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!

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.

As The Grass Fades (Psalm 103)

by Bill Rudge

Everyone, sooner or later, comes to realize that youth and vigor fade like the waning summer days of September.

photo by Tabitha Smith

The most attractive people in the world will, in a few short years, lose much of their beauty. Their “perfect” bodies and good looks will give way to sags and wrinkles. Just visit a nursing home and compare the residents to their youthful pictures.

A Sports Festival I attended included men and women at their peak of perfection: massive muscles from steroids, chiseled bodies from intense training, youthful appearance, vivacious…. But looking beyond the glamorous surface, while witnessing and giving out my Reaching Your Maximum Potential and Who Is This Jesus? books, I noticed visible flaws from aging, sun damaged skin, over training and overdosing. Many who just a few years earlier were at their pinnacle, now limped while walking due to bad knees, hips or backs; had faces engraved with wrinkles, sculpted bodies with extended bellies and hernias, tattoos that looked grotesque from shrinking muscles and shriveling skin; varicose veins – the result of over exertion and straining; surgical scars on shoulders and knees from injuries caused by lifting excessive amounts of weight….

Eternal Significance

A lifetime of training in athletics, academics or the arts can be wiped out in a moment of time – an unexpected injury, debilitating accident or dread disease. The Book of Ecclesiastes says to enjoy each day to its fullest, but focus on the important priorities because life is but a passing vapor. A self-written obituary by 69-year-old Emily Phillips noted: “I was born; I blinked; and it was over.”

David said it this way:

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 (Psalm 103:15,16).

Life goes by too quickly to disregard or even defy the Lord for a few years of fleeting indulgence. Chasing after worldly pleasures and possessions is – as Solomon learned 3,000 years ago through personal experience – futility and foolishness.

Why spend a lifetime developing skills and talents yet neglect that which has never-ending significance? Enjoy the temporary but focus on the eternal. Endeavor to develop attributes and qualities whose benefits last forever.

You have a lifetime (however long or short that may be) to determine your eternal destiny; an eternity to enjoy the rewards, or suffer the consequences for the choices you made in this lifetime. You have the final word in this life; God has it in the next life.

Wisdom from Solomon

It would be expedient to heed the wisdom of Solomon: His search in riches and pleasure inspired him to conclude the book of Ecclesiastes with the following admonition:

However many years a person may live, let them enjoy them all. But remember that days of darkness will be many. Rejoice while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do. Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before you grow old and no longer enjoy living – before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you say, “I find no pleasure in them.” The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear [Reverence] God and obey His commands, for this is the duty of every person. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. (Adapted from Ecclesiastes 11:8,9 and 12:13-14.)

Change of Perspective

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, our outlook changes. Enjoyment of the passions of this life fade like the flexibility and suppleness of aging joints. It is good that God uses the degeneration and deterioration of our physical bodies to divert our focus from the pleasures of this physical domain to that of our approaching destiny.

I often tell people that time is the great equalizer: It has a way of catching up with us and changing our perspective – as do our circumstances. If you have not yet discovered, you soon will, that what matters most in your younger years, matters little when you are older, and what matters little when you are young matters most when you get older. The things of this earth grow strangely dim as Eternity looms on the horizon.

Some of what was a fun time for me as a teenager is now foolishness. Some of what I considered boring and weak back then, I recognize as wise and strong today. Some of what I thought was a waste of time and irrelevant is now a priority and passion. Much of what I rushed toward then, I avoid today. What I fled from before, I embrace today. My perspective has dramatically changed since coming to know Jesus Christ. It is diametrically opposed to what it was as a teenager before accepting Christ. With years, comes experience, and through experience, comes a new viewpoint.

Some people turn away from the sins of their youth because they have come to know the Lord, experience the joy of being forgiven and the peace of walking with God. Others do so because they are forced by circumstances or advancing age to no longer indulge in them.

It is far better to make the changes while you have the choice and the ability to do so, than to wait until you are one day forced to. However, whatever it takes, I hope you have amended your attitude and behavior from that which is contrary to God’s nature and His purpose for creating you, to that which honors Him. True repentance means that you would not repeat sinful behavior if you were back in those circumstances or had the opportunity once again.

Nourish Your Spirit

It is inevitable that your physical body will wear out; muscles will shrink and bones will weaken. Your body will eventually cease to function and will return to the dust from which God created it – but your spirit will live forever.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly [physical body] we are wasting away, yet inwardly [the eternal spirit] we are being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).

