A Desire for God and His Word

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 4

In the previous blog, I shared with you my third and fourth New Life Resolutions:  3) Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.; 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.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions five and six.

Resolution 5:  Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life.

Growing up, soccer was a major part of my life. In fact, as I was moving into my senior year, I had scholarship offers by division 1 schools. However, a few weeks before my final high school season started, I tore a ligament in my knee at a soccer tournament. This event led me down a path of re-evaluating every aspect of my life. You can read the full story by going to our website and downloading the free e-book “Faith Through the Fire” (http://billrudge.org/store/e-books). One of the key lessons that I learned through this injury was that if I was going to be a Christian, I needed to serve God on His terms and not my own. In other words, I needed to completely yield my life over to Him (Matthew 16:24-26).

Being yielded to God means we must look to God, not ourselves or to the culture around us, as the final standard for our lives. Yet, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4, 5), this battle between personal autonomy and self-surrender to Jesus Christ continues to wage war within all of our souls. This is why I have made a conscious effort every day to look to God’s Word in setting the standards in how I live my life. As I do this, I fully recognize that I will face difficulties and challenges (2 Timothy 3:12); hence, my life will not reflect the patterns of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Being a person of resolve who is living His life to glorify His Lord and Savior, I must walk in obedience to His commands, even if I find myself walking alone. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).

Resolution 6:  Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.

The key to living my life in accordance to God’s standards means I must know Him, a knowledge that is not just intellectual but is personal and intimate. As in any relationship, the only way that this can occur is by spending time with God. In fact, it is in those moments of being on my knees in prayer and reading the Bible where I feel closest to God.

Many people often get preoccupied with doing things for God and neglect the importance of just spending time with Him. While it is vital to be actively serving the Lord through external action (doing), we cannot lose sight of the fact that we should also serve God with our heart (being). In other words, our level of faith should be more than just carrying out duties (serving others, giving tithes, etc.), it should ultimately evolve out of a love and passion for Jesus Christ. This is why I have made it a resolve to start and end every day in communion with God. In both good times and bad times, I want to have the daily DESIRE to spend time with God and know His Word. Let us all have a heart like David:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
(Psalm 63:1).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 7 and 8. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

Being a Light in Difficult and Disappointing Times

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

We often see athletes being interviewed and put in the spotlight for their success and victories, while those who fail and lose and are often maligned and ridiculed. This past weekend, Cody Parkey, who is the kicker for the Chicago Bears, personally knows this reality. In the closing seconds of the game, with his team down by one point to the Philadelphia Eagles, Cody was given the opportunity to kick the winning field goal. This kick would not only allow his team to advance, but it would give the Bears their first playoff-win in eight years. Despite a good snap and hold, Cody’s kick “double-boinked” by hitting both the left upright and crossbar, as it ultimately bounced back onto the field. Although the kick would eventually be deemed a block by one of the Eagles players, the missed kick still left the Bears players and fans dejected and brokenhearted.

Despite the miss, and his own heartbreak, Cody’s response to this situation has proven to be a powerful light during a difficult and disappointing time. In fact, his response to this situation is a reminder to us all about how we as Christians should respond to difficulties and disappointments in our own lives.

While many people who fail either find ways to blame others or avoid the comments by critics, Cody stood firm and took responsibility for the outcome of the kick. He approached this difficult moment with inner strength and integrity. This is a great example that the true essence of who we are as a person is most displayed in how we respond to the challenges and disappointments we face.

While many only praise and thank God in the good times, the first thing Cody did when he missed the field goal was to point his finger to heaven to acknowledge and praise Him even in his moment of disappointment and failure, a great reminder that we are called to serve God in all circumstances in our lives. As Cody mentioned in his interview on The Today Show, “Something that I have always tried to do through good or bad is to give praise to the higher power our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

While many only live for the things of this world (success, popularity, fame, etc.), Cody acknowledged that his life transcends all of this. Even though still saddened by how he felt that he let the whole Bears’ organization down, he made this powerful statement, “I’ll continue to keep my head held high because football is what I do, it’s not who I am.” This is a great reminder for all followers of Jesus that we do not live for the things of this world and that our race is for a crown that will never perish (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

A Change of Attitude, A Change of Heart

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making A New Life Resolution for 2019, part 2

In the previous blog we talked about the importance of making a New Life Resolution for 2019, a resolution that brings about a change not only in our attitude of how we see things but, more importantly, a change in our heart in what we desire in life. In this blog I will begin to share the 10 New Life Resolutions that I have set for myself for 2019 as well as the remainder of my life. With God’s help, I want to use these resolutions like Jonathan Edwards used his, not as a law that binds me, but as a compass to guide my life and help me press forward toward the goal of becoming more like Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:12-14).

