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: January 28th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: God is good, God's character, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, heaven, Jesus, marriage, money, pain and suffering, Relationships | No Comments »
I realized a number of years ago that I really don’t want to walk by faith. That’s a problem because God says things like:
“We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Hebrews 11:6
Walking or living by faith means I won’t always see how things are going to work out. That’s a really uncomfortable place to be. And I don’t like being uncomfortable. I suspect you don’t either.
I like being comfortable and I always want to see how things are going to work out. Actually, that’s not true. I don’t want to see how things are going to work out–I want things to already be worked out. I don’t want to trust God to supply what I need. I want to already have all I need. Don’t you?
And yet, that’s just not the way life works. I used to hold onto this fantasy world in which God’s sole objective was to make my life more comfortable, to make my circumstances more enjoyable, to meet all my needs and most of my wants. But since that’s not real life, I’ve had to work on letting that fantasy go. It hasn’t been easy.
But when we let go of the fantasy that a loving God would never allow pain or difficulties, we’re faced with a world in which tornadoes wipe out whole towns. Some babies are born with severe birth defects. Businesses fail in spite of hard work. Loved ones die in car accidents. Investments decline in value. Cancer takes family members from us. And “bad” people seem to have it better than the “good” people. And we’re faced with a God who’s willing to let all that happen.
Is there any hope? In this life, I mean. For those who follow Jesus, we know there’s the hope of heaven. But what about now? Are there any guarantees? Is there anything I can count on when the bottom drops out of life?
The second verse of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, says, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would I love to live in a world without pain and problems and broken dreams? Absolutely. And that day is coming. I don’t believe God has given up on His plan to live on earth with us in a world free of pain and problems and death. (Read Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22–the first two and last two chapters of the Bible.) One day, God will restore creation to its original design.
Until then, we can experience His grace and peace. They are ours in abundance and are found in a relationship with Him through Christ. God’s grace and peace aren’t dependent on circumstances. They are available to us when everything around us is crumbling.
Grace and peace are available to us, but I believe we can short-circuit them by continuing to focus on our circumstances rather than on Jesus. I can get my eyes so firmly set on what I see happening (or not happening) around me, that God begins to feel far away, uninvolved and uncaring.
We can choose to see our circumstances through God’s eyes–that’s walking by faith. Or we can choose to see God through our circumstances–that’s walking by sight. Only one of those ways yields grace and peace.
God’s grace and peace are yours, but sometimes you have to battle to receive them…and battle to keep them. And we’ll look at that tomorrow.
Posted: January 23rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, faith, God's word, marriage, money, Relationships, sex, sin | No Comments »
When I was growing up, my mother made me go to church. Fortunately, it was only an hour on Sunday morning. No Sunday nights. No Wednesday nights. No youth group. Just one hour on Sunday. Going to church seemed like a good thing to do, but as far as it actually being relevant to the rest of my life…it wasn’t. So I didn’t like going. At all. I didn’t have a problem with God. He just seemed irrelevant.
Then during my freshman year at Cornell University, I met a guy who connected the dots for me. He explained that God loved me and had a plan for my life, but there was a barrier between God and me, a barrier the Bible calls “sin.” This barrier was preventing me from experiencing God both now and forever. The good news was that Jesus died in my place and paid the penalty for my sin.
I had earned death, but instead, Jesus offered me the gift of life. That’s grace.
So the ball was in my court. It wasn’t just enough to know these things; I had to make a decision. Would I receive the gift of forgiveness Christ offered?
It all made sense to me on that winter day in February of 1982. So in the student union at Cornell, I placed my trust in Jesus to forgive my sin and make the person He wanted me to be.
As I walked back to my dorm that day, I distinctly remember the grass being greener and the sky being bluer. Something was different. Something had changed.
What actually happened to me that day? What caused me to even see the grass and the sky differently?
In the letter Paul wrote to the Colossians, he said, “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
The phrase “brought us into” literally means we were transferred or removed from one place and put in another. We were under the power, the influence, the dominion of darkness. As Paul says in the letter to the Ephesians, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.”
The key word is “were.” We were in the dominion of darkness. We were dead in sin.
