A Heart of Thankfulness

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Lucas Rudge, surrounded by his family.

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

I was reminded of the importance of having a heart of thankfulness when my father and I had a conversation about the birth of my son Lucas. When my wife, Tara, was pregnant with him, she was diagnosed with group B strep. We were told it was not serious, but it would require her to receive an antibiotic a few hours before Lucas would be born. My wife was somewhat concerned because with the previous pregnancy, our daughter was born within just a few hours. In light of this, she worried about making certain she could get the antibiotic prior to delivering our son. To ease her anxiety the doctor told Tara she would induce her so there would be no concern about getting the antibiotic. The day set for her to be induced was about a week before her actual due date, and other than the need for the antibiotic, my wife was progressing well. The doctor had no problem inducing a week early. Everything went well that day.

Tara took the antibiotic, and labor (at least from my standpoint) moved along smoothly. During the birth the doctor noticed the cord was wrapped around my son’s neck, and she quickly removed it. In the excitement of having another child, I didn’t think too much at the time about potential implications of the cord being around his neck. It was not until later, discussing this with my wife and my dad, that we all realized we could have lost Lucas. I truly believe that if my wife had not been induced a week early, my son might not be here today. I finally did what I should have done at the moment he was born – I got down on my knees and thanked the Lord!

When my son was born, it was a rainy and overcast day. However, at the moment he was born, the doctor commented how the sun suddenly came out and shone through the window. What a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness as He blessed our lives with our son Lucas (which, by the way, means “light bearer”). His birth date also was a blessing to my father. It was on that same date, July 5 – but decades prior – that his little brother, at age seven, was struck and killed by a car.

An Attitude of Contentment

When I was in Haiti as a youth, I witnessed both an amazing expression of gratitude and the demonstration of contentment. The mission compound where we stayed took food and water to a remote village once a week. This tiny village was extremely poor and the people had to walk miles to get water. As we approached, I was struck by two images: the first was of extreme poverty and the dire conditions in which the people lived. Their village was situated along a dirt path with minimal vegetation. The huts were made of dirt, straw, and what appeared to be old tin metal sheets. The children were running around naked and the adults were wearing tattered clothes.

Second, along with the extreme poverty, I was struck by the faces of the people as we entered the village. They began to smile and wave as they ran towards their huts. They came out wearing their best (old and worn-out) clothes as they headed to the one-room church that had been built near the mission compound. As we walked into the church they were singing a song. I asked our interpreter what they were singing, and he said, “They are thanking God for all He had given them.” I looked around and thought to myself, “What things?” These people had no houses, no cars, barely any food or clothes, and lived in a hot and extremely dusty environment. How could they be thankful?

Then I realized that a thankful heart does not focus on what it lacks but is content with, and grateful for, what it has. As the apostle Paul reminded the believers in Philippi:

I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).

An attitude of contentment moves our focus from circumstance to our Source of Strength. It reminds us that we serve a God Who is greater than anything we face, and as the Psalmist reminds us, His greatness is the reason we can have a heart of thankfulness:

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. For the Lord
is a great God and a great King above all gods.
Psalm 95:2, 3

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book, “Powerful and Effective Prayer.”

Kids’ Corner

Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Author Unknown

The following lighthearted humor was contributed by one of our supporters in California, Diana Trepesowsky.  Thank you, Diana.

• A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!” Author Unknown

• A father was at the beach with his children when the four-year-old son ran up to him, grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore where a seagull lay dead in the sand. “Daddy, what happened to him?” the son asked. “He died and went to Heaven,” the Dad replied. The boy thought a moment and then said, “Did God throw him back down?” Author Unknown

• A wife invited some people to dinner. At the table, she turned to their six-year-old daughter and said, “Would you like to say the blessing?” “I wouldn’t know what to say,” the girl replied. “Just say what you hear Mommy say, the wife answered. The daughter bowed her head and said, “Lord, why on earth did I invite all these people to dinner?” Author Unknown

Praise the Lord

by Karen Rudge

Two weeks before leaving for our Israel trip I was in a lot of pain and had the flu which went into bronchitis. I had a lot of ministry work to do before leaving and was praying I would be able to go. Many people were also praying for me. The Lord spoke to my heart to listen to praise music and praise Him.

It is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. (Psalm 147:1)

When I felt the most pain or sickness I would leave my office and go listen to praise music, pray and praise the Lord. The pain would lessen and I had enough energy to finish the work needed for that day. Praise the Lord! I was able to go to Israel with virtually no pain or sickness.

J. C. Penney was a business man who lost everything in the 1930’s to the Great Depression. He became ill and sank to such a low depression that he was admitted to the hospital. He felt he was going to die. Then one morning he heard singing coming from the hospital chapel. As he listened the words began to sink into his soul:

Be not dismayed whatever betide, God will take care of you; Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Instantly the darkness left him and he said there was a warm and brilliant sunlight. It was then he became a born again Christian. From that day on he never worried. He said the 20 minutes of the chapel songs were so glorious it changed his life. When he died at age 99 he left 1660 department stores in his name.

