Posted: June 20th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, God's word, Holy Spirit, priorities, seeking God | No Comments »
Think back over the past 24 hours or so. What emotions have been most prominent?
Have you felt happy or joyful? Peaceful? Content? Secure?
Or have you been angry? Anxious? Worried?
Maybe you’ve felt frustrated. Or discouraged. Or afraid.
More than likely, you’ve experienced multiple emotions…sometimes within just a few minutes. Often, our emotions fluctuate depending on our circumstances. If things are going well, we tend to feel better. When circumstances are hard or confusing, it’s easy to give into negative emotions.
I like to think of negative emotions like the warning lights on the dashboard of a car. When the “check engine” light comes on it usually means there’s something going on underneath the hood that needs to be checked out. It’s the same with emotions like fear, worry, discouragement, anger and anxiety. Those feelings are a signal that something in us needs to be checked out.
Romans 8:5-8 says…
5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.
The mind set on and governed by the flesh is hostile to God, is unable to submit to God’s law and is characterized by death. But the mind set on the Spirit pleases God and experiences life and peace.
The flesh is that part of us that still desires to live independently of God. It’s that part of us that seeks to get our physical needs met according to the world’s plan. The flesh is consumed with the current, material realm in which we live. The flesh doesn’t give thought to the spiritual realm or eternity.
So what emotions have you been feeling lately? Would you put them under the heading of “life and peace” or “death?”
If you’ve been primarily dealing with negative emotions, then chances are your mind has been set on the flesh. Your feelings don’t randomly occur. They result from your thoughts, from your mindset. The answer for feeling better isn’t to try and change your feelings. The answer lies in changing your thoughts. We have to choose to set our minds on what God’s Spirit desires. And the only way to do that is to invest time in God’s word. There’s no substitute for it.
Maybe the beginning of summer is a good time to make a new start, to change your mindset. Choose to set your mind on what the Spirit desires. Learn to see your circumstances the way God sees them. He promises life and peace to those who do.
Posted: April 20th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, God's word, priorities, Relationships, Truth, worldview | No Comments »
Do you find it hard to understand why those two brothers in Boston would detonate bombs to kill innocent people? Or how other Muslim terrorists would fly planes into buildings to kill innocent people?
Or how could an abortion doctor from Philadelphia deliver live babies and then cut their spinal cords with scissors to complete the abortion procedure? How could someone commit rape? Why do some people go on looting sprees during natural disasters?
Why are some people in support of higher taxes and others want them lowered? Why do some people devote themselves to serving the poor while others are equally as devoted to accumulating as many material possessions for themselves as they can?
How you live your life and make choices stems from your worldview. In other words, what is the lens through which you view the world? What is it that you truly believe about yourself, about God and about this life?
So how could a terrorist kill innocent people? You first have to understand their worldview to answer that question. Perhaps they feel their god has instructed them to kill those who don’t believe as they do. That would lead them to conclude the people they are killing are in fact not innocent.
How could an abortion doctor kill babies outside the womb? Ultimately, he must believe those babies aren’t fully human. Or that they have no rights. Or that making money from abortions is more important than someone’s life.
Regardless of the question or issue–you must understand someone’s worldview before you can understand their choices.
There’s something even more foundational than someone’s worldview though. And that’s their identity. What do they believe about themselves? Who do they really see themselves as?
There are various aspects to our identity that are all critical. There’s our spiritual identity, our emotional identity, our sexual identity and our personality. There are many factors that go into the development of our identity, but in large measure, I believe it’s determined by the family in which we grew up, authority figures, our view of God and any abuse we may have suffered.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about–let’s say a little boy grew up in a home with an angry, hard-to-please father. The predominant message at home was “you’ll never amount to anything.” The family attends a legalistic church filled with lots of rules to follow.
When this little boy grows up, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn he lacks self-confidence and views God as a divine disciplinarian who he’s continually disappointed. Outwardly though, he might be an over-achiever. He’s determined to prove everyone wrong by getting straight A’s and doing his best to follow the rules. Try as he might though, he can’t ever shake the feeling that God is disappointed in him.
