Cancer of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does all that play out in my life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Wired by God For Pleasure

Posted: January 6th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Do you agree or disagree with the following statement?

“This life doesn’t matter. It’s all about eternity and life in heaven.”

Do you agree?

I don’t. Not any more anyway.

It wasn’t that long ago that I would have agreed with that statement or something like it. Or I would have at least thought I was supposed to agree with it. The problem was that my heart just wasn’t in it. And now my head isn’t either.

God created us as physical beings in a physical world. Yes, we’re also spiritual beings and live in a spiritual world, but the physical part isn’t bad or wrong.

After six days of creation, God pronounced that everything was good. His physical creation, including Adam, was good. In fact, the only thing that wasn’t good was Adam being alone. So God formed Eve and brought her to Adam.

Adam and Eve, just like you and me, were given five senses that allowed them to relate to and experience this physical world. And the fact that I have these five senses tells me something about God. He wants us to enjoy life and experience pleasure. Physical pleasure in this life. And a lot of it.

Listening to your favorite song is pleasurable.

Viewing a sunset is pleasurable.

Smelling freshly baked cinnamon rolls is pleasurable.

Tasting one is even more pleasurable.

Kissing someone is pleasurable.

I just can’t get away from the fact that our fives senses are wired by God to experience the pleasures of this physical world He created for us. That tells me He wants us to enjoy it. That it might even give Him pleasure to watch us receive pleasure from all He has given us.

Granted, we can take pleasure too far. We can misuse it and we can abuse it. We can even make it into a god or an idol, something we bow down to and worship. And that’s when we get into trouble. When our desire for physical pleasure goes too far and becomes an addiction.

Fortunately, God gives us commandments that teach us how to live in this physical world. His laws protect us and provide for us. As we walk according to His ways, we discover freedom and maximum pleasure. His commands aren’t meant to rob us of fun and pleasure–they’re meant to provide it!

So will heaven be better than this life?

I used to think it wouldn’t be. I mean I knew it would be or that I was at least supposed to believe it would be, but again, my heart wasn’t really in it. The idea of floating around in some spiritual dimension didn’t really have much appeal to me. It sounded boring. Don’t get me wrong, heaven was definitely better than the alternative, but not something to really get excited about.

But did you know that heaven will be on earth? That we’ll have bodies? That we’ll eat and drink? That we’ll enjoy living in friendship with others and with God? On earth?

Read Genesis 1 and 2. And read Revelation 21 and 22. Those are the first two and last two chapters of the Bible. It gives us a glimpse of what it was supposed to be like and what God will restore it to. Notice the similarities in those four chapters.

If you ever long for what you don’t have or wish friendships were more fulfilling or loved ones didn’t die or wars were never fought or rivers were never polluted, then what you’re longing for is what used to be and what will be again…on this earth.

God created us to live in friendship with Him. Here on earth. The plan got messed up when Satan tempted Adam and Eve to go their own way rather than God’s way. But God hasn’t given up on the original design. He’s going to restore it and make it all new.

And we’ll live with Him. In friendship. Here on earth. Experiencing all the pleasures these bodies were designed to receive. And it will be better than anything we can imagine.

In the meantime, we experience life on earth and walk with God by faith. And we get glimpses of what’s to come when we enjoy a beautiful sunset or walk along a beach. Or when we enjoy a delicious meal and great conversation with friends. Or when a husband and wife make love.

Life on earth in the heavenly kingdom will be amazing, but it doesn’t mean this life now doesn’t matter. It’s a gift from God to be enjoyed.

We’re wired by God for pleasure and He’s graciously given us His word to provide for us and protect us.

One Thing You Lack

Posted: July 25th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

In Mark 10:17-31, a man runs up to Jesus, falls on his knees and asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells the man to obey the commandments, which Jesus then lists for him. When the man replies that he has kept all those commandments, Jesus replies, “One thing you lack…”

Do you think the man was feeling pretty good at that point? He’s thrown himself on his knees in front of Jesus and declared that he’s kept the commandments. And now Jesus is telling him he only lacks one thing to inherit eternal life.

That’s when things taken an unpleasant turn for the man.

