Posted: December 23rd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, Christmas, Difficulties, faith, fear, Jesus, love of God, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | 1 Comment »
I’ve been really intrigued by the Christmas story this year. Read Matthew 2, then I’ll share a couple things that jumped off the page at me…
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will be the shepherd of my people Israel.’”
Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.
When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled:
“A voice is heard in Ramah,
weeping and great mourning,
Rachel weeping for her children
and refusing to be comforted,
because they are no more.”
After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child’s life are dead.”
So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: “He will be called a Nazarene.”
So two things stand out to me…
First, since Matthew is writing to a Jewish audience, he is careful to mention how various events are fulfilling Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus. He’s making clear that everything God said would happen is now coming to pass. It’s a great reminder that God is faithful and in control. He can always be counted on to do what He says He’ll do.
The second thing I noticed is how God handles a death threat against His Son. Wouldn’t you think God would just kill Herod when He learns he has plans to kill Jesus? After all, God has all power and authority. All. Power. And. Authority. No one can oppose Him. Why not just kill Herod?
And yet, rather than taking out Herod, He has an angel warn Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Doesn’t that seem like the hard way to do it? I mean, Herod is an evil monster. Just take him out. Why make Mary and Joseph escape to Egypt to save Jesus? Do you think they may have wondered the same thing?
That’s just not God’s way, is it? Sure, God answers prayers, performs miracles and intervenes in human affairs, but God also seems very content to let things play out. He doesn’t usually override human decisions. He lets us choose. We get to decide whether we’ll live according to His ways or our own. God doesn’t force us to do things His way.
God’s wisdom and guidance are always available to us, but we don’t have to listen. Herod didn’t. And God didn’t change his mind. He doesn’t overrule our choices either.
The choices we make have an impact on others. And their choices have an impact on us. Sometimes it’s a good impact. Sometimes it’s bad. And sometimes it’s very bad.
I know we want God to just zap our enemies and make all of our circumstances pleasant ones. At least I do. But that’s not how He usually works. More often than not, it seems that He lets choices–good ones and bad ones–just play out. And then He gives us the wisdom and strength to navigate whatever comes our way.
In the midst of it all, God invites us to seek Him and walk according to His ways. He invites us to experience His love and love Him in return.
He wants a genuine friendship with us. It’s what He’s always wanted. And that requires that we have a choice.
Posted: October 6th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's love, God's will, love of God, money, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, sin, trials | No Comments »
Before you answer, let’s look at some of the definitions from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:
- to lose strength: weaken <her health was failing>
- to fade or die away <until our family line fails>
- to stop functioning normally <the patient’s heart failed>
- to fall short <failed in his duty>
- to be unsuccessful <the marriage failed>
- to become bankrupt or insolvent
I’m going with the answer, “yes,” God wants us to fail. Based on the definitions above, here’s why:
God wants us to lose strength and understand we’re weak, so that we’ll also learn we “…can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13) If we insist on trying to follow Jesus in our own strength, God will let us fail. He’s not in the business of blessing our plans, but He will give us strength to do whatever He calls us to do.
God wants us, our natural selves, to die. He said, “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) Life is not about achieving our goals, accumulating wealth and having a good time. It’s about pursuing God’s goals, storing up treasure in heaven and experiencing the love, joy and peace of God.
God wants us to stop functioning normally, so we can start functioning supernaturally. Paul wrote to the church in Rome:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Do you want to know God’s good, perfect and pleasing will for your life? It’s the result of offering yourself to Him and no longer “functioning normally” as the world does. We must choose to no longer conform to the pattern of this world, but to instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds. In other words, we must learn to think like God. That comes from having our minds saturated with His word.
God wants us to understand we’ve already fallen short of his holy standard. We chose to live life on our terms, not His. We went our own way. We rebelled against the sovereign King of the universe. Paul said, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Our only recourse is to accept the forgiveness that Christ offers.
