Moments of Doubt

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

Have you ever felt confident you were in God’s will and then later wondered if you’d made the right decision?

Have you ever had a strong conviction about something only to later completely change your mind?

Do you sometimes feel strong in your faith and in the next moment feel filled with doubt?

If we’re honest, I think we’ve all been there. I know there are times when I feel totally confident in God’s faithfulness and yet a minute later I’m filled with worry and fear.

So what’s going on in times like those? And what can we do about it?

In Matthew 11, Jesus has just finished giving instructions to his disciples before he sends them out to do ministry. Jesus then went out Himself to teach and preach in the surrounding towns. That’s when John the Baptist, who’s in prison, sends two of his disciples to Jesus with a question.

“Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Earlier in the gospel of Matthew, when Jesus came to John to be baptized, John said, “I am the one who needs to be baptized by you, so why are you coming to me?” Clearly, John knew who Jesus was and felt inadequate to even baptize Him. In the gospel of John, he said of Jesus, “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

So what changed? Why is John now wondering if Jesus is the one or if he should keep looking?

Why do you and I start to wonder? Why do you and I start doubt and question God? Why do we doubt His goodness and faithfulness?

I know for me it happens when my circumstances aren’t very good, when difficulties aren’t getting better, when I expected God to work in a certain way and He didn’t.

Maybe John expected to be released from prison. I’m sure he must have prayed about it. It’s easy to become discouraged and begin to doubt when we don’t see God act in the way we’d like or as quickly as we’d like. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, but maybe he also had expectations that Jesus would be a political or military savior as well. God had shown him that Jesus would take away the sins of the world–maybe John thought that would also mean overthrowing the Roman occupation and letting him out of prison.

So what does Jesus tell John’s disciples?

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’”

Jesus is revealing Himself to the lowly, to the poor, to the sick, to the sinners and to the humble. He’s restoring their physical health and He’s offering spiritual health to those who believe in Him. His kingdom is advancing among “the least of these.” He’s not setting up an earthly kingdom though. Not yet.

Then Jesus ends with, “God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.”

I feel like Jesus is saying, “John, I know it’s hard right now. I know things haven’t gone like you expected. And yes, I could get you out of this right now if I wanted to, but that’s not why I’ve come. You know why I’ve come, so don’t give up, John. Keep trusting Me. Don’t turn away now. Your reward is coming.”

And so is your reward if you don’t turn away.


Are You Tormenting Yourself?

Posted: May 14th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

birds 300x200 Are You Tormenting Yourself?

Worry: to torment oneself with or suffer from disturbing thoughts. To give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

To torment oneself. To dwell on difficulty or troubles.

Do you do that? Do you worry? I hate to admit it, but I do. It’s a serious character flaw. It’s a great weakness and sin for me.

My mother used to worry a lot. When I was young and thought I knew everything, I once said to her, “Just don’t worry.” If she was still alive, I’d apologize. Telling someone to just stop worrying isn’t helpful. It’s like telling someone to stop feeling sad. Or stop feeling jealous.

I’ve said it before, but you can’t just change your feelings. You have to change your thoughts.

Several days ago, I dropped my wife off at the airport early in the morning. As I was leaving airport, there was a bird flying down the road in front of me at eye level. I was following the bird like it was a car in front of me. Finally, it changed direction and flew out of sight. As I continued home, I became aware of more and more birds. They’d fly across the road right in front of me. They were next to the road and would take off just as I passed them. They seemed to be everywhere I looked.

Then it hit me. “Look at the birds.”

In Matthew 6:26-27, Jesus says:

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

Several verses later, speaking again about our material needs, Jesus says:

“These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” (Matthew 6:32-33)

When I torment myself with disturbing thoughts or dwell on difficulty or troubles, I’m acting just like someone that doesn’t even know Jesus. I’m completely forgetting that my heavenly Father knows all my needs. In fact, He knows them better than I do.

Jesus has a solution. It’s to seek the Kingdom of God above all else and obey him (live righteously). Then the Father will give us what we need.

What about you? Are you worried about getting your needs met?

“Look at the birds.” And remember what God has promised. Choose to seek Him and obey Him. He will come through for you.


