Coronavirus? Politics? Religion?

How To Disagree Without Becoming Disagreeable

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Disagreements are unavoidable

From teaching a college course on ethics for several years, I have learned that disagreements are part of being human. I tell my students that while it is OK to disagree, they must do this without becoming disagreeable. I lay out guidelines on how to appropriately do this within the controversial world of ethics.

Disagreements will occur among brothers and sisters in Christ

The reality of disagreement is not just left to a classroom discussion on ethics, it is a part of everyday living that even impacts the church. The apostle Paul acknowledged this when he wrote his first epistle to the church at Corinth to address conflicts amongst members of this church:

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling [disagreements] among you, my brothers (1 Corinthians 1:10, 11).

The apostle Paul goes on to state later in this epistle that God allows disagreements in the church so that over time it will reveal those who truly belong to Him, “… for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized” (1 Corinthians 11:19).

Biblical Principles of Resolving Disagreements

Since we cannot avoid disagreements, how can we as Christians disagree without becoming disagreeable? Just as I do for my students, God’s Word provides us with guidelines.

1. Avoid arguing and judging others over non-essentials.

An issue of contention in the early church was whether or not people could eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. While this makes no sense to most of us today, it was an important issue back then. In response to how Christians should approach this issue, Paul makes the following statement:

As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him (Romans 14:1-3).

In this passage, Paul wants us to recognize that we should not allow disunity to occur within the body of Christ over non-essential issues. Matters that are not clearly laid out in Scripture, should never cause us to despise each other (Romans 14:10), as one day each of us will give an account to God who is the ultimate judge (Romans 14:12).

2. We should follow the appropriate steps of resolution/reconciliation.

When someone says or does something that offends or hurts us, we often react rather than respond. This reaction can often come in a direct way where we openly attack their character or motives, or indirectly where we allow anger and bitterness towards them to fester inside our hearts. In contrast, we need to respond biblically when another brother and sister hurts us. Consider these words by Jesus:

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother (Matthew 18:15).

In other words, the first step to take in dealing with a disagreement is to talk with the other person privately. Face to face is how we biblically deal with disagreements, not talking behind each other’s back or posting comments on social media. Jesus then provides additional steps if the issue cannot be resolved on a personal level, and if it is an essential issue that needs to be addressed to maintain the spiritual health of the body of Christ.

If a brother or sister takes the biblical step to seek true restoration with you, keep in mind Peter’s conversation with Jesus:

Then Peter came up and said to Him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times” (Matthew 18:21, 22).

3. We should demonstrate a genuine love towards each other.

In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul gave thanks because he had heard of their faith in the Lord Jesus and their love for each other. The Greek word for love in this passage describes a deep affection that they possessed. Paul rejoiced because this love was an outward sign of their inner faith in Jesus Christ. A confirmation that the Apostle John said should be evident in any true believer:

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him: whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:20, 21).

The essence of a love for each other is not only a personal indicator that confirms our own salvation, it is also an indicator to the world that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. In the words of Jesus:

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

A love for each other is the most powerful way we can live out our faith, especially as we deal with disagreements.

4. Our ultimate desire should be God’s glory.

Often times when we get in a disagreement, we find ourselves driven by a desire to prove ourselves right and the other person wrong. While there are times when we must stand for what is right and true, we should never be driven by the sole desire to always prove we are right. Rather, our ultimate desire in whatever we do should be for God’s name to be glorified. Jesus demonstrated this attitude as He prepared to go to the cross:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done (Luke 22:42).

As Paul sat in prison awaiting his eventual fate, he also yearned for God to be glorified:

As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20).

We must also possess this same desire for God’s’ glory. Even if this means losing an argument or dealing with some form of injustice, may we say like Jesus, “Not My will but Your will be done”, and like Paul may “Christ be honored.”

