Your First Second in Eternity

By Bill Rudge

One second is all it takes to transform disbelief into belief, indifference into astonishment, and mockery into reverence. In just one second, life-long thoughts, attitudes and emotions will be forever altered. In one second, all false hypotheses will vanish. In one second, the ingenuity and magnificence of the Creator will be unveiled. In that one second, you will know the reality of the One you embraced, ignored or abhorred.

Now is the time to come to know your Creator. If you meet Him as Savior, that first second will bring great joy. However, if you stand before the Lord of Heaven and Earth as Judge, you will surely tremble in terror.

That initial second will alter everything forever! It will either begin an eternity in His presence, with “fullness of joy and pleasures evermore,” or be a terrifying experience of “falling into the hands of the living God” and the realization that you are eternally separated from Him and all He has prepared for those who love Him.

Be assured, that one second will come. It will definitely happen. How you prepare for your first second in eternity will make all the difference. Do not wait another second. Accept His free gift of salvation now! I promise that when you stand before Him you will be overjoyed and forever grateful that you did. Revelation 22:17 is God’s final offer of salvation in Scripture: “…And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”

The Most Important Things

Children are NOT a distraction from more important work. They are THE MOST important work. C. S. Lewis

The most precious jewels you’ll ever have around your neck are the arms of your children. Author Unknown

I wouldn’t change my grandchildren for the world, but I wish I could change the world for my grandchildren.

I don’t want my children to be what I want them to be. I want them to become everything God created them to be. Jon Gordon

Only GOD Knows the Future

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Newspaper and magazine headlines, television, radio, and internet news confront us daily with accounts of conflicts and war, carnage from terrorism, mass murders, threats of a nuclear holocaust, global economic upheaval, worldwide spread of disease and pestilence, devastating natural disasters and extreme weather, and so on. The constant barrage prompts questions such as are we living at the time of the end of the world and what is the meaning of all that is happening?

People search for answers in a variety of sources from science to astrology, psychics and Nostradamus. However, there is only one Source that truly provides the answers. God alone knows the future and He reveals it in the Book He inspired. Only God knows the end from the beginning and only the Bible reveals an accurate end time scenario. Isaiah 46:9-10 states: “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’”

Scripture is the only reliable source of end time prophecy; Revelation is the capstone of prophecy. Insight from Revelation and the many other prophecies throughout the Hebrew Bible and New Testament can be compiled to provide precise insight. Not only has Scripture proven amazingly accurate but the Lord provides tremendous peace because not only do we know that what His Word says is going to happen, we can know the One Who is in control and Who determines our eternal destiny.

Since only God knows the future, we must go to His Word to acquire an accurate end time scenario. Let us not only saturate our lives with study of the Bible – our only reliable source of end time prophecy – but also trust the Author of Scripture with our lives, our future, and our eternal destinies as we look for the glorious appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We find ourselves asking the very same question the disciples did in Matthew, chapter 24, “When is Jesus going to come back?” It is no surprise then that many of us are anticipating that the Lord will return very soon, as current events reflect the very signs Jesus said would precede His return (Matthew 24:4-8). Therefore, as Jesus emphasizes in the parable of the ten virgins (Matthew 25), we should “be on the alert” [stay awake, watch], for we do not know the hour of His return (Matthew 25:13). However, as we stay awake and prepare ourselves “for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13), let us take care that we wait within the guidelines of what God has chosen to reveal to us in His Word.

I say this because many Christians are being persuaded to build their eschatology (issues related to the end times) upon extra-biblical sources. God’s Word must always be our foundation in shaping our understanding of end time events. As we are warned in the most detailed prophetic book on the events surrounding the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, we should not add or take away from what God has revealed (Revelation 22:18-19).

I have encountered Christian material on the Second Coming that has appealed to Nostradamus, the Hopi Indians, Jewish mystic rabbis and New Age mediums as being authoritative sources on end time events. However, God’s Word must define our understanding and be our primary source in shaping our understanding of future events.

As we anticipate the return of Jesus Christ, we can rest upon the promise that what God has chosen to reveal about the Second Coming will come to pass. Even though there are some details we cannot fully comprehend until they happen, we can (and are responsible to) have a proper understanding of future prophetic events from studying Scripture.

Hezekiah Speaks to US Today!

by Bill Rudge

Hezekiah was a righteous king who called the people of Judah back to the LORD and out of the idolatry and immorality they had fallen into under the reign of his father King Ahaz. Hezekiah sent word to all Israel (those from the ten northern tribes who had not been taken into Assyrian captivity) and to Judah (not yet taken into Babylonian captivity) through his couriers (runners) inviting them to come to the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover and to return to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel (2 Chronicles 30:1-9).

2 Chronicles 30:10-12 tells us that some of the Israelites laughed the couriers to scorn and mocked them. (Similar to our generation of media, lawmakers and society, that is increasingly hostile toward Biblical Christianity.) Nevertheless, others humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. God always has His faithful remnant.

Are you among those who heed God’s Word or with those who scorn and ridicule it? Those of us who turn their hearts to the LORD will eventually experience great joy as experienced in King Hezekiah’s day (2 Chronicles 30:25-26). However, the ones who refuse to repent may end up like Zedekiah, the twentieth and final king of Judah (just a few generations after Hezekiah): “Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God…he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the LORD God of Israel. Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the LORD which He had sanctified in Jerusalem. The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:11-16).

After many years of patience, sending remedial judgments, God’s final response to Judah’s rebellious and unrepentant behavior was to allow Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem and Solomon’s Temple in 587/ 586 BC, with a large number of the people of Judah taken into captivity. Zedekiah’s sons were slaughtered in front of him, and he was blinded, then taken in chains to Babylon where he was imprisoned until his death.

Jeremiah the prophet had repeatedly warned of impending judgment if the leaders and people of Judah continued to disobey God. Could a similar fate befall the U.S.?

The Old Adage …

A growing number of media personalities, political leaders, and celebrities today blatantly mock and defy the God of the Bible in word and lifestyle. They disregard and disrespect God just like the apostate Israelites of biblical times.

Is God removing His hand of protection, allowing the gradual demise of the U.S. today? Is this His final warning to turn our hearts back to Him before it is too late?

Without widespread repentance, similar individual, regional and national judgments that repeatedly befell the people and nation of Judah are surely coming upon this generation for their unfaithfulness to the One who had so blessed this country. The old adage will once again prove true: Those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it!

Regret or Rejoice

King Hezekiah invited everyone to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover. Many people (“a very large assembly,” 2 Chronicles 30:13), accepted his invitation to return to the LORD and come to the Temple where “there was great joy in Jerusalem” (2 Chronicles 30:26). Likewise, Jesus invites everyone who is spiritually thirsty to “take the water of life without cost” (Revelation 22:17). Will you ridicule and reject Jesus’ invitation, only to later regret the eternal consequences? Or, will you accept Jesus’ end time invitation of salvation?

At His Second Coming, believers will jubilantly enter the Millennium (Revelation 20:4-6). Following Christ’s thousand year reign on Earth, we will be welcomed into the celestial city of God, the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21 and 22), to enjoy His bountiful blessings throughout all eternity!

Not Enough Evidence… Really!

by Jim Weikal

Many years ago I was listening to an interview with an elderly atheist. The interviewer asked towards the end of the talk, “If you are wrong and you see God after you die, what will you say to Him?” He said, “You didn’t give me enough evidence.”

As I considered that comment, some thoughts ran through my mind:

  1. God provided a written account of His creative work, but the atheist believes the Bible to be a human invention.
  2. God created this material universe from nothing in six days, but the atheist believes evolutionary processes over billions of years to be the cause.
  3. The Bible describes many miraculous accounts in its 66 books, but the atheist believes that miracles can’t happen.
  4. God raised Jesus from the dead, but the atheist believes the resurrection never occurred.
  5. God brought the Jewish people back to Israel after thousands of years, but the atheist believes this return to be nothing more than political coincidence.