Jesus tells the him to sell everything he owns, give the money to the poor and then come follow Him. It’s essentially what He said to Peter, Andrew, James and John. He called those men to follow Him and they immediately left everything behind and went with Him.

They didn’t hesitate. They didn’t debate. They didn’t talk it over. They didn’t try to make a deal with Jesus. They left everything and followed Him.

That’s not what the man in Mark 10 does though. He went away sad because he was very wealthy. Jesus then goes on to tell His disciples how hard it is for the rich to enter heaven.

So why is it so hard?

Because the wealthy have made their money, their pleasure and their personal comfort their god.

Is Jesus saying that money is evil and that everyone must sell everything they have? No. The problem this man had was that his money was an idol. It was his god. To him, Jesus wasn’t just telling him to give his money away, He was telling him to give his god away. And the man was unwilling to do that. He chose his god and it wasn’t going to be Jesus.

Money, comfort and pleasure are excellent servants. But they’re terrible gods.

Now consider what the man gave up. Jesus promised him “treasure in heaven” and invited him to be one of His followers. Later, when Peter declares, “We have left everything to follow You!”, Jesus tells His disciples that no one who has made sacrifices to follow Him will fail to receive much more in return in both this life and in the life to come.

The man gave up following the one true God to hold onto his false god. He forfeited eternal life to gain the fleeting pleasures of this life.

By the way, if you live in the United States and make $25,000 a year–you’re among the wealthiest 10% of people in the world. No, I didn’t mistakenly leave off a zero. That’s $25,000, not $250,000. And if you make $75,000 a year–you’re among the wealthiest 1% of people in the world.

When Jesus talks about the rich, He’s talking about most of us. If you’re reading these words, it means you have access to a computer. That means you probably also have access to clean water, food, air conditioning and medical care. I think Jesus would consider you wealthy. As He does me.

So that makes us susceptible to the same temptation as the man in Mark 10. It’s tempting to make money our god. Our idol. The thing we can’t give up. The thing we want more of can’t quite seem to get enough of. The thing that occupies most of our thoughts.

The man wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. So Jesus told him he only lacked one thing: get rid of the false god you’ve been following and “then come, follow me.”

Are you following Jesus wholeheartedly? Or is there “one thing you lack?”

Does money, comfort and pleasure come before Jesus?

Isn’t it interesting that we say we need to pray about whether or not to financially support a missionary, but it would never occur to us to pray about whether or not to buy a pizza and instead give that money away?

Would any of us ever consider giving up a vacation to help a neighbor in need?

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with eating pizza or taking vacations. That is unless they’ve become symptomatic of having the wrong god.

How Long Will You Waver?

Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Which one of these is not like the others?

Murder. Adultery. Idol worship. Rape.

Yeah, I know. Idol worship, right? It’s not even in the same category as the others, is it?

Of course, it may not be in the same category as the others for a different reason than we might think. What if it’s in a different category because it’s even worse than the others?

Please don’t hear me say that murder, adultery, rape are not horrible sins. They are. They’re inexcusable. But what if worshiping idols is even worse?

As I’ve read through 1 Kings, it’s fascinating that God keeps referring to the “sin of Jeroboam son of Nebat.” What was his sin? He made two golden calves, built shrines to false gods and appointed priests who weren’t Levites.

I don’t see anywhere that God continually refers to David’s sin of adultery and murder. In fact, God even holds up David as an example of someone who obeyed Him. When Solomon’s heart turned away from God and he began to worship idols, God said, “So Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD; he did not follow the LORD completely, as David his father had done.

Again, please don’t hear me say that murder and adultery aren’t so bad or that God looks the other way and gives a pass. That’s not the case.

But I think we’ve been deceived into thinking that having other “gods” before Jehovah and worshiping idols isn’t any big deal. Like somehow those sins only applied to ancient Israel.

In 1 Kings 18, the prophet Elijah confronts Ahab and tells him to assemble the the people and the false prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel. There’s going to be a show down between Elijah and the false prophets of Baal. Actually, there’s going to be a show down between Jehovah and the false god, Baal.