Praising the Lord can lift anyone out of a deep sorrow, sickness or anxiety:

Let them praise His name with the dance; Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Let the saints be joyful in glory; Let them sing aloud on their beds. (Psalm 149:3-5)

Examining the Evidence

by Bill Rudge

“Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

With so many religious and philosophical options to choose from, why are you a Christian? Is it because you’re convinced that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be and that the Bible is the unique revelation of God?

1 Peter 3:15 encourages us:

Always be prepared to give an answer [make a defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

The Quest

I shared Christ with a young man to whom I was giving a ride. He said, “Bill, don’t waste your time. I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, and I don’t believe in the Bible.” I responded, “That’s fine Dan. You have a right to believe whatever you want, but don’t be so foolish as to reject the Bible and Jesus Christ without first examining the overwhelming evidence.”

I then shared with him some of the archaeological discoveries that have established the historical accuracy of innumerable biblical details, as well as the scientific evidence, and the accuracy and superiority of biblical health and nutrition principles. I shared some of the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that had been made at least 400 years before Christ walked on earth, explaining the mathematical impossibility for anyone to fulfill just a few of these prophecies, yet Jesus fulfilled them all. I explained to him how the evidence of the resurrection is undeniable and asked him what other religious leader has an empty tomb.

I asked Dan to consider the numerous biblical prophecies written almost 2,000 years ago concerning the end times in which we are now living – prophecies foretelling a one-world government, a one-world monetary system, and a one-world religion. The specific details and exactness of these and many other prophecies that are being fulfilled right before our eyes would have been impossible to foretell without divine inspiration.

Finally, I shared the reality of Jesus Christ through the tremendous way in which He has transformed my life and millions of others throughout history, as well as the miraculous interventions the Lord has done in my life and ministry. These evidences and many more are the reasons why I gave my life to Christ.

The Three Questions

I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ and become a Christian out of random chance or haphazard choice. Initially, there was an intentional bias on my part and a deliberate rejection of Him due to lifestyle choices, ulterior motives, or being unable to resolve the conflict of a loving God with the suffering and death I was witnessing.

Lasting fulfillment always eluded me despite all my searching which either proved insufficient or led to a dead end. My restless heart and relentless quest for truth and purpose forced me to honestly consider three crucial questions:

1) Is there a God? If there isn’t, then I can live any way I want. However, my search and research convinced me there is a Creator.

2) If there is a God, are there many ways or only one way to this Supernatural Being? After examining the evidence I was convinced there is only one way to God – through Jesus Christ.

3) How do I come to know God and what does He require of me? My spiritual journey proved fruitful. I could not deny the truth. At age 18 I became an ardent believer in and follower of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. God’s Spirit began to transform my life as I spent time in Scripture, prayer, and fasting and started living by the biblical principles I will be sharing in upcoming newsletters.

I have grown in my faith over the years and my continuing investigation and research confirms the wisdom of committing my life to Jesus Christ. There is only One before Whom I willingly bend my knee and bow. To Him alone do I entrust my life, my future, and my eternal destiny!

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

Reverence for His Name

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

The Lord’s Prayer opens with this concept of reverence: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Addressing God as our Father identifies us as His children. How do we become one of His children?

But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name (John 1:12).

Besides having the privilege to address God as our Father, we are to hallow God’s name when we pray. This means we should approach God with reverence and respect. In ancient times a name expressed the individual’s essential being. Thus, by approaching God with reverence for His name, we are in reality expressing a respect for His very being. As David proclaims, “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is Your name in all the earth!” (Psalm 8:9).

Seeking His Will

The essence of Jesus’ life reflects His willingness to humble Himself and submit to the will of His Father (see Philippians 2:5-11). Jesus taught this in the Lord’s Prayer, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). The apostle John reiterates that we should pray according to God’s will.

This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us (1 John 5:14).

He could not have stated it more clearly, if we want God to hear our prayers, then we must seek God’s will and not our own.

In my youth, I wanted to be a professional soccer player. Certainly, there was nothing wrong in aspiring to such a lofty goal. The problem was, I allowed my desire to play soccer to be more important than my desire to serve and honor God. Soccer had become my identity and I based my self-value upon it. Essentially, I was living a self-centered life, rather than a Christ-centered life and my prayers reflected it. The pursuit of my own dreams nearly destroyed me; it took three injuries, which required surgery on my left ankle and both knees, to bring me to the point in my life where I began to seek God’s will and not my own. After my third operation, I wrote the following in my prayer journal,

“God, I give my life and desires to you. Take this and build within me a desire to serve You; stronger than my desire to play soccer.”

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

Our prayer lives will be ineffective if we approach God on our own terms and in accordance to our own will. It will not be until we are willing to humble ourselves, and submit to His will for our lives, that we will see our prayer lives becoming powerful and effective.