I feel for the elderly atheist who committed his eternal life to the belief system of this world. But remember, it’s not by lack of evidence. Romans 1:18-20 tells us that people “suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

Christ’s Return

Preparing for the Coming of the Bridegroom

by Joseph M. Stowell

I’ve known about the Second Coming of Jesus ever since I was a boy. But for the most part it was a Biblical truth that had minimal impact on my everyday life. Until more recently.

Given all that is happening in our world, I find myself thinking Lord, haste [speed] the day! The promise of Him coming again to judge all that is wrong, to deal the final blow to Satan and his hordes, and to launch His emerging new world order — where there is no sorrow or death and where all things will be made new — is a compelling, wonderful thought. And not only is it a wonderful thought, but when fully embraced, it has life-changing ramifications for us today.

Writing to a church living in a dark and hostile culture, John the apostle focuses his readers’ attention on the impact of Jesus’ return when he writes, “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). Simply, when we fully embrace the coming of Christ, we become hopeful people motivated to pursue pure lives!

The Biblical sense of hope is different than how we normally think of the concept. Typically, we might say, “I hope it doesn’t rain on our vacation.” But that hope is not for sure. It’s merely wishful thinking. Biblical hope, on the other hand, is not a “hope so.” It is grounded in the belief that what we are looking forward to is something that will really happen. Believing the Word of God is true and that Jesus’ teachings are credible, His return is not a matter of “hope so” but a certain reality we look forward to.

And, the certainty of the Biblical hope of His future return has relevant impact on life in the present. We live in an increasingly dark culture where our dearest values and virtues are at best dismissed and at worst despised. Increasingly marginalized and often canceled as Christians, we fear that we have lost and that evil will advance.

But, being certain of His return cancels our sense of hopelessness. It makes us hopeful people who are confident that in the end we are not losers at all. His return initiates His victory over Satan and proves the point that He, King Jesus, ultimately wins. And because He wins, we win too. His return gives us the certain hope that we are not part of an old-fashioned, out-of-date world order like many in today’s culture assume. Rather, we belong to an emerging victorious world order that is free of evil, sorrow, shame and guilt, and is blessed with a robust sense of righteousness, peace and joy where all things are new (Romans 14:17; Revelation 21:1-5).

This hope reminds us that life is like a feature-length film with God as its director. Freeze-framing the film in a dark moment always leads to hopelessness. But as followers of Jesus, we let the film roll, knowing that in the end He returns as the victor, as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16) and that we will, as John says, be forever locked into an eternal likeness of Him.

Given this great hope, it’s no wonder that John wants us to be busy getting ready for the grand event! And getting ready is all about purifying our lives in anticipation of meeting the perfectly pure Jesus when He appears. Granted, we are all victims of the fall, and a perfect purity in every area of our lives is not yet possible.

Someday, at His return, we will be perfectly pure … but not now. However, followers of Jesus who believe that at any moment He will return, seek to ready themselves with a growing purity that is increasingly more like Him and less like our fallen selves. The pursuit of purity, as He is pure, is the pursuit of hopeful people who can’t wait to see Him face to face!

I can’t help but think of John 14:1-3, where Jesus speaks to a group of traumatized disciples who are about to be left in a hostile world without Him. He comforts them by saying that though He is going away to prepare a place for them, He will come again and receive them unto Himself. The imagery is reflective of Jewish marriage customs of the day. In that culture the groom-to-be would strike a marriage agreement with the father of the bride and then go back to his father’s house to prepare an apartment for him and the bride to live in after they were married.

Meanwhile, the bride-to-be would wait in her father’s house, preparing for the day that her lover would come to take her to the wedding — having no clue as to what day or what time that would be. When the groom finished preparing their home, he would start through the village with his friends, and as they walked, other villagers would join the entourage crying out, “The bridegroom comes! The bridegroom comes!” Hearing the shouts, no doubt the bride’s heart would be racing, knowing that the moment she hoped for had finally come. And you can be sure that she had used the time in waiting getting herself ready for that very special day.

We, too, are waiting for a very special day!

Excerpted from Decision magazine, September 2022; © 2022 Joseph M. Stowell; Used by permission, all rights reserved.

Bullying Topic Grabs Students’ Attention

By Darlinda McDonald

As violence and bullying escalate throughout our nation and world, many students have received powerful messages on anti-bullying and self-defense by Bill Rudge. A week after arriving home from leading a group of 26 people from across the U.S. on a Holy Land Adventure, Bill will be in Pennsylvania and Ohio schools this month presenting his Street Survival Strategies and Defense Clinics and also beginning sessions on the Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course.

I had the privilege of attending two of these assemblies and would like to thank Bill for his continuing efforts to bring positive, motivational messages to the students. In today’s culture, where bullying can go beyond the classroom and schoolyard into cyberspace, it is comforting to know Bill is willing to add to his busy schedule and go into the schools.

Bully Demonstration

The verbal abuse and bullying of others is as vicious and merciless as someone beating up a defenseless, elderly person. Bill often illustrates this point when speaking and doing demonstrations in schools and churches. His assistant, in the guise of a little old man, would walk by using a cane. Unsuspecting, Bill would kick out his cane; then proceed to do multiple kicks and strikes, abusing him while he was on the ground. Stopping the attack, Bill would offer to help him up, but as he reached for Bill’s hand, he would kick him back down, then straddle him and do multiple strikes to his face and chest. Although they were clearly acting, and the audience loved the demonstration, they got the message of how vicious bullying really is.

Following the demo Bill asks: Would you be impressed if you saw me do that to an old person? No! You would be disgusted. Would you think I was strong? No! You would think I was weak for picking on someone weaker and smaller. That is not strength; that is weakness. When you bully, abuse, pick on or torment those who are weaker than you or who are alone when you are with friends, or call them names to hurt and humiliate them, you are weak and disgusting – as pathetic as I was, beating up that “old man.”

Remember, an insecure, jealous, weak person bullies others and puts them down – while a strong and confident person helps others and doesn’t have to show off to prove it! Be kind, because you don’t know what is going on in their life, with their family or with their health. Be a champion and make a positive difference in the world around you with your words, actions and attitudes. Instead of discouraging others, encourage them. Rather than hurting those who are vulnerable, help them. Instead of bullying those who are weaker, be an inspiration to them. Remember, a strong person stands up for himself but a stronger person stands up for others.

Most Dangerous Person

You all know the world is a dangerous place. But do you know who is the most dangerous person in the world to you? You are! You can be your own worst enemy regarding your survival. It’s all about the choices you make: whether you use illicit drugs, whether you abuse alcohol or junk food, whether you drive recklessly…I think you get the point. Protect yourself from the opportunist bully and defend yourself from an attacker on the street, but also safeguard yourself from yourself by making wise choices.

The Bully Thinking Twice

by Glen Rudge

I was blinded by fury,
distraught with despair.
The bully tormented,
but why did I care?
Because I was the target.
The victim this time.
When it happened to others?
I didn’t mind.
But now it was personal,
this time it was me.
This time I was forced to see.
I had turned a blind eye,
because I was scared.
But now? This time?
Somebody cared.
He shouted, HEY,
This isn’t right,
and he stepped up to the bully,
preparing to fight.
My aggressor he left,
not wanting confrontation.
And he walked away laughing,
with no explanation.
Would he come back?
To start a new fight?
No, for he was a cockroach,
afraid of the light.
The light of another,
willing to stand,
up to the bully,
something he had not planned.

Quotes from Bill Rudge

  • Bullies manifest their insecurities and weaknesses through intimidation and aggression; courageous people reveal their strength through love and kindness.
  • The true measure of a person’s character and strength is how they treat those who are weaker, poorer or less talented.

