by Bill Rudge
“Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it .” Matthew 16:25
What do coming to Christ and a call to ministry have in common with the triumphal entry, the crucifixion and the resurrection?
When someone gives their life to Jesus Christ there is usually great excitement. There is also incredible joy when someone is called by the Lord to go on the mission field or begin a ministry – work with youth, lead a Bible study, do street ministry, start a prison outreach and so on.
The people rejoiced at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on what we commemorate as Palm Sunday. They were confident of the impending blessing and victory over their enemies. They anticipated going right from the triumphal entry to the establishment of the messianic kingdom. However, something unexpected – even though Jesus foretold it several times – followed shortly after the elation of the triumphal entry. It was Jesus’ crucifixion.
This same Jesus who informed His disciples of His crucifixion, also told about a crucifixion that will happen to all who follow Him:
If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24, 25).
There is implied in Jesus’ command to take up one’s cross and follow Him, a crucifixion that is to take place in the life of every believer. The apostle Paul knew the reality of this crucifixion for he wrote in his letter to the Galatians:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me (Galatians 2:20).
Believers’ crucifixion experiences are designed to remove pride, greed and anything else that hinders our relationship with God. They are intended to refine us like pure gold through the fire and burn out the lusts of the flesh. Their purpose is to enable us to overcome the lure of the world and temptation by the enemy. They are to teach us full surrender and total commitment. They are to train us to persevere in faith through trials and hardships. They are to mold and conform our lives to the likeness of Jesus Christ and bear much fruit for His glory.
Paul stated in Philippians 3:10:
I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like him in His death.
Just as Jesus’ story did not end at the crucifixion, neither does our saga with the Lord terminate at our crucifixion. Following Jesus’ crucifixion came the glorious resurrection. And after our crucifixion comes an amazing transformation. The dying to self will result in the resurrection of His goals, dreams, vision and desires in our hearts and ministries. As we lay down our lives for the sake of the Gospel, we will be infused with Jesus’ resurrection power.
In summary, the following pattern will be observed in the life and ministry of virtually every believer. First, the triumphal entry – the initial excitement and joy of coming to Christ and being called by Him to some aspect of ministry or mission. Next, the crucifixion – total surrender and the refining fire of obstacles and opposition. Then, the resurrection – tremendous blessing and victory for those who faithfully serve Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter wrote:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed (1 Peter 4:12, 13).
Maybe you are in the midst of a crucifixion experience right now. You may feel hopeless and the adverse circumstances seem never ending. Do not give up or lose heart but stand strong in your faith. The Lord is faithful. Soon His resurrection power will deliver you and transform your life to accomplish His purpose. Apparent defeat will give way to ultimate victory.
Great joy and rejoicing are just beyond the horizon. Your present valley and wilderness will lead the way to a mountaintop and oasis of wonderful blessing.
The apostle Paul confidently stated:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
No one is immune from the tragedies of life.
This year, our community mourned the death of two high school students and came together in support for two more that were in critical condition after a severe traffic accident while on their way to a Young Life meeting. These four girls were well known, much loved and touched many lives. My family knew these girls and, being the high school girls’ soccer coach, I used to coach one of the girls who died.
As I spent time at the school talking with faculty and students, I was encouraged and comforted to see everyone come together. It is in moments like these where we learn the most valuable life lessons and are reminded of the importance of community. Not only do we need the support and love of others, but we also need to return that love and support. We need to bear each other’s burdens.
Along with the idea of community, I am reminded of the importance of being intentional with loved ones: to never walk away angry, or let the sun go down without letting them know how much they are loved; to live each moment with appreciation for the time that we have with our family and friends. Life can truly change in a moment, so we all need to let others know with our words and actions, how much they mean to us.
Through this tragedy I am also reminded of how important it is to live with purpose. Watching the students flow into the room set aside for them to come and grieve, I was overwhelmed to hear stories of how their lives have been enriched in knowing the girls who had died. These remarkable young ladies were taken from us too early, but they are remembered through those impacted with their kind words and their positive actions.
From the love and support displayed by the faculty, students and the surrounding schools and communities, I saw God working in and through each one of us. As in any tragedy, the WHY tends to knock us off our feet, but the WHO enables us to stand back up. Though our understanding may be shaken, our faith in Jesus Christ will not be destroyed. His loving arms embrace us and bring comfort and hope in our times of pain and sorrow.
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).
Looking for Light in the Darkness
In the weeks following the accident, many questions arose as the community tried to make sense of, and find purpose in, their pain and sorrow. In fact, life-tragedies often cause us to feel the impossibility of walking through the brokenness of a situation while overwhelmed with hopelessness and despair.
When I was in college my soccer coach took our team into a cold, wet cave. We had an easy time navigating it until Coach told us to turn off our flashlights and find our way out. What had seemed easy before, became difficult as we repeatedly hit our heads on the cave walls while desperately seeking the exit. Finally, our coach told one of us to turn on a flashlight. The darkness vanished instantly. While the light did not show us the exit, it did reveal the direction in which to go as we made our way slowly forward towards the brightness of sunshine just outside the cave.
To those facing tragedy, the challenge is in trying to find our way out of the dark cave of loss. There is a light that can guide us through the darkness of confusion and pain. The girls who died both knew the Source of this light, for each had given her life to Jesus Christ. Because they looked to Him, their lives continue to shine brightly as a reminder of the ONE that we all can look to: the One who can heal our broken hearts and strengthen our weary souls.
This same Jesus is ready to give light for us all. He hears our cries. He is ready to embrace us in His loving arms and help us move forward through brokenness and pain. While this process may never be fully completed in this life, we have the sure hope that He will one day guide us to that exit to be fully embraced by the true Source of light that awaits us at the end. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, we can know the certainty of a future where He will wipe away all tears; where there will be no more death, sorrow or pain (Revelation 21:4).
Until that day, may the legacy of these girls continue on in how we choose to live. Like them, may we embrace the light that Jesus gives so we, too, may be a light for others.
Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” (John 8:12).
No matter where you are in your life, remember: The WHY may knock you to the ground, but the WHO is always there to help you stand back up. God has throughout the past, and will continue to, prove faithful as He turns tragedy into triumph.
Words from the girls’ parents:
We have received permission from the parents of the girls involved in this tragic accident to share the following:
from Lexi’s dad at her funeral:
“We have been overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support in our community and even distant communities have offered much encouragement, support and prayers.
“I’ve had time to reflect on what has happened and like everyone else, I asked WHY? It does not seem fair that my baby girl can be here one minute and then taken from us the next. WHY?
“Lexi loved her family, friends, teammates, teachers and neighbors. Lexi spoke to you because she genuinely wanted to share this love with you. Remember the pain you feel now and realize this happened for a reason. God wants us to display the best version of ourselves to one another. Please Wear Your Love on Your Sleeve. Lexi wants us to.”
from Danielle’s Cross Country coach Barry McLaughlin:
“Danielle had an unbridled enthusiasm and love for life and for the Lord which was evident to everyone on the team. She was a spark who ignited a desire for those around her to serve Christ and a spark on the cross country team that encouraged others to give their very best. We all still feel the hurt and loss.”
from Leah’s best friend Kylie:
“Leah is a light who shines with a love for God. She loves telling people about Jesus and showing them His love through her actions. Leah is a great friend with a great passion for God and a smile that is contagious to everyone who is near.”
from Leah’s mother from hospital:
When asked in a text from Bill Rudge, “Are you willing to face this tragedy for God to be glorified?” Betsy texted right back, “Yes we are.”
from Emily’s mom from hospital:
“It’s truly the power of prayer. It’s been extremely difficult, but the good Lord is getting us through. You know I really questioned my faith when this all happened. I don’t anymore. If our story can change just one person then I’ve done my job. I told Emily she is going to do something so good and I can’t wait to see what it is. What God has in store for her… I don’t know when but I hope I’m around to see it.”
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
With a click of the remote control or a computer mouse, we can instantly enter a sexual fantasy world. Just checking our e-mail can result in a host of unwanted sexual words and images. The pervasiveness of this licentious culture has infiltrated the Church. In light of this reality, what steps can believers take to guard themselves?
I heard the following helpful insights in a chapel service (while working on my master’s degree) at Talbot Theological Seminary. A study based on 200 male seminary graduates who had fallen prey to sexual immorality revealed that there were four traits missing in the lives of these men.
First, these men did not spend personal time with God. They lacked an intimate prayer and devotional life. Perhaps, because of busy schedules and the demands of ministry, they felt they did not have time to pray and study God’s Word. However, we must meditate daily upon God’s Word (Joshua 1:8; Matthew 4:4) and live a life of continual prayer (Colossians 4:2). These “holy habits”were a trademark of Jesus’ ministry on earth (Matthew 14:23; 26:36-44; Mark 6:46; 14:32; Luke 6:12; 9:28).
Second, these men had no personal accountability. The Christian life is not to be spent in isolation, but lived out within the community of other believers. Every Christian needs the encouragement and edification of other believers. We all need at least one person who loves us enough to encourage us when we are feeling discouraged and to correct us when we are living in opposition to the standards of God’s Word.
Third, 90 percent of these men got involved in sexual promiscuity by counseling women. In order to avoid becoming emotionally and/or sexually involved with someone we are helping, we must not be alone with them. Paul told Titus it is the duty of older women to instruct/encourage younger women (Titus 2:3-5). Believers should stay away from inappropriate situations (being alone, “friendly” flirtation, coarse joking, etc.). We should conduct ourselves in a manner reflective of God’s holiness as we follow the examples of Joseph (Genesis 39:6-12) and Job (Job 31:1) to flee situations and avoid thoughts that may compromise us.
Fourth, these men had the attitude that they were immune or “too spiritual” to fall prey to the deceptions and lure of sexual immorality. May we never think we are invulnerable to the temptations of sexual immorality. Rather, may we humbly walk daily in the grace of God as we seek to live a life which reflects His holiness. Rather than being like those who seek after the pleasures and lusts of the flesh, God commands His children to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace (2 Timothy 2:22).
My prayer is that believers will not be swept away by the promiscuity and perversions of our culture, but will stand firm on God’s Word, living a life that is characterized by self-control and that is reflective of the holy character of God Almighty.
by Bill Rudge
No matter what we face, God will take care of us.
Many Christians feel like their lives are falling apart. Loss of loved ones, marriages on the brink of dissolution, wayward children, economic distress, inflammation and pain throughout theirs bodies, struggles with addiction, emotional stress, panic attacks and loneliness are just some of the issues facing believers today.
Shortly before His crucifixion Jesus told His disciples, “In this world you will have tribulation [trouble, pressure, affliction, difficulty], but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The apostle Peter admonishes: “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). The apostle Paul encourages us that no matter what our circumstances:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6, 7).
Isaiah 26:3 promises, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Let’s take a closer look at that verse. When you truly trust in the LORD, you will keep your mind stayed on Him instead of your problems. And if you keep your mind and thoughts stayed (focused) on Him, He will keep you in perfect peace – a peace that surpasses all comprehension (Philippians 4:7).