But if you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are no longer in that dominion. You have been made alive with Christ. You have been transferred to God’s kingdom. “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…” (Ephesians 2:6)
What happened to me that day? Spiritually, I came alive for the first time. I was no longer in the kingdom of darkness. I was no longer relating to this world only as a physical being. I was simultaneously living in a spiritual realm, a heavenly realm. And there are things true of us in the spiritual realm, which will effect our lives here in the physical realm. Once we have placed our faith in Jesus, life is played by new rules.
But if we don’t understand the new rules or even know they exist, we will continue to live as if we were still dead in our sin, living in the dominion of darkness. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore what it means to be transferred into a new kingdom and what it means to have a new set of truths and laws to live by.
So if the Christian life hasn’t really been working for you, if you can’t shake the feeling that there’s “something missing,” then stay tuned. Learning and living by the truth will revolutionize every area of your life–your thoughts and emotions, your work, your finances and your relationships.
“For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7)
Posted: July 16th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, God's word, marriage, Relationships, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
Seaside Park, NJ
There’s no place I’d rather be on a hot summer day than the beach. I love the smell of the salt water. I love hearing the waves wash ashore. I love the feel of the hot sun and cooling off in the water.
The more time I spent in the water though, the more I had to be aware of the tendency to drift. The waves were rarely coming in straight at the shoreline. They were at an angle. So whether I was just relaxing in the water or riding waves, I was naturally drifting. If I wasn’t paying attention, it was easy to look up at the beach and realize I wasn’t even close to where I’d entered the water.
Drifting is easy and natural. It doesn’t require any effort at all. The culture has a way of helping us drift. We slowly adopt its values. We lose our perspective. Things that used to be important to us no longer are.
We naturally drift toward isolation in marriage, not toward oneness.
We naturally drift toward adopting the world’s values, not God’s.
We naturally drift toward indulging our flesh, rather than feeding the Spirit.
Hebrews 2:1 says, “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
Have you drifted? If so, you’ll have to be intentional to get back to where you need to be.
The apostle Paul wrote:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1-2)
Today would be a good day to admit you’ve drifted and surrender control of your life to God. If it’s been awhile since you’ve been in His word, then it’s time to start again. If you need a plan, try reading three Psalms, one chapter from Proverbs and one chapter from the New Testament each day. It’ll probably take twenty minutes.
You’ll also need someone to do this with. It’s much easier to stay on course with help. Who can you invite to join you?
Being in God’s word and sharing your journey with others is the only way to prevent yourself from drifting away.
Posted: May 23rd, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God's word, heaven, heaven is like, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, Relationships | No Comments »
Yesterday, we looked at what we can learn about heaven from Genesis 1 and 2 and Revelation 21 and 22. In those chapters, we see God’s original design for the earth and how He will one day make the earth new. You can read yesterday’s post here, if you missed it.
Let’s continue our look at heaven by answering a few questions…
Are we going to eat and drink?
Yes, we will eat and drink. Genesis 1:29-30 says:
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food. ”
And Revelation 22:1-2 says:
Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
It looks like we’ll be vegetarians in heaven, at least that seems to be God’s original design. Death is the result of sin and since there will be no sin in heaven, I don’t see us killing animals to eat them. Speaking of animals, I used to believe there wouldn’t be animals in heaven, bu they existed in Genesis 1 and 2 before the fall, so I see no reason why they wouldn’t also exist with us on the new earth.
The river of the water of life will flow down the main street of the city. And the tree of life will be growing on each side of the street. Is that what we will eat and drink to keep our bodies healthy and alive forever? Possibly.
What will we do on the new earth?
Adam was given work to do in the garden and both Adam and Eve were given responsibility for subduing the earth and ruling over the animal kingdom. Working and having responsibility is part of God’s design for us.
Revelation 22 tells us that His servants will serve Him. The great difference is that there will no longer be any curse. As a result of the fall, the ground was cursed in Genesis 3. Work became burdensome. That will not be the case on the new earth. Work will be joyful and fulfilling.
Of course, we will also worship. In Revelation 4 and 5, we see a picture of thousands of angels and people around God’s throne singing to Him. Worship will be more than singing though. Our lives, our relationships, our service–it will all be worship. In fact, God’s name will be written on our foreheads. Think about that. Every person you come in contact with on the new earth will be a reminder of God’s name.