God wants us to be unsuccessful whenever we choose to pursue our own plans. It’s always good to remember that it’s not about you. It’s not about me. My goals and plans and dreams aren’t relevant…unless they’re ones God has given me. Only then does He want me to be successful. Even that is conditional though–God wants me to be successful in achieving His goals in His strength and in His ways. Not my goals. Not my strength. Not my ways.
God wants me to know I’m spiritually bankrupt. Jesus said, “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.” (Matthew 5:3 NLT) The poor Jesus is referring to are the ones who realize their need for Him, not simply those who lack financial resources. We are bankrupt. We’re broke. We’re totally dependent on God for everything.
Are you experiencing a season of failure? Things just aren’t working out? Can’t catch a break?
Maybe God is allowing you to fail. Not to punish you or humiliate you, but to teach you and to bless you. He knows true life is found only in Him. Not in money. Not in a career. Not in sex. Not in a relationship.
In Him alone.
So why would He grant success in the pursuits that only move us away from finding our life in Him?
Failure isn’t permanent or terminal. Failure is a stepping stone to greater intimacy with God and greater fruitfulness in His kingdom.
The writer of Hebrews said, “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.” (Hebrews 12:7)
Your current failure or hardship is God treating you as His child, a child He loves deeply and for whom He only desires the very best. Seek Him. Get to know Him better. Trust Him.
Ultimately, He wants you to be successful in everything He calls you to do. And He will always provide the strength and wisdom you need to accomplish His will.
Posted: August 31st, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Other, Relationships, Truth | Tags: delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, grace, love of God, marriage, money, plans, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God | No Comments »
I’ve begun a countdown. I even have a countdown app on my iPhone. Four hundred days from today, I will turn 50.
I don’t know about you, but 50 doesn’t sound young to me. Of course, it’s all a matter of perspective. If you’re 70, then 50 is young. If you’re 20, then 50 is ancient.
I have no expectation of living to 100 or even 90. My dad almost made it to 73. If that’s how long I have, then I’m well past the half-way point of my life. If my life is a football game, half-time is over and we’re playing in the 3rd quarter and I’m just six years from the 4th quarter.
Depending on your personality, you may be thinking all of this is a little morbid. Or you may be wondering who in the world actually thinks to countdown the days until they turn 50, especially when it’s still 400 days a way.
Here’s the thing–when I turned 30, I was disappointed. I had certain expectations that were unmet at that point. I expected my life to look different than it did. I figured by 30, I would “have my act together.” In hindsight, my expectations were the problem, not my life.
So when I turned 40, I had no such illusions of having a nice, orderly, problem-free life. There is no such thing. Turning 40 was no big deal. I guess the biggest thing I learned during the decade between turning 30 and 40 was how to extend grace. Even to myself.
So as I close in on 50, I don’t have expectations that life will be something it’s not, but I do have some expectations, of myself, that I believe are part of God’s plans for my life. There are some things I want to accomplish. There are character flaws I want to work on. There are people and activities I want to invest in.
I want to enjoy these next 400 days, but I also want to live purposefully. I want to have fun, while also walking obediently with God. In 400 days, I want to be able to look back and know I did life God’s way, not Gregg’s way.
What I’ve done is broken up the 400 days into 10 periods of 40 days each. Calendar wise, it might have been easier to just wait until the one-year mark and start counting down the months, but there’s something special about a 40-day period of time. (Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days. The spies explored the Promised Land for 40 days.)
Each 40 day period will give me an opportunity to emphasize something different depending on what I sense God doing in my life. Maybe prayer will be an emphasis during one of the 40 days. Maybe training for a 5k race will be. Or maybe studying the book of Ephesians. We’ll see.
In this first 40 day period, I’m emphasizing writing more consistently. I want to post here more often and I also have a book I’ve been working on…or not working on. I plan to finish it by October 9th, the end of the first 40 days. My goal is to write 1,500 words a day. Ambitious, but doable.
