Count the Cost

by Bill Rudge

“No one can become My disciple without giving up everything for Me.” Luke 14:33

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Photo by Tom Lodge

Once you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah, God uniquely manifest in the flesh, and the only way of salvation, you must count the cost before you give your life to Him. In Luke 14:28-33, Jesus shared the importance of counting the cost before following Him. He said, “One should not start building a tower without counting the cost, lest he run out of money and be ridiculed when unable to finish it. Should not a king about to go to war first consider whether he is able with 10,000 men to oppose a force of 20,000?” In the same way, Jesus said, anyone who wants to be His disciple must count the cost of giving up everything for Him.

Before I was a Christian, I thought I was god. Not God the Creator, but god in the sense that I was invincible. I did some crazy things because of that philosophy. Deceived by the same lie Satan used on Adam and Eve, I was walking in rebellion against the one true God.

But I came to the realization that I was not god — that Jesus Christ was God’s unique revelation of truth. He was the One I needed as my Savior and Lord.

I Made the Choice

Once I examined the evidence, and was convinced who Christ is, I had to make a choice. Do I reject Him and walk away in rebellion and self-deluded pride? Or do I humble myself, admit my rebellion, and trust in Him for my salvation?

By God’s grace, I chose to give Christ my life. Making a 180-degree turn, I began following Him as Savior and Lord. It’s called repentance. It’s dying to self and living for Christ. We must dethrone self, quit playing God, and place Christ in His rightful position as Lord of our lives. Then His goals become our goals. His desires become our desires. His will becomes our will.

To illustrate, let’s pretend you are on one trapeze and Jesus is on another. You have one hand holding onto your trapeze, and one hand holding onto Christ. You want to live for Christ, but you also want to live for self. You want to obey the Lord, but you also want to have your own way and do your own thing. You want Him to be your God, but you also want to be your own god. You want to run your own life, make your own decisions, have your own goals, and fulfill your own desires. But you can’t hold onto both. Eventually the two trapeze bars go in opposite directions. If you try to both live for self and for the Lord it will tear you apart.

That’s why there are so many neurotic Christians walking around confused, depressed, and discouraged, not knowing what they believe or what God’s will is. When Christians are only half-committed (trying to live for self and trying to live for the Lord) they are the most miserable of people. They go out to witness and say, “Don’t you want what I have?” The non-Christian says, “No thanks, I have enough problems already.” Instead of having an impact on their world for Christ, as the first century believers did, their compromised lives tend to turn people off. That’s why we will never influence our world for Christ unless we ourselves are first totally sold out to Him.

There is no middle road. You can’t straddle the fence. You must totally accept or reject Him. And to not totally accept Him is to reject Him. Don’t let Jesus’ words in Revelation 3:16 be true of you:

So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of My mouth.

You must count the cost and then make a wise choice – total commitment to Christ as Lord!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).

Examining the Evidence

by Bill Rudge

“Be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks the reason for the hope you have.” 1 Peter 3:15

With so many religious and philosophical options to choose from, why are you a Christian? Is it because you’re convinced that Jesus Christ is who He claims to be and that the Bible is the unique revelation of God?

1 Peter 3:15 encourages us:

Always be prepared to give an answer [make a defense] to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

The Quest

I shared Christ with a young man to whom I was giving a ride. He said, “Bill, don’t waste your time. I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, and I don’t believe in the Bible.” I responded, “That’s fine Dan. You have a right to believe whatever you want, but don’t be so foolish as to reject the Bible and Jesus Christ without first examining the overwhelming evidence.”

I then shared with him some of the archaeological discoveries that have established the historical accuracy of innumerable biblical details, as well as the scientific evidence, and the accuracy and superiority of biblical health and nutrition principles. I shared some of the messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) that had been made at least 400 years before Christ walked on earth, explaining the mathematical impossibility for anyone to fulfill just a few of these prophecies, yet Jesus fulfilled them all. I explained to him how the evidence of the resurrection is undeniable and asked him what other religious leader has an empty tomb.

I asked Dan to consider the numerous biblical prophecies written almost 2,000 years ago concerning the end times in which we are now living – prophecies foretelling a one-world government, a one-world monetary system, and a one-world religion. The specific details and exactness of these and many other prophecies that are being fulfilled right before our eyes would have been impossible to foretell without divine inspiration.

