Posted: October 18th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's kingdom, God's will, God's word, kingdom of God, kingdom of heaven, pain and suffering, Relationships, seeking God | 1 Comment »
Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
The Greek word that gets translated “full” means: exceeding some number or measure or rank or need, over and above, more than is necessary, superadded, exceeding abundantly, supremely, something further, more, much more than all, more plainly, superior, extraordinary, surpassing, uncommon.
It’s not just an abundant life–it’s exceeding abundantly. It’s extraordinary. It’s superadded. I like that one–superadded.
Is that what you’re experiencing? Would you describe your life as “much more than all?” As “superior?” As “superadded?”
Or would you say your Christian life is a little more on the mundane side? More “common” than “uncommon.” You don’t really have more than is necessary, but less.
Being honest, would you say your Christian life is more frustrating than fulfilling?
I can relate. There are times I feel like I should be further along or feel frustrated I don’t seem to experience more of God.
Could it be that when the Christian life feels like it’s not working that we’re not living in the new reality Paul spoke of in his letter to the Colossians?
For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
When we placed our faith in Christ, God rescued us from the dominion of darkness. He brought us into, or transferred us into His kingdom–the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of God and the dominion of darkness operate under very different principles. It’s a totally different way of life.
For example, in the dominion of darkness, we tend to find our security in money. We find significance in our work or in a relationship. Our sense of worth or value comes from what we’ve achieved or what we have or even how we look. In the dominion of darkness, we make decisions based on common sense or what’s best for us or simply based on the facts before us.
In God’s kingdom, we find our security in Him. We find our value in Him. We make decisions based on faith in Him and what He’s leading us to do, despite what seems to make sense. In God’s kingdom, we give generously, knowing God has promised to supply our needs. In God’s kingdom, we forgive those who have wronged or hurt us, because we’ve been forgiven so much more.
I wonder if the Christian life is the most frustrating when we’re expecting to experience a supernatural type of life, but are living by dominion of darkness principles. We want an abundant, superadded kind of life, but we don’t walk by faith, we aren’t quick to forgive and we aren’t generous givers.
Jesus prefaced a lot of parables with the words, “the kingdom of heaven is like…” He’s talking about God’s kingdom on earth. He’s telling us how to live now. In his letter to the Romans, Paul said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform 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.
The logical, reasonable thing for us to do, based on all God has done for us–is to give our lives to Him. But that’s only the beginning. We then begin a journey with Him of becoming more like Him. We are transformed more and more into His likeness by the renewing of our minds. That happens as we invest time in His word and with others who are as well.
How about you? Are you a citizen of God’s kingdom, but still living according to the laws and principles of the dominion of darkness?
Posted: September 27th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, pain and suffering, prayer, worry | No Comments »
One of the best feelings in the world is watching your children take their first steps. I loved sitting on the floor opposite Robyn and watching as our kids would attempt to make it across the room from one of us to the other. “Come on! You can do it!”
I think when we’re taking steps of faith–we need to remember God is right there with us cheering us on and encouraging us to keep going. That’s what I see happening in Mark 5. We pick up the story with Jesus coming ashore after crossing the Sea of Galilee.
21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
So with a large crowd pressing in on Him, Jairus falls at the feet of Jesus and begs Him to come heal his daughter and Jesus agrees to go with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
If I can paraphrase what the disciples said to Jesus, it might sound like this: “Really, Jesus? Really? You want to know who touched You? Hello, Jesus, they’re all touching You!” But unlike the others who may have been just bumping into Him, this woman is believing that if she can just touch His clothes, she’ll be healed. And Jesus feels it happen.
Now the way the disciples respond to Him leads me to think they had little idea who they were truly dealing with. Think about it–if God asks a question, you have to assume He’s not stupid. There’s a reason He’s asking. But like the kid in this commercial, the disciples didn’t get it. Notice what Jesus does next…
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge what His disciples said. He just keeps looking for whoever touched Him. And when the woman confesses, He commends her faith. He didn’t have to do that. She was already healed, but Jesus intentionally affirms her faith. If I may paraphrase again, it’s as if Jesus is saying, “I love it! Way to go! Keep believing!”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
Now watch again what Jesus does…
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The Greek word for “overhearing” can be translated in a couple different ways. The footnote in the NIV Bible says it can also mean “ignoring.” It can also mean “immediately.” In other words, Jesus overhears what’s being said to Jairus, He ignores it and immediately tells him to not be afraid, but to believe.
