Cancer of the Heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does all that play out in my life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay tuned.

Life Lessons From an Ancient King

Posted: October 10th, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

We saw in the previous post that King Nebuchadnezzar had a pride issue. He thought more highly of himself than he should have. He also lived his life on his own terms, not God’s.

Those are the two faces of pride. Two sides of the same coin. Thinking more highly of myself than I should. And refusing to submit to God’s authority in my life.

Pride is a very dangerous condition. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

In Daniel 4, King Nebuchadnezzar is about to find that out. The hard way.

By the way, there are two ways to gain wisdom. One is from your mistakes. The other is from other people’s mistakes. The latter is much better.

Daniel 4 finds the king at home in his palace, contented and prosperous. Things are good. Really good.

Something is wrong though. He just doesn’t know it. Actually, he does know it–he’s just forgotten it. At the end of Daniel 3, the king had three young Jews thrown into a furnace because they wouldn’t worship an idol he’d made. The men didn’t die though. God saved them. And the king got to see it with his own eyes. He saw the one true God rescue these men from the fire.

But he forgot it. He forgot that God was the true King. He forgot God is the one who gives authority and takes it away. He forgot that he was not the sovereign ruler, God is.

I forget, too. Or is it that I hope God will forget? I “forget” the sin God brings to my attention. I “forget” the changes He wants me to make.

Forgetting, like pride, is a dangerous condition.

So the king has a terrible dream. Read the chapter to get all the detail, but the bottom line is this: due to his pride, the king is not only going to lose his royal position, he’s going to become like the cattle. For seven years, he’s going to live in the fields, eat grass and begin to look like the cattle he’ll be living with.

After Daniel interprets the dream for the king, he concludes with:

“Therefore, O king, be pleased to accept my advice: Renounce your sins by doing what is right, and your wickedness by being kind to the oppressed. It may be that then your prosperity will continue.”

The king has a chance to avert what’s coming. He can turn from his sinful pride, submit to God and show kindness to those he’s now oppressing. He has a chance.

A year goes by and the king has blown his chance.

He is walking around on the roof of his palace, admiring all that he’s accomplished. That’s when God has had enough. What Daniel had said would happen now comes to pass. And for the next seven years, the king lives in the fields with the rest of the cattle. Just as Daniel said it would happen.

Finally, after seven years, the king says, “I…raised my eyes toward heaven and my sanity was restored.”

After seven long years of living like an ox, the king gives up. He surrenders control to the true King. He acknowledges that God is the one with all the power. God is the one who does as He pleases. The king realizes that God is able to humble those who walk in pride.

The king also discovers the grace of God when his kingdom and authority are restored to him and he “became even greater than before.”

Most likely, you and I won’t be made to live like an ox, but God has other ways to humble us when we walk in pride, so it’s much better to learn the easy way (from the king’s mistakes) than the hard way (by learning from our own mistakes). Here are a few life lessons we can take away:

1. God gives authority, success and wealth. They don’t come from our intelligence and hard work. All the credit goes to God. Claiming the credit for ourselves is evidence of pride.

2. We forget, but God doesn’t. If God has put something on your heart to do or change, then just do it. Just because a year or more goes by, it doesn’t mean God has forgotten what He said. Continuing to do what we want is evidence of pride.

3. God is faithful to forgive us and give us more grace when we turn away from our pride and submit to Him. It doesn’t mean we don’t experience the consequences of our sin. King Nebuchadnezzar lost seven years of his life while he grazed in the fields like an animal, but once he submitted himself to God and thought rightly about himself–God blessed him.

Do you find a little of King Nebuchadnezzar in yourself? Have you tended to look at your accomplishments, your wealth, your abilities as coming from you? Have you forgotten (maybe “ignored” is a better word) something God has told you to do?

Submit to God today. Don’t wait. Don’t lose seven years or even seven days. God is ready to give you more grace right now.