The Best is Yet to Come

Posted: April 28th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Someone I used to work with was killed by a tornado last night along with two of his children. He leaves behind a wife and seven children. Others I know suffered damage to their homes.

A friend with cancer seems to be getting worse, not better, despite numerous rounds of chemotherapy and now experimental drugs.

I have several friends whose marriages are struggling.

Others I know are praying and hoping and waiting for God to answer their prayers for guidance, for jobs, for miracles.

Maybe you’re in a similar situation.

In my immediate family, we’re not in the midst of tragedy, but there are days when I feel a low-grade sadness. It’s like having a fever of 99.1. You don’t feel terrible, but you know something’s just not right. My two youngest children will graduate next month–my daughter from college and my son from high school. My daughter will then raise her support and move to Germany where she will serve with Young Life doing college ministry. My son will report to basic training for the Navy this fall. I will greatly miss both of them as I do my two oldest daughters.

I will miss the days Amy and I used to run together. I will miss our lunch dates. I will miss making my son’s lunch to take to school. I will miss all those days of picking him up after football practice. I will miss having all my children together on Christmas morning. There are many, many things I will miss.

I’m reminded that loss and sadness and suffering and death were never meant to be. They are consequences of living in a broken world.

Fortunately, we catch glimpses and get tastes of what life was supposed to be. A meaningful conversation with a friend. A delicious meal. Being together as a family. A warm, sunny day without a care in the world. The thrill and pleasure of sex between husband and wife. And actually believing, beyond a doubt, that we’re loved by God.

I was 19-years-old when I first understood that my sin had separated me from God and that I needed to be forgiven. It was during my freshman year of college that I placed my trust in Jesus to forgive me. So I’ll be honest, I don’t remember what it was like to not have an assurance that I was forgiven, that heaven was a certainty (not just a wish or a hope) and that no matter what I face in this life–God’s grace is sufficient.

I cannot imagine dealing with the loss of a spouse or child, facing cancer or enduring unmet longings without the confidence that there’s more than this life, that God’s love is real and unending. Evil doesn’t win. Death doesn’t win. Both were defeated when Jesus died and came back to life. And one day, He will return, not as a suffering Savior, but as the Supreme Ruler of the universe He created. He will come back to earth and make things right, as they were meant to be.

Sadly, for those who reject Christ’s offer of forgiveness and eternal life, this life is as good as it will get. The pain, the loneliness, the grief…those are just a taste of what’s to come.

But for those of us who have trusted Christ, the best is yet to come. For now we may grieve and suffer and long for how things were supposed to be (and will one day be), but our greatest joys and pleasures are ahead of us. Jesus said…

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” (John 14:1-4)


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.


Pulling Back the Curtain

Posted: February 12th, 2014 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Curtain Pulled Back 300x204 Pulling Back the Curtain

Do you ever wonder why God does some of the things He does? Or doesn’t do other things?

I do.

Do you ever ask, “Why God?” or “God, where are You?”

I do.

Let’s be honest, we don’t have God figured out. And never will. In fact, in Isaiah 55:8-9, God says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

This is His universe. It’s His story. He’s under no obligation to explain Himself to us.

Sometimes that can make life painful or confusing, especially when our prayers go unanswered. We pray for things that mean a lot to us, but nothing happens. At least not anything we can see. It can feel like God isn’t listening or if He is listening that He doesn’t care.

In John 11, I believe God pulls back the curtain and lets us see what He’s up to during those times when life seems to be falling apart and He doesn’t seem to be showing up.

Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, is sick. So naturally, his sisters, Mary and Martha, send word to Jesus, “Lord, the one you love is sick.” That’s a really interesting way to talk about someone. “The one you love.” Obviously, there’s a special friendship there.

Naturally, the sisters, just as you and I would, expect Jesus to come and heal their brother. That’s not what Jesus does though. Instead, He pulls back the curtain for us and gives us a glimpse into the spiritual realm. He lets us see He’s up to something far bigger than just healing someone. In verse 4, Jesus says, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s son may be glorified through it.”