Even on the Cross

by Jim Weikal

Even while suffering on the torturous cross during the Jewish feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread, Jesus tells a man, “Today you shall be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). Now, this man was a criminal; so dangerous the Roman authorities sentenced him to capital punishment (crucifixion). In addition, he was a blasphemer who ridiculed the blood-soaked, visibly disfigured, thorn-punctured man located mere feet away (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32).

What happened to this man spiritually, who according to Luke’s account, acknowledged: 1. the need to fear God; 2. the need to accept responsibility for personal sins; and 3. the spiritual insight to recognize that Jesus is without sin (Luke 23:40-41). Having voiced these realizations to Jesus, he sought entrance into Jesus’ kingdom that was to come (Luke 23:42). This was no hallucination on the part of the criminal: he knew the identity of the emaciated figure; he believed Jesus was coming back from the dead (no one survived a crucifixion); he believed Jesus was ruler of His own kingdom (Luke 23:42)!

This Resurrection season we need to remember Jesus as did this spiritually changed sinner two thousand years ago as Savior and returning King.

The Desire Level of Christian Life

Bill Rudge

The Desire level is where we have a passion, hunger and thirst for the Lord more than anything else on earth. My relationship with Jesus Christ is more important to me and fulfills and satisfies me more than anyone or anything else—more than wealth, power, sex or any other temporary pleasure this world has to offer. All else is inferior to knowing Christ. I understand what the psalmist meant when he said, “Earth has nothing I desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25) and “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, my God” (Psalm 42:1).

The Lord is saying to you, “I have a deeper dimension for you. I have something that will satisfy you more than anything else you are seeking.” David said, “You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound” (Psalm 4:7).

Think about this! The greatest feeling in the world does not come from alcohol or drugs, from pornography or sex, from pleasure-oriented indulgences or from anything else the world offers. I have tried just about everything imaginable, and I can assure you, the greatest joy in the world comes from knowing everything is right between you and the Lord, desiring Him more than anyone else and wanting His will more than anything else. He is the ultimate fulfillment of all you need and wish! This is the Desire level God wants to bring you to.

Besides not wanting to be laughed at, a retired Marine confessed he had one other problem that kept him from accepting Christ. There were certain things he did not want to give up. He asked me, “How could you at such a young age of 18 give up your immorality, gambling, fighting and alcohol? Wasn’t that fun?” “Yes, it was fun,” I responded, “but I found something far more fulfilling. Besides, I am willing to sacrifice anything in this life to obtain that for which Christ has called me and to inherit what God has for me in the next life.” I continued, “If you really believe that God exists, then you should pursue Him with the same passion you pursue your fleeting pleasures. The Lord will put more joy and hope in your heart than any imaginable experience or than any other person.”

Jesus encourages us to replace temporal pursuits with goals of far greater importance: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33). The psalmist said it this way: “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4).

The Lord has taught me that I cannot coerce or manipulate Him into giving me what I want. However, if I delight myself in Him, seek to Honor His name and walk in obedience, He will grant the desires of my heart (because they will be His desires as well) and will abundantly bless beyond what I could ever ask or think.

During my times of fasting, I often pray: “Lord, do not let me attempt to manipulate You into what I want or think You should be, but reveal Yourself to me as You are. I want to know You. Make known to me who You are by Your Word and by Your Spirit. Cause me to submit and be conformed to who You are and what You require of me.”

When you “love the Lord your God with all your heart [innermost being and desires] and with all your soul [volition and will] and with all your mind [brain and intellect] and with all your strength [physical body]” (Mark 12:30), you remove anything that takes you away from Him. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states concerning this verse: “God is to be loved completely and totally because He alone is God and because He has made a covenant of love with His people. In the covenant God gives Himself totally in love to His people; therefore He expects His people to give themselves totally in love to Him.”

Instead of pursuing a self-indulgent lifestyle that eludes fulfillment as does chasing the wind, pursue Jesus Christ through prayer and the study of Scripture. As you do, the temporary pleasures of this world fade in comparison to knowing Christ. You will gain a deeper revelation of Him and His glory by coming to know Him in a more real and intimate way. You will desire His will for your life and long for His Second Coming when He will rule and reign in righteousness, peace and joy for all eternity!

Excerpts from “Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ” by Bill Rudge. To receive a free copy of this book, write Bill Rudge Ministries, P. O. Box 108, Sharon, PA 16146-0108.

Hidden Sins, Pet Sins

Bill Rudge

Sea of Galilee photo by Bill Rudge

Many Christians hold on to hidden and pet sins—seemingly concealed from others and supposedly overlooked by God. Actually, there is no such thing as secret sin. God sees and knows everything. The psalmist said: “You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your presence” (Psalm 90:8).

Are we Christians who use words or participate in activities that dishonor the Lord, but have done them for so long that the initial conviction of God’s Spirit has been dulled? Have we become desensitized and no longer feel remorse or guilt? Or do we rationalize why it is “not that bad” and condone our actions with the excuse that probably everybody—including Christian leaders—are doing them.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit and your own conscience once convicted you about certain sins, but you made excuses and persisted in wrong attitudes or behaviors. The Spirit is grieved from willful, unrepentant sin and will eventually cease from convicting you. Therefore, do not falsely conclude that your hidden or pet sins are no big deal. They are a big deal and need to be overcome.

Dr. Adrian Rogers insightfully said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.”

If you mistakenly turn your shower water to cold, it shocks your system and you will immediately jump back. But if you gradually turn the water cooler and cooler, your body begins to adapt and you hardly notice the transition. So too, people can fall away from the Lord, gradually becoming lukewarm and complacent, then cold and calloused without realizing it. Eventually they condone a lifestyle that contradicts their profession of faith: they have forsaken their First Love.

We must never become complacent or tolerant of willful sin in our lives! Instead, we can diligently seek to be set free by walking God’s pathway to triumph—transformed by His Spirit and through His Word, to live victoriously as champions in a great contest!

We must repent of repetitive, willful and hidden sins, and make Him Lord over every area of our lives. We must not tolerate and justify secret sins, saying, “Well, you know, I can’t be perfect; everyone has problems. So, I am going to hold on to my jealousy, my gossiping, my gluttony, my greed, my arrogance, my lust. I will continue in this relationship or practice even though it is contrary to Your Word. I am going to keep looking at pornography and continue in immoral relationships. I will keep watching immoral and occult movies. I will keep on doing this or that but I still love You Lord, and I still want to serve You.”

John Blanchard states: “No man can prove that he is a child of God without showing the family likeness.” Ephesians 5:1 tells us to be imitators of God, and Romans 8:29 indicates that we are to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus Christ. Clean out the hidden and pet sins in your life that hinder your walk with Christ. Purity of heart and life are essential to experiencing the Five P’s of the Lord: peace, provision, protection, presence and power!

Three Levels of Christian Life

Most Christians go through three levels of commitment. First is Feelings. That’s okay if you are a new Christian, but if you have been walking with the Lord for several years, it is unnatural and unhealthy to run around in the spiritual diapers of feelings and experiences. It’s time to grow up.

Second is Commitment. This is where we live by obedience and commitment, regardless of how we feel. It is where we do what God’s Word says, what His Spirit directs—whether we want to or not.

Thinking of commitment as the ultimate level, I lived that way for many years. However, there is what I call the Desire level. But before I tell you what it is, let me explain how I came to discover it.

While in Phoenix in the summer of 1988, I was reflecting on my relationship with the Lord and everything that had been happening: the Middle East where my family and I were caught in a potential hijacking and hostage situation and all the trauma associated with it; the death of my father from a heart attack; my wife diagnosed with a life-threatening tumor; the Oregon wreck in which our car was totaled in a four-vehicle collision; the tire blowout and frightening near-accident with the next rental car I was driving through Arizona. I reflected on these and other related incidences (I later wrote about in Strength through Weakness booklet) and asked the Lord why they were happening. He impressed on my heart these three levels of commitment, especially the third and ultimate dimension of our Christian life—the Desire level.

