Life Lessons

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Bill Rudge

I had just turned 25 when I started this ministry in 1977. In those early days, I was told by ministers, older than myself, that the years would pass quickly. They were right. The ministry will turn 40 at the beginning of next month. Over the years I have learned many important lessons through experience, observation and reflection. The wisdom gained is far more valuable than the wealth of this world.

In length of years, I have been given the opportunity to see several generations and have lived what feels like multiple “lifetimes”:

From being a middle child with four brothers and one sister to being a fitness and martial arts instructor; from being a rebellious teenager to becoming a committed Christian; from marrying Karen (I was 18 and she was 17) to the blessings a few years later of two children, followed by 11 grandchildren; from hitchhiking across the country to graduating from Bible college; from working as a youth pastor and training with Youth for Christ to starting this multi-faceted ministry; from producing radio broadcasts and writing books to traveling the world on adventurous missions and speaking engagements…and so much more.

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Path at Bill Rudge Ministries

Life experience and lessons have been plentiful. Some of the insights and wisdom gained along the way:

  • We are not here by random chance – we are, rather, a unique creation designed for a special purpose.
  • We may think we are the masters of our fates, but God is the determiner of our destinies.
  • Sometimes the Lord seems to “hideHis face and be shrouded in silence. But those who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him and discover His reality.
  • The wisest and most courageous decision I ever made was to give my life to Jesus Christ.
  • In spite of dangers and even life threatening circumstances over the years, the Lord has fulfilled His promise that my life would not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled.
  • His path is rarely easy – many times it takes us through rugged terrain, dark woods, deep valleys, barren deserts and isolated wildernesses – but He is always faithful and the obstacles really do make us stronger.
  • In God’s time and way all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
  • The Lord has been faithful in the past, therefore I can trust Him with my future.
  • When there seems to be no hope, I turn to the only One who can give hope.
  • More important than trying to change our circumstances is changing our attitude by trusting the Lord in the midst of them.
  • Honor the Lord in the valley and through the wilderness – when your trial or test is over you will be glad you trusted Him. Doubting and complaining are dead ends.
  • With God-infused determination and discipline, we can choose to never give up whatever the challenge.
  • Half-committed people are most miserable; those committed to Jesus Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength experience the abundant life (despite circumstances).
  • The four most important things in life are faith, family, friends and fitness.
  • Building my life and ministry on Scripture, with the leading of His Spirit, and desiring to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life, along with fasting and prayer when facing life’s impossibilities, have resulted in amazing victories.
  • Handing over our lives, time, money, families and dreams allows God to give them back many times over in unexpected ways.
  • Surrounding ourselves with those who are positive and encouraging inspires us to strive for excellence.
  • Spending time with children and grandchildren blesses them, but blesses us even more.
  • Live in such a way that when we depart this life we leave a legacy of love, faith and integrity.
  • We must rise above the waves of “garbage” (verbal assaults…) that come against us in our lives or they will drown us.
  • Sometimes you must stand up and defend your integrity; other times the best solution is to let the Lord fight your battle. Pray for discernment.
  • Be quick to forgive those who wrong you and love those who despise you – for Christ has forgiven you.
  • If we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, He will exalt us in due time; those who exalt themselves before others will eventually be humbled.
  • You can willingly choose to change your diet and lifestyle now, or one day you may be forced to with little or no choice.
  • The longer we walk the path of poor health principles the farther the road back to regain our health.
  • Fear (reverence) God, keep His commandments and live by biblical health principles – they will be life to your spirit and health to your body and mind.
  • At the beginning of every new decade I review my nutritional protocol and get even more disciplined to compensate for the aging process and to maintain my energy and vitality for the next 10 years.
  • The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.
  • So much of life is wasted on worry, fear, doubt, impatience, complaining, jealousy, envy, bitterness, revenge, lust and greed. How much better to develop the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Be a wise steward of your family, funds, time and talents. All believers in Jesus Christ will one day give an account of how we used the resources entrusted to our care.
  • It is better to give than to horde. Never sell or merchandise the Gospel because it was freely given.
  • Courage is not the lack of fear, but standing our ground in spite of it.
  • Faith is not the absence of doubt, but rather trusting the Lord in spite of it.
  • It is not the “giants” that defeat us but our fear of them.
  • Failure is not when we fall, but when we lay there and give up in defeat. Christ’s grace is sufficient for all our failures.
  • Spending time on our knees before the Lord enables us to stand before anyone and in any situation.
  • Be slow to speak and quick to listen – keep your mouth shut when appropriate and you will stay out of trouble.
  • Look beyond what someone says or does and consider the motives of why they said what they said or did what they did.
  • Do not envy what someone else has or does – materialism and success never truly satisfy and soon fade like spring flowers.
  • We cannot be experts in everything. The wise surround themselves with trustworthy people who are skilled in areas of need and then delegate responsibility to them.
  • Remember those who have helped us along life’s journey. Remember to thank them.
  • The key to many of the successes experienced in my life and ministry can be directly traced to faithful prayer intercessors and ministry supporters behind the scenes.
  • An attitude of gratitude multiplies happiness; it changes our focus from fretting over what we do not have to appreciating all we do have.
  • Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior means never having to fear standing before Him as Judge.
  • Do not attempt to manipulate God into what you want or think He should be, but discover Who He is by His Word and Spirit and what He requires of you.
  • Instead of determining what we want God’s will to be for our lives (and seeking to coerce Him to fulfill it), let us desire His will, unwavering in our commitment to accomplish it. In the end, our lives will far exceed what we could ever think or imagine.
  • I have met many who, in the face of death, were remorseful for wasted years, but none at the end of their lives who regretted serving Jesus Christ.
  • Live every day as though it were your last day on this planet. One day it will be.
  • Always be prepared to meet your Maker. Many who plan to get right with God later die in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
  • What we see is temporal but what we cannot see is eternal. The study of biblical prophecy provides hope for the future, creates anticipation of the Lord’s return and instills a desire for Christ’s eternal kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy.

