Broken Vessels: Come As You Are

A Devotional by Caeleana Dawn Smith

Bible Verse:

“But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house. I will bow down toward Your holy temple in the fear of You. Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me”. – Psalm 5:7-8

Devotional:

Growing up, I thought that in order for God to accept my worship I needed to come to Him with a pure, intact heart. And, every Sunday, I fell short and felt unworthy. Abraham was one of the people in the Bible that would be least likely to be used by God; however, despite his brokenness and imperfections, God chose Abraham to be the Father of Nations (Genesis 12). God chooses broken people because He can shape their brokenness into a vessel He can use to bring glory to His name. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God wants us to come to Him with our brokenness and problems because it is during that time He shapes us into who He created us to be. During our times of brokenness, we are vulnerable and humbled before the Lord.

Application:

Remember that no one is more perfect than Jesus. Do not compare yourselves to the standards of the world because God’s standards are different; His are all that matter. During worship, bring your brokenness to Him and lay it at His feet, so He can shape you into the person He created you to be and use you to bring glory to His name.

Prayer:

Dear God, I come to You with a humble and broken heart in need of healing, Lord. Help me not to forget that I am Your child and created in Your image. Lord, I bring my brokenness to You and lay it at Your feet; I surrender it to You, Lord. Heal and shape me into the person You created me to be, Jesus. You are a merciful and loving God. I love You and thank You for loving me. Amen

Pressing On in the Storm

by Darlinda McDonald

Photo by Max LaRochelle

On a Sunday evening a few years ago, Bill and Karen were returning to Pennsylvania from Michigan. As they reached Toledo, a fast-moving thunderstorm overtook their vehicle and did not subside for the remaining four hours of the trip. Torrential rain, high winds, thunder and lightning made driving very difficult. In addition, their visibility was impaired by the darkness and fog. Commercial trucks on either side of their small rental car splashed huge amounts of water on their windshield. In several cities they traveled through, the radio warned of tornadoes and flash flooding. Karen wanted to stop, but Bill felt it safer and best to drive on and chose to look at it as another adventure God was taking them through.

The decision to keep pressing on despite the weather and treacherous driving conditions can be compared to our Christian walk. Sometimes life throws us unexpected situations that can either stop us in our tracks or make us determined to press on towards the goal. Our choice to walk by faith and not by sight will strengthen our trust in the One Who watches over us and takes care of us.

Just as the Lord brought Karen and Bill home safely through the storm, He will bring you safely to your Heavenly home despite the difficulties and challenges this life holds for you. Jesus promises:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble, pressure, affliction, difficulty], but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

Showing Christ to the World

By Jim Weikal

A rich, young ruler (Matthew 19:20; Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18) runs up to Jesus who was setting out on a journey, and he asks Jesus what he can do to inherit eternal life. Jesus then lists six of the ten commandments. The young man states that he has kept these commandments since his youth (probably age 13).

Jesus lovingly says to the man, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Mark 10:21).

The young man became sad and gloomy at our Lord’s words, and he left grieving “for he was one who owned much property” (Mark 10:22).

You see, our Christian walk is more than words. It is easy to believe the best about ourselves. But it’s our actions that prove our faith is genuine. Abraham proved his faith by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:12).

While we are not saved by works, our works should demonstrate that our faith is real. After all, true believers are created in Christ “for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

So seek God’s face and ask Him what you can do to honor Him. This way an unbelieving world will see Him through you.

“Poems of Conviction” Will Challenge and Encourage

Who Will Go?

by Bruce Miller

It’s called the “Great Commission,”
Just who’s supposed to go?
You’ll find the answer on your knees
If you really want to know.

The harvest has been ready,
And the fields are very ripe;
Pray to the Lord for laborers,
Willing to share the light.

It seems today, and always has,
The ones that go are few;
It’s written in the book of Luke
In chapter ten, verse two.

Some say, “I’m just too busy,”
Or, “The timing isn’t right.”
Lift your eyes; look around;
The harvest is already white.

When you see Jesus face to face,
And He asks, “What did you do?”
I hope and pray your answer is,
“I labored, Lord, for you.”

Here For Us

by Jim Weikal

“When Jesus therefore saw her [Mary] weeping [over the death of Lazarus], and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled” (John 11:33). Verse 35 succinctly describes our Lord’s emotional connection to His people… “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

During difficult times believers can find themselves feeling deep grief over their circumstances. The Greek word translated “weeping” refers to forceful emotions caused by sorrow. For instance, the widow in the city of Nain who had just lost her son. Jesus approached the funeral procession, and He felt compassion and said to her, “Do not weep.”

