How Would Your Neighbors Describe You?

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

For our family devotions, we have been dealing with the issue of love. One of the Bible passages that we looked at was from John, chapter 13. 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: 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).

As we talked about this verse, I asked my kids to describe for me the people who live in our neighborhood. They talked about some neighbors who were not friendly, other neighbors who always complained or caused problems, and others who would do anything to help you out. In response to their descriptions of our neighbors, 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 to my children that we should not be surprised to find differences in how we lived from the way many of our neighbors lived. 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, despite this reality, I told them that we should never have anyone in our neighborhood describe us as a family who did not live out a love for God and for others (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

So how would 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, violence, and discord, let all 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).

Life Lessons

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Bill Rudge

I had just turned 25 when I started this ministry in 1977. In those early days, I was told by ministers, older than myself, that the years would pass quickly. They were right. The ministry will turn 40 at the beginning of next month. Over the years I have learned many important lessons through experience, observation and reflection. The wisdom gained is far more valuable than the wealth of this world.

In length of years, I have been given the opportunity to see several generations and have lived what feels like multiple “lifetimes”:

From being a middle child with four brothers and one sister to being a fitness and martial arts instructor; from being a rebellious teenager to becoming a committed Christian; from marrying Karen (I was 18 and she was 17) to the blessings a few years later of two children, followed by 11 grandchildren; from hitchhiking across the country to graduating from Bible college; from working as a youth pastor and training with Youth for Christ to starting this multi-faceted ministry; from producing radio broadcasts and writing books to traveling the world on adventurous missions and speaking engagements…and so much more.

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Path at Bill Rudge Ministries

Life experience and lessons have been plentiful. Some of the insights and wisdom gained along the way:

  • We are not here by random chance – we are, rather, a unique creation designed for a special purpose.
  • We may think we are the masters of our fates, but God is the determiner of our destinies.
  • Sometimes the Lord seems to “hideHis face and be shrouded in silence. But those who seek Him with all their hearts will find Him and discover His reality.
  • The wisest and most courageous decision I ever made was to give my life to Jesus Christ.
  • In spite of dangers and even life threatening circumstances over the years, the Lord has fulfilled His promise that my life would not be taken until His purpose is fulfilled.
  • His path is rarely easy – many times it takes us through rugged terrain, dark woods, deep valleys, barren deserts and isolated wildernesses – but He is always faithful and the obstacles really do make us stronger.
  • In God’s time and way all things work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
  • The Lord has been faithful in the past, therefore I can trust Him with my future.
  • When there seems to be no hope, I turn to the only One who can give hope.
  • More important than trying to change our circumstances is changing our attitude by trusting the Lord in the midst of them.
  • Honor the Lord in the valley and through the wilderness – when your trial or test is over you will be glad you trusted Him. Doubting and complaining are dead ends.
  • With God-infused determination and discipline, we can choose to never give up whatever the challenge.
  • Half-committed people are most miserable; those committed to Jesus Christ with all their hearts, souls, minds and strength experience the abundant life (despite circumstances).
  • The four most important things in life are faith, family, friends and fitness.
  • Building my life and ministry on Scripture, with the leading of His Spirit, and desiring to honor the Lord in every aspect of my life, along with fasting and prayer when facing life’s impossibilities, have resulted in amazing victories.
  • Handing over our lives, time, money, families and dreams allows God to give them back many times over in unexpected ways.
  • Surrounding ourselves with those who are positive and encouraging inspires us to strive for excellence.
  • Spending time with children and grandchildren blesses them, but blesses us even more.
  • Live in such a way that when we depart this life we leave a legacy of love, faith and integrity.
  • We must rise above the waves of “garbage” (verbal assaults…) that come against us in our lives or they will drown us.
  • Sometimes you must stand up and defend your integrity; other times the best solution is to let the Lord fight your battle. Pray for discernment.
  • Be quick to forgive those who wrong you and love those who despise you – for Christ has forgiven you.
  • If we humble ourselves in the presence of the Lord, He will exalt us in due time; those who exalt themselves before others will eventually be humbled.
  • You can willingly choose to change your diet and lifestyle now, or one day you may be forced to with little or no choice.
  • The longer we walk the path of poor health principles the farther the road back to regain our health.
  • Fear (reverence) God, keep His commandments and live by biblical health principles – they will be life to your spirit and health to your body and mind.
  • At the beginning of every new decade I review my nutritional protocol and get even more disciplined to compensate for the aging process and to maintain my energy and vitality for the next 10 years.
  • The word retirement is not in my vocabulary.
  • So much of life is wasted on worry, fear, doubt, impatience, complaining, jealousy, envy, bitterness, revenge, lust and greed. How much better to develop the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  • Be a wise steward of your family, funds, time and talents. All believers in Jesus Christ will one day give an account of how we used the resources entrusted to our care.
  • It is better to give than to horde. Never sell or merchandise the Gospel because it was freely given.
  • Courage is not the lack of fear, but standing our ground in spite of it.
  • Faith is not the absence of doubt, but rather trusting the Lord in spite of it.
  • It is not the “giants” that defeat us but our fear of them.
  • Failure is not when we fall, but when we lay there and give up in defeat. Christ’s grace is sufficient for all our failures.
  • Spending time on our knees before the Lord enables us to stand before anyone and in any situation.
  • Be slow to speak and quick to listen – keep your mouth shut when appropriate and you will stay out of trouble.
  • Look beyond what someone says or does and consider the motives of why they said what they said or did what they did.
  • Do not envy what someone else has or does – materialism and success never truly satisfy and soon fade like spring flowers.
  • We cannot be experts in everything. The wise surround themselves with trustworthy people who are skilled in areas of need and then delegate responsibility to them.
  • Remember those who have helped us along life’s journey. Remember to thank them.
  • The key to many of the successes experienced in my life and ministry can be directly traced to faithful prayer intercessors and ministry supporters behind the scenes.
  • An attitude of gratitude multiplies happiness; it changes our focus from fretting over what we do not have to appreciating all we do have.
  • Accepting Jesus Christ as Savior means never having to fear standing before Him as Judge.
  • Do not attempt to manipulate God into what you want or think He should be, but discover Who He is by His Word and Spirit and what He requires of you.
  • Instead of determining what we want God’s will to be for our lives (and seeking to coerce Him to fulfill it), let us desire His will, unwavering in our commitment to accomplish it. In the end, our lives will far exceed what we could ever think or imagine.
  • I have met many who, in the face of death, were remorseful for wasted years, but none at the end of their lives who regretted serving Jesus Christ.
  • Live every day as though it were your last day on this planet. One day it will be.
  • Always be prepared to meet your Maker. Many who plan to get right with God later die in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
  • What we see is temporal but what we cannot see is eternal. The study of biblical prophecy provides hope for the future, creates anticipation of the Lord’s return and instills a desire for Christ’s eternal kingdom of righteousness, peace and joy.

There are many more wonderful truths the Lord has taught me by His Word and Spirit. It is an exciting lifetime quest to know Him and learn His ways.

 

Words of Wisdom

Contributed by Dave James of DJ’s Greenhouse, a faithful supporter of Bill Rudge Ministries for many years.

Dad is the head of the house, but Mom is the heart of the home.

Faults are thick when love is thin.

To improve or be a success in anything – you must keep one room empty in your house… “the room for improvement.”

The door to your heart can only be opened from inside.

We may give without loving, but we cannot love without giving.

The devil has many tools, but a lie is the handle that fits all.

Not enough crutches in the world for all the lame excuses.

What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God.

Life is full of joys and sorrows – most of your own making.

Your reputation is what people say about you… your character is what God and your spouse know about you.

Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.

Yesterday is history – tomorrow is a mystery – today is a gift – that is why it’s called the present.

It’s Your Move, Daughter … Son

I gave you life
but I cannot live it for you.

I can teach you things
but I cannot make you learn.

I can give you directions
but I cannot always be there to lead you.

I can take you to church
but I cannot make you believe.

I can teach you right from wrong
but I can’t always decide for you.

I can advise you about friends
but I cannot choose them for you.