Can you picture it? This large crowd has come to a stop while Jesus finds out who touched Him. While commending the woman’s faith, He hears what the people are telling Jairus. I picture Jesus quickly turning around, looking Jairus right in the eyes and telling him to not be afraid, but to believe. It’s as if He’s saying, “Jairus, you trusted me enough to come and ask for my help and I said I’d go with you. Nothing has changed. I’ve got this, so don’t stop believing. Come on! You can do it!”
Jesus tuned out the unbelieving static around Him. That’s what we need to do too. Be careful who you listen to. Most Christians you know are probably not walking by faith. So when you do, they may very well be the ones who are most discouraging to you.
The rest of the story…
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Jesus again encounters unbelief when he enters the home of Jairus. They laugh at Him when He tells them she’s not really dead. I find it interesting that He “put them all out” before raising her to life. I wonder if they’d believed if He would have allowed them to stay and witness a miracle?
Let’s get practical–in what area of your life do you most need to believe God and tune out the unbelieving voices?
Make the choice to start believing Him right now and know that God is cheering you on.
Posted: August 15th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: adventure, answers to prayer, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, God is good, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, seeking God | No Comments »
Several days ago, I flew to Seattle, so I could make the drive back to Northwest Arkansas with my daughter, Erica. She’s going to live with us for a month or so while her husband is in Army Ranger training at Ft. Benning. Our drive took 37 hours over three days and covered over 2,300 miles. And we had a great time!
One of my goals on the trip was to visit Montana and North Dakota–two of the three remaining states I’d never been to. We hit Montana on day 1 and North Dakota on day 2. You can see on the map that we only briefly visited North Dakota. The original plan was to cross the entire state before heading south, but somewhere out in Montana, Erica asked how close we were to Mt. Rushmore.
That question changed everything. We scrapped our original plan and started heading south, but we did make it into the southwest corner of North Dakota so I could check off my 49th state! The only remaining state is Nevada.
We arrived at Mt. Rushmore late in the afternoon. Because they don’t allow dogs in the memorial area, Erica and I took turns waiting in the car with Titan. Yes, we had Erica’s German Shepherd along for the trip. As you can see, he was not a fan of the backseat.
Prior to a couple days ago, I would have said I’d like to see Mt. Rushmore some day, but honestly, it was not high on my list. I don’t feel that way now. It was awe inspiring. The pictures don’t really do it justice. To give you some context–George Washington’s eyes are 11 feet across. Each of their faces are as tall as a six-story building. If you’ve never been–I highly recommend you go.
It was a reminder that it’s good to have a plan, but it’s better to know when to flex. Had we been unwilling to change the plan and head south–we would have missed seeing Mt. Rushmore.
One of the things I couldn’t help noticing was all the broken rock below their faces. Most of the pictures I’ve seen of Mt. Rushmore are close ups so I never noticed all the rock that was blasted away to create what we see today.
That got me thinking about our lives. God is in the process of making us the people He already sees us to be. The sculptor of Mt. Rushmore could see the image of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln. His task was to remove enough rock so we could see it too.
God’s doing that in our lives. He sees who we really are. He sees us as “holy and blameless in His sight.” (Ephesians 1:4) He’s slowly, patiently, lovingly removing the stuff from our lives that hide the real us.
After we left Mt. Rushmore, we still had a five hour drive to get to Sioux Falls for the night. As we were heading east on I-90, this storm was closing in on us:
That little blue circle just west of Wall was our location at the time. We made it out of that area right before the storm crossed I-90.