Now add in any type of abuse and his identity will be even more damaged. Sexual abuse can lead to confusion regarding sexual identity. Emotional abuse can lead to plaguing negative emotions. Any type of abuse can have a powerfully negative influence on our identity.
It may seem like a small thing, but when I was growing up I distinctly remember the day my mother labeled me as “anti-social” because I wanted to stay home rather than going with my parents to a party. The subtle unintended message from my mother was “there’s something wrong with you.” By nature, I enjoy alone time. I’m energized by solitude, not people. I enjoy people, but that’s not where I get my energy. I wonder though–could some of my reluctance to be in situations with lots of new people come from the “anti-social” label I received forty years ago?
Ultimately, the only way to correct our confused or damage identities is to know and believe the truth. What God says about me is true, regardless of what my mother or coach or friends said.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32)
So what does God say about your spiritual identity? Your sexual identity? Your emotional identity? And your personality? Unless you know it and believe it, you will live in bondage to any abuse you suffered or lies you’ve believed.
And unless you understand all this–you’ll never understand why two brothers could kill innocent people and think they were justified.
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 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: 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 9th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: arkansas razorbacks, football, priorities, Razorbacks | No Comments »
I’ve been a football fan for as long as I can remember. This is a picture of me in a three point stance at about three-years-old.
My dad played and coached football. I played and have coached a couple seasons. And now my son is playing high school football.
Almost forty years ago–it just hit me it was actually that long ago–my cousin played tight end for Penn State, so I’ve been a Penn State fan for a long time. I grew up in New Jersey, so I’m also a Giants fan. I’ve now lived in Arkansas since 1988, so I’ve been a Razorbacks fan for almost 25 years. And with my son playing for Fayetteville High School, I’m a Bulldogs fan, too.
So how are “my” teams doing so far this season?
Penn State has started 0-2 and everything points to a very long, hard road. Their football program may not recover from the NCAA sanctions in my lifetime.
The Giants opened the season this past Wednesday night by losing to the Dallas Cowboys, so they’re now 0-1.
The Razorbacks won their opening game and moved up to #8 in the Associated Press poll. That was setting up a big game this coming Saturday against #1 Alabama. All Arkansas had to do was beat the University of Louisiana-Monroe, but that didn’t happen. Arkansas lost 34-31 and dropped completely out of the poll. Apparently, it was the second biggest drop ever.
The Fayetteville Bulldogs varsity team started the season ranked #1 in Arkansas and #53 nationally. They lost their first game to one of the best teams from Tennessee and lost their second game to one of the top teams in Missouri. They’re 0-2.
What’s sad to me is the reaction I’ve seen from Razorback fans. Many are angry. Extremely angry. They’re quick to cast blame. These aren’t people who are associated with the Razorback football team–they’re just fans. Fans that easily become angry and hateful when “their” team loses.
Several years ago, I sat behind a man and his family at Razorback Stadium during a game. I can’t remember the final score, but I know at one point the Razorbacks weren’t playing well. It was also around this time that the man’s young son asked when they were going to leave. This guy completely lost control of himself. He told his son he didn’t even want him there and then he got up and left the stadium. The wife and kids were left there by themselves.
This isn’t unique to Razorback fans. And it’s not unique to the sport of football. It happens everywhere.
I understand players and coaches being upset by a loss or being elated by a win. They’re the ones who’ve trained and studied and practiced together for weeks and months and years. And I can understand fans being momentarily disappointed by a loss or excited by a win. But angry? Depressed? Hateful?
Football is a game. A GAME.
A game is: a competitive activity involving skill, chance, or endurance on the part of two or more persons who play according to a set of rules, usually for their own amusement or for that of spectators
We’ve completely lost sight of the fact that we’re watching an activity being played for our amusement. AMUSEMENT!
Yes, I know we pay money to go to the games. We pay for tickets. We pay to park. We pay for concessions. We buy jerseys and hats and posters. We feel invested. But if the success or failure of “your” team causes you to be angry or sad or depressed, then–and let me say this with all due respect–you have a problem.