When everyone has assembled, Elijah says:

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”

You can read the chapter to find out what happens next. It’s awesome.

So the question was asked thousands of years ago, but it’s still relevant. We just need to change the name of the false god.

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if _____________ is God, follow him.”

What false gods or idols do we need to place in the blank?

If your job is God, follow him.

If your money is God, follow him.

If sex is your God, follow him.

If your children are God, follow them.

If your house is God, follow him.

If your favorite sports team is God, follow him.

If the way you look is God, follow him.

Jehovah is a jealous God. He isn’t interested in sharing us with our false gods and idols. We have to choose Him or them. We can’t have both.

How long will you and I waver?

We need to pick our God and follow him. Whoever he is.

5 Life Lessons From 600 B.C.

Posted: October 7th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

A lot has changed since I was a kid growing up in New Jersey…

  • We didn’t have cable TV. Instead, we had a box that sat on the floor next to the television which we used to control the antenna on the roof. We could point it at Philadelphia or New York City and get channels from either city. All together, we got about a dozen channels.
  • We didn’t own a microwave oven. I don’t think anyone did.
  • If we wanted to watch a movie, we either went to a theater or waited for one to be shown on TV. VCR’s hadn’t even been invented.
  • We made phone calls from a phone that hung on the wall in the kitchen. I had no idea what the * and # keys were for.
  • If we wanted to play video games, we went to an arcade at the boardwalk and spent a quarter.
  • To write a paper for school, I used the Collier’s encyclopedias we had. No one would say “Google” for another two decades.

Yes, a lot has changed. And a lot has changed since the Bible was written. But there’s even more that hasn’t changed. The big stuff. The important stuff.

God hasn’t changed.

His commands haven’t changed.

His ways haven’t changed.

His purposes haven’t changed.

So if we want to know how to really live life, we need to go back to what God has revealed in His word. Today and tomorrow, we’ll look at a few guys who lived 2600 years ago and the life lessons they can teach us.

First read Daniel 3.

Life Lesson #1: God hates pride and idol worship.

King Nebuchadnezzar learns this the hard way. The really hard way, which we’ll see more tomorrow.

In chapter 3, we see him setting up a 9-foot wide, 90-foot tall idol of gold. Think “9-story building.” This thing was huge.

He then gives the order that whenever the music plays, everyone is to fall down and worship the gold image. “Whoever does not fall down and worship will immediately be thrown into a blazing furnace.”

It’s easy to think that pride isn’t so bad and idol worship only applies to people who worshiped things made from gold, stone or wood. But the essence of pride is living life on my own terms and idol worship is anything we worship that isn’t God.

Don’t think of worship as just bowing down or singing praises. Idol worship comes in many forms.

What do you give the bulk of your attention to? Television? The internet? A relationship? Pornography? A hobby? Sports? Your looks? Your job? Your phone?

See if this might help to identify any idols in your life. How would you complete the following sentence? “I don’t think I could live without __________________.”

Whatever you put in the blank may be an idol for you.

And pride may be an issue if you ever finding yourself thinking, “I know God says ___________, but I __________.”

The key word there is “but.” Remember, the essence of pride is living life on your own terms. It’s going your own way. In a sense, it’s acting like the god of your own life. Knowing what God requires, but doing what you want anyway is pride.

God isn’t interested in sharing his authority with us or our attention with idols. He wants us to submit to Him and walk away from our idols.

Life Lesson #2: The world is under the control of the evil one.

Have you noticed that it’s okay to believe just about whatever you want these days? Tolerance for other views and religions has somehow become the highest virtue. Is there anything worse today than being labeled as judgmental or narrow-minded?

And yet if you’re a Jew or a Christian, there’s very little tolerance for you. Think back through history–does the hatred we see for the Jews seem rational to you? Why was Hitler so intent on wiping them out? And today, there are any number of countries that would love to see the nation of Israel eliminated.

That’s nothing new.

After King Nebuchadnezzar builds the idol and commands people to bow down to it, it says, “At this time some astrologers came forward and denounced the Jews.”