I can teach you about sex
but I cannot keep you pure.

I can tell you about alcohol
but I can’t say NO for you.

I can warn you about drugs
but I can’t prevent you from using them.

I can pray for you.
but I cannot make you walk with God.

I can teach you about Jesus
but I cannot make HIM your Savior.

I can teach you to OBEY
but I cannot make Jesus Your Lord.

I can tell you how to live
but I cannot give you Eternal Life.

Author Unknown

 

Traits of an Ineffective Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 2

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

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Whether you are in a leadership role or not, this study on biblical principles of leadership is essential for every Christian for growth and maturity.

Making Excuses

A few years ago I wanted to teach my soccer team the importance of keeping their focus and not becoming complacent, so I brought a jar of 18 marbles to practice. Each marble represented how many games the team had to play in the regular season. I explained that each season they are only given a limited number of marbles (games), and they must decide what to do with each one. Once the marbles were gone they could never get them back.

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Photo by Frank Rudge

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus instructs on how we should live as we await His return. He reminds us that, like the master who provided each of his servants with talents, we are to be faithful with what we have been given. By contrast, verses 24 – 30 focus on the wicked and lazy servant who wasted opportunities and lived a fruitless life.

As in the team parallel given above, in life, we all are given only so many “marbles.” Will we waste our opportunities, making excuses for inaction and failure? These are traits exhibited in bad leadership. Or will we use our opportunities to live fruitful lives for Jesus Christ?

Impulsive Decisions

Consider Esau who, because he was hungry, sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). As the firstborn son, Esau’s birthright entitled him to several blessings including a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). However, Esau rashly gave all this up for a bowl of stew.

Impulsive decisions can have adverse effects, not only for the leader but also for those affected by his/her decisions. For personal study, ponder the disastrous consequences of King Saul’s hasty decision to consult the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:7).

All About Me

Our culture may view bragging and self-praise as a sign of confidence and leadership ability, but the Bible makes it clear that God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5). Boasting in one’s own strength and bragging about one’s feats without acknowledging God is self-glorification – a sure road to eventual defeat and humiliation.

Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, surveyed his empire then made the following boastful claim:

Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30).

Babylon was certainly a place of beauty and majesty under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Not only did he construct the hanging gardens (recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), his capital city was surrounded by a double wall that was 10 miles in length highlighted by the elaborate Ishtar Gate. He expanded the empire (becoming the first Babylonian king to rule over Egypt) and brought Babylon to world dominance. However, in the midst of boasting about his great accomplishments, the following occurred:

While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!” (Daniel 4:31).

Nebuchadnezzar is a real example of the biblical truth that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). The passage in Daniel goes on to tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from his people and lived like a wild animal until he realized that the Most High is ruler over the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:32, 33). Nebuchadnezzar was restored to power after he recognized that honor and glory belong to God alone (Daniel 4:34-37).

Saddam Hussein ruled over the nation of Iraq and desired to be the next Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to rebuild Babylon and gain prominence over surrounding nations. This proud and boastful man lived in opulence while his subjects lived in poverty. But Saddam was eventually humbled. He was captured by American forces – found hiding like an animal in a hole in the ground. Put on trial, he was executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

Self-exalting pride leads down a dangerous and destructive path; it hinders one from being an effective leader for God. True humility acknowledges that it is not “all about me” but testifies that everything one has and everything that one accomplishes comes from the Lord.

Controlled By Fear

In my coaching I have seen many players fall short of their potential. The most common reason is fear: fear of failure; fear of incompetence; fear of disappointing others. As in sports, fear has a crippling effect in leadership. Moses had to face this reality when God told him to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Moses’ response echoes his fear of inadequacy:

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue (Exodus 3:11; 4:10).

With God’s help Moses was able to move beyond his fear and lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness to the edge of the land God promised them.

A sad reality is that people who are dominated by fear forfeit opportunities to be used by God. This loss is due not to their own shortcomings, but to their lack of trust in God – not believing He can use them to make a difference in the lives of others. Never forget, friend, the key to being used by God is not based on your ability, but on your availability.

