Unexpected Miracles

by Bill Rudge

No news from Karen is good news regarding BRM finances! But on Wednesday, October 31, 2018, Karen informed me that we needed $1,163 from Emergency Funds to cover October’s remaining expenses. Since we had to leave for Franklin, Pennsylvania for the District 10 Girls’ Soccer Championship, we were unable to get to the bank before closing. No one knew of this need outside Karen and me. Halfway to Franklin I received a call from a friend of the ministry. She shared in a follow-up e-mail:

It was about the middle of October when I was looking for a card for my granddaughter at the store. Bill and Karen’s son, BJ, walked by me and gently tapped me on the shoulder and said hello. I replied “hello” and after a few other words we went our separate ways. It remained with me that just the simple gesture of a touch on the shoulder can be so meaningful. It made me want to show the same kindness to others.

At the end of October, I was sorting money that is received from the sale of snacks and drinks at our work place. I usually never have time to roll the loose coins but was able to this time. While sorting and wrapping the coins I felt God speak to me that I needed to take the box of coins and money to Bill Rudge. Keep in mind it was after 3:00 p.m. and I had a busy evening ahead. I thought about taking it the next day but felt God urge me to take it that evening. It was after 4:00 p.m. when I got to the ministry and it was closed. I called Bill’s cell phone and reached both him and Karen as they were driving to Franklin.

I explained why I was calling. We were interrupted several times due to poor reception but by then I was determined to finish my mission as God instructed me. Bill informed me that they did have a special need to end the month but would not tell me the amount. I placed the money box in a secure location Bill advised me to use and prayed it would help toward the deficiency they were facing for October. I honestly did not believe there would be enough money in the box but God knew and whether God multiplied it overnight I do not know.

I was driving the next morning when Bill called to inform me how much was in the box ($1,177) so I pulled my car over to the side of the road and I am glad I did. Bill explained exactly how much was needed ($1,163) and that there was $14.00 left over towards November. God never ceases to amaze me! HE knows all and there is no coincidence with the time-line of events leading up to this. I am thankful I could help Bill and that I listened and followed God’s urging. I encourage everyone to be obedient to God’s call.

This “miracle” would have never happened if this woman was not sensitive and obedient to God’s Spirit, or if all our other ministry supporters had not previously sent in their donations (both large and small). A heart-felt thanks to all of you for your generous, faithful and sacrificial giving!

What Child is This?

by Wendy Wippel

Wendy Wippel is a molecular biologist who specializes in genetics. She has conducted research for the University of Cincinnati and the Center for Disease Control. She focuses on medical writing, but she also does a lot of writing concerning biblical topics. This article first appeared in The Omega Letter in 2013.

Thoughts for the Christmas Season

It’s the Christmas season, and amid the baking and the bustling and the bows, it’s easy to lose sight of what the fuss is all about — a baby. As the old carol asks, “What child is this?”

There’s a lot riding on your answer. Because that baby is the central figure of human history. Human history, in fact, is divided into two eras (BC and AD) by His existence. (Your birth date? Counted from His.)

• He never traveled more than 100 miles from home, but His followers permeated every country in the world with His story.

• He never wrote a book, but more have been written about Him than anyone else in history, by far.

• The first book about Him, the Bible, has been translated into more than 500 languages, and portions of it into more than 3000 languages. The first runner-up, believe it or not, is Pinocchio. Only 260.

• He had only 12 disciples, but billions of people discuss His teachings every day. According to one Harvard professor (not a Christian), the Sermon on the Mount alone represents the “most luminous, most quoted, most analyzed, most contested, most influential moral and religious discourse in all of human history.” The professor adds, “This may sound like an overstatement, but it is not.”

• He was homeless during His public life, but most of the world’s most beautiful buildings were built in His honor (Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Hagia Sophia, Chartres, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on.)

• He died as a criminal, but today thousands of names of cities and countries memorialize His life. (San Salvador, for example, which means Holy Savior.)

• He never married, but more wedding vows have asked His blessing than any other.

• He never had kids, but there’s a really good chance you’re named after one of his family or his friends.

• Untold numbers of people throughout history have willingly gone to their deaths rather than renounce His name.

It begs the question, “What Child IS This?”

Author Ralph Waldo Emerson (an atheist) observed that the name of Jesus was not so much written as ploughed into the history of the world. And author H.G. Wells (also an atheist) said this:

An historian like myself finds the picture centering irresistibly around the life and character of this most significant man . . . The historian’s test of an individual’s greatness is . . . did he start men to thinking along fresh lines with a vigor that persisted after him? By this test Jesus stands first.

