Living with Hope and Leaving a Lasting Legacy

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 6

In the previous blog, I shared with you my seventh and eighth New Life Resolutions:  7) Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life; 8) While I should grieve over the wickedness in the world, I will still approach non-believers with the same love and grace that Jesus has shown me. Let us now examine the final two New Life Resolutions.

Resolution 9:  When I face difficulties and challenges, I will think of those who face daily persecution and have given their lives (martyrs) for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Since we live in a fallen world, all of us will experience pain and suffering. While we cannot avoid this, we can choose how we respond. Will we respond like the children of Israel who grumbled and complained, or will we respond with hope and joy? As Peter encouraged those Christians who were facing persecution,

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing (James 1:2-4)

A book that I recommend every Christian read is “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.” It details the many men and women throughout history who have given their lives for their faith in Jesus Christ. Their commitment and love for Jesus in the midst of difficult challenges is truly inspiring. One such example is a girl named Mary who, along with her family, was given the choice to renounce her faith in Jesus or die. In their refusal to deny the very One who had given His life for them, they were all shot. Mary would be the only one who survived but would be paralyzed by the bullet that had severed her spinal cord. In response to this tragedy, she makes the following profound statement, “Everyone has a vocation. I can never marry or do any physical work. So I will offer my life to the Muslims, like the one who cut my father’s throat, stabbed my mother while cursing her and tried to kill me. My life will be a prayer for them.”

The lives of those who have faced persecution and even death have provided me with a resolve to approach the challenges in my life, which are much less, with the same faithfulness and trust. I have come to recognize that these challenges be opportunities for spiritual growth, to help encourage others in difficult times, and to show others that the God of the Bible is faithful. This life is but a moment in comparison to eternity and one day the pain and brokenness we experience will forever be wiped away:

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying,

“Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them   He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever (Revelation 21:3, 4).

Resolution 10:  At my death my family and friends will rejoice over the life I have lived, and that I will have the ability to say with my final breath, “It is finished”; “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

I recently had to visit a friend who is facing terminal cancer. With only months to live, he shared with me how many regrets he has as he approaches death. Full of remorse for wasted time and making poor choices that have negatively impacted both his children and grandchildren, he is now trying his best to redeem what time he still has left.

Reflecting upon what my friend said made me want to have the resolve to not approach my death full of regrets. I want to live my life like Jesus who, not distracted by the insignificant things of this world, lived his life with resolve to fulfill the will of His Father. Thus, with no hesitation in His voice, He was able to say with His final breath on the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30). I also want to live my life like the Apostle Paul who, despite the obstacles in his life, took the Gospel to every corner of the Roman Empire. As a result, in the final letter he wrote to his dear friend Timothy he was able to say,

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Conclusion

My prayer for all of you is that you will choose to live your lives with resolve. A resolve where you seek His glory, desire His presence, and live for eternity. Regardless of where you are in your journey with Jesus, remember these words:

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

Mary and Joseph Were Good Parents

by Jim Weikal

Jesus’ mother Mary not only had the privilege of giving birth to the holy infant, but she and Joseph had the responsibility of instructing Him as He grew. They needed to know the Torah and Judaism to teach the maturing Jesus its divine commandments.

These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).

This teaching process was more than transmitting information. It was more than sending Him to a religious school for someone else to instruct. It was a process of living a righteous life as an example. The circumstances of daily living were an opportunity to show the child how to live a God-honoring life.

Luke tells us that Jesus “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom” (2:40). A large part of His growth came from His parents (who were obedient to the law), as well as the teachers of Israel. We know He had a lot of questions for them at Jerusalem (Luke 2:46-47).

If you have children at home this Christmas season, make a commitment to teach them in the ways of the Lord “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” In today’s culture, can you afford to do anything less?

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 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).

Three Types of Clergy – A Word from Jesus

by Bill Rudge

In light of the recent news about abuse by clergy in Pennsylvania, Bill has written the following article:

Most men and women get into ministry with a heart to serve the Lord and continue with that commitment throughout the duration of their ministry. Hopefully this is true for the majority of those who serve in Jesus’ name. They will one day hear Him say:

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness! (Matthew 25:23).

Some people get into ministry because they also have a heart to serve the Lord and help others – but along the way they get lured into sexual immorality. While forgiveness is available for true repentance (1 John 1:9), they better carefully ponder the requirements and responsibilities set forth in Scripture to be a leader: 1 Timothy 3:1-12; Titus 1:6-9; James 3:1.

Some people go through the external motions of professing faith in Christ –

even praising the Lord and quoting Scripture –

but their lifestyles indicate their hearts are far from Him and His Word.

Others enter ministry as “opportunists” with a predetermined agenda to exploit and take advantage of vulnerable people. Jude and Peter warn about such predators:

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. But the Lord is coming to judge everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of all the ungodly acts they have done (Jude 4, 13-15; 2 Peter 2:2).

Jesus’ Rebuke and Commendation

Reflecting upon the words of Jesus to the seven churches in Revelation, chapters two and three, provides tremendous insight which has both immediate and eternal implications.

Jesus’ four main rebukes were for: 1) false teaching – so contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints, 2) sexual immorality – so purify your life and relationships, 3) idolatry – so put nothing or no one before the Lord and 4) being lukewarm and leaving first love – so keep your passion for Jesus Christ and His Word burning.