One emphasis that will run through all 400 days, and beyond, is simply obeying God–walking according to His ways. Jeremiah 29:10-14 says:
This is what the LORD says: “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
The Israelites had been conquered by the Babylonians and carried into exile. They were no longer living in and enjoying the land God had promised to give them. They were captives in a foreign land.
Why though? What went so terribly wrong?
Israel had broken the covenant with God. He had given them His laws, but they chose to not follow them. God had graciously taught them how to live, but they stubbornly went their own way. Rather than give themselves wholeheartedly to God, they adopted the practices of the nations around them.
God had made it clear that if they would follow His commands, He would bless them and prosper them and protect them. But Israel rebelled against Him. They went their own way and did their own thing.
Maybe today it feels like you’re in exile. And you’re crying out for God to bring you back. You desperately want to experience His plans to prosper you and give you a hope and a future. Fortunately, He is always gracious toward us. When we cry out–He listens. When we seek Him–we find Him.
While you’re seeking and crying out though, maybe it’s also a good time to examine your life to see what caused “your exile” in the first place. Sometimes we get into bad situations because we live in a fallen, broken world. Bad stuff happens even when we’re trying to do the right things.
Sometimes though, our own disobedience leads us into exile. Our own choices got us to where we are. And while it’s good and right to cry out to God, it’s also time to make the changes we need to make. The surest path to experiencing God’s very best plans for our lives is to simply obey Him.
Is there an area of your life that needs examining? A relationship? Your finances? Something at work? What you watch or look at? How you use your time?
Remember, God’s commands are never meant to rob our joy or fun. It’s just the opposite. God’s commands provide for us and protect us. They keep us from danger. God’s ways are always for our good. Never for our harm.
You may not be 400 days from turning 50, but there’s nothing stopping you from using these next 40 days to intentionally walk according to God’s ways, so you position yourself to experience the plans He has for you.
Posted: August 12th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Other, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, exercise, faith, God's love, God's word, grace, love of God, marriage, money, seeking God, trials | No Comments »
Before I get started, some disclaimers:
- I don’t believe in formulas. In Chemistry? Yes. In life? No. God isn’t a predictable science experiment. If we do A and B, God is not obligated to do C.
- Life is messy. We live in a fallen, broken, sinful world. Bad things can happen even when we do the right things.
- Mixing a fervent prayer with the right measure of faith doesn’t always yield the results we want. See #1 and #2.
- I don’t believe people get cancer and die because they didn’t have enough faith.
- Sin does not always prevent God from blessing us. If it did, none of us would be blessed. Ever.
Those things being said, I’ve been thinking about prayer and obedience the past few days. Now I don’t mean to pit them against each other, but go with me for a moment. Which is better–prayer or obedience?
I guess the next question would be: better for what?
How about–better for getting what we desire?
We desire better health. We desire a new car or house. We want to get married or see our current marriage improve. We want to pay our bills on time, get out of debt and have a little left over for a vacation once in awhile.
Is it better to pray or obey?
I can already hear you saying the answer: Both!
And I would agree with you. It’s obviously better to do both, but my sense is that many of us only do one. We pray. We pray for God to intervene. We pray for Him to rescue us. We pray for Him to change someone’s heart. We pray for a breakthrough.
But often, we don’t obey Him.
A couple weeks ago while driving home from a weekend out of town, I stopped for gas at a little country gas station. As I came out of the store, I noticed a very obese woman sitting in her car smoking a cigarette.
Now imagine this woman begins to experience a chronic cough and shortness of breath. Not hard to imagine, right?
She has a choice now: she could begin praying God will heal her or she could stop smoking, eat healthier and exercise. We would think she was foolish for only praying, but not changing her habits, right?
I wonder how many of us get into difficulties with our finances, our relationships or our own medical issues and beg God for a miracle or some kind of breakthrough, but what may be better is for us to simply obey Him. And then add our prayers.