You should know that as you enter the Desire level, the things and attractions of this world will dim in comparison to knowing the Lord. You find yourself despising things you once loved and loving that which you once disdained!

Excerpts from “Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ” by Bill Rudge. To request a copy of this book, free of charge, write to Bill Rudge Ministries, P. O. Box 108, Sharon, PA 16146-0108.

The Act of Forgiving

by Jim Weikal

Jesus is very clear in Matthew 6:15: “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

Many of you know the joy, the comfort, the emotional release of being forgiven by someone dear to you. But what have you done to forgive someone else? Have you reached out to them? The same joy you felt at being forgiven you can now allow them to experience.

I know what you may be thinking. “You don’t know how deeply I’ve been hurt.” And you’re right. But verse 15 above doesn’t leave much room for unforgivingness does it? Jesus’ example in Luke 23:34 certainly sets a high and lofty principle: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

“Well,” you say, “Jesus was the Son of God. I’m not.” So what do you do with Stephen who was stoned in front of the apostle Paul? “They went on stoning Stephen as he was calling out and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ And having said this, he fell asleep’” (Acts 7:59-60).

Forgiving like Jesus moves us closer to being like Him. Forgiving like Stephen shows us that it is possible.

How Can God Forgive a Murderer?

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

There are a few things to consider concerning God’s forgiveness.

First, His forgiveness does not remove moral responsibility and consequences for one’s actions.

Second, an outward profession does not always indicate an inner commitment to Jesus Christ. In other words, only God knows the heart of each of us to accurately determine whether or not one’s repentance and request for forgiveness is genuine.

Third, we are all sinners who fall short of God’s standards. So, while the actions of a murderer are of greater consequence than the actions of a liar, both violate God’s moral laws and are guilty. However, through the sacrificial death of Jesus, forgiveness is provided for all who believe and receive God’s unmerited grace.

From my perspective, the real question is not why would God save a murderer, but why does God save anyone – since we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)? The only answer is the depth of His love for all of us (John 3:16). Consider a parent who loves both the child who behaves and turns out good, and the child who struggles with poor decisions in life (drugs and other reckless behavior). The good child may experience more of the parent’s blessings than the reckless child. But the parent still loves them both and carries with them a hope that one day their reckless child will come home and experience the same blessings that they have provided for their other child.

The holiness and justice of God demands that all sin is punished. However, the mercy and grace of God provides forgiveness for our sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).


Bill Rudge

All through my younger years I was often told that what I planned to do was impossible. I was repeatedly told: “You can’t do it! You are too young, too small, too weak, too poor. You will never make it. You might as well give up!”

So, as one who never really had much potential and was often considered the least likely to succeed in high school and college, who would have thought that one day I would start a ministry that would grow into an international outreach which was to have an impact on tens of thousands of youth and adults?

My wife and I arrived at Bible college as new Christians, still in our teens, with little money and no jobs. Early on I was voted in one class to be the least likely to succeed in ministry. Nevertheless, I finished all four years with good grades, even though I had to work 40 – 60 hours a week on an assembly line at a window factory, along with classes and homework. By my senior year, I was running a growing youth group for a country church and teaching exercise and self-defense classes at the college and YMCA.

A few years later, the president of the college from which I had graduated called to book me at their new campus in Virginia. He asked me to address the student body on “Reaching Your Maximum Potential,” and how we had developed a successful, multifaceted ministry.

Since then I have been blessed to train hundreds of staff and volunteers—many of whom are serving in churches, ministries or missions—as well as training missionaries, pastors, chaplains, military personnel (enlisted men and women, and officers) and leaders of various ministries and organizations. The Lord has also opened doors for me to speak at several pastors’ and leadership conferences in the U.S. and other countries.

Bare Beginnings

In August of 1977, with virtually no money, staff or facilities—just a lot of God-given determination—Karen and I started this ministry in the upstairs apartment of my parents’ home. I used the kitchen table as a desk and Karen kept the ministry records in a file cabinet in our bedroom. Few people thought we would succeed. Many said, “Others have tried and failed; you will too!” Nevertheless, with God’s help we persevered and for over 45 years have witnessed Him do the impossible.

Recently, after speaking at a local church where I had mentioned in my sermon about being voted least likely to succeed at Bible college, an older man told me that he remembered when I started my ministry. He had said to his wife, “He’ll never make it.” He paused and said, “I am so glad you did make it!”

Philippians 4:13

There are many other stories I could share—examples of how God has enabled us to accomplish that which others thought impossible. In reality, people were right for thinking I did not have much potential. However, I have built my life and ministry on the belief that I can do all things because Christ strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). I think God chose me—the least of all—to display His transforming power and to vividly illustrate that if He can use me, He can use anyone!

One of the reasons we have such faithful volunteers and supporters is that they know I am going to do what I say I am going to do. If I believe God has led me to do something, then nothing or no one will stop me. I will persevere until it is accomplished. I will never give up until the Lord either fulfills what He led me to do, or gives definite, new direction.

I have always enjoyed a challenge. It seems the more obstacles I face and the more opposition I receive, the more determined I become. Countless times throughout my life and ministry, I have had to face the cold reality that circumstances say, “You cannot do it,” and people said, “You will never do it,” but God’s Word reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Three-Legged Race

Speaking in the city of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, for a series of engagements, I designed a special outreach including relays and an obstacle course in a neighborhood that was nicknamed “Hell’s Half Acre.” It was like a time warp back to the 1960s and was similar to the neighborhood where I had been raised. Both the youth and the adults loved the competition.

Before the start of a three-legged race, Steven, a youth of about twelve years of age, hobbled over to me with a crutch. His leg was badly crippled, yet he asked if he could compete in the three-legged race. He said, “I don’t need a partner as I already have three legs.” I told him to go for it. He competed with fervent determination and nearly won the race. Before sharing my testimony following the competition, I acknowledged this youth for his courage, determination and attitude, then awarded him a Reaching Your Maximum Potential T-shirt which he appreciated and greatly deserved.

What Is Your Dream?

Proverbs 29:18 says:

Where there is no vision [revelation], the people are unrestrained [out of control], but happy [blessed] is one who keeps the Law.

To have determination that never gives up, you must have goals, dreams and vision. Believe that through Christ you can do it. Be willing to pay the price at all cost, and be motivated and empowered by His Spirit to persevere no matter what the challenge.

What goals and vision has the Lord given you through study of His Word and prayer? If you do not have any, then spend time in Scripture, prayer and fasting, and God will put His goals, His dreams, His vision and His desires in your heart. One of the reasons I am still in the ministry and still excited is due to my goals and vision for the future. When I achieve one goal, God gives me one or two more. That keeps me motivated. I often pray: “Lord, put Your goals, dreams and vision in my heart. Give me unwavering faith to believe You and the motivation and determination to persevere.” And remember, anything worth doing is worth doing with excellence. Strive to be the best you can be at whatever you do.

Determination of a Navy SWCC and SEAL

My oldest grandson, like his uncle BJ, excelled in soccer; playing for two national traveling teams. However, he gave up a college Division I soccer scholarship to enlist in the Navy and try out for Special Forces. His determination and never-quit attitude was already honed through the many difficulties and hard training he experienced in soccer. His self-imposed intense workout routines helped prepare him for the severe and extremely rigorous training at Special Forces—crawling through broken seashells and then, with open wounds, crawling through fresh sewage and repeatedly enduring freezing cold water.

My brother Ken gave an insightful quote: “If you want to be the best, you have to face the worst.” The additional challenges my grandson has faced for remaining faithful to Christ have been almost incomprehensible, but so far, with God’s help, he has overcome.

He enlisted in the Navy at age 18 with a goal and a dream to become a SWCC (SpecialWarfare Combatant Crewman). During Navy SWCC Selection, after many were either sent home or quit, a SWCC instructor asked him, “Are you going to quit?” “They will have to kill me” he replied. What he endured was horrific but he refused to give up and by age 19 he achieved his goal of Naval Special Operations Forces.