Jesus pulls back the curtain with the words “so that.” What’s really going on here? The sickness will not end in death “so that God’s son may be glorified through it.” With that being the primary mission, what happens next in verses 5 and 6 makes sense…

“Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days…”

The whole story hinges on the word, “So.” Lazarus is sick. He’s loved by Jesus. His sisters, Mary and Martha, are loved by Jesus. “So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, Jesus immediately departed for Bethany.”

No, that’s not what happens. Jesus doesn’t immediately depart. He waits. For two days.

Two days may not seem like very long, but it is when someone you love is dying before your eyes. It’s a long time when you’re crying out for God’s help, but no answer appears. Most likely, you’ve prayed for something for much longer than two days. Maybe it’s been two months. Or two years. Or ten.

When the answer we want doesn’t come or doesn’t come quickly, it’s easy to lose heart, isn’t it? It’s easy to give up. Sometimes we begin to question God’s love and goodness. I’ve done that. I’ve doubted Him. And I’ve gotten angry. I’ve allowed disappointment with life to become disappointment with God.

But behind the circumstances you and I are facing, there’s always something bigger going on. The big story is God’s glory. When God shows up by either changing our circumstances or giving us the peace and endurance to keep going…He is glorified. Those around us get to see God at work.

The story of Lazarus continues though and we get to see the curtain pulled back again.

When Jesus gets ready to leave for Bethany, He tells His disciples, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.”

He does it again. He pulls back the curtain and lets us see what’s really going on. He says He’s glad He wasn’t there to heal Lazarus, so that they would believe.

When you and I face painful or confusing circumstances, when life throws more at us than we think we can handle, let’s remember God is at work growing our faith. He wants us to see Him at work so our capacity to trust Him grows.

God sees your situation. He knows the desire of your heart. He’s aware of the unmet need. He’s not unconcerned. He loves you deeply. So…maybe He hasn’t answered your prayer yet…or in the way you wanted Him to, so that He will be glorified and so that you will believe. Will God always answer the way we want? No, but when He doesn’t, we still have the promise of His peace.

Whatever you’re facing today…remember to pull back the curtain and take a peek at what God is up to.


There’s No Place Like Home

Posted: September 29th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | No Comments »

We’ve only lived here for five years, but I love my hometown of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the home of the University of Arkansas.

DSCN1159 300x225 Theres No Place Like Home

I also love the Jersey Shore, where I grew up, about sixty miles south of New York City. I wish I could get back there more often than I do.

DSCN1111 300x225 Theres No Place Like Home

My dad grew up in Mifflintown, Pennsylvania. When we’d go there to visit, he always called it “going up home.” It had been many years since he’d lived there, but he still thought of it as home.

As Dorothy said, there’s no place like it.

I think Jesus would agree…just not for the same reasons. He had a busy couple of days. He spoke to a storm and made it stop. He cast demons out of two men. He healed a woman who’d been suffering for twelve years. And He raised a 12-year-old girl from the dead. Then He decides to go to his hometown. The account of what happens when He arrives is found in Mark 6.

On the Sabbath, Jesus went to the synagogue and began to teach and the people asked, “Where did this man get these things? What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing?

Mark records that “many who heard Him were amazed.” The Greek word for amazed is a strong one. It’s the same word that means “to strike out, expel by a blow, drive out or away.” The meaning in this case is “to be struck with amazement, astonished, amazed.” They were blown away by Jesus’ teaching.

Then something happens. They start to grumble. “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

They’d grown up with Jesus. He was the carpenter. They knew His family. Jesus is no big deal, they thought. Amazement turned to offense. And offense led to doubt.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

The Greek word for “amazed” here is different than the one used earlier. This word means “to wonder or marvel.” Jesus is filled with wonder. He marvels at their extraordinary lack of faith. And their lack of faith meant He could not do any miracles there.

Think about that for a minute. Jesus could not do any miracles there except heal some people. Now healing people sounds like a big deal to me, but it sure sounds like Jesus could have and would have done even more if they’d believed. But they didn’t. And they missed out.

I wonder how much more might God want to do in our lives if only we’d believe? How much might we be missing out on?