Challenge for us Today

Just as in the early church, this pandemic has shown that as believers we still disagree over issues. The only difference is instead of disagreeing about eating meat sacrificed to idols, we now disagree about the role of government and how to appropriately exercise our freedoms. As we navigate this, the world is watching our response. So, while they may see us disagree in our response to this pandemic, may they not see us being disagreeable. May we show them that we are people who do not divide over non-essentials (should I wear a mask or not, should we close our church doors or not…), and who do not slander and gossip about each other on social media. Instead, we express genuine love for each other, and desire to see God glorified in our actions.

When I was a high school soccer coach, we took on the redwood tree as our logo. It was a reminder to us of the power of being connected as one. Despite its height, redwood trees have a shallow root system. But what makes them strong is their roots spread out and interconnect with the root system of other redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it does not blow against one lonely tree, but against a whole forest. This is what Christian brothers and sisters should represent to the world, a unified body that is interconnected by the person of Jesus Christ. 

If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Where Is Your Treasure?

by Bill Rudge

Everything you have can be swept away in a flood, burned up in a fire, blown away in a tornado, stolen by thieves, wasted on excessive living or consumed by medical expenses – but what you invest in God’s Kingdom will last forever. Through Jesus Christ you can have an eternal inheritance that will never be robbed, lost, tarnished, spoiled or fade away.

The condition of America’s spiritual health is of utmost concern. Unless our nation’s moral hemorrhage is stopped, it will prove fatal. America will be brought to her knees – either in repentance or from intensifying judgment.

God has given us additional time to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Have we squandered our opportunities or wisely used them? How many of our friends and loved ones have already passed into eternity? Now is the time to share Jesus with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…while we still have opportunity – while there is yet time.

The Greater Cause

As believers in Jesus Christ we should care less about being politically correct and more about being biblically accurate. We must defend the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). Besides, beneficial and lasting social change will only come when the hearts of the people are turned back to their Creator. While many causes are noble, all will prove inadequate and inferior to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Imagine the eternal impact – as well as the social and political benefits – if Christians put increased effort into evangelism. Imagine the positive influence on our nation if the life-changing, eternal life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ were embraced, and compassion instead of hostility, reigned in relationships, personal and national. As a result of loving service in Jesus’ name and living exemplary lives, we would be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

The heartbeat of Jesus, before He returns, is the fulfillment of His Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel across the entire world. Evangelism is such a priority that Jesus’ parting words before His ascension instructed the disciples to be His witnesses throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus went so far as to state that the end will not come until the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14).

During the Tribulation period – in the midst of intense persecution – God will use the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11), raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7 and 14), and even use angels to proclaim His everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, 7). The harvest will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).

Financial Security – Not

While it is wise to have reserves for emergencies and future needs, no amount of accumulated wealth and resources will protect you from what is coming. Currently you can still choose to give where you want, but in the future you may not have that option. Your resources and investments could be confiscated or controlled by another. Your money could be taken through identity theft, bank account seizures, medical expenses, and so on.

Eventually, everything you have will be taken. Besides, you can’t take it with you when you die or when Jesus returns. The only security in this turbulent world is the LORD. Those who horde and stockpile earthly riches will be bankrupt. 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, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Wise financial planning includes far more than accumulating retirement accounts and material possessions. Countless people have lost large amounts of money that might have been used for the Kingdom – providing them an eternal reward that surpasses any monetary gains they had hoped to achieve. Do not let the words of James 5:2, 3 be true of you:

Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

The day rapidly approaches when each of us will give an account to God concerning our stewardship of finances, time and talents (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Therefore, it would be wise to focus on God’s priority: Evangelism and Missions. A significant portion of our resources, time and energy should be put into sharing the love and truth of Jesus with a lost and dying world – this is sound financial planning and most certainly the best inheritance.

Ask yourself: Do I care more about my political agenda or my testimony for Jesus Christ? Do I give more to social and political causes or to missions? Am I neglecting evangelism and witnessing because it is offensive to some? Am I using my life and money primarily for personal pursuits and pleasures or to help fulfill the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? What am I doing to advance God’s Kingdom and reach people for eternity before the days of opportunity are gone?

Remember, true and lasting riches consist of spiritual blessings and the legacy of faith you leave your loved ones. We cannot take anything into eternity with us except the lives we touch for Jesus Christ!