Jesus’ four main commendations were for their: 1) love, faith, and service – so be active in evangelism and outreach, 2) endurance and perseverance – so be totally committed to Christ with all your heart, mind, soul and strength and remain faithful to the end, 3) sexual and spiritual purity – so keep yourself pure physically, mentally and
spiritually, and 4) faithfulness to His Word and Name – so stand for the truth of Scripture and your testimony of the Jesus of the Bible.

Reaching Your Maximum Potential

The following list is a compilation of biblical principles God used to transform Bill Rudge’s life. May this inspire and encourage you in your walk with the LORD.

Examine The Evidence for Faith in Jesus

Make a Total Commitment to Christ as Lord

Walk in Obedience to the Lord’s Will

Be Surrendered and Available So God Can Mold Your Life

Evaluate Your Motives – Pride Ends in Destruction; Humility in Honor

Live a Life of Integrity

Establish Balance by Being Physically, Mentally and Spiritually Fit 

Exercise Self-Control – the Essence of Strength

Dare to Be Different – Don’t Compromise or Conform 

Have the Courage to Stand Alone

Develop Determination to Never Give Up – Remain Faithful to the End

Root Out Hidden and Pet Sins

Desire the Lord More than Anyone or Anything Else

© 2018 by Bill Rudge http://www.billrudge.org

Commitment to Reach My Full Potential in Christ

I have examined the evidence and counted the cost. I choose to commit the rest of my life to Jesus Christ.

I accept You as my Savior and acknowledge You as Lord over every area and aspect of my life. 

Strengthen me to walk in obedience to Your Word and anoint me to fulfill Your purpose.

Cause me to be available, yielded, submissive, surrendered and sensitive so Your Spirit can speak to my heart. Lead, guide and empower me to accomplish Your goals, dreams and vision for my life.

Remind me to daily examine my motives and inspire me to maintain a pure heart and a genuine spirit of humility and meekness.

Enable me to live a life of integrity before You and the world.

Motivate me to develop a balanced life and glorify You with all of my being – physical, mental and spiritual.

Encourage me to live a life of discipline and self-control – which is the true essence of strength.

Keep me from compromising and conforming – inspire me to dare to be different and make my life count.

Grant me the courage to stand alone when necessary.

Instill within me the determination to never give up and to remain faithful until I go home to be with You.

Do not let me tolerate hidden or pet sins. Help me by the power of Your Spirit to overcome anything that would ensnare or enslave me.

I desire You, Lord Jesus, more than anyone or anything else on earth.

© 2018 by Bill Rudge http://www.billrudge.org

Miracle Child (Lillian Grace)

by Tabitha Rudge Smith (and Florence Biros)

My husband and I were living in California and always wanted a big family. When we learned a third child was going to join us, we were so thrilled. I called the doctor and was told, “We would like to see you around 10 to 12 weeks in the pregnancy unless you have complications.”

I made my appointment to see the doctor for the first time, when I knew I would be able to hear my baby’s heartbeat. Besides, my morning sickness was so bad with this pregnancy that I couldn’t wait to see the doctor to get something to help alleviate it.
At the appointment, I saw a female doctor who tried to hear the heartbeat, but couldn’t find it. “Sometimes this early – around 10 weeks – the heartbeat is hard to hear. Instead, we’re going to do an ultrasound.”

How exciting, I thought, I can see my baby as well as hear it! That didn’t happen. When they did the ultrasound, the woman looked very solemn and said, “I’m very sorry. There is a pregnancy sac but it is empty.” Then she added, “There are no signs of life.”

I answered, “Well it is early and I could be off a few days.”

She looked at me and declared, “Well you’d have to be off at least 3 weeks.”

In my heart I knew I was not 3 weeks off of my cycle. Her next words cut me to the core, “Why don’t you go home and think about what you want to do – miscarry on your own or have a D&C?”

That weekend I had planned on going on a woman’s retreat. I didn’t feel like going. My husband suggested, “Why don’t you go to help keep your mind off all this?”

I went. By the second night of the retreat, I was so miserable from throwing up and crying that I had to leave during the evening message and run to the restroom.
A sweet, elderly lady asked sympathetically, “Do you have the flu?”

Do I tell her? I contemplated for a minute, then decided I didn’t feel like discussing it. Instead I told her, “I’m pregnant and having a terrible time with morning sickness.”

Taking my hand, she asked “May I pray for you?”

I just need to tell her that there is no baby. Why pray? I agreed, though. She continued to hold my hand and pray, asking God to take away my nausea, bless my pregnancy and then she placed her hand on my womb and said, “Lord, if there is something that needs to be in the womb that is not there, we ask you to place it there.”

At that moment I burst into tears and told her the whole story. She simply smiled, gave me a hug, then walked away.

A few days later I went to see the doctor who said, “I’ll schedule one more ultrasound before scheduling your D&C.” When she placed the ultrasound wand on my stomach, she seemed amazed. She not only heard the heartbeat, but saw a picture of our 11 week old baby in my belly.

We knew that God had performed a miracle and gave us our precious baby. She is now a beautiful, healthy 14-year-old who loves to tell her friends about Jesus.