You want a good read?

It is not a new book. But a lot of guys don’t know about it. You can pick it up cheap used, or get the latest edition with a couple of new chapters.

The book is called “God’s Smuggler” by Brother Andrew. True story. He lived through WWII, later became part of the Dutch Special Forces, and eventually God gets a hold of his life and he is used to smuggle Bibles into Iron Curtain countries.

God's Smuggler Book Cover -- One of many covers
My mom read it to me in the 70s. I read it my son this last year. He loved it.

I wish that I could buy all my friends here copies.

I know that some of you are in used bookstores getting books all the time, check it out and then report here how you like it. I know that you will.

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Don’t Give Up Brothers!

Are you an ex-pastor, former pastor, former youth pastor or served God in some position previously and now you are out? Don’t give up!
A number of things happened just recently, that I want to encourage you with.
1. I just past the one year mark of when I was asked to resign my senior pastorate. A year ago January 13th was the last sermon that I preached. You know what I am still here. Still ministering. A couple of friends who are ex-military were telling me, with men who were soldiers, or ex-cops, and also ex-pastor, you might not be that thing anymore, but it can’t be taken out of you. You are still a pastor and minister unless you give that up and turn your back on it.
2. I just was on facebook a couple days again and came across another friend who went to Multnomah Bible College with me, who also went through the wringer with some church politics. In fact I hardly know of any godly men who are in the ministry who haven’t has some horribly painful experience of betrayal and being back stabbed. Many great pastors have to just shake off the dust and jump back in to ministry somewhere. Don’t judge Jesus on church politics.
3. In training today with work, there was a quote about winners have scars. If you have been scarred in the ministry, join the club. Jesus and Paul show us by example that is par for the course.
4. I will telling another friend from Bible college today, that ministry can be just incredibly painful, but there are times that totally make it worth it.
a. friends coming to Christ
b. when the prodigal comes home
c. when those struggling in their faith let you know that somehow you are making a difference in their lives.
I served as the youth pastor in a Korean Church for two years and that brought about a lot of healing from some of the garbage that I had gone through previously. I think that I might still be a healing cycle right now, but I want to thank all of you for allowing me to minister to you and encourage you with our blogs and podcasts.
I was thinking today again about ministry and maybe I ought to write a book on “ministry outside the box” just to encourage men everywhere that there are many ways to minister. Maybe it would help light a fire under guys, and they would be blown away by how God wants to use them.
There are all sorts of guys out there who need (and I mean NEED) the gospel, who may not have found their way into a church for decades. Maybe the frontlines of ministry are out there and not inside the church like the frontlines in a battle is not inside the Pentagon. Church has its place of encouragement and I try to make it every Sunday. Sometime ministry takes place in a phone call, at taco bell, or in a garage.
My favorite verse is John 10:10 and I am sure that you will hear me referring to it from time to time. It maybe my favorite when I was working for a ministry called “The National Youth Crisis Hot-Line 1-800-HIT-HOME”.
The verse says “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, I (Jesus) came that they may have life and that abundantly”
You don’t have to look too hard to see how the thief, the devil is out there in the midst of our culture, stealing, killing and destroying lives. But the mission of Jesus, of saving lives, still is going on. That is what I want to be about. Brothers, let’s continue to be part of that.
More than anything, I just want to be used by God. The place, title, whatever is just not that important.

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Feel like you are getting washed away in a flood?

Man, life throws stuff at you so fast. Anyone else struggling to keep you head above water?

Psalm 69:1-2 “Save me, O God, for the waters have threatened my life. I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.”

Psalm 69:13-15 “But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord,at an acceptable time; O God, in the greatness of your lovingkindness, Answer me with Your saving truth. Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink: May I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters. May the flood of water not overflow me nor the deep swallow me up, no the pit shut its mouth on me.”