There are many more wonderful truths the Lord has taught me by His Word and Spirit. It is an exciting lifetime quest to know Him and learn His ways.

 

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 4

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we conclude our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Building Confidence and Courage

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photo by Bill Rudge

One of the great challenges leaders face is encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fears. Joshua and Caleb faced this situation when Moses sent them, and 10 others, to spy out the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God’s promise and believed He would enable them to conquer a land filled with giants and fortified cities (Numbers 14:6-9).

Following the death of Moses, Joshua was called by God for a monumental task – to lead the children of Israel into the land He had promised. In his new role as leader, Joshua empowered the Israelites with confidence and courage. How did he do this? Joshua already knew his strength came from God. He trusted the One who spoke to him the following words:

Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:2, 5-6).

Joshua did not let anyone or anything distract or deter him from obeying God. He decisively commanded the officers of the Israelites to prepare to take possession of the land:

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” (Joshua 1:10, 11).

Joshua’s confidence, courage and zeal for the LORD inspired the Israelites:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

Trusting God and stepping out in faith not only enables us to be men and women of confidence and courage, but to ignite these attributes in others.

As a coach I remind my players of their past successes, give examples of others who have been successful, provide encouragement (but not flattery), and recite their value and importance both as individuals and team members.

Counting the Cost

Leadership requires sacrifice – time, family, convenience and so on. At the same time it is crucial to create a balance in your life to avoid burn-out and provide essential time for personal growth and time with your family.

Leadership brings greater expectations and accountability. You are held to a higher standard because of a greater influential position. You become a bigger target in the spiritual battle that rages around us (Ephesians 6:12). We have an adversary who, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour every follower of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows that by attacking and destroying those in leadership, he can wreak havoc. Therefore, we are vigilant every day; putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and steeping our minds in prayer to avoid the schemes of our enemy.

A good friend of the family, Douglas Mastriano, is a colonel in the U.S. Army. In 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. In conversation about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation, Doug told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation:

The training put an incredibly difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were ready for it.

Colonel Mastriano and his men were ready because of what they did to prepare. That not one man was killed in his squadron, Doug correctly attributes also, to the power of prayer. So, too, if we want to be effective leaders, we must be like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment: count the cost, prepare for what is required to accomplish what we are called to do, and saturate everything in prayer.

