Virtually everything we once knew to be wrong is now considered right, and what was once believed to be bad is now deemed good. Our culture has strayed so far from God’s Word that people are blind to the lies that are deceiving so many. The prophet Isaiah accurately commented about such a reversal of morality: “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20).
In contrast to the corruption today, the apostle Paul admonishes:
Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you…and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks (Ephesians 5:3-4).
The apostle Peter admonishes:
As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all your conduct….Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do – living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. But they will have to give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 1:14,15; 2:11; 4:3-5).
Be Aware: Four Stages of Decline
There are four stages through which those living an aberrant lifestyle could mislead people:
Tolerance and Acceptance: Initially, they say they just want us to tolerate and accept their lifestyles.
Endorsement: After tolerance and acceptance, they push us to endorse their lifestyles – which most have done.
Celebration: After endorsement, they push hard for us to celebrate their aberrant lifestyles. Many are doing so.
Punishment: Finally, they want to punish (removal from social media, lawsuits, loss of income, incarceration…) anyone who does not accept, endorse and celebrate their corrupt lifestyles.
Conquer or Be Conquered
Sexual immorality is not just a “disease” that will eat you like a cancer, it is sin. It is contrary to God’s intended purpose for His creation and needs to be, as Scripture says, “Crucified” (Galatians 5:24). Live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Galatians 5:16). The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:5-8:
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things….
If you do not overcome the sinful nature, be assured, it will overcome you. Control your flesh or it will control you. Be set free from your vices or be enslaved by them. Conquer your weaknesses or they will conquer you! They will bring you to ruin and hurt the many others you touch through your life and example.
Path to a Victorious Life
Why live a life of continual defeat, frustration and guilt when you can live an abundant and victorious life through Christ? God’s path may not always be easy, but it is the most rewarding – both in this life and the one to come. While overcoming sexual immorality can seem daunting, God will give you the strength to tear down the strongholds and to be all that He intended you to be – even in our sex-crazed culture.
Open your heart to receive that which far surpasses any physical pleasure: a life of purity, peace, and power is worth every effort to obtain it. Sincerely repent and receive God’s forgiveness. Attitudes and actions will change as your mind is renewed by God’s Word (Romans 12:2). The fruit of the spirit – one of which is self-control (Galatians 5:23) – will develop as the power of God’s Spirit works in and through you.
May your life be transformed to live victoriously – the victor in a great contest!
Many astonishing prophecies in Scripture confirm divine inspiration and indicate how close we are to Christ’s return. We’ve selected just a few to consider.
End time Scripture foretells the establishment of a world government (Revelation 13:7; 17:15-18; Daniel 7:23), a global economy (Revelation 13:16-17), and a universal religion (13:8-12; 17:1-2, 15).
It is obvious that a scenario is unfolding revealing the creation of a global system of political power, economic control, military might, and religious unity. Just as Scripture foretold, we are rapidly heading toward a one-world government, a one-world monetary system, and a one-world religion.
A leader will arrive on the world scene coming in the guise of peace and unity – supposedly presenting solutions for the world’s dilemmas. The book of Revelation identifies this person as the Antichrist who will take the reins of the world through deception and intrigue, ultimately leading humankind in a unified rebellion against the God of the Bible. The Antichrist’s cohort will be instrumental in uniting the world’s religions into an ecumenical movement tuned to eventually worship the Antichrist.
Mark of the Beast (666)
Revelation 13:16-18 makes known how the Antichrist and False Prophet will obtain and maintain control of this global society:
He [False Prophet] also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast [Antichrist] or the number of his name. This calls for wisdom. If anyone has insight, let him calculate the number of the beast, for it is man’s number. His number is 666.
Temple in Jerusalem
For 2,500 years (since 586 BC when Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, taking Jews captive to Babylon) there was no independent nation of Israel. Yet the prophets foretold that end time events would focus in and around the tiny nation of Israel, and that in the middle of the seven-year Tribulation period, the Antichrist will desecrate the rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul mentions in 2 Thessalonians 2:4 that the Antichrist “sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.” John, in Revelation 13:14-15, reveals that an image set up in honor of the Antichrist will be given breath so that it can speak and that all who refuse to worship the image will be killed.