David, the King, Shepherd and Hero wrote this. Man, if he can go through such struggles, I guess that it doesn’t surprise us to much that we go through struggles as well. But just as he expects God to pull him out and save him, we can be expectant for God to save us in our struggles as well. Not because we are so cool, but because of His lovingkindness toward us. He has an investment of time and energy in His relationship with you. He is not giving up on you, don’t give up on Him. Take time to have a talk with Him, like David did.

God bless,

Rich

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Upcoming Podcasts

Ken has been swamped at work, having to put together a computer animated TV commercial. As for me, I am still selling insurance and trying to minister where ever I get to. Whether it is simple as praying with a co-worker over lunch, or identifying myself as a believer in the businesses that I am working in.

Today I was thinking about you. Those faithful few who have been checking out our podcasts and those that are checking us out for the first time.

Upcoming topics are as simple as:
1. Why do we even believe in God?
2. How do we experience God in our lives?
3. How do we grow in our relationship with God?
4. How do we share our relationship with God with our friends?

So expect though in the next few weeks.

Ken wanted to this week, but was hammered for time.

Take care this week. As Thanksgiving is coming, we have a lot of be thankful for. Remember to Thank God for all the ways that He blessed. May you have a great time with friends and family.

Rich

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That hole in the heart

It was interesting, about a year ago, I was checking out lists on Amazon, and there was this goofy list of “songs that always make me cry.” Just curious, I wanted to see what songs were listed. Then I came across this song that I had never heard of called, “Never Went To Church” by The Streets. The Streets is a English rapper. Not that I am really into rap, but wanted to give this a listen. He talks about how his dad died, and he is faced with an emptiness. That even though he was never brought up going to church, he knew that there was something that he was missing.

Interesting as well, I don’t know if any of you are fans of the show “Numb3rs”, but one of the lead characters is faced with his own emptiness in life that he can’t sort out on his own, and the last scene of the latest episode he walks into a synagogue to go to God to deal with that emptiness.

Pascal, the famous french philosopher, math expert, and theologian (Who the computer language Pascal was named after) said, “In every man, there is a God shaped vacuum.” Vacuum, void or hole, but you know the feeling.

C.S. Lewis wrote something similar. Paraphrased by me “Since I have tried everything, and nothing satsifies in this world, So I come to understand that I was made for somewhere else.” That somewhere else is heaven.

Pascal also wrote “Between heaven and hell, there is only life half-way, which is the fragilest thing in the world.”

Maybe you have experienced this half-way kind of life. It seems like something is missing. Nothing seems to be cracked up to what it is supposed to be. You finally arrive at the top of the heap, and the satisfaction that you thought would be there isn’t, and you are empty still.

Jesus promises something else. In John 10:10, which you have heard me quote before, Jesus says, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, but I (Jesus) have come that they might have life, and that abundantly.”

The abundant life is not about the most toys, but a full contentment in relationship that only comes from God, regardless of the situation you presently find yourself in. And it finds its ultimate fulfillment, in eternal life in Heaven in the presence of our savior.

Speaking of the presence of God, I was talking to a friend of mine, who has been realizing the presence of God in his life. God has been doing little things, drawing him to Himself. God does so many things to show us that He is there, and that He cares for us. Sometimes we just need to slow down and think about all the ways that He has blessed us, and thank Him for that.

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The Truth Will Set You Free…

So many people will say the truth will set you free but what they mean is if you will simply be honest with yourself you will be free to live however you wish. Even those people who are sinning in the most blatant ways will misuse this passage to excuse their lifestyle. That is not at all what Jesus meant.

“The truth will set you free.” †That is one of the most misused and misunderstood passages in the whole Bible. †It is a statement so often taken out of context that its true meaning has been masked. †It’s a shame because this is one of the most powerful scriptures in the whole Bible.

So many people will say the truth will set you free but what they mean is if you will simply be honest with yourself you will be free to live however you wish. †Even those people who are sinning in the most blatant ways will misuse this passage to excuse their lifestyle. †That is not at all what Jesus meant.

