This past summer, Army recruits, Boy Scouts, Summer’s Best Two Weeks Staff and Volunteers, Boys and Girls Soccer Teams, JV and Varsity Volleyball Teams, Youth Groups, families, and many others, experienced the obstacle course challenge under Bill Rudge’s direction. We are one of a very few ministries that has access to the schools and the opportunity to work with and train military. The following articles describe a few of those experiences.
When Sgt. Keiuffer Ritter and Army Commander Captain Erin Funkhouser heard about the Bill Rudge Ministries’ Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course, they were excited to have recruits gain a different experience. With rain threatening overhead, recruits from Beaver, Erie, Greenville, Grove City, Hermitage, Meadville, New Castle, West Middlesex, and Sharpsville descended on the obstacle course – and then the weather turned beautiful. Most were preparing to leave for basic training so Bill gave them a taste of what was to come. Other Army personnel present included Sgt. Gregory Armstrong, 1st Sgt. Aaron Evans, Sgt. Jacob Zimmerman and retired Sgt. 1st Class Tim McCall.
The obstacles required a wide variety of skills and abilities that included strength, balance, coordination and memory. The recruits learned the importance of teamwork as well as competition. As always, Bill explained that the skills they used on the obstacle course – determination, courage, obedience, communication and faith – are the same ones they will need in life. Sgt. Ritter said the day went so well preparing the recruits for their journey in the U.S. Army that they are planning to return – which they did a few weeks later.
JV and Varsity Girls Volleyball teams and Boys and Girls Varsity Soccer Teams were led by Bill through loosening and stretching exercises, endurance and speed drills, relay races, navigating through the obstacle course, and other activities designed for physical conditioning and team building. The teams and their coaches enthusiastically and courageously faced each challenge and obstacle as they worked together encouraging each other to accomplish goals and build team unity. The head volleyball coach e-mailed: “It was great! We definitely will do it again and make it part of our conditioning next year. Thank you so much.”
When Pastor Aaron Christy of Clen-Moore Presbyterian Church recommended that the 1-to-1 mentoring program at Cray Youth and Family Services check out the Ultimate Challenge Obstacle Course at Bill Rudge Ministries for a group activity, Program Director Allisyn Wolfe was glad to do so. Each mentor is paired with a child between the ages of 6 and 18 to be a positive role model and friend. Mentoring works to support children as they overcome obstacles, rely on other people, and rise to new challenges; so this was a perfect place to experience all those things.
The obstacle course provided opportunities for the youth to not only meet physical challenges but also to develop attributes such as trust, like when they were blindfolded and had to walk across a log aided by the adults or were guided along a path holding each other’s hands carefully following the leader’s instructions. Their listening skills were honed, remembering the detailed directions given at each obstacle. Bill encouraged the youth to try things they had never done before. Allisyn stated, “The most gratifying part for me was seeing the kids (and some of the mentors) who were reluctant to try things at first ending up being proud of their accomplishments. We always enjoy the activities and the way Bill presents them.”
Special thanks to Bruce Adams, Darlinda McDonald, Bob Mild, Eric Nehlen, Mike Roy, Anneka, BJ, Lucas and Moriah Rudge, and Lily and Caeleana Smith for assisting Bill with the obstacle course this past summer.
When my wife and I are in potentially dangerous situations, such as walking down a dimly lit street or walking in a remote area during a mission trip, I tell her, “Don’t be afraid. Just stay close to me. I will protect you.”
So too, the Lord tells us, “Don’t be afraid. Stay close to Me and I will protect you and be your Helper.”
Hebrews 13:6 – “The LORD is my helper; I will not fear.”
Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
We were founded as a Christian nation, committed to Christian values, and God greatly blessed us. But in the 1960s, we began to thumb our nose at God as a cultural revolution was launched. Our society quickly descended into a cesspool of sexual promiscuity, drug abuse, abortion on demand, legalized gambling, rampant blasphemy and a flood of pornography. Our national slogan became, “If it feels good, do it!” We adopted a hedonistic lifestyle, calling evil good and good evil.
