Posted: September 25th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, delight yourself in the Lord, God's word, Jesus, seeking God, Truth | No Comments »
I’m intentionally using the word “wants” as opposed to “needs.” God does not need anything. If He did, then He wouldn’t be complete. He doesn’t need anything at all. Not from you. Not from me. But God does want things. Let’s look at three of them. Take a moment to read Mark 5:1-20.
We see Jesus getting out of the boat after crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples. It was rough. They’d encountered a bad storm out on the lake. It got so bad that these experienced fishermen were fearing for their lives. Of course Jesus calmed the storm and then looked at them and said, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
So as Jesus steps out of the boat, a man possessed by a demon runs to meet him. Matthew’s gospel tells us there were actually two men, but Mark focuses his account on just one of them. You’ll see why.
Jesus tells the demon to come out of the man, which causes the man to fall to his knees in front of Jesus and scream, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!”
I find several interesting things about their initial encounter. First, when the man sees Jesus from a distance, he runs to meet Him. We don’t really know how far the man was from the lake shore, but “from a distance” sounds like at least a hundred yards or so, doesn’t it? Somehow though, this man recognizes someone “from a distance” that he’s never met before and then runs toward Him.
It sounds to me like he knew Jesus was coming and he immediately wants to find out what Jesus wants with him. It’s obvious though the man isn’t recognizing or questioning Jesus, it’s the demon inside him. So Jesus asks, “What is your name?” To which the demon replies, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
It’s important to know that a Roman legion consisted of over 6,000 men. Now we don’t know if the man was possessed by 6,000 demons or just a large number, but either way there’s a lot of them. Mark’s account tells us the man was living among the tombs and had become so strong that no one could bind him any longer. He was powerful enough to break the chains and leg irons they used on him.
Night and day among the tombs and in the hills, this man would cry out and cut himself with stones. Imagine looking up on the hill everyday and seeing him roaming around, screaming and cutting himself. Based on the fact they’d tried to bind him, I think it’s safe to say this guy was terrorizing the region.
Legion proceeds to beg Jesus to not send them out of the area. Think about that for a minute. It’s 6,000 against 1, but the demons know they are outmatched. They’re begging Jesus to not torture them or send them away. They’re terrified of Him.
We don’t really know why the demons wanted to stay there. Maybe demons are assigned to certain areas and so they didn’t want to leave their post. I don’t know. For whatever the reason, Jesus gives the demons permission to go into a herd of pigs when they come out of the man. When they do, the herd immediately rushes off a cliff into the lake and drowns.
The pig herders run off to town and the nearby countryside and tell people what has happened. Now if you’ve read the passage, you know what happens next. If you haven’t read it–wouldn’t you assume the people rush out to thank Jesus for saving them from Legion?
That’s not what happens though. The people come out, they see the man who’d been possessed by the demon now dressed and in his right mind and they are afraid. Yup, they’re afraid. Not grateful. Not relieved. Just afraid.
And because they’re afraid, “…the people plead with Jesus to leave their region.” So Jesus gets into a boat…and leaves.
So what can we learn?
The first thing we see God wants takes place before Jesus and His disciples even meet Legion–God wants to be trusted. The disciples were afraid they were going to die out on the lake, but what was the truth of their circumstances? The Truth (John 14:6) was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat. There was no reason to fear and every reason to have faith. Hebrews 11:6 begins: “And without faith it is impossible to please God…” Simply put: God likes to be believed.
The second thing God wants is for us to be free from the influence of evil. This man was actually possessed by demons. That’s not the case with most of us, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t influenced by demons. In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” When we listen to wrong ideas and teachings, we are being deceived and may well abandon the faith. Be careful who you listen to and what you allow into your mind.
Finally, God wants us to want Him. Could it be that Jesus had planned to drive the demons out and then spend time in that region teaching and healing people? Wherever Jesus went, He would teach, drive out demons and heal people. Here in the region of the Gerasenes, He drives out demons…and is then asked to leave. And so He does.
Jesus wants to be wanted…and He won’t force Himself on us. Hebrews 11:6 ends with: “…He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” The Greek word for “earnestly” carries with it the idea of searching, scrutinizing, craving and begging. God rewards those who search for and crave Him.
If you’ve been feeling disconnected from God, check yourself…
Are you trusting Him? When trouble comes, do you panic? Are you taking steps of faith because you know He’s faithful? Or do you play it safe?
