A Heart of Thankfulness

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Lucas Rudge, surrounded by his family.

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

I was reminded of the importance of having a heart of thankfulness when my father and I had a conversation about the birth of my son Lucas. When my wife, Tara, was pregnant with him, she was diagnosed with group B strep. We were told it was not serious, but it would require her to receive an antibiotic a few hours before Lucas would be born. My wife was somewhat concerned because with the previous pregnancy, our daughter was born within just a few hours. In light of this, she worried about making certain she could get the antibiotic prior to delivering our son. To ease her anxiety the doctor told Tara she would induce her so there would be no concern about getting the antibiotic. The day set for her to be induced was about a week before her actual due date, and other than the need for the antibiotic, my wife was progressing well. The doctor had no problem inducing a week early. Everything went well that day.

Tara took the antibiotic, and labor (at least from my standpoint) moved along smoothly. During the birth the doctor noticed the cord was wrapped around my son’s neck, and she quickly removed it. In the excitement of having another child, I didn’t think too much at the time about potential implications of the cord being around his neck. It was not until later, discussing this with my wife and my dad, that we all realized we could have lost Lucas. I truly believe that if my wife had not been induced a week early, my son might not be here today. I finally did what I should have done at the moment he was born – I got down on my knees and thanked the Lord!

When my son was born, it was a rainy and overcast day. However, at the moment he was born, the doctor commented how the sun suddenly came out and shone through the window. What a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness as He blessed our lives with our son Lucas (which, by the way, means “light bearer”). His birth date also was a blessing to my father. It was on that same date, July 5 – but decades prior – that his little brother, at age seven, was struck and killed by a car.

An Attitude of Contentment

When I was in Haiti as a youth, I witnessed both an amazing expression of gratitude and the demonstration of contentment. The mission compound where we stayed took food and water to a remote village once a week. This tiny village was extremely poor and the people had to walk miles to get water. As we approached, I was struck by two images: the first was of extreme poverty and the dire conditions in which the people lived. Their village was situated along a dirt path with minimal vegetation. The huts were made of dirt, straw, and what appeared to be old tin metal sheets. The children were running around naked and the adults were wearing tattered clothes.

Second, along with the extreme poverty, I was struck by the faces of the people as we entered the village. They began to smile and wave as they ran towards their huts. They came out wearing their best (old and worn-out) clothes as they headed to the one-room church that had been built near the mission compound. As we walked into the church they were singing a song. I asked our interpreter what they were singing, and he said, “They are thanking God for all He had given them.” I looked around and thought to myself, “What things?” These people had no houses, no cars, barely any food or clothes, and lived in a hot and extremely dusty environment. How could they be thankful?

Then I realized that a thankful heart does not focus on what it lacks but is content with, and grateful for, what it has. As the apostle Paul reminded the believers in Philippi:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

An attitude of contentment moves our focus from circumstance to our Source of Strength. It reminds us that we serve a God Who is greater than anything we face, and as the Psalmist reminds us, His greatness is the reason we can have a heart of thankfulness:

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord
is a great God and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:2, 3

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book, “Powerful and Effective Prayer.”

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).

Miracle Child (Lillian Grace)

by Tabitha Rudge Smith (and Florence Biros)

My husband and I were living in California and always wanted a big family. When we learned a third child was going to join us, we were so thrilled. I called the doctor and was told, “We would like to see you around 10 to 12 weeks in the pregnancy unless you have complications.”

I made my appointment to see the doctor for the first time, when I knew I would be able to hear my baby’s heartbeat. Besides, my morning sickness was so bad with this pregnancy that I couldn’t wait to see the doctor to get something to help alleviate it.
At the appointment, I saw a female doctor who tried to hear the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it. “Sometimes this early – around 10 weeks – the heartbeat is hard to hear. Instead, we’re going to do an ultrasound.”

How exciting, I thought, I can see my baby as well as hear it! That didn’t happen. When they did the ultrasound, the woman looked very solemn and said, “I’m very sorry. There is a pregnancy sac but it is empty.” Then she added, “There are no signs of life.”

I answered, “Well it is early and I could be off a few days.”

She looked at me and declared, “Well you’d have to be off at least 3 weeks.”

