God desires you to…

accept Him as your Savior,

be committed to Him as LORD,

dare to step out in faith,

trust Him when facing impossible circumstances,

have hope in Him in the midst of tragedy,

honor His name in the face of adversity,

obey His Word in spite of ridicule,

stand as a bold witness for Jesus Christ and the Bible,

be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit,

persevere in faith and determination until His purpose is fulfilled, and

remain faithful until He returns.

– Bill Rudge

Teach Them About Eternity

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Bill Rudge

Parents, I have an important message for you so pay close attention. You teach your children sports, help them with school work and many other things that can have a lifetime benefit. But do you teach them about the most important journey they will take or the most amazing adventure they will experience – eternity? Eternity lasts forever!

As a youth and on through my life, I have lost many family members, friends and acquaintances to eternity – many of whom were taken unexpectedly and were not prepared.

I had a vivid dream one night several months ago of two friends from my past standing with me on a small boat a little offshore. It was twilight and before us lay a vast, dark ocean. I said to my friends as we sailed into the darkness and infinite unknowns of eternity, “Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior so you are prepared for what lies ahead.” But they seemed indifferent as we headed toward certain demise. Then I woke up.

Parents, don’t be indifferent. Teach your children valuable lessons for this life, but do not neglect to teach them about what is most important and lasts forever – eternity!

Limits and Destinies

God has given each one of us a purpose in life: a calling, a mission, a destiny to fulfill. When we choose to follow Christ wholeheartedly, we are no longer held hostage and defined by the limitations this world puts on us. We no longer have to feel defeated, discouraged, dismayed or depressed by the circumstances that surround us. We are not limited by the resources at hand but by the faith in our hearts.

I have met “wounded warriors” who have lost limbs and they still run and compete with prosthetic limbs in races. Our limits are mostly in our minds. Put on the mind of Christ and be transformed by the Word of God and go set the world on fire!

Ed Lugan, BRM supporter from Oceanside, CA

Do You Have Blood on Your Hands?

Their physical features are often beautiful. Their sexual appetites are legendary. Their audience is vast. Yet they live lives filled with torment. They are sex workers, porn actors, exotic dancers, and prostitutes. Hollow eyes. Soulless gazes. Empty. Hard. Aged. Exploited. Addicted.

Lexi’s story was in the news. A porn actress, Lexi tried to get sober. Her boyfriend died of a heroin overdose. Now, she is dead, cause of death unknown. Lexi is one of countless victims who have lost their lives, their families, their hopes, their minds, their bodies, and their dreams to the “adult” entertainment industry.

Do you care?

Did you contribute to Lexi’s bondage, endangerment, and death? Do you have blood on your hands? If you visit the websites, buy the content, lust after the fantasies, and gratify yourself via the entertainment, you are the problem. The pornography industry cannot exist without customers. If you are one, you are a 21st century slave owner. You are ensuring bondage, disease, addiction, and death.

One more victim

I first met Melissa when she was 16. She was serving a banquet at a Christian school. Later, she enrolled in Bible college. But Melissa had unresolved issues. A family history of sexual abuse complicated her life, leading to sexual sin and dismissal from Bible college. She eventually “hooked up” with Tim and bore two children to him.

When money was tight, he demanded Melissa work as an erotic dancer. Her income, he insisted, was needed to make ends meet. To work up the nerve to perform such an indignity, she got drunk. Alcohol numbed her emotions enough to cope with the shame. When she and Tim broke it off, he took the kids. He had money. She had nothing except fading beauty and growing shame. A brief item in a Michigan newspaper featured her death from drug overdose.

And you say your porn habit hurts no one. Ask Lexi. Ask Melissa. Oh, no – you can’t. They’re dead, victims of a culture gone mad with sexual sin.

Excerpted from “Facing the Ugly Truth” by Dr. John Neihof, in the afaJournal October 2018. Used with permission.