Jesus is recognized by skeptic and saint alike as the turning point of history. What child IS this?

We’ve had 2000 years to speculate: A really moral man? A great philosopher? A champion of social justice? A pacifist? A mythical figure? A revolutionary? A fruitcake? An example for all of us to follow?

Those really aren’t the right questions, though. The real question is “Who does He think He is?” And Jesus, tellingly, said none of the above. Jesus said that He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus said that He came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, He said that He came specifically for one moment in time, His crucifixion (John 12:27). And Jesus said that He came to be the make-or-break issue in your life and mine: “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind” (John 9:39).

What child is this? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. And eternity rides on our answer. Why? Because God created humans to be with Him. But you probably know what happened next — Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God established, and humanity became tainted with sin. And as descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherited that condition.

We’re all SIN positive.

The problem is that sin can’t survive in the presence of the holiness of God. But that same God still loves us and wants us to be with Him. So Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. We’re what was lost.

Some Christmas carols call Jesus another name: Emmanuel. It means “God with us.” And Jesus, God in the form of a man, came to earth to make a bridge. A bridge described in a lot of different places in the Bible:

To all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God (John 1:12).

He who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).

For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for you, but it’s just not my thing.” Or, “I have my own faith.” Or, “We all worship the same God.”

Then what child is this? One that made some pretty amazing statements:

I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the father but through me (John 14:6).

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me (Matthew 28:18).

Nobody else said things like this. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Not Joseph Smith. Nobody.

People these days say that makes Christianity exclusive. Except that Jesus also said that whosoever believes in Him can have eternal life. Whosoever.

So what child is this? You can call Him a liar. You can call Him a lunatic. Or you can call him Lord. “Undecided” isn’t really an option. He didn’t mean for it to be.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Messiah, a Messiah described in Isaiah as “wounded for our transgressions,” whose chastisement made peace for us with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life as a ransom for many. Nobody else said that. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Not Joseph Smith. Nobody.

That’s what sets Jesus apart. Only He laid down His life for your sins and mine. And when He died on that cross (a fact documented in Roman records) it would have certainly seemed that was the last history would hear of Him.

But the cross that He died on is now the world’s most common symbol, engraved on tombstones, mounted in and on churches, scattered on hillsides and hung around a whole lot of necks. (And at Ground Zero — at least for now.)

So what child is this? That’s the question. And the answer, as G. K Chesterton observed:

Since Jesus died on the cross it has never been quite enough to say that “God is in His heaven and all is right with the world,” since, according to the Bible, “God left His heavens to set it right.”

God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to seek and save that which was lost, meaning you and me. When He died on the cross, God was saying that He loves you. He Himself came to earth to give His life as your ransom. It was the God of all the universe, whispering into your ears, “I do.” And that God, who still loves you, stands at the altar, waiting for your answer. He’ll wait. He has all eternity to do so. Do you?

Article from The Lamplighter magazine, November-December 2018. Used with permission.

The ‘Secret’ to God’s Blessing

by Bill Rudge

The many blessings and miracles God has bestowed in my life, family and ministry have not come about because of “proper confession” or using the “right” technique, formula or ritual, but because of faith in Him and obedience to His Word. I have not sought these things, but I have sought Him: to know and obey His will and to make Him Lord over every aspect of my life. As a result, He has honored and blessed me in many ways. My motivation is not merely to receive His blessing; I don’t serve Him for prosperity. For, if He removes His hand of blessing (as He has occasionally done), I will still serve and honor Him.

The Lord has blessed me financially, but we choose to give most of it away and live a moderate lifestyle. I could be easily justified in accepting a salary of two or even three times more than I do, but we have chosen instead, to use that money to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Some people spend their time and energy trying to get God to give them wealth and prosperity. However, Scripture repeatedly indicates that spiritual riches are far more important than material wealth; honoring Him proves to be the wisest path.

Jesus said: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). The apostle Paul admonishes: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). First Timothy 6:18 instructs: “Be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share” which will lay up treasure for you in the coming age.

No Good Thing Does He Withhold…

On a hot August day, following a hard workout on the Obstacle Course, my then 14 year old grandson and I were talking about the Lord and Scripture while recuperating in hammocks. He mentioned he’d recently read Psalm 84. In return I commented on verses 11 and 12:

No good thing does He [the LORD] withhold from those who walk uprightly. How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

“Look around,” I said, “and see how God has fulfilled His Word: We started with literally nothing and God has blessed us with a wonderful family and eleven awesome grandchildren. He has provided a beautiful property surrounded with trees like an oasis, a ministry center, a house, a vehicle and everything else that is good for us. I may not have a boat, a plane or much money, and have faced many challenges, but I don’t need a boat, a plane or lots of money, and the challenges have made me strong. God has given me everything I need and blessed us beyond measure. He has been faithful and proven His Word to be true.”