The truth will set you free, but only the actual authentic truth has that kind of power. †What if you are trusting in some sort of false hope? †How can anything that is not truth accomplish in you what only the truth can? †You see, if we continue to accept something less than the real truth in our lives how can we expect to get the real change that only the truth can bring? †It reminds me of the passage in 2nd Timothy 3 where it says:

But understand this, that in the last days difficulttimes will come.†For peoplewill be lovers of themselves,lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy,†unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, savage, opposed to what is good,†treacherous, reckless, conceited, loving pleasure rather than loving God.†They will maintain the outward appearanceof religion but will have repudiated its power. So avoid people like these.

Repudiate means: to reject as having no authority or binding force. †You see, they have some kind of outward appearance that suggests religion but have denied that there is any power there to make real change. †If they deny the power, or the central truth behind it, then what do they expect?

There is a deception out there, and it is growing. †It is like the powerful delusion spoken of in 2nd Thessalonians 2. †Why? †Because men would not love the truth and instead embraced a lie. †So God will give them over to a lie, and they will love the lie and hate the truth. †But what is the true truth?

When Jesus said in John 8:32 “and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” what truth was He talking about. †Fortunately He tells us later in John 14:6 when he said “… I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” †He is the way. †He is the truth. †He is the life. †I just don’t know how He could make it any clearer. †But what is the problem that He is offering to set us free from?

Sin is standing between you and God, a barrier that prevents you from being able to come to God. †In all honesty, if the experience in Isaiah 6 is any indication, you wouldn’t want to come face to face with God in your sinful condition. †Isaiah is undone before the Holy God, he realizes that he is unfit and destroyed, his lips stained with sin. †God actually separates us from Himself because we simply couldn’t take His glory while we are corrupted. †Jesus is the sacrifice that pays for your transgression and makes you clean, acceptable to come before God. †Not that you stop doing wrong and are instantly made sinless, but by acknowledging your sin and accepting the sacrifice of Christ you will be declared righteous, and when you die you will be resurrected into a new body, no longer subject to sin, and death, and separation from God.

There are false teachers out there who will tell you everything is fine. †You are alright. †God is love. †Jesus would never send anyone to Hell. †My friends, the truth is that Jesus doesn’t send anyone to Hell, we do that on our own. †How? †By rejecting the offer, the amazing offer that He has made us, purchased by his own blood. †He will forgive us, cleanse us, change us, take us forward and continue to work in us until He completes this work in us.

“But Jesus IS love, He wouldn’t send me to Hell, would He?” someone may ask. †Let’s think about this for a minute.

Imagine if you were in need of a kidney. †You were on dialysis and heading for an early grave. †But I heard about your need as as it happens I am a perfect match. †I go into surgery and give up one of my kidneys. †It is now on ice in a little red cross ice chest waiting for you to come to the hospital and get into surgery. †But you say no?! †What am I to do? †How am I to feel? †Can you be healed without a kidney? †No! †There is no healing without a kidney. †But you have rejected my gift? †You say you want to use positive thinking and crystals to grow a replacement kidney for yourself.

Now I don’t mean to impose my pettiness upon Christ, He is superior to me in every way. †His resentment is not the same as mine. †I am flesh and He is God. †Yet, His sacrifice for your salvation was vastly more costly than my hypothetical kidney would be. †There is no healing for you apart from Him. †He gave up His life for you… will you say no?! †What do you think you can find apart from Him to give you salvation. †You have a need. †He is the fulfillment of your need. †You have a problem. †He is the solution to your problem. †You have a disease. †He is the cure for your sin. †There is no other. †In John 6:68 & 69 when Jesus asked His disciples if they wanted to leave Him Peter answers, “… to whom would we go? †You [alone] have the words of eternal life. †We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God!”

