#5 Consider this Challenge!

Philippians 2:3-4Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also of the interests of others better than himself.”
March means spring is on the way. Soon there will be green grass, blooms and green leaves again. There is something fulfilling about tending to the yard and our plants. But there is also something fulfilling about tending to others. The greatest investments we ever make are when we invest in others. People typically listen to what you say if they know you care.
Do we lift others up? That Sycamore fig tree in the story of Zacchaeus is a great picture of the church. Its branches were low enough for Zacchaeus to climb. From a tree branch, Zacchaeus had a clear view of Jesus. Like that tree, we need to be lifting others up to see Jesus too.
Discipleship lifts others up to see the Lord! In Exodus 17:11-12, scripture tells us about Moses going to the top of the hill to lift up his staff before the Lord. He was asking for God’s blessing and power while Israel fought the battle against the Amaleks. However, Moses’ arms got tired and when they would fall Amalek prevailed, but while they were up, Israel prevailed. So Aaron and Hur stood on each side of Moses supporting his arms. By sundown, Israel had defeated the Amaleks. It took 3 great men of God, acting in humble roles, to bring the victory.
Note the teamwork of these great leaders:
#1 – Moses wasn’t too prideful to let others help.
#2 – Aaron and Hur didn’t criticize the weakness of Moses, but instead, increased his strength by supporting his arms.
#3 – Due to their humility and teamwork, Israel prevailed in the battle.
God has placed in our church and community plenty of folks to lift up. I admit that Philippians 2:3-4 is not an easy challenge, but it is the best way to lift others up to see Jesus! Let them see Jesus in you!
Bro. Bruce Rudd

#4 God’s Mercy

I have always been fascinated by the love and mercy of God.  Before the foundation of the world, God saw what men would do.  God saw evil and hatred and killing and every vile thing men could do.  We look at what happened in Manchester, England or Egypt and our hearts ache with pain and empathy for these victims and families.  Some might ask, does God care?  Some might ask why God didn’t prevent it.  But God does see evil?  He does prevent many tragedies.  God’s mercy is not defined by the number of tragedies that He prevents but the number of people He is willing to save.
Sin hurts the heart of God.  One of the most beautiful and compassionate verses in the Bible is John 3:17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”
Now God looked through time before the foundation of the world and God saw the evil of every single murder.  I mean, every single violent and sinful act He saw.  Now can you imagine the pain in God’s heart as He sees the evil?  He could have come and grabbed the arm of Cain just before he killed Able.  He could have prevented every killing, every rape, every act of violence, but that would still leave man to die without hope. That wouldn’t keep us out of hell.
So, God sent Jesus to die for us.  In fact, the Bible says He died for all.  That’s the loving merciful heart of God.  He came to take our place in death.  He came to take the wrath we deserve.  Now, that’s love and mercy!  He could have come and sent us straight to hell, but instead He came not to condemn, but to save.  Have you accepted His saving grace?
Please, don’t blame God for the evil in this world.  Put the blame where it belongs.  Blame the depths and depravity of the heart of man without Christ.  Read Jeremiah 17:9Blame the devil.  He is a murderer, and a lying and doomed spirit.  Read John 8:44. Blame those wicked, fallen angels the Bible refers to as demons, but don’t blame God.  Every single person ever born on this planet has an opportunity to be saved.
W. A. Criswell, pleading with his congregation once said, “Lord, why am I not crushed in judgment?  Because God is merciful to me.  Why does God not visit us in damnation?  It is because he is long suffering.  I have never been able to understand how a man could say he would rather choose death than life.  Are you that way?  Tell me, would you rather be saved than lost?  To be blessed than to be condemned?  To find everlasting life?  That is the good news that in Christ all our sins are washed away.  In Him there is hope for heaven now and in the world to come.  Answer him with your life.”
Bro. Bruce Rudd

#3 How do we respond in a fast changing culture

The direction our leaders in America are taking us is very troubling. Political correctness is out of control. Ridiculous laws are being passed at break neck speed to please those seeking to justify sinful lifestyles and immoral practices. The backbone of a nation is its morals and respect for life, liberty and justice as derived from scripture.
Politicians and our Supreme Court have, by their actions, made new laws that fly in the face of the values we have taught and treasured since the founding of our nation. Our religious liberties are being systematically eroded before our eyes. So what can we do? The answer is the same as it’s always been with God’s people. We are to follow Jesus, even when it’s not popular or socially accepted.

