Change Your Mouth by Changing Your Mind

We recently had Ted and Nancie Lowe with us at Grace Fellowship. Ted spoke about the power of words and said God has hardwired our brains (our heart & mind) so that words matter!   I couldn’t agree more.

If we want to speak in a way that honors God and builds others up, I believe we need to rewire our brains (hearts & minds) by allowing God to renew us from the inside out by submitting to Him and His Word.

I was a science teacher at one point, and loved doing experiments.  In one experiment,  students had to figure out how to get a gas (that was heavier than oxygen) out of a test tube without inverting the test tube.  The answer was simple: put something in the test tube that’s more solid than the gas.  They had to fill the test tube with water or another liquid to force the gas out.

In the same way, if I want to remove the junk that’s settled in my mind over years of wrong thinking and sinful habits, I need something solid to force it out and replace it.  The Word of God is the one thing that can remove and replace the junk that’s been stored in my mind.  However, for God to do His work in me, I have to submit to Him and His Word.  Knowledge of God’s Word alone isn’t what’s required; I must also submit to it to experience the life-changing power of God in order to renew my mind.

Here are a few passages that came to mind.

Jesus said: “But what people say with their mouths comes from the way they think; these are the things that make people unclean.” Matthew 15:18 NCV

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword,it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12 NIV

How can a young person keep their life pure? By living according to your word. I trust in you with all my heart. Don’t let me wander away from your commands. I have hidden your word in my heart so that I won’t sin against you. Psalm 119:9-11 NIrV

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.   Philippians 4:8 NLT

Lord, help me control my tongue; help me be careful about what I say. Psalm 141:3 NCV

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, Guards his soul from troubles. Proverbs 21:23 NASB

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29 NIV

 

 

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Do All Things Without COMPLAINING

We’re currently in a series where we’re talking about the power of words.

Proverbs 12:18 NCV says “Careless words stab like a sword, but wise words bring healing.”

“Careless words” include COMPLAINING.

In Philippians 2, Paul said we should have the attitude of Christ which includes:  “Do everything without complaining…” (Phil. 2:14 GNT)

Sometimes our circumstances are difficult and we’ll be tempted to complain, but Paul says do all things without complaining.   If you can change your circumstances in a way that honors God, change them.  If not, change your perspective.

I’m reminded of a great example of this in the life of my friend Del Pitts.

Del was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in October, 2014.   He and his wife Christi were determined to trust God and be examples for Christ regardless of the outcome.  Never once did Del say: “Why me?”

Even with weekly chemo and daily radiation treatments, Del continued to serve faithfully on the Parking Lot Team at Grace Fellowship and worked as much as he could.

In February, 2015, he had a major surgery to remove most of his esophagus and part of his stomach.  As Christi says, the doctors, nurses and other patients loved him because of his great smile, attitude and his way of encouraging the other patients on his floor of the hospital.

He went back to work in the summer of 2015, but one of his vocal chords became paralyzed and he had another round of chemo in August.

In February/March 2016 the cancer came back with a vengeance and metastasized.  The doctor gave Del months to live; several months longer if he continued with chemo.  Del chose no more chemo because he wanted to live out the rest of his life enjoying his family, serving God and feeling as good as he could.

The next weekend he was back in the Parking Lot at Grace Fellowship, serving Jesus with the guys he loved so much.

On April 30 there was a big party for Del with family and friends. It was filled with fun, love and laughter!

Christi told us the last week of his life, Del had such a profound peace that there are no words to describe it.   Only God can provide that kind of peace and Del loved God with his whole heart.  Del had no doubts about where he would spend eternity.

Even in this stage of life and cancer, Del was an encourager.  He told Christi: “I learned to love Jesus by watching you love Jesus and I will forever be grateful to you for that.”

It was so important to Del that people could see his faith in Jesus through his battle with cancer.  He told his friends that he was going to win either way; he was going to be healed or he was going to be in heaven with Jesus.

Del once again served in the Parking Lot on May 22, and went to be with his Lord on May 26.