The Holy One of God is the Hebrew way of saying, Jesus was the Savior that had been promised from the beginning. †He was the Messiah who was to come. †He was the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. †Jesus himself said in John 5:39 & 40, “You study the scriptures thoroughly because you think in them you possess eternal life, and it is these same scriptures that testify about me, but you are not willing to come to me so that you may have life.” †The whole Bible is a testimony about Jesus and if you come to Him you will have life. †He is the truth that will set you free. †Will you accept His offer and let Him set you free?

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Sex, Sex, Sex

We live in a ridiculously sex charged culture.† Years ago I took a survey in a mall, where I was asked about a commercial I was shown for a razor blade.† The guy who used that brand of razor blade got the girl.† Trust me, I have been shaving my beard too long to think that there is something sexy about my morning ritual of shaving my face.† I told them that I thought that commercial was ridiculous.

But sex sells, right?† Sex is everyway.† It is all over the internet.† But it isn’t good. In fact there is a lot of sick crap out there.

Obviously God created sex, and it is brilliant when we use it as God created it in marriage.† And we as men try to find fulfillment in “cheap sex” from photos, videos, whatever, and it costs us.† We sometimes don’t realize it.

1. It costs us in our closeness in our relationship to God.† You know the guilt that you feel.† And you also know when you feel that small amount of purity we possess slipping away.

2. Attention that we should be paying to our wives, we are paying to someone else.† Again it could be anywhere.† It could be something as simple as a swimsuit calendar up on the wall at our auto mechanics, but each time we go to the shop, we have to peek to see if it is still there, or if he has added another. We run a deficit with our wives. If you rob your wife, aren’t robbing yourself? Or maybe the penalty is double or more when we are robbing our spouse.

We claimed as married men that we are going to honor, cherish and love our wives.† How are we doing at that?† God is also going to call us to account for how we acted toward our wives.

Interestingly in Ephesians, we are supposed to love our wives like Jesus loved the church.† Jesus sacrificed himself for us, who are part of the church.

Also in that same passage in Ephesians, it says that the man who loves his wife loves himself.†

Years ago I read a cover of a book and it stuck with me.† I even bought a copy, though I have never honestly gone all the way through it.† It is called “Do yourself a favor, love your wife.”† On the cover of the early edition there was a two lane road with three cars.

Two cars going one way, and other car was going the opposite.†

The two cars going the same direction has two occupants in each car, and they were sitting on opposite sides of front seat.

But the other car, and maybe this dates the book, obviously had a bench seat, and the occupants in the car were sitting right next to each other.

Are we giving our wives the attention that they deserve or are we giving the attention somewhere else because it is easier?†

Are we shorting ourselves in a number of ways?† Are we sinning against God with unbridled lust?†

Are we sinning against the woman of our lives?† If we made the effort to love our wives as God intended, with cherishing and honor, do you think that would have a positive impact on our daily lives?† We only have one life, so lets not screw it up.

One book/CD that I need to go through at least once a year is called, “Everyman’s Battle” by Stoeker and Arterburn.† It is about reclaiming our lives from this crazy lust infected world that we live in. Here is the link http://www.fredstoeker.com/book/everymansbattle.shtml It will give you hope, no matter where you are, or what you might be involved in now or in your past.

I have it on Audio book and have been listening to it the last couple of days on my drives with work. I am refocusing on my efforts on my relationship with God and my wife. I figured that it would be a great encouragement for you as well. I like that the title is “everyman’s battle.” Not “some men’s battle”. Us guys are red blooded males, and our eyes, minds and hormones can get us into a lot of compromises that we shouldn’t. To be the men that we are called to be by God, that takes a bit of discipline, to keep our eyes from wandering. But it is worth it. Check it out. Hey, if you want me to loan you my copy, of Everyman’s Battle, let me know. Or you could pick it up at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or just about any Christian book store.
God bless you gentleman. Have a great weekend. See ya at Church.

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My dear friend Stephen Shook

Part of this is a copy of what I posted on rctech.net.