We out ran our storm, but you might be in the midst of one. See if this has ever happened to you…
You’re on a particular course in your life when you sense God leading you in a new direction. So you step out in faith toward this new adventure…and that’s when the storm hits. Maybe you accepted a new job, but discovered your new boss is horrible. Maybe you moved to a new city, but after arriving you learn the job you had lined up fell through. Maybe you were convinced this was the right person to marry, but six months into marriage it feels like the biggest mistake of your life.
I’ve noticed a pattern when it comes to experiencing God’s will. It doesn’t happen every time, but I’ve seen it often enough to recognize it. Sometimes we find ourselves in circumstances we’d like to see changed and so we pray and seek God…and then we see Him open a door to something different, something new, something better.
Then things take a turn for the worse and we wonder what’s happening. We wonder if we heard God wrong or if we’ve made a terrible mistake. Sometimes we begin doubting God’s love and goodness. We reason that if we were in God’s will and He was a good God, then we wouldn’t be in the midst of whatever storm we’re facing. So either we made a mistake or God isn’t all that good.
That’s not true though. Deuteronomy 8:2-3 says…
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.
Call it a desert or call it storm–there are some things we only learn when the pressure is on, when our circumstances are making us uncomfortable. Don’t give up. Don’t give into discouragement. Press on through the storm. God is using it to humble you and teach you. He knows what He’s doing.
Well, we made it home safely on day 3. As I write this (day 4), my daughter is driving another 700 miles to Ft. Benning in Georgia, so she can see her husband for a few days. She will have covered 3,000 miles in four days!
A few final thoughts from the trip…
Shared experiences create powerful bonds. I’ll always remember and treasure the three days Erica and I shared together.
Being in a place where you can see the horizon in all directions helps put things in perspective. It reminds you how small you are and how big God is.
Lastly, I’m not really a “pet person”, but I find it doesn’t take me long to get attached to a good dog.
Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 2 Comments »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | No Comments »
I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6
Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.
I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?
And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.
But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.
Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?
The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming. I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.
Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.
Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.
We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.
God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Posted: January 25th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, God's word, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, sex | No Comments »
Why are you here? On earth, I mean. Why do you exist?
If the atheist is right, then questions of meaning or purpose are irrelevant. If the universe exists purely by chance, then you and I have no purpose. Of course, we could each assign a purpose to our own lives, but there’s nothing beyond that. There’s no higher purpose. Without God, we exist by accident and ultimately have no meaning.
Have you ever wondered why famous or wealthy people commit suicide? They seemingly have it all–money, houses, cars, vacation, jewelry, power and popularity. And yet, some choose to end their own lives or waste away consumed by drugs or alcohol. Without a purpose and significance, I’m left with two choices–end my life or numb my life. Without a genuine purpose in life, without true meaning, our lives are empty.
But if God created this life and knows how it should be lived, then there’s a third option: I can align my life with the truth. I can choose to believe God and live according to His purposes and plan for my life.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he begins by writing “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
A saint isn’t someone who has lived an exemplary life or performed a miracle of some sort. A saint is someone who has been set apart by God for His purposes. If you have placed your faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, then you are a saint. You have been set apart from the world system, from your former way of life, from the bondage of sin and from the power of Satan. God has assigned meaning and significance to your life. He has a plan for you.
Is it possible to miss God’s purposes and plan for our lives? Absolutely. When we continue to live according to the world’s plan, then we miss out on what God says is true and all He wants to do in and through us. The world’s plan is easy to identify. It is primarily concerned with the accumulation of material wealth and possessions, maximizing pleasure and/or giving my life away to a someone or something other than Jesus. Ultimately, the world’s way of doing life comes down to this–does whatever I’m doing make me happy?
What do you desire most? What are you passionate about? What do you spend your time and money on? The answers to those questions will help you figure out whether you’re living for God’s purposes or your own.
The truth is this: God calls us saints. He says we are set apart for His purposes and plans.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”
Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Real life is found in a relationship with God through Jesus. And as we walk with Him through life, we discover the work He has for us to do. Meaning, happiness, peace and fulfillment come as a result of living our lives aligned with God’s purposes and plans for us.
You are a saint. God has set you apart. He has given meaning to your life. If life often feels busy or hectic or meaningless or ordinary, then be sure you’re aligned with God’s truth. Are you making your relationship with Him your number one priority? And are you seeing your life and family and work as an opportunity to serve Him and reflect His glory and goodness to those around you?
