Tragedies Can Test Our Faith

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

A doctor’s report of a major health problem, the sudden loss of a job, or the unexpected death of a loved one can instantly change our lives. When these events arise – with or without warning – they will certainly test our faith. This is why it is so important we take steps every day to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ. Through time in prayer and the reading of God’s Word, we can build a solid foundation to help us withstand any difficulty or tragedy that comes our way.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble (Psalms 9:9).

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Psalms 46:1).

Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

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

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.

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.