A young mother of two toddlers lost her husband to cancer. She told me that in the midst of her grief and sadness she has realized how BIG her God is. She praised Him for His blessings in the midst of her intense pain.
I recently talked to a man whose wife died in his arms from cancer 10 years ago, his 39 year old daughter died of lupus 4 years ago and his son overdosed on drugs and died one year ago. Yet he had an amazing attitude of faith and trust in the Lord that transcended his heartache.
This young mother and man, in the midst of trials and tragedies, learned to triumph. Through their tears they fixed their eyes on Jesus. They looked beyond their current circumstances to what eternity holds for them. They realized this world is not their home, but they are merely passing through – hopefully taking as many people as possible with them into the Kingdom. They are awaiting with confident faith, the blessed hope, of which Marvin Rosenthal gives us an elegant glimpse:
The blessed hope embodies the fact that at Christ’s coming, the believer will be made perfect (faultless) and as a result, be able to stand before God whose power and wisdom created the universe and who is awesome in His holiness, and yet not be consumed….The believer will see the full manifestation of the glory of God – not the “back parts” of God’s glory as did such a luminary personality as Moses (Exodus 33:20-23) – but the full glow of the intrinsic, eternal perfections of God.
Just think, we will see our Creator face to face as every tear is wiped away; all pain, suffering and death forever banished. We will inherit the “fullness of joy” promised by God and the pleasures of living with Him forever. He will be our God and we will be His people.
First Peter 1:3-9 sums up our trials in this life as well as the joy and hope we can have in the midst of them because of the eternal inheritance awaiting those who believe in Jesus Christ:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Face with faith the many difficulties experienced in this world because:
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. The LORD of hosts is with us (Psalm 46:1-3, 7).
The apostle Paul assured the church at Rome:
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…In all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:35-39).
Hebrews chapter 11 provides many encouraging examples of the heroes of faith. Also, if you have not read my book Overcoming the Giants in Your Life, request a free copy. It will strengthen your faith and encourage you in the midst of challenging times.
A great study to help you have a biblical perspective on suffering and affliction is to look up and reflect upon the following verses: Job 13:15; Psalm 34:19; Psalm 119:67, 71; Psalm 120:1; John 16:33; Romans 5:3-5; Romans 8:16-18 and 28-39; Romans 12:12-15; 2 Corinthians 4:8, 9 and 16-18; 2 Corinthians 12:10; Philippians 3:7-11; Philippians 4:11; 2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Peter 4:1, 2 and 12-19; 1 Peter 5:7-10 and Hebrews 4:14-16.
The trials and troubles in this life, however severe, are nothing in comparison to the glory that will be revealed to those who are God’s children. Romans 8:16-18 conveys this concept clearly:
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
The God who created us and died for us can be trusted with our lives, our futures and our eternity!
The LORD Is My…
Creator who designed me.
Savior who died for me.
God and King whom I serve.
Rock on which I stand.
Strength in times of weakness.
Protection in times of danger.
Defender in times of battle.
Fortress in times of trouble.
Light in times of darkness.
Peace in times of distress.
Comforter in times of pain.
Provider in times of need.
Companion in times of isolation.
Multiplier when funds are low.
Healer in times of sickness.
Helper in times of difficulty.
Hope in times of despair.
By Darlinda McDonald
Carson (Bill and Karen Rudge’s grandson) was born in San Diego one month after 9/11. His family moved to Pennsylvania several years later. Carson graduated from high school during the coronavirus. A dedicated athlete, he played soccer for the Riverhounds in Pittsburgh and played in soccer tournaments across the country as well as in Italy. At age 18, Carson turned down a scholarship to play soccer in college to pursue his dream of special military service in the Navy.
Carson has been a great blessing to Bill Rudge Ministries for many years. He helped Bill with school assemblies, defense clinics, and the obstacle course for sports teams and military recruits, as well as assisting with grounds maintenance, mail pick-up, delivering clothes, school supplies and household items to local missions and ministries, and loading trucks with boxes of books, sports jerseys, soccer balls, school supplies, etc. for delivery to Third World countries. Carson has been willing to help in any way needed at BRM. He also mentored several peers, assisted an injured Vietnam Vet by moving furniture, doing yard work and various other projects. He delivered and moved furniture for Building of Hope to those in need and for several elderly people.
Carson is greatly missed by family, friends and BRM staff and volunteers. He continues to support the ministry by having a portion of his pay from the Navy automatically given to BRM. We pray God’s protection for this young man of excellence, a consistent and valued volunteer – never charging anyone for anything he did to help.
(Photo captions from top to bottom: 1. Carson standing on top of a climbing obstacle at BRM. He has hurtled many obstacles and excelled in making great accomplishments. 2. Carson (left) was commended by the Navy Chief and the Commander for training Navy recruits and providing them transportation for several weeks before he himself left for Boot Camp. 3. Michael, Carson and Lucas with some of the Cub Scouts they led through the BRM obstacle course last summer. 4. Carson (on left) leading the Sharpsville Varsity Soccer Team through “Black Tire Pain” – one of the hardest challenges at the BRM obstacle course.)
Bill’s Words To Carson Before Boot Camp
“Always remember the tetherball battles, hockey games, boxing, obstacle course, sleeping on our couch and borrowing my clothes.”
“Always remember, Carson Brock, that you were created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). Never forget that He loves you so much He died for you (John 3:16). Realize that Jesus will forgive anything if you ask (1 John 1:9).”
“Rejoice that your name is written in the Book of Life and one day you will rule and reign with Christ (Revelation 20:6). You may have some lonely times but He will never leave you or forsake you (Matthew 28:20).”
“Have faith, courage, determination, discipline and integrity because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13).”
“There will be challenges and difficulties but God will use them to make you strong and work everything out for good (Romans 8:28).”
“Through it all you will be molded into the man He intended you to be (Romans 8:29). In the end you will look back and know the truth of God’s Word and that He honors those who honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30).”
“One day we will never have to say goodbye again. Stay safe, healthy and close to Jesus. And never, ever forget how much I love you. I am so proud to have you as a grandson!”
The following was written by A.L.P., Jr., Arkansas:
I am 31 years of age and currently incarcerated at Ouachita River Correctional Unit in Malvern, Arkansas. I was sentenced to nine years in prison for second degree Sexual Assault. I am taking advantage of this time to correct my problematic thinking and behavior patterns. For years, I have struggled with sexual immorality, and as a young minister of the gospel, I had every opportunity to rely on the Word of God as a guide for deliverance, strength, and healing. My failure to believe that as a “Warrior” I could conquer the war that raged in the battlefield of my mind, weakened my spirit and ultimately led to a crime and a nine year prison sentence. I make no excuses for my actions and take full responsibility for the hurt and harm that I have caused my victim and her family – as well as my family and those who were/are connected to me.
I have been blessed to write a book entitled Chronicles of a Warrior: A Journey to Complete Freedom that, not only tells of my struggle with sexual immortality and the spirit of heaviness, but also the internal freedom I am experiencing in Christ.
Bill Rudge’s book, Overcoming Sexual Immorality, has been a blessing to me. Thank you for hearing and obeying the voice of God. I was halfway in the completion of my book when my wife mailed Bill’s book to me. There are good nuggets in Overcoming Sexual Immorality that I would love to use in my book Chronicles of a Warrior. I have found the things Bill said to be true and effective. I would love the privilege and opportunity to share quotes from Bill’s book.
Thanks again, Bill, for your book. Because of your obedience and willingness to write this book, I have been able to use more effective tools in my journey to complete freedom. May God continue to use you and bless you for your obedience.
by Al Menconi
What would be your opinion of a man who spends his evenings prowling through neighborhoods peeking into bedroom windows and watching couples having sex? And when he shares his voyeuristic exploits with his friends, he claims that his “habit” is simply normal entertainment? Would you consider him a pervert? I would!
Isn’t that what much of today’s entertainment is doing to us? It puts our mind’s eye in somebody’s bedroom watching sexual activity. … Are you allowing your mind to “peek into someone’s bedroom?” If so, are you acting like the pervert described in the opening paragraph?
How does this affect us? Romans 12:1,2 commands us not to be conformed to this world’s morals and values, but we should be transformed by renewing our mind. But how do we know if we are learning to conform to the values of this world? An obvious way is by examining our entertainment. Are we entertained by immorality, violence, and profanity and just excuse it away? If so, we are learning to conform to the world’s value system.
I’ve noticed that I have learned to accept more and more immorality in my entertainment. I remember reviewing the movie Superman II about fifteen years ago and being offended by all the violence and mayhem, and was especially disturbed that Superman had sex with Lois Lane. In fact, I remember sitting next to a little boy who was laughing and cheering at all the destruction and lusting at the sex scene. At the time, I was wondering what was wrong with his mother to let him watch it. But when I saw the same movie again recently on television, it didn’t bother me. It seemed normal. Like that little boy’s mother, I’d gotten used to it. Which is another way of saying that I am learning to conform to the world’s value system.
We use the acronym CAN to explain this phenomenon. Whatever is Common in the entertainment media is considered Acceptable. And if anything is acceptable in society, it must be Normal. Common, acceptable and normal. But it is not acceptable and normal in God’s eyes and I am ashamed that it is becoming acceptable and normal in my life. Has this acceptance of immorality invaded your life as well?
What can we do?
Realize we are in a spiritual war with powers unseen for control of our mind. The battle is for our mind! Romans 8:7:
“The sinful mind is hostile to God.”
Resolve not to entertain ourself with the godless values of this world. Colossians 2:8:
“Don’t let others spoil your faith and joy with their philosophies.”
Replace the empty values with Christian music. Colossians 3:1,2:
“Set your mind on things above instead of on things below.”
Remember that ultimately, the problem is not entertainment; the problem is sin! Ultimately, the answer is not Christian music; the answer is Jesus.
About the Author…
Al Menconi is president and founder of Al Menconi Ministries in San Marcos, California. He is a recognized authority on popular music and the media for today’s Christian family.
Reprinted with permission.
The following was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, “Overcoming Sexual Immorality.”
Every day we face temptations. The choices we make will either inflame or suppress lust and either enslave or liberate us.
Wisdom admonishes us to follow the advice of Second Timothy 2:22 ―
“Flee youthful lusts.”
Before the situation gets out of control ― STOP! Think about the consequences and learn to say NO!
Titus 2:11-13 states ―
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Today, fleeing youthful lusts means avoiding movies, music, magazines, and web sites, as well as people, who sexually entice.
I used to do self-defense clinics in schools and for other groups where I demonstrated how to avoid potential confrontations and how to deal with attack situations. “But the most important principle,” I would tell the students, “is to use wisdom in avoiding places, people, and situations in which you know a confrontation or an attack is likely to occur.”
Avoid setting yourself up for temptation. Randomly surfing the Internet, flicking through television channels, or browsing at a book store will more than likely flash some enticing visuals before your eyes that will lead to defeat if you are not wise in escaping them and strong in overcoming them.