I know, because that used to be me up until about fifteen years ago. I had difficulty even watching Penn State play. I was nervous watching games and often had to turn them off. I was happy when they won and sad when they lost. I had to get over it. It wasn’t healthy. It was a total loss of perspective.
Anything that has taken on that degree of importance in our lives has become an idol, a god.
We think about it. We talk about it. We desire it. We worship it. We look to it to make us happy and give us life.
Maybe for you, it’s not football. It’s food. Or clothes. Or your house. Or your grades. Or your job. Or your kids being successful. It can be anything. Anything that makes you feel good…or bad. Anything that consumes your thoughts. Or money. Anything that you let control you. Anything you’ve allowed to define you. Anything you can’t live without.
Let’s see if we can bring things into perspective a little.
On Saturday, a football player for Tulane suffered a severe spinal injury in their game against Tulsa. It’s possible that he’ll be permanently paralyzed. One of the Razorback defensive players also had to be carted off the field in their game. The extent of his injury is unclear, but it looks like he’ll recover. I don’t know if that means he’ll play football again or not.
So let’s say you could only have one of the following two scenarios, which would you choose?
“Your” team wins the national championship, but a third team linebacker is injured in the fourth game of the season and will probably never walk again.
2. “Your” team finishes with a losing record for the fourth year in a row, but everyone is healthy.
Maybe another way to think about it is this–what makes you more angry, “your” team losing a big game or knowing there are kids in your town who will go to bed hungry tonight?
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: March 30th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, God's word, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, spiritual battle, spiritual warfare, worry | No Comments »
In Fayetteville, Arkansas, it’s a beautiful spring day. Sunny, but not too hot. Nice breeze. My son is out of school today and is currently taking a nap in his hammock in the backyard. If it weren’t for the pollen, it would be perfect.
It’s a day like today that gives us a little glimpse of heaven. And when I say “heaven”, I mean the new earth. Revelation 21:1-5 says:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Heaven is not some spiritual dimension in which we’ll float around forever as disembodied spirits. If that’s been your view, then you probably haven’t been very excited about spending an eternity there. Maybe you’ve felt the tension I used to feel. You know you should desire to be in heaven, but if you’re honest–you’re a lot more attracted to a beautiful spring day on earth.
Well, the good news is that heaven will be much like the beautiful spring day…only without sin, pain or death. The first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation give us a picture of what God intended. We’ll have bodies. We’ll recognize each other. We’ll eat and drink. We’ll work (and enjoy it!). We’ll live in friendship with others. We’ll worship. And God will be there with us. I believe heaven will be far better than we can imagine, but it will not be unfamiliar to us.
But we’re not there yet, are we?
My friend Jeff had another surgery this week to remove a tumor from his liver. He’s been battling liver and colon cancer for over a year. My son-in-law is a United States Marine and is currently deployed to Afghanistan. He would confirm it’s not heaven. He’s in a war.
This is not peace time. Not in Afghanistan. And not where you live either.
We are in a spiritual fight for our lives. The battles may often be unseen, but they are no less real.
Yesterday, a very close friend of mine was attacked. It was a spiritual attack. It was powerful. It was well-coordinated and well-timed. And it was pure evil.
Heaven is real. It will exceed our wildest expectations. And for now, we get glimpses of it. But let’s not forget we’re in a war. A real one. With deadly, eternal consequences. It’s not being fought in the mountains of Afghanistan. It’s being fought in our minds.
Satan and the demons that fight with him are liars. They are deceivers. They are tempters. Their goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). One of their most effective strategies is whispering lies to us. Lies about God. Lies about ourselves. Lies about this life.
If we listen to a lie long enough–we begin to believe it’s true. We begin to repeat it to ourselves. Our emotions line up with it. So does our behavior.
Are you battling an addiction? A destructive behavior? A bad habit you can’t break?
Do you often feel anxious? Or angry? Or discouraged? Or worried?
Then you’re believing a lie. And the only defense is to know the truth and act on it. There’s no other way.
