It’s Not What We Eat

In my time alone with God this morning I read Matthew 15:10-11 NIV10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

When you read that, what do you think Jesus was saying?

In essence, He was telling His Jewish listeners who were wrapped up in tradition and ritual that it’s not what (or how) you eat that defiles you.  They had all kinds of rules about washing their hands before they ate and making sure they only ate the right foods.  Washing your hands (not their rules) is still a good idea, and their approved food list was based on the Law from the Old Testament and the many laws they added to it.

To “defile” means to make you unclean or polluted toward God. I’m well aware that good nutrition is a key to physical well-being and I’m once again striving to eat clean.   Jesus isn’t talking about nutrition; He’s making a point that it’s the things coming out of your heart which make you unclean, not the things you eat. What’s in your heart will eventually come out in your words and actions.

We’re in a series on Spiritual Warfare right now, and I promise you our enemy constantly targets our heart, mind and emotions.  He tempts us with attitudes of the heart and mind that are eventually seen in our words and actions.   He loves to get us to hold on to things like pride, envy, bitterness, jealousy, anger, lust, greed, and hatred.   Satan will tempt us to hold onto unforgiveness or think it’s ok to say we forgive but refuse to attempt to reconcile a relationship which both lead to unclean hearts according to the New Testament.

Our enemy will also try and get us to believe that if we look good to people most of the time, then we’re ok.  When Samuel was charged with selecting a King for Israel, God made it quite clear that it’s not how we appear to others that matters.  1 Samuel 16:7 NIVstates: But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

In Matthew 15:10-11, Jesus was telling His Jewish listeners that what’s in your heart is far more important than what or how you eat (or even how you may appear to most people).   The same is true today, so the most important thing we can do is a regular heart check. This past Sunday, as Pastor Chris preached, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart about an issue of pride within in me. I’m so glad the Holy Spirit pointed it out; I confessed it immediately and have a placed a passage of Scripture and some notes to myself in my office to help guard my heart against this element of pride I didn’t realize was in my heart.

If you struggle with heart issues take them to Jesus honestly.  A good book that can help you deal with some enemies of the heart is titled with the same words:  Enemies of the Heart by Andy Stanley.

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Starting Well & Finishing Well

It usually takes a lot of faith to try or start something new; it also takes sustained faith to see it through and finish well.  

I was reading the account of Jesus walking on the water in Matthew 14 yesterday, and took note of Peter’s incredible request and faith.   “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus told Peter to come to Him.  As Peter begin to walk on the water toward Jesus, he took his eyes off Jesus, focused on his circumstances, wavered in his faith and began to sink.  I’ve always thought about the fact that there were eleven other guys in the boat who didn’t have the faith Peter demonstrated; his faith to do something that seemed impossible was amazing.  He started well, but didn’t finish well in this situation.  However, he did do one thing well as he was sinking; he cried out “Lord, save me!” 

Peter is still one of my favorites in the New Testament; his faith story is worth studying as he had a number of ups and downs including the fact that he denied knowing Jesus just before the crucifixion.  Jesus’ meeting with Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee after Peter’s denials and Jesus’ resurrection was an incredible meeting of grace and truth.  In the end, Peter did finish well and became one of the most courageous followers of Christ of the 1st Century who was martyred for his faith.  He not only started well – he finished well.

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Happy 16th Grace Fellowship!

My heart was humbled, hopeful and filled with joy this morning as 50 men gathered to pray at our monthly Men’s Prayer Breakfast at Grace Fellowship on the 16th anniversary of the beginning of Grace.    16 years ago, on Sunday morning, June 8, 2003, the Grace Fellowship family came together to worship Jesus in the Bridgeport High School commons.   HAPPY 16TH BIRTHDAY GRACE!   I’m blown away by what God has done as we’ve seen thousands of lives changed.  I’m grateful for those who went before us in prayer, sacrifice and faith to make Grace a reality, and for those who continue to do so. Thank you for being faithful to our mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Thank you for INVITING, CONNECTING, GROWING, and GOING.  It is an incredible blessing to get to serve God with the Grace Fellowship Family at this “Miracle in the Cow Pasture.”

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Warfare Helps for The Invisible War

As CS Lewis said, There are two extremes to avoid when talking about the reality of Satan and demonic activity: to put way too much emphasis on it or way too little.

In other words – don’t think everything bad that happens is a result of demonic spirits.

On the other hand, don’t forget we are in a real life & death invisible war with demonic forces.

There are a number of things that can help you, but some great resources are:

Tony Evans  (you can use this link or find other info at tonyevans.org)
https://tonyevans.org/tag/spiritual-warfare/

Chip Ingram – check out Chip’s material online at Living On The Edge

If you have deeper issues we recommend Dr. Ed Laymance at Impact Counseling in Arlington, Texas, who is an expert in helping people deal with spiritual warfare.
https://www.impactcounseling.com

We will be doing a Facebook Live Event with Dr. Ed Laymance on Sunday, June 23. Watch for details.

We’ll also be talking about specific things (practical things we can do) related to this Invisible War throughout the month of June at Grace.

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Jesus Didn’t Do Many Miracles There…

I’m finishing Matthew 13 this week and read a verse this morning that brought back an old memory.

And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” Mt. 13:57 ESV

The people in Jesus hometown who saw Him grow up and knew about Him and His family took offense at what God was doing through Him and refused to believe in Him. Therefore, verse 58 says he did not do many miracles there.