During the prestigious graduation ceremony in Coronado, the commander mentioned that my grandson gave up a college scholarship to play soccer. He then enthusiastically said to him, “Welcome to the pros!”

I have had the opportunity to speak several times at an Arab Center in California to people who have known suffering and persecution firsthand. The group consists of men, women and young people from various countries throughout the Middle East (some are Arabic instructors at the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California) and U.S. military personnel. It is an incredible place to speak because there is also a meeting of Jewish believers going on at the same time in the same building. People from both groups ask, “Where else can Arabs and Jews get along so lovingly?”

However, the point I want to emphasize concerns a Navy SEAL. Following my message, many waited to talk to me, to ask questions or obtain free copies of my books. One young man was halfway through his training to become a Navy SEAL (that along with SWCC is probably the most difficult and rigorous military training available). He asked me to pray for him. After doing so I looked him in the eyes and asked, “Are you going to complete the training to become a SEAL?” He responded without hesitation as he looked me in the eyes with confidence, “Sir, they will have to break every bone in my body before I will quit!”

The attitudes of determination and resolve modeled by both these young men are needed by all believers in our commitment and service to Jesus Christ!

Never Quit; Never Give Up

One of the most important exhortations regarding the end times—repeated several times in Revelation and elsewhere—is to persevere: be faithful even to the point of death, hold on till the end, have patient endurance, be victorious, overcome, stand firm, endure to the end and do not shrink back.

After speaking at Petra Cafe in Fort Stewart, a young soldier said to me: “I want to go home, sir.” It was understandable for him to be homesick and want to quit the Army, but giving up should not be an option for a believer, nor even be in a Christian’s vocabulary.

My desire is to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord and to inspire them to walk in faithfulness until He returns. As believers in Christ, we must have the attitude that no opposition or obstacle will cause us to give up in defeat. Instead, we must endure to the end in our commitment to Him. We must persevere, remain faithful and never give up until the Lord fulfills what He leads us to do or He gives us clear, new direction.

The Apostle Paul was in prison at Rome, knowing that his time on earth was about to end. Yet with faith and determination he wrote these powerful words in 2 Timothy 4:6-8:

…The time has come for my departure. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.

Paul’s commitment to Christ resulted in unwavering faith and determination—even to his death. Ask God to instill in you the kind of determination Paul had: to never give up and to remain faithful to the very end.

God has taken that little bit of determination in my youth; has redirected and increased it, and enabled me by His power to do what was seemingly not doable. In upcoming books on The Impossible and Adventures in Missions, I document some of the many difficult situations the Lord has enabled me to overcome through unwavering faith in Him, obedient determination and persistent perseverance.

Determination means refusing to give up no matter how daunting the obstacle, how intense the opposition, how rough the road, or how difficult the battle, but to persevere until the very end and victory is achieved. Never forget, if you consistently, persistently, incessantly and unrelentingly believe and never give up, you will accomplish what others thought to be impossible!

Courage to Stand Alone

by Bill Rudge

Throughout Scripture, we discover that living for God requires believers to occasionally stand alone.

Joseph was thrown into a pit by his brothers. He was all alone, rejected and sold as a slave into Egypt. In Egypt, because he honored God and spurned the affection of Potiphar’s wife, he was thrown into prison. Nevertheless, Joseph continued to honor the Lord and eventually God exalted him to the second highest position in Egypt and used him to save his family from starvation.

David went out alone to meet the giant Goliath. He desired to honor the God of the Bible and shut the mouth of Goliath who was mocking the Lord and intimidating the whole army of Israel. David’s attitude was one of confidence and faith in the Lord.

Elijah, a prophet of God, had an encounter on Mount Carmel against hundreds of prophets of Baal.

Daniel was taken captive to Babylon as a youth. He was ripped from his homeland and separated from his family and friends. In that difficult situation Daniel determined that he would honor the God of the Bible. Daniel was delivered from the power of the lions and prospered during the reigns of Darius and of Cyrus the Persian.

Queen Esther displayed tremendous courage in revealing to the king of Persia, her husband, that she was Jewish. Her bravery, as recounted in the book of Esther, was instrumental in saving the Jewish people of the Persian Empire from being killed. To this day the Jews celebrate Purim, a joyous Jewish festival which commemorates the day Esther saved the Jewish people from a threat of national genocide.

Hebrews 11, the famous chapter on heroes of the faith, frequently uses the words “by faith” which could also easily include “with courage.” Let’s consider a few of them: By faith [and with courage] Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By faith [and with courage] Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith [and with courage] Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward (Hebrews 11:24-26).

Consider the courage of Stephen as he boldly spoke in the power of God’s Spirit to the Jewish Sanhedrin even though it would cost him his life. The Apostle Paul was forsaken by everyone (except the Lord) and had to endure persecution alone. Nevertheless, he bravely stood for Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

All the New Testament writers, except for John, were martyred for their faith. John, the head of the church in Ephesus at the time, was exiled to the Isle of Patmos.

During early church history many Christians were tortured, burned at the stake, thrown to wild animals or beheaded. Some were made to serve as objects of amusement. Others were clad in the hides of beasts and torn to death by dogs. Some were crucified. Others were set on fire to illuminate the night: it is said that Emperor Nero had Christians set afire as human torches to light his gardens.

Being persecuted for faith in Jesus Christ and God’s Word has continued throughout church history. Multitudes of believers have been stoned, drowned, had their brains beat out with clubs, tongues cut out, were stretched on racks or wheels until their joints were dislocated or bones broken, had boiling tar poured over them, were roasted alive like a pig on a spit, dragged through streets by horses, had their stomachs cut open and grain put inside and then pigs let loose to feed on the grain and their intestines, noses or hands cut off and many other horrific tortures.

Christians throughout the world today suffer a wide variety of increasing hostilities and oppression such as loss of freedoms, jobs and income; confiscated property and imprisonment; intensifying persecutions such as being forced into servitude; forced to watch as spouses or children are executed, raped or taken as sex slaves; their houses and churches burned to the ground—sometimes with entire congregations inside; having toes, fingers, hands, noses or heads cut off; and other atrocities—only because they believe the Bible and are committed to Jesus Christ.

During our tenth Holy Land Adventure, we had a meeting with a pastor in Bethlehem who shared his amazing testimony with our group: He had been shot multiple times; his church had been set on fire and the windows broken on several occasions; his brother was martyred in Bethlehem by three men with machetes. Yet still he courageously proclaims the Gospel in this extremely dangerous environment.

I can tell about Josef whom I met while speaking at an Arab Center in California. He had been Saddam Hussein’s English interpreter during the first Iraqi war (Desert Storm). Being a Christian and falsely accused as a traitor, he was tortured for several months. Instead of denying Jesus Christ he chose to believe Jesus’ words: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven.”

There are many others in the U.S. and across the world I have either met or have heard about from eye witnesses who have suffered much for the cause of Christ. By God’s grace alone can we endure such atrocities. These courageous Christians are part of God’s elite “heroes of the faith” whom God will one day richly reward! He has prepared a city for them; the splendor of the New Jerusalem is only partially unveiled in Revelation chapters 21 and 22.

Ultimate Peer Pressure

In Revelation 13:8 we are told, “All who dwell on the earth will worship him [antichrist], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.” This will be the ultimate in peer pressure, conformity and compromise. Deny or die! For all who refuse to worship the image of the beast will be killed.

If you cannot resist peer pressure now, then you had better let God infuse you with His power because there is coming a day in the near future when all of society will be in total rebellion against the Lord and hostile toward His people; the cost will be high to stand for Jesus Christ both before and during the Tribulation period.