Looking for Light in the Darkness Following a Tragedy

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

When I was in college, my soccer coach took our team into a cave. Despite being cold and wet, we had an easy time navigating it, guided by our flashlights. However, after being in there for a while, my coach told us to turn our flashlights off and find our own way out. What seemed easy before became difficult as we repeatedly hit our heads on the cave walls while desperately seeking the exit.

I feel this is the place our community has come to, as over the past few days we have been dealing with the tragic death of two of our high school students and the injury of two others; for whose recovery we now pray.  We, too, are in a dark cave, trying to desperately make sense of and find purpose in, our pain and sorrow. In fact, life-tragedies often cause us to feel that we are trying to walk through the brokenness of our situation, while overwhelmed with hopelessness and despair! Personally, I have experienced the pain of my wife suffering a miscarriage; the near-loss of our child at one week of age; a daughter coping with chronic pain that eventually required three surgeries to correct; my mother’s battle with cancer; and currently, having to witness my father-in-law’s daily struggle with liver disease. Experiencing moments like these, we can all find ourselves in a desperate search for any guiding light through the darkness of our situation.

As my teammates and I continued to struggle through the cave, our coach told one of us to turn on a flashlight. The darkness vanished instantly in the brightness of that light. While in itself the flashlight did not show us the exit, it gave enough light to show us the direction in which to go, and we made our way slowly forward to the brightness of sunshine just outside the cave.

To those in my community and to others facing their own tragedies, there is a light that can guide us through the darkness of confusion and pain. Lexi and Danielle both knew the Source of this light, for each had given her life to Jesus Christ. Because they looked to Him, their lives continue to shine brightly in our community as a reminder of the ONE that we all can look to, who can heal our broken hearts and strengthen our weary souls.

For we who remain after a tragedy, the challenge is in trying to find our way out of the dark cave of loss. But we no longer have to navigate the darkness alone. This same Jesus, who gave light to Danielle and Lexi, is ready today to give light for us all. He hears our cries! He is ready to embrace us in His loving arms and help us move forward through brokenness and pain. While this process may never be fully completed in this life, we have the sure hope that He will one day guide us to that exit, to be fully embraced by the true Source of light that awaits us at the end. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can know the certainty of a future where He will wipe away all tears; where there will be no more death, sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4). Until that day, may the legacy of these girls continue on in how we choose to live; like them, may we embrace the light that Jesus gives so we, too, may be a light for others.

“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, ‘I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.’ ” (John 8:12).

No matter where you are in your life, remember: The WHY may knock you to the ground, but the WHO is always there to help you stand back up.

Bridge Burning

by Bill Rudge

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Photo  by Bill Rudge

Suppose you and I were in the military and our commanding officer said, “Up ahead is enemy territory and the only way to get there is by crossing this wooden bridge. Underneath the bridge is a body of water infested with piranhas, alligators, and poisonous snakes. Once we cross into enemy territory, we are going to burn the bridge behind us so there is no going back: It’s either death or victory!”

Likewise, when you give your life to Jesus Christ, you make a bridge-burning commitment: No going back. So, when I gave my life to Jesus Christ at the age of 18, I burned my bridges; there was no going back to my old lifestyle.

Besides, had I turned from the Lord, where would I go? Back to the martial arts and involvement in Eastern Religions, or the power of ki and ch’i? Back to a pleasure-seeking life: immorality, lust, and violence? All are inferior to the power of God and the relationship I have with Jesus Christ! None can compare to the fulfillment Jesus Christ has given me! They are not options for me.

Could I return to pretending there is no God? How, when I know the reality of the God of the Bible and have experienced His goodness? Perhaps I could go back to New Age spirituality and just go with the flow of whatever I want to believe and do – jumping on the bandwagon with other “Christians” who have compromised or abandoned a commitment to Jesus Christ and His Word. Yet, how could I (why would I) deny the faithful God of my life, or reject the truth of the Bible, or forfeit God’s genuine power and lose the comfort that comes from knowing Him?

Therefore, I am in no dilemma: There is no other alternative for me. I have tried them all. I have evaluated them all. There is only one option, and that is total commitment to Jesus.

