Knowing the Depth of God’s Love

by Bill Rudge

There was no other way for God to show the depth of His amazing love throughout eternity other than through the cross of Jesus Christ. Sure, He could just tell us how much He loves us or lavish every imaginable blessing on us. But that would not fully display the depth of His love: only His crucifixion ordeal manifests His abundant grace:

All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God (2 Corinthians 4:15).

Jesus’ suffering and death serves as an everlasting reminder of God’s displeasure and intolerance for sin and rebellion. How can fallen humanity, who brought sin and death into God’s perfect creation, pay the price to satisfy God’s Holiness, Righteousness and Justice? Since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) we are without hope. Yet, the sinless Son of God shed His precious blood to appease God’s wrath due us and make the way for restored relationship with our Creator. And Jesus’ resurrection provides us confident assurance:

We know that the One who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in His presence (2 Corinthians 4:14).

You can only become a “new creation” through Jesus Christ. How could heaven be heaven, filled with “old creations” in a fallen state polluting heaven with the same sins which polluted earth: gossip, vulgarity, jealousy, envy, revenge, pride, arrogance, lies, thefts, sexual immorality and perversion? Those who refuse to accept God’s great mercy, forfeit all He has prepared for those who love Him! They have no other option but to be where God’s light and loving presence is not.

God’s personal invitation to spend eternity with Him was delivered by His own Son. A familiar, yet profound, Scripture gives us a glimpse of His amazing love for His creation:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Walking in Obedience

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Bill Rudge

Throughout the Old and New Testaments we meet people who offered sacrifices and demonstrated the appearance of spirituality. However, God labels many of them as lukewarm, disobedient, stiff-necked, stubborn, rebellious or apostate. Why? Because God is more concerned with the attitudes of the heart than with outward displays. God desires a people who are obedient and faithful.

King Saul learned the hard way that “to obey is better than sacrifice.” Following Saul’s lame excuse for only partially obeying the Lord’s command, the prophet Samuel rebuked him with the following words:

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice… (1 Samuel 15:22).

It is very important that we not only talk our Christianity, but that we walk it. Titus 1:16 states:

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him….

All through the Scriptures we meet those who were tempted, tested, and confronted by obstacles. Some disobeyed, rebelled, and turned from the Lord. Others remained faithful – no matter the cost. Those who disobeyed suffered the consequences; immediately or in the not-so-distant future. Those who obeyed received God’s blessing and ultimate victory.

On Talking Back

When I was in gymnastics and my instructor would say, “Billy, climb the rope to the gym’s ceiling. Do a round off and several backhand springs in a row on the mat. Get on the trampoline and do a double back flip.” I did not say, “I don’t feel like doing that today.” I did it!

When going out for football and the coach would say, “Hit the sled and keep hitting it until I tell you to stop. Run the ropes. Take five laps.” I did not say, “Well coach, I am not in the mood to do that today.” I did it!

When, in karate, my instructor said, “Do knuckle pushups.” I did knuckle pushups. When he said, “You, Rudge! Come here. I want to use you for an uke and beat on you for awhile.” I did not say, “Not today, Sensei. Maybe next time.” No, I stepped forward and let him demonstrate strikes and kicks on me. When I was told, “Lay down and put this potato on your chest so I can slice it in half with this sword.” I did not say, “That’s a bad idea.” I obeyed. When he said spar and fight, I sparred and fought!

Should I obey any less the King of kings and Lord of lords, the God who created me, the God who came and died for me, who bodily rose from the dead, and who is coming again to rule and reign for all eternity?

When His Word and Spirit tell me to do something, how much more should I obey without talking back or whining or complaining or making excuses? I do not say, “Well, if I feel like it, Lord,” or “Maybe I will think about it,” or “I don’t know if I want to do that.” I obey! That is what it means to be submitted to Christ’s Lordship.

But is this biblical? In Luke 6:46 Jesus asks:

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?

In John 14:15, 24 Jesus said:

If you love Me, you will obey what I command. He who does not love Me will not obey My teaching.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus states:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

1 John 2:3, 6 says:

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.

And the manner in which Jesus walked was in humility and obedience (Philippians 2:8).

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ which is being expanded for its third edition.

Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This has been a very sad and difficult week for the community that I live in. This past Sunday (February 10th), four high school students from our school district were in a severe accident. The accident led to the tragic death of two of the students. As I write this blog, the other two students are in the hospital dealing with a range of injuries. This tragic event has impacted me personally as my family knew these girls and, being the high school girls’ soccer coach, I use to coach one of the girls who died. In simplistic terms, this has been an emotionally difficult situation to deal with as it has brought me face to face with the reality that no one is immune from the tragedies of life. But despite this reality, it is in these moments where we learn the most valuable life lessons. For instance, I was reminded of the importance of community. As I spent time at the school on Monday talking with faculty and students, I was encouraged and comforted to see everyone come together as one. Despite our differences, there was singularity in purpose. A powerful reminder that not only do we need the support and love of others, but we also need to return that same love and support. We need to bear each other’s burdens. I hope and pray that you have others in your life that are helping you bear your burdens, and in return you are coming alongside them to bear theirs.

Along with the idea of community, this situation has reminded me of the importance of being intentional with my loved ones: to never walk away angry, or let the sun go down without letting them know how much I love them. I need to live each moment with appreciation for the time that I have with my family and friends. Life can truly change in a moment, so we all need to let others know, through both our words and actions, how much they mean to us.

