Salvation: Easy as A-B-C and D

by Bill Rudge

I have experienced hundreds of exciting witness encounters using insight through creative ideas and illustrations. Every encounter has its own approach and conversational style, but the final message is as simple as A-B-C and D:

A – Admit you are a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness. There is nothing you can do to pay the penalty of sin or earn your salvation (Romans 3:23). The penalty for sin is death, and only God’s righteous, sinless Son could pay that penalty. So, the only solution to your dilemma is to come to Jesus Christ in repentance, receive His free gift of salvation, and accept Him as your Savior and Lord. “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12).

B – Believe in your heart that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. Just believing in something doesn’t make it true, no matter how sincere you are. Nor is it the intensity of belief that makes something true. It is who and what you believe in that really matters. Jesus said, “…unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). To “believe in” is more than merely acknowledging the reality of Jesus Christ; it means “to trust in and rely on” – a belief that results in committing your life to Him.

C – Confess with your mouth that Jesus died and rose again. Tell others that you have accepted Him as your Savior and Lord. “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

When you sincerely act on A, B, and C, something amazing happens. God’s Spirit indwells you and begins to mold you into a new creation. Your name is written in the Book of Life! And when you depart this life, you will be welcomed into God’s eternal kingdom and receive all He has prepared for those who love Him.

D – Demonstrate your faith by growing in your personal relationship with Jesus Christ through regular Bible study and prayer, fellowshipping with other believers, and being a witness to those who do not yet know Him. Demonstrate a changed life as His Spirit and Word transform you, molding you into the person you were created to be.

No Greater Love

Knowing and living for Jesus Christ is a wonderful spiritual journey with life-changing experiences and eternal blessings. Your acceptance of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord will prove to be the wisest, most courageous, and most eternally significant decision you will ever make.

The Most Amazing Book in the World

Bill Rudge

The Bible is unique among all books in the world, but it sits closed and silent in many homes. Some consider it outdated and offensive—even dangerous—or only for the uneducated or unenlightened. Yet this Divine Library of 66 books (39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament) is anything but mute, archaic or insignificant—and is dangerous only for those who ignore its instruction and scorn its warnings.

Numerous theologians, historians, doctors and scientists confirm that the Bible is divinely inspired: verified by remarkable historical accuracy, amazing archaeological discoveries, insightful geography, fantastic scientific facts conveyed thousands of years before science learned of them, incredible health and nutritional information, astonishing prophecies concerning Messiah’s first and second comings, undeniable evidence for the resurrection of Christ, eyewitness testimony of those facing persecution and martyrdom—refusing to recant their faith in His resurrection, practical wisdom for living, time-proven morality, perceptive judiciary laws. The Bible genuinely answers life’s questions of who we are, where we came from, where we are going, and solves the dilemmas of evil, sin, suffering, aging and death.

The Bible provides knowledge and wisdom far beyond what the greatest minds could ever conceive. It is a literary masterpiece, with one central theme of redemption, written over a span of 1500 years by more than 40 authors (including shepherds, kings, priests, scholars, and prophets) on three continents (Asia, Africa and Europe) and in three languages (Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic).

All Scripture “is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16) – literally “God-breathed.” John MacArthur comments: “Sometimes God told the Bible writers the exact words to say, but more often He used their minds, vocabularies, and experiences to produce His own perfect infallible, inerrant Word.” In other words, a Divine Author inspired the authors and oversaw the entire process while allowing them to maintain their own styles and personalities.

The Bible is truly the most fascinating book in the world. It has held my interest and attention—amazing me for over 50 years. The more I study Scripture, the more I am impressed by its harmony, veracity, wisdom and revelation. Both Testaments bear witness of a promised Messiah—His first coming as our Savior and His return to establish a Millennial and Eternal Kingdom.

Dr. Blythe Robinson, a friend and colleague now gone on to be with the Lord, said:

The Bible’s durability transcends the centuries of attacks upon it. Its transforming power for good over the lives of all who accept it, continues. Few realize that it is the most expensive book in the world. It has cost the lives of untold thousands who gave their lives through the ages to preserve it and pass it on unchanged to us.

The Bible is so easy to understand that a child can grasp God’s promise of salvation, yet so complex that a lifetime of extensive study will not even begin to delve the depths of its timeless revelations or discover the priceless jewels of wisdom contained within.

The truths in Scripture and coming to know the One who inspired it have provided purpose for the searching, hope for the downtrodden and have transformed the lives of countless people throughout history—including mine and hopefully yours. Only a personal relationship with the Creator can truly satisfy a yearning heart as we await the day of our complete redemption and God’s creation being restored to its intended glory.

Norman Geisler and Frank Turek wrote an insightful book entitled, I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. I completely concur because it would take more faith for me to not believe in Jesus Christ! The miraculous interventions I have witnessed confirm and validate for me the reality of the God of the Bible. I would have to be biased, weak and foolish to deny the Creator and His Word. Surrendering my life to Christ has proven the wisest, strongest and most courageous decision I ever made.

The Bible’s final authority is demonstrated in the fact that all of humanity will one day be judged by Jesus’ words (John 12:48). Begin today to navigate the depths of the riches of God’s Word. It will provide wisdom and hope throughout the remainder of your life’s journey and prepare you for eternity!

Establish BALANCE for Optimal Health

by Bill Rudge

Luke 2:52 tells us that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He developed a balanced life. As believers we, too, should live a balanced life. God cares about our total well being.

Physically, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit and should be “living sacrifices”—totally committed to the Lord in every aspect for His honor and glory. Mentally, we are to be transformed by the renewing of our minds—thinking about and dwelling on that which is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely and praiseworthy. Emotionally, we must not allow negative and destructive feelings such as worry, fear, jealousy, bitterness, hate, revenge, greed, impatience and pride to dominate our lives. Instead, they must be replaced with the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Spiritually, we are created in God’s image and are to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, filled with and walking in the Spirit.

…May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23).

The most important principle of health is to “Fear [reverence] the LORD and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:7, 8). Seek Him daily—preferably first thing in the morning. Find wisdom and strength for your day and your life in His Word and by His Spirit.

Do Not Neglect the Physical

Many Christians believe that exercise is of little value. They base their opinion, in part, on the words of the Apostle Paul to Timothy, “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8). When I was a new Christian and thought I would have to give up working out after reading 1 Timothy 4:8, a wise minister said to me, “The little that physical exercise does profit is very important, and not to be neglected.” Exercise is like tires on a car—small in comparison to the rest of the vehicle, but crucially important.
From the age of 12 (1965) when I was in the seventh grade, I have been involved in some type of exercise regimen (except for the brief period just mentioned). My current fitness routine often begins about 5:30 a.m., and after Bible study and prayer, I workout 30 to 60 minutes, four to six days a week. I also get exercise from outside work at the ministry center, as well as pushing grandchildren around in wheelbarrows or pulling them in wagons on “adventures” through “secret” trails in nearby fields and woods.