Rise Up! Get Off Your Face!

by Bill Rudge

Over three thousand years ago Joshua sent three thousand Israelites to conquer the walled city of Ai. But they were routed by the men of Ai.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, both he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust on their heads. So the LORD said to Joshua, “Rise up! Why is it that you have fallen on your face? (Joshua 7:6, 10).

Once Joshua dealt with the sin issue in the camp of Israel (see Joshua 7:11 – 26) they victoriously conquered Ai.

Many Christians today are on their faces prostrate before the Lord – in repentance, prayer, and fasting. While prayer is powerful and essential, it is also imperative that we get off our faces and fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for our lives. What is that purpose? Being witnesses for Christ to a lost and dying world (Acts 1:8).

Obviously, don’t quit praying! But rise up and share your faith in Christ any way you can. Use your phone, letters, e-mail, texts, blogs, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other forms of media. Witness to telemarketers and anyone who will listen.

Coronavirus Crisis

God desires to bring many more to salvation before the Rapture of the Church. Perhaps He is using this current crisis to help us get His Gospel to the ends of the earth (Matthew 24:14). If the coronavirus could so easily and quickly multiply to infect so many people, how much more can believers multiply their testimonies to impact an entire world for Jesus Christ. Begin today!

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.

The Mark of a Life

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The founder of a church which gained worldwide attention because of their protests at the funerals of U.S. soldiers, homosexuals and celebrities, passed away several years ago. While only God can judge this man’s heart, his life did not reflect that of a true follower of Jesus Christ, but a life affected by hatred.

We are called as believers to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19, 20, Acts 1:8). Certainly, in the process of doing this some people will be offended and reject what we say (John 15:18, 19; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23). However, while we share the truth of God’s Word and who Jesus Christ is, if we do this without love, then as the apostle Paul said, we are nothing more than a meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1).

Jesus’ life was defined not by hatred but by love. In fact, His love for mankind is what brought Him to this earth to give up His very life setting us free from our sins (John 3:16, 17). This is what drives us in sharing the truth of the Gospel message: love for God and a love for others (Matthew 22:37-39). We should not alienate non-Christians because of their sin (1 Corinthians 5:9-11), but rather seek to lead them to Christ and trust God’s Holy Spirit to clean up their lives.

As Christians we recognize the eternal reality that awaits every single human being who rejects Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 36) and lives a life contrary to His will (Ephesians 5:5). Therefore, if we are to be an effective witness, it will be displayed through selfless acts of love and compassion:

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you (Luke 6:27, 28).

How Should Christians Respond to Today’s Culture?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the hottest topics of discussion several months ago was the Grammy Awards. News headlines were saturated with stories about the weddings that took place, the revealing outfits worn, and a performance that had many people claiming she was promoting witchcraft, demons, magic, and Satanism. While I did not watch the Grammy’s, I believe that what went on merely reflects the mindset of a worldly culture; the declaration of independence from the God of the Bible.

This desire for independence began back in the Garden of Eden. Once Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to doubt God, he was able to plant the idea that they no longer needed to look to God to determine what was good and evil (Genesis 3:1-4). In other words, they no longer needed to live under God’s authority: Man can be free from God. This notion of living your life “free” from the God of the Bible is the very spirit that now permeates our culture.

So how do Christians respond to this? Some Christians embrace this culture, ignoring or downplaying any conflicts while being entertained by movies, television shows, and popular musicians openly endorsing and living anti-biblical lifestyles. As one Christian friend said to me, “It is just entertainment and nothing more.”

Other Christians disengage completely from the culture. They stand back awaiting the day when God will finally judge this world and destroy those whom they feel, in their own mind, are not as worthy as they to receive God’s grace and mercy. You will find these people being more preoccupied with endorsing their own political views than with spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Both of the above approaches fail to provide a biblical response to our culture. Instead of embracing our secular culture, or completely disengaging from it, we need to follow the example of Christ. What this means is that we do not conform our lives to the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2) but live our lives in such a way that shows our culture how true, personal freedom is found only in the person of Jesus Christ. Remember, if we live by the standards of our culture, we really no longer have a unique message to bring to our culture.

