Living with Hope and Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 6

In the previous blog, I shared with you my seventh and eighth New Life Resolutions:  7) Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life; 8) While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me. Let us now examine the final two New Life Resolutions.

Resolution 9:  When I face difficulties and challenges, I will think of those who face daily persecution and have given their lives (martyrs) for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Since we live in a fallen world, all of us will experience pain and suffering. While we cannot avoid this, we can choose how we respond. Will we respond like the children of Israel who grumbled and complained, or will we respond with hope and joy? As Peter encouraged those Christians who were facing persecution,

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4)

A book that I recommend every Christian read is “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” It details the many men and women throughout history who have given their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ. Their commitment and love for Jesus in the midst of difficult challenges is truly inspiring. One such example is a girl named Mary who, along with her family, was given the choice to renounce her faith in Jesus or die. In their refusal to deny the very One who had given His life for them, they were all shot. Mary would be the only one who survived but would be paralyzed by the bullet that had severed her spinal cord. In response to this tragedy, she makes the following profound statement, “Everyone has a vocation. I can never marry or do any physical work. So I will offer my life to the Muslims, like the one who cut my father’s throat, stabbed my mother while cursing her and tried to kill me. My life will be a prayer for them.”

The lives of those who have faced persecution and even death have provided me with a resolve to approach the challenges in my life, which are much less, with the same faithfulness and trust. I have come to recognize that these challenges be opportunities for spiritual growth, to help encourage others in difficult times, and to show others that the God of the Bible is faithful. This life is but a moment in comparison to eternity and one day the pain and brokenness we experience will forever be wiped away:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying,

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them   He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:3, 4).

Resolution 10:  At my death my family and friends will rejoice over the life I have lived, and that I will have the ability to say with my final breath, “It is finished”; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I recently had to visit a friend who is facing terminal cancer. With only months to live, he shared with me how many regrets he has as he approaches death. Full of remorse for wasted time and making poor choices that have negatively impacted both his children and grandchildren, he is now trying his best to redeem what time he still has left.

Reflecting upon what my friend said made me want to have the resolve to not approach my death full of regrets. I want to live my life like Jesus who, not distracted by the insignificant things of this world, lived his life with resolve to fulfill the will of His Father. Thus, with no hesitation in His voice, He was able to say with His final breath on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). I also want to live my life like the Apostle Paul who, despite the obstacles in his life, took the Gospel to every corner of the Roman Empire. As a result, in the final letter he wrote to his dear friend Timothy he was able to say,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Conclusion

My prayer for all of you is that you will choose to live your lives with resolve. A resolve where you seek His glory, desire His presence, and live for eternity. Regardless of where you are in your journey with Jesus, remember these words:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

A Life Defined by Authenticity and Love

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 5

In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions:  5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.

Resolution 7:  Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.

In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.

This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.   Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

Resolution 8:  While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me.

We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).

Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.   If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Fitness Starts With God

by Darlinda McDonald

Joey Commisso – Lifelong Athlete

bill & joey

Friends, Bill and Joey

It is Joey Commisso’s commitment to Christ that drives his life and work. As he says, “Fitness starts with God. You can’t separate the physical from the spiritual.”

When a car accident severely damaged Commisso’s back and shoulders in October of 2000, he was instructed to stop running, jumping, and participating in most of the physical activities he enjoyed. After three years of doctor visits and physical therapy yielded no results, Commisso spent the next six months determining how to correctly work on his lower back to regain his mobility and active lifestyle. His quest for functional health and fitness had begun. It was the subsequent passing of his mother that sparked Joey’s desire to help others “because I couldn’t save the one I loved the most.” Following the advice of his wife, Patti, he started individual training in their basement which progressed to weekly classes.

As a follower of Christ, Joey understands that it is an act of worship to God to take care of our bodies. He emphasizes how the five “allies” of health (spiritual, mental, emotional, nutritional, and physical) work hand in hand to allow the individual to serve God to the fullest. Placing God first contributes to a strong mind, which promotes the emotional balance to make proper food choices. Consequently, physical health naturally takes care of itself.

Joey is often asked to speak and along with his expertise in health and fitness uses the opportunities to share his faith. He likes to pass out Bill Rudge’s books, Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ and Fasting for Sensitivity and Power in conjunction with his classes and presentations.

In Joey’s Words –

“When I moved from California in 1997, little did I know that I would meet Bill Rudge and form a friendship based on our common interests in Jesus Christ and physical training. My admiration for Bill’s commitment to keep his temple fit, even after he left the martial arts for his calling to ministry, deepened as Bill became a spiritual mentor.”

A Desire for God and His Word

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 4

In the previous blog, I shared with you my third and fourth New Life Resolutions:  3) Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.; 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.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions five and six.

Resolution 5:  Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life.

Growing up, soccer was a major part of my life. In fact, as I was moving into my senior year, I had scholarship offers by division 1 schools. However, a few weeks before my final high school season started, I tore a ligament in my knee at a soccer tournament. This event led me down a path of re-evaluating every aspect of my life. You can read the full story by going to our website and downloading the free e-book “Faith Through the Fire” (http://billrudge.org/store/e-books). One of the key lessons that I learned through this injury was that if I was going to be a Christian, I needed to serve God on His terms and not my own. In other words, I needed to completely yield my life over to Him (Matthew 16:24-26).

Being yielded to God means we must look to God, not ourselves or to the culture around us, as the final standard for our lives. Yet, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4, 5), this battle between personal autonomy and self-surrender to Jesus Christ continues to wage war within all of our souls. This is why I have made a conscious effort every day to look to God’s Word in setting the standards in how I live my life. As I do this, I fully recognize that I will face difficulties and challenges (2 Timothy 3:12); hence, my life will not reflect the patterns of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Being a person of resolve who is living His life to glorify His Lord and Savior, I must walk in obedience to His commands, even if I find myself walking alone. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).

Resolution 6:  Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.

The key to living my life in accordance to God’s standards means I must know Him, a knowledge that is not just intellectual but is personal and intimate. As in any relationship, the only way that this can occur is by spending time with God. In fact, it is in those moments of being on my knees in prayer and reading the Bible where I feel closest to God.

Many people often get preoccupied with doing things for God and neglect the importance of just spending time with Him. While it is vital to be actively serving the Lord through external action (doing), we cannot lose sight of the fact that we should also serve God with our heart (being). In other words, our level of faith should be more than just carrying out duties (serving others, giving tithes, etc.), it should ultimately evolve out of a love and passion for Jesus Christ. This is why I have made it a resolve to start and end every day in communion with God. In both good times and bad times, I want to have the daily DESIRE to spend time with God and know His Word. Let us all have a heart like David:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
(Psalm 63:1).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 7 and 8. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Using Our Time with An Eternal Perspective

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Change of Attitude, A Change of Heart

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making A New Life Resolution for 2019, part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

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

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

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

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

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

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