Posted: May 3rd, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, faith, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, trials | 1 Comment »
I used to pray for “breakthroughs.” For God to do something big, something unmistakeable to change my circumstances. Do you pray that way?
My breakthrough prayers usually sounded something like this: “O Lord, You see my situation! I really need You to come through! I need a breakthrough today!”
If it’s not finances for you, maybe it’s in your marriage you’re praying for a breakthrough. Or with one or more of your kids. Or in your work. Maybe it’s in the area of your health. I’m not suggesting you stop praying for a breakthrough, but I think there’s a better way to pray that’s more in line with how God works.
I can’t speak for you, but I know that when I’m praying for a breakthrough what I’m really saying is this: “God, I’m uncomfortable and I don’t really like it, so I want You to change my hard circumstances to pleasant ones. And I want You to do it today.”
What my breakthrough prayer is revealing is my desire for personal ease and comfort more than my desire to know God better or be conformed to His image. And yet God’s way of dealing with us isn’t to make our lives easier, it’s to make us stronger and better equipped to handle whatever comes. God’s plan is for me to know Him and trust Him to take me through, not out of my difficulties.
Look at the pattern we see in His word. God didn’t stop all the wrongs done to Joseph and then immediately rescue him when he was thrown in prison. God accomplished His purposes as Joseph went through trials not out of them. The same is true for Moses and Abraham and David and Daniel. It’s true for Jesus’ disciples. And it’s true for me and you.
God’s pattern isn’t to take us out of trials, it’s to take us through them. Rather than praying for a “breakthrough” next time, try praying for a “go through.” Trust Him for the grace, power and wisdom to go through the trial. It’s in the trial that we often experience God.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Posted: April 11th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's glory, God's love, God's will, God's word, grace, Jesus, seeking God | No Comments »
Yesterday, we talked about taking a spiritual fitness test. If we’re honest, most of us would say we’re not doing as well as we’d like to do. At least that’s what I’d say. I’d always like to be further along. I’d like to bear more fruit. I’d like to be less tempted by the same old sins. I’d like to know God better than I do.
Can you relate?
Today, let’s look at the only way we’ll ever truly make progress in the Christian life. The “secret” is found in John 15. You can read the whole chapter here. We’re just going to look at one verse though. Verse 5 says:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
It’s really that simple. Remaining in Jesus results in a life that bears much fruit.
The secret isn’t working harder or longer. It’s not trying harder. It’s not following a list of rules.
The secret is to remain in Jesus. So how do we do that?
Let’s take a look at a few passages that might help…
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. (Hebrews 11:6)
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness… (Matthew 6:33)
When asked which commandment was the most important, Jesus said:
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
Let’s not ever lose sight of this very simple truth: God is a person who wants to be loved and sought after.
He doesn’t need our love or attention. He doesn’t need us for anything. But He does want us. He wants us to love Him and seek Him and make Him our top priority. He wants us to surrender total control of our lives to Him. That’s what it means to remain in Him–surrendering to Him and loving and seeking Him.
Then as we remain in Him, we bear much fruit as He produces His life in us and through us and we become more like Him.
Apart from Him, we can do nothing.
It’s a very simple concept. It’s just not easy to practice. Naturally, we don’t want to surrender. We want to maintain control over our lives. We think we know what’s best for us. We’re not always convinced God is looking out for us. And so we assume control and go our own way…which always results in less fruit, less of the life we really want.
If you’re not happy with where you are, if you’re continuing to struggle with sin, if life seems void of joy and peace and purpose…then it’s time to get reattached to the vine. And then remain there by seeking Him. Remain there by making your love relationship with Christ more important than anything else.
The branch just remains and bears whatever fruit the vine produces.
Posted: April 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Fitness, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, forgiveness, God's character, God's word, Holy Spirit, Jesus, marriage, seeking God | 2 Comments »
Yesterday, my 17-year-old son and I took a fitness test. It’s the first step in the 60-day Insanity workout program. We’ll repeat the test every two weeks so we can chart our progress.
I thought the test was hard! My son outscored me on every exercise. My wife and daughter also took the test and I’m not sure I want to know how I compared to them. I’m okay coming in second, but I don’t want to be fourth! Of course the object of the test isn’t to compare myself to others. It’s to set a benchmark so I can see my own progress.