Give In to Compromise

King Saul is an example of compromise. In the early chapters of 1 Samuel, we find a man who had been chosen by God as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:24). However, because Saul constantly compromised (1 Samuel 13:7-14; 15:1-23) God eventually rejected him (1 Samuel 15) and no longer answered him (1 Samuel 28:6).

King Ahab is another example of how compromise destroyed a leader. He not only allowed his wicked wife Jezebel to influence him, but he allowed her to lead the people of Israel into idolatry through Baal worship. His life of compromise not only resulted in his death but that of his entire family (1 Kings 22:29-40; 2 Kings 10:17 ).

While leaders need to be adaptable and sometimes have to make concessions, never compromise your convictions or commitment to the Lord as Saul and Ahab did.

Dictate to God What They Want

The account of the prophet Jonah is a reminder to not set limitations on God. Jonah wanted God to destroy the wicked city of Nineveh. Unwilling to obey God’s command to call the city to repentance, Jonah initially ran away (Jonah 1:1-3).

In biblical leadership, God will not put up with those who approach Him with a sense of entitlement or predetermined expectations of what He must do for them. A friend of mine learned this lesson when he began the process of planting a church. He told me he would not accept anything less than planting a mega-church. He felt that a small church would not be worth his time and energy. After a year of little success, the church he planted failed and he left the ministry. He later learned that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, this must never take precedence over being faithful. My friend was eventually restored to another pastoral position where he is faithfully serving the Lord.

As leaders (and believers), our ultimate goal should be to seek and yield to God’s will. Dictating what we want, imposing our expectations, or attempting to manipulate God is futile. In the end His plan will succeed:

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

Complain In Difficulty

Under the leadership of Moses, God had taken the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. He supernaturally provided for their needs during their wilderness journey. As they approached the promised land, Moses selected twelve men – tribal leaders – to scout the land. They all came back and reported that the land was just as God promised – flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27). However, ten of the spies pronounced they could not conquer the land because it was inhabited by powerful people who lived in fortified cities (Numbers 13:28).

This negative report caused such grumbling and rebellion among the Israelites that God made them wander forty years until all those age twenty and older died in the wilderness. Of the older generation, only Caleb and Joshua (the two spies who remained faithful to God) entered the promised land (Numbers 14:24, 30).

Reaps Destructive Fruit

It is imperative that we do not become, or follow leaders who habitually use excuses, make impulsive decisions, are “all about me,” or are controlled by fear; who give in to compromise, dictate to God what they want, or grumble and rebel in the face of difficulties.

If we are to be the leaders God has called us to be, then we need to avoid that which is displeasing to the Lord. Instead, let’s embrace the qualities and characteristics that honor the Lord and make great leaders for Him.

 

Have You Asked The Question?

by Jim Weikal

Three different groups of people — citizens, religious leaders, and the twelve disciples — asked “Who is this?” about Jesus. The first group were the citizens of Jerusalem at Jesus’ triumphal entry. “When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, ‘Who is this?’” (Matthew 21:10). They were told “the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee” (v. 11).

The next group were the religious leaders who watched Jesus heal a paralytic. This paralyzed man was lowered from the housetop by his friends in hopes that Jesus would heal him. Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20). The Pharisees and teachers of the law “began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Luke 5:21).

The third group were the disciples. They watched Jesus calm a raging storm on the Sea of Galilee and “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him’” (Mark 4:41).

The common people asked “Who is this” because of His popularity. The religious leaders asked because of a theological question — only God can do what Jesus did, forgive sins. The disciples asked the question because of His power over the forces of nature.

How you answer this question of Who He is will determine your eternal destiny. Bill Rudge has written an excellent book, Who Is This Jesus?, which we will be happy to send you free of charge. Request a copy for yourself or a friend. E-mail brm7@me.com or write to P.O. Box 108, Sharon, PA to request Who Is This Jesus? You can also visit the store at our web site, billrudgeministries.org, and download the free e-book.