The Two Witnesses
What about God’s Two Witnesses in Revelation chapter 11? For centuries people were baffled by these verses about the entire world looking at their dead bodies. Yet the whole world is now capable of seeing their corpses displayed on the latest form of visual media. Revelation 11:7-12 provides the context:
When they [the Two Witnesses] have finished their testimony, the beast [Antichrist] that comes up out of the abyss [bottomless pit] will make war with them, and overcome them and kill them. And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified [Jerusalem]. Those from the peoples and tribes and tongues and nations will look at their dead bodies for three and a half days, and will not permit their dead bodies to be laid in a tomb. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and celebrate; and they will send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days, the breath of life from God came into them, and they stood on their feet; and great fear fell upon those who were watching them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here.” Then they went up into heaven in the cloud, and their enemies watched them.
The Two Witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days until they finish their testimony at which time the Antichrist is able to kill them. For three and a half days their dead bodies will lie in the street of Jerusalem as people from every tribe, nation, and language will look at their corpses. It is interesting that although these Two Witnesses are from God and empowered by Him, the world will be so undiscerning and unrepentant that they will despise and reject them. Many, many people – deep in rebellion against the God of the Bible – will rejoice over the deaths of the Two Witnesses and celebrate by exchanging gifts.
Amazingly, this prophecy of the entire world looking at their dead bodies can now be literally fulfilled through worldwide television, global satellite transmission, and Internet technology.
I have been in many villages around the world. Some of the places were so remote that the people stared at me because they had never seen a white person in real life, let alone someone with blue eyes. Yet even in these secluded areas there was usually someone – whether it was in a hotel, business, or someone’s house – who had a television or computer with people gathered around to watch events as they occurred around the world.
Every Eye Will See Him
Echoing the words of Daniel 7:13, Revelation 1:7 promises:
Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.
How could the apostle John in the first century A.D. predict this universal viewing by his own inspiration? It would have been impossible without a true revelation from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Flesh Will Rot
Zechariah 14:12 gives a horrific description of the plague that will strike all the peoples who gather to go to war against Jerusalem:
This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths.
Although this refers to a supernatural judgment by God on the forces gathered against Israel in the end times at Armageddon, it is eerily similar to what would happen to those within the radius of the detonation of a thermonuclear bomb. The faces and skin of the invading armies melt like hot wax dripping down a candle. While prophecies such as Zechariah 14:12 may have seemed like science fiction not too many decades ago, modern weapons now can cause its very fulfillment. And keep in mind that God’s spoken word (by which He brought the universe into being) is far more powerful than any nuclear explosion.
The Earth Will Be Burned Up
Second Peter 3:10-14 states:
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire [melt with fervent heat], and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.
These verses were once used by skeptics to disprove the Bible. How could there be a fire big enough to burn the whole world? People derided these verses before World War II, but after the emergence of nuclear weapons, able to melt the basic building blocks of matter itself, many began to see the potential for the fulfillment of these prophecies – even apart from God’s supernatural intervention. The nuclear weapons of today are many times more powerful than the two bombs which decimated Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.
Prophecies Have Not Changed
Should one think these prophecies are just a modern translation of the Bible or have been reworded to reflect our times, I have an 1862 and an 1880s Bible (long before any reasonable explanation for the fulfillment of these verses came to light) and they say the same thing. Likewise, the prophecies and descriptions in even ancient Bibles are the same.
The Lord Wants None To Perish
There is widespread awareness that some amazing prophesied events are happening on the world scene. Those who believe in Jesus Christ know that the Lord’s coming draws near. It would be wisdom for us to commit our lives to the God who inspired these prophecies.
The Lord has delayed His coming because:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Today is the day to make certain your heart and life are right with the Lord. Do not delay – the prophetic clock is ticking and nearing the midnight hour. Always be prepared to meet your Lord by way of death or rapture. Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!