So this test got me thinking about spiritual fitness. What would it be like to take a spiritual fitness test? Not to compare myself to others, but to simply chart my own progress. Is their such a test? Does God give tests?
Yes, God does give tests. Here are a few examples…
Genesis 22:1-2 says:
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”
Deuteronomy 8:2 says:
Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.
John 6:5-6 says:
When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.
I Thessalonians 2:3-4 says:
For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.
Clearly, God tests us. And 2 Corinthians 13:5-6 says we’re also to test ourselves:
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.
So if our goal is to become more and more like Christ, it shouldn’t be too hard to measure our progress, right? Let’s take a look at Philippians 2:3-8…
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
When it comes to your relationships–how are you doing compared to a year ago? If you’re married, are you becoming less selfish? Are you valuing your spouse above yourself more than you used to? Do your interests come first or do your spouse’s interests more often come first? Do you look out for your own advantage or do you serve your spouse by meeting his or her needs?
When it comes to your character and your emotions–how are you doing? In Galatians 5, we see:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Which are more evident in you–the acts of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? Would your spouse agree? Would your children? Your roommate? Your friends or co-workers?
If you test yourself and aren’t happy with your grade–hold on until tomorrow. There’s a very simple way to start improving your “score.”
I didn’t say it’ll be easy. Just simple.
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: March 14th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, seeking God | No Comments »
There’s something we have to understand about God before we can understand anything else. It’s a foundational belief on which all other beliefs are built. And if we fail to correctly understand it, we will misunderstand almost everything about God, ourselves and this life on planet earth. So here it is…here’s the thing we absolutely have to understand…
God is a lover and wants to be loved in return.
That’s it. That’s what we have to grasp. If we don’t, nothing else will make sense. Follow me on this for a moment.
Many people, including many or most atheists, look at the suffering in the world and either decide God doesn’t exist or that He’s evil. And I get that. I understand why they’d feel that way. Millions of people are starving to death. Others are being killed in wars. Women are raped. People are robbed and murdered. Children are abused. The wealthy enjoy life like the poor cannot. Governments are corrupt. The list could go on.
We don’t have to look very far to find enough evidence to conclude God either doesn’t exist or He’s not as good as we’ve been led to believe. I mean if God is truly all-powerful, then a good God would also put an end to suffering, wouldn’t He?
But if it’s true that God is a lover and wants to be loved by us, then free will is a must. And free will means just that–we are free to choose. I am. You are. The rapist is. Everyone is. We all get to choose how we’ll live.
We can choose to love or hate. Give or steal. Serve or be served. Sacrifice or act selfishly. Tell the truth or lie. And we can choose to love God or hate Him or ignore Him or whatever we want to do with Him. It’s our choice.
I suppose the response could be, “Well then I want no part of a God who places being loved over the suffering of human beings.”
And if that’s how you feel–that’s your right. You get to choose what you believe. But if God exists and wants you to love Him in response to His love for you–your opinion of Him or anger at Him isn’t going to change reality. In other words, you can choose to not believe in God because you don’t like Him, but it’s not going to change Him.
Personally, I believe God exists. I don’t believe He’s evil, but I do believe He’s hard to understand sometimes. I also believe He’s good–not based on the current condition of the world, but based on the fact that 2000 years ago, He was nailed to a cross to be punished in my place.
To simply put an end to suffering, God would have to put an end to free will. He’d have to take away our ability to choose, which would take away our ability to love…our ability to love each other or Him. And then it seems like we just may as well not exist.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:28-34)
I wonder how much suffering would end if we simply did our best to obey the two greatest commandments.
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: January 10th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe in Jesus, believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, discouragement, faith, fear, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, prayer, seeking God | No Comments »
I learned a number of years ago that well-meaning people sometimes need to be ignored. Good people, nice people can sometimes be the most discouraging.
God was leading me to take a step of faith. A big one. And the more I obeyed and trusted Him, the more He confirmed I was doing the right thing. I’d never been more sure of a direction from God. In numerous ways, He encouraged me to believe Him, not my feelings or circumstances.
That didn’t mean He was also speaking to those around me though. I’m sure to others, my path looked foolish, irresponsible, even reckless. Some of the most discouraging people were some close friends. Either by the questions they asked, the comments they made or even the look on their faces–they were discouraging me from continuing to believe God.