1 John 5:19 tells us that “…the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” You and I live in enemy territory. One day, God will banish Satan and his demonic army to hell, but that hasn’t happened yet. Today, “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
You and I are called to submit ourselves to God, stop living according to the world’s ways and be transformed as our minds are renewed (Romans 12:1-2). We become more like Christ when we begin to think and act like He does. That makes us useful in God’s hands in advancing His kingdom on earth.
It’s easy to let sunny spring days, material things and physical pleasures numb us to the fact that there’s a war raging all around us. It doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy life. But it does mean we don’t forget we’re not really home yet. This isn’t heaven. There’s still a war to be fought.
I left out the first sentence in 1 Peter 5:8. It says, “Be self-controlled and alert.”
Posted: February 28th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, priorities, Relationships, seeking God | No Comments »
I love NASCAR races and last night was the biggest one of the year–the Daytona 500
When that green flag waved, there were forty-three cars racing around a 2.5 mile tri-oval at 200 miles per hour. There were about ten yellow caution flags during the race, which slowed their speed to 55 miles per hour. And there was also one red flag, which completely stopped the cars until the track could be cleaned up after a particularly bad wreck.
200 miles per hour under green. 55 miles per hour under yellow. And zero miles per hour under red.
Which of those would best describe the pace of your life right now?
Between work or school (or both) and activities you’ve committed to and maintaining all of your relationships–does it feel like life is passing by in a blur? Does the fact that it’s almost March surprise you? Are you wondering where the last two months…or two years have gone?
I suspect most of us feel like we’re racing through life at 200 miles per hour. No time to slow down. No time to relax. No margin for error. We’re running under a green flag week after week, month after month, year after year.
There’s just too much to do. There are deadlines to meet. People are counting on us. We’re needed. Know one else can do what we do. And besides, even if we do slow down, it doesn’t mean everyone else will slow down with us. And you know what that means. We’re behind now.
And we can’t have that. Especially if we’re measuring our worth in comparison to others.
When the yellow flag comes out at a race, the pace car enters the track and the cars fall in line behind. The pace car does exactly what it says–it sets the pace.
You and I aren’t very good at setting our own pace. Sometimes we’re too slow, but most often, we’re too fast. Too busy. Over-committed and frenzied.
What would happen though if we not only slowed down and let God set our pace, but actually stopped once in awhile, as well? No running around. Nothing on the schedule. No place to be.
Just time to be.
Time to be alone. With God.
Time to listen. Time to reflect. Time to re-evaluate. To re-charge. And re-focus. On what matters.
It won’t be easy. It’ll mean turning off the phone. And computer. And television. And video games. And whatever other distractions we’ve allowed to rule our lives.
This is the season of Lent. A time of reflection and preparation leading up to Easter. We typically think of Lent as a time “to give something up.”
Well, what if we gave up our addiction to distraction? Even just a couple hours a week?
Will you commit to it? Will you get your calendar out right now and block of an hour or two?
If you’re not sure where to even begin, let me suggest you start with your Bible and a notebook. Read a few Psalms. Read a few chapters from one of the gospels. Ask the Holy Spirit to meet with you.
Maybe a few of these questions will help also help get you started:
- Is Jesus my first love or is it something or someone else? Money? Work? My grades? A relationship?
- Is there something in my life God has put His finger on, but I’ve ignored?
- Am I passionate about the things God is passionate about? Do I know what God is passionate about?
- Am I seeking the God “who is” or the God “I want him to be?”
- What do I think God is teaching me in my current circumstances?
- What negative emotions (fear, anger, worry, anxiety, etc.) am I experiencing? What lies am I believing that produce these feelings?
- Do I have a secret life that if I exposed would bring shame to me or my family?
- Am I a difficult person to live with? Do I regularly experience conflict with family members or c0-workers?
Maybe it’s time to throw yourself a red flag, so you can stop long enough to examine the life you’re living. No one else will do it for you. It’s up to you.
Why not do it now before you wreck or run out of gas?
The Daytona 500 is meant to be run at 200 mile per hour, but life isn’t.