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 | 1 Comment »
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: March 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, faith, God's word, Jesus, prayer, priorities, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
For a long time, I’ve assumed it should be easy to seek and find God. I’ve been wrong though.
Can you think of any good or worthwhile activity that’s easy?
Eating healthy and staying in good physical condition requires planning, commitment and hard work. Doing well at your job and advancing in your career can mean long hours and sacrifices in other areas. Getting a college degree requires a big financial investment and years of studying. Having a good marriage requires a lot of time and effort. Having a thick, green, weed-free lawn requires year-round attention.
Anything good requires commitment, sacrifice and hard work. So why would we think any less is required to truly find God and experience Him? And let me take this one step further. I suspect it will require more effort to find God the longer we’ve known Him. If you work out, you know the longer you train the harder you must work to continue seeing gains. I believe the same is true when it comes to God. I’m not suggesting He’s hiding from us, but let’s not make the mistake of thinking God is easy.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” To seek Him earnestly means to seek with serious effort…and when we do, He rewards us.
And Jeremiah 29:13 says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” We don’t find Him when we seek Him with minimal, half-hearted effort.
If you want to lose weight and get in better shape, you know it means saying “no” to the potato chips and ice cream and “yes” to healthier foods. It means going to the gym or running three miles rather than sitting on the couch.
What do you need to say “no” to, so you can say “yes” to more time in prayer and reading the Bible? What habits or sins are keeping you from seeking Him with your whole heart?
Galatians 6:7 says, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.”
If we sow little effort in seeking God, we will not find much of Him. If we sow serious, whole-hearted effort, we will find much more of Him.
I believe we can experience as little or as much of God as we’d like. So the question is…
How much of God would you like?
Posted: January 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
I learned a number of years ago that well-meaning people sometimes need to be ignored. Good people, nice people can sometimes be the most discouraging.
God was leading me to take a step of faith. A big one. And the more I obeyed and trusted Him, the more He confirmed I was doing the right thing. I’d never been more sure of a direction from God. In numerous ways, He encouraged me to believe Him, not my feelings or circumstances.
That didn’t mean He was also speaking to those around me though. I’m sure to others, my path looked foolish, irresponsible, even reckless. Some of the most discouraging people were some close friends. Either by the questions they asked, the comments they made or even the look on their faces–they were discouraging me from continuing to believe God.
In Mark 5, a man named, Jairus, comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to come heal his 12-year-old daughter who’s dying. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, some men come to tell Jairus his daughter has died. Verse 36 says:
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Sometimes we have to ignore others, so we can believe God.
If God is leading you to take a step of faith, then trust Him and take the step. Just understand you will very likely encounter resistance, skepticism and discouragement from those closest to you. During those times, you will need to go back to God and spend time in His word and in prayer to receive encouragement and strengthening in your faith. And the bigger the step of faith, the more you will need for God to confirm His plan.
Let me close with a word of caution. Before you choose to ignore someone’s counsel–be sure you are hearing clearly from God. We cannot always trust our desires. Our feelings will often lead us astray. God will never lead you to do anything that contradicts His word.
A man once told me he believed God had led him to have an affair with another woman. No, those were his own sinful desires that led him into an affair and a deceived mind that allowed him to conclude it was God.
The more time you bathe your mind in God’s word and in prayer, the more confidence you can have in taking bold steps of faith.
So is there someone you need to ignore so you can believe God?
Posted: 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: email@example.com
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: 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.
Posted: April 27th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, fear God, God's character, God's love, God's word, grace, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, priorities, Relationships, seeking God, sex, sin, trials, Truth, worry | 1 Comment »
- What if God wants to tell you something really important about the next step in your life, but you can’t hear Him because of all the noise?
- What if you exchanged the amount of time you currently spend on your phone, laptop and television with the amount of time you read the Bible and talk to God?
- What if God meant everything He said?
- What if that thing you believe about yourself isn’t true?
- What if freedom isn’t found in doing whatever you want, but in obeying God?
- What if you made it your goal to meet as many of your spouse’s needs and wants as you can…starting today?
- What if you took a big risk to advance God’s kingdom?
- What if heaven is going to be a lot like the absolute best day on earth you can possibly imagine…only a million times better and minus any pain, sin, conflict or difficulties?