Providing Hope

Everyone deals with trials and adversity. Effective leaders help others find hope in this journey of life and look beyond the current circumstance to see the bigger picture.

One year I was coaching a talented team that was struggling with playing up to their potential. After losing a few games, they began to lose confidence and the hope that they could turn their season around. So at practice one day I told them about my children taking a pottery class.

The first day they were each given a lump of useless clay. The teacher said this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. That is exactly what happened as each of my children molded their lump of clay into a vase which, despite a few imperfections, still sit on display in our house. I told my players that while we may not be where we want to be, we needed to keep moving forward because just like that lump of clay, our team too can become a beautiful vase.

To instill hope in others, leadership requires perseverance and forward movement. I witnessed an amazing example of this during a high school soccer game against a regional opponent. It was an important game because both teams were undefeated and tied for first place. As the game began, it became obvious our team was the better. We kept the ball on the other team’s half as we took shot after shot, and at the same time, prevented them from scoring. In the end, we won 9 to 0.

While my players provided many great moments in the game, the greatest impact was made by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. As I watched her warm up, I was impressed with her work ethic. But what especially caught my attention was how she dealt with a prosthetic leg. (After the game we learned she had lost her leg about two years earlier in a boating accident.) While I respected this girl, I wondered how she would be able to play goalkeeper. In all my years playing and coaching soccer I had never seen anyone play soccer with a prosthetic leg.

I quickly realized that what I perceived as a “limitation” for this girl was, in fact, a driving force to do something that I am sure many people told her she could never do. Here was a teenager who had every excuse to stay off the field, but instead chose to persevere regardless of the loss of her leg. What impressed me even more than the fact she played, was how she played. She did everything a goalkeeper should do: dive, catch, punt, and communicate with her teammates.

As our team began to score, putting constant pressure on the opposing team’s defense, it was clear we were going to win the game but their goalie never stopped working hard. She kept encouraging her teammates, and got back up every time she dove for a ball. At one point she made an awesome diving save that caused her prosthetic leg to come loose. Without any drama, she hobbled over to the bench, adjusted the leg and came right back out like nothing happened. Until the final whistle, she continued to give everything she could for her team. She was a true inspiration to everyone at the game and a wonderful example of perseverance.

Just like this goalie, effective leadership doesn’t make excuses. Leaders persevere through difficult times and provide encouragement and hope for those around them. The type of people God is looking for are those who, in the midst of life’s challenges, place their faith and trust in Him. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).

Inspiring Others

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is an external influence while inspiration comes from within.

In my early coaching days I was taught the best way to motivate athletes was in using fear or reward. I often said, “If you don’t work hard today you’ll have to run sprints; if you do work hard, no sprints after practice.” However, trying to motivate my players through the threat/reward method resulted in having to repeatedly do so, and I eventually realized I was not getting their best efforts.

By contrast, inspiring players develops within them an internal love and passion for, and joy in, the game. This in turn dramatically impacts their overall effort as well as their ability to inspire those around them. But how is this accomplished? The following are a few ways I use to inspire my athletes:

I remind them of their roots. I began taking my seniors to our local YMCA, because it is the place that our high school program held its first game. I tell them what sacrifices were made and how far our program has come, and remind them that they need to remember the tradition they are part of and to consider what legacy they want to leave.

I share personal memories and experiences – This field was the first place I ever played a game of soccer. When I first started at age six, I played for love of the game. My focus was more on playing and scoring, rather than winning, because I enjoyed it. I encourage my team to remember the excitement they had when they first played; to never lose the love and joy they had back then.

I build a sense of community. Each member is essential in working together for the common good. To illustrate this, we have chosen the redwood tree as a symbol worn on our practice shirts. Redwoods have shallow roots, despite their extreme height, and to withstand the wind, their roots interconnect with the roots of the surrounding redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it is not just blowing against one tree, but against a forest!

Finally, I invest in their lives. I demonstrate in word and action that the purpose of our program goes beyond winning; it is to help build character into their lives.