Jesus then raised her son alive from the coffin and “gave him back to his mother” (Luke 7:11-15).

Notice the words the inspired writer used to describe Jesus’ emotions: “deeply moved,” “troubled,” “wept,” “felt compassion.” These descriptive words demonstrate to us a Savior who cares, who knows His sheep personally (John 10:14, 27). He doesn’t just pat us on the head and say, “I hope you make it.” He’s here with us and for us (Matthew 28:20; cf. John 14:16).

Where Is Your Treasure?

by Bill Rudge

Everything you have can be swept away in a flood, burned up in a fire, blown away in a tornado, stolen by thieves, wasted on excessive living or consumed by medical expenses – but what you invest in God’s Kingdom will last forever. Through Jesus Christ you can have an eternal inheritance that will never be robbed, lost, tarnished, spoiled or fade away.

The condition of America’s spiritual health is of utmost concern. Unless our nation’s moral hemorrhage is stopped, it will prove fatal. America will be brought to her knees – either in repentance or from intensifying judgment.

God has given us additional time to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Have we squandered our opportunities or wisely used them? How many of our friends and loved ones have already passed into eternity? Now is the time to share Jesus with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…while we still have opportunity – while there is yet time.

The Greater Cause

As believers in Jesus Christ we should care less about being politically correct and more about being biblically accurate. We must defend the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). Besides, beneficial and lasting social change will only come when the hearts of the people are turned back to their Creator. While many causes are noble, all will prove inadequate and inferior to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Imagine the eternal impact – as well as the social and political benefits – if Christians put increased effort into evangelism. Imagine the positive influence on our nation if the life-changing, eternal life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ were embraced, and compassion instead of hostility, reigned in relationships, personal and national. As a result of loving service in Jesus’ name and living exemplary lives, we would be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

The heartbeat of Jesus, before He returns, is the fulfillment of His Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel across the entire world. Evangelism is such a priority that Jesus’ parting words before His ascension instructed the disciples to be His witnesses throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus went so far as to state that the end will not come until the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14).

During the Tribulation period – in the midst of intense persecution – God will use the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11), raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7 and 14), and even use angels to proclaim His everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, 7). The harvest will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).

Financial Security – Not

While it is wise to have reserves for emergencies and future needs, no amount of accumulated wealth and resources will protect you from what is coming. Currently you can still choose to give where you want, but in the future you may not have that option. Your resources and investments could be confiscated or controlled by another. Your money could be taken through identity theft, bank account seizures, medical expenses, and so on.

Eventually, everything you have will be taken. Besides, you can’t take it with you when you die or when Jesus returns. The only security in this turbulent world is the LORD. Those who horde and stockpile earthly riches will be bankrupt. 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, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Wise financial planning includes far more than accumulating retirement accounts and material possessions. Countless people have lost large amounts of money that might have been used for the Kingdom – providing them an eternal reward that surpasses any monetary gains they had hoped to achieve. Do not let the words of James 5:2, 3 be true of you:

Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

The day rapidly approaches when each of us will give an account to God concerning our stewardship of finances, time and talents (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Therefore, it would be wise to focus on God’s priority: Evangelism and Missions. A significant portion of our resources, time and energy should be put into sharing the love and truth of Jesus with a lost and dying world – this is sound financial planning and most certainly the best inheritance.

Ask yourself: Do I care more about my political agenda or my testimony for Jesus Christ? Do I give more to social and political causes or to missions? Am I neglecting evangelism and witnessing because it is offensive to some? Am I using my life and money primarily for personal pursuits and pleasures or to help fulfill the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? What am I doing to advance God’s Kingdom and reach people for eternity before the days of opportunity are gone?

Remember, true and lasting riches consist of spiritual blessings and the legacy of faith you leave your loved ones. We cannot take anything into eternity with us except the lives we touch for Jesus Christ!

Was the Crucifixion a Mistake?

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Deborah Ford on the Via Dolorosa during a Holy Land Adventure with Bill Rudge Ministries.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead and numerous other miracles Jesus performed created an intense expectation among the multitudes. The Jewish people were eager for the Messiah (Christ) to come and defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its former power and glory under King David. So at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed Him with shouts of praise as they spread palm branches, and even their own garments in His path.