In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses is giving instructions to the Israelites before they cross the Jordan River to take possession of the land of Canaan. In chapter 28, Moses goes into great detail about what will happen to them if they fully obey God and carefully follow His commands. And he goes into even greater detail about what will happen if they do not obey.
There’s no mention of prayer. God’s blessings are contingent upon their obedience, not the fervency of their prayers. God graciously instructed them on how to live and was very clear about the blessings or curses that would follow their choices.
It’s not just Moses though. In John 15:1-11, Jesus is teaching His disciples that He is the vine and they are the branches. Apart from Him, they can do nothing. In verses 7-8, He says:
If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you…” Isn’t that another way to say, “if you obey me?” Obedience plus prayer results in much fruit bearing.
Jesus goes on in verses 9-11 to say:
As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.
We remain in Jesus’ love by obeying him. And what is the result of doing that?
Joy. Complete joy.
Isn’t that ultimately what we all want? Complete joy?
So what are we to do about the difficulties we find ourselves in?
Let’s take our finances for example. If we’re in a mess–are we continuing to spend beyond our income? And just as importantly, if not more so, are we giving? 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 says:
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 7 Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.
Are we crying out to God to give us relief from our financial difficulties, while choosing to sow sparingly? God promises we will reap generously if we sow generously.
Are we asking God to heal our high blood pressure, but eating a diet full of unhealthy food? God has given us healthy foods to eat for our enjoyment and good health.
Are we desperately pleading with God to heal our marriage, but not practicing the principles in Ephesians 5:22-33 or reading a good book on marriage or attending a Weekend to Remember marriage conference or seeking counseling? Sure it takes two to heal a marriage, but are we at least doing our part?
God not only gave us His commands for our own good, He also gave us His Holy Spirit to empower us to obey them. He has instructed us on how to live this life. But are we listening? Are we following through on what He’s already told us?
I’m not at all suggesting that obeying God is somehow better than praying to God. But I am saying that if we’re praying without obeying, then I can’t help thinking God is saying, “I’ve already answered your prayer. You’ll discover it as soon as you obey me.”
Last thing: it would be worth re-reading the five disclaimers I started with.
Posted: June 18th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, faith, God's love, God's word, Jesus, love of God, seeking God | No Comments »
In the book of Deuteronomy, the nation of Israel is camped on the east side of the Jordan River in the land of Moab. They’ve been living in the desert for 40 years, but it’s now time to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land of Canaan.
Before they cross over though, Moses delivers God’s final instructions before they leave the desert and begin enjoying the land He promised give to the descendants of Abraham. In Deuteronomy 5, Moses is recalling the time 40 years earlier when God gave the Israelites the 10 commandments at Mt. Sinai:
Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
“You shall have no other gods before me.
“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
As I’ve been reading and teaching through Deuteronomy recently, I’ve been fascinated with the first two of the 10 commandments. So simple. No other gods. No idols.
I didn’t say easy. Just simple.
No other gods.
Why? Because Yahweh, our God, is jealous. He created us for Himself. For His pleasure. He doesn’t want to share us.
Is it as easy for you as it is for me to forget that very simple truth?
I exist for God’s pleasure. So do you. Not our own.
In the next chapter of Deuteronomy, Moses goes on to say:
Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
Centuries later, when Jesus was asked which commandment was the greatest, He said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
I guess I wouldn’t have been surprised if He had pointed back to the first of the 10 commandments and said the greatest commandment was to have no other Gods before Yahweh. In other words, before Jesus Himself.
He didn’t though. He said the greatest commandment was to love God. Heart, soul and mind. We are to love him with our total being.
We most fully express our love for Him when we obey Him. Look again at what He said right after telling us to love Him:
These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
When was the last time you felt God’s commandments upon your heart?
What would it be like if when we got together with family or friends we actually talked about how to love God more and be more faithful to obey His commandments?
What if we ordered our days in such a way that we encountered symbols of God’s commandments and places we’d written them down?
What if reading and meditating on and talking about God’s commands was a way to express our love to Him? A way to fulfill the greatest commandment?
