The Infamous Snow Run

The infamous snow run began one cold and snowy evening many years ago when Bill Rudge was in his home working on a message late at night and needed something at the ministry center –– a distance of about 100 yards (the length of a football field). Instead of taking the time to put on his socks and shoes, he ran barefoot over to the center.

It was such an adventure and challenge, not to mention saving time, that Bill continued this practice for many years –– through ice, snow, and rain –– until the former ministry center was sold. (Now, he runs to the obstacle course and back.)

When guests visited his home, he would ask if they wanted to do the snow run. Most were curious but declined. However, a few did run it with him.

Bill loves doing things like the snow run because the Lord usually gives him an illustration and spiritual application to share. He impressed on Bill’s heart how a believer’s walk with Him is like the snow run in so many ways. 

First, before you embark on the snow run you must count the cost and prepare yourself for the ordeal that lies ahead. You must consider the terrain, time (day or night), and temperature to determine the level of difficulty. And be sure you have the key to the ministry door ready.

Similarly, Jesus said to count the cost before becoming His disciple. And before embarking on any endeavor in His name we must prepare our hearts for whatever might lie ahead. We must be certain we are being led by His Word and Spirit.

As a barefoot runner in shorts and a t-shirt, you cannot be diverted to the right or to the left because after the first few steps your feet start burning. So, too, as believers in Jesus Christ, we must keep our focus on Him and not turn to the right or to the left.

By the time you are halfway across the snow-covered field your feet feel like cement blocks, and then quickly go numb. You cannot stop or you will have to crawl back. Likewise for true believers in Jesus Christ, stopping or giving up during our walk with Him is not an option.

As a snow runner you have to run swiftly and make each step count. You cannot look back lest you slip and fall. In similar fashion, believers must throw off every sin that so easily entangles and swiftly run the race of faith, making each day count for the Lord. We must forget what lies behind and press on with faith and determination.

An observer may not realize the full challenge and difficulty of the snow run but participants in bare feet and wearing only shorts and a t-shirt understand quickly the courage necessary to do the snow run. This is especially true at night when it is below zero degrees, there is a foot of snow on the ground, and the wind is blowing hard.

In the top photo, Keira, a college roommate of Bill’s daughter with a heart for missions, went on the snow run with Bill. Keira’s father is an amazing scientist who persevered through great challenges and obstacles to invent the MRI. Several years ago Bill was honored to perform the wedding of Keira and Markus in Long Island, New York. The bottom photo shows Bill’s grandsons, Lucas (left) and Carson. They did the snow run all the way to the obstacle course and then did pull-ups before running all the way back to the house.

So, too, those who do not know the Lord may not comprehend the commitment and sacrifice of a true Christian unless he or she becomes one. Believers must have tremendous courage to face the onslaughts of the enemy and stand –– sometimes alone –– in the midst of opposition.

As you approach the ministry center parking lot you need to have enough energy to leap or climb over a snow bank several feet high which was left by the snow plow. Likewise, as believers we will face many barriers and obstacles that attempt to impede our progress, but we must persevere and overcome through Christ.

Once you jump over the snow mound you will be sliding across the icy parking lot. You have to maintain your balance lest you fall on the blacktop or bang into the steps or front door of the ministry center and injure yourself.

Likewise, as believers we must maintain a biblical balance by avoiding the extremes of legalism and liberalism. We must not slip or fall by compromising our commitment to Christ and injuring our testimony.

Upon reaching the front door, your freezing hands will fumble with the key, sometimes dropping it, in an attempt to unlock the door as quickly as possible. So, too, if a believer fumbles when facing temptations and tribulations, he or she must speedily ask His forgiveness, get up, and press on.

The burning sensation returns as you walk around inside the ministry center trying to warm your feet on the carpet. You may not want to make the return snow run, but you have to. So, too, once we give our lives to Christ and our hearts are warmed by His love, we must go out into an, often times, cold world and share His love and truth with those who may not always want to hear.

Each step of the snow run brought you closer to your destination and the reward of warmth. Likewise, each day brings us as believers closer to our eternal destiny and an everlasting reward.

As we see the day of the Lord approaching, or our time drawing near to go and be with Him, may we remember this illustration of the snow run. May we remain faithful until the very end and be overcomers who run with perseverance, leap over every barrier and obstacle, and joyfully enter His eternal kingdom.

Be Strong in the Lord

by Jim Weikal

All believers know the stress of suffering as Jesus foretold (John 16:33; Luke 9:23). Jesus was well acquainted with our griefs: Isaiah described the pain of the coming Savior centuries before in chapter 53 verses 3 and 4.

Times of stress and grief are not easy on anybody, but believers have a Savior who understands their predicament. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, because He does hear us. Run to Jesus Christ when suffering comes. He understands and He cares.

The apostle Paul suffers in a Roman prison due to the persecution set in motion by the infamous emperor Nero – he knows that his death is imminent. So what does a dying man say to a “child in the faith” such as Timothy? Paul points Timothy to the source where he will find the strength to face the challenges of ministry and Roman persecution:

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

This verse is a straightforward charge to “be strong.” It is a command and not a suggestion. To “be strong” is a continuous action not a one time reaction. Likewise, the Christian today who faces difficulties, challenges, persecutions, oppression and the like, Paul’s command resonates with us centuries later – “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Remember our Master’s words:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

What Are Your Convictions?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This is one of these fundamental questions, I believe, that we should not only ask ourselves but know how to answer. In fact, this is the very question I ask the students in my ethics class at a local university, pointing out that they must identify what they believe and why they believe it.

