks like we’ll be vegetarians in heaven, at least that seems to be God’s original design. Death is the result of sin and since there will be no sin in heaven, I don’t see us killing animals to eat them. Speaking of animals, I used to believe there wouldn’t be animals in heaven, bu they existed in Genesis 1 and 2 before the fall, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t also exist with us on the new earth.
The river of the water of life will flow down the main street of the city. And the tree of life will be growing on each side of the street. Is that what we will eat and drink to keep our bodies healthy and alive forever? Possibly.
What will we do on the new earth?
Adam was given work to do in the garden and both Adam and Eve were given responsibility for subduing the earth and ruling over the animal kingdom. Working and having responsibility is part of God’s design for us.
Revelation 22 tells us that His servants will serve Him. The great difference is that there will no longer be any curse. As a result of the fall, the ground was cursed in Genesis 3. Work became burdensome. That will not be the case on the new earth. Work will be joyful and fulfilling.
Of course, we will also worship. In Revelation 4 and 5, we see a picture of thousands of angels and people around God’s throne singing to Him. Worship will be more than singing though. Our lives, our relationships, our service–it will all be worship. In fact, God’s name will be written on our foreheads. Think about that. Every person you come in contact with on the new earth will be a reminder of God’s name.
Let me mention one more thing about work and service that I’ll qualify by saying this is only my opinion. I believe there will be a lot of continuity between our current life on earth and our future life on earth. For example, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts to use to serve in God’s kingdom. Some are gifted at hospitality. Some are gifted at teaching. Some are gifted at leading or administration. There are many different gifts and abilities given by the Holy Spirit.
Since these are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, I think it’s possible that some gifts would continue on for use on the new earth. I also think it’s possible that some of our natural talents and abilities, even our desires and preferences might carry over. If, for instance, someone is a gifted cook and enjoys showing hospitality to others–could it be that those gifts would also be employed in New Jerusalem?
If we’re going to eat and serve and live in relationships with others–could it be that there will be cafes or even coffee shops in New Jerusalem? If so, we will need someone to prepare the food and serve the coffee. Maybe someone gifted in singing and playing the guitar will be there.
Again, I’m only guessing some of this may happen.
Will we be married in heaven? And if so, to whom?
Luke 20:27-38 says:
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Jesus makes it clear that there will not be marriage in heaven. Actually, there will be marriage, but it will be between Jesus and His bride, the church. Marriage as we know it today though, will not exist.
That brings up at least a couple questions for me. First, what about sex? If there’s not going to be marriage in heaven, then it sure seems like something will be missing without sex.
Let me encourage you with this thought–sex between a husband and wife, as good as it is, is just the appetizer. It’s just a reflection of the reality that awaits us. I don’t believe there’s anything in this present life that will be better than what we’ll experience on the new earth. So if marriage and sex will not be a part of things, then there will be something better.
Speaking of better, I can’t help thinking that sin has severely dulled all of our senses. Our hearing, our eyesight, our taste buds, etc.–are all effected by our fallen state. So how much better will food taste and a cool breeze feel on a warm day when we have new bodies and are living on the new earth.
One last thing, about marriage and the relationship between men and women on the new earth. In Genesis 2, God says that it’s not good for the man to be alone. This is before sin ever enters the picture. All of creation has been pronounced good, except the fact that man is alone.
If it was not good for the man to be alone before the fall, then I can’t help wondering what that will mean on the new earth. Jesus was clear–marriage will not exist, but will there be some type of friendship between men and women that we don’t yet understand?
Maybe someday you and I will get together in New Jerusalem and talk about all this!
Obviously, there are many other questions and issues we could discuss. I encourage you to read the Bible for yourself and discover what it has to say, or not say, about heaven and the new earth. It’s absolutely critical that you and I develop a biblical worldview. I also recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. He has explored the questions I’ve talked about here and many more.
Okay, I’m going to hold off on answering one more question until tomorrow. And it’s this:
If heaven is really going to be on the new earth, then where are the people who’ve already died and what are they doing now?
Posted: May 19th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: Holy Spirit, marriage, Young Life | No Comments »
It’s a beautiful spring day in Kansas City. I’m here to perform a wedding ceremony later this afternoon. As soon as the ceremony is over, I’ll begin the 250 mile drive back to Fayetteville so I can preach on Sunday morning at The Church at Arkansas.