God responded by raising up prophetic voices to call the nation to repentance. One of those was Dave Wilkerson, pastor of Times Square Church in New York City. I call him “God’s Jeremiah to America.” In the 1970s he began writing a series of books in which he clearly outlined the sins of America and warned of judgments from God if we did not repent. Like Jeremiah, his popularity plummeted because people – even church people – did not want to hear his “doomsday message.”
When the prophetic voices were ignored, God began to place remedial judgments on our nation – things like our defeat in the Vietnam War, the plague of sexually transmitted diseases and natural disasters in the form of monster earthquakes, killer tornados and hurricanes.
So, true global warming is on its way! But, more importantly, the Signs of the Times are screaming that we are on the threshold of the Tribulation. Meanwhile, the Church needs to wake up to the Signs of Nature and all the other signs that are converging for the first time ever. But for that to happen, our nation’s pastors need to get serious about the fact that we are living in the season of the Lord’s return, and they need to start proclaiming that fact from their pulpits.
The Church needs to stop yawning and start yearning for the return of Jesus. Maranatha!
– Lamplighter, May-June 2020 – Used with permission.
“If religious books are not widely circulated among the masses in this country, I do not know what is going to become of us as a nation. If truth be not diffused, error will be; if God and His Word are not known and received, the devil and his works will gain the ascendancy; if the evangelical volume does not reach every hamlet, the pages of a corrupt and licentious literature will; if the power of the Gospel is not felt throughout the length and breadth of the land, anarchy and misrule, degradation and misery, corruption and darkness, will reign without mitigation or end.”
The presidential election was many days past with many questions and concerns. Peace and joy were removed from many homes and replaced with conflicts and disagreements – sometimes outright hostility. Many people were overcome by worry and fear concerning the election and the coronavirus. However, I assured them that the only way to be at peace is to strengthen ourselves in the Lord by remembering His past faithfulness and to have a biblical perspective regarding national and world events; encouraging them to reflect on the following scriptures and how they relate to us today.
An important and timely truth is spoken through King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, when the ten northern tribes of Israel were removed from his control. First Kings 12:15 says, “It was a turn of events from the LORD.” Verse 24 of this same chapter reiterates this by stating: “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”
Daniel provides additional insight concerning the course of nations and their leaders:
He [God] removes kings and raises up kings…. The Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes (Daniel 2:21; 4:17).
God forewarned many times in Scripture what would happen to Israel, Judah, and other nations for abandoning the ways of the Lord and tolerating wickedness and injustice. The Bible provides and history proves what befalls a nation that forsakes the LORD Who has so richly blessed and protected them.
During a time of ongoing wickedness and disingenuous repentance the nation of Judah wondered:
Have You completely rejected Judah? Why have You stricken us so that we are beyond healing? We waited for peace, but nothing good came; and for a time of healing, but behold, terror! (Jeremiah 14:19).
The idolatry, immorality and injustice of the leaders and people of Judah became so repulsive to God that Jeremiah 15:1 records these strong words:
Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before Me, yet My heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of My sight, and let them go!”
There came a point in Judah’s wickedness that it became ineffective to intercede for the nation because of its persistent unrepentance. Even prayers by Moses and Samuel would not deter judgment. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary states concerning this:
The Lord refuses to avert judgment from His people; His decision to punish them is irreversible. Therefore the continued intercession of Jeremiah or of any others cannot succeed. The people’s incorrigibility has placed them beyond the power of prayer. Moses and Samuel would have been unable to move the Lord from His decision. The Lord commands that the nation be sent from His presence.
Without wholehearted national repentance, Judah’s fate was sealed. Her widespread indulgence in sin and rebellion before the Lord rendered her insincere, self-serving remorse, insufficient to alter the course of God’s judgment. The question today is: How close is America to a similar fate? (A couple other enlightening sections of Scripture to read and ponder at this historic time is Jeremiah 7:1-34 and Ezekiel 33:23-33.)
God Takes No Pleasure in the Death of the Wicked
Excerpts follow of what Ezekiel was told by God:
“Son of man, if a country sins against Me by committing unfaithfulness, and I stretch out My hand against it, cut off its supply of bread, send famine against it … or if I should send a plague [pestilence] against that country and pour out My wrath to cut off man and beast from it, even though Noah, Daniel and Job were in its midst, as I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness. How much more when I send My four severe judgments: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it! When you see their conduct and actions, you will know that I have not done in vain [without cause] all that I have done,” declares the Lord GOD. “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Ezekiel 14:13-23; 33:11).