Are you free from evil influences? How much time do you spend consuming various forms of media versus consuming His Word?
Do you want Him? Do you crave Him? You’re probably craving something…what is it if it’s not Jesus?
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 29th, 2013 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: believe in Jesus, believing God, God's love, God's will, God's word, Holy Spirit, spiritual warfare, trials, Truth | No Comments »
I’ve never been in the military, but I have two sons-in-law who are currently serving. Richard is a Marine and Ross is an Army Ranger. They’ve both been deployed to Afghanistan and know what it’s like to fight in a war.
For most of us in the United States though, we just don’t have much experience with war. Other than isolated terrorist attacks, we haven’t seen a war fought on our soil since the Civil War 150 years ago. We just don’t know what it’s like to have someone trying to kill us or to hear missiles exploding in our cities.
I wonder if that makes it easy to forget we actually are in a war.
Ephesians 1:3 says, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
Something happened to us when we placed our faith in Christ. God changed us. He gave us a new nature. Our spirit came alive. And He blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing. But there’s something else going on in the heavenly realms…
Ephesians 6:10-12 says:
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms and that is also the place in which we must do battle. But as Paul said, our struggle is not against flesh and blood. We’re not fighting an enemy armed with guns and grenades. We are battling evil beings in an unseen realm. That is why in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, Paul wrote:
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
There’s a battle being fought for control of your mind. God wants you to know the truth, believe it and live by it. Satan and his demonic forces of evil will attempt to lie and deceive, so that you will live in fear, worry and anxiety–and never experience the life God has for you. Satan will tempt you to get your needs met in ways outside God’s will. Your enemy will try to convince you that God is angry or disappointed with you. He wants you to feel defeated and discouraged.
So Paul says we’ve been blessed with every spiritual blessing. Do you know what they are?
He also tells us to put on the full armor of God so that we can take our stand against Satan. Do you know what armor is available to you?
Are you aware of the lies or deceptions you may be believing?
If you’re a little unsure about how to answer those questions–let me encourage you to dig into Ephesians yourself. I could give you the answers to those questions, but you’ll get so much more benefit by discovering the answers yourself. You can read the entire letter in about fifteen minutes. What if you were to read it once or twice a day?
Spiritual blessings await you–things God has already accomplished on your behalf. But Satan doesn’t want you to know what they are or to ever experience them. So you’re going to have to fight. Like you, I wish life could be easier, but it’s not. We need to deal with life as it is, not as we wish it could be.
By the way, Paul mentions the “heavenly realms” a couple other places in his letter to the Ephesians. For the first ten people to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the other two verses–I’ll send you free copies (PDF versions) of my 40 day devotional book, “I Believe God”, as well as my book “50 Ways to Slowly Kill Your Marriage.”
Posted: December 5th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Truth | Tags: culture, God's will, God's word, Jesus, Truth | No Comments »
This morning, I was talking with a friend who works at a coffee shop. He said he can taste the difference between coffee beans that have been roasted within ten days and those that are older. The coffee I buy at the grocery store sits in my cupboard for a lot longer than ten days, so I can only imagine how long it’s been since it was actually roasted and ground. So it got me thinking–I probably don’t even know what real, fresh coffee tastes like.
And I’m also wondering if I even know what being a follower of Christ is supposed to look like. Just as I’ve apparently settled for what I thought was good coffee, have I been so influenced by my culture that I’m settling for something that only resembles being a true follower of Jesus?
I’m not exactly sure how to break out of my current way of thinking about God and life within my culture. It’s a little like telling a man who wants to better understand his wife to just start thinking like a woman. As much as he might want to and as hard as he might try–he just can’t.
And really, culture isn’t the problem. In fact, I believe God has always wanted a variety of cultures in the world. Follow me for a moment…
After God created Adam and Eve, the Bible says: God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (Genesis 1:28)
After God sends a flood that wipes out all of mankind except Noah and his family, the Bible says: Then God said to Noah, “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.” (Genesis 8:15-17)
Many years after the flood, the world still had just one language and people decided they didn’t want to be scattered across the earth, so they started building a city along with a very high tower. The Bible says: Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:7-9)
Do you get the idea God was serious about human beings multiplying and filling the earth? The command was given before the fall of Adam and Eve and then again after the flood when the human race had to start all over. And when the people decided to all settle down together, God went so far as to confuse their language so there would no longer be a reason to stay together.