You are a saint. And you can begin living like one today.
Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: destruction, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, Hurricane Sandy, Jersey Shore, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, storms, trials | No Comments »
Brick, New Jersey
Sandy, a once-in-a-lifetime storm, cut a path of destruction across the northeastern United States over the past several days.
The above picture was taken just a few miles from where I grew up. It’s hard to believe.
Some areas of the Jersey Shore have been totally destroyed. The devastation is just overwhelming. And I’m only seeing snapshots and short videos. I can only imagine what it’s like to be there. I spoke with my step-mom earlier today–she hasn’t been back to her house yet, but was told the water was up to her mailbox.
I know this storm is certainly different than when our country was attacked on 9/11, but I’ve found myself wrestling with similar emotions. Sadness. Loss. Helplessness.
Even though I moved away from New York and New Jersey over twenty years ago, in some ways it’s still home. When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying we were going “up home” when talking about going to visit his family in central Pennsylvania where he grew up. I know not everyone enjoyed their childhood or high school years, but I did. So I will always have a strong affection for the Jersey Shore, which makes it hard to see and hear of the destruction that took place.
The images coming out of New York and New Jersey make it clear–Sandy was a powerful destroyer. And that reminded of a verse from the book of Revelation where Satan is called “the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”
Abaddon and Apollyon both mean the same thing: Destroyer.
When I look at the state of our world, I can only conclude there’s a powerful destroyer on the loose. Like Sandy, this destroyer is bent on destroying homes, but he does it by destroying the people who live in them. And his greatest weapons are not wind and water, but lies and deception.
Our enemy’s goal is to keep us from knowing and seeking Jesus Christ. And he will use whatever means he can. He doesn’t care who or what we seek as long as it’s not the one true God.
Because we were made by God to live in relationship with Him and to experience life as He designed it, Satan will always entice us to look for life elsewhere. And the more we do, the more lonely or discouraged or desperate or hopeless we become. Things that were meant to be enjoyed as gifts become our gods. We desperately try to find happiness in a person or a job or an accomplishment or a possession.
But none of it works and we always end up unsatisfied and longing for more. More of what can never fulfill us.
Satan is much more subtle than Sandy. He pulls the strings behind the world system to tempt and entice us to get legitimate, God-given needs met outside of God’s will. He pushes us to go beyond the good, healthy boundaries God has put in place for our protection and provision.
Food, sex, money, work, leisure, pleasures, marriage, children–those are all God’s idea. He knows how they work best. And how they don’t. Doing life apart from God always lead us into the path of a storm. It always lead to some level of destruction.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
God invites us to experience life to the full.
Satan has come to destroy us.
We get to choose who we’ll listen to.
Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, perseverance, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
The older I get–I’ll be 50 in a couple weeks–the less I seem to understand. I had much more figured out a couple decades ago.
I’m probably less sure about more things than I’ve ever been, while still remaining solid on my core beliefs.
At the core, I believe there is a God who has existed forever, although I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain how that can be.
I believe He created everything from nothing. And if that sounds too wild to believe, consider the alternative–that everything came from nothing WITHOUT A CAUSE.
I believe God is good, although His definition and mine don’t always agree. I believe He loves me, but sometimes I believe it by faith. I believe He wants to have a relationship with me, which is pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. I actually matter to Him.
I believe without a doubt that Jesus is God and that He walked around on the planet He created a couple thousand years ago, but I also understand how a lot of people didn’t even recognize Him as God. I’m not sure I would have either.
I believe that sin earns death, I’ve sinned and therefore I’ve earned death. And by death, I mean hell.
I believe what Jesus said in the book of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that sounds really exclusive. And it is. But I believe He meant it.
I believe if I place my trust in Jesus, He forgives my sin and paves the way for me to experience the relationship God desires to have with me and that ultimately I desire to have with Him, but don’t always act like it.
I believe it’s a big deal, a really big deal, in fact, that we believe God. He likes to be trusted. And it’s a big deal to Him when we don’t trust Him. A bigger deal than we realize.