During His triumphal entry, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as King (just as 1 Kings 1:32-35, 44 records that David had Solomon ride on his mule before having him anointed king). The people welcomed Him with shouts of Hosanna, and the words of Messianic Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their cloaks on the road was an act of royal homage (2 Kings 9:12, 13).

They Didn’t Understand

Less than a week after the triumphal entry, many of this multitude were shouting for Him to be crucified. Why? What happened? They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan for the Christ to die during His first coming (Romans 11:25, 26). Therefore, they rejected the Messiah and called for His death.

Numerous Old Testament Scriptures foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5-12; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 16:10). Nevertheless, the Jewish people and their leaders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, could not understand that God’s purpose was for the Christ to first die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Jesus foretold He was going to be crucified. It was for this purpose He had come (John 12:27). Jesus repeatedly told His disciples He must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again (Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33), but they were confused and did not comprehend what He meant (Luke 18:34; Mark 9:9, 10, 31, 32).

New Testament scholar, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writes:

This is also why his disciples forsook him when he was taken captive. Their minds were so completely imbued with the idea of a conquering Messiah whose role it was to subdue his enemies that when they saw him broken and bleeding under the scourging, a helpless prisoner in the hands of Pilate, and when they saw him led away, nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal, all their messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered.

Suffering Messiah

The Hebrew Scriptures mention a suffering servant, especially in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Scripture also tells about the Messiah coming as David’s heir and reigning as King. After centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, and then being under Roman oppression, the Jews of first century Israel yearned for the One who would come and rule on the throne of David forever. Consequently, the Jews of Jesus’ day only focused on the Messiah as coming King.

Peter tried to reprove Jesus for stating that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31, 32). But Jesus rebuked Peter and said—

Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Mark 8:33).

The animal sacrifices in the Tanakh [Old Testament] were a foreshadow of the death of the Messiah. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Whereas the animal sacrifices were regular occurrences, Christ’s sacrificial death was, “once…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no mistake. It had been determined before the creation of the world. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold this mystery of God which was meticulously fulfilled in Jesus Christ and majestically proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles.

God’s ultimate sacrifice is undeniable proof of His amazing and incomprehensible love for each of us.

The Infamous Snow Run

The infamous snow run began one cold and snowy evening many years ago when Bill Rudge was in his home working on a message late at night and needed something at the ministry center –– a distance of about 100 yards (the length of a football field). Instead of taking the time to put on his socks and shoes, he ran barefoot over to the center.

It was such an adventure and challenge, not to mention saving time, that Bill continued this practice for many years –– through ice, snow, and rain –– until the former ministry center was sold. (Now, he runs to the obstacle course and back.)

When guests visited his home, he would ask if they wanted to do the snow run. Most were curious but declined. However, a few did run it with him.

Bill loves doing things like the snow run because the Lord usually gives him an illustration and spiritual application to share. He impressed on Bill’s heart how a believer’s walk with Him is like the snow run in so many ways. 

First, before you embark on the snow run you must count the cost and prepare yourself for the ordeal that lies ahead. You must consider the terrain, time (day or night), and temperature to determine the level of difficulty. And be sure you have the key to the ministry door ready.

Similarly, Jesus said to count the cost before becoming His disciple. And before embarking on any endeavor in His name we must prepare our hearts for whatever might lie ahead. We must be certain we are being led by His Word and Spirit.

As a barefoot runner in shorts and a t-shirt, you cannot be diverted to the right or to the left because after the first few steps your feet start burning. So, too, as believers in Jesus Christ, we must keep our focus on Him and not turn to the right or to the left.

By the time you are halfway across the snow-covered field your feet feel like cement blocks, and then quickly go numb. You cannot stop or you will have to crawl back. Likewise for true believers in Jesus Christ, stopping or giving up during our walk with Him is not an option.

As a snow runner you have to run swiftly and make each step count. You cannot look back lest you slip and fall. In similar fashion, believers must throw off every sin that so easily entangles and swiftly run the race of faith, making each day count for the Lord. We must forget what lies behind and press on with faith and determination.

An observer may not realize the full challenge and difficulty of the snow run but participants in bare feet and wearing only shorts and a t-shirt understand quickly the courage necessary to do the snow run. This is especially true at night when it is below zero degrees, there is a foot of snow on the ground, and the wind is blowing hard.