A case in point: After several conversations with a retired Marine, he admitted the evidence for Christ was overwhelming and said, “You have convinced me, but I have a problem. I don’t like to be laughed at.” I replied, “You can either stand alone for Christ now or one day stand alone before Him.”

Becoming a Christian was not an easy choice for me as a teenager because of the stigma of being considered weak. It was a perception I did not want my peers to have of me. Wanting to be considered tough, I hung around with the toughest of guys which meant rebellious and wild behavior. Looking back I realize how foolish and weak that really was. Besides, the “toughest of the tough” is Jesus Christ who will defeat all His foes with the brightness of His coming and the words of His mouth! That is whose side I want to be on—the One that wins in the end and for all eternity!

Let us get a proper perspective of courage: Goliath was rough and tough. David was smaller and weaker; he tended sheep while his older brothers went off to war. David wrote psalms and sang songs of praise to the Lord, while Goliath was a crude, boastful, mighty warrior who intimidated both the Philistines as well as the Israelites. Yet who do we remember as the brave and powerful one? Not Goliath but David. It took far more courage for David to face Goliath than for Goliath to combat David.

I have seen tough people cry like babies when sentenced to prison; been there when supposedly brave men and women were terrified in the face of impending death; heard arrogant boasts dwindle to fearful cries; witnessed extremely strong people become exceedingly weak.

Choose real courage and true strength—not the distorted perceptions of people who are influenced by foolish and boastful words or wild and unrestrained behavior. These may impress for a brief time those who are easily astonished by such verbosity and physical displays, but in the end they will look just like Goliath—a defeated fool.

That Great Multitude

Throughout the ages there has always been a remnant of God’s people who have had the God-given courage and strength to remain standing, like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego.

You may be facing strong peer pressure today; feeling like you are in the shrinking minority because almost everyone at school, college or work rejects the Bible as God’s unique revelation of truth. However, one day you will be with the billions of people since Creation—heroes of the faith, prophets, kings, warriors, disciples, martyrs from every generation throughout history, men and women, children and teens from across the globe—who resisted the pressures of their day and became part of that great multitude who will inherit all that the Lord has prepared for those who love and honor Him; believers from throughout the ages will live with God forever. Those already in Heaven will one day be joined by a vast host.

On that Day when Jesus Christ establishes His eternal Kingdom, those whose names are written in the Book of Life will receive all He has prepared for those who love Him and obey His Word. We will have endless time to enjoy and explore the wonders of a restored paradise on Earth and share in the countless adventures that await us throughout the expanse of the entire universe. We will never cease to be amazed by the glory of our God and overjoyed with the blessings He will lavish on His children.

By contrast, those who reject God’s offer of salvation in this life, to enjoy the convenience of compromise, pleasure, popularity or prestige will be named among the “cowardly” mentioned in Revelation 21:8. They will forfeit God’s blessed Kingdom, quarantined from His glorious presence.

Don’t succumb to the seductive spirit of this age. Don’t compromise your faith and fashion your lifestyle to the current cultural trends and popular morality standards. Be encouraged, rather, by the throngs of people who have gone before you and whose testimonies spur you on.

Be a part of the millions of people alive on this planet today who faithfully serve and honor Jesus Christ in spite of ridicule, oppression, hostility, persecution and someday, possible martyrdom. I promise that you will never regret serving Jesus Christ. And I assure everyone who rejects or refuses to accept Him that they will eternally regret that decision.

Believers throughout the history of the Church have fought in the “arena of life” to proclaim the Gospel. Now it is our time to stand strong in the “arena” for Christ. We must not shrink back or cower in fear. That great cloud of witnesses, in fact, all of Heaven, is watching and cheering us on!

The world does not need more wasted lives, burnouts, conformers, compromisers or those who cave to all the peer pressure. What we do need are those with God-given courage to stand up and make their lives count. Instead of being influenced by the world, let’s influence our world for Jesus Christ!

It has been said that a strong person stands up for him or herself and a stronger person stands up for others. But I say that the strongest of people stand up for their testimony of Jesus Christ and God’s Word.

As a teenager, my idea of a man of God was that of a weak, foolish, boring, cowardly person—a real loser! After many years of living for Christ, I now know better: The wisest, strongest and most courageous decision of my life was in receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and living for Him. My idea today of a true man or woman of God is of a person strong, wise, adventurous, courageous—a true Champion!

Self Control – The Essence of Strength

by Bill Rudge

From traveling and ministering throughout the U.S. and abroad, and receiving thousands of letters from around the world, I have discovered that one of the biggest problems youth and adults face is the lack of discipline and self-control. Almost all the problems people have and the trouble they get into—whether the result of drugs and alcohol; sexual immorality or lust leading to broken relationships, unwanted pregnancies and STDs; overeating, stealing, lying or gossiping; jealousy, bitterness, revenge, outbursts of anger or acts of violence—all could have been avoided had they exercised discipline and self-control.

Weakness Defined

Before coming to Christ, I was out of control in virtually every area of my life. As a result of my foolish, rebellious, out-of-control behavior, I paid the price with injuries from head to toe. I tell youth I speak to in schools or who are going through our obstacle course: “You are free to make almost any choice you want, but it is like being on a high roof, you can jump off if you want. You are free to make that decision. Once you jump off, however, you are no longer free. You are now a slave to the law of gravity which will splatter you on the ground below. So make wise choices!”

Proverbs 25:28 states: “Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.” In biblical days cities often had walls built around them which made them strong and easy to defend fortresses. But if the walls were broken down, the inhabitants were vulnerable and defenseless against an enemy’s attack. The biblical inference of being without self-control means that one is without strength, weak and powerless, while the person exercising self-control is strong and powerful.

Alexander the Great was a powerful man who conquered and then controlled most of the known world. His empire extended from Greece to India. But he could not conquer his lusts. He died at age 33 after taking ill following a prolonged banquet and drinking bout. Is that real control? Is that strength? Is that what you want in your life?

Consider many of the rock stars, movie actors and great athletes who were so idolized. They flaunt their out-of-control behavior and rebellious lifestyles; many covet their fame, money and power. However, the outcome of their lives is often tragic. This is not what God desires for you.

Proverbs 16:32 says: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” You can go out and conquer a city—even conquer the world—but if you cannot tame your spirit, you have not achieved the strength that God wants you to have.

I have known those who could do phenomenal, almost superhuman, feats. Yet they were unable to restrain their tongues or their tempers. They were powerless to control their lusts, jealousy, hatred, bitterness, worry or fear. Is it really that impressive, and is there any real benefit, to being able to do incredible feats while the rest of your life is out of control? Far more important than external displays is the inner molding of one’s character and spirit.

At a maximum-security prison in Florida, I spoke in a large room filled with inmates. I opened by saying: “You are not here because you are strong; you are here because you are weak. Anyone can take drugs, indulge in alcohol, beat their wife, rob, fight, vandalize, shoot someone or engage in other out of control behavior, but it takes true strength to have self-control. So, today, I want to talk about true strength.” Following my message all the men—many who were huge from lifting weights—lined up to shake my hand and said as they looked me in the face, “Thanks for telling it like it is!”

The Strongest Person

Before I became a Christian, I thought Christians were weak. That is one reason why I did not want to give my life to Jesus Christ. I later discovered it takes more strength to live for Christ than any other lifestyle out there.

Do you know who is the strongest person who ever lived? Jesus Christ. He was frequently in situations of extreme pressure and in volatile environments, but He always kept His composure (even when He was driving out the money changers). He was in control of all situations; nobody controlled Him. He let them crucify Him. Before it was His time, He walked through crowds (Luke 4:30), hid Himself and went out (John 8:59) or escaped their grasp (John 10:39); He silenced them with His words (Luke 20:40). Nobody controlled Jesus Christ. As I read the Gospel accounts, I see that Jesus always operated from a position of love, wisdom and self-control.