When we boil it all down, I think we’ll find that’s what’s left is the simple command to love God and to express that love by trusting Him enough to obey Him. Even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it doesn’t make sense.
Posted: May 24th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: adultery, believe in Jesus, faith, forgiveness, God's love, grace, Jesus, love of God, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
What keeps you from seeking God?
Don’t really see the point? Maybe you wonder what difference it will really make.
Are you angry at Him? Do you feel like He disappointed you? Maybe you thought you’d done everything you knew to do, prayed faithfully, read your Bible, but God still didn’t come through the way you’d hoped.
Maybe it’s one of those things I’ve mentioned, but for some of you, I suspect it’s something else. Something that keeps you from wholeheartedly seeking God, enjoying His love and feeling like He will bless you.
For some of you, it’s guilt and shame that keeps you from Him. There’s something you’ve done that hangs over your relationship with God. Or it could be somethings, not just something. Maybe it’s something you’ve done over and over and over. You’ve confessed it to God. You’ve tried to stop. But you keep falling back into the same old patterns.
Let me just say, there’s NOTHING you’ve done, said or thought that will keep God from forgiving and loving you. If you have placed your faith in Christ, then He has removed your sin from you as far as the east is from the west. He gave you the righteousness of Christ. God no longer sees you as a guilty sinner deserving of punishment. He sees you as holy and blameless. Read Ephesians 1 if you don’t believe me.
Now you may think that it’s hypocritical to call yourself holy and blameless when you know you continue to sin. Look, I get that. Often my greatest problem is that I know my own heart. I know where I continue to blow it even after 29 years of knowing Christ.
But we need to remember–it’s God who calls us holy and blameless. And why does He see us that way? Not because of anything we did or didn’t do, but because of what Jesus did for us on the cross. If we continue to see ourselves as dirty, guilty, shameful sinners–what does that say about what Jesus did?
That it wasn’t enough? That maybe Jesus’ death on the cross was enough to forgive some people, but not me?
Can you see the pride in that? The arrogance? What are we saying, “My sin is so terrible that I must continue to feel some measure of shame and guilt, because Jesus couldn’t handle what I did?”
David committed adultery and murder.
Paul persecuted Christians before he himself came to Christ.
The disciples deserted Jesus when He needed them most.
Peter denied Him three times.
And let’s not forget the mother of Boaz. Remember Boaz? If you don’t, read the book of Ruth. He was a Jew who ended up marrying Ruth, a gentile, who had come back to Israel with Naomi from the land of Moab after the famine. It’s a great story.
Boaz and Ruth have a son named, Obed. Obed becomes the father of Jesse.
Still with me?
Jesse is the father of King David. And Jesus, God Himself, descends from the line of David.
But I started out talking about the mother of Boaz, remember? Well, the mother of Boaz is a woman named Rahab. Like Ruth, she was also not a Jew. Rahab was a gentile, but had also been a prostitute. Read her story here.
So Jesus is not only descended from the gentile Ruth, but also the gentile, Rahab, who was formerly a prostitute.
But if you read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, you’ll see that Rahab isn’t identified as a prostitute. She’s Rahab. Who she was after helping the Israelite spies was more important than her past. Her past was in the past. It was forgiven. She moved on.
You need to move on, too.
If God isn’t counting your past against you, then why are you?
Whether you’re feeling guilt and shame for what you did five years ago or five days ago, the answer is the same–you need to walk in the truth, in the knowledge that Jesus took your sin, YOUR specific sin, on Himself when He was nailed to the cross. He took upon Himself YOUR guilt and YOUR shame, SO THAT you don’t have to carry it.
There is nothing that is separating you from the love of God. The barrier of sin has been done away with.
That means you can seek Him in the knowledge that you are guilt and shame free.
