Fasting – Amazing Benefits Part 3

by Bill Rudge

Three part series on the biblical principles of fasting. Bill Rudge has challenged thousands of believers and Christian leaders to fast, pray, study Scripture and eat nutritiously.

To download this podcast please click here.

Fasting – Amazing Benefits Part 2

by Bill Rudge

Three part series on the biblical principles of fasting. Bill Rudge has challenged thousands of believers and Christian leaders to fast, pray, study Scripture and eat nutritiously.

To download this podcast please click here.

Fasting – Amazing Benefits Part 1

by Bill Rudge

Three part series on the biblical principles of fasting. Bill Rudge has challenged thousands of believers and Christian leaders to fast, pray, study Scripture and eat nutritiously.

To Download this podcast please click here.

Qualities of a Successful Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 4

“When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice.” Proverbs 29:2

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This month we conclude our series on the principles of Biblical leadership. Whether you are in the role of leader or not, this study can contribute to the growth and maturity of every Christian.

Building Confidence and Courage

DSC_0107_Ripped

photo by Bill Rudge

One of the great challenges leaders face is encouraging others to step out of their comfort zone and overcome their fears. Joshua and Caleb faced this situation when Moses sent them, and 10 others, to spy out the Promised Land. Only Joshua and Caleb trusted God’s promise and believed He would enable them to conquer a land filled with giants and fortified cities (Numbers 14:6-9).

Following the death of Moses, Joshua was called by God for a monumental task – to lead the children of Israel into the land He had promised. In his new role as leader, Joshua empowered the Israelites with confidence and courage. How did he do this? Joshua already knew his strength came from God. He trusted the One who spoke to him the following words:

Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them (Joshua 1:2, 5-6).

Joshua did not let anyone or anything distract or deter him from obeying God. He decisively commanded the officers of the Israelites to prepare to take possession of the land:

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” (Joshua 1:10, 11).

Joshua’s confidence, courage and zeal for the LORD inspired the Israelites:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go” (Joshua 1:16).

Trusting God and stepping out in faith not only enables us to be men and women of confidence and courage, but to ignite these attributes in others.

As a coach I remind my players of their past successes, give examples of others who have been successful, provide encouragement (but not flattery), and recite their value and importance both as individuals and team members.

Counting the Cost

Leadership requires sacrifice – time, family, convenience and so on. At the same time it is crucial to create a balance in your life to avoid burn-out and provide essential time for personal growth and time with your family.

Leadership brings greater expectations and accountability. You are held to a higher standard because of a greater influential position. You become a bigger target in the spiritual battle that rages around us (Ephesians 6:12). We have an adversary who, like a roaring lion, seeks to devour every follower of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:8). Satan knows that by attacking and destroying those in leadership, he can wreak havoc. Therefore, we are vigilant every day; putting on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:13-18) and steeping our minds in prayer to avoid the schemes of our enemy.

A good friend of the family, Douglas Mastriano, is a colonel in the U.S. Army. In 1991 his regiment, the Second Armored Calvary, was sent to Saudi Arabia to take the lead in the ground war offensive against Saddam Hussein’s most loyal and motivated unit, the Republican Guards. In conversation about the various battles he was involved in during this Operation, Doug told me that the key to his regiment’s success was preparation:

The training put an incredibly difficult strain on the soldiers and their families, but it did sharpen us into a well-tuned machine. Almost every month there was some sort of live-fire exercises, maneuver training, border duty, headquarter exercises, and all sorts of battle drills to prepare us for that day, which even included a deployment to Turkey. We had trained for years for this day – and we were ready for it.

Colonel Mastriano and his men were ready because of what they did to prepare. That not one man was killed in his squadron, Doug correctly attributes also, to the power of prayer. So, too, if we want to be effective leaders, we must be like the soldiers of Doug’s regiment: count the cost, prepare for what is required to accomplish what we are called to do, and saturate everything in prayer.

Providing Hope

Everyone deals with trials and adversity. Effective leaders help others find hope in this journey of life and look beyond the current circumstance to see the bigger picture.

One year I was coaching a talented team that was struggling with playing up to their potential. After losing a few games, they began to lose confidence and the hope that they could turn their season around. So at practice one day I told them about my children taking a pottery class.