The previous points are steps my coaching staff and I employ to inspire our athletes, which has enabled us to build a reputable and successful program. It has also allowed us to make a difference in their lives. A graduating player invited me to attend a banquet for being an influence in her life. She gave me a special frame with the following quote by Bob Nelson:

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.

The apostle Paul was an effective leader because he inspired others through his example. He told them to follow him as he followed the Lord Jesus Christ. His words to the church at Rome should resonate with all of us:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

What Then?

We desperately need effective and godly leaders today. Godly and effective leadership come through having a humble spirit, communicating effectively, possessing conviction, seeking wise counsel, building confidence and courage in others, counting the cost, offering hope in difficult times, and inspiring others. Those who lead in this manner will have a far-reaching impact for God and will be a blessing to others:

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

 

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 3

“Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we continue our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Show Humility

Humility may be the key characteristic God looks for in choosing a leader.

But this is the one to whom I will look [esteem]: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word (Isaiah 66:2).

When I choose captains for my soccer team, I emphasize that an attitude of humility is essential if they want to be effective leaders. They must put the needs of their teammates ahead of their own. Their influence on the team is most evident when they embrace “servant leadership.”

This is the exact view of leadership we find in the Bible. Contrary to being arrogant and boastful, God calls us to an attitude of humility. Jesus, Himself, provides the greatest example. Although God incarnate, Jesus willingly humbled Himself to provide salvation. As the apostle Paul admonishes:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:5-8).

Jesus’ humility is clearly demonstrated as He washes His disciples feet (John 13:12-17). Although the washing of feet was typically carried out by the lowest of slaves, Jesus performed this action to show His disciples that true leadership, love and strength are demonstrated when we serve others – not the other way around. Great leaders lead through humble service:

And Jesus called them [disciples] to Him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

Communicate Effectively

Nehemiah was given the task of returning to Jerusalem – which had been destroyed by the Babylonians – and rebuilding the walls of the city. After inspecting the walls, he clearly communicated to the Israelites the plans God had laid on his heart for Jerusalem:

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer derision.” And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work (Nehemiah 2:17, 18).

As with Nehemiah, effective communication begins in laying out the vision. Vision states the purpose of why we are doing what we are doing. As a coach I understand how vital this is to build a soccer program. I know what I want to accomplish (win our region and district), but I need to go deeper and identify the why. Doing this allows my coaches and players and myself, to identify who we are as a team and why we exist as a program. The purpose statement for our program:

… is to inspire our athletes towards excellence by fostering an environment that seeks to instill conviction, passion, confidence and authentic relationships among the players.

Along with defined vision, effective communication requires a leader to set expectations, address conflicts, listen, empathize with others and be honest; saying what others may not want, but need, to hear.

A prominent church in our area suffered through the experience of poor communication. When the congregation was provided no information as to why a pastor was fired, the firestorm of rumors ensued, eventually leading to a split. The unfortunate result could have been avoided, or at least minimized, had the leadership provided proper communication.

[On a side note, great leaders respect confidentiality and do not engage in gossip and slander. As it says in Proverbs 20:19: A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.]

Possess Conviction

Daniel embodied this quality. Daniel was one of the Jews taken exile into Babylon following the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Over the passage of time he was elevated in status from captive to ruler of the entire province of Babylon and chief over all the wise men (Daniel 2:48). Later, when the Medes and Persians destroyed Babylon, Daniel was again promoted to a position of prominence (Daniel 6:1-3). God was able to use Daniel in positions of great influence in his pagan world because Daniel was a man of conviction. In fact, he lived such a life of integrity that when the other advisors became jealous, they could not find any charge to bring against him, except in relation to the God he served:

Then the high officials and the satraps sought to find a ground for complaint against Daniel with regard to the kingdom but they could find no ground for complaint or any fault, because he was faithful, and no error or fault was found in him. Then these men said, “We shall not find any ground for complaint against this Daniel unless we find it in connection with the law of his God (Daniel 6:4, 5).

Like Daniel, people of conviction possess unwavering commitment. They know what they believe and why they believe it. They live by what they say and hold themselves accountable when they fail. They display courage as they choose to stand for what they know to be right, even if that means standing alone.