Being in your bedroom or the back seat of a car in a remote area with someone to whom you are physically attracted is like playing Russian Roulette. Sooner or later the gun will fire. No matter how pure your intentions, you are setting yourself up for defeat by violating the clear Biblical principle ― “Flee youthful lusts!”
We Are All Exposed
Whether you are at the beach, at work, watching television, listening to the news, using your computer, driving down the road, walking at the mall, or even sitting in the pew, there are constant sources of temptation. We are all exposed. Just checking e-mails can result in a host of unwanted sexual words and images.
Billboards, advertisements, magazines, books, movies, music, the Internet, and scantily clad people constantly stimulate the mind toward sexual thoughts and temptations. It is only by the grace of God anyone survives unscathed in this sex-oriented society.
Everyone has sexual thoughts and temptations. What you do with those thoughts and temptations determines whether it is merely a “temptation to sin” or actual “adultery in your heart.” Extended eye contact, flirtatious conversation, as well as watching or reading sexually stimulating materials, are sparks which ignite lust and passion, leading to a wildfire of sexual involvement.
A Christian man in his thirties said to me, “It is impossible to escape the corruption of this world.” I responded, “You can be distressed by it like Lot who lived in degenerate Sodom.” We read he was ―
“…a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard.” (2 Peter 2:7, 8)
The Lord can change our hearts and perspective so instead of finding pleasure in scenes of immorality shown on television and movies or displayed in pornographic literature and web sites, we will be distressed in spirit.
When we see immorality through the eyes of the Lord and comprehend the evil and destruction it unleashes against our families, ourselves, and society, the perversions being spewed out of immoral cesspools should disgust us ― not entertain us.
That’s as Far as I Go
If you see an attractive person and your mind begins to take you in a direction you should not go, or if certain sights, sounds, smells, and circumstances transport you back to past memories and habits, stop and say to yourself, “No! That’s not what I want. It will destroy me. I choose You, Lord.”
It is amazing how our thoughts and emotions respond to an assertive affirmation and will help you to not fall into old ruts and patterns.
Someone wisely said, “Lord, when I have the desire, take away the opportunity. And when I have the opportunity, take away the desire.”
Control Your Thoughts
It is obvious that sexual involvements first begin as thoughts in our minds and lust in our hearts. If we are going to overcome the sexual temptations we face in a sexually explicit and uninhibited society, we must control our thoughts and effectively derail these temptations before they control and enslave us.
What you allow your mind to be programmed with will eventually manifest itself in your thoughts, attitudes, words, and behavior. Thoughts produce attitudes which in turn lead to words and actions. Behavior patterns formulate our lifestyle, and lifestyles determine our destiny.
If you fill your mind with garbage, you will develop a filthy thought life and corrupt lifestyle. It is inevitable and only a matter of time. What we watch, read, and listen to does affect us.
Is it any wonder why so many people manifest out-of-control language and behavior? Look at their mental diet.
Thoughts of lust, worry, fear, jealousy, bitterness, and greed that come into our minds are intruders that will sap our strength, joy, and peace. God says, “Resist them!” Fight against them as though you were fighting against an intruder in your house who was attempting to rape and kill your family.
Second Corinthians 10:5 encourages us to
“Take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Romans 12:2 says,
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….”
Psalm 119:11 proclaims,
“I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against You.”
Philippians 4:8 tells us,
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.”
Seduction to immorality and sin is often a five step procedure: 1) Think it. 2) Dwell on it. 3) Desire it. 4) Do it. 5) Pay for it.
Temptation starts as a thought or a glance. An idea enters your mind. If you do not dismiss it, but dwell on it, you will quickly find yourself desiring it. As soon as the opportunity arises, you will fulfill it. What began as a mere thought, if left unchecked, can lead to sin and devastation.
Another set of steps I have discovered, which lead to sexual immorality are:
First, is looking. Not just looking and thinking, “That’s an attractive person,” but focusing on explicit parts of the body, lusting, fantasizing, and contemplating how to get it.
Second, is going out to find a potential partner or placing yourself in a situation where something is likely to happen.
Third, is actual involvement in sexual immorality. James 1:14,15 says it this way ―
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”
Therefore, to be victorious in overcoming sexual immorality, do the following:
First, commit to the Lord that with His help you will not become involved in illicit sexual relationships and promiscuity. Now that you are a Christian, fornication and adultery are no longer an option.
Second, commit to the Lord that with His help, you will not purposely place yourself in a situation where you know something immoral is likely to happen. Nor will you look for someone to become a potential partner in immorality ― or even flirt with that intent.
Third, commit to the Lord that with His help you will not look with lust in your heart. You will not focus on explicit details or fantasize. This includes pornography, sexually explicit movies and music, and other erotic materials. Why waste your time looking when you have already determined in your heart that nothing is going to happen?
The High Price of Unfaithfulness
Andrew was only married a short time when he began having an affair. When his wife discovered it, she left him, emotionally traumatized and forced to endure the struggles of being a single mother. Shortly thereafter, on his way to visit his lover, Andrew was in a car accident. Confined to a wheelchair, he is attempting to get back with his ex-wife and their young child, but at this time that possibility is uncertain.
The above scenario has been played out countless times. Maybe a tragic accident brings an unfaithful mate to his or her senses concerning the importance of a faithful marriage. Other times the unfaithful partner wakes up one day and realizes they really do love their former spouse ― who is no longer interested in restoration or is remarried. Too many figure out too late they lost the best thing they ever had.
A sad irony is the price the unfaithful partner often pays in later years ― and sometimes, as in Andrew’s case, much sooner.
There are countless unfaithful partners who, because of an accident, disease, or advancing age, are in desperate need of a caregiver. But the one who would have lovingly taken care of them is gone ― prematurely dead or diseased ― often by the very hand of the unfaithful partner who unleashed tremendous and destructive emotional stress on them earlier in their marriage.
Some unfaithful spouses who were able to salvage their marriages and stay together, later in life felt intense grief and remorse when they realized the health and youthfulness stolen from their partner was because of their unfaithfulness.
The high price of sexual immorality and unfaithfulness is sobering. Time and choices have a way of catching up as we eventually reap what we sow. So make wise choices to minimize later regrets.
How fleeting are the things of this world. Knowing the Lord and walking in His presence and victory are more satisfying than pursuing any lust of the flesh.
My relationship with Jesus Christ is more important to me and fulfills and satisfies me more than anyone or anything else. I understand what the psalmist meant when he said,
“Besides Thee, I desire nothing on earth.” (Psalm 73:25)
We serve an amazing God and Creator and can only imagine what He has in store for His faithful servants. One thing is certain, we will be satisfied for all eternity in a universal paradise of His design which contains His manifest presence and blessings beyond the comprehension of mortal minds.
With All Your Strength
When you “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30), you will limit or remove any influence ― television, movies, the Internet, and so on ― which takes you away from Him. Instead, you will desire to seek Him through prayer, fasting, and Scripture.
As you do, you will notice a gradual fading of the lusts of the flesh. The temporary pleasures of this world will dim in comparison to knowing Christ. Seeking His will and living a life that honors Him will become your ultimate purpose and desire.
His path is never an easy one, but it is always the most rewarding.
By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
One of the greatest questions you will ask in life is, “Why am I here?” In other words, “What is the purpose of my life?” As Christians, we know we have an eternal purpose. We have been given the task by Jesus to be His ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) – to be His representatives in sharing the truth of who He is and why He came. Despite this divine purpose, we can find ourselves facing challenges and trials that cause us to question why God would allow 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 I had with my then 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 facing a third surgery on her left ankle. For the past three plus 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 her daily activities. Moriah was weeks away from another surgery; a full bone fusion that would bring with it a long recovery process. Not knowing the final outcome of this procedure, 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, missing not only the next game, but the rest of the season. Although Moriah is not one to complain, the emotional stress of all these events weighed down on her and in a moment of exhaustion she asked, “Why would God let this happen?”
I reiterated to her that sometimes we do not know the “why,” but this does not mean there is not a purpose. I shared 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, ironically, I faced an ankle surgery around the same age. Remembering how I felt, 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 the trash. In my daughter’s trash can, my wife found the rough draft of a letter that Moriah had written to Ryan Shazier. For those who do not know him, Ryan played football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and had suffered a severe back injury. Below is an excerpt of what Moriah wrote:
Dear Ryan, I am praying for you every day. 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 lets us go through difficult times. My favorite singer, Tauren Wells, has helped me to understand more why God has me going through all of this. His song “God’s Not Done With You” reminds us that though we 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! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me (Psalm 57:1, 2).
by George Douglas Watson
If God has called you to be really like Jesus, He will draw you to a life of crucifixion and humility, and put upon you such demands of obedience, that you will not be able to follow other people, or measure yourself by other Christians, and in many ways He will seem to let other good people do things which He will not let you do.
Other Christians and ministers who seem very religious and useful may push themselves, pull wires, and work schemes to carry out their plans, but you cannot do it; and if you attempt it, you will meet with such failure and rebuke from the Lord as to make you sorely penitent.
Others may boast of themselves, of their work, of their success, of their writings, but the Holy Spirit will not allow you to do any such thing, and if you begin it, He will lead you into some deep mortification that will make you despise yourself and all your good works.
Others may be allowed to succeed in making money, or may have a legacy left to them, but it is likely God will keep you poor, because He wants you to have something far better than gold, namely, a helpless dependence on Him, that He may have the privilege of supplying your needs day by day out of an unseen treasury.
The Lord may let others be honored and put forward, and keep you hidden in obscurity, because He wants you to produce some choice, fragrant fruit for His coming glory, which can only be produced in the shade. He may let others be great, but keep you small. He may let others do a work for Him and get the credit of it, but He will make you work and toil on without knowing how much you are doing; and then to make your work still more precious, He may let others get the credit for the work which you have done, and thus make your reward ten times greater when Jesus comes.
The Holy Spirit will put a strict watch over you, with a jealous love, and will rebuke you for little words and feelings, or for wasting your time, which other Christians never seem distressed over. So make up your mind that God is an infinite Sovereign, and has a right to do as He pleases with His own.
He may not explain to you a thousand things which puzzle your reason in His dealings with you. But if you absolutely sell yourself to be His … He will wrap you up in a jealous love, and bestow upon you many blessings which come only to those who are in the inner circle.
Settle it forever, then, that you are to deal directly with the Holy Spirit, and that He is to have the privilege of tying your tongue, or chaining your hand, or closing your eyes, in ways that He does not seem to use with others. Now when you are so possessed with the living God that you are, in your secret heart, pleased and delighted over this peculiar, personal, private, jealous guardianship and management of the Holy Spirit over your life, you will have found the vestibule of Heaven.
-George Douglas Watson, 1845-1924
by Bill Rudge
The apostle Paul entreats us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and appearing of Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13). As you see the Day of the Lord approaching, realize that each passing moment brings you closer to eternity.
New Levels of Depravity
Our decadent society is free-falling into an abyss of unrestrained, uninhibited, gratuitous sexual addiction. All limits have been removed as virtually anything and everything is acceptable. Today’s generation has adopted the attitude of the Israelites in the days of the Judges, when “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).