Resolution 1:  In all my decisions I will do that which brings the most glory to God

This resolution defines the mission statement for my life. It reflects the reality that my life should be centered and focused upon the person of Jesus Christ, a desire that in all my decisions I will ultimately seek to exalt Him and not myself. As Paul sat in a Roman prison waiting for his eventual fate, he makes the following statement,

“For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die” (Philippians 1:20, 21).

Despite his circumstances, and regardless of the outcome (life or death), the Apostle Paul wanted Jesus to be glorified. So too, I have found myself in situations where I have had to deal with pain, injustice, heartbreak, uncertainty etc., and like the Apostle Paul, I ultimately want my desire in these situations to lead to Jesus being glorified.

I once heard a chapel speaker say that, like Jesus, we should not live by our rights but respond by doing what is right. In Jesus’ life he was within his rights to avoid going to the cross to die, but he recognized that the right thing to do was to fulfill the will of His Father by giving up His life for the sins of humanity. A great illustration for all of us to step back and ask ourselves is: “Is my response and decision to this situation in my life a matter of me doing what I am within my rights to do, or am I responding by what is right, which is to bring glory to God?”

May the words of David reflect the very core of our being:

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart for your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever” (Psalm 86:11, 12).

Resolution 2:  To do a weekly spiritual examination to identify specific areas where I can grow in my faith with the Lord

In our Christian walk, it is very easy to become content where we are in our faith.  Recognizing that we serve a God who is gracious and merciful can often be used to justify the need to avoid personal growth and accountability. While it is true that we can never earn the grace and mercy of God, we must recognize that salvation is merely the starting point. Every day we should be striving, or as Paul says, pressing on toward the prize of being more like Christ (Philippians 3:12-14). In this pursuit, a weekly spiritual examination can help us avoid becoming stagnant in a past decision that we made to follow Jesus. Specifically, for me, it is a weekly reminder to never grow weary in the fight against sin in my life.

The following are some great questions that have not only helped me in my spiritual examination, but they also provided a platform to help me set forth my New Life Resolutions:

Question 1:  How am I spending my time?  Into what, or who, am I investing my time and energy?

Question 2:  What is the standard for my life?  What or who do I look to in making decisions for my life?

Question 3:  What testimony am I providing in this life and what legacy will I leave when I am gone? How would others (family, friends, co-workers etc.) describe me now and at my funeral?

Like the potter molding the clay, I want God to mold me every day into the person that He wants me to be. I want God to show me where my motives and actions are not in line with His will. In the words of David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life” (Psalm 139:23, 24).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 3 and 4. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

For the Love of Yesua

by B.J. Rudge, Ph.D.

Are you willing to endure ridicule, rejection or loss of a job for your faith in Jesus Christ?
A few years ago, four Iraqi youth under the age of 15, were beheaded by ISIS for not renouncing their faith in Jesus (Yesua).

Their response, “We have always loved Yesua; we have always followed Yesua; Yesua has always been with us” is reminiscent of what one of the first Christian martyr said before he was tied to a stake and burned alive. With the opportunity to be released if he only renounced Jesus, Polycarp stated the following words:

Eighty-six years I have served him, and he never once wronged me. How then shall I blaspheme my King who has saved me?

While we may never experience what these young Christians did, are we willing to acknowledge Jesus Christ and demonstrate this same type of commitment in the face of opposition? Remember Jesus’ words:

Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven (Matthew 10:32, 33).

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.

Do You Have Abilities God Can Use?

by Jim Weikal

“Select seven men who are well respected and are full of the Spirit and wisdom.  We will give them this responsibility.”  (Acts 6:3)

Do you have any abilities God can use? Too often believers shrink back from a “God-calling” because they feel less gifted than others. But think about these points:

1. Do you share our Lord’s interest in the kingdom of God? . . . Yes.

2. Do you have a sense of loyalty to Jesus Christ who paid the penalty for your sin? . . . Yes.

3. Do you desire to see God’s kingdom grow by adding repentant sinners? . . . Yes.

4. Do you trust God’s wisdom in selecting people to work in His kingdom? . . . Yes.

If God put these positive responses in your heart, wouldn’t He equip you with the ability to fulfill them? The church needs Timothies and Tituses. Not everyone needs to be a Paul or Peter. It needs unknowns like Eubulus, Pudens, Linus, and Claudia. Please put your abilities to work for Christ. You will be glad you did!