In light of this certainty, my suggestion is to spend more time nourishing your spirit through Bible study and prayer and less time pampering the flesh. You should be convinced by this point in your life that sinful behavior, really does result in the consequences warned about in the pages of Scripture. Hopefully, you have gained enough wisdom over the years to have learned what is pleasing to the Lord and acquired enough respect and reverence for God to avoid that which dishonors Him. David goes on to write in Psalm 103:

But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear [reverence] Him, and His righteousness with their children’s children – with those who keep His covenant and remember to obey His precepts (Psalm 103:17,18).

David confidently proclaimed in the closing verse of his most famous psalm:

I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psalm 23:6).

What Really Matters?

When all is said and done, what really matters? Ponder the following questions then make the necessary adjustments accordingly.

• Where will I spend eternity?
• Am I ready to meet my Creator?
• Did I honor Jesus Christ with my life (and ministry)?
• Was I a wise steward of the gifts and resources God entrusted to me?
• Did my life bear fruit by leading others to Christ?
• Was His will and purpose fulfilled through me?

May the longing of our hearts and the focus of our lives be to know and to exalt our Creator. May we inherit all God has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. May we rejoice because of the assurance that at Christ’s return believers’ bodies will be transformed into immortal, glorified bodies to rule and reign over a world returned to its original paradise.

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.

Life Eternal

By Glen Rudge

My friend told me about a book, he said it’d set my soul on fire.

He said that it was good, and I know he’s not a liar.

I had known him all my life, and he had never steered me wrong.

He knew that I liked music and said that this was God’s own song.

 

I had heard about the Bible, but had never given it a read.

My friend told me that it was the most positive of seed.

 

There was a Bible that my mom had given me sitting on my shelf.

My mom had read it to me years ago, but I had not read it myself.

I took the book down from the shelf, blowing the dust off of it.

Then I sat down in my favorite chair figuring I’d read for just a bit.

 

The words they flowed like water, feeding my hungry mind.

I became so into it, I lost all track of time.

Yes, it was just like water, refreshing me to my soul.

It told me about such beautiful things, and a man I did not know.

 

My friend said it would save me; in fact he quite persisted.

I read the words carefully about that man I never knew existed.

It said He gave his life for me so that I would live.

And I couldn’t think of a greater sacrifice that anyone could ever give.

 

It was like a soldier risking his life for mine.

I thought about it and realized, WOW, how loving and how kind.

One life for many, a sacrifice so pure;

I could almost not believe all the pain this man endured.

 

Then a few days after his death he arose to glory,

Sitting on a holy throne, WOW, what a great story.

I think I’ll read it again, in fact quite a few times,

And maybe I’ll even speak of it in some of my rhymes.

 

Hey, let me tell you about a book that I just read.

It will save you from eternal death, like a friend of mine had said.

I’ll back up that statement, because I’ve become saved, too.

And consider this the best advice I could ever give to you.

 

Purpose in the Midst of the Unknown

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

One of the greatest questions that you will ask in life is, “Why am I here?” In other words, “What is the purpose of my life?” As Christians, we know that we have an eternal purpose. We have been given the task by Jesus to be His ambassadors here on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) – a task that calls us to be His representatives in sharing with others the truth of who He is and why He came. Despite our acknowledgment of this divine purpose, we often find ourselves facing challenges and trials that cause us to question why God is allowing 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 that I recently had with my 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 also about to undergo a third surgery on her left ankle. For the past three+ 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 daily activities. Now she was weeks away from another surgery where she would be receiving a full bone fusion that would bring with it a long recovery process. Not knowing the final outcome of this procedure is why 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 and not only missed the next game, but the rest of the season. Although my daughter is not one who complains, the emotions of all of this eventually came weighing down on her. In a moment of exhaustion, she asked “why would God let this happen?”

As her father, I tried to reiterate to her that sometimes we do not always know specifically why, but this does not mean there is not a purpose. I shared with her 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 I faced a similar ankle surgery around the same age. Remembering how I responded, 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 our trash. In my daughter’s trashcan, my wife found the rough draft of a letter that Moriah had written to Ryan Shazier. For those who do not know him, Ryan plays football for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and recently suffered a severe back injury. Below is just an excerpt of what my daughter wrote to Ryan:

Dear Ryan Shazier,

I wanted to let you know that I am praying for you every day and supporting you too. 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 has us go through difficult times. My favorite singer, Tauren Wells, had helped me to understand more why God has me going through all of this. His song “God’s Not Done With You” reminds us though you 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, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me (Psalm 57:1, 2).