The first day they were each given a lump of useless clay. The teacher said this lump of clay would eventually be turned into a beautiful vase. That is exactly what happened as each of my children molded their lump of clay into a vase which, despite a few imperfections, still sit on display in our house. I told my players that while we may not be where we want to be, we needed to keep moving forward because just like that lump of clay, our team too can become a beautiful vase.

To instill hope in others, leadership requires perseverance and forward movement. I witnessed an amazing example of this during a high school soccer game against a regional opponent. It was an important game because both teams were undefeated and tied for first place. As the game began, it became obvious our team was the better. We kept the ball on the other team’s half as we took shot after shot, and at the same time, prevented them from scoring. In the end, we won 9 to 0.

While my players provided many great moments in the game, the greatest impact was made by the opposing team’s goalkeeper. As I watched her warm up, I was impressed with her work ethic. But what especially caught my attention was how she dealt with a prosthetic leg. (After the game we learned she had lost her leg about two years earlier in a boating accident.) While I respected this girl, I wondered how she would be able to play goalkeeper. In all my years playing and coaching soccer I had never seen anyone play soccer with a prosthetic leg.

I quickly realized that what I perceived as a “limitation” for this girl was, in fact, a driving force to do something that I am sure many people told her she could never do. Here was a teenager who had every excuse to stay off the field, but instead chose to persevere regardless of the loss of her leg. What impressed me even more than the fact she played, was how she played. She did everything a goalkeeper should do: dive, catch, punt, and communicate with her teammates.

As our team began to score, putting constant pressure on the opposing team’s defense, it was clear we were going to win the game but their goalie never stopped working hard. She kept encouraging her teammates, and got back up every time she dove for a ball. At one point she made an awesome diving save that caused her prosthetic leg to come loose. Without any drama, she hobbled over to the bench, adjusted the leg and came right back out like nothing happened. Until the final whistle, she continued to give everything she could for her team. She was a true inspiration to everyone at the game and a wonderful example of perseverance.

Just like this goalie, effective leadership doesn’t make excuses. Leaders persevere through difficult times and provide encouragement and hope for those around them. The type of people God is looking for are those who, in the midst of life’s challenges, place their faith and trust in Him. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Rome:

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope (Romans 5:3-4).

Inspiring Others

One of the most important lessons I have learned is the difference between motivation and inspiration. Motivation is an external influence while inspiration comes from within.

In my early coaching days I was taught the best way to motivate athletes was in using fear or reward. I often said, “If you don’t work hard today you’ll have to run sprints; if you do work hard, no sprints after practice.” However, trying to motivate my players through the threat/reward method resulted in having to repeatedly do so, and I eventually realized I was not getting their best efforts.

By contrast, inspiring players develops within them an internal love and passion for, and joy in, the game. This in turn dramatically impacts their overall effort as well as their ability to inspire those around them. But how is this accomplished? The following are a few ways I use to inspire my athletes:

I remind them of their roots. I began taking my seniors to our local YMCA, because it is the place that our high school program held its first game. I tell them what sacrifices were made and how far our program has come, and remind them that they need to remember the tradition they are part of and to consider what legacy they want to leave.

I share personal memories and experiences – This field was the first place I ever played a game of soccer. When I first started at age six, I played for love of the game. My focus was more on playing and scoring, rather than winning, because I enjoyed it. I encourage my team to remember the excitement they had when they first played; to never lose the love and joy they had back then.

I build a sense of community. Each member is essential in working together for the common good. To illustrate this, we have chosen the redwood tree as a symbol worn on our practice shirts. Redwoods have shallow roots, despite their extreme height, and to withstand the wind, their roots interconnect with the roots of the surrounding redwood trees. Thus, when the wind blows it is not just blowing against one tree, but against a forest!

Finally, I invest in their lives. I demonstrate in word and action that the purpose of our program goes beyond winning; it is to help build character into their lives.

The previous points are steps my coaching staff and I employ to inspire our athletes, which has enabled us to build a reputable and successful program. It has also allowed us to make a difference in their lives. A graduating player invited me to attend a banquet for being an influence in her life. She gave me a special frame with the following quote by Bob Nelson:

You get the best effort from others not by lighting a fire beneath them, but by building a fire within.

The apostle Paul was an effective leader because he inspired others through his example. He told them to follow him as he followed the Lord Jesus Christ. His words to the church at Rome should resonate with all of us:

Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

What Then?