In various ways people in this day and age take the behavior of ancient pagan fertility rites to new levels of depravity. We live in a world given over to every sexual perversion imaginable as people, driven by an appetite for erotica, unsuccessfully attempt to satisfy their lust for sexual gratification. The Bible says –
Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more (Ephesians 4:19).
Many Christians and even pastors carelessly pursue practices and lifestyles that are destructive to their health and testimony, disastrous to their families and devastating to their congregations.
Broken lives, ruined marriages, traumatized families, diminished health and damaged testimonies could be avoided if a fruit of the Spirit – self-control – is exercised. However, those who refuse to repent and do not endeavor to develop discipline, then God’s discipline – whether it comes from reaping the consequences of seeds sown or through remedial judgments – will clean up many in the Body of Christ who tolerate or flaunt immorality.
Come out of Babylon
Time is running out as this nation and world rapidly disintegrate morally. Collapse seems imminent. Priorities and pursuits need to change. Each person must repent of the sin and vileness in their lives and homes. God exhorts each of us to resist the pervasive spirit of apostasy and wanton immorality. He is calling His people to come out of Babylon “so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (Revelation 18:4).
The apostle John encourages everyone who lives in the hope of Christ’s return to purify themselves (1 John 3:2, 3).
The apostle Peter tells us to live holy and godly lives as the day of the Lord approaches (2 Peter 3:9-14).
The Lord Jesus Christ admonishes us to remain faithful.
Challenge to God’s People
In spite of an increasingly corrupt world, Jesus is coming back for a Bride without spot or blemish. So it is time His Church cleans up her act. This is a day and age for believers to evaluate our lives; examine what we are entertained by, contemplate what our minds are exposed to, consider the words we speak, and ponder the meditations of our heart. It is a time to purify our minds and bodies.
Each of us will be tried and tested in our pursuit of holiness and purity. The enemy will use every opportunity and method to pollute our minds with vile images and tempt us to compromise our lives with sinful behavior. We can and must resist by the might of His Spirit and the command of His Word.
The Church does not need pastors who merely tell us how human they are by confessing all their flaws and dark secrets. We need ministers who will show us how they overcame them by the power of God’s Spirit and the authority of His Word. We need Christian leaders who will lead by godly example in a darkening and desperate world. We need those who will inspire us to maintain disciplined lifestyles so we can be effective witnesses with testimonies that shine brightly for His glory.
While God offers the free gift of salvation to everyone who will believe and receive, it is imperative that we seek to walk a path of strength and wisdom in pursuit of purity, maturity, and righteousness as we await the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Building Confidence and Courage
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:
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:6).
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 (Joshua 1:10-11). Joshua’s confidence, courage and zeal for the LORD inspired them:
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.
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 growt h and time with 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 Christ. By attacking and destroying those in leadership, he can wreak havoc. Therefore, we are vigilant every day; putting on the full armor of God and steeping our minds in prayer.
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 the objective and saturate everything in prayer.
Everyone deals with 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. So at practice I told them about my children taking a pottery class. The first day they were each given a lump of useless clay which the teacher said would be turned into a beautiful vase. That is exactly what happened as each of my children molded their 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 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. 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 in a boating accident.) While I respected this girl, I wondered how she would be able to play goalkeeper.
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.
Just like this goalie, effective leadership doesn’t make excuses. Leaders persevere through difficult times and provide encouragement and hope for those around them.
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 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. 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:
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.
We desperately need effective and godly leaders today. Such leadership comes through having a humble spirit, communicating effectively, possessing conviction, 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.
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
It is clear as we watch national news coverage of current events that we still have a far way to go as a nation in racial reconciliation. Even though we have made great strides in this area, the language and actions displayed by many Americans show that we have room to improve. Of course, it’s easy to identify a problem; the challenge is trying to determine how to solve it.
While there are many proposed answers (changing laws, addressing poverty, better education, etc.), it is my opinion that none of these solutions will ultimately succeed unless Jesus Christ is at the center. These only deal with the symptoms of racial discrimination, attempting to modify people’s behavior. By contrast, Jesus deals with the core issue that lies in the heart of sinful individuals, so only He can truly bring reconciliation and peace in this world. In fact, through His death and resurrection, the entire world will experience reconciliation (Romans 8:20, 21).
While complete reconciliation awaits His future return, this does not mean that we cannot experience Christ-centered reconciliation now. This is the charge that is given to the body of Christ:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28; see also Colossians 3:11).
The application of this verse is seen throughout the book of Acts because the early church had to address the issue of racial reconciliation. Here we find the church growing from those who were predominately of Jewish descent to people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. The climax of this growth occurred as Peter received a vision, then is called to share the Gospel with Cornelius and his Gentile household (Acts 10). The outpouring of the Spirit upon Cornelius’ household confirmed for Peter that God shows no partiality but accepts people from EVERY nation who fear Him and do what is right (Acts 10:34, 35).
Just as in the early church, the body of Christ today needs to continually strive toward Christ-centered reconciliation. In fact, we can never expect a change in the culture around us unless it first starts with us! I have witnessed positive and negative examples of how the body of Christ has modeled Christ-centered reconciliation. On the negative, I heard about a church that had dwindled to fewer than 10 people and faced the prospect of having to close its doors. Upon hearing of their situation, another church reached out to help them. While initially the tiny congregation was excited to work with the other church, they broke off all fellowship after they found out it was comprised of various ethnic groups. They said they would rather see their church close its doors than have to worship with people from contrasting ethnic backgrounds.
In contrast to the above situation, I spoke at a church in Los Angeles. This church truly exemplified Paul’s admonition in Galatians 3:28. Not only did the congregation include members of numerous ethnic backgrounds, but so did the leadership. In this church, these believers were truly united – regardless of outward differences – as brothers and sisters in Christ. They were evidence of Jesus’ prayer being fulfilled:
I do not pray for these [disciples] alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:20, 21).
So how do we function as a body of Christ where we live out Christ-centered reconciliation? I think there are three things to consider:
First, we need to remember that the truth of who Jesus Christ is, as revealed in the Word of God, is what unites us. In other words, our unity as believers is directly connected to our faith in Jesus Christ. This is so, because it is Christ through the Spirit who baptizes us into one body (1 Corinthians 12: 12, 13).
Second, we need to make sure that our unity is maintained by walking in accordance to what Jesus taught. In other words, if we allow sin to permeate our lives, it will begin to erode our fellowship as a body of Christ. As the apostle John taught:
If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth: But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:6, 7).
Lastly, our relationship as believers needs to originate in and be motivated by love. As Jesus said:
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).
How do we love each other? Jesus goes on to answer this in the next verse as He says that we are to lay down our lives for our friends. Jesus Himself gave us the clearest demonstration of this type of love: He went to the cross to take on the punishment that we deserved. What revolution would happen in our world if the body of Christ demonstrated this same type of love, a love that seeks to put others before ourselves and strives to seek God’s glory in all things.
If we want Christ-centered reconciliation, let us never forget the words of the apostle John, for they remind us what is foundational to all of our relationships:
By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).
by Bill Rudge
“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” 2 Corinthians 13:5
Want to test the condition of your heart? The following exam will help you evaluate which areas of your life are committed and which are compromised. The Holy Spirit can speak to your heart as you ponder some crucial questions – and help bring change where it is needed.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).
Do I only know about Jesus or do I really know Him?
Do I pursue only personal goals and dreams or seek God’s will for my life?
Do I resist and rebel or am I yielded and available so His Spirit can work in and through me?
Do pride and haughtiness dominate me or do humility and meekness (strength under the Lord’s control) define me?
Do I seek personal recognition or desire to lift up and glorify the Lord?
Do I tolerate deceit and lies or live a life of honesty and truthfulness?
Do I waste time in unfruitful pursuits or make time each day to study Scripture and pray?
What example and legacy will I leave my family if I died today?
Would I be ashamed if my spouse or children discovered the sites I visit on the Internet?
Do I allow television programs or movies in my house that compromise my biblical convictions or is my home a safe oasis for my family?
Do I avoid and run from sexual immorality and pornography or pursue self-centered pleasure?
Do I give up when facing obstacles and opposition or refuse to quit and persevere until God’s purpose is fulfilled?
Am I out-of-control or am I developing discipline and self-control over every area of my life?
Do my thoughts, words and behavior master me or do I master them?
Do my words cause discouragement, hurt and pain or encouragement, healing and comfort?
Am I controlled by the lusts of the flesh or displaying the fruit of the Spirit?
Am I afraid or embarrassed to share my faith in Jesus or looking for opportunities to tell others about Him?
Do I compromise in the face of opposition or have the courage to stand alone when necessary?
Am I victimized by peer pressure or making my life count by standing in the strength of my convictions?
Am I a cultural Christian or a biblical Christian? Am I lukewarm or committed?
Do I tolerate hidden sin or seek to live in purity and integrity before the Lord and the world?
Is my desire for God greater than my passion for sports, money or fame?
Is my life-priority Jesus Christ or someone or something else?
Do I care more about impressing and pleasing people or honoring my Lord and having His favor?
Am I more concerned about people’s opinion of me or the Lord’s?
What does my use of money and spare time reveal about my priorities?
Do I fill my life with worry, fear, unbelief and complaining or faith, peace, joy and thanksgiving?
Do I sacrifice for and serve others or manipulate them to get what I want?
Am I jealous of other’s success and possessions or do I rejoice when God uses and blesses them?
Do I serve and praise the Lord in difficult times or only when I am being blessed?
Do I attend a church that merely “tickles my ears” and makes me feel good or one where the pastor and people have a heart for Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, evangelism and missions?
Are the funds I give to churches and ministries used wisely to advance the Gospel?
Do I invest in the spiritual development of my family or am I too busy and unmotivated to have devotions and pray with my spouse and children?
Does my heart long for the return of Jesus Christ or am I caught up in the cares of this world?
Do I seek to get what I can here and now or is my desire for an eternal reward and inheritance?
Am I certain of my eternal destiny or unsure of my final fate?
Do I treat my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit – a “living sacrifice” for His honor and glory?
Is my mind being renewed and transformed by God’s Word so that I have the mind of Christ?
Am I bringing every thought captive to obedience to Jesus Christ and dwelling on that which is true, honorable and praiseworthy?
Is my spirit, created in the image of God, being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ: filled with His Spirit, walking in the power of the Spirit, developing the fruit of the Spirit and operating the gifts of the Spirit?
I hope the preceding examination shows you to be in good spiritual health! But if your check-up was less than ideal and His Spirit has convicted you, the prescription to get your heart right with the Lord is to humble yourself as in 1 John 1:9, repenting as you ask His forgiveness.
Implement His effective remedy by beginning now to spend time daily in His Word and in prayer. Before you know it, His Spirit will restore your relationship with Him as your First Love. As a healthy believer, you will be a bold and faithful witness in a day and age that desperately needs His light, love and truth.
May the Lord accomplish His purpose in and through you and may you reach your maximum potential in Christ – physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all, spiritually!