Yesterday I called my friend Stephen, and I think that I first got his mom, and then his wife.† His wife was telling me that he is in a very bad way and is unable to talk.† It looks like it is down to the last days or hours.† But she did put me on speaker phone for him.† I was able to pray for him.† And at the end, his wife said that he was trying to mouth the word “Amen.”† I also wanted to tell him about an upcoming missions trip that I am going on this spring.† Again I got to share that with him on speaker phone and his wife said that he seemed animated and excited.† I did get to tell him that I loved him.

I will call the family tomorrow and find out what the news is.

I must have spent hours and hours with him chatting on the phone. Just an incredible brother in the faith. Always very positive in how he acted toward others.

I was thinking just how much I am going to miss those calls. If I miss him so much, how much more his wife and mom and family are going to miss him.

We talked a lot about death. It was something that was always right there in front of him. You know what, he wasn’t afraid of death, because he knew that Jesus was going to meet him on the other side. He wasn’t happy about having to leave his wife in death. But for months now he was trying to do what he could with the energy had to take care of her. Sorting out her hobby room. Teaching her about the life insurance, bills etc, and trying to make sure that he had all his ducks in a row.

He absolutely loved his wife. He would go on glowingly about what an awesome woman she is, and all the different things that she was involved in at church with teaching and worship team. They got to take a couple of great vacation togethers in the last couple years, knowing that their time together was short.

Man, the world is going to be a darker place with him passing on. Shookie was an encouragement to a lot of us. You know what else, he was REAL. It wasn’t all “Do as I say, not as I do.” Or “Live like a saint on Sunday, and live like a hellion the other 6 days out of the week.” He lived out everyday what he said.

Some people when they die, people only tell positive things about them, and really sweep under the carpet all the crud that everyone really knows went on in their life. There is nothing to sweep under the carpet here.

I remember when he was telling me a story about recently getting medicine switched and he was saying it was like getting “tourettes” where all this foul language came flowing out of his mouth, just uncontrollably. I didn’t hear him swear ever, but that was what he told me happened. And Shookie was so embarassed by that and asking God for forgiveness, because that is not the kind of person that he ever wanted to be.

Some of us might cuss up a storm or cuss out others and think nothing of it. But it bothered Stephen.

A lot of racers have been watching his life. They were in awe of how he handled himself and his life. It has been an amazing struggle and yet peaceful because of Christ.

I am so going to miss him.

I know with all confidence, to his friends and fellow racers who don’t know Jesus, or maybe need to come back to faith, if he inspired you at all, he would love for you to take a look into Jesus again. Because that it where he found his strength and hope. We talked about that a lot.

I love you Stephen. You have been such an incredible friend. You helped me get through all sorts of tough times in my life and ministry. Thank you.

Richard

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A child dreaming of death.

Even as a child I knew that death was an inevitable conclusion to my life…

I grew up in Southern California in a non-religious family. Itís not that we hated God or anything, we just didnít think about that sort of thing. But even as a child, deep in my heart I knew there was something more than just living day-to-day and getting by. I had a recurring dream that haunted me my entire childhood, from my very earliest memory.

In this dream I began at whatever age I was currently. I found myself moving down what I can only describe as a tunnel of my life where I would watch myself experience typical activities, going to school, eating dinner and so forth. Then as the dream began to accelerate I would see scenes of myself getting older. I didnít see faces from my future I just had a sense of who people were and what they were doing. I would graduate high school, then college; I saw myself get married, then having children. Later I saw myself in a successful career and vacations. Then, soon after, I saw myself with grandchildren on my knee. Then as the dream reached a fevered pitch I would slam into a wall that I knew was death, and awake with a start. Even as a child I knew that death was an inevitable conclusion to my life and it was with defeat and despair that I wept into my pillow.

