Being a Light in Difficult and Disappointing Times

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

We often see athletes being interviewed and put in the spotlight for their success and victories, while those who fail and lose and are often maligned and ridiculed. This past weekend, Cody Parkey, who is the kicker for the Chicago Bears, personally knows this reality. In the closing seconds of the game, with his team down by one point to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cody was given the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. This kick would not only allow his team to advance, but it would give the Bears their first playoff-win in eight years. Despite a good snap and hold, Cody’s kick “double-boinked” by hitting both the left upright and crossbar, as it ultimately bounced back onto the field. Although the kick would eventually be deemed a block by one of the Eagles players, the missed kick still left the Bears players and fans dejected and brokenhearted.

Despite the miss, and his own heartbreak, Cody’s response to this situation has proven to be a powerful light during a difficult and disappointing time. In fact, his response to this situation is a reminder to us all about how we as Christians should respond to difficulties and disappointments in our own lives.

While many people who fail either find ways to blame others or avoid the comments by critics, Cody stood firm and took responsibility for the outcome of the kick. He approached this difficult moment with inner strength and integrity. This is a great example that the true essence of who we are as a person is most displayed in how we respond to the challenges and disappointments we face.

While many only praise and thank God in the good times, the first thing Cody did when he missed the field goal was to point his finger to heaven to acknowledge and praise Him even in his moment of disappointment and failure, a great reminder that we are called to serve God in all circumstances in our lives. As Cody mentioned in his interview on The Today Show, “Something that I have always tried to do through good or bad is to give praise to the higher power our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

While many only live for the things of this world (success, popularity, fame, etc.), Cody acknowledged that his life transcends all of this. Even though still saddened by how he felt that he let the whole Bears’ organization down, he made this powerful statement, “I’ll continue to keep my head held high because football is what I do, it’s not who I am.” This is a great reminder for all followers of Jesus that we do not live for the things of this world and that our race is for a crown that will never perish (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Using Our Time with An Eternal Perspective

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 3

In the previous blog, I shared with you my first two New Life Resolutions:  1) In all my decisions I will do that which brings the most glory to God; 2) To do a weekly spiritual examination to identify specific areas where I can grow in my faith with the Lord. Let us now examine New Life Resolutions three and four.

Resolution 3:  Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.

Time is a precious commodity that can never be replaced. We all have a set number of days on this earth, so we must be intentional in how we use the time that God has given us. As Paul tells the believers in Ephesus,

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15, 16).

My wife and I recently bought my oldest daughter a book about athletes who had to overcome great challenges. We thought it would be good for her to read since she had to undergo three surgeries on her ankle which hindered her from playing sports. As she was sharing with us about some of the athletes, it was amazing to hear how these individuals were intentional in everything that they did to accomplish their goals. From strict training, to eating properly, to making personal sacrifices, these athletes knew that they could not waste one moment of their day.

What a great analogy for the Christian life, as we too have a goal/prize to accomplish (Philippians 3:12-14). The major difference is our goal/prize is not made of gold, silver, or bronze that will wear away with time; instead, we are competing for a goal/prize that is eternal. This is why I have made it a resolution to live with each day with an eternal perspective. As you read the following words from the apostle Paul, may they inspire you to be intentional in what you do with your time, because every morning you wake up God has given you that day to run with an eternal purpose:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  (1 Corinthians 9:24, 25).

Resolution 4:  To not neglect my role as a husband to love my wife and my role as a father to intentionally invest in the spiritual development of my children.

I have recognized that the key to time is not just what I invest in but who I invest time in. In our lives we are going to have specific moments/seasons that will come. When these moments/ seasons come they will provide each of us with certain opportunities that when they are over, they are gone and may never come back.

Right now, I am in the season of investing in the spiritual lives of my children. My oldest is turning 16, and I realize that when she goes off to college the influence that I presently have is going to change. Therefore, I cannot waste this present season God has given me. I must be intentional in spiritually shaping the minds and hearts of my kids. This first starts in how I treat their mother, who as my wife, I am called to love her as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). Next, I must take an active role in instructing them in the ways of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). A responsibility that I cannot delegate to anyone else, but with my wife must pursue with all my energy.

I don’t personally know what season you may be in at this moment in your life. Perhaps you are a student at a school, an employee for a company, a grandparent enjoying retirement, or like me, a parent raising your kids. Regardless, you are presently in a season in which God has raised people up in your life for you to impact spiritually. Don’t waste this season but approach it with an eternal perspective.

The time we are given in this life is truly more valuable than any precious stone or gem. As we use it, may we all remember the eloquent words of Jonathan Edwards:

“Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.”

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 5 and 6. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

A Change of Attitude, A Change of Heart

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making A New Life Resolution for 2019, part 2

In the previous blog we talked about the importance of making a New Life Resolution for 2019, a resolution that brings about a change not only in our attitude of how we see things but, more importantly, a change in our heart in what we desire in life. In this blog I will begin to share the 10 New Life Resolutions that I have set for myself for 2019 as well as the remainder of my life. With God’s help, I want to use these resolutions like Jonathan Edwards used his, not as a law that binds me, but as a compass to guide my life and help me press forward toward the goal of becoming more like Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).

Resolution 1:  In all my decisions I will do that which brings the most glory to God

This resolution defines the mission statement for my life. It reflects the reality that my life should be centered and focused upon the person of Jesus Christ, a desire that in all my decisions I will ultimately seek to exalt Him and not myself. As Paul sat in a Roman prison waiting for his eventual fate, he makes the following statement,

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20, 21).

