Keeping Childlike Faith in Uncertain Times

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The other day my daughter asked me about what it means to have childlike faith. I responded by telling her that just as children trust their parents we, too, need to trust God. In other words, we must learn to walk by faith and not by sight. 

The very next day I was cleaning up after dinner thinking about all the decisions that my wife and I were facing and the challenges we had as a family. 

After four ankle surgeries, my oldest daughter was still having significant pain. What should we do? Should we consult another doctor and face the possibility of a fifth surgery?

My second oldest daughter was still dealing with post-concussion issues, even though a year had passed. Would she ever experience relief from her headaches? Would we have to go through another round of vision therapy? 

Then, the reality of all the medical bills with my daughters’ issues began to make me concerned. How would we pay for them?  

The difficulties in my personal life seemed to only intensify with the proliferating coronavirus and how it might impact our lives and nation. What if our community was put under mandatory quarantine? Did we have enough food and supplies? What would we do if one of us gets sick?   

While feeling completely overwhelmed with all these questions running through my mind, I looked out our kitchen window and saw my two youngest daughters on our trampoline playing with their Barbie dolls. In the midst of all that was going on in my life and the world, they were content and at peace. It was at that moment where God impressed on my heart what it means to have childlike faith. It did not mean I would go through life with no problems or challenges, but in the midst of them, like my children, I could still have peace and joy.  

Just as my children’s peace and joy rested in the fact that they knew my wife and I would take care of their needs, so too, we can have peace and joy knowing that our heavenly Father will also take care of our needs.

As our world continues to face the fear of the uncertainty of the coronavirus, and as we all face difficulties and challenges, may we live with a childlike faith in a God who is truly our refuge in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). 

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!

Using Our Time with An Eternal Perspective

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary and Joseph Were Good Parents

by Jim Weikal

Jesus’ mother Mary not only had the privilege of giving birth to the holy infant, but she and Joseph had the responsibility of instructing Him as He grew. They needed to know the Torah and Judaism to teach the maturing Jesus its divine commandments.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

This teaching process was more than transmitting information. It was more than sending Him to a religious school for someone else to instruct. It was a process of living a righteous life as an example. The circumstances of daily living were an opportunity to show the child how to live a God-honoring life.

Luke tells us that Jesus “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom” (2:40). A large part of His growth came from His parents (who were obedient to the law), as well as the teachers of Israel. We know He had a lot of questions for them at Jerusalem (Luke 2:46-47).

If you have children at home this Christmas season, make a commitment to teach them in the ways of the Lord “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In today’s culture, can you afford to do anything less?

The Issue of Love

by B. J. Rudge, Ph.D.

During family devotions, we have been looking at what it means to love. We found John chapter 13 to be an important passage. In this chapter Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, predicts His betrayal by Judas, then gives His disciples the following command:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34, 35).

How Would Your Neighbors Describe You?

As we talked about this verse, I asked my kids to describe the people who live in our neighborhood. They mentioned some neighbors who would do anything to help you out, and other neighbors who were not friendly or complained or caused problems. I then asked them how they thought our neighbors would describe us. Specifically, would they describe us as a family who showed love?

I explained that we should not be surprised to find differences in how we live from the way many of our neighbors live. In fact, we should not be surprised to find some neighbors who may not even like us because of our Christian faith (John 15:18-21). However, we would never want anyone in our neighborhood to describe us as a family who does not live out our love for God and for others (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

How might your neighbors, coworkers, etc. describe you? Would they describe you as a person (or family) who lives out God’s command to love one another? In a time when our world is full of hatred, hostility, violence and discord, let each of us be reflections of Christ-like love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

How Much God Loves Us

by Bill Rudge

Daily I get a glimpse of how much God must love each and every one of His children. The following are just a few examples using my 11 grandchildren to reveal my love and enjoyment of them and how much I miss them when I am not with them.