I’ll be teaching from Acts 16:1-12, where we find Paul and his companions are on a missionary journey. They eventually find themselves in Macedonia. It’s really cool to see how they ended up there. Read it here. My wife and youngest daughter, along with four others, are currently in Macedonia on a Young Life mission trip. You can follow their journey here.
If you’re familiar with the New Testament of the Bible, you know the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) primarily give us a picture of the three-year public ministry of Jesus. Each writer has a different take on events, but it’s clear that the main figure is always Jesus.
Then we come to the book of Acts. It’s written by Luke, who also wrote the gospel of Luke. In the book of Acts, he’s giving us an historical account of the early church. Who started it? How? Where? What were the issues they faced? It’s a fascinating and fast-paced read.
The book of Acts is also referred to as the Acts of the Apostles, but a better name would be the Acts of the Holy Spirit. Of course we never really “see” Him, but it’s His power and wisdom at work in the men and women we read about. Whereas in the gospels the main figure was Jesus–in Acts, we could say the main figure is the Holy Spirit.
Just as it is today, Jesus was no longer walking around with His disciples in Acts. He had ascended to heaven and it was the Holy Spirit who then came to carry on the work of Jesus. He would do it by living in and through those who placed their faith in Jesus. It’s interesting that in Acts 16, Luke even refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Jesus.”
The Holy Spirit came to point us to Jesus. To remind us of what Jesus taught. To glorify Jesus.
Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called “Cru”), used to invite Jesus to walk around in his body. That’s what the Holy Spirit does–He walks around in our bodies, manifests the life of Jesus and accomplishes His purposes, in His ways and in His timing.
And that’s the only way the couple I’m marrying today will experience the life and the marriage God intends for them. There’s no other way for them to do it. There’s no other way for Robyn and me. There’s no other way for you.
Marriage was God’s idea and He has given us instructions on how to do it. He has also put His Spirit in us to give us the power to live out those instructions.
A successful marriage is only possible when both husband and wife walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. In our own strength, we are naturally selfish and committed to getting our needs and desires fulfilled. But when we allow the Holy Spirit to have his way in us, we become committed to meeting the needs and desires of our spouse.
If you’re not married but would one day like to be–I encourage you to focus on being the kind of person I’ve just described. Surrender your life to Christ and invite Him to walk around in your body by the power of the Holy Spirit. Seek God. Make it your goal to know Him and love Him.
Then ask God to bring you a spouse who is doing the same.
If you’re already married, the counsel is the same–live in the power of the Holy Spirit and be passionately committed to loving and serving the person you’re with now. It’s not to dump your spouse and look for someone new.
Of course, this all works much better if both you and your spouse are committed to walking in the power of the Holy Spirit, but since you can’t control your spouse–just do what you know to do.
Let God work on your spouse. You just work on you.
By the way, when done God’s way, marriage is a reflection of His love for the church. (Read Ephesians 5:22-33) When a husband and wife are committed to walking in the power of the Holy Spirit and fulfilling the roles and responsibilities God has given them–others will see it. They’ll see something special, something only God could do. And they’ll want to experience it also.
So if there’s that much riding on marriage, why would we ever think we don’t need God’s continual power and presence in our lives to pull it off?
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Posted: May 16th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, forgiveness, God's love, God's word, Holy Spirit, seeking God | No Comments »
When we pray, we want to know God is listening.
When we’re in a crisis, we want to know God sees and is going to help.
When we have an unmet need, we want to know God is aware and is already working out the solution.
We want to know we have His attention. That He’s really there. That we matter to Him. That He truly cares about us.
Well, there’s good news and bad news. We’ll go with the good news first.
The good news is that we do have God’s attention. He really does exist. We matter greatly to Him. And He cares about us more than we can even begin to understand.
Whenever you’re tempted to doubt that–go back to Romans 5:8, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
You and I were completely alienated from Him. We were rebels. We were objects of His wrath (Ephesians 2:1-3). And yet God reached out to us. He demonstrated His love for us. God Himself took on the punishment we had earned for rebelling against Him.
It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it? We focus so much of our attention on our circumstances that it’s easy to lose sight of God. When I focus on what I see around me, God seems small. And unconcerned. Even uncaring.