Bodily exercise and nutrition have temporal profit and are not to be neglected, but knowing Jesus Christ and His Word have eternal benefits! Paul counseled Timothy that godliness promises benefits for this present life and for the life to come; so I spend the majority of my time (approximately 40 – 60 hours a week) in Bible study, prayer and ministry and a minority of my time (about 4 – 6 hours a week) exercising and working out. The simple biblical principle that has proven to be of immense value in bringing balance to me is: “Focus on the spiritual while not neglecting the physical.” Since my priority has been making certain my “soul prospers,” the Lord has blessed me in many ways and given me abounding energy to accomplish the vision He placed in my heart. My prosperity is not in material wealth, but in His peace and joy that transcend life’s circumstances.

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones (Proverbs 14:30). A joyful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones (Proverbs 17:22).

Like an athlete preparing for his next contest, I discipline myself and am constantly training (exercising, eating nutritionally, fasting, praying, studying Scripture and so on) to be a more effective witness for Christ, to better handle the daily stresses of life, to be able to fulfill an oftentimes rigorous ministry schedule, to be prepared for the rigors of my next mission adventure and to participate in physical activities with my grandchildren. My goal is to have the health and vitality to fulfill God’s purpose and finish the race He has called me to run.

You Have a Choice

Since the psalmist declared, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your workmanship is marvelous and how well I know it” (Psalm 139:14), why are so many Christians sick and not walking in health? In many cases it is because we violate biblical principles: we lack self-control; have poor health habits; neglect proper exercise and sleep; have unresolved stress issues; overwork or are lazy; expose ourselves to dangerous chemicals, pollutants or too much sun. We allow negative emotions such as jealousy, anger and bitterness to dominate our lives. Time is the great equalizer; one day we will pay for our poor choices. Just remember, the farther you walk down the road of bad health habits, the longer the walk back towards better health.

Romans chapter 14 and other Scriptures make it clear that we have the freedom to eat whatever we want without endangering our relationship with Jesus Christ or our eternal destiny. Nevertheless, wisdom, spread throughout the pages of the Bible, reveals the importance of avoiding gluttony and other destructive indulgences. The choices we make and the things we do impact the length and quality of our lives:

• How do you handle relationships, financial and job stress?
• What foods do you consume?
• Are you exposed to environmental pollutants?
• Do you exercise or not?
• What is your decision on the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs?
• Do you engage in immoral behavior?
• Do you allow anger, bitterness, despair and feelings of hopelessness to rule your thoughts and emotions or do you choose love, forgiveness, peace and joy?

The fallout from these choices accumulate over time and determine the kind of life you will live, and even when and how you will die.

Considering the toxicity of our bodies, minds and spirits, the fact that we live in relatively good health for as long as we do is a testimony of how wonderfully we are made.

Optimum health is dependent on each person’s circumstances. It is taking whatever your situation and limitations are and seeking, with God’s help, to improve wherever you can. Some of you may have irreversible injuries or genetic disabilities to deal with. However, we still can choose to trust and honor God and seek, as far as possible, to implement His biblical health principles.

Greater Health through Biblical Principles

From personal experience and studying health and fitness for decades, I am convinced that Scripture contains superior principles for obtaining maximal physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and the pages of our Bible divulge the ultimate way to gain health in this life, as well as the next! As believers in Christ, we await the blessed hope of the transformation of our physical bodies at the Lord’s return (Romans 8:18-25; 1 Corinthians 15:35-57; Philippians 3:20-21).

Do not settle for imitation or inferior health and healing techniques which could compromise your biblical convictions or seduce you from a pure devotion to Christ. Instead, walk in harmony with, and in obedience to, God’s natural health laws and biblical principles. You will achieve your inherent optimal health, living a better quality of life with increased energy to accomplish His will and be a more effective witness for Jesus Christ! When the world sees how your faith in Christ positively effects every dimension of your life, many will want to know the Christ you represent.

Remember, “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). As stewards of the amazing bodies, minds and spirits God has given us, we are responsible to establish balance by seeking to be physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually fit!

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

Q&A: Why is it important Jesus rose from the dead?

Question

Is it really that crucial to believe Jesus rose bodily from the dead?

Answer

Photo by Douglas V. Mastriano

Yes. Jesus’ resurrection is the very foundation of the Christian faith! The Apostle Paul emphasized this point to the church at Corinth where some claimed there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul asserts that without the resurrection there would be no Christian faith:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

  1. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus predicted He would die and then three days later rise from the dead (Matthew 12:38-40; Mark 9:9-10; Luke 18:31-33; John 10:17-18). If He made these assertions and they had not come to pass, He would have been a liar or a lunatic—either insane or the greatest deceiver in history.

2. All four Gospels testify to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). If He had not, the Gospel accounts would have lost credibility and been discarded as historically unreliable documents. They could not be viewed as primary records of the things that happened (Luke 1:3-4), but products of later editing and manipulation on the part of the early church.

3. The central theme and testimony of the early church was the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:37-43; 13:27-37; 17:2-3; 26:22-23). If the resurrection had not occurred, it would have been impossible for Paul and others to persist in affirming that it had, in fact, occurred—especially in the presence of hostile eyewitnesses.

4. Without the death and resurrection, all Christians would still be in sin and under the judgment of God. Paul highlights this point to the Corinthian believers:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

5. Finally, without the resurrection, no one would have the eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) hope of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority over death. Those who place their faith and trust in Him have the assurance that death has been overcome and will be ultimately conquered at His second coming. As Jesus said to Martha who was grieving the loss of her brother Lazarus:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection is the crucial point of Christianity which either validates or discredits the Christian faith. This is why the apostle Paul stressed to the Corinthian believers that their faith would be in vain if Christ had not risen from the dead.

Henry M. Morris and Henry M. Morris III summed it up well in their book Many Infallible Proofs – Evidence for the Christian Faith:

If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

The Christian faith stands firm on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection: The incredible truth that has changed the lives of millions throughout history.

Quotes To Reflect On

Building Character

“Character is like a muscle; the more it is exercised and used, the stronger it becomes. Every time we choose to do what is right, we build character and moral courage.” Senator Douglas V. Mastriano, PhD (Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired)

Face the Worst

“If you want to be the best you have to face the worst.” Quote from Ken Rudge for a nephew going through rigorous Special Forces training.

What God Does

“It’s not the years in your life, it’s the life in your years.”

“It is not what you do for God, rather, it is what God does through you.” Authors Unknown

Great Things

“Expect great things from God and attempt great things for God.” William Carey

The Focus

“You will find your purpose when you make Jesus the center of what you want to do and the focus of what you hope to accomplish.” BJ Rudge

The Snow Run

by Bill Rudge

Keira, a college roommate of Bill’s daughter with a heart for missions, went on the snow run with Bill. Keira’s father is an amazing scientist who persevered through great challenges and obstacles to invent the MRI.