Finally, I shared the reality of Jesus Christ through the tremendous way in which He has transformed my life and millions of others throughout history, as well as the miraculous interventions the Lord has done in my life and ministry. These evidences and many more are the reasons why I gave my life to Christ.

The Three Questions

I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ and become a Christian out of random chance or haphazard choice. Initially, there was an intentional bias on my part and a deliberate rejection of Him due to lifestyle choices, ulterior motives, or being unable to resolve the conflict of a loving God with the suffering and death I was witnessing.

Lasting fulfillment always eluded me despite all my searching which either proved insufficient or led to a dead end. My restless heart and relentless quest for truth and purpose forced me to honestly consider three crucial questions:

1) Is there a God? If there isn’t, then I can live any way I want. However, my search and research convinced me there is a Creator.

2) If there is a God, are there many ways or only one way to this Supernatural Being? After examining the evidence I was convinced there is only one way to God – through Jesus Christ.

3) How do I come to know God and what does He require of me? My spiritual journey proved fruitful. I could not deny the truth. At age 18 I became an ardent believer in and follower of Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. God’s Spirit began to transform my life as I spent time in Scripture, prayer, and fasting and started living by the biblical principles I will be sharing in upcoming newsletters.

I have grown in my faith over the years and my continuing investigation and research confirms the wisdom of committing my life to Jesus Christ. There is only One before Whom I willingly bend my knee and bow. To Him alone do I entrust my life, my future, and my eternal destiny!

Excerpted from Reaching Your Maximum Potential in Christ (which is being updated and expanded for its third printed edition and E-book).

The Sovereignty of God

Powerful and Effective Prayer

“The Lord is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!” Psalm 91:2

A good place to begin a powerful and effective prayer life is in realizing that we are, in every way, completely dependent upon God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego understood that their lives were under the control of a sovereign God. Consider their response to the King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, before he had them thrown into the fiery furnace:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up (Daniel 3:16-18).

Think on these verses which highlight the sovereignty of God:

The earth is the Lord’s, and all it contains, the world and those who dwell in it (Psalm 24:1).

Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:6).

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” (Isaiah 46:9, 10).

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17).

Once we acknowledge that God is sovereign we must place our trust in Him as it says in Proverbs:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5, 6).

The Importance of Communication

As in any relationship, trust is established through communication – the exact essence of what prayer is all about.

A friend of my family went through a very difficult divorce. From all appearances, it seemed everything was fine in his marriage. He and his wife were active in their church and home schooled their children. He was very vocal about his faith and was very intentional in sharing the Gospel at work. When I received news that he and his wife had divorced, I gave him a call. As we talked he said, “BJ, at some point in my marriage I became a stranger to my wife. I felt like a single parent raising my kids.” This man’s marriage was destroyed when he and his wife stopped communicating.

Our human relationship with God will never grow unless we spend time communicating with Him. It is during those moments on our knees when faith develops. I foster trust in God by utilizing a prayer journal to record prayer requests and write down spiritual lessons God has taught me. This journal has proven a great resource to remind me of God’s faithfulness. It is encouraging to reflect on past requests and see how God has responded to them. Sometimes God did not answer the request in the way I thought He would, nor in the time I wanted, but in each case I am reminded that I serve a God who listens and responds to the needs of His children (Psalm 34:17; Matthew 7:7; John 14:13-14; Hebrews 4:16; 1 John 5:14-15).

Some of the spiritual lessons God has taught me have come through times of trials and tribulation, others during times of prayer and fasting. Regardless of the situation, in each case it has been valuable to reflect upon what God has taught me through the years. I also jot down key verses that have given me strength, encouragement and direction through various times in my life. What a faithful God we serve!

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God (Psalm 20:7).

So then, the first principle in having a powerful and effective prayer life is trusting in the sovereignty of God. We are merely the vehicles which God uses to accomplish His sovereign will. Even in the uncertainties of life, we must realize, like Job, that we are dependent upon Him (Job 42:2-6).

The preceding was excerpted from BJ’s new E-book Powerful and Effective Prayer.