“Do everything without complaining…” Philippians 2:14 GNT

BJ RUTLEDGE

LEAD PASTOR  GF.CHURCH

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God Gives The Victory

We had a phenomenal Easter at Grace Fellowship; huge crowds and many people who made decisions to trust Christ.  I’m grateful for the faithfulness of our staff, volunteers and people to pray and invite.  I’m also grateful for the hard work of our staff and volunteers, but am reminded that it is God who receives the glory and praise for what is taking place at Grace.

Reading in Judges 7 this morning reminded me that God will not give us the victory if we want to claim any credit! God told Gideon (Jerub-Baal) to attack the Midianite army. Gideon had 32,000 men, but check out what God told him.

Early in the morning Jerub-Baal and all his men camped at the spring of Harod. Jerub-Baal was another name for Gideon. The camp of Midian was north of Gideon’s camp. It was in the valley near the hill of Moreh. 2 The Lord said to Gideon, “I want to hand Midian over to you. But you have too many men for me to do that. Then Israel might brag, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Judges 7:1-2 NIrV

And Gideon ended up with only 300 men to attack the entire Midianite army.

The Lord spoke to Gideon. He said, “With the help of the 300 men who lapped up the water I will save you. I will hand the Midianites over to you. Let all the other men go home.”  Judges 7:7 NIrV

If you read all of Judges 7, you’ll find that the Lord routed the army of Midian using Gideon and his 300 men. They made themselves available to serve the Lord and had faith the God would give them the victory, but it was the Lord who gave the victory.

If we’re not careful, we can be deceived into thinking we’re responsible for the “success” we have in ministry. We have to be available, have faith and do the task God’s given us, but it is God who gives the victory.

As I was reading this, I also thought of Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3

Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?  5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed,Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.8 The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. 9 For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.  10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:1-11 NIV

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PRAY FOR AND INVITE YOUR PEEPS TO EASTER AT GRACE

There are 5 days until our Easter Services on Saturday, March 31 and Sunday, April 1.  I hope you’ll join me in praying for churches around the world who celebrate the Risen Lord, and you’ll pray for and invite people to attend our Easter Services at Grace.

When it comes to prayer, one thing Jesus taught was: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24 NIV

I’m Asking You To INVITE

When telling the story of “The Great Banquet” which was about the people who will accept His invitation and join Jesus eternally in His Kingdom in heaven, He used “the master” to represent God.   Jesus said: “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.”  Luke 14:23 NIV

In the parable, Jesus said everyone is INVITED even though some will refuse to attend.  The parable is about INVITING people to be part of God’s Kingdom.  The Church is people, not a building.  You’re part of the Church if you’re a Christian, and the Church is the primary instrument Jesus chose to carry out His mission of INVITING people into His Kingdom.  Please know we will partner with you to tell people about Jesus if you INVITE them to Grace.

I’m asking you to PRAY for people to be SAVED

When Jesus began to preach He said: “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Matthew 4:17)  To be “saved”  includes repentance (turning from your sins to trust Jesus) where you believe in and receive Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior.

Paul who violently persecuted Christians in the first century eventually became a Christian because he had a personal encounter with Jesus after Jesus was raised from the dead.  He was an eyewitness of the resurrection and wrote much of the New Testament including the following words…

“I urge, then, first of all that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority…This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people…”   1 Timothy 2:1-6 NIV 

When you pray for people to be saved by trusting Jesus, you are praying for God’s will to be done.  Pray for people you know who need to trust Christ, and pray for our services too; that many people will choose to trust and follow Christ this weekend.

Thank you!  I’m joining you in praying for Easter and inviting people to attend our services!

 

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Palm Sunday

~2000 years ago today is the day Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem – just a few days before His crucifixion & resurrection. The people put branches of trees and their cloaks on the road as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and they yelled their praises as Jesus entered Jerusalem.  (Matthew 21)

Why not spend some time today thinking about what Jesus has done in your life and praise Him.

Sometimes I like to do what’s called “the alphabet of praise” where I take each letter of the alphabet and praise Him with a word that begins with that letter.   Yes, you can skip X and Z.