Let me mention one more thing about work and service that I’ll qualify by saying this is only my opinion. I believe there will be a lot of continuity between our current life on earth and our future life on earth. For example, the Holy Spirit gives us spiritual gifts to use to serve in God’s kingdom. Some are gifted at hospitality. Some are gifted at teaching. Some are gifted at leading or administration. There are many different gifts and abilities given by the Holy Spirit.
Since these are spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, I think it’s possible that some gifts would continue on for use on the new earth. I also think it’s possible that some of our natural talents and abilities, even our desires and preferences might carry over. If, for instance, someone is a gifted cook and enjoys showing hospitality to others–could it be that those gifts would also be employed in New Jerusalem?
If we’re going to eat and serve and live in relationships with others–could it be that there will be cafes or even coffee shops in New Jerusalem? If so, we will need someone to prepare the food and serve the coffee. Maybe someone gifted in singing and playing the guitar will be there.
Again, I’m only guessing some of this may happen.
Will we be married in heaven? And if so, to whom?
Luke 20:27-38 says:
27 Some of the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to Jesus with a question. 28 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and have children for his brother. 29 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married a woman and died childless. 30 The second 31 and then the third married her, and in the same way the seven died, leaving no children. 32 Finally, the woman died too. 33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”
34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, 36 and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God’s children, since they are children of the resurrection. 37 But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
Jesus makes it clear that there will not be marriage in heaven. Actually, there will be marriage, but it will be between Jesus and His bride, the church. Marriage as we know it today though, will not exist.
That brings up at least a couple questions for me. First, what about sex? If there’s not going to be marriage in heaven, then it sure seems like something will be missing without sex.
Let me encourage you with this thought–sex between a husband and wife, as good as it is, is just the appetizer. It’s just a reflection of the reality that awaits us. I don’t believe there’s anything in this present life that will be better than what we’ll experience on the new earth. So if marriage and sex will not be a part of things, then there will be something better.
Speaking of better, I can’t help thinking that sin has severely dulled all of our senses. Our hearing, our eyesight, our taste buds, etc.–are all effected by our fallen state. So how much better will food taste and a cool breeze feel on a warm day when we have new bodies and are living on the new earth.
One last thing, about marriage and the relationship between men and women on the new earth. In Genesis 2, God says that it’s not good for the man to be alone. This is before sin ever enters the picture. All of creation has been pronounced good, except the fact that man is alone.
If it was not good for the man to be alone before the fall, then I can’t help wondering what that will mean on the new earth. Jesus was clear–marriage will not exist, but will there be some type of friendship between men and women that we don’t yet understand?
Maybe someday you and I will get together in New Jerusalem and talk about all this!
Obviously, there are many other questions and issues we could discuss. I encourage you to read the Bible for yourself and discover what it has to say, or not say, about heaven and the new earth. It’s absolutely critical that you and I develop a biblical worldview. I also recommend Randy Alcorn’s book, Heaven. He has explored the questions I’ve talked about here and many more.
Okay, I’m going to hold off on answering one more question until tomorrow. And it’s this:
If heaven is really going to be on the new earth, then where are the people who’ve already died and what are they doing now?
Posted: May 9th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, faith, God's love, God's word, Jesus, Relationships, seeking God | No Comments »
This morning, I turned the switch on a lamp at our church and nothing happened. I tried flipping the switch on the power strip it was plugged into, but still nothing. I tried plugging the extension cord into another outlet, but it still didn’t work. Next, I replaced the bulb. That didn’t work either.
I was about to throw the lamp in the garbage when I saw the problem. The lamp was plugged into the power strip and the extension cord was plugged into the wall outlet, but the power strip was not plugged into the extension cord. I could have tried a hundred light bulbs, but they were never going to give off light because there was not one bit of power flowing into the lamp.
No power. No light.
You already know where this is going, don’t you?
And yet, knowing isn’t enough, is it?
It wasn’t enough for me to know the lamp wasn’t getting power, I had to do something.
How many of us know that the power, the wisdom, the grace, the everything we need for life comes from God, but we fail to do anything about it? We never get ourselves plugged into Him.
Instead, we plug into the world. And we miss out on the life God has in store for us. But we also make a mess of our lives, our relationships, our finances and anything else we touch.