Egyptian with One Arm

While ministering to the U.S. military in what was then West Germany, I had an opportunity to speak in a large house-church. Among the many West Germans and American GI’s, there were also several people from East Germany, Russia, Poland, Romania, and Egypt. Speaking through an interpreter, I shared parts of my testimony and the requirement to be totally committed. Many raised their hands in response to this challenge.

Following the message I remained for over an hour praying and sharing with several of the people. One man from Egypt was formerly a Muslim, who spoke to me through my interpreter in a combination of broken English and German. Between us we were able to decipher what he said: We learned that when he became a Christian, his Muslim family threw him off a train in an attempt to kill him, which resulted in the loss of his arm. This man, who had paid a tremendous price for giving his life to Christ, was not requesting prayer for his difficulties; rather prayer for him to know and serve Jesus even more. This man had a strong desire to grow closer to the Lord, no matter what the cost – a desire all believers should have.

Gave My All

Before I was a Christian, I was totally dedicated to weight lifting, karate, and the pursuit of pleasure. I was 100% committed to serving myself. How much more then, should I commit my entire life to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?

You see, I am an “all or nothing” person. I either want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly or not at all. Anything less is really not Biblical Christianity. If I am going to live for Christ, my desire is to live for Him with all my heart, with all my mind, and with all my strength. I will not settle for a superficial Christianity. I want everything God has for me. I believe you do, too. In this age of apostasy and compromise, God is raising up believers who refuse to live a nominal, shallow, or imitation Christianity. They are committed to the Lord and seek to walk in sensitivity and obedience to His Word and His Spirit.

Before I gave my life to Christ, I learned to use almost every part of my body as a weapon. I learned to use my hands, feet, knees, elbows, and fingers as destructive weapons. Should I not now seek to use every part of my life to glorify the Lord?

His Lordship affects everything we do and how we live. It affects:

• What our eyes see
• What our mouths speak
• What our ears listen to
• What our hands do
• Where our feet go
• What our minds think
• What attitudes we adopt
• What emotions we allow
• What our hearts desire
• How we care for our bodies (temples of the Holy Spirit)

His Lordship affects every aspect of our lives: physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Have I Achieved Perfection?

Not in this life! We all struggle with temptation. However, commitment to Christ enables me to overcome any temptation so that nothing but He, Himself, controls me. I am not trying to be a self-righteous person. In fact, if you could follow me around, you would see flaws and imperfections in my life, but you would also recognize the sincere desire of my heart: to live totally for the Lord by glorifying Him in all things; to fulfill His purpose for my life and ministry. My righteousness is not that of self, but by the righteousness of God’s Son: my salvation is not the result of works or self-effort but by faith in Jesus Christ.

We become Christians entirely by God’s grace and mercy through faith. (See my book, Who Is This Jesus?) And, as the apostle Paul reveals in Galatians 3:2-5, we continue to live by faith after we are saved. Paul states in Galatians chapter 5:

It was for freedom that Christ set us free [from unsuccessfully trying to fulfill the law to earn our salvation]; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh. … Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:1,13,24,25).

Therefore, we must achieve a balance of God’s grace, and our responsibility to live under Christ’s Lordship by walking in obedience to His Word.

Had to Grow

After committing my life to Christ, I had to grow. Sure, I failed and fell many times, but I did not lay there and quit nor give up in defeat. I asked for forgiveness, and by God’s grace, got back up and kept on going.

1 John 2:1 (written to believers) says:

I am writing these things to you that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

And 1 John 1:9 (also written to believers) states:

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

If a Sheep Falls in the Mud

I used to struggle with such questions as, “Does it matter if we fall into sin because we have Scriptural promises of forgiveness and liberty in Christ, or must we strive to live legalistically, trying to achieve perfection?”