Example:  Lord I praise You because You’re AWESOME.  I praise You because You’re BIGGER than all my problems.  I praise You because You’re COMPASSIONATE.

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An INVITATION Can Change A Life

The lasting impact of the apostles who were the first followers of Jesus can only be imagined in statements like this from Jesus.   Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  Matthew 19:28 ESV

One of those apostles was named Nathanael and it was a simple INVITE to “come and see” from his friend Philip that led him to Jesus.  Check it out.

43 The next day Jesus decided to go into Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me [as My disciple, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher, and walking the same path of life that I walk].” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote about—Jesus from Nazareth, the son of Joseph [according to public record].” 46 Nathanael answered him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Here is an Israelite indeed[a true descendant of Jacob], in whom there is no guile nor deceit nor duplicity!”48 Nathanael said to Jesus, “How do You know [these things about] me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were still under the fig tree, I saw you.”49 Nathanael answered, “Rabbi (Teacher), You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus replied, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe [in Me]? You will see greater things than this.”  John 1:43-50 Amp

I’ve been using my PEEPS to invite different people in our community to our Easter Services at Grace, and I’m believing God is going to change lives as people have a chance to experience Jesus during those services on Easter weekend.  I INVITE you to join me and INVITE someone to Easter Services at Grace – or if you attend another church, INVITE them to your church.

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AN INVITE CAN CHANGE A CITY

One of my favorite narratives in John’s eyewitness account of Jesus life is found in John 4.  I love the translation of John 4:4 in the KJV of Scripture.  Of Jesus, John 4:4 KJV says: And he must needs go through Samaria.  Most other translations say He [Jesus] had to pass through Samaria, but the words translated “must needs go” show intent or purpose.

I believe Jesus intended to have a divine appointment with a woman who was an outcast in her community.  She had been married numerous times and was living with a man who wasn’t her husband.   Jesus “must needs go” through Samaria in order to meet the deep spiritual need missing in her life that had resulted in so many broken relationships.  If you read the entire story, you’ll see the infinite grace, mercy, love and forgiveness of God; and a woman whose life was radically changed.

In light of that change – she did something significant.  She went back to her town & INVITED the people to come and see a man who changed her life!  The result was phenomenal.

39 Now many Samaritans from that city believed in Him and trusted Him [as Savior] because of what the woman said when she testified, “He told me all the things that I have done.” John 4;39 Amp

41 Many more believed in Him [with a deep, abiding trust] because of His word [His personal message to them]; 42 and they told the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; for [now] we have heard Him for ourselves and know [with confident assurance] that this One is truly the Savior of [all] the world.”  John 4:41-42 Amp

We went to lunch with Dan & Lisa Hill today and Dan used a PEEP Invite to invite our waitress to Easter at Grace.  I hope you’ll be PRAYING for Easter with Grace and INVITING people to attend.  You never know what a simple INVITATION to join us on Easter and experience Jesus might do!

 

 

 

 

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FORGIVENESS

If you missed Sunday, February 18th, at Grace – I hope you’ll go to http://www.gf.church/messages and listen to THIS IS US – Part 3 – THIS IS LIFE which deals with forgiveness.  The message was based on a story told by Jesus in Matthew 18 which is included at the end of this blog.

The following includes some things related to forgiveness.  Remember, these are very simplistic while forgiveness is not.

Some of you may need the help of a Christian Counselor to get past the hurt you’re experiencing in order to forgive the wrongs you’ve experienced.  If you live in the Wise County area,  we support and recommend Wise County Christian Counseling in Decatur, Texas; Beverly Ross and her team are great.  Jimmy McLeod is a private practice Pastoral Counselor who does counseling at Grace Fellowship on most Wednesday afternoons and has his private practice in Roanoke, Texas.  I also use and recommend Dr. Ed Laymance at Impact Counseling and Guidance Center in Arlington, Texas.

Remember that forgiveness doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be consequences for someone’s actions.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean reconciliation will take place.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you act like nothing happened.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean trust is automatically restored.  Forgiveness doesn’t mean you stay in an abusive or dangerous situation; get some help!

Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.  Colossians 3:13 NLT

What do you do when you are the one needing forgiveness?

Ask God to forgive you and to help you as you open up to the person(s) you hurt.    Ask anyone you’ve offended to forgive you.   Don’t add excuses to your actions.  Don’t play the blame game and blame others for your mistakes.   Admit what you did that was wrong – clearly and specifically.  Make restitution if necessary.  If you broke or destroyed something, fix or replace it.  If you damaged someone’s reputation, do your part to admit this and to help restore their reputation.  You’re not responsible for their response, you’re responsible for your obedience to God.

What if the person you need to forgive has died?

Have an imaginary conversation with them, go over the details in this conversation and confess that you have forgiven them and canceled any debt you have against them.  Another option is to write them a letter with the details of the offense and why it hurt you, then write DEBT CANCELED on it and SHRED IT or DESTROY IT.

There are dozens of resources that can help you.  Here are a few that may help:

ENEMIES OF THE HEART by Andy Stanley

THE STEPS TO FREEDOM IN CHRIST by Neil Anderson

FORGIVE AND FORGET by Lewis B. Smedes

https://www.insight.org/resources/article-library/individual/a-clean-slate-how-to-forgive-someone-who-has-hurt-you

Matthew 18

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, when my fellow believer sins against me, how many times must I forgive him? Should I forgive him as many as seven times?”22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, you must forgive him more than seven times. You must forgive him even if he wrongs you seventy times seven.

23 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who decided to collect the money his servants owed him. 24 When the king began to collect his money, a servant who owed him several million dollars was brought to him. 25 But the servant did not have enough money to pay his master, the king. So the master ordered that everything the servant owned should be sold, even the servant’s wife and children. Then the money would be used to pay the king what the servant owed.

26 “But the servant fell on his knees and begged, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’ 27 The master felt sorry for his servant and told him he did not have to pay it back. Then he let the servant go free.

28 “Later, that same servant found another servant who owed him a few dollars. The servant grabbed him around the neck and said, ‘Pay me the money you owe me!’ 29 “The other servant fell on his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you everything I owe.’

30 “But the first servant refused to be patient. He threw the other servant into prison until he could pay everything he owed. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were very sorry. So they went and told their master all that had happened.

32 “Then the master called his servant in and said, ‘You evil servant! Because you begged me to forget what you owed, I told you that you did not have to pay anything. 33 You should have showed mercy to that other servant, just as I showed mercy to you.’ 34 The master was very angry and put the servant in prison to be punished until he could pay everything he owed. 35 “This king did what my heavenly Father will do to you if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

 

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42 Years of Valentines

 

Janet & I celebrated our 40th anniversary this past year and we’ve shared 42 years of Valentines Days together. During an anniversary dinner this past year, we talked to our waiter (who was in his late 20’s or early 30’s) and when he found it was our 40th, he had an amazed look on his face and said “I hope my wife and I can make it at least 10 years”.

As I thought about his words and the surprised look on his face,  I tried to think about the things that have helped us get this far.  A couple years ago I posted 10 things that can help your marriage, so this is a re-post of some of those.  This isn’t “pie in the sky” kind of stuff because we’ve had our share of ups and downs, and times when we didn’t feel close at all. But here are a few of the things I thought about that have helped us.