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
The greatest battles we often face will occur the moment we step out in faith. Consider Nehemiah who stepped out in faith when he asked the Persian King for permission to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. While being commissioned by the king to complete this task, we find that Nehemiah’s act of faith and trust in God came with its challenges. For example, opposition quickly arose to discourage and prevent him from doing what God had called him to do:
But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king?” (Nehemiah 2:19; see chapters 4-6 for further examples of challenges and opposition that Nehemiah had to endure).
In the case of Nehemiah, God moved forward through the challenges he faced and brought a great victory. Not only was the wall built, but also those Jewish exiles who returned to their land made an agreement to obey the commands of God as they once again occupied His holy city Jerusalem.
We can have the same confidence Nehemiah had that when we place our faith and trust in God, He will fulfill His plans through our lives. Just like Nehemiah, if we remain faithful to what God has called us to do we will see a great victory in the end.
So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem, for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God (Nehemiah 6:15, 16).
by Dr. T.V. Oommen
About Dr. T.V. Oommen
Dr. T.V. Oommen, scientist and Bible scholar, went home to be the Lord in 2013. He traveled the world doing scientific, archaeological, and biblical research. Dr. Oommen wrote many scientific and biblical articles, as well as appeared as a guest on various television and radio programs. Dr. Oommen served on the Bill Rudge Ministries’ Board of Reference. He and his wife Anna were good friends of Bill and Karen for many years.
In Dr. Oommen words: “Bill Rudge’s ministry fascinated me. I was a researcher and Bill was always involved in research. The Bill Rudge Ministries has touched a lot of lives in different parts of the world. Coming from a foreign country, I especially appreciate that.”
Worry, A Universal Problem
Worry appeared early in mankind’s history. The book of Genesis in the Bible gives some clues to when and how worry came into existence. When man was created he was free from any worries and cares, for God had provided everything he needed. He was placed in a perfect environment ― the Garden of Eden. He had enough to eat, and there was interesting work to do besides enjoying the fellowship with all creation and the Creator. If he had any questions, God was there to answer. He had no health problems, no fear of wild animals (they were not wild at that time), no fear of the unknown. All that changed when he sinned against God. He lost his innocence and immunity. He came under the influence of death and decay. Left alone, fear started gripping him because of insecurity and uncertainty.
Yes, fear from insecurity and uncertainty is the basis of worry. The future looks uncertain because there is no guarantee that things will work out well. Insecurity surrounds us because things beyond our control are operating in the world which can affect us adversely. Death and disease are not just possibilities but realities.
The Root Cause: Loss of Trust in God
When man sinned against God, he started fearing God and distrusting Him. This distrust is the basis of all fear and worry. Without God man feels helpless. Modern man may think he has conquered nature and diseases to a great extent, but the truth is, there is much that remains unconquered. New problems and new diseases appear as old ones are under control. So modern man with all his achievements is just as vulnerable as ancient man. He has as much worry as his ancestors, though it could be of a different nature.
Is Prayer The Answer?
‘Stop worrying, start praying!’ is given as a recipe to end worry. But I think this is not as effective as it appears. Don’t we all pray for our needs every day, and don’t we cry before God in times of trouble? The truth is, even when we pray we are under worry. That is why we not only repeat our praying, but ask others to pray for us. We fear our prayers may not be heard. So we go to our preacher, priest, prayer group leader and so on, for their prayers. Not satisfied with that, some go to places of pilgrimage to visit a saint who is revered after his or her death. Alas, most people return from such places with no answer.
Trusting God: Is It Easy?
When it comes to trusting God, we find it is not easy. Why? Trust, to most people, is like going blindfolded hoping we will not fall. How many are prepared for that? When crisis situations come, trusting means we remain calm and self-assured. Is it possible to remain calm and confident when we are facing terminal illness, bankruptcy, starvation, natural disasters, attack at gunpoint, and so on? Most of us would admit we cannot stay calm under such circumstances. We are not sure of the outcome, and we fear the worst.
What Trust Involves
Trust in God is not a blind act. It is not a leap in the dark. Trust is dependence with utter certainty. Trust is taking your dad at his word when he promised you something when you approached him as a child. Trust is believing your doctor that the operation is going to be safe. Trust is based on evidence! We do not trust anyone unless we have some proof of that person’s trustworthiness. That proof may come from other people’s testimony or our own limited experience.
God challenges us to trust in Him, and He is prepared to provide the proof! He has already provided proof in the pages of the Bible; and He is prepared to provide additional proof of His trustworthiness in your own life.
There is only one way to get that personal proof you may need: trust God the next time you face uncertainty! There is only one way to make sure the car you just bought will take you where you want to go: just start driving! Sitting in the car idle for any length of time would not give you the proof.
Does trusting God involve risk? The fact is it does. God may not give you the answer you thought He would give. Trust involves not only dependence and faith in God’s willingness and ability, but also the acceptance of God’s sovereignty. In His sovereign judgment He may sometimes answer you in a different way, and you have to accept that with gladness. When you trust God you commit yourself completely to His will. So trust and commitment go together. Trusting God gives Him the opportunity to work out the best for you.
Biblical Heroes Who Trusted God
Noah, the hero of the Flood, is perhaps the outstanding example of trust in God. He not only believed what God had told him, but acted upon it. Because of his trust, he and his family inherited the earth after the Flood. We are all descended from Noah!
Abraham trusted God when he was told to go to a land away from his home which he shall possess. It took a lot of courage to set out on a long journey leaving the familiar surroundings for the unknown. If he had not done that, he and his descendents would have missed the Promised Land.
David’s Psalms often contain his affirmation, “In Thee have I trusted….” In the face of opposition and intrigue, it was his trust in God that led him to victory.
Daniel’s friends trusted God when they faced the fiery ordeal of being cast into the furnace ordered by King Nebuchadnezzar. They refused to bow down and worship the king, but chose the ordeal. They believed that their God could rescue them from the furnace; but they added that even if their God did not rescue them they would continue to trust in Him. God honored their trust and chose to rescue them. Paul declared his trust in Christ who kept him going on his mission trips in spite of all the persecution he faced. As Christians we can learn much from Paul.
Christians Never Need To Worry
When I was growing up as a Christian, one New Testament passage that really got my attention was where Jesus told His disciples not to worry about tomorrow. He assured them that the Father knows what His children need, and when we seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, all those needs will be taken care of. He said it is the Gentiles that keep worrying about tomorrow (because they do not know God the Father, and do not trust Him). Yet, when I looked at the Christians around me, even those advanced believers, I found they often displayed fear and anxiety when faced with uncertainty.
I have tried not to worry in crisis situations. Over the years I have faced unemployment, sickness in the family, possibility for failure from all the projects under my responsibility, and so on. There are so many things out of my control that can cause failure or poor performance. Yet I have refused to worry in those circumstances. God took care of each situation.
Worry is something that we have inherited from our fallen nature and our alienation from God. Fear of the unknown is behind all worry. God’s children have no need to worry. Trusting God is the remedy to all worry and anxiety. Trusting involves complete dependence on God and the acceptance of whatever God wants to do in our life. Trust has to be learned and practiced. The more you trust, the stronger you become. Only by trust can you be calm and confident all the time.
So stop worrying and start trusting!
Will God forgive someone who commits suicide?
I recently attended a chaplain’s course on suicide prevention. Besides being useful in the ministry, this course was beneficial for me as a high school soccer coach. As a coach, I had dealt with a player who attempted suicide, a player whose friend committed suicide, and several other players who told me they had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. At a church where I spoke a woman told me about her husband who committed suicide. Also, a friend of mine informed me he was struggling with suicidal thoughts because his wife left him.
In the chaplain’s course I took, the instructor stated that people who commit suicide typically do not want to die but are trying to find an escape. These people are usually facing a desperate situation and because of a variety of factors (depression, substance abuse, mental disorder, physical pain, life-threatening disease, etc.) see suicide as the only option.
Two examples from my own experience highlight this. The first situation was of a man who was caught having an affair. Afraid to tell his wife and face the risk of losing his marriage and family, he drove his car to a remote area and lit himself on fire while in the car. In another situation, the father of a friend of mine was facing serious financial problems. Afraid to deal with the possibility of losing his business and filing for bankruptcy he hung himself.
In each of these cases, the person saw suicide as the only solution to his problem. If I were asked by the families of these two men whether they were in heaven or not, I would respond in the following manner: God is the ultimate Judge and only He knows the heart of an individual, even at the final moment of his or her life.
Because of these experiences, I had to ask myself what I should believe as a Christian on the topic of suicide. The answer to this question did not come overnight, but evolved as each situation brought me face to face with God’s Word. In fact, when I started to deal with the issue of suicide, I took a similar view to the early church father, St. Augustine. Like him, I saw suicide as a direct act against God that carried eternal consequences. However, through further examination of God’s Word, and gaining a better understanding of suicide, I recognize that while suicide is a very destructive decision, it can be forgiven by God. Below are some of my thoughts as to why I hold this position.
First, suicide is a sin. In essence, it is self-murder. God values human life, and since man is created in His image, He condemns all acts of murder (Exodus 20:13).
Suicide is the final, ultimate act, without opportunity for repentance or recovery. Suicide fails to fully consider the harm and damage that making this choice will do to those who are left behind. Additionally, it is an act of self-determination, a direct attack against the sovereignty of God over one’s life. A person who takes his/her life discounts God’s ability to intervene in his/her situation and instead views suicide as the only option to be set free.
For some, suicide is a desperate attempt not to be a burden to one’s loved ones. While for others it may be a vengeful act to punish those who have hurt them. But final judgment is reserved for God alone (Romans 12:19).
Second, contrary to what some people believe, suicide is not the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:31-32). That sin is blaspheming the Holy Spirit which, in context, was the Pharisees’ deliberate rejection of what the Holy Spirit had done through Jesus. They could not deny that Jesus’ authority was from God, but they refused to acknowledge this and, instead, attributed it to Beelzebub (Satan).
Third, salvation comes by trusting in Jesus alone for the forgiveness of your sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Those who do not trust in Jesus are not forgiven and will spend eternity separated from Him (Matthew 25:46; John 3:18). For those who trust in Jesus, He provides forgiveness for all of their sins and gives them eternal life (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11). This means they will not face eternal judgment (John 10:28; Romans 8:1).
Therefore, if a person truly places his/her faith in Jesus Christ and acknowledges that he/she is a sinner and in need of God’s forgiveness, then not even suicide can undo the atoning work Christ completed on the cross for that individual (John 6:37-40; 10:27-29; Romans 8:31-39). This issue presupposes that a believer has security in Christ. This security does not rest in what the individual does, but in what Christ has done for him/her (Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8, 9).