A professor at Bible college helped to answer that with the following illustration. He explained that if a pig falls in the mud, it lays there and wallows in it because that is its nature. However, if a sheep falls in the mud, it gets out. It is contrary to its nature to lay in mud. So too, nonbelievers may wallow in sin without remorse or guilt, while believers who fall into sin will repent and come out as God’s Spirit deals with them and speaks to their hearts.

If you continue in willful sin, then you had better reevaluate your relationship with the Lord. I am not talking about making mistakes; rather if you have a pattern of continual, willful sin, there is something wrong. You need to examine your commitment to Christ:

No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him (1 John 3:6).

Feelings Change like the Weather

Our commitment to Jesus Christ must not be based on feelings. We may not always feel like praying or reading our Bible or doing what God wants. Sure, we may get discouraged and want to give up, but nowhere does the Bible say we should base our relationship with Christ on feelings. We live by faith and walk in obedience to God’s Word and Spirit.

I feel great when the Lord blesses, but even when I don’t see the blessings and even when things are going wrong, I still serve Him. My feelings may change like the weather, but my commitment to Him is unchanging!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition in book and E-book form. In a future newsletter we will discuss Walking in Obedience as we continue this series.

Total Commitment

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Bill Rudge

Everybody wants it, but few are willing to give it: Coaches want it from their players; drill sergeants demand it from new recruits; teachers and professors love it in students; employers require it from their employees; husbands and wives desire it from their spouses. What is this characteristic most everyone wants from others? Total Commitment!

While speaking at a pastors’ conference I asked, “Do you believe in God? Everyone said a hearty Amen! So I asked again, “Do you really believe in God and Jesus Christ?” Same response as they all acknowledged they did. Then I asked, “Do you really believe the Bible is God’s Word?” They all enthusiastically affirmed they did. So I said, “If you really believe in God, Jesus Christ and the Bible, then it should radically affect your life: how you live, what you watch, what you say and what you do.” They got the message.

However, as I travel and minister throughout the U.S. and around the world, I find that many who profess faith in Jesus Christ – even many leaders and pastors – are not totally committed to Him as Lord of their lives.

Heart Commitment

When I use the words total commitment, I am not talking about what you say with your mouth, or what you appear to be on the surface. I am talking about a heart commitment. I have learned from experience that outward appearances and words can be deceptive. Man looks at the externals, but God looks at the heart. Are your heart, your motives, your will, your goals, and your desires fully committed to Jesus Christ?

Many Christians believe the Bible and live for the Lord, so long as it poses no difficulty and agrees with their preconceived beliefs and ideas. When Scripture contradicts what they want to hear or do, they discard, deny, compromise, or attempt to twist it to say what they want it to say. Many have a “dip and skip” mentality: They dip into all the promises, blessings, and miracles, but skip all the responsibilities, commitment, and obedience.

For every gift and privilege God gives, responsibility and commitment are required:

If you want the mountaintop, you must walk through the valley. If you want the benefit and blessing, you must pay the price of commitment. If you want the victory, you must fight the battle. If you want the gifts of the Spirit, you must develop the fruit of the Spirit. If you want spiritual power, you must develop spiritual muscle.

God Wants First Place

Throughout the Old Testament, God emphasized the principle that He wants first place in our lives: When He said, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse,” He was saying, “I must be first regarding your finances.” When God said, “The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your time.” When God said, “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God,” He was saying, “I must be first in regard to your business and livelihood.” When God asked for the firstborn of all cattle, He was saying, “I must be first regarding your belongings.” When God said, “You must give [consecrate] to Me the first-born of your sons,” He was saying, “I must be first concerning your family.”

God does not need your money, cattle, produce or your possessions; He wants you! Jesus said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

When Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him all the kingdoms of the world, he said, “All this I will give You, if You will bow down and worship me” (Matthew 4:9). Then Jesus said to him, “Away from Me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only’” (Matthew 4:10). Jesus clearly revealed that God not only wants first place, but He must be the only Lord and God in our lives.

Why does the Lord not allow anyone or anything else to be god in our lives? Because not only has He created us and deserves that unique position, but He knows that anyone or anything else controlling our lives becomes our god – and eventually that god destroys us. In contrast David said, “Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 144:15).