Blind Spots

Posted: August 22nd, 2010 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

As I’ve taught my four children to drive, one of the things I’ve stressed is the need to quickly glance over their shoulders before changing lanes. I don’t know how many accidents I’ve avoided by doing that one simple thing.

Why is that important? Because our side view mirrors do not give a complete picture. We’ve all seen the warning, “Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.” Well, I’d like to see one that says, “Objects in mirror are not the only ones.”

That area just behind the front doors of the car are often not visible in the mirrors. Those are the blind spots. I can see what’s in front of me and I can see what’s behind me, but I can’t see what’s in my blind spots…unless I intentionally look.

Knowing what’s in our blind spots as we drive can save us a lot of trouble and expense. Fortunately, a quick glance over the shoulder reveals what we don’t normally see.

I wish the only blind spots we had to deal with were when we’re driving, but they’re not. We’ve got other ones.

Blind spots exist in our relationships, including our relationships with our spouse and children. They exist in our work and ministry relationships. They even exist in how we do our work and ministry.

Johari’s Window is a useful tool in understanding this idea.

picture 19 300x227 Blind Spots

There are things I know about me and you know about me. For example, I like to workout. I know that about me and so do many who know me. My marriage is very important to me. I know that and so do others. I’m pretty easy-going. I know it and others do, too.

Then there are those things that I know about me, but you don’t. These could be fears, insecurities, sins, hidden agendas, etc. I’d tell you what some of mine are, but then they’d no longer fit in this category, would they?

The next area is tricky and we’re not really going to get into it, but it involves those things I don’t know about me and neither do you. Your spouse doesn’t know them. Your best friend doesn’t know them. You don’t know them. No one does…other than God.

Of course, the longer you walk with God and grow in your relationship with your spouse (if you’re married), this area of your life may become better known. You will discover more and more about yourself–both the good and the bad. Who better to help in that process than God and the one committed to you for a lifetime?

Let’s get back to the blind spots for a moment. These are things I don’t know about me, but you do. To be honest, that’s a scary thought. You know things about me that I don’t know. It could be an annoying habit, a weakness, a character flaw, mistakes I make or it could be something good. Whatever it is, I’m blind to it, but you’re not.

Now here’s the thing, blind spots may often be those things that keep us from being more effective. They keep us from reaching our potential. Especially, if our blind spot is a glaring one.

For example, a massage therapist with a bad case of body odor is in trouble if no one tells her. Her clients, the few she has, know she has a problem, but she doesn’t. Unless a friend, supervisor, co-worker or client tells her, she’s never going to be successful.

Now you may read that and think, “Come on, how could she not know?”

That’s easy, it’s a blind spot for her.

You would think she would know, because it’s so apparent to everyone else, but she doesn’t. That’s the nature of your blind spots. Blind to you, but not to us.

Do you know some of your blind spots?

No, you don’t. But others do.

You’ll never know what your blind spots are unless you’re willing to be vulnerable and open yourself up to others you can trust, giving them permission to tell you the truth.

Your marriage is the perfect place for this to occur. A good friend or trusted c0-worker can also help.

Do you want deeper more fulfilling relationships? Greater success in your work? Do you want to move past a “sticking point” in your life?

You may need to address your blind spots.

There’s something standing in your way though. Pride.

Proud people don’t want to hear the truth. Proud people get defensive when they do hear it. Proud people want to do things their way.

Pride was Satan’s downfall. It’s ours too.

The humble though are willing to receive the truth. In fact, they seek it out. They understand they don’t have all the answers and don’t see what others see. Humble people know they have blind spots and are also secure enough in their relationship with Christ to receive hard feedback.

James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

We can walk in pride and remain blind to those things others see, but we don’t. Or we can walk in humility and open ourselves up to others who will tell us the truth. Not to hurt us, but for our good.

So what are you going to do? Walk in pride or humility?

If you do nothing, we already have the answer, don’t we?