The heroes of the faith willingly gave up the pleasures and treasures of this world to focus on future blessings and eternal riches. So too, I have earnestly sought to put the Lord first in everything, and He has honored and blessed me! I have discovered the reality of the following biblical promises:

Psalm 37:4  “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 84:11  “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Matthew 6:33  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The Lord has taught me that I cannot manipulate Him to give me what I want. But if I delight myself in Him, seek His will, and walk in obedience to it, He will grant the desires of my heart (because they will be His desires as well) and abundantly bless beyond what I could ever ask or think—beyond my greatest expectations.

The Issue of Love

by B. J. Rudge, Ph.D.

During family devotions, we have been looking at what it means to love. We found John chapter 13 to be an important passage. In this chapter Jesus washes His disciples’ feet, predicts His betrayal by Judas, then gives His disciples the following command:

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

How Would Your Neighbors Describe You?

As we talked about this verse, I asked my kids to describe the people who live in our neighborhood. They mentioned some neighbors who would do anything to help you out, and other neighbors who were not friendly or complained or caused problems. I then asked them how they thought our neighbors would describe us. Specifically, would they describe us as a family who showed love?

I explained that we should not be surprised to find differences in how we live from the way many of our neighbors live. In fact, we should not be surprised to find some neighbors who may not even like us because of our Christian faith (John 15:18-21). However, we would never want anyone in our neighborhood to describe us as a family who does not live out our love for God and for others (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

How might your neighbors, coworkers, etc. describe you? Would they describe you as a person (or family) who lives out God’s command to love one another? In a time when our world is full of hatred, hostility, violence and discord, let each of us be reflections of Christ-like love.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:7-11).

In the Potter’s Hand

by BJ Rudge, Ph. D.

On the first day that my children took a pottery class, they were given a lump of useless clay. The teacher told them this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. Despite a few imperfections, that is exactly what happened as my children made that piece of clay into a vase that sits on display in our house.

Many of us feel like a useless piece of clay. We look at ourselves and see no value or worth. However, this is not the way that God views us. He sees who we can become, in Him. Many people forget that the purpose of Christianity goes beyond the moment that we are saved. Instead, our faith in Jesus is an ongoing process where God works in us for the ultimate goal of conforming us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

So the next time you feel like a useless piece of clay, just yield your life over to the Master Potter and let Him mold you into a beautiful vase.

The “Great” Escape

by Bill Rudge

God in the Wildfires – Part 1

The neighborhoods and mountains were devastated as if by an atomic blast! Charred mountains and canyons lay as far as the eye could see. Over 3,500 houses were destroyed – most reduced to rubble and ash – along with ranks of burned cars and trucks, their windshields blown out. Billows of smoke blackened the daytime sky. Black soot covered everything in sight, creating a lunar landscape as out-of-control wildfires, exacerbated by Santa Ana winds, devastated an area equal in size to the state of Rhode Island.

The Rudges had just returned from ministering at US Army and Air Force bases in Germany and were in Southern California for further ministry when they found themselves under a mandatory evacuation order due to California’s most devastating wildfire in history. Shifting winds caused the raging flames to cut off many escape routes. Some people had already died trying to flee when the intense heat overtook them. Others lost all their worldly possessions in homes that had no insurance and faced an uncertain future. We prayed that daughter Tabitha’s home, which was in harm’s way, would be protected.

In the midst of this chaos, our faithful God provided not only a way of escape but avenues for ministry. Over the next two weeks, Bill Rudge had opportunities to minister to hundreds of people as a Red Cross Chaplain not only at several evacuation centers but also at the sites of their burned homes. He freely gave out hundreds of his books and audio messages to the fire victims who requested and received them gladly.

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Tabitha and Clayton’s neighborhood during the wildfires.

It was a beautiful and peaceful evening on Saturday, October 25, 2003 at my daughter and son-in-law’s home in Alpine, California – about 30 miles east of San Diego. As it was the last weekend in October, we turned the clocks back one hour before retiring. About 3 a.m. Sunday morning Tabitha woke me because the Santa Ana winds were gusting up to 70 mph – blowing the outside furniture and toys away.

There had been no significant rainfall in Southern California for over six months, creating perfect weather conditions for fire.

Glimpse of Revelation

In the morning, I went outside and saw billows of smoke to the north, west and south; looking as if atomic bombs had exploded! The sky became pitch black; the sun appeared red – it seemed like Armageddon. On a smaller scale I caught a glimpse of what it will be like all over the world during the Tribulation.