The infamous Snow Run began one cold and snowy evening many years ago. I was at home, working on a message, late at night, and needed something at the ministry center – a distance of about 100 yards (the length of a football field). Instead of taking the time to put on socks and shoes, I ran barefoot over to the center. It was a challenge, an adventure and a time-saver, so I continued this practice through snow and ice many times. Even now, when guests visit us during the winter, I will ask if they want to do the Snow Run, and a few (especially my grandchildren) have run it with me, but most – though curious – decline.

I love doing things like the Snow Run because the Lord usually gives me spiritual applications to share. For instance, a believer’s daily walk with Him is like the Snow Run in many ways.

First, you “count the cost” and mentally prepare yourself for the ordeal that lies ahead. You consider the temperature, terrain and time of day or night to determine the level of difficulty. (Be sure to have the ministry door key ready or are able to make it to the obstacle course and then back to the house!) By way of parallel, Jesus said to count the cost before becoming His disciple. Before embarking on any endeavor in His name, you must be certain of being led by His Spirit and His Word, and that your heart is prepared for whatever might lie ahead.

Second, as a barefoot runner in shorts and T-shirt, you must run swiftly and make each step count; you cannot look back lest you slip and fall. So too, believers must throw off every sin that so easily entangles and swiftly run the race of faith, making each day count for the Lord. We must forget what lies behind and press on with faith and determination.

As a Snow Runner, you must not divert to the right or to the left because after a few steps, your feet start burning. In like manner, the believer in Jesus Christ must be focused on Him, not turning to the right or to the left lest the enemy divert, defeat and devour you.

By the time you are halfway across the snow-covered field, your feet feel like cement blocks, then quickly go numb; you cannot stop or you may have to crawl back. Likewise, for a true believer in Christ, stopping or giving up is not an option – you must stay faithful until the very end.

Running with little or no snow is even more difficult because the ground is covered with hard, uneven clumps of ice and dirt that hurt the bottoms of your feet. In the same way, living for Jesus without the power of the Holy Spirit and the authority of God’s Word will hurt and hinder your witness and effectiveness.

Although watchers may not realize the true challenge and difficulty of the Snow Run, participants in bare feet, wearing only shorts and a T-shirt, quickly understand the fortitude required to accomplish this feat. (At night, when it is below zero, with a foot of snow on the ground and the wind is blowing hard, this is especially true!) Similarly, those who do not know the Lord cannot comprehend the commitment and sacrifice of the true Christian who must often show tremendous courage to face the onslaught of the enemy and stand – sometimes alone – in the midst of opposition.

Approaching the ministry center parking lot, a burst of energy is needed to leap or climb over a snow bank several feet high left by the snow plow. Likewise, the believer will face many barriers and obstacles left to impede progress, but can be overcome through the energizing power of Christ.

Jumping over the snow mound, you will slide across an icy parking lot. If you keep your balance, you won’t fall on the blacktop or crash into the steps or front door of the ministry center and injure yourself! As believers, we maintain a biblical balance by avoiding the extremes of legalism on the one hand, and liberalism on the other. We must not slip or fall by compromising our commitment to Christ, nor injure young Christians because of our complacency.

Upon reaching the front door, your freezing hands will fumble with the key, sometimes dropping it, in an attempt to quickly unlock the door. So too, if as believers, we fumble when facing temptations and tribulations, we speedily ask His forgiveness, get up and press on to maintain our testimony.

The burning sensation returns as you walk around inside the ministry center, trying to warm your feet on the carpet. You may not want to make the return Snow Run, but you have to. In the same way, once you give your life to Christ and your heart is warmed by His love, you must go out into an oftentimes cold world and share His love and truth with those who may not always want to hear.

Finally, each step of the Snow Run takes you closer to your destination and the reward of warmth and comfort. Likewise, each day brings us as believers, closer to our eternal destiny and an everlasting reward.

Since selling the former ministry center, I have modified the Snow Run – making it a little longer and more challenging. Now the goal is to run all the way to the monkey bars in the obstacle course, do a few pull-ups (if possible) then run back to the house with no halfway point to warm our feet! You sprint back to the house as fast as you can to alleviate the intense burning sensation and numbness of your feet; your lungs, straining for every breath, are also burning! At times, spiritual warfare in a believer’s life is so intense that we can feel the fiery darts of the enemy; only the shield of faith will protect us and the Word of God is our source of victory.

Perhaps you will remember this story of the Snow Run as you see the Day of the Lord approaching or your time draws nearer to go to Him. May you be a conqueror who runs your race for the Lord with perseverance, leaping over every obstacle that hinders, remaining faithful to the very end and joyfully entering His eternal kingdom.

Postscript: My summer challenge is to run to the obstacle course in bare feet through the hundreds of clover flowers populating our lawn – carefully avoiding bees collecting their nectar – and dodging “land mines” (animal poop). This puts me in mind of the challenge and adventure of living for Jesus Christ every day of my life! There may be unpleasant times, but in the end, we win – which makes all we go through for our Lord Jesus Christ well worth it!

Great White Throne Judgment

Bill Rudge

Artwork by Pat Marvenko Smith, copyright 1982, 1992. Used by permission.

A terrifying encounter – indescribable and beyond comprehension – awaits those who do not receive God’s provision of salvation. It is an inescapable event that every human being on this planet should soberly contemplate – judgment will one day be a reality to multitudes who remain in the valley of indecision, indifference, or defiance toward Jesus Christ, the only means for a restored relationship with the Creator.

Ultimate and Final

Scripture informs us that following Christ’s millennial reign on earth (during which believers will rule with Him) the Great White Throne Judgment occurs. The bodies of all unbelievers throughout the ages – even those whose ashes were scornfully spread hoping that God would be unable to judge them – will be re-materialized to stand before Him. Every person who is not part of the “first resurrection” will be part of this “second resurrection” – those whose names are not written in the Book of Life will be raised from the dead to stand before the Great White Throne Judgment:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

This Great White Throne Judgment is the ultimate and conclusive decision – bringing greater trepidation and eternal significance than any other decree throughout history. White typifies the perfect holiness and purity of God and assures that true justice will be determined and pronounced. There is no rainbow around this throne (unlike the throne in Revelation 4:3) nor any mention of the Lamb because the rainbow and the Lamb exemplify God’s grace, mercy, and redemption. At this judgment the Door of Salvation is closed.

During the Tribulation period when Jesus opens the sixth seal, the sky recedes like a scroll when it is rolled up (Revelation 6:14). However, before this Great White Throne Judgment, earth and heaven (physical universe) flee away (disappear) from the presence of the One seated on the throne (Revelation 20:11). There will be no place to hide as people do with the opening of the sixth seal when they hide in caves and among the rocks of the mountains (Revelation 6:15-17). The contaminated universe will be “uncreated” – going into a temporary nonexistence for God’s final judgment foretold many times in Scripture (Matthew 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36, 41, 42; Luke 10:14; John 12:48; Acts 17:31; 24:25; Romans 2:5, 16; Hebrews 9:27; 2 Peter 2:9; 3:7; Jude 6).