Fourth, what about the fact that a person who commits suicide cannot repent of his/her sin? As was noted above, when Jesus died on the cross, He provided forgiveness for all sins, including suicide. What if a person dies unexpectedly after lying or gossiping or looking at someone lustfully? I think you know what I mean. While such behavior must not be condoned, I do not think this negates God’s salvation at the end of someone’s life whose heart has been truly repentant but has somehow become overwhelmed in despair and hopelessness. Thus, even the inability to repent following the act of suicide with its destructive consequences cannot undo the work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
God is the final Judge and He has revealed to us in His Word how we can inherit eternal life. Eternal life is not a result of the works that we do, but by the work that Jesus Christ completed on the cross. He paid the punishment we deserved so that by placing our faith and trust in Him we can have a new life now, avoid eternal condemnation and live with Him for eternity.
Several months ago I heard about a prominent Christian leader who committed suicide. This man was known for his godly character, and heart of compassion. He had served the Lord for a number of years and through his work a worldwide Christian organization was established. An accusation was brought against him and, rather than face the accusation, he took his own life.
When I heard this, many thoughts went through my mind. Being familiar with this man’s ministry, I saw him as one of the giants of the Christian faith. While many began to raise the question of whether or not he was saved or had “lost” his salvation, I was more focused on how he came to the conclusion that suicide was the only option. Surely, a man who had served the Lord all of his life would not allow guilt and fear to overwhelm him to the point where he felt suicide was the only solution.
When we accept Jesus Christ we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit should be manifest in our lives (Galatians 5:22, 23). In addition, “God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). Therefore, no matter what we face, if we are truly saved should we not be people of hope, joy and courage instead of people who are overwhelmed with guilt, depression, fear and worry?
Nevertheless, while we have opportunity to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, we live in a fallen world and our bodies are still subject to the effects of the Fall (Genesis 3:16-19). I believe we have to wait until Jesus returns to fully experience life in the way God intended for us (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:35-58). Until then I leave this matter to God, who is the only One who truly knows the heart of each individual.
While my understanding of salvation leads me to the conclusion that suicide can be forgiven, I still feel that for a true believer it should never be an option. Entering eternity through an act of suicide leads to many uncertainties that the loved ones left behind must leave in the hands of a merciful God.
Recent statistics, put out by the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation, show that, in the United States, suicide is the 10th leading cause of death. Every 14 minutes an American commits suicide, which in turn affects at least six people intimately. Annually, over 30,000 Americans commit suicide, while worldwide the number is over 1 million. In light of this epidemic, our role as believers is to reach out to people who are contemplating suicide, and to minister to those families who have been impacted by suicide. We can do this by being aware of the signs and symptoms associated with suicide, and by bringing a message of hope and forgiveness. We need to help people realize that with God there is always another solution.
I am reminded that Paul, facing death and abandoned by all, knew Who his source of hope was:
At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen (2 Timothy 4:16-18).
As you move further in your own study on this topic, please consider some of the following verses: Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 30:19; Judges 16:21-31; 1 Samuel 31:1-7; 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Kings 16:15-20; Matthew 27:3-5; Acts 16:27, 28; Philippians 1:21; 1 John 3:15, 16.
by Bill Rudge
The many blessings and miracles God has bestowed in my life, family and ministry have not come about because of “proper confession” or using the “right” technique, formula or ritual, but because of faith in Him and obedience to His Word. I have not sought these things, but I have sought Him: to know and obey His will and to make Him Lord over every aspect of my life. As a result, He has honored and blessed me in many ways. My motivation is not merely to receive His blessing; I don’t serve Him for prosperity. For, if He removes His hand of blessing (as He has occasionally done), I will still serve and honor Him.
The Lord has blessed me financially, but we choose to give most of it away and live a moderate lifestyle. I could be easily justified in accepting a salary of two or even three times more than I do, but we have chosen instead, to use that money to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Some people spend their time and energy trying to get God to give them wealth and prosperity. However, Scripture repeatedly indicates that spiritual riches are far more important than material wealth; honoring Him proves to be the wisest path.
Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). The apostle Paul admonishes: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). First Timothy 6:18 instructs: “Be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share” which will lay up treasure for you in the coming age.
No Good Thing Does He Withhold…
On a hot August day, following a hard workout on the Obstacle Course, my then 14 year old grandson and I were talking about the Lord and Scripture while recuperating in hammocks. He mentioned he’d recently read Psalm 84. In return I commented on verses 11 and 12:
No good thing does He [the LORD] withhold from those who walk uprightly. How blessed is the man who trusts in You!
“Look around,” I said, “and see how God has fulfilled His Word: We started with literally nothing and God has blessed us with a wonderful family and eleven awesome grandchildren. He has provided a beautiful property surrounded with trees like an oasis, a ministry center, a house, a vehicle and everything else that is good for us. I may not have a boat, a plane or much money, and have faced many challenges, but I don’t need a boat, a plane or lots of money, and the challenges have made me strong. God has given me everything I need and blessed us beyond measure. He has been faithful and proven His Word to be true.”
The heroes of the faith willingly gave up the pleasures and treasures of this world to focus on future blessings and eternal riches. So too, I have earnestly sought to put the Lord first in everything, and He has honored and blessed me! I have discovered the reality of the following biblical promises:
Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”
Psalm 84:11 “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”
Matthew 6:33 “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
The Lord has taught me that I cannot manipulate Him to give me what I want. But if I delight myself in Him, seek His will, and walk in obedience to it, He will grant the desires of my heart (because they will be His desires as well) and abundantly bless beyond what I could ever ask or think—beyond my greatest expectations.
by Bill Rudge
“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.” Psalm 150:6
Many of you love to praise the Lord and attend churches that have awesome worship services, and that’s wonderful. But I want to go a little deeper with this concept by asking a few questions.
Do you also have a passion to live your life in such a way so as to praise and glorify the Lord physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Is your body a living sacrifice – or focused on a pursuit of personal pleasure? Are you a positive witness – or are your words and example a hindrance to non or new believers? Is your mind being renewed by deep, daily Bible study – or programmed through secular movies, music, and media? Are you being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ – or reflecting the values and lifestyle of the world around you? Are you walking in the Spirit and manifesting the fruit of the Spirit – or indulging in the lusts of the flesh?
You may praise and exalt the Lord with your mouth and raise your hands to worship Him, but if your heart is far away and your life dishonors Him, your praise is empty and meaningless.
…These people come near to Me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me… (Isaiah 29:13).
Jesus, quoting the prophet Isaiah, rebuked the religious leaders of His day by exclaiming –
Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me” (Mark 7:6).
What I seek to convey is that we must worship the LORD “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) – with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We must discontinue any behavior (no matter how much we enjoy it or have an “addiction” to it) which brings dishonor to our Lord, and instead embrace that which reflects His nature. We must cultivate a desire to walk in obedience to His Word and Spirit. We must have a passion to bring honor to His name and daily seek to glorify Him with our words, thoughts and behavior.
While we are on the topic, let’s address another component of praise. I used to think God was an ego maniac or very insecure because he commanded His creation to praise Him. I sure didn’t want to spend eternity doing nothing but singing worship songs – there were too many adventures to experience and places to explore.
My thinking could not have been further from the truth. The biblical concept of praise is an acknowledgement of someone or something’s greatness. It is natural to acknowledge and praise one’s wife for her beauty, a delicious meal, a phenomenal feat by an athlete, the talent of an outstanding musician, the skill of an exceptional surgeon and so on. How much more natural it should be to acknowledge and praise the greatness of our God and Creator, the incredible variety and wonder of His limitless creative wisdom, His amazing majesty, love, mercy and goodness!
“The heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).
All of creation exists to display His glory. The universe was designed for us to enjoy – one day as a renewed paradise. How can any reasonable person not acknowledge, appreciate and praise the Creator?
The more I come to know the Lord Jesus Christ the more amazing He becomes to me. How can I refrain my heart and lips from that recognition and not acknowledge Him for Who He is? How can I withhold thanksgiving and praise after all He has done, is doing, and has promised to do?
Only a fool, or someone consumed with jealousy, would withhold praise in light of God’s magnificence and overwhelming splendor.
Words are inadequate to communicate God’s reality in my life so I strive to worship Him with all of my being. The depth of my love for the Lord compels me to praise and honor Him in every way possible.
by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.
Whether you are a pastor, chaplain, youth leader, business manager, or a believer wanting to maximize your time, energy, and effectiveness for the Lord, the following article will prove insightful.
It is a revised version of a paper BJ wrote for a college class, and will give you a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the founder of this ministry and also some of the principles by which this ministry operates.
Bill Rudge is founder and president of a multifaceted nonprofit, non-denominational organization established in August, 1977. He quickly realized that by training others, ministry efforts could be multiplied and maximized.
Bill has over thirty years experience directing a successful and growing international ministry using the following principles:
Establish a Clear Vision
The first step of a good leader is to have clear goals and vision ― with strategies to fulfill them. The main goals for Bill Rudge Ministries are to share the Gospel with a searching world and challenge believers to reach their maximum potential in Christ ― physically, mentally, and spiritually. Turning the hearts of the people back to the Lord and motivating them to walk in faithfulness is the heartbeat of this ministry.
These goals are being accomplished through speaking engagements, missionary outreaches, radio broadcasts, newsletters, web site, podcasts, books, CDs, and in many other ways.
Communicate to Avoid Conflict
Another aspect of leadership is being able to deal with conflicts. Not everything is going to go according to plan, and when difficulties arise, the director has to resolve them. Most problems occur because of misunderstanding due to lack of communication. One of the best ways to deal with conflict is through communication with those involved before it gets out of control.
Manage Stress Effectively
Stressful circumstances are frequent in Bill’s life and ministry, but he has effective ways of dealing with them. Foremost is his deep trust in the Lord and his refreshing times of prayer and Scripture study. Exercising, eating nutritiously, and having a good attitude are also crucial in conquering stress.
Another key factor Bill utilizes to reduce stress is keeping himself and the ministry organized. He has a lot going on ― often simultaneously ― but everything is usually well organized. In all he does he strives for excellence because he believes that quality is more important than quantity.
Develop a Great Team
Another major part of leadership is the hiring and development of staff. Bill Rudge Ministries has over 30 full-time, part-time, volunteer, and freelance staff ― many of whom have been with him more than twenty-five years. Throughout the years he has trained hundreds of people ― many of whom serve in leadership positions in various churches, ministries, and organizations.
Potential staff members are informed of the standards and guidelines of the ministry, what would be expected of them, and given a list of possible job descriptions they can select.
During the initial interview process we look for certain characteristics. First and foremost is their commitment to Christ. Being organized, confidential, friendly, motivated, dedicated, determined, diligent, disciplined, trustworthy, and having a teachable spirit are also essential qualities.
Once someone joins the ministry team, the developing process begins by training them to use their gifts and talents to fulfill the goals and vision the Lord has given Bill and Karen.
Be a Servant-Leader
Anyone in a managerial position must learn to be a good leader. After four years of coaching youth soccer and winning four championships, the players and parents gave Bill a cup with the inscription: “That man is a success who brings out the best in others and gives the best of himself.” This saying accurately describes qualities of a good leader.
Leaders must lead not only by instruction, but also by example. Bill never asks his staff to do anything he would not do himself. He is a servantleader in that he serves others while leading them. He tells new staff that before they can become a true leader, they must first learn to be a servant.