We desperately need effective and godly leaders today. Godly and effective leadership come through having a humble spirit, communicating effectively, possessing conviction, seeking wise counsel, building confidence and courage in others, counting the cost, offering hope in difficult times, and inspiring others. Those who lead in this manner will have a far-reaching impact for God and will be a blessing to others:

When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan (Proverbs 29:2).

 

Inspire Your Generation…

by Bill Rudge

Following in Moses’ footprints after his death, Joshua’s example of dedication to the Lord inspired his generation. Joshua’s influence was felt not only during his lifetime, but for years after his death.

This profound statement is recorded in Joshua 24:31:

Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua ….

May our example and the testimony we bear motivate our children and grandchildren to live for the Lord all the days of our lives and their lives. And may they, in turn, influence their children and grandchildren to also serve the Lord after we are gone.

True Greatness

by Bill Rudge

Athletes and soldiers train hard and give their all to hear their coaches and commanders commend them. Their sacrifices and tremendous efforts result in amazing feats that reflect years of discipline and commitment.

But there is greater acclaim than that given by coaches, fans and superior officers – God’s commendation.

Shortly before leading the Israelites into the Promised Land the Lord made a brief, but profound, tribute to Moses with these simple words to Joshua – “Moses My servant is dead” (Joshua 1:2). Ponder that for a moment. The Lord personally recognized Moses as His servant. What a great honor.

The ultimate goal of my life – that for which I sacrifice, discipline myself and persevere – is to hear the Lord some day say these six words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Traits of an Ineffective Leader – Biblical Leadership, Part 2

 “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Whether you are in a leadership role or not, this study on biblical principles of leadership is essential for every Christian for growth and maturity.

Making Excuses

A few years ago I wanted to teach my soccer team the importance of keeping their focus and not becoming complacent, so I brought a jar of 18 marbles to practice. Each marble represented how many games the team had to play in the regular season. I explained that each season they are only given a limited number of marbles (games), and they must decide what to do with each one. Once the marbles were gone they could never get them back.

IMG_2621

Photo by Frank Rudge

In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus instructs on how we should live as we await His return. He reminds us that, like the master who provided each of his servants with talents, we are to be faithful with what we have been given. By contrast, verses 24 – 30 focus on the wicked and lazy servant who wasted opportunities and lived a fruitless life.

As in the team parallel given above, in life, we all are given only so many “marbles.” Will we waste our opportunities, making excuses for inaction and failure? These are traits exhibited in bad leadership. Or will we use our opportunities to live fruitful lives for Jesus Christ?

Impulsive Decisions

Consider Esau who, because he was hungry, sold his birthright to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Genesis 25:29-34). As the firstborn son, Esau’s birthright entitled him to several blessings including a double portion of the inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17). However, Esau rashly gave all this up for a bowl of stew.

Impulsive decisions can have adverse effects, not only for the leader but also for those affected by his/her decisions. For personal study, ponder the disastrous consequences of King Saul’s hasty decision to consult the witch at Endor (1 Samuel 28:7).

All About Me

Our culture may view bragging and self-praise as a sign of confidence and leadership ability, but the Bible makes it clear that God opposes the proud (1 Peter 5:5). Boasting in one’s own strength and bragging about one’s feats without acknowledging God is self-glorification – a sure road to eventual defeat and humiliation.

Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, surveyed his empire then made the following boastful claim:

Is this not Babylon the great, which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30).

Babylon was certainly a place of beauty and majesty under Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. Not only did he construct the hanging gardens (recognized as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world), his capital city was surrounded by a double wall that was 10 miles in length highlighted by the elaborate Ishtar Gate. He expanded the empire (becoming the first Babylonian king to rule over Egypt) and brought Babylon to world dominance. However, in the midst of boasting about his great accomplishments, the following occurred:

While the word was still in the king’s mouth, a voice fell from heaven: “King Nebuchadnezzar, to you it is spoken: the kingdom has departed from you!” (Daniel 4:31).

Nebuchadnezzar is a real example of the biblical truth that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18). The passage in Daniel goes on to tell us that Nebuchadnezzar was driven away from his people and lived like a wild animal until he realized that the Most High is ruler over the kingdoms of men (Daniel 4:32, 33). Nebuchadnezzar was restored to power after he recognized that honor and glory belong to God alone (Daniel 4:34-37).