As my mother began attending a community church my sister and I went along. My dad just really wasnít interested at the time so we three went alone. It was there at Knott Avenue Christian Church that I first heard about God and His plan of salvation. It was there that I first learned about Jesus and how he died to pay for my sins. I slowly started to understand that God was really interested in me and that He had a plan to deal with my overwhelming fear of death. As I put my trust in Him I began to experience peace. Peace about my future, peace about my relationship to God, peace about my whole life. Eventually, even my dreams began to change.

It was many years later and I was having the same dream once again. Every thing was the same. The dream accelerated through all the phases of my life, rapidly approaching the wall of death that I had so often faced with dread. But this time the dream ended differentlyÖ pleasantly. Instead of merely hitting the wall and awaking startled and afraid, this time I passed through the wall as if it werenít even there and found myself floating in the brilliant presence of the glorified Christ. The relief and peace I felt are beyond description. My heart began to swell with joy as I gently awoke with a broad smile on my face. Ever since, I have never had the dream again. Jesus has freed me from my fears and given me the assurance that I will be with Him forever.

If you want to know how to be saved from your sin and know you will go to heaven when you die my friend Mike Parrott has a simple outline and a video on his website.

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Awaiting a day in court

About four months ago I got a speeding ticket. Honestly I thought that I was still in a 45 zone when I got picked up doing 47 in a 35. I was probably only 150 feet passed the sign. Needless to say I was really bummed. I didn’t want to have to explain to my wife, how I was costing the family again with my own stupidity.

When I went to work, the people in the office were saying, “It is no big deal. If you have a good record, you’ll get an option of not having this ticket count and won’t have to pay the fine if you can go a whole year without another moving violation.” I figured that the very least with the letters that I got from the court that I would be able to at least be able to plea a lower penalty ONCE I GOT TO SHARE MY SIDE OF THE STORY.

So for weeks I had been stressing about what I was going to say in court. I didn’t see the signs as they were blocked by slow moving traffic. It is a 7% downhill grade in that section, and large trucks do block the signs from time to time.

So the day arrived. There I was in court. I was asked my name, I was asked if I pleaded guilty, (because even to get the hearing I did have to admit my guilt. And I was speeding even if completely unintentional). I gave my name and said “yes” to the question of guilty. The judge said, “You have an excellent record. Your fine is reduced from 154 to 125. Good day.”

That was it! It was over! It was the same reduction that I was offered before I even went to court. I DIDN’T GET TO SAY MY PIECE. What a rude awakening. I left feeling kind of stunned. What was the point of going downtown, taking time off of work, paying for parking, only to give my name and admit my guilt?

That got my thinking. I went back to the office, and told my boss about what happened. He asked, “Wasn’t there another person there to work out the deal for you? That is what happened for me. There was another guy who talked to me and then talked to the judge.”

“Nope, it was me, the judge and the clerk that recorded it.”

Obviously as believers in Christ, when judgment comes and we are standing before God, we do have an advocate for us. Jesus Christ will be in the middle. “My client pleads guilty, and I paid the penalty for him.” That is a great place to be.

What I thought would be shocking, is for those people who are thinking that because they were good people on their own, they are going to get to tell their story and get some kind of bargain. Thinking they are going to tell God, “I wasn’t as bad as so and so. I took care of my own. Look, somehow God it is your fault, because you didn’t make it that much more obvious to me. Maybe a few more signs for me, would have changed things.”

I don’t know how many people that I have talked to who won’t look at Christ, and what He did to pay the penalty for us on the Cross, and are banking on being able to plead their own case.

Without Christ, what can you plead but your name and guilt? Ignorance is no excuse. Especially in the US, I am not even sure if ignorance is truly possible. We have Bibles everywhere, Jesus shows up in country music songs, there is so much Christian radio and TV and a church on every other street corner. It is hard to miss Jesus if you are willing to look up, even the littlest. If you can’t plead Jesus when standing before the Father, it will be because you never wanted to take the time in this life to look into Him. What else can I say? Don’t bet on pleading your own case.

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