All those he supervises understand that they are not working for him, but with him, as together they serve the Lord.
Manage Time Wisely
Managing time wisely is another crucial element for leaders. Bill has numerous responsibilities and deadlines such as preparing messages and radio broadcasts, writing articles, books, and newsletters, producing CDs, podcasts, and videos, web site development, correspondence, counseling, overseeing staff, administrative duties, legal and financial accountability, board meetings, advanced training courses, and many other commitments to fulfill.
As well as working many early mornings, nights, and weekends, Bill must schedule blocks of days ― sometimes weeks ― for speaking engagements, mission trips, finishing the writing of a book,or other special projects.
Bill has a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly planner for scheduling his essentials and priorities. He also has several checklists to keep him on track concerning current and longterm plans and projects.
A disciplined and organized lifestyle has enabled Bill to maximize his time and efforts. While he is not one to waste time in frivolous pursuits and conversations, he always takes time for someone in need and who really wants to change.
His day begins and ends with a time of prayer and Bible study, as well as at mid-day, to help him start, maintain, and finish with a proper perspective.
For Bill to accomplish all that needs to be done he must maximize his time. This is done by delegating as much as possible to other staff. Their specialized talents ― and often behind-the-scenes work ― is a tremendous part of the success of this ministry.
The development of a referral list for people needing longterm or specialized assistance has enabled this ministry to help countless people find churches, ministries, or organizations to meet their special needs and interests.
Being a leader not only requires making decisions and overseeing staff, but also the ability to interact with, relate to, and appreciate them.
Bill’s advice to pastors and Christian leaders is simple: “Appreciate your staff and volunteers.” He rarely lets anyone leave the ministry center without thanking them for their service that day. Those who work for the ministry at other locations throughout the country are frequently thanked during a phone call, e-mail, or special card or letter.
Do not take for granted what the Lord has entrusted into your care. Always appreciate the Lord for the resources, facilities, and staff He has provided.
Live a Life of Integrity
Apparent in every aspect of Bill’s life and ministry is a desire to live a life of integrity. He operates his nonprofit organization accordingly and seeks to maintain high personal and financial accountability. Respecting the integrity and vision of Bill and the ministry, his staff and supporters faithfully serve and give.
Knowing he will one day give an account to his Lord, being a wise and faithful steward is of utmost importance.
There are several other qualities Bill believes leaders need such as courage, compassion, determination, and self-control, but most important are integrity and faithfulness to the Lord.
“…If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [elder, pastor], he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.” 1 Timothy 3: 1 – 4
by Darlinda McDonald
Former porn stars Shelley Lubben and Jessica Neely shine a light into the dark world of pornography:
In Lubben’s biographical DVD, Out of the Darkness, she states, “When people view pornography they are really watching mentally ill and physically diseased people have sex.” She also said that all the girls she has helped rescue from the porn industry so far, except one, did not have a good relationship with their father.
Lubben also has written a book called, Truth Behind the Fantasy of Porn: the Greatest Illusion on Earth. The book reveals an industry that tries to portray a world of glamour and pleasure but the truth is that the adult film world consists of brutality, degradation, threats, manipulation, rape, trafficking, disease, drug and alcohol abuse, depression, and suicide.
In a LifeSiteNews article, Lubben was asked, “If you could say one thing to someone who’s looking at pornography, what would you say?” She said, “You’re contributing to your demise, and to your family’s demise, and your wife’s. I can’t tell you how many porn addicts have lost their families and jobs. And they’re contributing to children being raped. … Right now there are little children being drugged and raped. How could anyone click on porn knowing that?”
Former porn star Jessica Neely made this comment in the same article: “Lust is something that is never going to be satisfied. It is a trap that makes you resent your wife. My job was to make you hate your wife. Lust is a monster that can never be satisfied. The very end-road of an all-consuming addiction is a guaranteed death. You are going to lose everything.”
by Bill Rudge
Bringing Difficulties On Ourselves
We make choices all the time: what we eat, where we go and what we do. Sometimes we suffer the consequences of those choices, such as the young man who called in despair because choices he made require him to appear before a judge who will determine jail time or probation.
If I get too close to the edge of a cliff, I am going to fall off. I did not fall because Satan pushed me over or God is punishing me. I violated the law of gravity and suffered the natural consequences.
There is a real enemy who seeks to defeat and destroy every person committed to Jesus Christ. When we face spiritual warfare, it can become intense. Bizarre things can happen with little or no explanation. At these times we must know the authority we have as believers in Jesus Christ and how to use the armor of God and the sword of the Spirit.
Refining and Molding
Scripture is clear that God purifies and prepares His people. Anyone used by God will go through wilderness experiences to be trained to stand in the midst of life’s challenges and temptations. Just like a soldier is prepared for battle, believers are trained through difficulties to face any circumstance. It has been accurately stated that there is no testimony without a test.
Discerning the Difference
When adverse circumstances rise up and I go through the “flames” of life, I get on my knees and ask, “Lord, is there sin in my life? Am I reaping the consequences of some attitude or choice I made in disobedience to Your Word and Spirit? If so, I repent. Otherwise, I evaluate whether this is “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” or am I in the midst of spiritual warfare. Has the enemy targeted me and designed a scenario to discourage and defeat me and thwart God’s plan for my life? If this is not the case, I realize that God is doing a work in me and I am going through a season of refining. Therefore, I submit to the process and ask Him to strengthen my trust in Him as He fulfills His purpose to use me as a testimony for His glory.
by Martin and Deidre Bobgan
The world sees problems as impediments to accomplishments, progress, and happiness. The idea is to get through problems and solve them as soon as possible so that one can get on with life. The Bible presents an entirely different perspective on problems of living and even on the most horrendous trials.
The Bible begins with God’s perfect creation of all that exists, including humans created in the image of God, and then reveals the disastrous source of all problems: rebellion against God, first by Satan and his minions, next by Adam and Eve, and then followed by their sin-infested progeny, generation after generation.
Problems of living, therefore, are not isolated human events of grief and disaster, but part of the spiritual battle that has been raging throughout the ages. The Bible is the true story of mankind’s sin and rebellion, of God’s wrath against sin and His love for mankind, and of His eternal plan for reconciliation through Jesus Christ.
According to His eternal plan and wisdom, God uses mankind’s challenges, trials, and sufferings to reveal His glory, to show forth the nature of man, to expose sin, to draw people into relationship with Himself through the Gospel, and to bring forth spiritual growth in His children. Many purposes are fulfilled through trials that work for the good of believers. However, trials in themselves are not necessarily beneficial; it is what God works in the believer through the trials and it is also how the believer responds to God in the midst of those trials. The same trial may afflict two different people, with one turning to God in faith and the other one blaming other people, circumstances, and even God Himself.
God uses problems to expose sin for the purpose of repentance, forgiveness, change, and spiritual growth. God also uses suffering to refine His children into “pure gold” and to glorify Himself. He will use suffering to correct and discipline. Yet, not all suffering is the result of a person’s own sin. The apostle Paul suffered greatly because of his faithfulness to preach the Gospel. Nevertheless, whatever the source of suffering, all can be used to show forth God’s glory as believers choose to depend on Him and to follow Him in all circumstances.
Christ-centered ministry sees problems as opportunities to know Christ more fully, love Him more deeply, and follow Him more completely. Problems of living can serve a wonderful purpose when people turn to the Lord and seek Him above all else. Indeed trials, problems of living, and suffering are often those times in which the greatest spiritual growth occurs.
Rather than becoming immersed in problems of living and looking mainly to get rid of them, we want to encourage believers to treat problems of living as trials with a purpose. The Bible urges people to look to God and His Word rather than focusing on the problems themselves.
The Book of Job reveals God’s purposes in human trials that show forth His glory and wisdom and demonstrate the power of faith in God. After the devastating loss of his children and all his possessions, Job’s response was “… the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” Then after Satan afflicted him with painful boils all over his body, Job’s faith was being tested to its fullest; yet, Job kept his faith, proved Satan wrong, won the spiritual battle, and received great rewards at the end.
It is when our faith is tested that we find God’s faithfulness to His Word. The truth of the Gospel we believe is confirmed over and over again in the trenches of daily life. Each test of faith can drive a believer deeper into the Lord as the shield of faith fends off the fiery darts of doubt and condemnation.
Especially in our culture of instant this and one-minute that, waiting on God in the midst of trials both tests and strengthens patience. Suffering brings us into close intimacy with God wherein we taste of Christ’s suffering and also of His great consolation as He comforts us. Thus we are enabled to console others with the consolation we have received from God (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
Believers are not to ask for trials or instigate problems for the sake of spiritual growth. However, trials can serve to make hardy believers, accustomed to the storms of life, as they are being strengthened in faith, developing patience, maturing in every spiritual discipline, and bearing fruit for God’s kingdom and glory.
Trials test the faith and reveal whether or not it is genuine. They also reveal areas of unbelief. If we resist trials and murmur and complain, we will not benefit from them. But, if we turn to God in faith, trusting that He will use them for our spiritual growth, then we will benefit far more than we realize at the time.
Trials are not joyous in themselves, but difficult and often painful and even long-lasting. The joy comes from the prospect of God working His perfect will in His children through the trials. It is the kind of joy that Jesus knew during the greatest suffering of all, for it was “the joy that was set before him” (Hebrews 12:2). The joy was in the anticipation of completing the requirements for our salvation, the anticipation of much fruitfulness.
For believers the joy comes through faith in God’s promises, that He will accomplish good and that these trials work an “eternal weight of glory”, as Paul declared: For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).
Remember that what Paul calls his “light affliction” included all of the afflictions, persecutions, great physical pain, and much overall suffering that he lists in the eleventh chapter of 2 Corinthians.
Paul knew that his calling as a Christian was to endure suffering for the sake of the Gospel. As days darken in our circumstances, we need to follow Paul’s example of knowing our calling as believers and to use all circumstances for the sake of the Gospel, the glory of God, and our own growth to maturity in Christ.
With the right perspective on problems, instead of being bogged down and preoccupied with them, you will learn to lean on Christ, trust Him, and follow Him through each circumstance.
Excerpted from Person to Person Ministry, by Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Used by permission.
Martin is president of PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries and is a friend and supporter of Bill Rudge Ministries.
by Bill Rudge
Join the Great Multitude
You may be facing a lot of peer pressure today, and feel like you are in a shrinking minority because almost everyone at school, college or work rejects the Bible as God’s unique revelation of truth. However, one day you will be with multitudes (billions of people!) since Creation – heroes of the faith, prophets, kings, warriors, disciples, martyrs from every generation throughout history, men and women, children and teens from across the globe – who resisted the pressures of their day and became part of the great multitude who will inherit all that the Lord has prepared for those who love and honor Him; believers from throughout the ages will live with God forever. Those already in Heaven will one day be joined by a vast host:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands (Revelation 7:9).