The yearly ritual of setting New Year’s Resolutions is in full swing. Spending more time with family, getting into shape, quitting a bad habit or getting out of debt top the list. We make our resolutions with the best of intentions. Early in the new year we are like runners at the start of a race: excited to begin the race toward the finish line. However, a few months later – sometimes only weeks or even days – enthusiasm wanes as motivation diminishes, distractions divert us, pressure and time constraints weigh us down, and apathy overtakes us. What started as a noble endeavor, becomes just another New Year’s Resolution that will have to wait until next year to be achieved.
While it is admirable to make changes that can affect our behavior and circumstances, as believers in Christ we need to make a New Life Resolution – a resolution that brings internal more than just external change; a change in our attitude – in how we see things – but more importantly, a change in our heart – in what we desire.
A passage that I believe speaks to the heart of a New Life Resolution is Philippians 3:12-14. Addressing the church at Philippi while imprisoned in Rome, the Apostle Paul writes:
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
In this passage, Paul lays out the goal of the Christian life, which is to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. He acknowledges that he has not yet attained this goal but details two steps he has taken to grow spiritually and help him in the process of becoming more like Christ. First, he forgets what lies behind. Paul recognizes that failures of the past cannot be hindrances towards achieving his goal of Christlikeness. Second, he presses on (moves forward) toward the prize. The Greek word for press was used of a sprinter, who ran his race with aggressive energy. This is important to keep in mind because most people fail in their New Year’s Resolutions. So we cannot be passive and idle in our efforts, but must press forward and not grow weary in our resolve to be more like Christ.
Many of you are familiar with Jonathan Edwards: he lived in the 1700s and is considered by many to be the greatest preacher and theologian in American history. He also played an influential role in the first Great Awakening, a spiritual revival that swept through the American colonies. What you may not know is that at the age of 18 he became pastor of a church in New York. Recognizing the seriousness of this call, and not wanting to waste the opportunity God had given him, Edwards wrote a total of 70 resolutions for his life. He used these resolutions not as a law to bind him, but as a compass to guide his life and to examine his spiritual progress. While I encourage all of you to read his 70 resolutions, they can be summed up in the following: “Resolution One: I will live for God. Resolution Two: If no one else does, I still will.” In accomplishing these resolutions, Edwards identified two keys. First, he needed God’s help. In his own words, “Being sensible that I am unable to do anything without God’s help, I do humbly entreat Him by His grace to enable me to keep these resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to His will, for Christ’s sake.” Second, he knew that he needed to review them weekly. Like Jonathan Edwards, I have set forth resolutions for my life. In upcoming newsletters, I will share the 10 resolutions that God has impressed upon my heart so we can go through them together. Until then, the following are a few simple, but profound, principles to help you begin:
Live a life of prayer (Colossians 4:2)
Devote yourself to the study of God’s Word (Joshua 1:8)
Be imitators of God in your walk with Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Commit to Him with your whole life (Matthew 22:37).
Keep the Passion Burning
Evaluate your priorities and goals right now. Do not let your intended commitment to Jesus Christ become just another resolution, indefinitely postponed. Instead of giving up, feeling beaten down or guilty, get back on track spiritually. Nurture and enhance your relationship with Christ so that even as trials and temptations take their toll, your motivation and enthusiasm do not wane.
Instead of making merely a New Year’s Resolution, make a New Life Resolution – a lifetime commitment through the power of God’s Spirit, to make Jesus Christ the center of your life. Keep the passion burning throughout the year. If you notice the flame burning low, rekindle it and keep on going – until the very end!
This past summer, Army recruits, Boy Scouts, Summer’s Best Two Weeks Staff and Volunteers, Boys and Girls Soccer Teams, JV and Varsity Volleyball Teams, Youth Groups, families, and many others, experienced the obstacle course challenge under Bill Rudge’s direction. We are one of a very few ministries that has access to the schools and the opportunity to work with and train military. The following articles describe a few of those experiences.