Two Rising Stars

by Bill Rudge

The Coming Antichrist and False Prophet

“None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.” Psalm 101.3

The pages of history are laced with accounts of new movements generating such enthusiasm and momentum that a nation – even the world – was swayed.

As a teen in the late 1960s many of my generation got caught up in the sexual revolution, race riots, and rebellion against authority. Very few of us really thought about why we were involved or where these movements were headed. We were seized by the emotion of the moment and went with the flow of the crowd.

Hitler’s media propaganda and hypnotizing speeches influenced a nation and changed the world. Today, terrorists use slick social media to motivate youth and adults to join a regime that commits unbelievable atrocities.

The time is nearing when a prominent person will arise on the world scene. Carnage from terrorism, devastation from natural disasters, threat of nuclear annihilation, and the need to solve other potential global crises is motivating an increasing number of voices to cry for a global leader.

The majority of people on our planet will blindly submit to this compelling leader (revealed in prophetic Scripture as the Antichrist) who promises peace and prosperity. The Antichrist will appear to be the savior of the world and will acquire “authority over every tribe, people, language and nation” (Revelation 13:7). The masses will also readily embrace his cohort – an influential religious leader promoting love and unity, but Biblically identified as the False Prophet.

There is no denying that our world is ripe for such visionary leaders who will astound with apparent solutions to global problems. Their hypnotizing charisma, persuasive words, powerful speeches, pleasing promises, inspiring media visuals, moving testimonies, euphoric music, cheering supporters, incredible popularity, and displays of supernatural power will mesmerize the multitudes. According to Scripture these two “rising stars” will be demonically energized. They will take the reins of this world through deception and intrigue to ultimately lead humankind in a unified rebellion against the God of the Bible.

It is clear that a scenario is unfolding to create a global system of political power, economic control, military might, and religious unification. As Revelation foretells, we are moving toward a global society with a one-world government, a universal economy, and an ecumenical religious system offering tolerance and acceptance for all religions – except one, biblical Christianity. There is a growing movement of globalism, religious unity, and the celebration of diversity – along with a growing intolerance for biblical Christians who believe Jesus is the only way of salvation. Those who use the Bible to speak out against the immorality in today’s society and culture are often accused of bigotry and hate crimes with the aim to be silenced or eliminated.

Underlying the Antichrist’s facade is his ulterior motive to attain control over and receive worship from every human being on this planet. The False Prophet will attempt to help him achieve this – Satan’s ultimate goal.

All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast [the Antichrist] — all whose names have not been written in the Book of Life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8).

It is interesting to note that only two people in Scripture were possessed by Satan himself: Judas, when he betrayed Jesus, and the Antichrist, as he seeks to gain control over and obtain worship from everyone on this planet.

The Bible reveals that the Antichrist’s and False Prophets’s true intent will be concealed under a cloak of intrigue, diplomatic deceit and cunning manipulation. When the layers of glitz and glamour are peeled away, the shocking remains will be far removed from what was promised or anticipated. They will lead a world of undiscerning and biblically illiterate people down a deceitful path to global chaos and unprecedented devastation and destruction.

Words of Hope and Admonition

Although the days in which we live are becoming increasingly dangerous, treacherous, corrupt, and confusing, those who know the Lord in these end times will demonstrate wisdom and strength:

…the people who know their God will display strength and take action. Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand (Daniel 11:32; 12:10).

Do not be seduced by the spirit of this age – whether it is in the political arena, social media, pop star realm, religious circles or any other venue. Do not be impressed, influenced or deceived by a well-turned phrase or the surface appearance of those who have ulterior motives and agendas. Do not reflect the values of an amoral society. Do not be a cultural Christian, motivated by feelings, desires and impulses, or influenced by every new and exciting trend or phenomenon that comes along.

Make certain you are, and remain, aligned with Jesus Christ and God’s Word. Follow the genuine leading of His Spirit. Be discerning. Examine all things carefully. Hold fast to that which is good and true. Live by the standards of Scripture. Stand rock solid as a biblical Christian in this day and age when Biblical prophecies of the end times and Jesus Christ’s return are rapidly lining up.

I close, as did Paul to the Corinthians:

Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong. Let all you do be done with love (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14).

Are You Honoring His Name?

by Bill Rudge

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Photo by Roy DeMattio

What parent wants their name disgraced by his or her children? A bad name is a curse while a good name is a blessing. People live and die to protect the testimony of their name and the reputation of their family. How much more the Lord defends the honor of His name.