As a young Christian I maintained an extensive, intensive and rigorous weightlifting and martial arts training program. I would accomplish more in three hours a week and achieve a higher level of conditioning and efficiency than most others did in ten hours. However, God diverted my course as His Word revealed to me what constitutes real strength. Although I still exercise and train on my own, the priority of my life is devoted to achieving true strength as exemplified by Jesus Christ. My desire for physical strength and power has been superseded by something far more important—inner strength, character and spiritual power.

Developing Self Control

There are countless examples in all of our lives, as well as from others throughout history, that show the adverse consequences of not having self-control, and the great benefits from having it.

Many people have made mistakes while being out of control in some area of their lives; but no matter what you have done, there is hope. A man nearing the age of 70, who had squandered his life on reckless behavior, felt he could never be forgiven for all he had done and was doomed eternally. The Lord instantly spoke to my heart the following words: “There is no sin the Lord cannot forgive, except the sin that is not asked to be forgiven.” This man who had fallen into hopeless despair for his wasted life accepted again the Lord’s offer of forgiveness (1 John 1:9). A few years later he died as a powerful witness for Jesus Christ.

We must be motivated to change and the Lord knows how to motivate! He convinced me (through both Scripture and the adverse consequences myself and others were experiencing) that my former way of living led to death and destruction. That motivated me to take steps to bring my life under His control. One reason I fast, exercise, eat nutritiously and limit my viewing of movies and programs to that which is profitable is to help me develop self-control.

Follow the Apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy to flee youthful lusts and evil desires and pursue righteousness (2 Timothy 2:22). I have given many self-defense clinics in schools and for other groups. “The most important principle,” I would say, “is to use wisdom in avoiding places, people and situations in which you know a confrontation or an attack is likely to occur.” Similarly, to overcome temptation for which you have a weakness, avoid places, people, internet sites, movies, music, magazines and so on that would entice you into sin and into compromising circumstances. Stop and consider the consequences before temptation gets out of control.

If you want to change your behavior, you have to change your thought life. Mental discipline is crucial (2 Corinthians 10:5; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8). If you want to control your words and actions, learn to control your thoughts and attitudes. Coaches tell players, “You give up first in your mind; then your body quits.”

In Matthew 15:19, Jesus reveals that sin begins in the heart. He states: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.” If we are going to overcome the temptations we face daily, we must effectively eradicate the preliminary thoughts before they can control and enslave us.

What you program into your mind will eventually manifest in your thoughts, attitudes, words and behavior. Your thoughts lead to attitudes. Your thoughts and attitudes produce an emotional response. Your thoughts, attitudes and emotions lead to actions. Your actions lead to habits and patterns. Your habits and patterns lead to a lifestyle. Your lifestyle determines your destiny!

That is why God puts so much emphasis on the heart and the inward man. He knows that if you are going to gain victory over your behavior and actions, you must control your thoughts, attitudes and emotions.

If you fill your mind with jealousy, you will eventually end up in bitterness and gossiping. If you fill your mind with hatred and revenge, you will end up verbally, and possibly physically, abusing people. If you fill your mind with lustful thoughts and sexually explicit movies, books and music, your involvement in sexual immorality is inevitable.

If you fill your body with junk food, you will eventually develop a junky body. If you fill your mind with garbage, you will eventually develop a garbage thought life, mental attitude and lifestyle. It is inevitable; it’s just a matter of time. What we watch, read and listen to does affect us.

It is not surprising that so many people have lustful thoughts and sexual problems! No wonder so many cannot control their tongues, tempers or appetites, or are controlled by worry, fear, jealousy, bitterness and hatred! Just consider the degenerate materials that program their minds and the voices they are listening to.

Live by the Spirit

The Lord has taught me that thoughts of worry, fear, jealousy, bitterness, anger, revenge, pride, lust or greed that come into my mind are intruders that will destroy me if allowed to remain. God tells us to “Resist them!” Fight against them as though you were fighting against an intruder in your house who was attempting to rape and murder your family. In such a situation I am sure you would stand and fight and endure until every ounce of strength was gone. You must say, “I will not tolerate these negative and destructive thoughts. I choose right now by an act of my will to resist them. ”

Most Christians think all they have to do is avoid watching, reading or listening to that which is bad for them. While Scripture tells us to avoid things that are unprofitable, it also admonishes us to replace them with that which is beneficial. We should watch, read, listen to, and associate with that which will be positive influences in our lives and inspire us to conform to the likeness of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29).

We have freedom in Christ. However, if something controls you, you no longer have liberty, but enslavement. God wants you free.The choice is yours: Will you be controlled by the lusts of the flesh that eventually lead to destruction, or will you be transformed by the Spirit of Christ, the fruit of which leads to tremendous victory, blessing, peace and joy (Galatians 5:16-25)?

Galatians 5:23 reveals that self-control is a fruit of the Spirit, not of will power. If you try to develop self-control merely with your own strength and self-effort, you will be continually frustrated. You need God’s Spirit to help bring your life under control. He will enable you to apply the biblical principles necessary for developing self-control.

When I surrendered my life to Christ, He radically changed me. As I sought the Lord with all my heart, and through the study of His Word, memorizing Scripture, prayer and fasting, His Spirit transformed and empowered me—enabling me to develop the fruit of self-control.

The closer we draw to the Lord, the more we will be conformed to His likeness and the more we will manifest the fruit of His Spirit and walk in victory over that which formerly controlled us.

Nothing but the Lord

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:12: “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable [beneficial]. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered [controlled] by anything.”

The Apostle Peter reminds us that by what a person is overcome by this they are enslaved (2 Peter 2:19). I do not know about you, but I do not want to be controlled or mastered by my temper or my tongue. I do not want to be conquered by lust, greed or fear. I do not want to be enslaved to destructive behavior such as immorality, stealing, drugs or alcohol. I do not want to be victimized by peer pressure. I do not want to be dominated by sinful thoughts, attitudes, emotions or actions. I only want to be controlled by my Lord. I want to bring every area of my life under His control and walk in His love, wisdom and strength.

It Takes Time

Although my life was dramatically changed when I accepted Jesus Christ at the age of 18, it took time to develop the self-control I have gained from walking with the Lord and growing in my relationship with Him.

It takes time to develop self-control and the discipline to overcome old habits and patterns. Self-control is developed gradually the way fruit grows and ripens on a tree. After giving my life to Christ, I did not wake up the next day with the ability to control my temper or my thoughts and desires. It took time and effort. Spending time throughout the years in prayer and fasting and applying the truth and principles in God’s Word has been life transforming and worth it all.

Equally important to the gifts of the Spirit are the fruit of the Spirit. Although the fruit of discipline and self-control may be one of the hardest to develop, it is also one of the most beneficial and rewarding. Too often we only want to deal with the symptom, but God wants to deal with the root cause. Suppose there is a spider’s web in the corner of your ceiling, and you sweep it down. Why is it that the next day it is back again? Because you did not deal with the real problem: the problem is not the spider’s web; the problem is the spider. Get rid of the spider and the web will not come back.

What is needed more than instant deliverance, or an easy technique or formula that deals only with the symptoms is a consistent life of discipline and self-control. As one who was totally out of control, I am telling you that if God can change me and bring my life under control and give me the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual discipline and victory that He has, He can do it for anybody.

Never forget, the essence of true strength, is self-control—being under His control!


Photo by Karen Rudge

by Bill Rudge

I know a young man who engaged in a tremendous search for meaning and purpose in life, and attempted almost every conceivable way to find it. He tried alcohol, sex, gambling, being in a rock band, weightlifting, martial arts, Eastern religions, the occult, New Ageism, and belief in the theory of evolution, pretending there was no God. He pursued practically every pleasure and thrill imaginable. He even tried going to church. But all of the good feelings generated by these experiences were short-lived because the fulfillment he so desperately searched for never lasted. Nothing would silence the gnawing questions about life he longed to have answered — Who am I? Where did I come from? Where am I going? What is my purpose in life?