Obviously, God knew as people spread out and filled the earth, different cultures would result. The weather would be different so clothes would be different. Certain resources would be abundant in some areas and more scarce in other areas. Homes would be made of different materials and look very different. Food would be different. Music would be different. Recreation would be different.
It seems that God desired, encouraged and commanded there be a variety of cultures across the world.
And then in Genesis 12:2-3, God comes to Abram (who later becomes Abraham) and says: “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
Through Abraham and his descendents, God’s plan was to bless all those people who were spreading out across the world, including you and me. And then the last thing Jesus said to His disciples before ascending to heaven was this: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
From the beginning, God’s plan was for mankind to spread out across the earth. And He knew various nations and cultures would result. Jesus then tells His disciples to go and make disciples of all those nations. So different cultures aren’t a problem, but we need to be careful that we don’t confuse culture with being a follower of Jesus.
In other words, how much of what I think is being a follower of Jesus is actually just being an American citizen? And how much of what you believe is being a follower of Jesus is actually just being a citizen of the United Kingdom? Or Canada? Or the Philippines? Or Kenya? Or India? Or whatever country you’re from?
The danger is that we become so much like the culture that no one actually sees Christ in us.
The question is: how will I live as fully devoted follower of Jesus in my culture? And how will you do it in yours?
Posted: August 8th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: God's character, God's truth, God's word, sin, the Bible, tolerance, Truth | 2 Comments »
In 2012 America, the worst labels you can hang on someone are intolerant, hateful, narrow minded and judgmental.
Now if you disagree with someone’s opinions, beliefs or actions, you are being intolerant. Just ask the president of Chick-fil-A.
It seems that tolerance has become the highest virtue. But should it be?
Recently, there was an article in the Journal of Medical Ethics, in which two “ethicists” argued in favor of “after-birth abortion.” Their argument is if the abortion of a baby prior to birth is allowed, then the “termination” of a newborn should also be allowed.
If I disagree, am I being intolerant? Who am I to decide when life begins, right?
So if I believe life begins at conception and you believe life begins a few hours after birth, who am I to judge your beliefs? And who are you to judge the person who believes life begins two months after the birth? After all, you don’t want to be intolerant, do you?
Today, I was reading about a woman from Saudi Arabia who ran the 1500 meter race in the Olympics. She finished in last place, well behind the other athletes. Of course, she wasn’t helped by the fact that she was covered from head to toe as required by Saudi Arabian law. By the way, she’s not even allowed to travel outside her country without a male guardian.
If I disagree with how Saudi Arabia treats women, am I being intolerant? If I resist the idea of seeing Sharia law implemented in the United States, am I being judgmental? Because to be honest, I want my wife and daughters to continue to be able to vote, drive cars, wear shorts and travel without my permission.
If I believe God created marriage to be between a man and a woman, am I being hateful?
The question really comes down to this: who’s setting the standard? Who’s deciding what’s right and wrong? Do we all get to decide for ourselves? What happens then when my belief and your belief are in conflict? Am I being hateful or are you? And who decides? The majority? The media? Whoever yells the loudest?
Does the government get to decide? What if the government likes the after-birth abortion idea and decides your baby is too high-risk to save? Sorry, who are you to judge?
What if the government, like in Saudi Arabia, believes that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death? What if the country of Jordan has this law on the books: “he who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty.”
Am I being hateful if I think it’s wrong to kill your wife or daughter if they’ve been raped? Yes, you read that right. It’s called an honor killing. And some cultures believe your raped female relative brings dishonor on your family, so she must be killed.
Where does tolerance end? And who decides?
Posted: June 25th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Relationships, Truth | Tags: anticipation, experience, Jesus, mystery, relationship, surprise, Truth, Windy Gap, Young Life, Young Life Camp | No Comments »
If I was at home in Fayetteville, Arkansas, my day would be drawing to a close by 7:30 p.m. But I’m not at home. I’m at Young Life camp. The last event tonight won’t even start until 10:30 or so.
I’m at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in Weaverville, North Carolina. It’s a beautiful location in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I learned today that this 2,000 acre property was donated to Young Life by one family over forty years ago.