“I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images” (Isaiah 42:8).

While many in today’s society are attempting in every way possible to silence and profane the name of the LORD, we as believers must acknowledge and reverence His name by both our words and the example of our lives. The third Commandment is:

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain” (Exodus 20:7).

First Chronicles 17:24 tells us His name should be “magnified forever.”

The prophet Ezekiel states:

“Thus says the Lord GOD, It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name…” (Ezekiel 36:21-23).

David said to Goliath:

“You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts” (1 Samuel 17:45).

Solomon built the house (Temple) for the name of the LORD (1 Kings 8:20). Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal in the name of the LORD (1 Kings 18:32). The Psalms frequently mention the name of the LORD. A few examples follow:

I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High” (7:17).

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (20:7).

“From the rising of the sun to its setting the name of the LORD is to be praised” (113:3).

“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the LORD” (118:26).

“Our help is in the name of the LORD” (124:8).

Proverbs 18:10 tells us that

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower.”

Micah 4:5 states:

“We will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.”

Psalm 23, which you have probably read or recited many times, says:

“He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (verse 3).

The Lord’s Prayer starts out:

“Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9).

Jesus told His disciples to ask of the Father in His name (John 15:16, 17; 16:23-27). The Apostle John tells us that his Gospel and the miracles of Jesus he recorded were

“written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

Acts 2:21 promises:

“And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

Acts 4:12 tells us there is salvation only in the name of Jesus for

“there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

The Apostle Peter said to the crippled man:

“In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6).

At Damascus and Jerusalem the Apostle Paul was speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord (Acts 9:27, 28). Paul said to the slave girl possessed by a spirit of divination:

“In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!” (Acts 16:18).

Colossians 3:17 exhorts:

“Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”

James 5:14 instructs:

“Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”

His Name the Only One

The primary motivation for me to live a pure life is to honor my Lord and not be a reproach to His name. The secondary reason is to avoid the consequences warned and exemplified throughout Scripture, and experienced throughout history by those who ignore or violate His Word.  In every way possible we as believers must respect and reverence the name of the Lord – just as we hope our children will honor our name! We must also believe in, trust in, pray in, and be witnesses in (through both word and deed) the name of the Lord.

The day is rapidly approaching when according to Zechariah 14:9:

“The LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day the LORD will be the only one, and His name the only one.” 

The crucial question you should ask yourself daily is: “Do my words and behavior honor or dishonor the name of the Lord?”

The Root of Modesty

by Darlinda McDonald

The booklet, Style, by Wally Kubitz, revealed the slippery slope that we have been sliding down for the last nearly 100 years:

In the 1920s & 30s, briefer swimwear appeared which lead to the introduction of the bikini in 1946. By the late 40s and early 50s, Alfred Kinsey’s questionable studies popularized the notion that bedroom intimacy was a public, not a private, topic so the environment was ripe for a nudie magazine like Playboy to make its debut in the mid-50s. In the 1960s, the “sexual revolution” arrived on the scene opening the door for Mary Quant’s mini-skirt. Quant was not shy in declaring that the mini-skirt’s purpose “was to dress women so men would ‘feel like tearing the wrapping off’” (People magazine, 1988). The 1970s followed with short-shorts, also known as “hot pants.” Between 1960 and 2000, the divorce rate doubled, unmarried cohabiting increased ten-fold, and babies born out-of-wedlock increased six-fold.

It should come as no surprise then that our young people are confused. Society as a whole has become desensitized to “the sin that does so easily beset us” and accepts behaviors that even twenty years ago would have been deemed unacceptable. James 1:15 states, “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” Modesty matters. The truth is that immodesty (skimpy clothing, seductive behavior) leads to temptation that leads to immoral thoughts (lustful thinking) that leads to action (physical sin).

How we see ourselves before God is at the root of modesty. When we understand and believe that we are precious children of God, bought with a price and loved beyond measure, everything we say and do will be influenced by that knowledge. Just as children who feel loved by their parents want to please them, we also will desire to please our heavenly Father.

Recognizing that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, our desire will be to honor God – not only by how we dress – but also by keeping our bodies pure and undefiled.