1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”

This world system is under the control of Satan. That means that from the time you wake up in the morning until the time you go to bed at night, almost nothing will encourage you in your relationship with Christ. In fact, you will face a multitude of lies, deceptions, temptations and discouragements. They may come from media, government, advertising, teachers, friends and even family.

This does not mean there are not Christ-followers in politics, business or teaching. There are many godly men and women serving Christ in those arenas. Just understand that this world system is enemy territory. So don’t be surprised. Be prepared for it. This world system, under the control of the evil one, is intent on discouraging, destroying and yes, even killing Jews and Christians.

If you have any doubt, just watch the news.

Life Lesson #3: Just because God is able to do something, it doesn’t mean He will.

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are threatened with death if they don’t worship the idol, but here’s what they said to the king:

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

These three young men had confidence that God could save them, but knew He might not. Being saved from death was not their primary concern. Honoring God was–even to the point of losing their lives.

Sometimes we face painful circumstances and believe God will save us from them because He is able. I’ve made this mistake many, many times and it has led to a lot of anger and discouragement.

If saving us from a painful trial is best for us and will bring God glory and accomplish His purposes, then He will deliver us from our circumstances. Sometimes though, taking us through the painful trial is what is best. And sometimes, people who trust God will die.

Do I understand it? No, not really.

Do I wish there was another way? Absolutely.

God did choose to save these young men from their trial. He doesn’t always do that though. I’ve lost both parents even though I prayed for their healing. I’ve endured unemployment and financial trials even though I pleaded with God to help me. I’ve asked God for help and healing that never seems to come.

More than understanding why God works the way He does, what I really need is to trust that God is always good, no matter what. Even if He doesn’t answer my prayer or come through like I’d hoped–He is still good, still loves me and can still be trusted.

Life Lesson #4: Nothing is ever too hard for God.

He is the God who can deliver us from the fiery furnace. This may seem like a contradiction to #3. I get that. I feel the tension. Don’t let that stop you from praying big, from praying for a miracle.

God wants us to trust Him and ask Him for things that only He can do.

Know this–today, you have everything God wants you to have. If there’s something you don’t have that you need, then God can provide it. Keep seeking and trusting Him. Maybe in the meantime there’s something He’s wanting to teach you about Himself or His ways. Maybe He wants to grow your faith. Maybe the timing isn’t right yet.

Focus on “Who?”, not “When?”, “Why?” or “How?” Some questions have no answers, at least not in this lifetime. Choose to focus on God and knowing Him better. Don’t let the unanswerable questions shipwreck your faith.

Life Lesson #5: People are impressed with God, not you and me.

After God saved them from the furnace, Nebuchadnezzar said, “Praise be to the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who has sent his angel and rescued his servants! They trusted in him and defied the king’s command and were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God.”

Notice what the king says, “They trusted in Him…”

God responds to our faith and does things only He can do. When that happens, He is praised. He is believed in. He receives honor.

When we walk by sight and only attempt things that we can pull off, God doesn’t often show up. At least not in a way that makes anyone notice.

We can do things our way and get the results we can produce. Or we can do things God’s way, step out in faith, and experience Him do things only He can do.

King Nebuchadnezzar experienced God doing what only God could do, but like us, the king had a tendency to forget, which leads to another life lesson, which we’ll save until tomorrow.

What Will It Take For You?

Posted: August 11th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Our first parents, Adam and Eve, rebelled. They ate what they were told not to eat and that introduced sin into the human race. Ever since, we’ve been bent on going our own way. Our nature is to seek life and happiness on our own terms, not God’s.

And yet all through history, God’s message has been consistent: return to Me. I will be Your God. You will be my people. I will love and provide for you. You will love and worship Me.

Life as it was meant to be will one day be restored when God brings heaven to earth (Revelation 21-22). Our desire to go our own way, to live independent of God will be no more. We will leave in peace with Him, enjoying the friendship with Him that He always desired.

Until then, we toil and sweat and endure pain and hardships. We suffer loss. We experience conflict with people we love. We live in fear or anger or worry or anxiety. We wonder if God sees or cares or actually does love us. We question His goodness when times are bad. We struggle and groan in a world cursed by sin.