On that Day when Jesus Christ establishes His eternal Kingdom, those whose names are written in the Book of Life will receive all He has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. We will have endless time to enjoy and explore the wonders of a restored paradise on Earth and the countless adventures awaiting us throughout the expanse of the entire universe. We will never cease to be amazed by the glory of our God and overjoyed with the blessings He will lavish on His children.
In contrast, those who reject God’s offer of salvation in this life, so as to enjoy the conveniences of compromise, pleasure, popularity or prestige will be named among the “cowardly” mentioned in Revelation 21:8. They will forfeit God’s blessed Kingdom, quarantined from His glorious presence.
Instead of succumbing to the seductive spirit of this age or pressures to compromise your faith and conform your lifestyle to current cultural and popular morality trends, be encouraged by the throngs of people who have gone before you and whose testimonies spur you on:
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).
Be a part of the millions of people alive on this planet today who faithfully serve and honor Jesus Christ in spite of ridicule, oppression, hostility, persecution and even martyrdom. I promise that you will never regret serving Jesus Christ and I assure everyone who rejects or refuses to accept Him that they will eternally regret that decision.
Believers throughout the history of the Church have fought in the “arena of life” to proclaim the Gospel. Now it is our time to stand strong in the “arena” for Christ. We must not shrink back or cower in fear. That Great Cloud of Witnesses – in fact all of Heaven – is watching and cheering us on!
I am VERY concerned about our country. Do you feel God is bringing us to our knees? How will He take care of our needs?
The direction our nation is going is very dangerous – especially since we are continually forsaking our Christian heritage. The blessings we have received as the greatest nation in the history of the world are about to be removed and judgment seems irreversible. No matter what we face, God will take care of you and prove Himself faithful to those who love Him. I talked to a young mother of two toddlers whose husband had recently died of lung cancer. She said that in the midst of her grief and sadness she has realized how BIG her God is. She praises Him for His blessings in the midst of her pain.
To answer your question I am going to pull back the curtain and give you a glimpse of my reality, hoping to build your faith and encourage you that the God we serve is there and is always faithful. He will never leave us or forsake us. I have directed a faith ministry and many times did not know how the needs would be met. But in some amazing ways they always were. There is no human explanation for how every need has been met for over 30 years and He enabled us to build three ministry centers on faith without a penny of interest being paid. And He has intervened and protected in the midst of some hopeless situations.
I do not own a vehicle and do not own my own house. I have virtually no retirement and will not receive Unemployment or Social Security benefits. In reality, if I walk away from the ministry tomorrow I will be a street person. I have not been wasteful but am a very wise steward. I have chosen to invest most of my resources in a Kingdom that will never pass away. This world is not my home, I am merely passing through and hoping to take as many people with me as I can into His Kingdom. I expect challenges and spiritual warfare but know the end result will always be victory.
Because the God of the Bible has been so faithful in my past, I can trust him with my future.
Throughout most of this ministry I have not had hospitalization on myself or my family. My wife faced cancer by doing alternative treatments which we had to pay for personally. But once again the Lord was faithful and provided through the generosity of friends and family members.
Daily we face challenges and obstacles in life and in this ministry and have a tremendous burden of caring for literally thousands of people worldwide who contact our ministry and are facing economic, physical, and spiritual difficulties and disasters – some being persecuted and eventually martyred. Only the Lord can sustain us with the physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual stresses we face daily. But He sustains by His Word and Spirit so I want to share a few of my life verses that have helped me face in faith the many challenges of this world.
Genesis 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Psalm 34:4 “I sought the LORD, and He answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Psalm 103:15-18 “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts.”
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”
Isaiah 41:10 “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
Philippians 4:6,7 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Read Hebrews chapter 11 for encouraging examples of the heroes of faith. If you have not read my book Overcoming the Giants in Your Life, now would be a great time as we seek to get a biblical perspective on faith and what our attitude should be in the midst of perplexing times as we head closer and closer to the Lord’s return.
Yes, the God we serve can be trusted with your life, your future, and your eternal destiny!
by Bill Rudge
Believers in Jesus Christ have an exciting destiny – to rule and reign with Him throughout eternity! Considering this high calling of serving as royalty under the King of Kings, it is imperative that our words, attitudes and actions resemble His. Princes and princesses in God’s Kingdom should be a reflection of their LORD.
A few years ago, while speaking at a military memorial service, I sat between two dignitaries. They were both gracious and very complimentary of the words I spoke. However, what I want to emphasize here is that they handled themselves with dignity.
There is just something different about most dignitaries and royalty in the way they carry themselves. How much more should we, who are “joint heirs” (Romans 8:17) with the very Son of God, carry ourselves with dignity in our public and private lives. We should not be a reproach to His name, but conduct ourselves in a respectable manner.
Just as descendants of a reigning king are prepared for their royal positions, so believers begin on this side of eternity to prepare for our royal positions which will assuredly become reality during the Millennium and forever thereafter. The following qualities and attributes should begin to be manifest in our words, attitudes and behavior: dignity, integrity, righteousness, self-control, courage, compassion, humility, gentleness, generosity, kindness and faithfulness.
When I was twelve years old I was very skinny so I started lifting weights. Even though I remained thin for a long time thereafter, I began to walk and handle myself as if I was this strong person – believing I would eventually become like that and a few years later I was. Likewise, I know that one day I will rule and reign with Jesus Christ so I can begin now to think and behave accordingly.
Just as my thin physique was transformed into muscles as a teenager – one day my mortal body and humble existence will be transformed into a glorified body that will rule and reign with Christ. This will become a reality for those who believe in and commit their lives to Jesus Christ – so let’s begin acting like it in faith and confidence now!
John, a friend I made while in San Diego, is part Mexican and part American Indian. He has a phenomenal attitude, strong faith in Christ and is very talented. He told me that he used to see himself as skinny, dingy and ugly but now sees himself as lean, tan and distinct. He said that change of perspective has made a tremendous difference in how he carries himself.
Our High Calling
Always remember that as Christians, we have the highest calling. No matter what our position in this life, we can hold our heads high because one day we will be dignitaries serving as representatives for all eternity of the KING and LORD of the universe.
You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).
Do you know who is the strongest person who ever lived? Jesus Christ. He was frequently in volatile environments and situations of extreme pressure, but He always kept His composure and was in control.
As I read the Gospel accounts, I see that Jesus always operated from a position of love, wisdom, and self-control. This is the essence of true strength.
Walk the Second Mile
Jesus said in Matthew 5:41― If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
I wondered why He said this. I discovered that Roman soldiers had to walk almost everywhere they went, carrying heavy packs. Roman law allowed military personnel to command those who were not Roman citizens to carry their equipment a prescribed distance―one Roman “mile.” But having reached the milestone, the civilian had no further obligation.
When a Roman soldier made them go one mile, the Roman was controlling them. But when they said, “Okay Roman, you made me go one mile, now I willingly choose to carry your gear one more mile,” they were saying, “I choose to show love by carrying your gear another mile.” This demonstrates how to be the master of the situation―not the victim.
Turning the Other Cheek
Matthew 5:38-40 reads― You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
I always struggled with this verse. It went contrary to what came natural to me―and just about everyone else I know. Unprovoked insult or injury instantly prompts our retaliation.
An interesting aspect of this Scripture is the fact that the right cheek is specified. Since most people are righthanded, the only way they can strike someone on the right cheek is with the back of their hand. That is the classical insult or challenge: a backhanded slap on the face. The strike on the right cheek was a most grievous insult in the ancient world. The prophet Micaiah was struck on the cheek by a false prophet (1 Kings 22:24). The ultimate example, however, is Jesus Christ (Isaiah 50:6).
The Lord is saying to us, “I want you to walk in love and forgiveness, not hatred, revenge, bitterness, and retaliation. I want you to walk in discipline, and not be out of control. I do not want you to be a victim, nor do I want you victimizing others.”
Passive, Aggressive, Assertive
God’s Word does not teach us to be passive or aggressive, but to be assertive. For example, when Saul threw the spear at him, David was not passive―he did not just sit there. Nor was he aggressive. He did not throw it back. He was assertive―he moved to avoid being hit.
Likewise, when the Jews sought to throw Jesus off a cliff, He did not passively allow them to do so. Nor did He aggressively try to defend Himself or take some of them with Him. He assertively walked right through the crowd and went His way (Luke 4:29,30).
The magistrates in Acts 16:22,23 ordered Paul and Silas to be beaten and thrown into prison. They sent their officers the next day to release them, but Paul and Silas did not passively and quietly leave. Nor did they aggressively retaliate and seek revenge. But they assertively insisted that since they as Roman citizens were publicly beaten without a trial, the magistrates themselves must come and escort them from the prison (35-39).
Whenever I am in a confrontation, being threatened, or in an intense or volatile situation, I always try to respond from a position of love, wisdom, and self-control. Then I believe I am following Jesus’ example, fulfilling His commandment of going the second mile and turning the other cheek, and am adhering to New Testament truth and principles.
Freedom to Choose
I strive to have the attitude that you cannot kill me, because I am already dead to self and alive in Christ. You cannot steal from me because I do not own anything―it is all the Lord’s anyway.
You can do whatever you want to me, but through the help of God’s Spirit, I can choose to show love, wisdom, and self-control. You can throw me in prison for my Christian witness and think you control me, but like Paul and Silas in Acts 16:25, I can still sing praises to the Lord. You can beat me and hate me, but I can still choose to love you. You can curse me and gossip about me, but I can pray for you.
You cannot control and victimize me because God’s Spirit is in control and enables me to respond the way He wants me to. He does not want us being enslaved by hate and revenge. He wants us to be in control―manifesting wisdom, love, and mercy.
I was speaking at an Arabic church to people from several Muslim countries. One Iraqi man who had acted as a translator for Saddam Hussein during Desert Storm told me that when the U.S. was so accurately hitting Iraqi targets, he was falsely accused of providing secret information to the Allies. While he was being beaten, his attackers stopped when they noticed that he was smiling. He shared with them how he was blessed to suffer for Christ. After the war, he and his pregnant wife fled Iraq to Jordan then came to America.
The preceding was excerpted from Bill Rudge’s book, Self Defense from a Biblical Perspective.
by Karen Rudge
It is called the great migration of wildebeests and zebras and it happens every year (between January and March). This migration flows between Tanzania and Kenya, the herds looking for good grazing, a safe place to mate and to give birth. It is said that the wildebeests have poor eyesight but a good sense of smell, whereas the zebra has good eyesight but the sense of smell is poor. As they make the crossing together they compensate for each other and are less vulnerable to attack.
In the church body, we are like these herds: we all have our strong points and our weak points. As a body of believers we are stronger as we assemble and worship together.
Romans 12:4-6 states:
Just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly.
God designed us all differently so we can work together as one body for His Kingdom. We are connected through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Saviour – we are family. We are bought by the blood of Christ. Let us not show partiality, jealousy or anger toward each other. The world is looking at the Church and will know that we are Christians by our love for each other (John 13:35).
Today, more than ever, let’s focus on our likeness of Jesus and not our differences. If we look to Him as our example we will become more alike and can say like Paul: Follow me as I follow Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1).