In my heart I knew I was not 3 weeks off of my cycle. Her next words cut me to the core, “Why don’t you go home and think about what you want to do – miscarry on your own or have a D&C?”

That weekend I had planned on going on a woman’s retreat. I didn’t feel like going. My husband suggested, “Why don’t you go to help keep your mind off all this?”

I went. By the second night of the retreat, I was so miserable from throwing up and crying that I had to leave during the evening message and run to the restroom.
A sweet, elderly lady asked sympathetically, “Do you have the flu?”

Do I tell her? I contemplated for a minute, then decided I didn’t feel like discussing it. Instead I told her, “I’m pregnant and having a terrible time with morning sickness.”

Taking my hand, she asked “May I pray for you?”

I just need to tell her that there is no baby. Why pray? I agreed, though. She continued to hold my hand and pray, asking God to take away my nausea, bless my pregnancy and then she placed her hand on my womb and said, “Lord, if there is something that needs to be in the womb that is not there, we ask you to place it there.”

At that moment I burst into tears and told her the whole story. She simply smiled, gave me a hug, then walked away.

A few days later I went to see the doctor who said, “I’ll schedule one more ultrasound before scheduling your D&C.” When she placed the ultrasound wand on my stomach, she seemed amazed. She not only heard the heartbeat, but saw a picture of our 11 week old baby in my belly.

We knew that God had performed a miracle and gave us our precious baby. She is now a beautiful, healthy 14-year-old who loves to tell her friends about Jesus.

Praise the Lord

by Karen Rudge

Two weeks before leaving for our Israel trip I was in a lot of pain and had the flu which went into bronchitis. I had a lot of ministry work to do before leaving and was praying I would be able to go. Many people were also praying for me. The Lord spoke to my heart to listen to praise music and praise Him.

It is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. (Psalm 147:1)

When I felt the most pain or sickness I would leave my office and go listen to praise music, pray and praise the Lord. The pain would lessen and I had enough energy to finish the work needed for that day. Praise the Lord! I was able to go to Israel with virtually no pain or sickness.

J. C. Penney was a business man who lost everything in the 1930’s to the Great Depression. He became ill and sank to such a low depression that he was admitted to the hospital. He felt he was going to die. Then one morning he heard singing coming from the hospital chapel. As he listened the words began to sink into his soul:

Be not dismayed whatever betide, God will take care of you; Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Instantly the darkness left him and he said there was a warm and brilliant sunlight. It was then he became a born again Christian. From that day on he never worried. He said the 20 minutes of the chapel songs were so glorious it changed his life. When he died at age 99 he left 1660 department stores in his name.

Praising the Lord can lift anyone out of a deep sorrow, sickness or anxiety:

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. (Psalm 149:3-5)

The Prayer of a Haitian Woman

by Bill Rudge

IMG_0009About a hundred people were gathered outside a witch doctor’s hut in Haiti in a voodoo village. We formed a large circle and were about to pray when one woman became very agitated.“You didn’t bring us food and clothing!” she cried out in Creole. Having nothing left since we had already given away the food and clothes my team had, I responded through my interpreter, “If I give you food today, tomorrow you will be hungry again. If I give you clothes today, in a few months they will wear out and be tattered and torn. But what I came to give you today will last forever. I offer you spiritual food that will satisfy you now and for all eternity.” She nodded to acknowledge that what I said was good.

During my prayer, I glanced to see if this woman was participating. Her head was bowed and her eyes were closed. The thirst of her heart was greater than her need for food and clothes.

Giving water to someone who is thirsty is admirable, but unless we also offer the life-quenching water of Jesus Christ, we deprive them of their most crucial need. If we give a bottle of water or food or clothes to someone in need, we should do so in Jesus’ name. While we should care about people’s material and physical well being, we should be even more concerned about the condition of their soul.

God Sees Our Potential

by Bill Rudge

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Michael and Bill

It was my first year of coaching soccer when I met Michael. Tryouts had just begun. As the skills of the new kids were being tested, we coaches gathered to observe. We were looking for raw talent – someone we could work with.

Then I spotted him. He was the heaviest and slowest kid on the field. None of the other coaches seemed interested, but I wanted him for my team because I saw potential in him. I wanted to train him and turn him into a great player.