When my 18 year old granddaughter left for college in August or previously sang for a Memorial Day Program or church services before I spoke…

When my 16 year old grandson works out with me on the obstacle course and then hangs out with me after and gives bear hugs before leaving…

When my 15 year old granddaughter asks me to play catch with the football or play basketball with her…

When my 14 year old granddaughter shared her testimony and wrote a story about her papa or sang before I spoke at the Salvation Army…

When my 13 year old granddaughter cut her long beautiful hair and donated it for wigs for cancer patients or received a special award for kindness at school…

When my 11 year old grandson asks me to sit beside him in a hammock so we can “shoot the breeze” or walks the West Hill with me and his cousin, thrilled by the stories from my youth…

When my 8 year old granddaughter smiled angelically as she bowed with perfect form after performing at a piano recital or laughs while I fly her through the air during a blanket ride…

When my 7 year old granddaughter holds my hand and arm tightly while walking through a dark hallway or asks me to tell her a story as we go on another “Papa Adventure” from my childhood or walks on her hands while I hold her feet…

When my 5 year old granddaughter is carried by me upstairs to bandage her left knee after she cut it running to the jumpy house, or after spilling something smiles at me when she realizes she is not in trouble or when we swing together…

When my 4 year old granddaughter cuddles up to me and wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me lightly on the cheek as she says, “I love you papa” then curls up under my arm and falls asleep or talks to me about Jesus and the Bible…

When my 3 year old granddaughter giggles in my arms when I tell her to go down the slide or while putting her head under water in the pool or while going through the tickle tunnel…

These are just a few of the countless times I get a glimpse and am reminded of how much our Heavenly Father loves each of His children and receives joy from a close relationship with each one of us.

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.

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.

Purpose in the Midst of the Unknown

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the greatest questions that you will ask in life is, “Why am I here?” In other words, “What is the purpose of my life?” As Christians, we know that we have an eternal purpose. We have been given the task by Jesus to be His ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) – a task that calls us to be His representatives in sharing with others the truth of who He is and why He came. Despite our acknowledgment of this divine purpose, we often find ourselves facing challenges and trials that cause us to question why God is allowing us to go through them. Surely an all-powerful and all-loving God could bring about His plan in a different way, so “why” would He allow this to happen?

This very question was at the center of a conversation that I recently had with my 14-year old daughter, Moriah. She was going through a difficult time in her life. Besides having to deal with a concussion that prevented her from completing her first year of soccer at her school, she was also about to undergo a third surgery on her left ankle. For the past three+ years she had struggled with chronic pain and lack of mobility in her left ankle, which not only limited her physical activity but also impacted daily activities. Now she was weeks away from another surgery where she would be receiving a full bone fusion that would bring with it a long recovery process. Not knowing the final outcome of this procedure is why she chose to play soccer. Since running caused excruciating pain, she decided to play goalie. After weeks of hard training she was ready to play in her first game. But in the process of making a diving save, she hit her head on the ground and not only missed the next game, but the rest of the season. Although my daughter is not one who complains, the emotions of all of this eventually came weighing down on her. In a moment of exhaustion, she asked “why would God let this happen?”

As her father, I tried to reiterate to her that sometimes we do not always know specifically why, but this does not mean there is not a purpose. I shared with her how God could use these challenges in her life to help her grow in her faith and allow her to encourage others going through similar situations. These were the same words that my dad shared with me when I faced a similar ankle surgery around the same age. Remembering how I responded, I figured these words would also make sense to her sometime in the future. However, God showed me that He was working much faster in my daughter’s life than He did in my life.

A few days after my daughter and I had talked, my wife was emptying our trash. In my daughter’s trashcan, my wife found the rough draft of a letter that Moriah had written to Ryan Shazier. For those who do not know him, Ryan plays football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recently suffered a severe back injury. Below is just an excerpt of what my daughter wrote to Ryan:

Dear Ryan Shazier,

I wanted to let you know that I am praying for you every day and supporting you too. I know how it feels to go through a difficult time. I am going to be having a third ankle surgery because of a birth defect. It causes me to have a lot of pain when I do physical activity. So I have to pretty much rest and ice my ankle every night…  Sometimes we don’t know why God has us go through difficult times. My favorite singer, Tauren Wells, had helped me to understand more why God has me going through all of this. His song “God’s Not Done With You” reminds us though you might be going through something difficult God has a plan for us and he will use it to bless us and others…  Even though no one knows why you had to be the one to hurt your back, God knows and He will use it for the plans He has for you!  I will continue to pray for you and I hope you feel better soon!       

We will experience difficulties in our lives, but as we go through them, may we never forget that we serve a faithful God. A God who has a purpose in all that we face.

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me (Psalm 57:1, 2).