- What if your word of encouragement is the only thing that will give someone the hope to keep living?
- What if God is a lot more interested in your response to problems than in getting you out of them?
- What if the same God who did all those miracles in the Bible lives inside you and wants to help you?
- What if you treated your family the way you want to be treated?
- What if how your child treats others is more important than getting an “A” on a test?
- What if God is crazy in love with you?
- What if your current level of obeying God never changes–where will you be in ten years?
- What if God said He was going to bless you financially in proportion to how generous you’ve been lately–would you be excited or disappointed?
- What if you don’t need to worry because God has things figured out?
- What if you’re going to come under spiritual attack and your only defense is believing the truth–how well-armed are you?
- What if someone in the Bible faced the same problems you are and you could learn from that person how to (or not to) handle them?
- What if God treated you the way you treat your spouse?
- What if you don’t have something because you haven’t asked God or if you have asked, you’ve asked with wrong motives?
- What if “fearing God” doesn’t just mean respecting Him or being in awe of Him?
- What if God invented sex and His guidelines for it were for our good, not to rob us of a good time?
- What if the negative emotions (fear, worry, anxiety, etc.) you’re feeling are signal that you’ve got a wrong belief about God or yourself?
- What if almost everything in the world is a distraction to keep you from experiencing life in Christ?
Posted: January 10th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, marriage, money, pain and suffering, prayer, Relationships, seeking God, trials | No Comments »
Has that ever been your prayer? Or have you ever at least wondered?
You might be in the midst of a second round of chemo, like my friend Jeff.
Or like one young man I heard about today…in less than a year–your dad dies, your mom dies and then the day before you leave for boot camp–your girlfriend breaks up with you.
Or despite doing everything you know to do, your marriage continues to get worse. Or your child continues to rebel. Or your boss is still a jerk.
Or your finances keep getting worse. Just when it seems like you’re about to get ahead, you get hit with an unexpected bill.
God, have You forgotten me? Can You not see what I’m going through here?
Where are You, God? And why aren’t You helping?
When circumstances are bad and they don’t seem to be improving and God isn’t saying much…it’s easy to lose hope, to wonder where He is and what He’s up to. It’s easy to doubt His love for us. It’s easy to doubt if He’s even good.
I’ve been there. I’ve doubted. I’ve wondered. I’ve been angry. I’ve been discouraged.
And I’ve lost hope.
Have you? Are you there now?
I wonder if Noah could relate.
Noah was a righteous man living among a lot of evil. He was trying to do the right thing and honor God when those around him weren’t.
And God saw. He knew what was going on. Check out the story in Genesis 6.
So Noah does what God says and builds an ark. And God does what He says He’ll do and He sends a flood, which Noah, his wife, his three sons and their wives ride out in the ark. Along with a bunch of animals. Read that part of the story in Genesis 7-8.
The flood began “in the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, on the seventeenth day of the second month…” And in the coming days, every creature that lived on dry ground is completely wiped out except for Noah, his family and the animals on the ark.
And “the waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”
It rained for forty days and nights, but the earth was totally flooded for five months before God sends a wind so that the waters will begin to recede.
I grew up near the ocean, but I can’t remember ever being so far out on a boat that I couldn’t see the shore. I’ve also never been on a cruise. Maybe you have. Maybe you’ve been out at sea and couldn’t see land.
Of course, a cruise ship and Noah’s ark couldn’t be more different. Noah’s boat was built to ensure the human race would survive a world-wide flood. It held a total of eight human beings, a whole bunch of animals and enough food to last until the flood was over. No staterooms. No dining rooms and endless buffets. No deck chairs. No casinos. No shore excursions.
Just Noah, his family and the animals. Alone on the earth. Surrounded by nothing but water. For five months. And we have no record of God communicating with them during that time. Nothing. Not one word.
The first word of chapter 8 is one of my absolute favorites in the Bible: But.
“But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.”
A couple verses later, it says, “The water receded steadily from the earth.”
After five months, the waters are finally beginning to recede. And “the waters continued to recede until the tenth month, and on the first day of the tenth month the tops of the mountains became visible.”
Seven and a half months after the flood began, the tops of the mountains are now visible. Moses waits another forty days and sends out a raven and a dove. The raven kept flying back and forth. The dove looks for dry ground, but can’t find it so it returns to Noah. After a week passes, Noah sends the dove out again. This time the dove returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak, so Noah knew the water was receding.
