Out of Darkness

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.

Traits of an Ineffective Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 2

 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Whether you are in a leadership role or not, this study on biblical principles of leadership is essential for every Christian for growth and maturity.

Making Excuses

A few years ago I wanted to teach my soccer team the importance of keeping their focus and not becoming complacent, so I brought a jar of 18 marbles to practice. Each marble represented how many games the team had to play in the regular season. I explained that each season they are only given a limited number of marbles (games), and they must decide what to do with each one. Once the marbles were gone they could never get them back.

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Photo by Frank Rudge

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus instructs on how we should live as we await His return. He reminds us that, like the master who provided each of his servants with talents, we are to be faithful with what we have been given. By contrast, verses 24 – 30 focus on the wicked and lazy servant who wasted opportunities and lived a fruitless life.

As in the team parallel given above, in life, we all are given only so many “marbles.” Will we waste our opportunities, making excuses for inaction and failure? These are traits exhibited in bad leadership. Or will we use our opportunities to live fruitful lives for Jesus Christ?

Impulsive Decisions

Consider Esau who, because he was hungry, sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). As the firstborn son, Esau’s birthright entitled him to several blessings including a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). However, Esau rashly gave all this up for a bowl of stew.

Impulsive decisions can have adverse effects, not only for the leader but also for those affected by his/her decisions. For personal study, ponder the disastrous consequences of King Saul’s hasty decision to consult the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:7).

All About Me

Our culture may view bragging and self-praise as a sign of confidence and leadership ability, but the Bible makes it clear that God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5). Boasting in one’s own strength and bragging about one’s feats without acknowledging God is self-glorification – a sure road to eventual defeat and humiliation.

Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, surveyed his empire then made the following boastful claim:

Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30).

Babylon was certainly a place of beauty and majesty under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Not only did he construct the hanging gardens (recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), his capital city was surrounded by a double wall that was 10 miles in length highlighted by the elaborate Ishtar Gate. He expanded the empire (becoming the first Babylonian king to rule over Egypt) and brought Babylon to world dominance. However, in the midst of boasting about his great accomplishments, the following occurred:

While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!” (Daniel 4:31).

Nebuchadnezzar is a real example of the biblical truth that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). The passage in Daniel goes on to tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from his people and lived like a wild animal until he realized that the Most High is ruler over the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:32, 33). Nebuchadnezzar was restored to power after he recognized that honor and glory belong to God alone (Daniel 4:34-37).

Saddam Hussein ruled over the nation of Iraq and desired to be the next Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to rebuild Babylon and gain prominence over surrounding nations. This proud and boastful man lived in opulence while his subjects lived in poverty. But Saddam was eventually humbled. He was captured by American forces – found hiding like an animal in a hole in the ground. Put on trial, he was executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

Self-exalting pride leads down a dangerous and destructive path; it hinders one from being an effective leader for God. True humility acknowledges that it is not “all about me” but testifies that everything one has and everything that one accomplishes comes from the Lord.

Controlled By Fear

In my coaching I have seen many players fall short of their potential. The most common reason is fear: fear of failure; fear of incompetence; fear of disappointing others. As in sports, fear has a crippling effect in leadership. Moses had to face this reality when God told him to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Moses’ response echoes his fear of inadequacy:

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue (Exodus 3:11; 4:10).

With God’s help Moses was able to move beyond his fear and lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness to the edge of the land God promised them.

A sad reality is that people who are dominated by fear forfeit opportunities to be used by God. This loss is due not to their own shortcomings, but to their lack of trust in God – not believing He can use them to make a difference in the lives of others. Never forget, friend, the key to being used by God is not based on your ability, but on your availability.

Give In to Compromise

King Saul is an example of compromise. In the early chapters of 1 Samuel, we find a man who had been chosen by God as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:24). However, because Saul constantly compromised (1 Samuel 13:7-14; 15:1-23) God eventually rejected him (1 Samuel 15) and no longer answered him (1 Samuel 28:6).

King Ahab is another example of how compromise destroyed a leader. He not only allowed his wicked wife Jezebel to influence him, but he allowed her to lead the people of Israel into idolatry through Baal worship. His life of compromise not only resulted in his death but that of his entire family (1 Kings 22:29-40; 2 Kings 10:17 ).

While leaders need to be adaptable and sometimes have to make concessions, never compromise your convictions or commitment to the Lord as Saul and Ahab did.

Dictate to God What They Want

The account of the prophet Jonah is a reminder to not set limitations on God. Jonah wanted God to destroy the wicked city of Nineveh. Unwilling to obey God’s command to call the city to repentance, Jonah initially ran away (Jonah 1:1-3).

In biblical leadership, God will not put up with those who approach Him with a sense of entitlement or predetermined expectations of what He must do for them. A friend of mine learned this lesson when he began the process of planting a church. He told me he would not accept anything less than planting a mega-church. He felt that a small church would not be worth his time and energy. After a year of little success, the church he planted failed and he left the ministry. He later learned that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, this must never take precedence over being faithful. My friend was eventually restored to another pastoral position where he is faithfully serving the Lord.

As leaders (and believers), our ultimate goal should be to seek and yield to God’s will. Dictating what we want, imposing our expectations, or attempting to manipulate God is futile. In the end His plan will succeed:

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Complain In Difficulty

Under the leadership of Moses, God had taken the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. He supernaturally provided for their needs during their wilderness journey. As they approached the promised land, Moses selected twelve men – tribal leaders – to scout the land. They all came back and reported that the land was just as God promised – flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27). However, ten of the spies pronounced they could not conquer the land because it was inhabited by powerful people who lived in fortified cities (Numbers 13:28).

This negative report caused such grumbling and rebellion among the Israelites that God made them wander forty years until all those age twenty and older died in the wilderness. Of the older generation, only Caleb and Joshua (the two spies who remained faithful to God) entered the promised land (Numbers 14:24, 30).

Reaps Destructive Fruit

It is imperative that we do not become, or follow leaders who habitually use excuses, make impulsive decisions, are “all about me,” or are controlled by fear; who give in to compromise, dictate to God what they want, or grumble and rebel in the face of difficulties.

If we are to be the leaders God has called us to be, then we need to avoid that which is displeasing to the Lord. Instead, let’s embrace the qualities and characteristics that honor the Lord and make great leaders for Him.