And that leads us to the bad news: Even though we have God’s attention, God doesn’t have our attention.
We’re more concerned with our ways, our plans, our desires and our goals. We’re not all that interested in doing life God’s way. We just want Him to bless our way. And it frustrates us when He won’t cooperate.
I’ve said it before, but God isn’t in the habit of pushing His way to the front. I was talking with a friend this morning whose wedding I’ll be performing on Saturday. He was telling me about how hard it was to put the seating chart together for the reception. Who should sit near the front? Who’s going to be in the back?
It occurred to me that if God was invited to a wedding, He’d sit in the back. Unless He was invited to come to the front. Where He belongs.
And that’s what we have to do. We have to invite Him to come to the front. Of our lives. Of our marriages. Of our families. Of our work. Of our everything.
It’s His rightful place. It’s where we need Him to be. It’s how life is supposed to work.
But God lets us choose Him. Or not.
Know this: you have all of God’s attention. The degree to which you will experience the life He has for you will depend on the amount of your attention that He has.
You and I were not designed to live apart from an intimate, growing love relationship with God. And that begins by placing our trust in Jesus to forgive our sin. Then we grow in our relationship with Him and experience His wisdom and power and blessing as we surrender ourselves completely to Him and ask the Holy Spirit to be in control of us.
You have God’s attention. Don’t wonder about that any more.
The real question is: Does He have yours?
Posted: May 15th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God's word, Holy Spirit, seeking God, worry, Young Life | No Comments »
How desperate is your situation?
Are you at the point where you can’t see any way out? No way that things can get better?
Your spouse wants a divorce. Your company is laying people off. Your child is a drug addict. Your husband is addicted to porn. Your loved one was diagnosed with cancer.
Maybe you’ve been struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. Maybe circumstances are pretty good, but you can’t get free from the anxiety and worry.
How desperate is your situation?
And what are you going to do? Who are you going to turn to?
For the past few days, I’ve been reading in the book of Acts. It’s the Acts of the Apostles, but the book should really be called the Acts of the Holy Spirit. He did everything. The apostles were just instruments in His hands.
He told people where to go. He told them what to do and say. He revealed truth. He filled people with power.
He gave them the ability to speak other languages. He gave them power to heal and raise the dead.
Wherever and whenever the Holy Spirit showed up–things changed.
Have you lost hope? Is your situation desperate?
Read the book of Acts. Read John 14-16 where Jesus spoke extensively about the Holy Spirit and what He would do when He came. Cry out to God to fill you with His Holy Spirit. Give Him total control of your life. Don’t hold anything back.
The Holy Spirit can do things you could never do. He can change your circumstances or He can change you. Either way, you win. He will not force Himself on you though. He will wait for you to invite Him to be in control. You can continue to do things in your own wisdom and strength or you can turn to Him for help.
Are you willing to abandon yourself to the Holy Spirit?
My wife and daughter, along with four other Young Life leaders from Northwest Arkansas, are leaving on Wednesday (5/16) for a mission trip to Macedonia. Can I ask you to pray for the Holy Spirit to use them in a great way over the next week and a half?
You can follow the ministry of Young Life in Northwest Arkansas and the trip to Macedonia on their new blog.
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, fear God, God's character, God's love, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God, sex, sin, trials, Truth, worry | 1 Comment »
- What if God wants to tell you something really important about the next step in your life, but you can’t hear Him because of all the noise?
- What if you exchanged the amount of time you currently spend on your phone, laptop and television with the amount of time you read the Bible and talk to God?
- What if God meant everything He said?
- What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
- What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
- What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
- What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
- What if heaven is going to be a lot like the absolute best day on earth you can possibly imagine…only a million times better and minus any pain, sin, conflict or difficulties?
- What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
- What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
- What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
- What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
- What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
- What if God is crazy in love with you?
- What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
- What if God said He was going to bless you financially in proportion to how generous you’ve been lately–would you be excited or disappointed?
- What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
- What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
- What if someone in the Bible faced the same problems you are and you could learn from that person how to (or not to) handle them?
- What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
- What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
- What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
- What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
- What if the negative emotions (fear, worry, anxiety, etc.) you’re feeling are signal that you’ve got a wrong belief about God or yourself?
- What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?