After another week, Noah sends the dove out again. This time it doesn’t return.
“By the first day of the first month of Noah’s six hundred and first year, the water had dried up from the earth. Noah then removed the covering from the ark and saw that the surface of the ground was dry. By the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry.”
In Noah’s six hundredth and first year on the twenty-seventh day of the second month the earth was completely dry. He and his family had been on the ark for one year, one month and ten days.
As I read this story today, here’s what jumped out at me…
The waters receded slowly.
Once the rain stopped, God didn’t zap away all the water. He sent a wind. That’s it. No zapping. No wand-waving. No miracles.
Just a wind. And then a lot of waiting.
Oh, and remembering. God always remembered Noah and his family and the animals.
He never forgot them.
Just like He never forgets you.
Maybe you’ve been enduring a 13-month trial of your own. Or maybe a 23-month trial. Or 33 months. Or longer.
God hasn’t forgotten though. There might still be a miracle coming, but there might just be a slow-receding.
Little by little the waters of difficulties and pain and confusion are receding. It might feel so slow that you don’t even notice. You will though. One day, you’ll notice the dove will return with an olive leaf. And not long after, the dove won’t return at all.
The waters will have receded. You’ll see dry ground again.
Until then, remember that God remembers. He never, ever forgets you.
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: November 2nd, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, emotional health, emotions, faith, fear, Fitness, Holy Spirit, prayer, worry | No Comments »
Last month, my son and I went to a NASCAR race in Kansas City. On our way back home, we stopped to get some dinner. After leaving the restaurant, I was accelerating to get back onto the highway, when I felt my car hesitate. It had been doing that for a couple of weeks, but it was worse this time. And that’s when the “Service Engine Soon” light came on.
Something was going on underneath the hood that needed to be checked out. Something was wrong and the light was warning me about it.
I’m glad cars come with warning lights. They save us from ignoring or even being unaware of problems that could become very expensive to fix.
I think you and I have some warning lights as well. And when they illuminate, they’re letting us know that something’s wrong, that something needs to be checked out “underneath the hood.”
Those warning lights are our emotions.
I think I’ve had one lit up for a week or two now.
There was a day last week when I just felt annoyed. A bunch of little things were piling up and really starting to bother me. And I was starting to voice my frustrations.
Today, I’ve had trouble identifying just what it is I’m feeling. At first, I thought it was boredom. Then I wondered if I was just feeling stale. Although, I’m not really sure what “stale” should feel like. As I’ve thought about it some more, I think what I’m feeling is depleted. One dictionary defines “depleted” this way:
To decrease the fullness of; use up or empty out.
I don’t feel like I’m on empty, but my fullness has definitely been decreased.
Years ago, I read a book about a pastor who was very diligent in tracking two areas of his life: his workouts and his time with the Lord. He reasoned that if he was taking care of himself spiritually and physically then he would be okay. So he was completely caught off guard one day when he broke down in tears while sitting in his office.
He checked his spiritual and emotional “gauges” and they were both telling him everything was fine. So what was wrong?
There was another area of his life he’d failed to take care of and the breakdown in his office was the warning light. That area was his emotional health.
As he looked back at his schedule, he saw that he was involved in some very intensive activities that were depleting his emotional reserves. His activities were good ones, but they were running down his emotional battery and leaving him with little in reserve. Reading the Bible and exercising were not enough. He needed time to emotionally recharge as well.
How about you? What are your emotions telling you today? Is there a warning light that’s lit up?
Maybe it’s just a little annoyance or frustration like I was feeling last week. Or maybe it’s bigger like anger or discouragement or fear or anxiety.
If you’re not spending time in God’s word and taking care of yourself physically (exercise, eating well and getting enough sleep), then I’d start there. But let’s not ignore the need to also recharge emotionally.
For some of us, that might mean getting together with friends or taking a walk after work. Maybe it’s taking time to paint or go to a movie or read a book.
It’s tempting to think we should just maintain our hectic pace. Just keep going. Keep putting out. The problem comes when we’re depleted. When there’s nothing left to give.
When we get to that place, we’re not helping anyone, including ourselves, if we just keep pushing.
Is there a warning light on in your life?
If there is, what do you need to do about it?