What the Apostle John foretold in Revelation is a mirror reflection of Ezekiel’s prophecy of God’s “four severe judgments”:
When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth (Revelation 6:7-8).
Let me briefly interject another biblical truth here: Those nations which rejoiced over Judah’s judgment would incur similar punishment. Edom is just one of several nations in the Bible God judged for hostility against His people or for “celebrating” over their demise. Excerpts follow:
Son of man, set your face against Mount Seir [Edom], and prophesy against it and say to it, “Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Behold, I am against you and will stretch out My hand and make you a desolation and a waste.’ Because you have said, “These two nations [Israel and Judah] will be mine, and we will possess them,” although the LORD was there, therefore as I live, declares the Lord GOD, “I will deal with you according to your anger and according to your envy which you showed because of your hatred against them. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have heard all your revilings which you have spoken against Israel and have spoken arrogantly against Me; I have heard it.” Thus says the Lord GOD, “As all the earth rejoices, I will make you a desolation. As you rejoiced over the inheritance of the house of Israel because it was desolate, so I will do to you. You will be a desolation, O Mount Seir, and all Edom, all of it. Then they will know that I am the LORD”’ (Ezekiel 35:2-15).
This sounds eerily similar to what will occur after severe persecution and martyrdom of those who come to faith in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation period:
Then the third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of waters; and they became blood. And I heard the angel of the waters saying, “Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it.” (Revelation 16:4-6).
While Christians are wearing each other out “fighting” over the coronavirus and politics, the real battle is already in play. To stand in the midst of what is coming we will need every ounce of strength and must be unified in genuine faith and commitment to Jesus Christ. This is a day and age to know Scripture and have discernment.
Remember, Jesus, as well as the apostles Peter, Paul and John, warned of unprecedented difficulties and pervasive deception in the end times. It is worth noting that Jesus’ first admonition in His famous Olivet Discourse was to “Take heed that no one deceives [misleads] you” (Matthew 24:4). Therefore, Jesus’ foremost warning concerning the end times is of delusion and deceit.
There is no doubt that the foreboding winds of global government, a one world economy and a prejudiced religious system (tolerating virtually anything but true Christianity) are blowing across America and the world. Earth’s final kingdom (Babylon) before the second coming of Jesus Christ will be a unified political, economic and religious system.
In order to implement this global society there needs to be a crisis (or potential crisis) which generates enough fear to make the masses willing to accept the recommended solutions. The only nation powerful enough to thwart a world government and all that entails is the United States. Therefore, the U.S. has to be transformed from nationalism to globalism. This being accomplished, the global elite will be able to dictate every aspect of the lives of virtually everyone on this planet – unwittingly leading to the fulfillment of Revelation 13 and the worldwide reign of the one revealed in Scripture as the Antichrist.
Two thousand years ago the Bible forewarned that the Antichrist would come disguised in false peace and unity. Under the pretense of solving the world’s crises he will initiate a global society with the inability to buy or sell without his mark on your hand or forehead – surrendering your total allegiance to him and his rule. Comply or die!
For over 30 years I have warned about what is coming, striving to prepare the Body of Christ for what is now upon us. Globalists may refer to it as The Great Reset but the Bible calls it the coming kingdom of the Antichrist. What seems so brilliant and beneficial will result in the darkest and most diabolical period in human history.
Nevertheless, we must not be discouraged or fearful, because all our future hopes and dreams are in Christ – not in ourselves, not in a political party, not in a world leader and not in a worldly kingdom. (Read John 14:1-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.)
Let those who so desire to have their kingdom on this earth enjoy their day and their temporary empire: they may get what they want, but they will not want what they get (see Revelation chapters 17 and 18). This temporary time of unprecedented unity, prosperity and immorality is rapidly coming upon the world and its “church,” but it will be a unity, prosperity and immorality (anything goes) of which you will not want any part! Scripture identifies this global system as Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes and of the Abominations of the Earth (17:5). No wonder God calls His people out of her “so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues” (18:4).
Is There Hope?