Millions of people search here and there, hoping to find true and long-lasting happiness, peace, and joy! Some may find it temporarily, but it soon eludes them, like the evasive pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Their search continues – always thinking if only they had this, or did that, then they would be happy and satisfied. But the more they get, and the more they do, the more they seem to want!

Perhaps you have been searching, too. Some people may not verbally admit that they are inwardly searching, but their actions show that they are. Maybe you have turned to drugs and alcohol, or given your life over to seeking nothing but pleasure, or joined some mystical group, or involved yourself in a host of other things in an attempt to attain fulfillment. Or perhaps you have even become so disillusioned with life altogether that you have either contemplated, or actually tried to commit suicide. Maybe you are like some who think that if they only had a better job, or that new home, or a different marriage partner, or more money or friends, they would then be happy, but soon realize they are still unhappy, still unfulfilled … still searching!

Have you asked yourself, “Just what is the purpose of life and where is mine headed?” Have you invested the time and energy necessary to discover the answer to these vital questions, or have you concluded as so many others, “Why waste time trying to figure it out – I’ll just enjoy it as much as I can, and as long as I can!”

Many movies and television commercials express this philosophy of getting all the pleasure and excitement from life, regardless of the consequences. In living color mass media proclaims the hedonistic philosophy that says: “If it feels good, do it! If I like it, it’s right! Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” These clichés are characteristic of today’s society. Everywhere we see a religion of self: self-centeredness, self-fulfillment, and self-indulgence.

But searching for selfish pleasure and self-gratification soon catches up to you. Today you may have your youth and good looks, but consider all those who have gone before you. Many who thought their youth and pleasure would never end are coming face-to-face with cold reality. A glance in the mirror and the aches and pains in their bodies reveal how quickly the aging process occurs and how temporary the pleasures of this world really are.

The Bible accurately reveals that the pleasures of sin are just for a season! They are short-lived and eventually lead to a dead end of emptiness, frustration, and despair. Then you have to “live with” or “die from” the consequences of your actions and lifestyle.

I Timothy 5:6 says that she “who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives.” Physically you may be alive, but something deep inside is dead — and you know it. It is your spirit that is dead toward God!

I remember the temporary fun and excitement of “partying” and “having a good time.” I only cared about the “now” and did not consider tomorrow. But after the party and “fun times” were over, I knew there had to be something more to life.

It has been stated that “once our stomachs become filled with pleasure, we notice the emptiness of our souls.” How true! Often people try religion when they finally realize the futility and hopelessness of a hedonistic and pleasure-oriented lifestyle, and that fulfillment in life cannot be found in material things.

But instead of looking beyond one’s self to the God who created us, many people have been persuaded to foolishly refuse God’s grace, and instead search inwardly for the answers. Hoping to discover the “divine within” and achieve “God consciousness,” they are sold the same lie Satan used on Eve when he promised her, “you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5). They end up being deceived into worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator. Perhaps you have tried this road, too, but still find an emptiness in your soul.

The real reason for your emptiness is because you are separated from the God who created you. You have a broken relationship, not on His part, but on yours. From the beginning, humans have chosen to rebel and disobey and do things their own way even to this day. As a result, you search, hoping to discover the missing ingredient in your life — which is in reality — God!

Jesus said to the woman at the well, “…everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again” (John 4:13). He was revealing to her the futility of seeking fulfillment in anything or anyone other than Himself. Although you may be temporarily satisfied by drinking the water of this world, you will thirst again and never be completely fulfilled. But Jesus went on to say, “… whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst …” (John 4:14). Jesus knew that deep down within, everyone has a need and a thirst that only He can truly satisfy.

The Psalmist knew of this inner thirst for God, for he stated, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God” (Psalms 42:1). The Psalmist also said, “In Thy presence is fullness of joy; in Thy right hand there are pleasures forever” (Psalms 16:11). Not the pleasure of the moment, or of an evening that is soon over, but forever!

King Solomon, who was known as the richest and wisest man in the world, told how he had searched – in opulence, pleasure, wine, women, and by trying everything which his mind could conceive – but it was all emptiness and futility. His wise advice, after all of his vain searching, is recorded at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes. He states, “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments…” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

I have traveled throughout the U.S. and the world many times, and one thing I know for certain is that people everywhere are searching for something real to believe in that will give them lasting fulfillment.

The young man I mentioned earlier, who went through the tremendous searching endeavor, was me. In 1971, at the age of eighteen, after trying just about everything imaginable, I discovered the ultimate answer to my searching adventure as I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. It has not always been easy, but God has given me a meaning and a purpose, an inner joy and peace, and an exciting and challenging life that I would not exchange for anything. He has truly given me abundant life here and now and a blessed hope for the future!

Have you tasted of the water that only Jesus can give…the water of eternal life? If you do not yet know the Lord, you can end your search and begin a new and exciting life today by giving your life to the resurrected Christ. Jesus said, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:39) Christ is the answer to all of your questions. Find real purpose and meaning to life in Him today.

Fasting for Sensitivity and Power

The Purpose of Fasting

Someone opposed to the idea of fasting once made the following statement:

Fasting can be compared to a child holding his breath until his parents give him what he wants. When we fast we are telling God that we aren’t going to eat until He answers our prayers.

This could not be further from the truth! Looking up every Scripture on fasting, I discovered that the primary purpose of fasting is to humble ourselves before the Lord. David said, “I…humbled myself with fasting” (Psalm 35:13). Ezra said, “I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask Him for a safe journey” (Ezra 8:21). Joel said, “‘Even now,’ declares the LORD, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning’” (Joel 2:12).

When I fast and pray, I am not trying to manipulate God or force Him to do my will. Rather, I get on my knees in humility and dependence on the Lord, seeking to make my heart and spirit yielded and sensitive to Him. I want Him to lead, guide, direct and empower me to fulfill His purpose.

My strong desire to know Jesus Christ compels me to seek Him with all my heart through fasting, as well as in prayer and Scripture study. During fasting, I evaluate my life and ministry and seek the Lord’s goals and direction. Has my will been replaced with His? Do I have the assurance of His Word and Spirit to be able to truthfully say to my board and staff: “The Lord has led me” to do this or that?

Sacrifice means to give up something that is important to you for something that is even more important. I need food to sustain my physical life, but the craving of my spirit to know God in a real and intimate way is more important to me than the natural craving for food. I desire instead that food of which Jesus spoke: “I have food to eat that you know nothing about. My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work” (John 4:32, 34). Therefore, I present my body to the Lord as a burnt offering (Genesis 22:2) and a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).

Most people want an easy formula or quick technique to know God’s will and walk in His power and victory. However, I believe the scriptural requirements for those who really want to be used by God include commitment, obedience, discipline, perseverance, faithfulness, Bible study, prayer and fasting.

We cannot earn, through any effort of our own—including fasting—any right standing before God. Nevertheless, those who have right standing before God (totally by faith and the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ) are encouraged by Scripture to walk in obedience to the truth and principles of His Word and to seek God with all of their hearts.

If you want to…

  • develop discipline in every area of your life
  • overcome temptations and lustful thoughts
  • bring the flesh under control
  • achieve physical, mental, emotional and spiritual cleansing
  • find more time for Bible study and prayer
  • experience the Word of God coming alive in your life and ministry
  • gain discernment and sensitivity to God’s Spirit
  • know that the Lord is your God; that nothing (not even the food you need to sustain life) has mastery over you or is more important to you than Him
  • obtain spiritual power and victory

…then FAST!

Fasting is not merely a technique or method to receive the Lord’s blessings. The Lord’s blessings come from our obedience, not fasting. What fasting does is create humility and sensitivity. Through it we are motivated to know and obey God’s will. When we walk in obedience, He greatly blesses us with His joy and peace, independent of our circumstances.

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