As I read this, I thought back to when Jesus changed my life as a 19 year old young man. I began serving Him immediately and a year later He called me to serve Him in ministry (to serve Him in a full-time capacity for the rest of my life).

Several years later I bumped into an old friend (who is a Christian) at a wedding. I’ll never forget what he said to me: “I could never come to your church because I know too much about you.”

In essence, he was not allowing for the fact that God could (and did) change my life. He didn’t have the faith that God could not only change me, but change the dynamic of our relationship.

Jesus couldn’t do many miracles in His hometown, because the people there decided to push back on faith. They chose to dwell in the past and missed out on the miracles God could have done among them.

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MARRIAGE HELPS

Janet and I will be married 42 years in July. We’ve had messy times and magnificent times together. We shared a little about this on Sunday, May 4th, during our Instafam series at Grace Fellowship. You can watch the message online at http://www.gf.church

As stated on Sunday, May 4th, I’ve listed some resources we think can help you. If you’re having serious problems please seek out a Christian Counselor! Most people our pastors counsel at Grace have been having problems for 3-7 years before they ever ask for help and by then, many of them feel like they have no hope. There is hope; get some help!

Here are some resources you may find helpful; they’ve been helpful for us!

Seriously – everyone should watch this!  Incredibly funny and poignant!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ViuAblc-M0g

My blog on 40 Years of Marriage   https://bjrutledge.com/2017/07/18/40-years-of-marriage/

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage

https://www.familylife.com/articles/topics/marriage/

His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage   Willard F. Harley Jr

The 5 Love Languages  Gary Chapman

Love & Respect  Dr. Emerson Eggerichs

Sacred Marriage Gary Thomas

What Radical Husbands Do Regi Campbell

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Fruity Christians

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Jesus said by our fruit people will know us. If you’re a Christ follower, the fruit of your lips, the fruit of your attitudes, the fruit of your actions & reactions, the fruit of your social media posts all paint a picture to the world of what Christians are like. Sour posts, lips, attitudes, actions and reactions don’t help the cause of Christ. A thought from my time in Matthew 7 this morning. Just saying!

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1st Morning In Wise County – Jan. 27, 2004

15 years ago this morning I woke up to spend my first morning in Wise County as the Lead Pastor of Grace Fellowship.  I was so excited about being a part of this new church! I believed and asked God to do something here that had never been done in a rural setting.  I’m still believing & asking Him for this.

I had no idea of the incredible journey God would take us on.

As is my habit, I got up that morning and spent time alone with God praying and reading from His Word.  One portion of what I read that morning was from 1 Kings 3 where Solomon asked God for wisdom as the leader of God’s people.  The verses that grabbed my heart that morning were these…

“Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”  1 Kings 3:7-9 NLT

My prayer was similar.  Lord, I feel like a little child who doesn’t know how to lead this new work.  I’m in desperate need of You.  Please give me wisdom and discernment to lead well and to discern between good and evil.

15 years later I’m still reminded that I am like a little child and am totally dependent upon God.   As I shared on Sunday, January 20th, there are times I’ve gotten ahead of God; making decisions based on my own thoughts and trying to do things in my own power.  Anytime, I’ve done this – I’ve messed things up!  I’m still on the journey and still learning how to submit to God and depend on Him.   In light of this, if you pray for me, please pray that I’ll have God’s wisdom and discernment and depend on His direction and power in all things.

The photo above is of one of the “prayer cards” that I use in my time alone with God.

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1st Night In Wise County

On January 26, 2004, I spent my first night in Bridgeport as the new lead pastor of Grace Fellowship.  As I reflected on the 6 month journey of faith that brought us here from The Woodlands I sat in the recliner in our the apartment we’d moved into that day and wrote a few words.  A photo of that journal sheet is attached.  Since it’s difficult to read my writing, here’s a transcript of the journal page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jan 26 First Night Bridgeport

How gracious these folks have been to us.  They have already shown us an outpouring of love – flowers for Janet at Lyon Elementary today – baskets of goodies at the apart – milk cereal – (words I can’t make out) – unload & set up – whatever we need

Some of the 1st things I read sitting in the recliner tonight   Col 1:6 TM Everything finds its purpose in Him.   Eph. 1:11  He has his eye on us for glorious living

Lord, I do see a church of over 1000 – hundreds of students radically changed – hundreds of children begging to go back – families saved & restored – marriages put back together – a rural church w/ a regional draw – 100’s are saved & baptized – church with plenty of acreage to have a great multipurpose worship center – children & student building & ample parking for 1000 people – where 1000+ people are connected in small groups.

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Talk About 2 Amazing Days!

The past couple of days have been “off the charts” for me.  God has encouraged and blessed in so many ways.   I learned some key leadership skills at the 95Network One Day Conference yesterday and learned even more today about improving my own leadership with Terry Thompson as we worked through the Flippen Profile (an amazing leadership tool).

As I shared earlier, the icing on the cake last night was getting to take our 95Network Board to Sweetie Pies where we met Jennifer and heard her amazing story of God’s grace (see earlier post on 2nd Best Server in Wise County).

In addition to all this, I just met with Sage Huggins, a young lady who pretty much grew up in Grace and who’s about to graduate from TCU.  I was doubly blessed to hear how God has been working in her life at TCU and of her plans to serve Him in missions after graduation.

It’s crazy cool to see and hear the commitment and passion of these young adults for Christ!  Thank you Lord for this amazing blessing.   The photo above was probably taken around 14 years ago; it’s me, Sage Huggins and her dad Scott Huggins.

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