God offers to give us wisdom, but we settle for the principles of the world. God offers us His power, but we’re content to struggle in our own strength. God offers to supply our needs, but we’d rather anxiously run about supplying them ourselves.
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s not true–I do want God’s wisdom and power and provision.”
Do you? Do I?
In John 15, Jesus said:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
If you and I want a truly different life than we’re experiencing, then we need a truly different source of life.
Jesus said to remain in Him just like a branch remains in the vine. Are you and I that connected to Jesus?
We don’t find Him online or on Facebook or on television or in a playlist of our favorite secular songs. We don’t find Jesus as we hurry out the door to go to work or to class. We don’t find Him in the relationship with the person that doesn’t even know Him.
Have you noticed that God doesn’t push Himself on us?
He doesn’t demand we do things His way. He doesn’t step in and override our choices.
He invites us to seek Him. He doesn’t make us.
He offers His wisdom and power. He doesn’t force us to accept them.
He lets us choose Him. Or not.
Has your light gone out? Have your choices made a mess of things? Do you lack the power or even the desire to live according to God’s ways? Has all motivation to read the Bible gone?
Nothing will change until You get plugged in again.
It’s time. Today. Right now.
Don’t stay unplugged any longer.
Turn off the noise. Pick up your Bible. Listen to God. Talk to Him. Tell Him You need Him and you want Him. If you don’t want Him, then at least tell Him you want to want Him. Ask Him for help. He’ll give it.
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: February 29th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, discouragement, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, money, Relationships, remembering, seeking God, sex, sin, Truth | No Comments »
What’s the worst sin you can think of?
Abusing a child?
Those are awful sins, but what if there’s a sin that leads to those sins? Wouldn’t that one be even worse?
There is a sin that leads to those sins and every other sin. At first glance though, it doesn’t seem quite so bad. At least not as bad as the sins I mentioned.
The root sin, the one that leads to all the others is simply this: forgetting God.
Right before the nation of Israel was going to cross the Jordan River to enter the land God had promised to give them, Moses told them:
If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God. (Deuteronomy 8:19-20)
If we forget God, then we will find another “god” to worship and bow down to. We have to. We don’t have a choice. We will always look for life, for purpose, for meaning, for joy, for fulfillment, for happiness, etc. If we choose to not look for God to provide what we need, then we must look elsewhere.
“Doing life” isn’t easy, but it is simple. God instructs us to seek Him and worship Him only. He invites us to find life in Him. It’s what we are designed for.
But He never makes us do it His way. He doesn’t coerce us. He invites us.
And so we can choose to forget Him. We can choose to turn away and seek life elsewhere. And when we do, we invite destruction.
It’s sad how often we choose to live our lives on our own terms. We do whatever we can to order our lives in such a way to maximize our pleasure and happiness and minimize our pain. And because we must have the cooperation of others, we attempt to manipulate and control and even sin against those around us.
And that invites destruction. Marriages are destroyed. Families are destroyed. Churches are destroyed. Nations are destroyed.
The longer we do life apart from God, the more destruction we experience and the harder it is to break free. When we turn from God and naturally seek life elsewhere, we begin to believe lies about ourselves and about life. Our feelings and experiences become more true to us than what God says is true. And we end up living in bondage to the idols we’ve created for ourselves.
We thought our idols would give us life, but they were never capable of it. They promised us life, but delivered destruction.
Only God can promise life and deliver it.
Maybe you’re experiencing more destruction than life today. For whatever the reason, you turned from God, forgot Him and sought life in other places. A person. A career. Sex. Food. Possessions. Whatever. The list is endless.
The solution is always the same. We return to the God we forgot. We confess that we’ve been seeking life in the wrong places. We cry out for His help to turn from our idols and seek Him above everything else.
Change may not be immediate. In fact, it probably won’t be. We’ve built for ourselves a structure of beliefs (wrong ones) and habits that may have become very ingrained in us. The “truth” we think we know about life may in fact not be truth at all. We must allow God’s truth to penetrate our lives and reorder how we think and behave and feel.
We didn’t get into this mess in a day and we won’t get out of it in a day.
But we can take the first step today. We can turn back to the One who graciously offers real life. Life as it was meant to be. Life found in Christ alone. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life…”
The invitation to experience life is offered to you today. Will you accept it?
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.
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.