Take Up Your Cross

If you think total commitment is only for those in Christian leadership, look closely at Scripture. Luke 14:25-27 says:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: “… Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow Me cannot be My disciple.”

Jesus is not saying we are to carry a literal cross around, but He is making it perfectly clear to the crowds that to be His disciple requires total commitment.

The disciples knew what Christ meant when He said:

If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me and for the gospel will save it (Mark 8:34,35).

Being well aware of Roman crucifixions, and of their context in the culture, they knew that Jesus was speaking of dying to self and of total commitment to Him.

Evaluating the Four C’s

There are acceptable and unacceptable types of commitment mentioned in the Bible. Which of the following four categories is most like your commitment?

Committed to Rebellion

Are you like King Ahab who, in outright rebellion against the Lord, did evil in His sight with no desire for repentance?

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him (1 Kings 16:29, 30).

Although Ahab was king of the northern tribes of Israel, he openly rebelled against God. Similarly, there are many who name the name of Jesus Christ outwardly, but according to God’s Word, their hearts are in outright rebellion in the way they live, the things they do and in their associations.

Committed – Sort Of

Do you serve the Lord halfheartedly like Amaziah, king of Judah?

Amaziah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Jehoaddin; she was from Jerusalem. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:1, 2).

Wholeheartedness matters to God.

Committed – Sporadically

Like Uzziah, king of Judah, when the Lord blessed him and he became powerful, he also became proud and turned away from the Lord.

Uzziah was sixteen years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-two years. … He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done. He sought God during the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God. As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the Lord his God… (2 Chronicles 26:3-5, 16).

Do you want to serve the Lord wholeheartedly, but have not maintained that commitment your whole life?

So far we have three types of commitment: those who live in outright rebellion and do evil before the Lord; those who only halfheartedly serve the Lord; and those who wholeheartedly serve the Lord, but only for a short duration. Will you run the race for two, or even twenty years, then get weary and fall away?

Wholeheartedly Committed

Or are you like Abraham, Moses, Caleb, Ruth, Elijah, Daniel, Paul, and many others who made their commitment to the Lord, and served Him wholeheartedly all the days of their lives? It is this kind of commitment that God desires from those who name the name of Jesus.

Consider the words David spoke to his son, Solomon:

And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever (1 Chronicles 28:9).

Do not serve the Lord halfheartedly all your life – or even wholeheartedly half your life. Instead, serve the Lord wholeheartedly all of your life!

Beautiful Waterfalls

I believe the old adage, “You are only as good as your word,” and I do everything possible to keep mine. If you make a commitment to Christ today and then next week you give up, then it really was not much of a commitment. A true commitment isn’t for just one day or one week, but the rest of your life. It isn’t just one or two hours on Sundays, but twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We should seek to live under His Lordship and glorify Him, not only when in church, reading our Bibles, praying or witnessing, but also when we are at home, at work, at school, engaged in sports or social activities, working out at the gym – anytime and anywhere.

When I was on a speaking tour in Tobago, in the West Indies, I learned there were two waterfalls on the island. One was an easy two or three minute walk. Although very nice, the other one was far more beautiful, but would require a 45-minute hike through streams, over stones and rocks, across slippery ledges, and through thick brush.

Having a few hours of free time, my ministry team decided to go with me on the longer excursion. The waterfall was awesome, forming three tiers of pools. When we swam in the cool and refreshing waters, it was like being in paradise.

Most people visiting Tobago avoid the more difficult way and are satisfied to see just the first falls. As one who is willing to pay the price for that which is truly worthwhile, I led the team into a breathtaking area, unsurpassed in beauty and serenity, rather than to settle for second best.

Too many people settle for convenient Christianity. But real blessing, power, and victory manifest in the lives of those totally committed to the Lord, with all their hearts. Believe me, it is well worth it!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition in book and E-book form. In a future newsletter we will discuss “Bridge Burning” as we continue this series.