The Books

Two books will be opened for every individual appearing before the Great White Throne Judgment. First, God will examine each person’s deeds as recorded in the Book of Works containing the record of the thoughts, words, and actions of every unsaved person who ever lived. The truth of the matter is that all have sinned, violated God’s commandments, and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Without Christ, no one is found worthy to enter into the Kingdom of a holy, just, and righteous God.

Second, the Book of Life (similar imagery to the registry of citizens kept by ancient cities) is opened to see if the names of the condemned are recorded there. Since they did not receive God’s provision of salvation (those before the time of Jesus Christ looking forward to the coming Promised Redeemer and those after the cross looking back to Christ’s sacrificial death for the sins of the world) they must be forever banned from God’s presence (what many of them supposedly wanted anyway). Without having accepted Christ as Savior, they are without hope.

There will be no excuses, no exceptions, and no exemptions; no future appeal from God’s final verdict. Anyone whose name is not found written in the Book of Life will be cast into the lake of fire because they did not believe or receive God’s clear pronouncement:

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

Millennia ago the psalmist warned that the ungodly would not be approved in God’s judgment:

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous (Psalm 1:5).

Jesus made an even more alarming statement that should make all of us stop and ponder whether He is truly our Savior and Lord:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matthew 7: 21-23).

Kneel or Stand

You can kneel before Jesus Christ as Savior now or one day stand before Him as Judge. It will be far more fearful to stand alone before the Creator at the Great White Throne Judgment than it is to live for Him in our world today. When King Belshazzar of Babylon merely saw fingers from God writing of his impending judgment and the end of his kingdom on the wall, “his face turned pale and he was so frightened that his legs became weak and his knees were knocking” (Daniel 5:5-6). What will it be like to see God, your Judge, face to face, knowing that He is about to pronounce your eternal destiny?

Those who reject Christ’s sacrificial death as their only means of forgiveness will discover the reality of Hebrews 10:31: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Yet, today is still the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)! My prayer for you is that you make certain that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord, and that your name is written in the Book of Life.

The Invitation

Immediately following the Great White Throne Judgment, John saw a new heaven and a new earth and the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband (Revelation 21:1-2).

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city…. “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the Root and the Descendant of David, the bright Morning Star.” The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost (Revelation 22:14-17).

The preceding is excerpted from Bill’s upcoming book on The Last Days.

Messiah’s Birthplace

BJ Rudge, PhD

One of my favorite places in the Holy Land is the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the traditional site of Jesus’ birth. This place is special because it attests to the historical birth of Jesus and testifies to His true identity.

Micah 5:2 identifies Bethlehem as the birthplace of the Messiah. The uniqueness of Micah’s prophecy is fourfold: First, the Jewish chief priests and scribes recognized this passage in Micah as prophesying the Messiah (Matthew 2:3-8). Second, this prophecy highlights the exact city where Messiah would be born (Bethlehem Ephrathah). This was important because there was another city named Bethlehem (Joshua 19:15). Third, Micah declared this prophecy more than 700 years before Jesus Christ was born. Fourth, this prophecy was just one of many Messianic prophecies fulfilled during Jesus’ first coming.

Bethlehem was more than just a place where Jesus was born; it helped to identify Him as the promised Messiah.

The following is from “Turning Point Magazine” (used with permission):

700 Years Before Christ

When Jesus was born, there were three major continents known to scholars – Europe, Asia, and Africa. Asia was chosen, but Asia has many countries. Micah selected one country, Israel, with three districts – Judea, Galilee, Samaria. Judea was chosen, but Judea had thousands of villages. Yet seven hundred years before Christ, Micah pinpointed the very town of His birth – Bethlehem.

Will You Be Ready?

by Jim Weikal

“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all.” It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed” (Luke 17:26-30).

In the above verses Jesus warns believers that He, the Son of Man, will return in circumstances similar to the pre-flood days of Noah and the destruction of Sodom. Specifically, He refers to eating, drinking, marrying, buying, selling, planting, and building. The emphasis of Messiah’s prophetic warning is on the people’s enjoyment of life’s mundane matters so much so that the return of the Son of Man catches them unaware.

We need to take a look at what the days of Noah were like: “God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, ‘I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth’” (Genesis 6:12,13).

The Hebrew word translated “corrupt” means “to ruin” and the verb “always refers to a ruin effected in the realm of community or individual experience” (Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament). The Hebrew word for violence is “hamas,” which means “wrong, do violence to, treat violently.” The lexicon goes on to state that the word “is used almost always in connection with sinful violence . . . [and] is often a name for extreme wickedness” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament).

The people living during the time of the flood and the destruction of Sodom had become so involved with, or so tolerant of, corruption and violence that they went on with life as usual. The majority had no idea what was about to overtake them. Eight people were saved from the judgment of the flood and only Lot and his family were saved from the sulfuric destruction of Sodom. Jesus gives us a solemn warning in Matthew 24:44: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect Him.”

Do not allow yourself to become so familiar with the corruption and violence of our time that you are not looking for, or are not ready for, the Son of Man’s return! God is a righteous God and He will judge corruption and violence as we have seen in the past. Only a very few people were ready to face God’s past judgments. How about you today?

Jim Weikal is a Biblical instructor at Bill Rudge Ministries.

Verification of Christ’s Resurrection

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Verification of Christ’s resurrection has been investigated more extensively than available evidence of any other event in history! It has been examined and evaluated by some of the greatest scholars, historians, legal experts, scientists and archaeologists. Anyone who honestly examines the evidence will be convinced that Jesus:

presented Himself alive [to the apostles] after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3).

It is extremely important that Jesus rose from the dead because the resurrection is the very foundation of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul stressed this point to the church at Corinth where many people were claiming there was no resurrection of the dead. Paul asserts that without the resurrection there would be no Christian faith:

But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain (1 Corinthians 15:13-14).

First, throughout the Gospels Jesus predicted He would die and three days later rise from the dead (Matthew 12:38-40; Mark 9:9-10; Luke 18:31-33; John 10:17-18). If He made these assertions and they had not come to pass, then He was either an insane individual or the greatest deceiver in history.

Second, each Gospel testifies to the fact that Jesus rose from the dead (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20). If He had not, then the Gospel accounts would have no credibility and would have been discarded as historically unreliable documents. The Gospels could not be viewed as primary sources for those things that happened (Luke 1:3-4), but rather as products of later editing and manipulation on the part of the early church.

Third, the central theme of the early church was the preaching of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-18; 4:10-12; 5:29-32; 10:37-43; 13:27-37; 17:2-3; 26:22-23). If the resurrection had not occurred, it would have been impossible for Paul and others to persist in affirming that it had in fact occurred – especially in the presence of hostile eyewitnesses.