Posted: April 27th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, faith, forgiveness, God's love, Jesus, love of God, seeking God, Truth | No Comments »
Several nights ago, I was watching a television program about the origin of the universe. Some very, very intelligent people were trying to explain how all matter in the universe came from nothing. Well, not exactly nothing–all matter came from energy. And it all happened–get this–in a millionenth of a millionenth of a millionenth of a second.
I didn’t watch long enough to learn where they believe the energy came from.
I’m not sure if it was more amusing or sad to watch these incredibly intelligent, gifted men and women trying to figure out the universe…apart from God. They’ve given their lives to the study of science, but have completely missed the Intelligent Designer behind the science.
On second thought–it’s more sad. Because not only have they missed the truth–they’ve also missed the Love.
Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as the one who would turn aside His wrath, taking away our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)
Stop for a moment and think about this…
The universe didn’t just happen–there was an eternal Being who created it. He spoke everything into existence. (By the way, at least for me, that requires a lot less faith than believing that everything came from nothing and therefore has no meaning.)
Don’t miss the wonder of that. An eternal Being. ETERNAL. No beginning. Always been there. Never a time that He wasn’t. It’s not just that He’ll exist forever into the future–He has existed forever in the past. If that doesn’t blow your mind then nothing will.
Not only that, but this eternal Being has revealed Himself to us. He came to earth, lived among us and showed us what He’s like. And He showed us what love is.
Jesus Christ, the eternal God, allowed us to nail Him to a cross. Why? So that He could turn aside the Father’s wrath from us.
We rebelled. We turned our backs on God. All of us. We’re all guilty. We went our own way rather than God’s way and that earned punishment.
Some will say, “You mean just because we don’t believe in Jesus–we earn God’s punishment?”
The question presupposes that “just because we don’t believe in Jesus” isn’t really a big deal. The presupposition is wrong though. Not believing in Jesus isn’t just a big deal, it’s THE deal. Maybe the ONLY deal.
We were created by an eternally existent, loving God to live in relationship with Him. If we miss that then we’ve missed everything. It’s our reason for being.
One last thought…
Because of sin, God the Father sent God the Son to suffer and die a horrible, humiliating death in our place. If our sin arouses that kind of wrath in a loving God–it must be a much more serious thing than we realize. And to remain in an unforgiven state results in the full wrath of God being poured out on us…for eternity.
Have you placed your faith in Christ to forgive your sin? If not, do it now. Experience His love. Now and forever.
Don’t wait until it’s too late. I know someone who did.
Posted: April 22nd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, easter, God's love, Good Friday, love of God, remembering | No Comments »
Of the four seasons, fall is my favorite. The temperatures cool down a little. The leaves change colors. Football season begins. And the holidays are just around the corner.
In second place is summer. Hot, sunny days. Relaxing by the pool. Hanging out at the beach. Walking along the boardwalk. Family vacations. And no school!. When I was a kid, summers meant endless days of stickball and swimming. Such good memories.
My least favorite season has always been spring. Even the cold, dark days of winter beat it. So what’s my problem with spring?
Well, partly it has to do with Easter. Actually, it’s not Easter so much as it’s Good Friday.
I don’t like to even think about what happened to Jesus between Thursday night and Friday night. I don’t like the beatings or the bleeding or the betrayals. It’s brutal and violent and confusing.
I’ve seen clips of film, “The Passion of the Christ,” but I’ve never seen the whole thing. And I don’t want to.
Easter morning is great of course. I love the display of power. I love the fact that Jesus proves He’s the Son of God by coming back to life. But to get there, we’ve got to first go through Friday.
Honestly, it’s hard for me to even understand the crucifixion and the events leading up to it. There aren’t any adequate analogies or illustrations or metaphors to point to. That 24-hour period from Thursday evening to Friday evening stands alone in time. No other day can compare to the day that…
God let us humiliate and kill Him.
It was the day we abandoned Him. Deserted Him. Made promises to Him and then broke them. The day He asked for our help and comfort…and we fell asleep.
We beat Him. We spit on Him. We whipped Him. And we nailed Him to a cross.
And He let us do it.