Maybe a good prayer for us would be, “Jesus, help me be amazed by You…so You won’t be amazed by me.”


Three Things God Wants

Posted: September 25th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2013 09 25 at 3.53.10 PM Three Things God Wants

I’m intentionally using the word “wants” as opposed to “needs.” God does not need anything. If He did, then He wouldn’t be complete. He doesn’t need anything at all. Not from you. Not from me. But God does want things. Let’s look at three of them. Take a moment to read Mark 5:1-20.

We see Jesus getting out of the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. It was rough. They’d encountered a bad storm out on the lake. It got so bad that these experienced fishermen were fearing for their lives. Of course Jesus calmed the storm and then looked at them and said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

So as Jesus steps out of the boat, a man possessed by a demon runs to meet him. Matthew’s gospel tells us there were actually two men, but Mark focuses his account on just one of them. You’ll see why.

Jesus tells the demon to come out of the man, which causes the man to fall to his knees in front of Jesus and scream, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”

I find several interesting things about their initial encounter. First, when the man sees Jesus from a distance, he runs to meet Him. We don’t really know how far the man was from the lake shore, but “from a distance” sounds like at least a hundred yards or so, doesn’t it? Somehow though, this man recognizes someone “from a distance” that he’s never met before and then runs toward Him.

It sounds to me like he knew Jesus was coming and he immediately wants to find out what Jesus wants with him. It’s obvious though the man isn’t recognizing or questioning Jesus, it’s the demon inside him. So Jesus asks, “What is your name?” To which the demon replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”

It’s important to know that a Roman legion consisted of over 6,000 men. Now we don’t know if the man was possessed by 6,000 demons or just a large number, but either way there’s a lot of them. Mark’s account tells us the man was living among the tombs and had become so strong that no one could bind him any longer. He was powerful enough to break the chains and leg irons they used on him.

Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, this man would cry out and cut himself with stones. Imagine looking up on the hill everyday and seeing him roaming around, screaming and cutting himself. Based on the fact they’d tried to bind him, I think it’s safe to say this guy was terrorizing the region.

Legion proceeds to beg Jesus to not send them out of the area. Think about that for a minute. It’s 6,000 against 1, but the demons know they are outmatched. They’re begging Jesus to not torture them or send them away. They’re terrified of Him.

We don’t really know why the demons wanted to stay there. Maybe demons are assigned to certain areas and so they didn’t want to leave their post. I don’t know. For whatever the reason, Jesus gives the demons permission to go into a herd of pigs when they come out of the man. When they do, the herd immediately rushes off a cliff into the lake and drowns.

The pig herders run off to town and the nearby countryside and tell people what has happened. Now if you’ve read the passage, you know what happens next. If you haven’t read it–wouldn’t you assume the people rush out to thank Jesus for saving them from Legion?

That’s not what happens though. The people come out, they see the man who’d been possessed by the demon now dressed and in his right mind and they are afraid. Yup, they’re afraid. Not grateful. Not relieved. Just afraid.

And because they’re afraid, “…the people plead with Jesus to leave their region.” So Jesus gets into a boat…and leaves.

So what can we learn?

The first thing we see God wants takes place before Jesus and His disciples even meet Legion–God wants to be trusted. The disciples were afraid they were going to die out on the lake, but what was the truth of their circumstances? The Truth (John 14:6) was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat. There was no reason to fear and every reason to have faith. Hebrews 11:6 begins: “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Simply put: God likes to be believed.

The second thing God wants is for us to be free from the influence of evil. This man was actually possessed by demons. That’s not the case with most of us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t influenced by demons. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” When we listen to wrong ideas and teachings, we are being deceived and may well abandon the faith. Be careful who you listen to and what you allow into your mind.

Finally, God wants us to want Him. Could it be that Jesus had planned to drive the demons out and then spend time in that region teaching and healing people? Wherever Jesus went, He would teach, drive out demons and heal people. Here in the region of the Gerasenes, He drives out demons…and is then asked to leave. And so He does.

Jesus wants to be wanted…and He won’t force Himself on us. Hebrews 11:6 ends with:  “…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The Greek word for “earnestly” carries with it the idea of searching, scrutinizing, craving and begging. God rewards those who search for and crave Him.