Fourth, without the death and resurrection, all Christians would still be in sin and under the judgment of God. Paul highlights this point to the Corinthian believers:

For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:16-19).

Fifth, without the resurrection no one would have the eschatological (the part of theology concerned with death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind) hope of eternal life. The resurrection of Jesus Christ demonstrates His authority over death. Those who place their faith and trust in Him have the assurance that death has been overcome and will be ultimately conquered. As Jesus said to Martha who was grieving the loss of her brother Lazarus:

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25-26).

The resurrection is the crucial point of Christianity which either validates or discredits the Christian faith. Henry M. Morris and Henry M. Morris III summed it up well in their book Many Infallible Proofs – Evidence for the Christian Faith:

If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.

Christianity stands firm on the fact of Jesus’ resurrection. It is an incredible truth that has changed the lives of millions throughout history. I am convinced from a lifetime of research and personal experience that the resurrection of Jesus Christ did occur. Our eternal destiny is determined by whether we accept and believe the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Peace in a Time of Uncertainty

by BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

Sea of Galilee by Bill Rudge

We all experience times of uncertainty; moments that raise many questions and concerns about what we should do and how things will work out. Currently, like many of you, my wife and I and our six children are working through our own time of uncertainty.

Our nation is also facing uncertainties. Many are overwhelmed with questions and concerns: When will this pandemic end? Will there be another spike in the virus? Will there be a food shortage? Do masks really help? Should I go out in public settings? Will I lose my job? How will the election results impact my life, my family, America, the world?

So too, Jesus’ disciples experienced their times of uncertainty. For about 3 years, the disciples had served at the side of Jesus where they were direct recipients of His daily teachings and eyewitnesses to His miraculous power. Now, they were confronted with the uncertainty that Jesus was going to leave them and with the uncertainty of the implications to follow. Just as it would be today, we find in John chapters 14-17 many what, how, why, where and when questions (John 14:5, 22; 16:17, 18). In response to their questions, Jesus asserted that even though we will have tribulation in this world, we can have peace because He has overcome the world (John 16:32, 33).

In light of these words by Jesus, we are addressing here three specific questions about the peace that Jesus offered His disciples and is available to us right now.

Question #1: What is this peace?

The peace that Jesus gives (see John 14:27) does not come from this world. Instead of trying to find it by looking to others (celebrities, politicians, etc.) or looking within, the peace Jesus provides can only be found by looking to Him. The idea of peace that the world promotes is a life without conflict and difficulty, but there are problems with this approach to peace: It is circumstantial. In other words, it is a peace that solely depends upon your circumstances/conditions. Because it is circumstantial, a worldly approach to peace is temporary. Certainly, we all have moments when life goes well and we don’t face any direct conflicts or challenges. But we also know that this peace is short-lived because we are all going to face tribulation, conflicts, and difficulties. In fact, the Greek word Jesus used for tribulation in John 16:33 means to be pressured or squeezed to the point you feel confined with no way to escape!

This is exactly how many feel right now with the current pandemic and state of our Union; squeezed with no way to escape as these uncertain times have robbed us of peace, individually, and collectively as a country (and the world). But while the peace of this world depends upon life’s circumstances, the peace that Jesus provides transcends our circumstances. We do not have to wait for circumstances to change.

Jesus’ peace impacts our lives by producing courage. Amidst their questions and fear, Jesus told the disciples to “take heart” (John 16:33). In the Greek this means to take courage and be of good cheer. This is the courage of confidence that rests not in ourselves, nor in our circumstances, but in the God we serve. Consider Joshua who faced uncertainty as he led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. As he took on this momentous task, God instructed him to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). The key for Joshua’s courage did not rest in his own ability but in the fact that He served a faithful God who would be with Him. This is why Joshua was told to meditate upon God’s law (Joshua 1:8), so that he would not only have a proper understanding of what to do but a proper understanding of the One (God) who called him to do it.

Jesus’ peace impacts our lives by the removal of anxiety and fear. As Paul sat in a prison for preaching the Gospel, he wrote these powerful words:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Despite his circumstances and the uncertain outcome, Paul still had the peace of God, a peace that Paul reminds all believers will guard us from being controlled by anxiety, doubt and fear.

Question #2: How is peace provided?

When we examine John chapters 14-17, we discover two ways Jesus provides this peace: first through the presence of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26; 15:26-27). “Helper” refers to someone who has been called to come alongside to help and plead the cause of someone else. This is exactly what the Holy Spirit did in the lives of the apostles as He provided them with wisdom, guidance and strength. In fact, Jesus goes on to say that it was for their advantage that He leaves them and sends the Holy Spirit (see John 16:7). How could it be an advantage for the disciples that Jesus would leave them? What could be more spiritually advantageous than literally walking and talking with Jesus? By forcing the disciples to step out of their comfort zone, they could learn to trust God in a deeper way and experience the Holy Spirit’s presence and power.

My sister and brother-in-law recently watched their only son leave for the Navy. But knowing they had raised him to love the Lord, the sadness of seeing him go also brought with it the joy and confidence that God would continue to work in his life in a deeper and more powerful way. Sometimes the only way to grow is to step out of our comfort zones and encounter the uncertainties of life with faith and trust. Thankfully, we do not have to do this in our own strength, because we have the active presence of the Holy Spirit who right now can strengthen and empower us in our inner being (Ephesians 3:16).

The second way Jesus provides His peace is through the fellowship (unity) of believers. As Christians, we are not designed to live as islands unto ourselves. Instead, we are called to live out our faith within the community of other brothers and sisters in Christ. Before Jesus faced His arrest, trial, and crucifixion He specifically prayed for the unity of all believers (John 17:20, 21). Unity within the body of Christ occurs both on a doctrinal level (what we believe) and on a practical level (how we live out our faith). It is on this practical level where – when we go through uncertain and difficult times – it is our function as a body to encourage and bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:2).

I have several friends with whom I meet on a monthly basis to pray. They have been a source of peace in my life as I have been for them when they faced times of uncertainty. As the Body of Christ, Jesus wants us to face our problems unified, so we may have the peace that comes through the support and love of each other. As believers in Jesus Christ, may we be unified during this time of uncertainty so we can be instruments of hope and peace to a world desperately needing it.

Question #3: How can I experience this peace?

If you want to experience the peace of Jesus right now, the very first thing you must do is repent of your sin and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. The Holy Spirit will dwell within you and begin to produce the fruit of His Spirit in your life – one of which is peace (Galatians 5:22-23). Secondly, you must place your trust in God and not your circumstances. This act of trust will require you to yield your will to God’s will. Jesus provides the best example of this as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:42).