When Peter tried to fight with a sword, Jesus told him to put it away. Then He said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and He will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?”
Twelve legions? How many is that? Well, a Roman legion was comprised of 6,000 soldiers. So if He’d wanted to, He could have summoned over 72,000 angels to wipe us out. That’s only if He didn’t want to just do it Himself.
The high priest, the elders and the teachers of the law interrogated Jesus, but He remained silent. He didn’t even defend Himself against their false charges. Even when they spit on Him and beat Him with their fists, He did nothing.
The twelve legions of angels were still available as Jesus was flogged by the Roman soldiers. But still, He didn’t call for help. And not when He was hanging on the cross either.
Jesus deliberately let us torture and kill Him in the most brutal way imaginable. And He did nothing to stop it. It all played out just as He’d planned it.
We may doubt many things in this life, but I wonder if the horrific events of Good Friday were meant to forever erase all doubt of God’s love for us. The resurrection proved Jesus was who He claimed to be. It showed us that He truly had power over death.
But the self-control and humility He exhibited on Good Friday was His way of saying, “If you’re ever tempted to doubt My love for you–just remember all that I willingly endured for you.”
Do you ever doubt God’s love for you?
Posted: March 31st, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: faith, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, love of God, seeking God | No Comments »
I have several tasks to complete before the end of the work day. I have other things I’d like to accomplish after work. To one degree or another, I’d consider them important. Of course, what’s important is relative.
I consider working out to be important. And I’m working on a book project, so it would be good to make some progress tonight. Those two items may not be important to you, but other things are. You might need to get your house cleaned, laundry done or coach your child’s soccer team.
We all have important things to accomplish each day, but is there any kind of objective measure for determining what’s most important? Each and every day? For all of us?
I think there is.
Currently, I’m 48 years old. The average life expectancy for a male living in the United States is around 75. So if I make it to the average, I’ve got about 27 more years. I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a very long time to me.
But how about if you’re only 20 years old? That would give you another 55 years. That’s a little better. And if you’re a female, you can tack on another 3 years, so you get 58!
Of course, all of that assumes you and I aren’t people who actually bring down the average. As a friend of mine used to say, “Half the people you meet are below average.”
So regardless of whether you have another 27 years, 58 years or some other number–none of us really have that much time left. Oh, I know it can feel like forever when you’re in a class you don’t like, a marriage you don’t like or a long line at the post office, but the truth is this life is brief. At best.
We especially don’t have much time when compared to much longer periods of time. Like forever for example.
Forever is a pretty long time. And the Bible is clear–we’re going to live forever. Those who have received the forgiveness that Christ offers have the promise of living forever with Him in heaven.
So what will we do in heaven? How are we going to occupy our time for millions and millions and millions…of years?
First and foremost, we will live in friendship with God. He created us for this purpose. He made us to enjoy a love relationship with Himself. In the context of that relationship, we will grow in our knowledge and understanding of Him.
We will use our God-given gifts and talents to serve Him. I actually think we’ll be surprised at the number of gifts, abilities and talents we have now that will continue into eternity. I tend to think those with teaching skills will still teach. Those who like to cook and entertain will still do it in heaven. People with musical ability will help lead us in singing and worship, which is something else we’ll do.
We will also live in community with others. Heaven will be a place filled with people from every tribe, tongue and nation. We will enjoy getting to know others as we live, serve, eat and worship together.
So a couple hundred years from now…and a couple million years from now…and a few hundred trillion years from now–we’ll be living in friendship with God, enjoying His love and loving Him in return. We will be growing in our relationship with Him. We’ll still be learning and experiencing new things about Him. We will be using our gifts and talents to serve Him. We will be worshiping the only one worthy of being forever praised. And we’ll be doing all of this in community with others.
If that’s what’s important in eternity, then it strikes me that those are the most important things now.
