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).

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?

The ‘Secret’ to God’s Blessing

by Bill Rudge

The many blessings and miracles God has bestowed in my life, family and ministry have not come about because of “proper confession” or using the “right” technique, formula or ritual, but because of faith in Him and obedience to His Word. I have not sought these things, but I have sought Him: to know and obey His will and to make Him Lord over every aspect of my life. As a result, He has honored and blessed me in many ways. My motivation is not merely to receive His blessing; I don’t serve Him for prosperity. For, if He removes His hand of blessing (as He has occasionally done), I will still serve and honor Him.

The Lord has blessed me financially, but we choose to give most of it away and live a moderate lifestyle. I could be easily justified in accepting a salary of two or even three times more than I do, but we have chosen instead, to use that money to spread the Gospel throughout the world. Some people spend their time and energy trying to get God to give them wealth and prosperity. However, Scripture repeatedly indicates that spiritual riches are far more important than material wealth; honoring Him proves to be the wisest path.

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…. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21). The apostle Paul admonishes: “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2). First Timothy 6:18 instructs: “Be rich in good deeds and be generous and willing to share” which will lay up treasure for you in the coming age.

No Good Thing Does He Withhold…

On a hot August day, following a hard workout on the Obstacle Course, my then 14 year old grandson and I were talking about the Lord and Scripture while recuperating in hammocks. He mentioned he’d recently read Psalm 84. In return I commented on verses 11 and 12:

No good thing does He [the LORD] withhold from those who walk uprightly. How blessed is the man who trusts in You!

“Look around,” I said, “and see how God has fulfilled His Word: We started with literally nothing and God has blessed us with a wonderful family and eleven awesome grandchildren. He has provided a beautiful property surrounded with trees like an oasis, a ministry center, a house, a vehicle and everything else that is good for us. I may not have a boat, a plane or much money, and have faced many challenges, but I don’t need a boat, a plane or lots of money, and the challenges have made me strong. God has given me everything I need and blessed us beyond measure. He has been faithful and proven His Word to be true.”

The heroes of the faith willingly gave up the pleasures and treasures of this world to focus on future blessings and eternal riches. So too, I have earnestly sought to put the Lord first in everything, and He has honored and blessed me! I have discovered the reality of the following biblical promises:

Psalm 37:4  “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 84:11  “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.”

Matthew 6:33  “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

The Lord has taught me that I cannot manipulate Him to give me what I want. But if I delight myself in Him, seek His will, and walk in obedience to it, He will grant the desires of my heart (because they will be His desires as well) and abundantly bless beyond what I could ever ask or think—beyond my greatest expectations.

You Say… But God Says…

Your Circumstances May Say

It is impossible.  Things are hopeless.  I can’t go on.  It is never going to work out.

God’s Word Says

All things are possible to him who believes. (Mark 9:23)

The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. (Hebrews 13:6)

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)

God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Bill Rudge

Don’t Quit

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit…
By all means pray, and don’t you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out,
God’s hidden gift in the clouds of doubt,
You never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar.
So trust in the Lord when you’re hardest hit…
It’s when things go wrong that
You Must Not Quit!
Author Unknown

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