Knowing the agony of what He was about to experience, Jesus surrendered His will so that He could fulfill the will of His Father. This same attitude is what we need to display when we face times of uncertainty. We need to trust God and yield to His will, even when it does not seem to line up with what we want. Happily, we have the confidence that we are surrendering ourselves over to a sovereign God who is not only in control of every detail of our lives, but truly has our best interests at heart.

Closing Challenge

In this time of uncertainty, we should do more than strive for personal peace, but also seek to be used by God to bring hope to others. I recently read an article that discussed how previous pandemics in history caused major shifts in the world. Two of these impacted the Roman Empire in the 2nd century and 3rd century A.D. causing a major shift in the Empire’s worldview. According to the author, these pandemics had a mortality rate of about 25-30% of the empire’s population. At this time the empire was pagan; the majority of people worshipped multiple gods. Christianity was less than 1% of the population. The response of the Pagans and Christians to these pandemics was starkly different. The Pagans opted to live in self-isolation with the goal of self-preservation, while the Christians sought opportunities to minister to the sick and hopeless. This response by the Christians, along with several other factors, affected the Roman empire so dramatically that the author concludes by saying, “in roughly a span of a century, an essentially pagan empire found itself well on its way to becoming a majority Christian one.”

While we need to use wisdom during this pandemic – especially those of us who have underlying health risks – let us not waste the opportunity God has provided for us at this time in history! In a world overcome with uncertainty and fear, may we be living testimonies of the PEACE that comes from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ:

I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

What Child is This?

by Wendy Wippel

Wendy Wippel is a molecular biologist who specializes in genetics. The following are excerpts from an article in The Lamplighter magazine. Used with permission.

Fresco in the Shepherd’s Field Church in Bethlehem.
Photo by Bill Rudge.

It’s the Christmas season, and amid the baking and the bustling and the bows, it’s easy to lose sight of what the fuss is all about — a baby. As the old carol asks, “What child is this?” There’s a lot riding on your answer. Because that baby is the central figure of human history. Human history, in fact, is divided into two eras (BC and AD) by His existence. (Your birth date? Counted from His.)

• He never traveled more than 100 miles from home, but His followers permeated every country in the world with His story.

• He never wrote a book, but more have been written about Him than anyone else in history, by far.

• The first book about Him, the Bible, has been translated into more than 500 languages, and portions of it into more than 3000 languages.

• He had only 12 disciples, but billions of people discuss His teachings every day.

• He was homeless during His public life, but most of the world’s most beautiful buildings were built in His honor (Notre Dame, Westminster Abbey, Hagia Sophia, Chartres, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on.)

• He died as a criminal, but today thousands of names of cities and countries memorialize His life. (San Salvador, for example, which means Holy Savior.)

• He never married, but more wedding vows have asked His blessing than any other.

• He never had kids, but there’s a really good chance you’re named after one of his family or his friends.

• Untold numbers of people throughout history have willingly gone to their deaths rather than renounce His name.

Jesus is recognized by skeptic and saint alike as the turning point of history. What child IS this? We’ve had 2000 years to speculate: A really moral man? A great philosopher? A champion of social justice? A pacifist? A mythical figure? A revolutionary? An example for all of us to follow?

Those really aren’t the right questions, though. The real question is “Who does He think He is?” And Jesus, tellingly, said none of the above. Jesus said that He came to “seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus said that He came to “give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). In fact, He said that He came specifically for one moment in time, His crucifixion (John 12:27).

What child is this? We all have to answer that question for ourselves. And eternity rides on our answer. Why? Because God created humans to be with Him. But you probably know what happened next – Adam and Eve disobeyed the one rule that God established, and humanity became tainted with sin. And as descendants of Adam and Eve, we inherited that condition. We’re all SIN positive.

The problem is that sin can’t survive in the presence of the holiness of God. But that same God still loves us and wants us to be with Him. So Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost. We’re what was lost (John 1:12; 3:16).

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s great for you, but it’s just not my thing.” Or, “I have my own faith.” Or, “We all worship the same God.” Then what child is this? One that made some pretty amazing statements:

I am the way, the truth, the life. No man comes to the Father but through Me (John 14:6). All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me (Matthew 28:18).

Nobody else said things like this. Not Mohammed. Not Confucius. Not Buddha. Nobody. People these days say that makes Christianity exclusive. Except that Jesus also said that whosoever believes in Him can have eternal life. Whosoever.

So what child is this? You can call Him a liar. You can call Him a lunatic. Or you can call Him Lord. “Undecided” isn’t really an option. He didn’t mean for it to be.

Jesus was crucified because He claimed to be the Messiah, a Messiah described in Isaiah as “wounded for our transgressions,” whose chastisement made peace for us with God. Jesus said that He came to give us life as a ransom for many. Nobody else said that. Nobody.

That’s what sets Jesus apart. Only He laid down His life for your sins and mine. And when He died on that cross (a fact documented in Roman records) it would have certainly seemed that was the last history would hear of Him.

But the cross that He died on is now the world’s most common symbol, engraved on tombstones, mounted in and on churches, scattered on hillsides and hung around a whole lot of necks.

So what child is this? That’s the question. And the answer … God, in the form of Jesus, left heaven to seek and save that which was lost, meaning you and me. When He died on the cross, God was saying that He loves you. He Himself came to earth to give His life as your ransom. It was the God of all the universe, whispering into your ears, “I do.” And that God, who still loves you, stands at the altar, waiting for your answer. He’ll wait. He has all eternity to do so. Do you?

The Vortex

by Marvin J. Rosenthal

Jesus is coming again. The implications of that event are staggering and incomprehensible. The wisest and noblest of men cannot fully fathom the impact the return of the Son of God will make on this planet and universe. At His presence, transgressors will be judged, faithfulness rewarded, and righteousness established on earth. The return of Christ will be the vortex of human history. Everyone and everything will be drawn into His direct, controlling force. Heaven and earth, demons and angels, the righteous and unrighteous, time and eternity, life and death – all will be under the dominion of the conquering King when He returns to bring an end to the rebellious epoch of humanity and personally establish a Golden Age.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

by Bill Rudge

Illustration by Pat Marvenko Smith of RevelationIllustrated.com.
Used with permission.

Revelation 6:1-8 foretells Jesus opening the seven seals of a scroll at the beginning of the Tribulation period. With the opening of the first four seals, four horses of different colors with riders who are given various powers over the earth come forth. (This parallels the “beginning of birth pains” foretold by Jesus in Matthew 24).

The rider on the white horse represents the Antichrist who conquers a world in chaos, with a bloodless seizure of power, ushering in a supposedly unequaled time of global peace and prosperity. He will amass great power, deceive the nations, blaspheme God, and eventually demand to be worshiped. A real, potential, or embellished global crisis – perhaps a pandemic – will enable the Antichrist to establish a one-world system by appearing to be the world’s savior. The earth’s inhabitants will follow him, deceived by his false (but short-lived) peace plan for this New World Order.