Sure, we have some earthly concerns now that we won’t have then, but we can’t ever let those things become such distractions that we lose sight of what’s most important. In 2 Corinthian 4:16-18, Paul wrote:
Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of only seeing what we can see, but what we can see is temporary. It’s passing away. All of it. The cars. The houses. The lawns. The toys. The bank accounts. The clothes. And these bodies in which we live. It’ll all be gone in 27 years. Or maybe 58. But not much longer than that. For any of us.
What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. And most important. Today.
Posted: October 20th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, faith, fear, God's character, love of God, seeking God, worry | No Comments »
You prayed for months, but things didn’t turn out like you’d hoped.
Your daughter seemed to be doing so much better, but then without warning, she seems to have taken several steps back.
You did the reading and studied hard, but got a “D”.
You were in remission, but the test results show the cancer is back.
You stuck to your budget, gave generously and believed God would bless you, but the car broke down, the washing machine quit working and to top it all off–you got laid off.
We want, we hope and we pray for something, but it doesn’t happen. The natural reaction is to then feel disappointed.
When we feel disappointed, it’s natural to look for someone or something to blame. We can blame a person. We can blame the president. We can blame the economy. We just have to blame someone.
Sometimes we place the blame on God. I’ve done that. Sometimes I still do.
My reasoning goes like this: God is all-powerful so He can do anything at any time. He didn’t come through for me. Therefore, He’s to blame for my disappointment.
It doesn’t end there though.
If God is to blame, then I think maybe He’s not as good or loving as He claims to be. Maybe He’s just some arbitrary Being who blesses some and gives a hard time to others.
Can you hear the bitterness and cynicism beginning to creep in?
It’s a dangerous path to walk down. I’ve been down it. It’s a dark one.
So what are we to do when we feel disappointed with our circumstances or another person or with God?
Maybe that’s not even the right question. Maybe what we need to do is re-think our assumptions and expectations.
Think of it this way–if my assumptions are correct and/or I have no expectations, then I can never be disappointed. For example, if I assume life is going to be hard, then I’m not surprised or disappointed when it actually is. Or if I do not expect other people to follow through with commitments, then I avoid being disappointed when they don’t.
Of course, that would be a very jaded way to go through life, but if my goal is to never be disappointed, then it works.
The problem comes when I decide to lower my expectations of God. When I decide to stop praying and hoping He’ll be good or ever help me, then I’m in trouble. I’ve given in to bitterness. I’ve become cynical. I’m on the dark path.
So what’s the solution? Should I just continue to feel disappointed with life? With others? With God?
No, there’s another way.
I need to base my assumptions and expectations on what is true, not what is false. Easier said than done, I know.
We’ve all picked up false beliefs along the way that can trip us up. We believe if we “behave” then God is somehow obligated to bless us. We believe if we train our children well, they’ll become model citizens. We believe if God is good and loving, then surely He’ll give us what we desire, especially since they’re such good desires.
Those assumptions can sound good and reasonable–that’s what makes them so powerfully dangerous. But we’re not looking for what sounds good and reasonable, we’re looking for truth.
Here are some assumptions and expectations I believe to be rock-solid true:
- God loves me more than I’ll ever understand.
- God is good and faithful no matter what.
- God enjoys being trusted.
- I’m living in the midst of a war between God and Satan, therefore this life can get really messy.
- God answers prayers according to His will, but His timing and His ways are beyond figuring out.
What if you were to expect more of God Himself, not just what you want Him to do for you?
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4)
What if you were to make your highest goal to delight yourself in the Lord and trust Him to give you His desires, so that He could then grant them? Delighting in Him means you make Him your focus. You find your joy and pleasure in knowing Him better. You make a habit of obeying Him. You remember that He’s the main character in the story, not you.
What if the answer to feeling disappointed is not to expect less, but to expect more of the right things? To expect that even in the midst of painful circumstances and hard relationships that God is still good, can still be trusted and can always give me peace and comfort no matter what?
Have great expectations. Let your heart desire big. Just make God the focus, not what you want Him to do. He will never be disappointing.