Well, what is taking place is nothing new, it stems from a humanistic worldview instead of a biblical worldview. However, we are losing our edge by compromising with sin. Fortunately, there is still hope because God is paying attention to His church and our obedience to Him. God can change the course of a nation based on our obedience, not the worlds. In fact, because we serve a risen King, the world will always be opposed to our faith. Jesus said they would. In John 17, Jesus prayed that God would protect us from the evil one. We are living in the world but are not to become of the world. The bible says that our “war is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm” (Eph.6:12)  Also, read II Corinthians 10:3-6. Another reason there is still hope is because our obedience is to Christ not the ways of the world. This is too important to miss. We have done a great job at telling our kids how bad the world is. However we must also tip the scales by telling our kids how great our God is. The bible says “be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” Rom.12:21. If the next generation is going to be prepared to stand for Christ during perilous times then we need to teach them what it means to “be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” Rom.12:2. I urge you to draw strength and courage to continue living for Jesus even when others around you may not share your values. As you follow the Lord with loving hearts, unbelievers will be drawn to the Savior. In fact, when the church is unified and happy and praising God with lives that are holy and pleasing to God, lost people get interested in God. Hebrews 10:25 brings this out.

If you need some understanding and encouragement, carefully read the prayer Jesus prayed in John 17. Jesus said that we are “not of this world as He is not of this world.”
PLEASE read John 17, it will give you courage to stay faithful in an unfaithful world.
Keep up the good work!
Bro. Bruce Rudd

#2 Church Unity

Within this short 8 chapter book called “Song of Solomon”, we find the biblical pattern of love. The book is a song written by Solomon filled with oriental imagery and metaphors. There is much I want to say about this great book, but for now, let’s focus on one verse.

God teaches us an important lesson on relationships and unity with a very short and simple verse that simply says:


Song of Songs 2:15 “catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom
This verse  concerns two godly folks in love and she doesn’t want any little foxes coming in there and messing it all up.  The bible says it’s while things are at its best, literally “full bloom,” that those little critters show up. But the lesson of the “little foxes” can help us all as we relate to each other in the church. It’s those little sins, it’s those little things we typically would just blow off, but instead we won’t let it go. Well, that’s all Satan needs to tear up the unity in a church. The devil doesn’t need something big, he just needs little foxes. So if we start getting cross ways with another believer over petty things, then some little sins (foxes) have gotten loose in our mind. Don’t let them spoil that wonderful friendship! Catch them and preserve that relationship as quickly as possible. Don’t let those little foxes spoil your vineyard of love…it’s not worth it.

Notice the little foxes didn’t show up until the vineyard was at full bloom. The little foxes described are not the mature older foxes, but the smaller immature younger foxes. They enter the vineyard at full bloom and they want to play. They are pulling on the blooms and making havoc of the vines as they play. The mature foxes aren’t interested in any of that. Right now as a church we are “full bloom”.  Sometimes we began to get lazy with our walk in Christ and before you know it, where we once were walking in spiritual maturity, we suddenly find ourselves acting immature spiritually. That little fox of pride takes off in our mind and we get offended or we offend someone else we love. That little fox of anger jumps right out of our mouth hurting those we love most. That little fox of jealousy starts gossiping and starts exaggerating an issue to hurt the other person or bring them down. These are the little sins of immaturity that Satan uses to erode our relationships. So how do we catch those little critters? Well, we can’t on our own, but Christ can. When a few of those little foxes get loose and begin to harm your relationships, tell it to Jesus. Get His forgiveness!  Then, if you offended the other person or they offended you,, go to them in a Galatians 6:1 spirit and get things right. Remember the issue is not about winning the argument; the issue is restoring the relationship. Christ knows truth perfectly, yet He is so patient with you and me. How often we think we understand a matter, yet from the eyes of Jesus we could be so far off. So, if Jesus is patient with us, than we should be with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Let’s watch out for those little foxes and end 2016 the way we ended 2015 at Mt. Sylvan…in a Spirit of unity and love. Take note that the little foxes do the most harm when the vineyard is in full bloom.! Right now our church is in full bloom. It loves, it’s forgiving, and it’s filled with the presence of God. So let’s catch the little sins of our heart and ask God to fill us with love, patience, and joy…esteeming others higher than ourselves. Happy New Year!  Bro Bruce Rudd  