When the second rider on a red horse goes forth, peace is taken from the earth as violent slaughter and bloodshed ensue. Large numbers of people will slay one another as Antichrist’s illusory peace morphs into worldwide war and massacre.

Third, comes a rider on a black horse holding a pair of scales in his hand. Worldwide warfare and violence will destroy much of the food supply causing shortages and famine. Inflation, poverty, hunger, rationing and food lines will follow. The Antichrist, and his cohort, the False Prophet, will:

cause all, the small and the great, and the rich and the poor, and the free men and the slaves, to be given a mark on their right hand or on their forehead, and he provides that no one will be able to buy or to sell, except the one who has the mark, either the name of the beast or the number of his name (Revelation 13:16,17).

The fourth rider goes forth on a pale horse. This cadaverous ashen color symbolizes the name of the rider – Death – with Hades following him. According to Revelation 6:8:

Authority was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by the wild beasts of the earth.
Currently, 25 percent of the people of the earth, would be more than 1.9 billion people. Plagues will follow that will kill one-third of the remaining population
(Revelation 9:18).

Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:4-8 parallel the prophecy of these four horsemen of the apocalypse:

Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.

Brian C. Thomas stated in the September/ October, 2020 Lamplighter magazine:

One of the signs He [Jesus] mentioned was that nation will rise against nation (Matthew 24:7). In the original Greek, this is written ethnos against ethnos which is where we get the word “ethnicity.” In other words, our Lord said that ethnicity against ethnicity would be a sign of His Second Coming.

In that same journal (8/20) Mike Gendron writes:

Students of Bible prophecy are not surprised by events that have been triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s because the Lord Jesus Christ gave us signs to watch for that would precede His Second Coming, and one of those many signs that we are seeing today is “pestilence” (Luke 21:11). It is true that we have seen devastating plagues and pestilences throughout history, but none of them have had the far-reaching global impact of COVID-19. Could it be that our sovereign Lord is giving a merciful warning of a more devastating pestilence that awaits those who do not seek Him as their Savior and refuge?

When Jesus opens the seventh seal (Revelation 8:1), additional judgments commence (trumpet and bowl) in intensifying waves, bringing many to repentance and purifying this earth of its defilement and corruption in preparation for Christ’s Millennial reign. Then the “birth pains” will give way to the birth of God’s Kingdom, thereby literally fulfilling Revelation 11:15:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever.

As has been said by other prophetic writers: Listen closely, you can almost hear the hoofbeats of the four horses of the apocalypse.

Broken Vessels: Come As You Are

A Devotional by Caeleana Dawn Smith

Bible Verse:

“But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house. I will bow down toward Your holy temple in the fear of You. Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before me”. – Psalm 5:7-8

Devotional:

Growing up, I thought that in order for God to accept my worship I needed to come to Him with a pure, intact heart. And, every Sunday, I fell short and felt unworthy. Abraham was one of the people in the Bible that would be least likely to be used by God; however, despite his brokenness and imperfections, God chose Abraham to be the Father of Nations (Genesis 12). God chooses broken people because He can shape their brokenness into a vessel He can use to bring glory to His name. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). God wants us to come to Him with our brokenness and problems because it is during that time He shapes us into who He created us to be. During our times of brokenness, we are vulnerable and humbled before the Lord.

Application:

Remember that no one is more perfect than Jesus. Do not compare yourselves to the standards of the world because God’s standards are different; His are all that matter. During worship, bring your brokenness to Him and lay it at His feet, so He can shape you into the person He created you to be and use you to bring glory to His name.

Prayer:

Dear God, I come to You with a humble and broken heart in need of healing, Lord. Help me not to forget that I am Your child and created in Your image. Lord, I bring my brokenness to You and lay it at Your feet; I surrender it to You, Lord. Heal and shape me into the person You created me to be, Jesus. You are a merciful and loving God. I love You and thank You for loving me. Amen

Pressing On in the Storm

by Darlinda McDonald

Photo by Max LaRochelle

On a Sunday evening a few years ago, Bill and Karen were returning to Pennsylvania from Michigan. As they reached Toledo, a fast-moving thunderstorm overtook their vehicle and did not subside for the remaining four hours of the trip. Torrential rain, high winds, thunder and lightning made driving very difficult. In addition, their visibility was impaired by the darkness and fog. Commercial trucks on either side of their small rental car splashed huge amounts of water on their windshield. In several cities they traveled through, the radio warned of tornadoes and flash flooding. Karen wanted to stop, but Bill felt it safer and best to drive on and chose to look at it as another adventure God was taking them through.

The decision to keep pressing on despite the weather and treacherous driving conditions can be compared to our Christian walk. Sometimes life throws us unexpected situations that can either stop us in our tracks or make us determined to press on towards the goal. Our choice to walk by faith and not by sight will strengthen our trust in the One Who watches over us and takes care of us.

Just as the Lord brought Karen and Bill home safely through the storm, He will bring you safely to your Heavenly home despite the difficulties and challenges this life holds for you. Jesus promises:

These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation [trouble, pressure, affliction, difficulty], but take courage; I have overcome the world (John 16:33).

“Poems of Conviction” Will Challenge and Encourage

Who Will Go?

by Bruce Miller

It’s called the “Great Commission,”
Just who’s supposed to go?
You’ll find the answer on your knees
If you really want to know.

The harvest has been ready,
And the fields are very ripe;
Pray to the Lord for laborers,
Willing to share the light.

It seems today, and always has,
The ones that go are few;
It’s written in the book of Luke
In chapter ten, verse two.

Some say, “I’m just too busy,”
Or, “The timing isn’t right.”
Lift your eyes; look around;
The harvest is already white.

When you see Jesus face to face,
And He asks, “What did you do?”
I hope and pray your answer is,
“I labored, Lord, for you.”

Where Is Your Treasure?

by Bill Rudge

Everything you have can be swept away in a flood, burned up in a fire, blown away in a tornado, stolen by thieves, wasted on excessive living or consumed by medical expenses – but what you invest in God’s Kingdom will last forever. Through Jesus Christ you can have an eternal inheritance that will never be robbed, lost, tarnished, spoiled or fade away.

The condition of America’s spiritual health is of utmost concern. Unless our nation’s moral hemorrhage is stopped, it will prove fatal. America will be brought to her knees – either in repentance or from intensifying judgment.

God has given us additional time to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Have we squandered our opportunities or wisely used them? How many of our friends and loved ones have already passed into eternity? Now is the time to share Jesus with family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…while we still have opportunity – while there is yet time.

The Greater Cause

As believers in Jesus Christ we should care less about being politically correct and more about being biblically accurate. We must defend the faith which was once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). Besides, beneficial and lasting social change will only come when the hearts of the people are turned back to their Creator. While many causes are noble, all will prove inadequate and inferior to the transforming power of the Gospel.