Despite his circumstances, and regardless of the outcome (life or death), the Apostle Paul wanted Jesus to be glorified. So too, I have found myself in situations where I have had to deal with pain, injustice, heartbreak, uncertainty etc., and like the Apostle Paul, I ultimately want my desire in these situations to lead to Jesus being glorified.

I once heard a chapel speaker say that, like Jesus, we should not live by our rights but respond by doing what is right. In Jesus’ life he was within his rights to avoid going to the cross to die, but he recognized that the right thing to do was to fulfill the will of His Father by giving up His life for the sins of humanity. A great illustration for all of us to step back and ask ourselves is: “Is my response and decision to this situation in my life a matter of me doing what I am within my rights to do, or am I responding by what is right, which is to bring glory to God?”

May the words of David reflect the very core of our being:

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart for your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever” (Psalm 86:11, 12).

Resolution 2:  To do a weekly spiritual examination to identify specific areas where I can grow in my faith with the Lord

In our Christian walk, it is very easy to become content where we are in our faith.  Recognizing that we serve a God who is gracious and merciful can often be used to justify the need to avoid personal growth and accountability. While it is true that we can never earn the grace and mercy of God, we must recognize that salvation is merely the starting point. Every day we should be striving, or as Paul says, pressing on toward the prize of being more like Christ (Philippians 3:12-14). In this pursuit, a weekly spiritual examination can help us avoid becoming stagnant in a past decision that we made to follow Jesus. Specifically, for me, it is a weekly reminder to never grow weary in the fight against sin in my life.

The following are some great questions that have not only helped me in my spiritual examination, but they also provided a platform to help me set forth my New Life Resolutions:

Question 1:  How am I spending my time?  Into what, or who, am I investing my time and energy?

Question 2:  What is the standard for my life?  What or who do I look to in making decisions for my life?

Question 3:  What testimony am I providing in this life and what legacy will I leave when I am gone? How would others (family, friends, co-workers etc.) describe me now and at my funeral?

Like the potter molding the clay, I want God to mold me every day into the person that He wants me to be. I want God to show me where my motives and actions are not in line with His will. In the words of David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23, 24).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 3 and 4. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

As we move into 2019, many of us will be going through the yearly ritual of setting New Year’s Resolutions. With pure intentions, we use our resolutions – from exercising more and saving money to finding a significant other – as a way to better our lives. While it is admirable to make changes that can affect our behavior and circumstances, as Christians we need to make a NEW LIFE RESOLUTION – a resolution that can bring more than external change but an internal change. A change in our attitude in how we see things, and more importantly a change in our heart in what we desire in life.

A biblical passage that I believe speaks to the heart of a New Life Resolution is Philippians 3:12-14. Writing to the church at Philippi while imprisoned in Rome, the Apostle Paul asserts the following:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

In this passage, the Apostle Paul lays out the purpose/goal of the Christian life, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul acknowledges that he has not yet attained this goal and still has room to grow spiritually. Thus, to help him in the process to be more like Christ, he details two steps that he has taken. First, he forgets what lies behind. Paul recognizes that spiritual success and failures of the past cannot be hindrances towards achieving his goal of Christlikeness. Second, he presses on (moves forward) toward the prize. The Greek word for press was used of a sprinter, who ran his race with aggressive energy. This is important to keep in mind because most people fail in their New Year’s resolutions. Studies have shown that 80% of people fail by the 2nd week of February, and less than 10% ever achieve them. So, as we set New Life Resolutions for our lives, we cannot be passive and idle in our efforts, but we must PRESS forward with every ounce of our being. We must never grow weary in our resolve to become more like Jesus Christ.

Many of you are probably familiar with Johnathan Edwards. He lived in the 1700s and is considered by many to be the greatest preacher and theologian in American history. He also played an influential role in the first Great Awakening, which was a spiritual revival that swept through the American colonies. What you may not know is that at the age of 18 he became the pastor of a church in New York. Recognizing the seriousness of this call, and not wanting to waste the opportunity God had given him, Edwards wrote a total of 70 resolutions for his life. He used these resolutions not as a law to bind him, but as a compass to guide his life and to examine his spiritual progress. While I encourage all of you to read his 70 resolutions, they can be summed up in the following:  “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” In accomplishing these resolutions, Edwards identified two keys. First, he needed God’s help. In his own words, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him by his grace to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.” Second, he knew that he needed to review them weekly.

Like Edwards, I have set forth resolutions for my life. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing these resolutions (10 in total) that God has impressed upon my heart.  As we go through them together, my prayer is that you too will take on the challenge to make a New Life Resolution for 2019.

Looking Back at 2018

by Jim Weikal

“Absolutely pointless!” says the spokesman. “Absolutely pointless! Everything is pointless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

As you look back at 2018, how do you feel? How were those 365 plus days? Your 52 weeks? Hopefully you don’t feel as Solomon did nearing the end of his life that it was all “vanity” or “pointless.”

You may be looking to set some new goals for 2019:

better house, lucrative job, career advancement, new car, wedding, weight loss, an island vacation, perhaps.

None of these objectives are naturally bad, but how about some spiritual goals:

read some verses of Scripture daily, pray for family, fill a need in your church. You can think of more ideas yourself.

Following Solomon’s evaluation of his life – after decades of pleasure, prestige and security – he has this advice to share with you as you seek to set goals for 2019:

The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13–14).

So, set high and lofty goals like fearing God and keeping God’s commandments. For someday this same God is going to look back on your days and what is He going to see?