Spiritual Health Exam

by Bill Rudge

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” 2 Corinthians 13:5

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Photo by Bill Rudge

Want to test the condition of your heart? The following exam will help you evaluate which areas of your life are committed and which are compromised. The Holy Spirit can speak to your heart as you ponder some crucial questions – and help bring change where it is needed.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
try me, and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).

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Do I only know about Jesus or do I really know Him?

Do I pursue only personal goals and dreams or seek God’s will for my life?

Do I resist and rebel or am I yielded and available so His Spirit can work in and through me?

Do pride and haughtiness dominate me or do humility and meekness (strength under the Lord’s control) define me?

Do I seek personal recognition or desire to lift up and glorify the Lord?

Do I tolerate deceit and lies or live a life of honesty and truthfulness?

Do I waste time in unfruitful pursuits or make time each day to study Scripture and pray?

What example and legacy will I leave my family if I died today?

Would I be ashamed if my spouse or children discovered the sites I visit on the Internet?

Do I allow television programs or movies in my house that compromise my biblical convictions or is my home a safe oasis for my family?

Do I avoid and run from sexual immorality and pornography or pursue self-centered pleasure?

Do I give up when facing obstacles and opposition or refuse to quit and persevere until God’s purpose is fulfilled?

Am I out-of-control or am I developing discipline and self-control over every area of my life?

Do my thoughts, words and behavior master me or do I master them?

Do my words cause discouragement, hurt and pain or encouragement, healing and comfort?

Am I controlled by the lusts of the flesh or displaying the fruit of the Spirit?

Am I afraid or embarrassed to share my faith in Jesus or looking for opportunities to tell others about Him?

Do I compromise in the face of opposition or have the courage to stand alone when necessary?

Am I victimized by peer pressure or making my life count by standing in the strength of my convictions?

Am I a cultural Christian or a biblical Christian? Am I lukewarm or committed?

Do I tolerate hidden sin or seek to live in purity and integrity before the Lord and the world?

Is my desire for God greater than my passion for sports, money or fame?

Is my life-priority Jesus Christ or someone or something else?

Do I care more about impressing and pleasing people or honoring my Lord and having His favor?

Am I more concerned about people’s opinion of me or the Lord’s?

What does my use of money and spare time reveal about my priorities?

Do I fill my life with worry, fear, unbelief and complaining or faith, peace, joy and thanksgiving?

Do I sacrifice for and serve others or manipulate them to get what I want?

Am I jealous of others’ success and possessions or do I rejoice when God uses and blesses them?

Do I serve and praise the Lord in difficult times or only when I am being blessed?

Do I attend a church that merely “tickles my ears” and makes me feel good or one where the pastor and people have a heart for Scripture, prayer, fellowship, service, evangelism and missions?

Are the funds I give to churches and ministries used wisely to advance the Gospel?

Do I invest in the spiritual development of my family or am I too busy and unmotivated to have devotions and pray with my spouse and children?

Does my heart long for the return of Jesus Christ or am I caught up in the cares of this world?

Do I seek to get what I can here and now or is my desire for an eternal reward and inheritance?

Am I certain of my eternal destiny or unsure of my final fate?

Do I treat my body as the temple of the Holy Spirit – a “living sacrifice” for His honor and glory?

Is my mind being renewed and transformed by God’s Word so that I have the mind of Christ?

Am I bringing every thought captive to obedience to Jesus Christ and dwelling on that which is true, honorable and praiseworthy?

Is my spirit, created in the image of God, being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ: filled with His Spirit, walking in the power of the Spirit, developing the fruit of the Spirit and operating the gifts of the Spirit?

I hope the preceding examination shows you to be in good spiritual health! But if your check-up was less than ideal and His Spirit has convicted you, the prescription to get your heart right with the Lord is to humble yourself as in 1 John 1:9, repenting as you ask His forgiveness.

Implement His effective remedy by beginning now to spend time daily in His Word and in prayer. Before you know it, His Spirit will restore your relationship with Him as your First Love. As a healthy believer, you will be a bold and faithful witness in a day and age that desperately needs His light, love and truth.

May the Lord accomplish His purpose in and through you and may you reach your maximum potential in Christ – physically, mentally, emotionally, and above all, spiritually!