In addition to being unwavering in commitment, being authentic, and displaying courage, leaders of conviction create safeguards in their lives. The importance of this came to mind when I read the inspiring story of Charlotte Brown. In the spring of 2015, she won the bronze medal for pole vault in the state of Texas. While winning a state medal is a great accomplishment, this is not what caught my attention. Charlotte ran down the over 130 feet runway, carrying a pole about 10 feet in length, and vaulted over 11 feet in the air to win the medal – all while being blind.

Brown had to count her steps and incorporate a beeper to tell her when to plant the pole. Without these safeguards in place she would not have known where she was on the runway, which in turn would have prevented her from successfully making the vault. So, too, if we want to be leaders of conviction, we need to create safeguards that provide guidance and direction. The Word of God, prayer, and input from other believers (mentors) are some of the safeguards that can keep us on the right path.

Leaders of conviction are the exception in a day defined by compromise. But when we choose to live faithful and upright lives before God we will find ourselves, just like Daniel, being used by God in powerful ways.

Seek Wise Counsel

There is a Proverb in the Bible that says:

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisors they succeed (Proverbs 15:22).

I have applied this proverb to my coaching program. When I first took over, I realized that to make the program successful, I needed to surrounded myself with people who had the same goals and vision and principles I did. I am grateful for assistant coaches and others who help provide support, counsel, insight and guidance.

Good leaders recognize the importance of having others in their lives to provide them with encouragement and edification. They understand that as “iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). Each of us should have at least one person in our lives who cares enough to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged, gently rebuke us when we need correction and provide godly wisdom as we make decisions.

If we want to be good and effective leaders, we should seek out men and women whose lives have been defined by a consistent walk with God; people, like the apostle Paul, who are examples of what it means to walk in the Lord’s will (Philippians 3:17). Let us ask that God will not only raise up a “Paul” in our lives, but also that we can be a “Paul” in the life of someone else! As the apostle Paul declared to the believers at Philippi:

The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).

Next month we will conclude this series on Biblical Leadership as we will examine additional qualities of successful leaders.

 

The Standard of Leadership

by Bill Rudge

Speaking at a pastor’s conference I asked, “How many of you believe in God? How many of you truly believe the Bible is God’s Word? How many of you really believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead? Enthusiastic affirmation followed each question.

“Then live like you believe it.” I said. “If you really believe in God and Jesus Christ and that the Bible is God’s Word, it should affect every aspect of your life. It should influence the way you live, what you say and what you do!” Sadly, however, the words, beliefs and behavior of many believers and Christian leaders today indicate they do not really believe what they profess.

Repeatedly falling into immorality and harboring secret sins or addictions not only violate scriptural guidelines but disqualifies one for leadership in the body of Christ. While God forgives as Scripture promises: “If anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1), every Christian leader needs to review 1 Timothy 3:1-12 and Titus 1:6-9.

God holds leaders to a higher standard. James 3:1 cautions: “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.” If we assume leadership positions then we must also accept the responsibilities that go with them – as well as the consequences if we fail. True repentance and the fruit of genuine repentance should be visible before restoration to leadership in the body of Christ.

The focus and ultimate goal of every Christian leader’s life and ministry should be, with the help of God’s Spirit, to be conformed to the image (likeness) of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

Christmas is the Season for Reason

by Bill Rudge

Atheists have altered the popular Christian slogan, “Jesus is the reason for the season” to “Christmas is the season for reason.” I have no problem with their modified version because “reason” and evidence are why I put my faith in Jesus Christ.

A Wise Decision

Without a doubt, Jesus of Nazareth is the most unique individual who ever lived. No one before and no one after has influenced history as greatly as He has. This alone should motivate anyone to know more about Him. Jesus stands high above the greatest of religious leaders and is in a category all by Himself. We have unsurpassed proof that He is the promised Messiah, God incarnate and Savior of the world.

Acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is not a blind leap of faith in the dark, but a wise and reasonable decision. Check out the facts: Facts are validated by history, archaeology, prophecy and science. They speak loud and clear; the evidence is compelling. Jesus’ credibility is sound; His claims are true.