Faithfully though, God continues to call to us. He invites us to love Him and seek Him. He wants us to trust Him, to believe Him, to rely on Him. When we do, we discover He really is good. He really does love us. He can be counted on when times are good and when times are bad.

Sadly though, we most often seem to forget Him. Some of us go hours without even thinking about Him. Many of us go through entire days or weeks without truly taking the time to talk with Him or even consider that He’s there–waiting for us to acknowledge Him, seek Him and love Him.

In Ezekiel 22, God is detailing the sins Judah has been guilty of when in verse 12 it says, “And you have forgotten Me, declares the Sovereign LORD.”

You have forgotten Me.

Do you think that just maybe that might be one of the worst sins we could ever commit? Maybe the worst? Could forgetting God be the root issue of all the sin and difficulties in our lives?

Flip it around for a moment. What would your life look like today if you were to constantly remember God’s way of doing things and His presence in your life?

What if you were to remember that His ways are always best and that His power is always available to enable you to carry out whatever He has called you to do?

He has a plan for your marriage and the power for you to live it out. He knows your spouse’s needs and how best to meet them. He knows the sources of conflict and how to resolve them. He sees the problems that lie ahead and how to handle them.

Your job may not seem like a spiritual activity, something God is all that involved in, but it is. Your job as a teacher, a coach, a manager, a sales person, a business owner or whatever, is no less sacred than being a pastor or missionary. If God has called you to your position, then He knows how He wants you to do your job and His wisdom and strength are available to do it.

Your financial problems may seem like your mess to deal with, but that’s not how God sees it. Yes, you may have to deal with the consequences of poor choices, but He has a plan to help you. His principles for handling finances are always best.

In God’s way of thinking, there is no segmentation to life. You don’t have a personal life, a work life, a family life and a church life. You don’t have a life you live Monday through Thursday, another you live on Friday and Saturday nights and then another for Sunday mornings. You have one life and God is central to it. In fact, HE IS YOUR LIFE.

Read that last sentence again. I believe our failure to believe it, and then live like it’s true, is the real problem we all face. We forget God, but still have needs, wants and desires that we long to fulfill. Life then becomes and endless, fruitless search for life and meaning apart from the only true Source.

Isn’t it funny that people have looked for life and happiness in money and material things for thousands of years, but haven’t found it? And yet we keep looking there? According to Sports Illustrated, 78% of former NFL players are broke or financially stressed. 60% of former NBA players are broke just five years after retiring. These guys made millions of dollars, but are now broke. No, they didn’t understand how to handle their money, but that’s the point. They sought life and happiness by buying all the things and pleasures money could buy. But it didn’t work. They spent themselves into poverty.

This life provides a multitude of distractions. All kinds of diversions and excuses for forgetting God. You’d almost think someone evil was behind a world system like that.

So here’s the question for you (and me): what will it take for you to remember God? I don’t just mean remember He exists, but that He’s your life. That He’s central to who you are. That He doesn’t want to just be an afterthought, but wants to be your first thought and last thought and every thought in between?

What will it take for us to embrace Him and His way of living life and stop chasing our lesser gods? What will it take for us to put away our idols and turn away from our temporary pleasures and pursuits that provide fleeting happiness, but always leave us empty?

Will it take a personal crisis? A serious health issue? The loss of a job? What will it take for us to truly remember God?

What will it take for you?

Recapturing Your Heart

Posted: August 2nd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Most likely, you don’t have a pagan shrine set up in your living room. No golden calf. No gods cast from silver. Nothing resembling what we’d normally think of as an idol.

We’re too “modern” for that, aren’t we? We’re intelligent enough to know that a gold image or idol carved from a block of wood isn’t going to bless us, save us or enlighten us.

More likely, we read about Israel’s idol worship and scratch our heads. What were these people thinking? God provided for them in the dessert. He gave them victory over their enemies. He brought them into a good land. He blessed them in every way. And yet, they turned to worshiping idols. Some were cast from gold. Others were carved from blocks of wood. None of them had any power though.

Rightly so, this made God angry. Of course, God’s reaction to idol worship seems out of proportion to the offense unless we understand a critical point. You and I were not placed on planet earth to be good citizens or grab all the fun and pleasure we can or generally do as we please with little regard for the One who created us.