Imagine the eternal impact – as well as the social and political benefits – if Christians put increased effort into evangelism. Imagine the positive influence on our nation if the life-changing, eternal life-giving Gospel of Jesus Christ were embraced, and compassion instead of hostility, reigned in relationships, personal and national. As a result of loving service in Jesus’ name and living exemplary lives, we would be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14).

The heartbeat of Jesus, before He returns, is the fulfillment of His Great Commission to proclaim the Gospel across the entire world. Evangelism is such a priority that Jesus’ parting words before His ascension instructed the disciples to be His witnesses throughout the earth (Acts 1:8). Jesus went so far as to state that the end will not come until the Gospel is preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14).

During the Tribulation period – in the midst of intense persecution – God will use the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11), raise up 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 7 and 14), and even use angels to proclaim His everlasting Gospel (Revelation 14:6, 7). The harvest will be “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people, and language” (Revelation 7:9).

Financial Security – Not

While it is wise to have reserves for emergencies and future needs, no amount of accumulated wealth and resources will protect you from what is coming. Currently you can still choose to give where you want, but in the future you may not have that option. Your resources and investments could be confiscated or controlled by another. Your money could be taken through identity theft, bank account seizures, medical expenses, and so on.

Eventually, everything you have will be taken. Besides, you can’t take it with you when you die or when Jesus returns. The only security in this turbulent world is the LORD. Those who horde and stockpile earthly riches will be bankrupt. Jesus said:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19 – 21).

Wise financial planning includes far more than accumulating retirement accounts and material possessions. Countless people have lost large amounts of money that might have been used for the Kingdom – providing them an eternal reward that surpasses any monetary gains they had hoped to achieve. Do not let the words of James 5:2, 3 be true of you:

Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!

The day rapidly approaches when each of us will give an account to God concerning our stewardship of finances, time and talents (2 Corinthians 5:9, 10). Therefore, it would be wise to focus on God’s priority: Evangelism and Missions. A significant portion of our resources, time and energy should be put into sharing the love and truth of Jesus with a lost and dying world – this is sound financial planning and most certainly the best inheritance.

Ask yourself: Do I care more about my political agenda or my testimony for Jesus Christ? Do I give more to social and political causes or to missions? Am I neglecting evangelism and witnessing because it is offensive to some? Am I using my life and money primarily for personal pursuits and pleasures or to help fulfill the Great Commission of taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth? What am I doing to advance God’s Kingdom and reach people for eternity before the days of opportunity are gone?

Remember, true and lasting riches consist of spiritual blessings and the legacy of faith you leave your loved ones. We cannot take anything into eternity with us except the lives we touch for Jesus Christ!

Was the Crucifixion a Mistake?

by Bill Rudge

Photo by Deborah Ford on the Via Dolorosa during a Holy Land Adventure with Bill Rudge Ministries.

The raising of Lazarus from the dead and numerous other miracles Jesus performed created an intense expectation among the multitudes. The Jewish people were eager for the Messiah (Christ) to come and defeat the Romans and restore Israel to its former power and glory under King David. So at Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, the crowds welcomed Him with shouts of praise as they spread palm branches, and even their own garments in His path.

During His triumphal entry, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling Zechariah 9:9. Jesus was proclaiming Himself as King (just as 1 Kings 1:32-35, 44 records that David had Solomon ride on his mule before having him anointed king). The people welcomed Him with shouts of Hosanna, and the words of Messianic Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.” Spreading their cloaks on the road was an act of royal homage (2 Kings 9:12, 13).

They Didn’t Understand

Less than a week after the triumphal entry, many of this multitude were shouting for Him to be crucified. Why? What happened? They didn’t understand that it was God’s plan for the Christ to die during His first coming (Romans 11:25, 26). Therefore, they rejected the Messiah and called for His death.

Numerous Old Testament Scriptures foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:5-12; Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10; Psalm 16:10). Nevertheless, the Jewish people and their leaders, as well as Jesus’ disciples, could not understand that God’s purpose was for the Christ to first die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Jesus foretold He was going to be crucified. It was for this purpose He had come (John 12:27). Jesus repeatedly told His disciples He must suffer, die, and on the third day rise again (Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33), but they were confused and did not comprehend what He meant (Luke 18:34; Mark 9:9, 10, 31, 32).

New Testament scholar, Dr. George Eldon Ladd, writes:

This is also why his disciples forsook him when he was taken captive. Their minds were so completely imbued with the idea of a conquering Messiah whose role it was to subdue his enemies that when they saw him broken and bleeding under the scourging, a helpless prisoner in the hands of Pilate, and when they saw him led away, nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal, all their messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered.

Suffering Messiah

The Hebrew Scriptures mention a suffering servant, especially in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Scripture also tells about the Messiah coming as David’s heir and reigning as King. After centuries of suffering under the yoke of foreigners, and then being under Roman oppression, the Jews of first century Israel yearned for the One who would come and rule on the throne of David forever. Consequently, the Jews of Jesus’ day only focused on the Messiah as coming King.

Peter tried to reprove Jesus for stating that He must suffer, be rejected, be killed, and rise again after three days (Mark 8:31, 32). But Jesus rebuked Peter and said—

Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s (Mark 8:33).

The animal sacrifices in the Tanakh [Old Testament] were a foreshadow of the death of the Messiah. Hebrews 9:22 says, “…without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Whereas the animal sacrifices were regular occurrences, Christ’s sacrificial death was, “once…to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ was no mistake. It had been determined before the creation of the world. The Hebrew Scriptures foretold this mystery of God which was meticulously fulfilled in Jesus Christ and majestically proclaimed to both Jews and Gentiles.

God’s ultimate sacrifice is undeniable proof of His amazing and incomprehensible love for each of us.

“Who Will Go?”

The following poem was written by Bruce Miller, a childhood friend of Bill Rudge. His dramatic conversion gave him the desire to lead others to Jesus. He currently serves in a prison ministry and was able to minister in Haiti and India when Bill opened doors for him to go.

It’s called the “Great Commission,”

Just who’s supposed to go?

You’ll find the answer on your knees

If you really want to know.

The harvest has been ready,

And the fields are very ripe;

Pray to the Lord for laborers,

Willing to share the light.

It seems today, and always has,

The ones that go are few;

It’s written in the book of Luke

In chapter ten, verse two.

Some say, “I’m just too busy,”

Or, “The timing isn’t right.”

Lift your eyes; look around;

The harvest is already white.

When you see Jesus face to face,

And He asks, “What did you do?”

I hope and pray your answer is,

“I labored, Lord, for you.”

The Great Commission is, and should be, the priority of the Church and every believer in Christ. It is not an option but rather a command. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus did not ask the disciples to go; Jesus commanded they go unto the utter most parts of the earth (see Acts 1:8). In Luke 10:2, Jesus told the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers, and then in verse three, He sent them into the harvest fields.

“Who Will Go?” It is a question intended to stir your heart and mind. After reading my poem, it is my hope you, and myself as well, may respond as Isaiah the prophet did:

Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. (Isaiah 6:8)