One of the things I’ve struggled with over the past few years is trying to explain the ministry of Young Life to those who are unfamiliar with it. My wife, Robyn, is the area director in Fayetteville and so I’m around the ministry a lot as a spouse and a volunteer. And yet it’s not easy to describe just exactly what Young Life is. It’s especially difficult to paint a picture of what Young Life camp is like.
When I was a teenager, the only camps I ever attended were football camps. The facilities usually weren’t great. The food was probably adequate, but forgettable. And the program was…well, the program was geared around football, not fun.
Young Life has camps all over the United States. I’ve only been to four of them. Each are different, but there are some common denominators. The locations are awe-inspiring. The landscaping is beautiful. The facilities are first-class. The food, well, it’s not your typical camp food–it’s delicious and almost all the meals are made from scratch every day. The programming is creative, fun and highly-entertaining. Relationship-building is a top priority. And the activities are awesome: go-karts, zip lines, swimming, giant swings, horseback riding and more.
Central to Young Life camp is the gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s the point of it all. This incredible properties, their full and part-time staff and the thousands of volunteers are all focused on one purpose: helping kids come to know Christ. That’s it.
Most of what I’ve described are the features of the camp and the overall purpose, but unless you’ve experienced it, it’s impossible to fully understand it.
When I worked in Christian publishing, we worked to create products that were more than just books. We created products for husbands and wives or parents and their children to experience. Together. We didn’t just talk about romance. We created products to help a couple experience romance. We didn’t just talk about the true meaning of Christmas–we created a product that fostered interaction between a parent and child and brought the story to life.
Most of us don’t need more information. We need an experience.
And that’s the magic of Young Life camp. The experience.
But experience is only one ingredient in the Young Life recipe.
Just like the products we created when I was in publishing, the Young Life camp experience is so powerful because of the unique combination of ingredients:
Truth + Relationship + Experience = Changed Lives
Remove “truth” and you’ve got a vacation at Disney World. Remove “relationship” and it’s like seeing a beautiful sunset or a shooting star, but having no one to share it with. Remove “experience” and you really just have a Bible study in someone’s living room. Not bad, but not all it could be.
Young Life takes all of this one step further though. They add in several other ingredients that take the recipe to another whole level. Those special spices are: mystery, anticipation and surprise. Stir those in to truth, relationship and experience and you create a week kids will never forget. Adults won’t forget it either.
There’s a meeting starting in about half an hour, so I need to go. After that, the campers will experience a surprise or two. They never know what’s coming, so there’s always an air of mystery and anticipation.
If you’d like more information about Young Life in your area or Young Life camp, you can email my wife, Robyn, at: email@example.com. She can connect you with the right person in your area. She’s busy for the next couple of weeks, but she’ll get back to 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: 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 4th, 2012 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Truth | Tags: anxiety, believing God, confusion, Difficulties, discouragement, faith, fear, God is good, God's character, God's word, money, pain and suffering, seeking God, Truth, worry | No Comments »
I love roller coasters. I love the anticipation of that big first drop. I love that feeling of being out of control. And I love the speed. Now I can love all those things because ultimately I trust the ride is safe. Even though it’s a tremendous thrill, I have confidence that I will make it through to the end of the ride.
My default mode or what I believe about roller coasters is: enjoy the ride because you’re going to make it out alive.
You and I also have a default mode for processing life. We have certain ways of responding to people, circumstances, difficulties, surprises, disappointments, etc. If we do nothing to change, we’ll most likely continue to respond the way we always have.
There’s a lot that goes into determining our default settings. Parents, friends, teachers and coaches had a part in setting them for us. So did the media we’ve been exposed to and the books we’ve read. Without consciously thinking about it–we’ve developed a default mode for how we process life and make our choices.
I’ve noticed something about my default mode that I really don’t like. When faced with bad news or even just the unknown, I worry, I fear the worst and I doubt God’s goodness. That’s my default mode. And it looks like it was the same mode the disciples struggled with.
Mark 4:35-41 says…
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Some of these guys were experienced fishermen so they’d experienced bad weather before, but this must have been a really bad storm. There’s no record of anyone saying, “Hey guys, calm down! It’s not that bad. We can ride this out.”
This was a bad storm and they thought they were about to drown. Now what would have changed everything for them, what would have helped reset their default mode, was knowing that the one who was in complete control and who cared for them was asleep on a cushion at the back of the boat.
But they either doubted His power or His care because they wake Jesus up and ask Him a question we’ve probably all asked or at least wondered, “Don’t you care?”