No, we were created by and for God. We are His. We’re not our own. We belong to Him and exist to live in friendship with Him, worship Him and bring Him glory. He IS life.

So when we live independently of Him and instead give our attention and devotion to other things, it’s a serious offense. In fact, it’s the most serious offense. If we don’t realize this, then we’ll fail to understand why God was so upset at idol worship.

Okay, we don’t have idols of gold or silver or wood lying around, but I suspect we have some others. In Ezekiel 14, some elders of Israel came to the prophet and God said to him, “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?” You can read the entire chapter here.

Idols set up in their hearts. Wicked stumbling blocks before their faces.

Now that’s starting to hit a little closer to home.

Been setting up any idols in your heart lately? I think I’ve got a few.

What do you tend to think most about? A person? Something you wish you could buy? A bigger 401k? Something you want, but don’t or can’t have? Could be an idol.

What could you not live without? Someone’s approval? Your house? Your iPhone? Chocolate? A drink…or two? Maybe it’s an idol for you.

If you could just have __________________, then you’d be happy. Whatever you put in the blank could be an idol.

Where do you spend most of your discretionary time? In front of the television? Putting in more time at work? In the gym? At the tanning salon? Anything can be an idol.

Recently, a friend shared with me that he was selling his motorcycle because it had become an idol.

My heart is capable of setting up anything as an idol. How about you?

Back in Ezekiel 14, God says that when those who are worshiping idols come to consult a prophet, He will answer them Himself rather than speaking through the prophet. He said, “I will do this to recapture the hearts for the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.”

God wants your heart free of idols, so you’re free to worship Him. He went on to say, “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!”

If you identified one or more idols, then it’s time to get rid of them. It won’t be easy though. Some of the kings of Judah and Israel would try to eliminate idol worship only to see it creep back into the culture. Idols are stubborn things. Once they have our attention, they don’t like to let us go.

Ask God for help. He can supply the power to repent, to turn away from whatever idol you’ve set up in your heart.

If it’s a particularly tough one to deal with, then also ask a friend to pray for you. By the way, maybe another way of thinking about an idol is to call it an addiction. Having someone else to encourage you and help hold you accountable may be necessary.

You may also want to fast if it really has its grasp on you. If you need information on how to fast, you can find it here.

God wants you to be free. He wants your heart to be devoted to Him. He knows that’s how you’ll experience life to the fullest.

It’s time to turn from our idols.

What’s the big deal with idols?

Posted: February 3rd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , | No Comments »

For the past couple of months, I’ve been reading in the Old Testament books of Isaiah and Jeremiah. What’s coming across loud and clear is this simple fact: worshiping idols and other “gods” is a really big deal to God. Big deal as in He really doesn’t like it. He got very angry when Israel, His people, chose to worship gods of wood and metal rather than Him.

Does that seem, well, a little odd to you…that God would make such a big issue of idols and false gods?

It does to me…until I step back for a moment and consider the big picture. To do that, let’s first look at a common misconception about God.

You’ve probably heard people say something like this:

“I believe God is loving and forgiving, so I just don’t see how He could send someone to hell just for not believing in Jesus.”

Maybe you’ve said it yourself.

Let’s unpack that statement for a moment.

First, if someone believes God is loving and forgiving, I’ve got to ask why they believe that. Where in the world did they get that idea? How do they know?

Saying, “I just do” or “It’s just what I believe” is of course intellectually lazy. There must be a reason for the belief. It came from somewhere, so from where did it come? The Bible? Well, the Bible also speaks about hell, which leads to the second point…

To say that God wouldn’t or shouldn’t send someone to hell “for just not believing in Jesus,” we must first make a very big assumption, and it’s this: not believing in Jesus isn’t really a big deal.

Murder. Rape. Stealing. Torture. Those are big deals. But not believing in Jesus? Come on…not a big deal.

But what if it is a big deal? What if it’s THE deal?

What if the reason you and I exist in the first place is to live in friendship with and worship God? And what if the one barrier between us and God, sin, must first be dealt with? What if the only way to be forgiven for sin is through Christ’s death on the cross? And what if the way we receive that forgiveness is by believing in Jesus?