In Mark 5, a man named, Jairus, comes to Jesus and pleads with Him to come heal his 12-year-old daughter who’s dying. As Jesus is on the way to heal her, some men come to tell Jairus his daughter has died. Verse 36 says:
Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
Sometimes we have to ignore others, so we can believe God.
If God is leading you to take a step of faith, then trust Him and take the step. Just understand you will very likely encounter resistance, skepticism and discouragement from those closest to you. During those times, you will need to go back to God and spend time in His word and in prayer to receive encouragement and strengthening in your faith. And the bigger the step of faith, the more you will need for God to confirm His plan.
Let me close with a word of caution. Before you choose to ignore someone’s counsel–be sure you are hearing clearly from God. We cannot always trust our desires. Our feelings will often lead us astray. God will never lead you to do anything that contradicts His word.
A man once told me he believed God had led him to have an affair with another woman. No, those were his own sinful desires that led him into an affair and a deceived mind that allowed him to conclude it was God.
The more time you bathe your mind in God’s word and in prayer, the more confidence you can have in taking bold steps of faith.
So is there someone you need to ignore so you can believe God?
Posted: November 7th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, disappointment, discouragement, election 2012, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's will, God's word, marriage, money, pain, pain and suffering, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed with the result of the presidential election. My candidate lost. Actually, my preferred candidates weren’t even running. So I’m feeling disappointed along with at least 57 million others. But there are over 59 million people who are quite happy with the outcome today. Many of whom would profess to trust God, work hard, have strong marriages and love their children.
The results of this election, like others, cause me to step back and once again examine some of my core beliefs. For example, as I followed the election results last night on Twitter (I never even turned the television on), I couldn’t help noticing how many people kept encouraging others to pray for the outcome of the election.
But pray how? What exactly am I supposed to ask God to do?
I saw some who were encouraging prayer even after the polls had closed. And these didn’t seem to be requests to just pray for our country. These were people asking for prayer to effect the outcome. Were they wanting God to miraculously change votes that had already been cast?
But even if the polls hadn’t yet closed, how exactly am I to pray when it comes to an election? “God, please make my candidate win?” What exactly am I asking when I pray that way? Am I asking God to stop some people from voting? That would certainly work. Am I asking Him to motivate a bunch of apathetic people to drive themselves to the polls and vote for my candidate? That would work too.
Or is what I’m really asking, “God, please change the minds of about 2 million people who live in Ohio, Wisconsin, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Nevada.” Because that would have completely changed the result of the election. Apparently though, despite many prayers along those lines, God did not answer.
There are those who will say today, “Well, God is in control. This was His will.”
Okay, so what does that mean? When we say “God is in control” or “It was just His will”, what exactly do we mean?
Two states, Maine and Maryland, passed laws that now allow same-sex couples to marry. Was that God’s will? Is God in control in Maine and Maryland?
Then we have states like Colorado and Washington that voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. How does God feel about that? Do we know? Can we just write it off as, “Well, God’s in control. It’s His will.”
God is in control. It’s His will.
What does that mean?
Hurricane Sandy slammed into my hometown of Brick, New Jersey last week. As I write this, that area is again getting hit with a nor’easter, a major winter storm with rain, sleet, snow, high winds and coastal flooding. Is God in control of that? Is it His will for people there to continue suffering? And by the way, before you decide to get political and blame it on how people in the “blue” states vote–two of the counties with the worst damage from Sandy, including Ocean County where I grew up, are “red.”
My friend, Jeff, continues to battle colon cancer that has spread to his liver, lymph nodes and lungs. My friend, Michael, doesn’t want a divorce, but his wife is going ahead with it anyway. My friend, Mallory, has lost both of her kidneys and is on dialysis three days a week, which makes it difficult to find a job.
Was it God’s will for Jeff to get cancer, Michael’s wife to divorce him and for Mallory’s kidneys to fail?
Why are some people healed and not others? Why does God seem to miraculously intervene in some situations and not others? Why do some prayers go unanswered? Why are some babies born healthy and some with brain tumors?
Why does something so obvious to us–like a need for healing or a certain outcome in an election–seem to go unnoticed by God? And if He sees, why doesn’t He do anything? Is it that He’s uncaring? Unwilling? Unable?