Beyond that, I’m less sure about stuff.
Like why some people are healed and some aren’t.
Like why some prayers are answered and some aren’t.
Like why some people are born with severe disabilities and others are born with beautiful, perfect bodies.
Like why bad people prosper.
The list could go on.
I think where I’m landing is this–we’ve got to cling to what we know to be true and learn to live in the mystery and tension and confusion of the rest. We’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to patiently endure. We’ve got to hang on.
Persevering. Patiently waiting. Trusting.
Those are big themes that run throughout the Bible. They’re a big deal to God. So they’ve got to be a big deal to us. Bigger than our need to know and understand and have everything make sense. Bigger than our need to understand everything and fit it all in our neat little boxes.
I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s just absolutely awful. Maybe you’re unemployed, you can’t find a job and bankruptcy is the only option. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re lonely or scared. Maybe you were raped. Maybe everyone ignores you.
I know you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. You’ve begged Him to help you. But things have gotten worse, not better.
I don’t have an answer. I can’t explain it. But I encourage you to not give up. Don’t turn your back on God. With whatever strength you have left– seek Him and trust Him.
This life is short. Your reward is coming.
Whatever you do–don’t give up.
Posted: August 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, forgiveness, God's love, God's word, grace, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities | No Comments »
I went to lunch today at a friend’s restaurant. Last week at this time, he was in Houston at MD Anderson waiting for the results of his latest scan. Unfortunately, he found out the next day his cancer is back.
While at his restaurant, he pointed out a guy who has a similar type of cancer that’s even more advanced. The doctors told him there’s nothing more they can do. If you were to see my friend or this other guy, you’d never know they had cancer.
After lunch, I was in Wal-Mart and got into a conversation with the greeter that probably lasted thirty minutes. As we talked, she told me she started singing in bars in 1958 at the age of 13. She’d make more money in two nights than her dad did in two weeks working for Philips Petroleum. At one point, she and a guy named Harold Jenkins won a singing competition. Harold later changed his name to Conway Twitty.
She also knew Janis Joplin who called her one day and told her to get to Love Field (Dallas) where she’d pick her up. In a plane. Janis said they were going to a concert in upstate New York. The year was 1969. The concert was Woodstock.
This woman has a story. So does my friend. We all do.
Everyone has a story.
Some of us are in a good part of the story. Health is great. Job is going well. Finances are in good shape. No major relationship problems.
But others are in the midst of a story they never wanted.
The person who cut you off in traffic has a story. Maybe he’s been unemployed for two years and is embarrassed every time his wife and kids have to go to the store to buy groceries with food stamps. And now he’s late for a job interview that could change everything. He didn’t mean to cut you off. He was just in a hurry and didn’t see you.
The girl who sits near you in class has a story. She’s friendly, pretty and smart. But her dad is an alcoholic. Sometimes things get out of hand. That’s when he hits her mom. Like he did again last night. They’re too scared to call the police.
The man in line behind you at the store is addicted to pornography. The shame and guilt are killing him.
The woman in front of you buying the diapers isn’t buying them for her baby. They’re for a baby shower she’s going to. She has no children and recently miscarried for the third time.
I’m as guilty as anyone when it comes to forgetting all this. Someone was tailgating me the other day and it made me furious. Later, I thought about how I should have stopped in the middle of the street and had a “talk” with the person. I felt wronged and wanted revenge. But what if it was someone who was late for something important or just had to go to the bathroom really bad?
That person had a story. I just didn’t care.
What if I did care though? What if rather than being angry, I just pulled over so I was no longer in the way? And if pulling over wasn’t an option, what if I simply took the time to remember that everyone has a story. Including tailgaters.
What if my prayer for others was the same as Paul’s greeting in Ephesians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Isn’t that what we all want and need? Grace. And peace. From God our Father. And from Jesus.
The next time you and I are tempted to get angry or defensive or ignore someone we cross paths with–what if we at least took the time to ask God to give them grace and peace?
Because everyone has a story.
If you’d like to share it as a comment, I, and hopefully others who read it, can pray for you.