In the top photo, Keira, a college roommate of Bill’s daughter with a heart for missions, went on the snow run with Bill. Keira’s father is an amazing scientist who persevered through great challenges and obstacles to invent the MRI. Several years ago Bill was honored to perform the wedding of Keira and Markus in Long Island, New York. The bottom photo shows Bill’s grandsons, Lucas (left) and Carson. They did the snow run all the way to the obstacle course and then did pull-ups before running all the way back to the house.

So, too, those who do not know the Lord may not comprehend the commitment and sacrifice of a true Christian unless he or she becomes one. Believers must have tremendous courage to face the onslaughts of the enemy and stand –– sometimes alone –– in the midst of opposition.

As you approach the ministry center parking lot you need to have enough energy to leap or climb over a snow bank several feet high which was left by the snow plow. Likewise, as believers we will face many barriers and obstacles that attempt to impede our progress, but we must persevere and overcome through Christ.

Once you jump over the snow mound you will be sliding across the icy parking lot. You have to maintain your balance lest you fall on the blacktop or bang into the steps or front door of the ministry center and injure yourself.

Likewise, as believers we must maintain a biblical balance by avoiding the extremes of legalism and liberalism. We must not slip or fall by compromising our commitment to Christ and injuring our testimony.

Upon reaching the front door, your freezing hands will fumble with the key, sometimes dropping it, in an attempt to unlock the door as quickly as possible. So, too, if a believer fumbles when facing temptations and tribulations, he or she must speedily ask His forgiveness, get up, and press on.

The burning sensation returns as you walk around inside the ministry center trying to warm your feet on the carpet. You may not want to make the return snow run, but you have to. So, too, once we give our lives to Christ and our hearts are warmed by His love, we must go out into an, often times, cold world and share His love and truth with those who may not always want to hear.

Each step of the snow run brought you closer to your destination and the reward of warmth. Likewise, each day brings us as believers closer to our eternal destiny and an everlasting reward.

As we see the day of the Lord approaching, or our time drawing near to go and be with Him, may we remember this illustration of the snow run. May we remain faithful until the very end and be overcomers who run with perseverance, leap over every barrier and obstacle, and joyfully enter His eternal kingdom.

Trying Times

Karen Rudge

Disappointments, struggles, difficulties, injuries and the everyday circumstances of life can take a toll on your physical, as well as your spiritual health.

Through many challenging times you may have to trust God in situations that are impossible to understand at the time. Your faith that God will work things out for His glory and your good may be all that encourages you.

In Luke 10:19 Jesus gave the “Seventy” authority to trample on snakes, scorpions and to overcome the power of the enemy. But verse 20 caught my eye:

Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

This encouraged me that no matter how overwhelming our circumstances are, this world is not our home. Life here is only temporary. The most important thing is having our names in the Book of Life.

God promised He would never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6) and during trying times, though occasionally rocky, we can be assured of His presence and know He is walking with us. Praising Him, relying on Him and trusting His Word – no matter what we face – provides peace in the midst of life’s storms.

“Who Will Go?”

The following poem was written by Bruce Miller, a childhood friend of Bill Rudge. His dramatic conversion gave him the desire to lead others to Jesus. He currently serves in a prison ministry and was able to minister in Haiti and India when Bill opened doors for him to go.

It’s called the “Great Commission,”

Just who’s supposed to go?

You’ll find the answer on your knees

If you really want to know.

The harvest has been ready,

And the fields are very ripe;

Pray to the Lord for laborers,

Willing to share the light.

It seems today, and always has,

The ones that go are few;

It’s written in the book of Luke

In chapter ten, verse two.

Some say, “I’m just too busy,”

Or, “The timing isn’t right.”

Lift your eyes; look around;

The harvest is already white.

When you see Jesus face to face,

And He asks, “What did you do?”

I hope and pray your answer is,

“I labored, Lord, for you.”

The Great Commission is, and should be, the priority of the Church and every believer in Christ. It is not an option but rather a command. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus did not ask the disciples to go; Jesus commanded they go unto the utter most parts of the earth (see Acts 1:8). In Luke 10:2, Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers, and then in verse three, He sent them into the harvest fields.

“Who Will Go?” It is a question intended to stir your heart and mind. After reading my poem, it is my hope you, and myself as well, may respond as Isaiah the prophet did:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:8)