As I continue to reflect on questions like these, I’m coming to some conclusions…
- There’s a lot I don’t know or can’t explain and I’m just going to have to be comfortable with that. God is just way too big for me to “figure Him out.”
- It’s very easy for me to place my trust in the wrong things, like money or a politician. Only God can be trusted.
- But even though I believe He is trustworthy, I’m confused by the things He does or doesn’t do. He could change the course of a storm, but doesn’t. Or maybe He sometimes does and I’m not aware of it. He could heal a young woman’s kidney, but doesn’t. Or maybe even more confusing–someone who lives a healthy lifestyle dies at the age of 35, but a two-pack-a-day smoker lives to be 85.
- I believe God is in control, but I don’t believe He always exerts that control. Look, God spoke the entire universe into existence, so of course He’s in control. But it sure seems to me that He has chosen to let some things (or most things?) just run their natural (or unnatural?) course. Storms happen. Some cells go rogue and become cancer. Stupid people drive drunk and sometimes kill others. And God doesn’t step into to change those things from happening. At least not always.
- God lets us choose. That applies to you, to me and to the other 7 billion people on earth today. We can choose to seek God, or not. We can choose to love others, or not. We can choose to be generous or greedy. We can choose to exercise or eat donuts or both. And at least as far as I can tell, God doesn’t often step in and make us do something we don’t want to do. So that means if 59 million people want to vote for one candidate and 57 million want to vote for the other one, God lets that happen.
- So yes, it’s true that God is in control, but it’s also true that we get to choose how we’ll live and who we’ll vote for and we get to then reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). At least in the United States, we get to choose our leaders, which means we also get to choose the consequences of the decisions our leaders make. That sure seems to be the pattern God established with the nation of Israel. If the king was good–and by “good”, I mean he sought God, obeyed Him and led the nation to do the same–then God blessed them with His protection and provision. When the king was bad and led the people to turn their backs on God, then He allowed His people to experience the negative consequences of their choices.
I don’t have all this figured out. But when it’s all said and done, I’m convinced that God is passionately in love with you and me. He demonstrated that on the cross. I believe it’s always better to seek God and obey Him than it is to go my own way. But even that doesn’t guarantee I’ll always experience a comfortable life. Nor’easters and rogue cells and drunk drivers and bad economic policies happen. And even though God sees and cares and is able to help prevent disasters in my life or in a nation, He doesn’t always do it.
But the good news is this: God’s grace is sufficient no matter what I face. I’ve experienced it in my life and I’ve seen it in others. Somehow, when life is falling apart all around us, God is able to give supernatural joy and peace and comfort.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, reflections or what God is teaching you. You can leave a comment or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oh, one more thing. I released my new e-book last month, “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.” I’m not really big on promotion, but I thought I’d let you know it’s available on Amazon for just $2.99. You can get it by clicking here, if you’re interested.
Posted: October 30th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: destruction, Difficulties, discouragement, fear, Hurricane Sandy, Jersey Shore, pain and suffering, priorities, seeking God, storms, trials | No Comments »
Brick, New Jersey
Sandy, a once-in-a-lifetime storm, cut a path of destruction across the northeastern United States over the past several days.
The above picture was taken just a few miles from where I grew up. It’s hard to believe.
Some areas of the Jersey Shore have been totally destroyed. The devastation is just overwhelming. And I’m only seeing snapshots and short videos. I can only imagine what it’s like to be there. I spoke with my step-mom earlier today–she hasn’t been back to her house yet, but was told the water was up to her mailbox.
I know this storm is certainly different than when our country was attacked on 9/11, but I’ve found myself wrestling with similar emotions. Sadness. Loss. Helplessness.
Even though I moved away from New York and New Jersey over twenty years ago, in some ways it’s still home. When I was a kid, I remember my dad saying we were going “up home” when talking about going to visit his family in central Pennsylvania where he grew up. I know not everyone enjoyed their childhood or high school years, but I did. So I will always have a strong affection for the Jersey Shore, which makes it hard to see and hear of the destruction that took place.
The images coming out of New York and New Jersey make it clear–Sandy was a powerful destroyer. And that reminded of a verse from the book of Revelation where Satan is called “the angel of the Abyss, whose name in Hebrew is Abaddon, and in Greek, Apollyon.”
Abaddon and Apollyon both mean the same thing: Destroyer.