When Sgt. Keiuffer Ritter and Army Commander Captain Erin Funkhouser heard about the Bill Rudge Ministries’ Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course, they were excited to have recruits gain a different experience. With rain threatening overhead, recruits from Beaver, Erie, Greenville, Grove City, Hermitage, Meadville, New Castle, West Middlesex, and Sharpsville descended on the obstacle course – and then the weather turned beautiful. Most were preparing to leave for basic training so Bill gave them a taste of what was to come. Other Army personnel present included Sgt. Gregory Armstrong, 1st Sgt. Aaron Evans, Sgt. Jacob Zimmerman and retired Sgt. 1st Class Tim McCall.
The obstacles required a wide variety of skills and abilities that included strength, balance, coordination and memory. The recruits learned the importance of teamwork as well as competition. As always, Bill explained that the skills they used on the obstacle course – determination, courage, obedience, communication and faith – are the same ones they will need in life. Sgt. Ritter said the day went so well preparing the recruits for their journey in the U.S. Army that they are planning to return – which they did a few weeks later.
JV and Varsity Girls Volleyball teams and Boys and Girls Varsity Soccer Teams were led by Bill through loosening and stretching exercises, endurance and speed drills, relay races, navigating through the obstacle course, and other activities designed for physical conditioning and team building. The teams and their coaches enthusiastically and courageously faced each challenge and obstacle as they worked together encouraging each other to accomplish goals and build team unity. The head volleyball coach e-mailed: “It was great! We definitely will do it again and make it part of our conditioning next year. Thank you so much.”
When Pastor Aaron Christy of Clen-Moore Presbyterian Church recommended that the 1-to-1 mentoring program at Cray Youth and Family Services check out the Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course at Bill Rudge Ministries for a group activity, Program Director Allisyn Wolfe was glad to do so. Each mentor is paired with a child between the ages of 6 and 18 to be a positive role model and friend. Mentoring works to support children as they overcome obstacles, rely on other people, and rise to new challenges; so this was a perfect place to experience all those things.
The obstacle course provided opportunities for the youth to not only meet physical challenges but also to develop attributes such as trust, like when they were blindfolded and had to walk across a log aided by the adults or were guided along a path holding each other’s hands carefully following the leader’s instructions. Their listening skills were honed, remembering the detailed directions given at each obstacle. Bill encouraged the youth to try things they had never done before. Allisyn stated, “The most gratifying part for me was seeing the kids (and some of the mentors) who were reluctant to try things at first ending up being proud of their accomplishments. We always enjoy the activities and the way Bill presents them.”
Special thanks to Bruce Adams, Darlinda McDonald, Bob Mild, Eric Nehlen, Mike Roy, Anneka, BJ, Lucas and Moriah Rudge, and Lily and Caeleana Smith for assisting Bill with the obstacle course this past summer.
It was December 1982. I locked the door to our bedroom to keep Tabitha (9) and BJ (6) out, while I checked out the racetrack we had bought them for Christmas. They were eager to see what presents I was looking at. I told them they couldn’t come in and to go away! A few minutes later Tabitha stuck a note under the door, “May I see one gift? Circle yes or no.” I circled no and said to not ask again!
A few minutes later Tabitha and BJ were knocking on the door again. BJ disguised his voice to sound like his mother and said, “Bill, this is Karen, please open the door.” I pretended I didn’t know it was BJ, “Okay, honey, as soon as I put your gifts away.” They really got excited! “Karen,” I said, “ I’m almost done putting your presents away; I’ll get the kids’ gifts and lay them out to show you.” BJ said, “That’ll be great, honey!” Then they saw their mother coming, so BJ said through the door, “Hurry up, honey!”
But it was too late. I let Karen in and locked the door. Almost instantly there was another knock at the door, this time BJ pretended to be his grandfather who was visiting from Arizona. In a deep voice he said, “This is grandpa, I have a cold, please let me in.” After everything was put away I opened up the door and acted surprised to see Tabitha and BJ.
As the years went by they got trickier but we usually outfoxed them.