Let’s pray that the atheist, agnostic and skeptic will discard bias and prejudice, humble their pride, honestly examine the evidence, wisely acknowledge the truth of the Christmas message, develop the courage to resist the pressure of their peers and sincerely surrender their lives to Jesus Christ. He is the One who created them and was born to die for them. Then their slogan will be proven to be true: “Christmas is the season for reason.”

Those who come with an open heart, sincerely seeking the God Who created them, will find Him.

Many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book [Gospel of John]; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name (John 20:30, 31).

 

A Biblical Understanding of Government, part 2

Function of Government

What purpose has God ordained for governments? The primary purpose God has ordained for governments is to uphold righteous laws. In essence, government officials are to be ministers of God to promote good and prevent evil:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil (Romans 13:3, 4).

Unfortunately, many governments do the exact opposite. They not only promote unrighteousness and evil, but they punish those who do good. What are Christians suppose to do when they find themselves living under these conditions. While we already saw that we are called to submit to those in authority, even when facing persecution (1 Peter 2:15-17), our ultimate allegiance belongs to God. Thus, when government officials mandate us to go contrary to the commands of God, then as Peter and the apostles proclaimed to the Jewish religious authorities,

“We must obey God rather than man” (Acts 5:29).

Throughout Scripture, we find numerous examples of people who had to do this very thing, even with the threat of being punished and facing death (Exodus 1:15-22; 1 Kings 18:3, 4; Daniel 6:4-10; Acts 4:19, 20).

It should be noted that civil disobedience against unrighteous governments should never be carried out with violence. Rather, we should accept the consequences that may come our way when we disobey government laws or commands that are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands. In the words of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,

“O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18).

What should we be doing in preparing for an election?

As we approach an election, we should be doing three things: Pray, Repent and Vote. Commit special time in prayer and ask for God’s blessing, as well as His will to be done. We should pray for God to raise leaders who will fulfill their role in promoting righteous and just laws. Let us all be a modern day Hezekiah, Daniel and Esther who, through their prayers and fasting to God, changed the course of events (2 Kings 19; Daniel 9; Esther 4:15, 16). Let us never minimize what God can do through the faithful and righteous prayers of His saints,

“The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16b).

Second, we need to all evaluate our lives and repent of any choices that we are making which go contrary to God’s holiness. As Peter says, judgment begins with us (1 Peter 4:17). Thus, we need to stop pointing the finger at the world around us, and evaluate our effectiveness in being salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We must stop living by the standards of the world, and with courage and conviction live holy and upright lives (1 Peter 1:15, 16).

Also, just as we need godly political leaders, we need godly spiritual leaders. We need pastors and church leaders who will not seek to entertain masses with shallow messages (2 Timothy 4:3, 4), but will unashamedly use their pulpits to proclaim the full counsel of God’s Word (Romans 1:16; 1 Timothy 4:2).

The hope of our nation goes beyond an election. Like the ancient city of Nineveh, our only hope rests in seeking the forgiveness of a gracious and merciful God (Jonah 3:6-10). While Solomon spoke these words to the nation of Israel, they still remind us of the power of humbling ourselves before the Creator of this world:

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).

Finally, we need to go out and vote. We need to be responsible Christians and Americans and fulfill our duty to be part of the election process. Yes, this will require us to vote for candidates who are not perfect, and in many cases do not reflect all the values that we uphold. However, with a clear conscience before God, we need to be diligent in selecting those individuals whose policies best reflect the values of our Constitution and the Word of God. Remember the greatest responsibility that a government has is to promote righteousness and deter evil. When you pull that lever ask yourself who will best fulfill this God-given mandate. The stakes are too high for our nation to not do this,

“When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan” (Proverbs 29:2).

Conclusion

Regardless of what may happen on Election Day, may all Christians proclaim the greatness of our God:

Let the whole world fear the Lord, and let everyone stand in awe of Him. For when He spoke, the world began! It appeared at His command. The Lord frustrates the plans of the nations and thwarts all their schemes. But the Lord’s plans stand firm forever; His intentions can never be shaken. What joy for the nation whose God is the Lord, whose people He has chosen as His inheritance (Psalm 33:8-12).

