Nativity Challenge

BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

While the nativity story provides opportunity to reflect upon an incredible event in history, it also has great meaning for us today.

A crucial aspect of the nativity is the trust and obedience of Mary and Joseph. Both demonstrated extraordinary faith in their commitment to God and to following His will, regardless of the cost (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:28-38). So too, God wants to use ordinary people today who will have extraordinary faith and commitment to trust and obey Him no matter what the circumstances.

Upon hearing the good news of a Savior, from the angel of the Lord, the shepherds hurried to Bethlehem to see the baby lying in a manger. They departed glorifying and praising God for the birth of the Savior (Luke 2:8-20). In the midst of commercialism, where the true meaning of Christmas can be obscured or lost altogether, may we be like the shepherds in giving praise and glory to our Savior and Lord.

The Wise Men chose to travel hundreds of arduous miles to worship “He who has been born King of the Jews” (Matthew 2:2). Likewise, may we choose to walk the challenging journey of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. The rewards at the end will be well worth it.

May this Christmas be more than just the remembrance of a past event or an outpouring of holiday spirit. May the true meaning of the nativity be evident in our lives and homes.

More Than It Seemed

Jim Weikal

Just think! The angel reported to Joseph that the child conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit would “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). This child was also called the Lamb of God, the only Savior, and the reconciler of sinners (John 1:29; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:22).

What appeared to be a natural birth of a Jewish child in Bethlehem was more than it seemed. Decades later this child made possible peace between a holy God and hostile, alienated, sinful people. He accomplished this feat “in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach” (Colossians 1:22).

God desires you to…

accept Him as your Savior,

be committed to Him as LORD,

dare to step out in faith,

trust Him when facing impossible circumstances,

have hope in Him in the midst of tragedy,

honor His name in the face of adversity,

obey His Word in spite of ridicule,

stand as a bold witness for Jesus Christ and the Bible,

be sensitive to the leading of His Spirit,

persevere in faith and determination until His purpose is fulfilled, and

remain faithful until He returns.

– Bill Rudge

Be Strong in the Lord

by Jim Weikal

All believers know the stress of suffering as Jesus foretold (John 16:33; Luke 9:23). Jesus was well acquainted with our griefs: Isaiah described the pain of the coming Savior centuries before in chapter 53 verses 3 and 4.

Times of stress and grief are not easy on anybody, but believers have a Savior who understands their predicament. Do not be afraid to cry out to Him, because He does hear us. Run to Jesus Christ when suffering comes. He understands and He cares.

The apostle Paul suffers in a Roman prison due to the persecution set in motion by the infamous emperor Nero – he knows that his death is imminent. So what does a dying man say to a “child in the faith” such as Timothy? Paul points Timothy to the source where he will find the strength to face the challenges of ministry and Roman persecution:

You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).

This verse is a straightforward charge to “be strong.” It is a command and not a suggestion. To “be strong” is a continuous action not a one time reaction. Likewise, the Christian today who faces difficulties, challenges, persecutions, oppression and the like, Paul’s command resonates with us centuries later – “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” Remember our Master’s words:

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

Teach Them About Eternity

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Bill Rudge

Parents, I have an important message for you so pay close attention. You teach your children sports, help them with school work and many other things that can have a lifetime benefit. But do you teach them about the most important journey they will take or the most amazing adventure they will experience – eternity? Eternity lasts forever!

As a youth and on through my life, I have lost many family members, friends and acquaintances to eternity – many of whom were taken unexpectedly and were not prepared.

I had a vivid dream one night several months ago of two friends from my past standing with me on a small boat a little offshore. It was twilight and before us lay a vast, dark ocean. I said to my friends as we sailed into the darkness and infinite unknowns of eternity, “Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior so you are prepared for what lies ahead.” But they seemed indifferent as we headed toward certain demise. Then I woke up.

Parents, don’t be indifferent. Teach your children valuable lessons for this life, but do not neglect to teach them about what is most important and lasts forever – eternity!

A Desire for God and His Word

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Making a New Life Resolution for 2019, part 4

In the previous blog, I shared with you my third and fourth New Life Resolutions:  3) Live with an eternal perspective where I invest in those things that will outlive me.; 4) To not neglect my role as a husband to love my wife and my role as a father to intentionally invest in the spiritual development of my children.  Let us now examine New Life Resolutions five and six.

Resolution 5:  Conform my life to the standards of God’s Word regardless of what it may cost me in this life.

Growing up, soccer was a major part of my life. In fact, as I was moving into my senior year, I had scholarship offers by division 1 schools. However, a few weeks before my final high school season started, I tore a ligament in my knee at a soccer tournament. This event led me down a path of re-evaluating every aspect of my life. You can read the full story by going to our website and downloading the free e-book “Faith Through the Fire” (http://billrudge.org/store/e-books). One of the key lessons that I learned through this injury was that if I was going to be a Christian, I needed to serve God on His terms and not my own. In other words, I needed to completely yield my life over to Him (Matthew 16:24-26).

Being yielded to God means we must look to God, not ourselves or to the culture around us, as the final standard for our lives. Yet, just as it was with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:4, 5), this battle between personal autonomy and self-surrender to Jesus Christ continues to wage war within all of our souls. This is why I have made a conscious effort every day to look to God’s Word in setting the standards in how I live my life. As I do this, I fully recognize that I will face difficulties and challenges (2 Timothy 3:12); hence, my life will not reflect the patterns of this world (1 John 2:15-17). Being a person of resolve who is living His life to glorify His Lord and Savior, I must walk in obedience to His commands, even if I find myself walking alone. In the words of the Apostle Paul,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.   Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1, 2).

Resolution 6:  Start and end each day in communion with God so I can know Him more and what He requires of me.

The key to living my life in accordance to God’s standards means I must know Him, a knowledge that is not just intellectual but is personal and intimate. As in any relationship, the only way that this can occur is by spending time with God. In fact, it is in those moments of being on my knees in prayer and reading the Bible where I feel closest to God.

Many people often get preoccupied with doing things for God and neglect the importance of just spending time with Him. While it is vital to be actively serving the Lord through external action (doing), we cannot lose sight of the fact that we should also serve God with our heart (being). In other words, our level of faith should be more than just carrying out duties (serving others, giving tithes, etc.), it should ultimately evolve out of a love and passion for Jesus Christ. This is why I have made it a resolve to start and end every day in communion with God. In both good times and bad times, I want to have the daily DESIRE to spend time with God and know His Word. Let us all have a heart like David:

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1, 2).

“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”
(Psalm 63:1).

In the next blog we will examine Resolutions 7 and 8. Until then, may we all continue to live a life of resolve.

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).