Saddam Hussein ruled over the nation of Iraq and desired to be the next Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted to rebuild Babylon and gain prominence over surrounding nations. This proud and boastful man lived in opulence while his subjects lived in poverty. But Saddam was eventually humbled. He was captured by American forces – found hiding like an animal in a hole in the ground. Put on trial, he was executed for his crimes against the Iraqi people.

Self-exalting pride leads down a dangerous and destructive path; it hinders one from being an effective leader for God. True humility acknowledges that it is not “all about me” but testifies that everything one has and everything that one accomplishes comes from the Lord.

Controlled By Fear

In my coaching I have seen many players fall short of their potential. The most common reason is fear: fear of failure; fear of incompetence; fear of disappointing others. As in sports, fear has a crippling effect in leadership. Moses had to face this reality when God told him to deliver the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Moses’ response echoes his fear of inadequacy:

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since You have spoken to Your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue (Exodus 3:11; 4:10).

With God’s help Moses was able to move beyond his fear and lead the children of Israel out of Egyptian bondage and through the wilderness to the edge of the land God promised them.

A sad reality is that people who are dominated by fear forfeit opportunities to be used by God. This loss is due not to their own shortcomings, but to their lack of trust in God – not believing He can use them to make a difference in the lives of others. Never forget, friend, the key to being used by God is not based on your ability, but on your availability.

Give In to Compromise

King Saul is an example of compromise. In the early chapters of 1 Samuel, we find a man who had been chosen by God as the first king of Israel (1 Samuel 10:24). However, because Saul constantly compromised (1 Samuel 13:7-14; 15:1-23) God eventually rejected him (1 Samuel 15) and no longer answered him (1 Samuel 28:6).

King Ahab is another example of how compromise destroyed a leader. He not only allowed his wicked wife Jezebel to influence him, but he allowed her to lead the people of Israel into idolatry through Baal worship. His life of compromise not only resulted in his death but that of his entire family (1 Kings 22:29-40; 2 Kings 10:17 ).

While leaders need to be adaptable and sometimes have to make concessions, never compromise your convictions or commitment to the Lord as Saul and Ahab did.

Dictate to God What They Want

The account of the prophet Jonah is a reminder to not set limitations on God. Jonah wanted God to destroy the wicked city of Nineveh. Unwilling to obey God’s command to call the city to repentance, Jonah initially ran away (Jonah 1:1-3).

In biblical leadership, God will not put up with those who approach Him with a sense of entitlement or predetermined expectations of what He must do for them. A friend of mine learned this lesson when he began the process of planting a church. He told me he would not accept anything less than planting a mega-church. He felt that a small church would not be worth his time and energy. After a year of little success, the church he planted failed and he left the ministry. He later learned that while there is nothing wrong with wanting to be successful, this must never take precedence over being faithful. My friend was eventually restored to another pastoral position where he is faithfully serving the Lord.

As leaders (and believers), our ultimate goal should be to seek and yield to God’s will. Dictating what we want, imposing our expectations, or attempting to manipulate God is futile. In the end His plan will succeed:

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails (Proverbs 19:21).

Complain In Difficulty

Under the leadership of Moses, God had taken the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage. He supernaturally provided for their needs during their wilderness journey. As they approached the promised land, Moses selected twelve men – tribal leaders – to scout the land. They all came back and reported that the land was just as God promised – flowing with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27). However, ten of the spies pronounced they could not conquer the land because it was inhabited by powerful people who lived in fortified cities (Numbers 13:28).

This negative report caused such grumbling and rebellion among the Israelites that God made them wander forty years until all those age twenty and older died in the wilderness. Of the older generation, only Caleb and Joshua (the two spies who remained faithful to God) entered the promised land (Numbers 14:24, 30).

Reaps Destructive Fruit

It is imperative that we do not become, or follow leaders who habitually use excuses, make impulsive decisions, are “all about me,” or are controlled by fear; who give in to compromise, dictate to God what they want, or grumble and rebel in the face of difficulties.

If we are to be the leaders God has called us to be, then we need to avoid that which is displeasing to the Lord. Instead, let’s embrace the qualities and characteristics that honor the Lord and make great leaders for Him.