My son-in-law, Clayton, a California Highway Patrolman (CHP), had been out working the fire areas from Saturday night to Sunday morning and was exhausted. (He threw up three times from smoke inhalation.)

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Tabitha and Clayton’s house during the California wildfires.

As the fires burned ever nearer to their house, I stepped out in Tabitha’s driveway several times and raised my hands to the Lord, asking Him to spare this house because it was used for ministry purposes. At about 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 26, Clayton decided to take his family to Rich and Sunday Miller’s house in Mission Bay (on San Diego’s coast). I’d wanted to stay on at the house but Clayton insisted we follow in his car.

My son-in-law, daughter and two young grandchildren led out heading to Interstate 8 West. Karen and I followed in a 1995 Neon with a gas gauge that was not working – their two dogs in the backseat.

Only a few miles into the trip, Tabitha informed me they’d left the gas on at the house. I said I’d go back (in spite of Clayton’s warning not to do so) but wanted Karen to go with them. She insisted, however, on staying with me. At this point the flames were burning within 100 feet from where we stopped on the freeway. And I was about to learn an important lesson: Do not turn around!

Back at the house, I turned off the gas and closed all the windows, which Tabitha had opened because of the high winds earlier. Thank the Lord I did, or they would have sustained soot and smoke damage throughout the house. Meanwhile Karen heard on the news that I-8 was now closed to the west and fires were burning all over San Diego County.

We decided to stay and I got both dogs out of the car. Twenty minutes later, I saw an orange glow and flames just over the hill from Tabitha’s house. I went out in the driveway and again raised my hands to the Lord asking Him to spare this house.

Thirty minutes later, the Sheriff came through the neighborhood announcing a mandatory and immediate evacuation. I loaded Molly in the car but was unsuccessful in corralling Niki – a huge Siberian husky. After five minutes of chasing him around we had to leave. I prayed the Lord would somehow protect him. Firefighters and neighbors at the end of Tabitha’s street told us not to expect anything of our neighborhood to be left.

The Detour

We were uncertain of where to go and even how to get there. The only place the fires were not yet burning was to the east, taking us farther from our daughter and her family.

It took us one hour to go merely a quarter mile in bumper-to-bumper traffic while leaving Alpine. Clayton told me via cell phone to leave his car and RUN because the flames could quickly overtake us from the unpredictable winds that were gusting up to 70 mph. He said people had been incinerated while trying to escape in their cars. Since we were stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, he told me to take his gun from the trunk, strap it around my shoulder and abandon the car. But where could we go without a car? So we stayed with the car.

The sky was ominous with billows of smoke. Fleeing the approaching wildfires, traffic was often at a standstill so you could get out of your car. I told people we met that we were catching a glimpse of Revelation and that the Biblical account is accurate regarding its description of destruction on earth during the Tribulation (Joel 2:30, 31; Revelation 6:12; 8:7, 11, 12).

I had recently read Fox’s Book of Martyrs and also had watched videos about Christian martyrs such as John Huss and others who were burned at the stake or tortured with fire, so I had vivid mental pictures of what fire and smoke could do to humans.

Karen was crying and calling BJ and Tabitha and other family members to say goodbye. However, I assured them I had total peace and knew the Lord would keep us safe and also protect Tabitha and Clayton’s house. Looking back though, it appeared to us that Tabitha’s house was in flames and smoke! We prayed several more times that the house would be spared.

In one moment, it seemed Karen and I were safe, secure and comfortable; yet in the next moment we were fleeing for our lives – without food, water, shelter or a bed.

Still caught in the bumper-to-bumper traffic, hot ashes were falling all around us and our eyes and lungs were burning from smoke. Once again, I assured Clay and BJ that we would be safe. Tabitha was very upset because she felt she’d sent us back to her house. Unable to go west, we headed east in hopes of reaching the home of Sue and Doug, friends of Tabitha who told her we could stay with them.

When we finally got out of Alpine and onto 8 East we saw a woman standing along the freeway near a motor home. She looked distraught and was staring back at Alpine watching the fire. Karen and I stopped and stood with her. She had fled Alpine when the canyons around her house burst into flames; she was certain her brand new house had burned to the ground. Her husband had gone back to get their truck, which was loaded with personal items. I prayed with her that her husband and house would be safe. About a minute after praying she was elated to see her husband drive up in the truck.

Sue and Doug, whose house we were hoping to reach, lived in Mt. Laguna in Cleveland National Forest, about 25 miles east of Alpine. It was dark by the time we drove the last ten miles to their house in the mountains – on unfamiliar winding roads.