#1 Faith in Action

So how do we put our faith into action and see God work in miraculous ways?
The Bible says some important things about faith:
First…faith in Christ is essential and the channel by which His grace flows into our life at that miraculous moment of salvation.
  • Prior to salvation we are trusting in ourselves, our own wisdom or way; but after salvation we demonstrate, by our faith in Jesus, that our trust has shifted from self to Christ.
Ephesians 2:8 – “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.”
Second…faith has a major ingredient to be true faith, God’s Word.
Romans 10:17 – “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”
  • Now this is important, apart from the word of God we wouldn’t know truth or God’s will or His ways.  Man, without God, thinks he knows everything; he doesn’t care about what God has to say because he thinks he has something to say that’s more important.
  • But God says in Romans 3:4 “…Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar.”
  • Now that is the problem with unbelief.  Unbelief says I am right, listen to me!
  • But faith says, No!  Let God be true, but every man a liar.
So how do we apply faith in our lives?  How do we walk by faith and not by sight?  Let me illustrate it this way:  Today you or I can go to a local hardware store and buy a sack of cement or sakcrete.  We use sakcrete for many home projects.  Now, that sack contains everything needed to become concrete if mixed with one thing, “WATER”.  Without water, it’s nothing more than a powder with some gravel mixed in.  Without being mixed with water it cannot serve the purpose for which it was designed.
It’s the same with God, He has put together a manual for our faith.  The bible was written for us to appropriate faith in our lives.  God’s word is truth concerning God and man and good and evil and everything else in this world.
Just as cement must be mixed with water for a physical chemical reaction to take place, so we must mix faith with God’s word to live out the supernatural life God has for us.
Ezekiel 33:31 – “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as my people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.”
  • Here we have God telling Ezekiel that the folks really don’t have any faith, that the truth is, their hearts are pursuing their own gain.  That takes us right back to Romans 3:4.  It is so hard for man to just say “Let God be true” and then walk in those truths.
Remember the Hebrews God delivered out of Egypt with a mighty hand, God provided them a great escape, an ability to worship Him again.  He gave them the tent of tabernacle.  He led them with a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.  He fed them manna from heaven and their shoes did not wear out on their feet.  Tragically this generation wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.  Why?…because of unbelief.  They had it all.  They had Moses and Joshua, God’s covenant, and God’s word as he gave it to them through Moses, but they could not enter into the promised land of Canaan because of unbelief.  Unbelief is the opposite of faith.
Hebrews 3:17 and 4:1-3 give a vivid account of why God wouldn’t let them enter the rest He had for them in Canaan.
Hebrews 4:2-3 says, “For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest.”
  • Unbelief is where we always stumble and miss what God wants to show us.  Like the Hebrews, God has done everything in His power to show us He is faithful and loves us.
  • Perhaps today or tomorrow you will be at a crossroads in your walk.  Will you hang on to God’s word believing what He says to the point you will make decisions as though your prayers have already been answered?  If so, you will wait on God and not get ahead of Him trusting in His answer even before it comes.
  • Read James 1:21-25, “Be a doer of the word and watch your life of faith come alive.”
Trust God, believe His word, and believe he will do above and beyond even what we could ask.  God is faithful…”Let God be true”!!
Bro Bruce Rudd