The concept of conviction in our culture today seems to have given way to the “virtue” of compromise. While compromise in certain contexts is needed, the idea of following the crowd, doing what everyone else is doing, seems to be the mantra of our time! But our culture is desperate for leaders who will rise above the rest and live with conviction.

Conviction creates a clear path for how to choose to live our lives. It is an every day reminder that certain things must never be compromised; that we must stand for certain core values even if it means we have to stand alone. 

The story of the sacrifice of Riley Howell is an example in point: When the gunman entered his classroom at UNC Charlotte, rather than run or hide Riley charged him. An act – not surprising to those who knew him – that reflected the way he lived his life. Although this decision would cost Riley his life, it saved the lives of others. Conviction does not yield to consequences but lives by principle: doing what one knows is the right thing to do.

The Christian world needs men and women of conviction: Men and women who, like Riley, will stand for what is right, regardless of the cost. Men and women who will not seek the comforts of compromise, but out of a love for Jesus Christ and others will stand for what is true; men and women who, despite the pressures of popular opinion, are willing to stand alone for their faith. 

So, let me ask you the same question I ask my ethics students, what are your convictions? What do you believe and why do you believe it? May we be ready every day to give a reason for the hope we have (1 Peter 3:15, 16).

From Christian to New Age Spirituality

by Bill Rudge

During a recent flight I sat beside a woman who had graduated from a conservative Christian College where she met her husband. They first attended a Baptist church, then a non-denominational community church for many years. Yet, along with her profession of faith in Jesus and the Bible, she embraced New Age spirituality. I wanted to know why.

Meditation and yoga were the doorways through which her beliefs and practices were completely modified. Diane and her husband no longer attend church because “nature is her sanctuary.” She said she still has encounters with “Jesus” through her meditation and trance channeling. Judgmental people and “negative energy” are something Diane avoids, so if I was going to have an opportunity to share with her, it had to be in a non-confrontational manner. Several times she said how much she enjoyed conversing with me because I was such a positive person and also respectful of her beliefs.

Diane listened intently as I emphasized the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the amazing credibility of the Bible through examples from history, archaeology and prophecy. She agreed, but went on to say that I was limited by the Bible: by looking within, through meditation, and to spirit beings, through trance channeling, she felt she has tapped into knowledge and experiences that surpass and transcend the Bible. In reality, however, her scope is limited to subjective experiences, while I possess the unfathomable depth and riches of God’s Word with its amazing evidence in backing up its authority and truth. It will take an eternity to discover the magnificence of God and the wonders of the universe He has created!

I asked Diane by what authority she based her beliefs and eternal destiny? She said it was her inner peace from harmony with nature, a love and acceptance of all things (except biblical Christianity) and her experiences with the spirit entities.

“What about those who never heard of Jesus Christ?” Diane asked. I told her, “God is a merciful God who would move heaven and earth to reach anyone who has a desire to know Him. Jeremiah 29:13 says: ‘You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.’” I then shared some accounts of miraculous conversions of Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists and others. “What would God have to do,” I asked, “to convince you that Jesus Christ really is the only way?” Unable (or unwilling) to answer she merely said that her experiences and the spirit guides she encounters through meditation and trance channeling affirm that all ways lead to God.

“Consider the possibility” I stated, “that according to the Bible, the entities you are encountering could be demonic beings who are propagating a deception.” She insisted this was an impossibility because they were so loving and peaceful in her experiences with them. “Besides,” she said, “I am also having encounters with Jesus through my meditation and channeling.” I responded, “The apostle Paul warned about another Jesus…” but she interrupted to say that Paul is negative and judgmental. I retorted that we all have to make judgments every day in the decisions we make concerning what we do or don’t do and what we believe or don’t believe.

I brought up the afterlife and the biblical requirement to enter Heaven. Diane indicated her belief in reincarnation. She will keep coming back until she gets it right just as Jesus was reincarnated several times before He became the Christ. I responded with Hebrews 9:27: “It is destined that each person dies only once and after that comes judgment.” Yet Diane assured me she will see me in heaven, as well as everyone else who believes in peace and unity. I said, “If you are right Diane, I will make it into your Heaven because of my positive faith and lifestyle, but if the Bible is accurate (and I am convinced it is) then those who do not accept God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ will be excluded. No wonder Jesus said that there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when they realize what they have forfeited.”

In reply she said, “God would never say to anyone, ‘No, no, you can’t enter.’ He will welcome everyone.” So I countered, “Suppose someone walks into your house and decides to move in. You will say, ‘I don’t know you, so please leave!’ Likewise, a righteous and holy God must exclude sin from His eternal Kingdom. Without Christ’s shed blood we all fall far short.” It was ironic that exactly when I said, “The blood of Jesus is our only means of salvation,” she spilled tomato juice all over her lap. As she wiped up the spill with napkins I said, “This will serve as a constant reminder to you that salvation is only through the blood of Jesus Christ.” She smiled squeamishly.

As we reached our destination, we were both amazed how fast time passed, enjoying our conversation for the entire two-hour flight. While she felt the universe brought us together to “expand” my mind and beliefs, I am convinced God put us together for a greater purpose. I pray God’s Spirit draws her back to Jesus Christ – not a New Age Jesus but the Jesus of the Bible. And I do hope to see her again…in Heaven.

A Life Defined by Authenticity and Love

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Using Our Time with An Eternal Perspective

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

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

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Photo by Tom Lodge

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

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

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

I Made the Choice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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