We faced several other challenges. Our cell phone battery was dying but Karen tried one more time to call Sue for her address. As soon as Karen got it, the phone went dead! Although the gas gauge was not working, we knew we were almost out because Clayton kept a record of his mileage so he would know when to fill up. With electricity out (no street or house lights) it was pitch-black in the mountains. I stopped at a fire station near Sue’s house to call and ask her husband to stand at their road with a flashlight so we could find them.

Sue and Doug were using candles to light their house and were hosting another displaced couple. In the course of the evening Sue asked me how I came to faith and we all talked together for over an hour as I shared my testimony.

Early the next morning, I felt led to drive back to Alpine. I wanted to check on Tabitha’s house, then make our way the 30 miles west to Miller’s, but knew it would be difficult since so many roads were closed. The thick smoke made daylight seem like night.

At their insistence, we left Molly (who looked like a coyote) at Doug and Sue’s in case we had to walk to Alpine because of blocked roads or if we ran out of gas.

We wound our way down the 10 miles of mountain roads and then took U.S. Route 80 heading west. However, seven miles from Alpine, this highway was closed as well as 8 West. Taking the only road left open, sent us south toward the nearby Mexican border. I was concerned that should the road take us into Mexico, having a gun in the trunk could mean life imprisonment there. Not knowing the road, we were relieved to finally see a sign indicating 16 miles to Alpine, so we continued on. Ours was the only vehicle on the road.

About four miles from Alpine, airborne ash and smoke were so thick, I thought we might have to turn back, yet I knew that could be dangerous too. I expected our tires to melt at any moment as hot ashes rained down all over and around us. I apologized to Karen for getting her into this if anything should happen, but still felt the Lord would get us through. Then in the distance – out of nowhere – I saw three pickup trucks and followed them right into Alpine! A few hours later, the entire area through which we’d just driven was consumed by fire – as we would have been if we had run out of gas or broken down.

Alpine was abandoned except for a few vehicles. It looked like a ghost town. As we drove down Tabitha’s road we prayed their house would still be standing. From a distance I saw that it was! We rejoiced and thanked God. It was covered with ash, but untouched by the fire. We were elated to see Kacy Magnett, Tabitha’s good friend and one of our volunteer staff, pull up to Tabitha’s house with her daughter. They had slept in their house last night in Alpine since her husband Terry could not get home because I-8 was closed. Niki the dog was also safe, taking refuge in a storm drainage pipe.

We could not stay in Alpine because the air was still too thick with smoke and ash so we got on I-8 going west and met Clay at the CHP office in El Cajon to switch vehicles and give him his gun and belongings. Clay hugged me three times.

After leaving Tabitha’s and while on 8 West, helicopters flew 100 feet overhead dropping water on burning fires. The smoke was very thick all the way for 30 miles from Alpine west to San Diego. (The hazardous air quality lasted for days.)

Rich and Sunday hosted thirteen people (including two pregnant women and three toddlers), two cats and two dogs in their home which at that time only had three bedrooms and one bath.

Full Circle

The one road in and out of the mountains which we had traveled to stay the night was shut down the very next day due to fire. It would have taken us two or more days to get to the Miller’s if we’d had to go another way.

I was scheduled to fly to Pennsylvania on Monday but my flight was cancelled. On Tuesday I went to a one-hour Red Cross training for volunteers, followed by a one-hour chaplain training session.

The people of California and the Red Cross workers were amazed that being from Pennsylvania, a refuge of the fire myself and staying at a temporary shelter, I should serve as chaplain to other fire victims. Truly, the Lord orchestrated this ministry opportunity. Some of the people affected by the California wildfires had, a few years earlier, come east to help at the 9/11 terrorist site. Now I was able to return the favor.

On Wednesday I took eight hours of Red Cross Mass Care Training. KC Hutter, owner of Dirt Cheap Car Rental, gave me free usage of a yellow convertible Mustang. (I wanted something more conservative but she insisted I “deserved” this vehicle.)

On Thursday we moved back into Tabitha’s house. With no telephone service or electricity, we had to throw out all the food in the refrigerator. We had a cell phone, but no way to charge it.

That same day, Karen and I went down Stagecoach Road to see Susan (the woman we’d met on 8 East when the canyons around her house were burning). She was overjoyed to see us, and we were overjoyed to see that her beautiful new house was still standing. The fire came within 20 feet of it and the canyon burned on three sides, but her house remained untouched. I gave her a copy of my book, Faith Through the Fire and a pamphlet copy of my testimony which she enthusiastically received.

During the following days I had hundreds of ministry opportunities. Next month I will share some of the amazing stories and exciting opportunities during the devastating wildfires.