We weren’t created to simply be good citizens of planet earth. We were created by and for Jesus. We exist to know, love and worship Him.

Giving our attention and affection to idols then is the worst possible thing we could do. It totally contradicts our reason for being in the first place.

I don’t imagine you have a shrine in your living room to a lifeless, wooden idol. But you may have other idols lying around…

Your job or the need to be successful.

Money…and anything it can buy. A car. A house. A 50″ plasma.

Your marriage.

Your children.

Your hobby.


A television program. A video game. Your iPhone.

Your looks.

The list is endless. An idol can be anything that has captured your heart.

And God hates our idols. He knows they promise more than they can deliver. He knows they’re a cheap imitation of the real life He has for us in Him.

Yeah, idols are a big deal. And not believing in Jesus is THE big deal.

Delight Yourself in the Lord

Posted: January 19th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Sometimes I live like God is more of a concept or a character in a book than a real Person with feelings and plans and my eternal destiny in His hands. Then I read a verse like Jeremiah 2:19 and it jolts me back to reality.

“Your wickedness will punish you;
your backsliding will rebuke you.
Consider then and realize
how evil and bitter it is for you
when you forsake the LORD your God
and have no awe of me,”
declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.

The wickedness that Israel was guilty of was this: they had forsaken God. They had forgotten Him. Instead of loving and seeking Him, they turned their backs on Him and worshiped idols and other gods.

Have you ever stopped to consider how evil and bitter it is to forsake God? To turn away from Him and give your attention to other things?

When was the last time you felt in awe of God? When you trembled a little at the thought of ignoring or disobeying Him?

So what does this have to do with delighting ourselves in the Lord?

It’s simple. You and I will choose to delight in someone or something today. It could be your work. Maybe it’s a hobby or TV show. It might be a house, a car or a vacation. For some, it’s a relationship…or the hope of one. It could be anything.

To delight in something means to find pleasure or enjoyment in it. So what are you delighting in today more than you’re delighting in God? Whatever it is…that’s your idol. When we forget God and have no awe of Him, we naturally turn to our idols.

I’m guilty. How about you?

God’s loving challenge is this: consider how evil and bitter it is to forsake Him and have no awe of Him. Then turn back by choosing to delight in Him, to find your real pleasure and real enjoyment in Him.

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

Our Idols

Posted: October 29th, 2009 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’m in my office at church, but I can clearly hear Beth Moore (on video) in the auditorium. It’s hard to not listen. She’s teaching from her series on the book of Esther. She was just talking about how we idolize celebrities.

As she was speaking, I happened to be reading Psalm 96 and Isaiah 46. Here are a few passages:

For great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.

For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the LORD made the heavens.    (Psalm 96:45)

Some pour out gold from their bags
and weigh out silver on the scales;
they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god,
and they bow down and worship it.

They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;
they set it up in its place, and there it stands.
From that spot it cannot move.
Though one cries out to it, it does not answer;
it cannot save him from his troubles.

“Remember this, fix it in mind,
take it to heart, you rebels.

Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.

I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.  (Isaiah 46:6-10)

Idols. No, not like the immunity idol on Survivor. We’re talking about anything that takes God’s rightful place in our lives. At first glance, it may feel like you don’t have any idols in your life…but see if you’re giving more attention to any of these than you are to God:

Your job.

Your children.

Your spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend.

Golf or football. Either playing or watching.

Your house, your car or your yard.



Money: the accumulation of it and/or anything it can buy.

Fascination with celebrities.



A hobby.

Volunteer activities.

Your phone, computer or game system.

Your appearance.

Any of those hit close to home? A few of them do for me.

Ultimately, idols leave us empty. They’ll never deliver what we long for: love, purpose and significance.

If you’re caught up in worshiping one or more idols–choose to turn away. That’s not enough though. Our hearts won’t tolerate a vacuum for very long. We will search out something to worship and serve. You may turn away from one idol only to worship another…unless…unless you choose to seek God and worship Him only.

Hebrews 11:6 says, “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.”

God will reward you when you turn away from idols and seek Him.