As believers in Jesus Christ, our day and eternal Kingdom is also coming – after the destruction of Babylon the Great. We will inherit all we could ever imagine or desire – and far more! Our inheritance in Christ will abundantly satisfy us for ever and ever.
Jesus puts everything in perspective:
What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26).
Assuredly, one day the following prophecy will become a reality:
The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever (Revelation 11:15).
In the midst of Jeremiah’s extreme lamentations for Judah’s destruction by the Babylonians, the Holy Spirit inspired him to pen the following promise for the people of his time (and for us today):
This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I have hope in Him.” The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him (Lamentations 3:21-25).
What Should We Do?
At Christ’s first coming many people expected the Messiah to provide political conquest, but Jesus came for spiritual redemption. Today, many people’s prayers and energies go toward political conquest, while God’s priority at this time is for us to share His Gospel in our local community, across cultural barriers and throughout the world (Acts 1:8). A Christian’s top priority must be for evangelism and leading others to Jesus Christ. Certainly you realize that one does not make it into the Kingdom of God because of political persuasion or even on account of good morality; access into God’s eternal Kingdom is only gained through accepting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the atonement for our inherent sin.
In recent years, many political factions have been determined and committed in their quest to establish their “kingdom” on this earth. How much more should followers of Christ be determined, committed – unified – in bringing people into His millennial and eternal Kingdom?
As believers in Jesus Christ we must have greater passion in reaching people with His love and truth than in obtaining political power and control over this nation and the world. It is imperative that we focus the majority of our remaining time, energy and resources toward reaching this world for Christ before His return. May we be found faithful when He comes!
A man nearing the age of 70 who had squandered his life, told me he had asked the Lord to forgive him many times over the years. But after repeated failures, he 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, once again, the Lord’s offer of forgiveness (1 John 1:9). A few years later he died as a powerful witness for Jesus Christ.
For the past few days, social media outlets have been inundated with reactions to this year’s Super Bowl. Whether it was Chiefs’ fans posting celebratory pictures or 49ers’ fans posting about “questionable” referee calls, Sunday’s game has certainly sparked conversation. But the biggest issue of discussion was actually not the game, or the million-dollar commercials; it was the halftime show. The show, which was seen by over 100 million people, brought a variety of responses. Some saw it as an expression of female power and freedom, others noted it was a beautiful expression of art, while others, such as Franklin Graham, saw it as the sexual exploitation of women. Regardless of where you stand, as a society we seem to be wrestling with this issue of what truly defines what it means to be a woman. This is an important issue that stands in the shadow of one headline addressing the sexual abuse of women by Harvey Weinstein, and another headline that glorifies Jennifer Lopez’ halftime show where she exposed her backside and slid down a stripper pole.
I did not watch the halftime show. Being aware of the image that Jennifer Lopez has portrayed in the past, I did not see any value in watching it myself, especially with my children. So, I will leave it up to each of you to provide the final judgment on how to view it. But as you do, I want to provide some thoughts that I hope will guide your assessment.
As a father of five daughters and one son, I take seriously this issue of what it means to be a woman. In fact, both my wife and I understand that we have been given a mandate by God to teach our daughters how to live as women who reflect Christ, and to teach our son not only how to treat women but what to look for in the type of woman he should marry.
The first step we take in this process is to remind our daughters every day that their value rests not in what they do, or what others ultimately think about them, but who they are in Christ. We want them to clearly understand that the God who created the sun, moon and stars, has created them with intrinsic value and worth. Thus, they do not need to conform to some standard of beauty defined by our fallen culture, or to feel loved by another person for how they look. In turn, I want my son to view women as image bearers of God, who should never be seen as objects for his own personal pleasure. I tell him all the time to treat women just as you would want other men to treat your mom and sisters. Added to this, we stress to our daughters that true beauty lies in the purity of their hearts that will always be reflected to some degree in their outward appearance.
This whole discussion of the halftime show has been a great reminder to me to raise my daughters to be Proverbs 31 women, and to help my son find a Proverbs 31 wife. As you read a section of this passage, allow the description to be more than an evaluation of the halftime show, but a picture of what God desires for women. A picture that, I believe, is much more powerful than anything this world can provide:
“A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate” (Proverbs 31:1, 25, 29-31).