  • Forgive each other. There are times when we’ve hurt each other and gotten ticked off and said things that we shouldn’t say, but we’ve always come back to the fact the we’re not each other’s enemy and we need to forgive each other just like Christ forgave us. We’ve both made a personal decision to trust and follow Christ, which influences every decision we make.
  • Take regular breaks from the routine. Marriage can easily become routine and difficult; especially during the child raising years. We determined years ago that we’d strive to have a regular date night away from the kids.   We also decided to try and take a vacation together at least once a year without the kids when possible. Yes, most of our vacations in the child raising stage were family vacations, but we tried to find ways to get away by ourselves. Even if we weren’t able to get away for a week, we at least tried to do something special for a few days every 5 years on, or around, our anniversary. We often had to celebrate “around our anniversary” because many of them were spent at Youth Camps when I was a Student Pastor
  • Give each other space. It took some time, but we’ve both grown to the point where we’re good giving each other some space; which includes short periods of time alone or away from the family. For me, I get recharged in nature or away from crowds and where there are few demands on me. Janet likes to be with people and do things. We trust each other to spend some time away; for me it may be a spiritual retreat or hunting trip. For her, it usually meant going somewhere to be with her family.
  • Develop great friendships. We developed great friendships with people who were moving in the same direction as us. Friends who wanted to grow in their relationship with Christ too. That made it easier to talk to our friends and keep each otheraccountable since we’d built relationships of trust. We also learned the value of consistently being in a small group designed for spiritual growth with friends and people we trusted.
  • Be on the same page. We decided that we’d always strive to be on the same page when it came to discipline or making decisions that concerned our children. We didn’t air our differences in front of the kids or let them play us against each other, but rather had a unified front in what we decided.
  • Realize some expectations won’t be met. We had to grow to the point of understanding we are very different (not wrong – just different) and always will be. 40 years into our marriage – we’re still different!  Our responsibility is to try our best to meet each other’s needs and guard our hearts against being selfish. That’s a whole lot easier to write than it is to do. This also means we realize some expectations we had coming into our marriage were unrealistic and we had to grow through releasing these.
  • Recognize marriage is a journey.   There are ups and downs, hard times and good, times of prosperity and times of want. It’s a journey, an adventure, and we’re in it together for the long haul which means we’ll walk through a variety of things that are good and bad along the way.  In the bad times it’s always unwise to make life-changing decisions; especially decisions that are emotionally charged.
  • Remember our impact on our family and others. There’s a type of inbuilt accountability for us because we value the example we set for our children and grandchildren, as well as our extended family, friends and others. This doesn’t mean living a life of hypocrisy, but the desire to set a good example means we strive to work through the problems and issues we face and are honest about our struggles. Note: that doesn’t mean airing all our dirty laundry; it just means we’re real people like everyone else and we realize we have a responsibility to those who are watching our example.
  • Handle Finances Well. We made a decision when we got married to do our best to handle our finances in a way that honored God. We continue to practice tithing to the local church, giving over and above the tithe to build the church, and we continue to support a variety of missions and several children in foreign countries. The only way this has been possible was by building margin into our finances. We learned this the hard way by making a number of mistakes, but over the years we learned to limit debt (we’ll be totally debt free this year!) and be on the same page in how we give. We also learned the blessing of generosity!
  • A common commitment to Christ. We’re both committed to growing in our relationship with Christ even though we mess up time after time.   Striving to keep Christ as the center and Lord of our lives and home has helped us through tough times when it would have been easier to give up. This commitment includes a consistent commitment to involvement in our church, serving in ministry, staying connected in a small group through our church, and having a regular time alone with God in the Bible and prayer. This is one of the key reasons I believe we’ve been able to work through the difficult times and remain committed to one another.  By the way, learning to work through difficulties and hurts in a local church is part of the journey, but being connected and involved in a local church is crucial to your marriage and family!

PS: Yes, that photo is pre-marriage!

 

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Marriage Resources

The following are some resources I recommend and believe can help you build a stronger marriage. As you consider them remember YOU LOVE YOUR SPOUSE BEST WHEN YOU LOVE GOD MOST.

BOOKS/CD’s – some of these are available in an another audio format.

Love And Respect – Emerson Eggerichs

His Needs Her Needs – Willard Harley

The Five Love Languages – Gary Chapman

Enemies Of The Heart – Andy Stanley

The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages – Shaunti Feldhahn

Covenant Marriage – Dr. Fred Lowery

Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas

Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions To Ask Before – And After – You Marry – Les and Leslie Parrott

A Lasting Promise: The Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage –
Scott M. Stanley and Daniel Trathen

ONLINE:

http://www.FamilyLifeToday.com

http://www.MarriedPeople.org

 

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