A Biblical Understanding of Government, part 1

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This past presidential election left many Christians feeling overwhelmed. Not only were they divided over whom to vote for, many did not even know if they should vote at all. Due to this confusion, I would like to provide a basic understanding about what the Bible teaches on the topic of government. Specifically, I will discuss God’s role in the political process, our responsibility toward governing authorities, the function God has set aside for governments, and what we should do as we approach an election.

With the presidential election quickly approaching, many Christians I meet are feeling overwhelmed. Not only are many divided over whom to vote for, many do not even know if they should even vote at all. As this momentous day for America draws closer, I want to provide a basic understanding on what the Bible has to teach on the topic of government. Specifically, we are going to discuss God’s role in the political process, our responsibility toward governing authorities, the function God has set aside for governments, and what we should be doing as we approach this next election.

God is sovereign

With each election comes warnings of voter fraud. Depending on which side of the political fence you are on, voter fraud is either a real threat to the election process, or a made-up myth by people prone to conspiracy theories. While I will leave it up to each of you to decide where you want to stand on the issue of voter fraud, one issue that is not up to debate is the fact that God is sovereign over all nations. This truth is clearly stated in the following Psalm,

“Let the whole world sing for joy, because You govern the nations with justice and guide the people of the whole world.” (Psalm 67:4).

This truth is also taught in Psalms 83. This Psalm, which is a prayer to God about nations who were conspiring to destroy Israel, ends with these powerful words, “Then they will learn that You alone are called the LORD, that You alone are the Most High, supreme over all the earth (Psalm 83:18). Throughout Scripture, God is consistently recognized as being sovereign over the entire world (see 2 Chronicles 20:6; Psalm 22:28; 103:19; 135:6; Proverbs 21:1).  In the words of Job,

“He makes nations great, and He destroys them; He enlarges nations, and leads them away” (Job 12:23).

As the King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Timothy 6:15), all human governments derive their authority from God Himself. As Paul told the believers in Rome,

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God” (Romans 13:1).

We must remember that it is God who removes kings and raises them up (Daniel 2:21). In the words of Nebuchadnezzar,

“His rule is everlasting, and His kingdom is eternal. All the people of the earth are nothing compared to Him. He does as He pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth” (Daniel 4:34, 35).

So regardless of whether or not there is voter fraud, God’s plan in any election will come to pass:

“Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God!  I am God, and there is none like me.  Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish” (Isaiah 46:9, 10).

Our Responsibility

Since God is sovereign over all governing authorities, does this mean that we can just sit back and do nothing. Absolutely not! First, as Christians we need to be praying for all elected officials. Regardless of their positions and hostility to the Christian faith, we need to pray that they will use their power to promote righteous laws and that they will come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. As Paul writes to his dear friend Timothy,

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

Second, we need to financially support those in power. As much as we hate paying taxes, it is another responsibility that we have as followers of Jesus Christ (Romans 13:6, 7). When the Herodians and Pharisees tried to trap Jesus with the question of paying taxes to the Roman government, He gave the following response. Keep in mind that at issue was the poll tax, which was an annual fee of one denarius per person. Of all the Roman taxes the Jews hated this tax the most because it carried the connotation that the Romans owned them and their land:

Now tell us what You think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?  ”But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” He said. “Why are you trying to trap me?  Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”  “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Matthew 22:17-21).

Finally, we are called to submit to those in authority:

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities” (Romans 13:1; see also Titus 3:1).

Paul goes on to explain that since God is the one who ordained governments, disobedience against those in authority is in essence disobedience to Him (Romans 13:1b-2). Thus, for conscience sake before God, we should submit to those in authority. Also, Paul notes that we should submit to avoid punishment that comes from civil disobedience (Romans 13:3-5).

Peter also taught this concept of submission to governments. As he states in his first epistle,

“For the Lord’s sake, respect all human authority—whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13, 14).

This statement is profound when you consider that the Roman Emperor at the time was Nero. It was under his reign that Christians were viciously persecuted. Yet, despite facing persecution, Peter recognized that their submission to the Roman authorities would silence those who criticized the Christian faith (1 Peter 2:15-17).

So, as Christians, we need to pray, support and submit to those in authority. However, what do we do when the government calls us to disobey God? We shall examine that issue in the next section.