A final impression that I have gained from this tragedy is how important it is to live our lives with purpose. As I stood watching the students flow into the room that was set up at the school for them to come and grieve, I was overwhelmed to hear their stories about how their lives were enriched by knowing the girls who had died. One particular staff member told me that when they first moved here, her daughters had a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings, but that the transition was made easier because one of the girls who had died introduced herself to her daughters and made them feel valued and accepted. This is a great reminder how just a simple word and action can make the difference in the lives of others. While our school has lost two remarkable young ladies, their memories will live on through those they impacted. Their lives were taken from us way too early but they leave a legacy that will continue for years to come.

In the uncertainty of this tragedy, I do see God actively involved. From the love and support of surrounding communities to the unity displayed by our faculty and students, I see God working in and through each one of us. As in any tragedy, the WHY will continue to knock us off our feet, but it is the WHO that will enable us to stand back up. Though our faith in Jesus Christ is shaken, it will not be destroyed.  His loving arms are embracing our community and bringing comfort and hope in our time of pain and sorrow.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

A Life Defined by Authenticity and Love

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 5

In the previous blog, I shared with you my fifth and sixth New Life Resolutions:  5) Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life; 6) Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions seven and eight.

Resolution 7:  Reflect in an authentic way to others the transforming power and reality of Jesus Christ in my life.

In a conversation on religion, a friend of mine, who had emigrated to America from a Middle Eastern country, told me that he would never become a Christian. When I asked him why he said, “When I first came to America, I saw Christians living like the world on Saturday and then worshiping God in church on Sunday.” Like my friend, I have heard others say similar things as hypocrisy among those who label themselves as Christians has become one of the main reasons people reject the Christian faith.

This reality is why I want what to resolve to live out my faith in Jesus Christ in an authentic way. Living this way does not entail perfection, as all of us will fail in this life. What it does entail is allowing God to be Lord over every area of our lives, striving to be consistent in how we live both in public and in private; seeking godly repentance when we fall short (2 Corinthians 7:10; 1 John 1:9); and reflecting a transformed life marked by the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). As we live in a fallen world, may we all take to heart these words by the apostle Peter:

Dear friends, I warn you as “temporary residents and foreigners” to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.   Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world (1 Peter 2:11, 12).

Resolution 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.

We serve a holy and righteous God (Revelation 4:8) who grieves over the wickedness in the world, and one day He will come back to judge all that are ungodly (1 Peter 4:5, Jude 14b, 15; Revelation 20:12, 13). Therefore, we also should grieve over the wickedness in this world, and not find entertainment and pleasure in it. However, we also serve a loving and merciful God, who loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for our sins (John 3:16). This reality should make all of us stand back in awe and wonder at the depth of God’s love for us.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God (Ephesians 3:18, 19).

Recognizing the depth of God’s love for me has helped me view unbelievers not as my enemies but as my mission field. This is the case because their ultimate need is no different than mine, which is we all need a Savior to set us free from our sins (Romans 3:23; 1 John 2:2). In fact, as Paul reminds the Corinthians, the very behaviors that sent Jesus to the cross, were once practiced by them, but now they have been cleansed, made holy and right with God through Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Once we experience the grace and mercy of God, which we do not deserve, we should feel empowered to show the same grace and mercy to others. The most effective way to demonstrate this is through the same love that God has shown us. In fact, love is the most powerful way for us to show others an authentic and transformed life.

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.   If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

In the next blog we will examine the final two New Life Resolutions. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

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).

How Much God Loves Us

by Bill Rudge

Daily I get a glimpse of how much God must love each and every one of His children. The following are just a few examples using my 11 grandchildren to reveal my love and enjoyment of them and how much I miss them when I am not with them.

When my 18 year old granddaughter left for college in August or previously sang for a Memorial Day Program or church services before I spoke…

When my 16 year old grandson works out with me on the obstacle course and then hangs out with me after and gives bear hugs before leaving…

When my 15 year old granddaughter asks me to play catch with the football or play basketball with her…

When my 14 year old granddaughter shared her testimony and wrote a story about her papa or sang before I spoke at the Salvation Army…

When my 13 year old granddaughter cut her long beautiful hair and donated it for wigs for cancer patients or received a special award for kindness at school…

When my 11 year old grandson asks me to sit beside him in a hammock so we can “shoot the breeze” or walks the West Hill with me and his cousin, thrilled by the stories from my youth…

When my 8 year old granddaughter smiled angelically as she bowed with perfect form after performing at a piano recital or laughs while I fly her through the air during a blanket ride…

When my 7 year old granddaughter holds my hand and arm tightly while walking through a dark hallway or asks me to tell her a story as we go on another “Papa Adventure” from my childhood or walks on her hands while I hold her feet…

When my 5 year old granddaughter is carried by me upstairs to bandage her left knee after she cut it running to the jumpy house, or after spilling something smiles at me when she realizes she is not in trouble or when we swing together…

When my 4 year old granddaughter cuddles up to me and wraps her arms around my neck and kisses me lightly on the cheek as she says, “I love you papa” then curls up under my arm and falls asleep or talks to me about Jesus and the Bible…

When my 3 year old granddaughter giggles in my arms when I tell her to go down the slide or while putting her head under water in the pool or while going through the tickle tunnel…

These are just a few of the countless times I get a glimpse and am reminded of how much our Heavenly Father loves each of His children and receives joy from a close relationship with each one of us.