The Grammy’s should be a reminder to all of us that this world desperately needs to hear the news that Jesus Christ has come to set the captives free. Let us live out this message in both word and action.

“Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” (Colossians 4:5, 6).

“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 2:12).

“If someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Peter 3:15, 16).

Tombstones, Spiderwebs, Ghosts; Oh My!

by Jim Weikal

“It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).

Personally, I think it’s gloomy to strategically place tombstones, spider webs, and ghost shaped pillow cases in a front yard. But, “Hey, that’s me.” I’m not the independent arbitrator of spooky curb appeal. That’s up to each person.

But isn’t it great that when Christians think of death, it’s not in terms of retail merchandise from the Dollar Store or seeing death as “the last bitter hour.” We have Christ’s physical death on the cross once to assure us of salvation and a resurrection to eternal life where sin will be banished . . . expelled, forever and ever! Jesus swallowed up death in victory and He took away its sting (1 Corinthians 15:54-56).

Victory, Triumph, Eternal Life, Oh My!

Angelic Advice

by Jim Weikal

The angel said with a loud voice:

Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters (Revelation 14:7).

This announcement is made to an unrepentant world in the midst of unprecedented judgments from a holy God. The unrepentant world will ignore the words, but what about you?

Do you Fear God?

Or do you fear man more? For example, is there a person in your life who needs the Gospel, but you will not share it because you are intimidated? You may fear and reverence God privately and around fellow Christians, but what about around the bowling team, your car pool buddies, at a family reunion, or retirement home?

Do you Give God Glory and Worship Him?

The world praises and even worships people who show outstanding athletic ability. For example, the individual who ran the first under-4-minute mile; hit a World Series winning home run; scored the winning goal in the World Cup; made a fantastic catch in the Super Bowl. There is nothing wrong in recognizing someone who does great things even if it only lasts for a short amount of time. But do you give God the glory and worship due Him? After all, He made our physical universe and created each one of us (Genesis 1).

Others May, You Cannot

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 others do things which He will not let you do.

Other Christians and ministers may push themselves 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 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.

Excerpts from George Douglas Watson, 1845-1924 (public domain)

A Declaration of Biblical Convictions

by Bill Rudge

Wounds from a friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:6).

Those with strong biblical convictions will not participate in activities and conversations which dishonor our Lord. We will not sit by in silence as Jesus Christ is maligned and ridiculed. We will not compromise our standards to please others or refrain from witnessing while people around us wander in confusion – dying before our very eyes. We will not just sit there passively and watch our loved ones be seduced by the spirit of this age. We will – we must – speak up and say something – even if it offends. It is better to offend others and be disliked now, than to be praised for conforming to the world and compromising convictions, but to be hated later for not warning them and telling the truth.

The Word of God calls us to be loving, gracious and non-judgmental to those without Christ, but to rebuke and correct those who claim to know Christ yet deny Him with their words or behavior, thereby leading others astray. When conversations become unprofitable, photos become crass or behaviors become licentious, we will excuse ourselves. Likewise, when professing Christians flaunt their supposed liberties for alcohol consumption … or display immoral conduct – all in the name of freedom – we will quickly depart.

Tolerance is not compassion and being non-judgmental is not the same as love. In the face of potential disaster, love compels us to warn of impending consequences. Our hearts are troubled and grieved as the moral values and lifestyles of our culture drift further and further from God’s standard. At the risk of seeming antisocial, we will not participate in unprofitable and degrading conversations or involve ourselves in behaviors and lifestyles that dishonor the Lord, even though our culture accepts them as normal.

Through Christ we will stand strong in the midst of accelerating apostasy and intensifying persecution. We will not compromise our biblical values or commitment to Jesus Christ. Our prayer is that we remain faithful to the end, being powerful and effective witnesses to those who have ears to hear, eyes to see and hearts to receive what the Spirit and Word are saying to this end-times’ generation.