The next two years our team won the championship, and Michael played a crucial role by putting into practice what we had trained him to do. He shut down the other teams’ offense. He used his great size to power kick the ball down the field and to take penalty and corner kicks. As a result, all the other coaches wanted him, and encouraged their “big” players to imitate him.

Michael went on to become an excellent wrestler and football player. He won the high school PIAA state heavyweight wrestling title in his senior year, and received a full football scholarship to the University of Buffalo. While there he became a standout in football. He was well respected and ranked nationally in wrestling, all the while maintaining dean’s list academic standards.

Michael now has a successful career in Pittsburgh, is married to a wonderful woman and has three beautiful daughters (all of whom have taken the challenge of the Obstacle Course at Bill Rudge Ministries). Michael and his mom attribute much of his success in sports and life to inspiration from the early influence I had on him – especially when the other coaches saw no potential.

Jesus Christ saw His disciples in this way. Although the growth of His Church did not depend solely on that group of ordinary people, their development was assured by the power of His Spirit and by His sovereign design. Jesus chose to begin His work with weak, sinful people who later turned the world upside down for Him. Jesus sees that same potential in each of us. Through the immeasurable power of His Word and His Spirit, He continually works in us to fulfill His purpose as we give our lives to Him and live by the principles of His Word.

The primary goals of the Bill Rudge Ministries are: 1) to evangelize a searching world with the life-changing Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) to challenge believers to reach their maximum potential in Christ – physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all, spiritually – and to walk in faithfulness until He returns.

You will discover in future blogs (and in a new and expanded book when this series is completed) the dynamic biblical principles that have transformed my life and molded my ministry. Jesus Christ can take an ordinary person and use him or her in an extraordinary way. That’s what He did with me, and with thousands of others who have accepted the challenge. As you apply these truths, you too, will begin to reach your maximum potential in Christ!

New and Expanded Book

One of our most popular books among athletes, military personnel, prisoners and missionaries is Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ. Thousands of copies of this powerful book have been requested and distributed nationally and worldwide.

Bill is updating and expanding Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ for its third printing in English. It has been translated in various languages and printed in several countries. Once completed it will also be available as an E-Book and possibly as an audio book.

The Sovereignty of God

Powerful and Effective Prayer

“The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:2

A good place to begin a powerful and effective prayer life is in realizing that we are, in every way, completely dependent upon God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego understood that their lives were under the control of a sovereign God. Consider their response to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, before he had them thrown into the fiery furnace:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).

Think on these verses which highlight the sovereignty of God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1).

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:6).

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9, 10).

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).

Once we acknowledge that God is sovereign we must place our trust in Him as it says in Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

The Importance of Communication

As in any relationship, trust is established through communication – the exact essence of what prayer is all about.

A friend of my family went through a very difficult divorce. From all appearances, it seemed everything was fine in his marriage. He and his wife were active in their church and home schooled their children. He was very vocal about his faith and was very intentional in sharing the Gospel at work. When I received news that he and his wife had divorced, I gave him a call. As we talked he said, “BJ, at some point in my marriage I became a stranger to my wife. I felt like a single parent raising my kids.” This man’s marriage was destroyed when he and his wife stopped communicating.

Our human relationship with God will never grow unless we spend time communicating with Him. It is during those moments on our knees when faith develops. I foster trust in God by utilizing a prayer journal to record prayer requests and write down spiritual lessons God has taught me. This journal has proven a great resource to remind me of God’s faithfulness. It is encouraging to reflect on past requests and see how God has responded to them. Sometimes God did not answer the request in the way I thought He would, nor in the time I wanted, but in each case I am reminded that I serve a God who listens and responds to the needs of His children (Psalm 34:17; Matthew 7:7; John 14:13-14; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15).

Some of the spiritual lessons God has taught me have come through times of trials and tribulation, others during times of prayer and fasting. Regardless of the situation, in each case it has been valuable to reflect upon what God has taught me through the years. I also jot down key verses that have given me strength, encouragement and direction through various times in my life. What a faithful God we serve!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

So then, the first principle in having a powerful and effective prayer life is trusting in the sovereignty of God. We are merely the vehicles which God uses to accomplish His sovereign will. Even in the uncertainties of life, we must realize, like Job, that we are dependent upon Him (Job 42:2-6).

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book Powerful and Effective Prayer.