When I look at the state of our world, I can only conclude there’s a powerful destroyer on the loose. Like Sandy, this destroyer is bent on destroying homes, but he does it by destroying the people who live in them. And his greatest weapons are not wind and water, but lies and deception.
Our enemy’s goal is to keep us from knowing and seeking Jesus Christ. And he will use whatever means he can. He doesn’t care who or what we seek as long as it’s not the one true God.
Because we were made by God to live in relationship with Him and to experience life as He designed it, Satan will always entice us to look for life elsewhere. And the more we do, the more lonely or discouraged or desperate or hopeless we become. Things that were meant to be enjoyed as gifts become our gods. We desperately try to find happiness in a person or a job or an accomplishment or a possession.
But none of it works and we always end up unsatisfied and longing for more. More of what can never fulfill us.
Satan is much more subtle than Sandy. He pulls the strings behind the world system to tempt and entice us to get legitimate, God-given needs met outside of God’s will. He pushes us to go beyond the good, healthy boundaries God has put in place for our protection and provision.
Food, sex, money, work, leisure, pleasures, marriage, children–those are all God’s idea. He knows how they work best. And how they don’t. Doing life apart from God always lead us into the path of a storm. It always lead to some level of destruction.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
God invites us to experience life to the full.
Satan has come to destroy us.
We get to choose who we’ll listen to.
Posted: September 21st, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: answers to prayer, believe, believe in Jesus, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's love, God's word, marriage, pain and suffering, perseverance, prayer, seeking God, sin | No Comments »
The older I get–I’ll be 50 in a couple weeks–the less I seem to understand. I had much more figured out a couple decades ago.
I’m probably less sure about more things than I’ve ever been, while still remaining solid on my core beliefs.
At the core, I believe there is a God who has existed forever, although I cannot even begin to comprehend or explain how that can be.
I believe He created everything from nothing. And if that sounds too wild to believe, consider the alternative–that everything came from nothing WITHOUT A CAUSE.
I believe God is good, although His definition and mine don’t always agree. I believe He loves me, but sometimes I believe it by faith. I believe He wants to have a relationship with me, which is pretty crazy when you stop to think about it. I actually matter to Him.
I believe without a doubt that Jesus is God and that He walked around on the planet He created a couple thousand years ago, but I also understand how a lot of people didn’t even recognize Him as God. I’m not sure I would have either.
I believe that sin earns death, I’ve sinned and therefore I’ve earned death. And by death, I mean hell.
I believe what Jesus said in the book of John, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I know that sounds really exclusive. And it is. But I believe He meant it.
I believe if I place my trust in Jesus, He forgives my sin and paves the way for me to experience the relationship God desires to have with me and that ultimately I desire to have with Him, but don’t always act like it.
I believe it’s a big deal, a really big deal, in fact, that we believe God. He likes to be trusted. And it’s a big deal to Him when we don’t trust Him. A bigger deal than we realize.
Beyond that, I’m less sure about stuff.
Like why some people are healed and some aren’t.
Like why some prayers are answered and some aren’t.
Like why some people are born with severe disabilities and others are born with beautiful, perfect bodies.
Like why bad people prosper.
The list could go on.
I think where I’m landing is this–we’ve got to cling to what we know to be true and learn to live in the mystery and tension and confusion of the rest. We’ve got to persevere. We’ve got to patiently endure. We’ve got to hang on.
Persevering. Patiently waiting. Trusting.
Those are big themes that run throughout the Bible. They’re a big deal to God. So they’ve got to be a big deal to us. Bigger than our need to know and understand and have everything make sense. Bigger than our need to understand everything and fit it all in our neat little boxes.
I don’t know your circumstances today. Maybe you’re in a marriage that’s just absolutely awful. Maybe you’re unemployed, you can’t find a job and bankruptcy is the only option. Maybe you have a life-threatening illness. Maybe you’re lonely or scared. Maybe you were raped. Maybe everyone ignores you.
I know you’ve prayed. You’ve cried out to God. You’ve begged Him to help you. But things have gotten worse, not better.
I don’t have an answer. I can’t explain it. But I encourage you to not give up. Don’t turn your back on God. With whatever strength you have left– seek Him and trust Him.
This life is short. Your reward is coming.
Whatever you do–don’t give up.