If you’ve been feeling disconnected from God, check yourself…

Are you trusting Him? When trouble comes, do you panic? Are you taking steps of faith because you know He’s faithful? Or do you play it safe?

Are you free from evil influences? How much time do you spend consuming various forms of media versus consuming His Word?

Do you want Him? Do you crave Him? You’re probably craving something…what is it if it’s not Jesus?


Who’s Following Who?

Posted: September 19th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Screen Shot 2013 09 19 at 6.06.41 PM Whos Following Who?

Would you say you’re following Jesus or you’re kind of hoping Jesus will follow you?

In John 14:6, Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In Jesus, we find our way. We find the truth. We find life. But if you’re like me, sometimes you’re looking elsewhere. Rather than wholeheartedly following Jesus, it’s like we’re trying to take him along with us.

I think His disciples tried that too. Mark 4:35-36 says: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him.

Jesus and His disciples are on one side of the lake and Jesus wants to cross over to the other side. But do you notice anything strange in those two verses?

I’ve always thought it was interesting Jesus is the one who has the idea to go to the other side of the lake, but it says the disciples “took him along.” Maybe it’s because some of them were experienced fishermen and Jesus was just a carpenter. Sure, they thought, Jesus might be able to build a boat, but He doesn’t know anything about sailing one. So as they all climb into the boat, they think they’re taking him along with them. Not the other way around.

I wonder how often I live like that. Do I simply go about life and expect Jesus to tag along?

Well, it doesn’t take very long for things to go wrong. Verses 37 and 38 say: A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

Isn’t it interesting the fishermen are now freaking out? And the one they were taking along is now taking a nap.

In a panic, they wake Jesus up and ask the question we’ve probably asked ourselves, “Don’t you care?” When we find ourselves in the midst of a storm, isn’t that what we want to know? “God, do you care about me?” I’ve wondered. I’ve asked.

We find our answer in the next two verses:

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Can you picture it? One moment there’s a furious storm. Dark clouds. High winds. Waves are breaking over the boat. Death seems certain.

And then in the next instant everything is calm. No wind. No waves. Just the disciples…and Jesus…floating on a calm sea. Can you see Him looking out across the water from the stern of the boat and then turning to the twelve men with Him and asking, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

What storm are you facing? Maybe it’s a financial storm. Or a health storm. Or a marriage storm. Or something else. Are you wondering if God cares? If He’s able or willing to help?

Do you think maybe we’re most afraid when we think we’re the ones taking Jesus along with us? Would we be less afraid, less panicky if we were the ones doing the following?

To follow Jesus, I have to believe Him. I have to trust that He has my best in mind. I have to be confident in His love and care and concern for me. But if I don’t really know Him, then I can’t really trust Him and what I’ll do is live my life as if He’s tagging along with me.

What about you? Who’s following who?


You Are In Error Because…

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

The religious people used to ask Jesus questions to try and test Him or trick Him. One of those times is found in Matthew 22:23:33.

Jesus gives them an answer, which He doesn’t always do, but first He tells them, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”

I wonder how many times we’re in error for the same reason. How many times are we trying to solve our problems in the wrong ways? How many times are we working on the wrong problems to begin with? All because we don’t know the truth of God’s word or His power.

What difficulties are you facing? What problems seem insurmountable? Is there an issue you can’t resolve and won’t go away?

Are you investing time in God’s word in order to know Him better? Are you searching His word to discover His purposes and ways?

It’s very easy to buy into the world’s system of doing life. It’s easy to go with the flow and believe happiness and fulfillment and security are found in a job or money or a person. When that’s our mindset, we end up building our lives on error. And that will always lead to frustration, discouragement, anxiety, worry or other negative emotions.

Jesus is the author of life. He knows how it should be lived. In John 14:6, He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

In Colossians 2:2-4, Paul writes:

My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments.

Do you need understanding? Or wisdom? Or knowledge? They’re found in Jesus. But like any treasure–you have to search and dig. The most valuable treasures aren’t buried near the surface.

The alternative is a life of error because we don’t know the Scriptures or the power of God.


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.