Jesus Is Our Example

Jesus’ life was defined by prayer. At the start of His ministry, as He was baptized, He prayed (Luke 3:21). Before He chose His disciples He spent time in prayer (Luke 6:12-16). Before He was betrayed, arrested, and condemned to death, He was on His knees in prayer (Matthew 26:36; Mark 14:32; Luke 22:41; John 17). This consistent pattern of prayer obviously left an impression on Jesus’ disciples. As one of my former students, Mike J. Sarkissian, asserts in his excellent book: Before God: The Biblical Doctrine of Prayer:

The disciples had been used to going to the synagogues and the temple and hearing the cold, impersonal, repetitious prayers of the Pharisees. But once they began following Jesus, they must have immediately noticed that His prayer life was different. It was passionate and powerful. It was much different than what they were used to. When Jesus prayed things happened. Jesus’ prayer life commanded the disciples’ attention enough for them to ask Him for instruction on how to pray.

Spending Time in Prayer

Jesus separated Himself from others to spend time in prayer with His Father (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16). Challenges we all face include distractions and busy schedules. I understand this! I have six children, work full time in the ministry, travel for speaking engagements, author books, coach high school soccer, and teach as part-time professor at an area university.

None of us is busier than Jesus was, and if He could make time to separate Himself to pray, we can do the same. While we may not have a mountain or wilderness available for solitude, we can still find places and make ways to spend time alone with God.

Two Men – Two Destinies

by Bill Rudge

Stephen Hawking was a brilliant physicist – but the intricate prophecies in Scripture and the glorious revelation of Jesus Christ far surpass any human knowledge or ability. The psalmist stated, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1; 53:1). The human conscience and the Creation point with definitive clarity to a magnificent Creator. “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalm 19:1).

The prophet Isaiah declared, “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me” (Isaiah 43:10). Moses wrote, “There is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life and there is no one who can deliver from My hand” (Deuteronomy 32:39).

If Stephen Hawking was right about God, then he and Billy Graham lost nothing. However, if Billy was right, then he won everything and Stephen lost everything. In other words, Stephen Hawking had nothing to gain and everything to lose. Billy Graham had nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that when we stand before God we will have no defense for rejecting Him.  He states in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Jeremiah the prophet precisely stated, “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God will move heaven and earth to make known His way of salvation to anyone who seeks Him with a sincere and humble heart. Each of us has both the freedom and opportunity in this life to determine our eternal destiny.

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3).

“And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:11, 12).

Instead of discounting a creator and replacing Him with a faulty system of evolution that ultimately leads to a dead end, you can come to know the Creator in a real and personal way. Once you do, your endless hours of studying theories that continually change and dissipate can end and you can look at this amazing Creator’s creation through eyes of gratitude, hope and assurance.

Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (Revelation 4:11).

The Sovereignty of God

Powerful and Effective Prayer

“The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:2

A good place to begin a powerful and effective prayer life is in realizing that we are, in every way, completely dependent upon God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego understood that their lives were under the control of a sovereign God. Consider their response to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, before he had them thrown into the fiery furnace:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).

Think on these verses which highlight the sovereignty of God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1).

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:6).

Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, “My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure” (Isaiah 46:9, 10).

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).

Once we acknowledge that God is sovereign we must place our trust in Him as it says in Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

The Importance of Communication

As in any relationship, trust is established through communication – the exact essence of what prayer is all about.

A friend of my family went through a very difficult divorce. From all appearances, it seemed everything was fine in his marriage. He and his wife were active in their church and home schooled their children. He was very vocal about his faith and was very intentional in sharing the Gospel at work. When I received news that he and his wife had divorced, I gave him a call. As we talked he said, “BJ, at some point in my marriage I became a stranger to my wife. I felt like a single parent raising my kids.” This man’s marriage was destroyed when he and his wife stopped communicating.

Our human relationship with God will never grow unless we spend time communicating with Him. It is during those moments on our knees when faith develops. I foster trust in God by utilizing a prayer journal to record prayer requests and write down spiritual lessons God has taught me. This journal has proven a great resource to remind me of God’s faithfulness. It is encouraging to reflect on past requests and see how God has responded to them. Sometimes God did not answer the request in the way I thought He would, nor in the time I wanted, but in each case I am reminded that I serve a God who listens and responds to the needs of His children (Psalm 34:17; Matthew 7:7; John 14:13-14; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15).

Some of the spiritual lessons God has taught me have come through times of trials and tribulation, others during times of prayer and fasting. Regardless of the situation, in each case it has been valuable to reflect upon what God has taught me through the years. I also jot down key verses that have given me strength, encouragement and direction through various times in my life. What a faithful God we serve!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

So then, the first principle in having a powerful and effective prayer life is trusting in the sovereignty of God. We are merely the vehicles which God uses to accomplish His sovereign will. Even in the uncertainties of life, we must realize, like Job, that we are dependent upon Him (Job 42:2-6).

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book Powerful and Effective Prayer.