It seems that our default mode, well, I won’t speak for you…it seems that my default mode is to question God’s goodness when circumstances are bad. I allow the severity of the situation to completely obscure the simple fact that God really does care for me.
Even when we don’t see Him doing anything, He is still good and He still cares. We will never escape His grasp. We will never be forgotten. We will never have to go it alone.
So Jesus got up and told the storm to be quiet and still. And it was.
What the disciples didn’t know was that their hearts and minds could have been quiet and still even in the midst of the furious storm. They didn’t have to wait for the storm to be quiet before they could be.
And that should really be my default mode when it comes to life. Sure, there will be tough times and painful circumstances and things I won’t understand, but because God is good and He cares and He’s in control, I can trust Him to see me safely through whatever ups and downs and twists and turns come my way.
Panic. Fear. Worry. Doubt. Discouragement. That’s my default mode. I wish I could say that resetting it is easy, but it’s not, at least it hasn’t been for me. Developing a new default mode requires ongoing effort and time in God’s word to believe the truth–that God is good, that God cares and God is in control.
What is your default mode for handling life?
Does it need to be reset?
Posted: December 28th, 2011 | Author: Gregg Stutts | Filed under: Difficulties, Relationships, Truth | Tags: believing God, God's glory, God's word, sex, Truth, worldview | No Comments »
Who or what shapes your worldview? By “worldview”, I simply mean how you look at life, the lens through which you the view the world around you and make your choices.
For example, how do you decide how to spend your money? How do you decide if it even is your money?
What is your view of sex? Is it a pleasure to be enjoyed with whomever you want, whenever you want? Is it just between a man and a woman?
How do you determine who you will vote for? Are there any principles you won’t compromise on?
What about war? Is it wrong? Is it ever justified?
What about abortion? Evolution? Suicide? The poor? The wealthy? What are your views?
And what are the primary influences on the worldview you’ve adopted?
Maybe it’s not something you’ve given much thought, but stop for a moment and think about it. Who is shaping your belief system?
Most of us would give some credit to our parents (either good or bad), our teachers and our friends. There are many other influences though, like television programs, commercials, news sources (CNN, newspapers, websites, etc.), government, books and magazines…and the list could go on.
What’s really interesting to me is an exchange Jesus has with Satan in Matthew 4 and what it can tell us about how our worldview is shaped. Jesus has been in the desert fasting for 40 days when Satan comes along and begins to tempt Him. The final temptation went like this:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Satan offers to give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He’ll just bow down and worship him. Jesus rebukes Satan and quotes a verse from Deuteronomy 6 about worshiping and serving only God.
Did you notice that Jesus doesn’t just laugh at Satan and say something like, “You?! You think you’re going to give me all these kingdoms? They’re not even yours to give!”
Jesus doesn’t do that. Apparently, Satan had the authority to give those kingdoms. 1 John 5:19 says, “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.”
Something big happened in the garden. God had given Adam and Eve responsibility to manage planet earth for Him. They were to be fruitful, increase on the earth, subdue it and rule over the animal kingdom. When they disobeyed God and instead listened to Satan, it’s as if the title deed to earth was signed over to Satan.
Is God ultimately in charge? Absolutely. But I believe God places an extremely high value on our ability to make choices. (I talked about that in my last post.) God doesn’t step in and override our decisions every time we make a bad choice. He doesn’t do it with me. He doesn’t do it with you. And He didn’t do it with Adam and Eve.
Unfortunately, their choice put Satan in a position to heavily influence this world. John even tells us the whole world is under his control. Governments, media outlets, schools, the internet, etc.–they are all a part of this world system that is under the enemy’s control. That doesn’t mean there aren’t good people involved, but this world system is generally bent away from God.
So let’s go back to my original question. Who or what shapes your worldview? Is it primarily shaped by this world system?
Or are you filling your mind with God’s word, so that He is the One who is shaping your worldview?
We live in enemy territory for now. It won’t always be that way. One day Christ will return and set things right, but until then, the whole world is under the control of the evil one. And he will do everything within his power to encourage and entice you to make choices that move you away from God, not toward Him, to live your life according to the world’s values, not God’s.
God’s kingdom and this world system stand opposed to each other. They operate on very different values and principles.
So which set of values and principles are you living by?
If you spend little time in God’s word, then we already have the answer.