Expensive Lessons

Working with drug addicts and the like, you get a real picture of what selfishness really looks like. Unfortunately, the damage and the regret that most leave behind could be compared to a train wreck; long after the engine has stopped the cars of the train keep coming from the inertia. I have experienced the reaping and the sowing effect myself from poor choices and missed opportunities because of my self-will running riot. In addition, the pain I felt myself became more important than the pain I caused others, a cycle of misery and regret. Making amends for those I hurt and caused pain, became a full time job, however it really helped me see just how selfish and self centered I really was.

I really like to keep things simple, not because I don’t like a challenge mind you, however when you have convoluted the truth it makes walking in integrity difficult and fluid-NOT GOOD! I had an encounter the other day with a a brother who relapsed and I was completely caught of guard at the hardness of heart and the bitterness. The excuses were endless and the justifications for his choices were plentiful. He could not get honest because of the fear of this and the fear of that. If the atmosphere was better, or the people nicer and more friendly. It was always someone else’s fault and if they would have “helped him better” things would have been different.

Having played those “records and tapes” myself in the past, I could almost lip sync what he was going to say next! I don’t want to seem sharp, but repentance was not even on the radar screen. The most beneficial theme for anyone in recovery is honesty at all times, with yourself and with your accountability group. Keeping things “under cover” is a ticking time bomb with no timer, it explodes when you least expect it and it devastates those you are in relationship with. We had a string of several different people in leadership have major failures in their life and it can be traced back to “under cover” junk and FEAR. The old saying, “you are only sick as your secrets” has merit in any persons life but it seems especially true in a Christian’s life.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7 NIV

The light always depicts being visible. Darkness always depicts the what cannot be seen. “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.” John 3:20

I have learned some powerful truths at a tremendous high price. Sin is simple; IT STEALS and KILLS and DESTROYS YOU! Being free from destructive addictions is not complicated as well. 1 Peter 2:24 says, “and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. IT IS A DONE DEAL!

To Liberate or Alienate

Rickcasto's Blog

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”~ John 14:16-17 NASB

Recently, I was online and noticed a discussion that had differing opinions about an expositional issue concerning the Holy Spirit.  There is a gambit of opinions, traditions, and commentary on the subject.  The discussion soon turned personal and was not a display of Christlikeness in my humble opinion. Both individuals had valid points worthy of discussion, however none of it deserving of division among the brethren.  The friendly discussion turned unfriendly and degraded to who had the truth and who was a heretic. Not a good display of discipleship and all very public I might add.

I was struck that the…

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Grateful In The Fire…

I have not blogged in quite some time- that may be why I am feeling so clogged.  Feeling clogged?  You should blog!

This year has had some difficult times for me.  The untimely death of loved ones, people I have poured into and discipled relapse and die form an overdose. The death of dreams and hopes that feel they are so far out of reach that even the passion has faded. Moments of victory laced with incredible valleys of disappointment.

Trying to find meaning in all of this chaos is daunting. The pain and grief is almost like a task master reminding you to bow down and wretch what emotions you have left.  Every fiber of your being crying out for  some relief!   The questions that flood my mind are often pointed to God as indictments instead of faith filled declarations.  My faith feels small and I wonder how God puts up with me.  In this valley I feel God is speaking to me at this moment Malachi 3:3

“He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; he will purify “Rick Casto” (Feel free to insert your name here) and REFINE him/her like gold and silver. Then the LORD will have a person who will bring offerings in righteousness…”  my own personalization if you will.

Refining is a skillful task that can only be handled by a journeyman; in other words the MASTER.  All my attempts to refine myself are short lived moments in time.  I have participated in a multitude of deliverance ministries, inner healing, support groups, retreats, encounters and bible studies. All focused on fixing myself or cleaning myself up; to make myself presentable and acceptable to God. Good luck with that!  I am reminded that God purifies. Not me.

Don’t get me wrong I believe in these ministries of the Church. However, I think the  motives of my heart matter when approaching God.  Underneath all of that; in the heat of the fire, this lie comes to the top.  “I need to be better! I need to be whole to be of worth.”  Lies are powerful when hooked up with belief. So I wrestle with the truth- I am doing this for me- not Him.  I let out a big sigh and ask God to help me replace this lie with the truth.  I can do nothing apart from Him.  Nothing…

Now, I can already hear the sermonizing flowing my way. Faith brother! You have to have faith! Encourage yourself in the LORD man! Hey dude, that is the enemy talking right there! That is not God, you need to take that thought captive and place it under the obedience of Christ, in the name of Jesus!  You are not the tail but the head, you are not beneath but above! You are seated in heavenly places in Christ Jesus!  All my identity scriptures that I have memorized to combat the lies.

Yet- here I am- in the fire, being refined and being remade- again. HE is the potter and I am the not so cooperative clay at times.  I am hoping for this big, deep and fresh revelation and here it is. Submit to God resist the devil and he will flee from from you sometime in the near future; hopefully… Seriously.. It seems, while I am in the fire, I have this habit of placing question marks where God has been placing periods. HELP ME Lord Jesus! I find that I am filling that emptiness with GRATEFULNESS- there is purpose it is just undiscovered.

In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thess 5:18

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”1 Corinthians 15:57

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Corinthians  2:14

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.”~Epicurus

Fruit is not grown on mountain tops; rich fruit is grown in the valleys.

Grateful for the valley,

Rick

A Call to DIE…Suicide and Forgiveness Part 3

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned.”~ Luke 6:37

“because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2:13

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”~ Gal 6:2

I have been thinking a lot on forgiveness and the cost of discipleship that often is not counted in our culture.  Our western culture says, “you can be forgiven if you have been properly punished.” Much of what we seek is justice or judgement instead of mercy and grace. I believe the call of God is to be transformed into the image of His Son. The Son gave us mercy and grace on the cross, yet while we were sinners Christ died for us… Before you and I ever asked for His forgiveness- He died for us.  In other words, he gave us forgiveness before we ever asked for it… Pause and wait for it… We love mercy and grace for ourselves but can be pretty stingy with giving it to someone who does not deserve it… But, did we ever deserve it? NO, I think not.   It was my sin that put Jesus on the cross, right?

1995 was a pretty hard year for me- addicted to crystal meth, and every other foul thing that comes with that territory. I was lost. In the midst of my destruction, tragedy was never far from me. My marriage was a failed mess, in fact she joined the army to get away from me. My family was pretty much done with me and Dad was losing a battle that I understood all to well. Having no hope is certain death.  It was on September 14th (my mom’s birthday) that my Dad thought he would be doing everyone a favor by killing himself.

Dad went into the bedroom, took a revolver and a pillow and did the deed. My little 12 year old brother, my 3 1/2 year old daughter and My Mom heard the muffled noise and had to break into the bedroom to find my Dad.  Paramedics were called, I was called and the whirlwind began. I find it hard to describe the emotions I felt because I was so disconnected, numb and dead inside. Dead is what I really was in those days. The following day held false hopes, disillusionment, guilt, denial, disbelief and dispair.  Quite the demonic symphony.

The week prior to this mess, my Dad told me he was about ready to kill himself. I told him that could not be the answer to the problem. I told no one else of the conversation believing that Dad was just spouting off- yet in my gut I knew something was wrong. Hence my overwhelming feeling of guilt. My addiction was a full time job in those days, and had little time for anything else between work and pretending to be a father to my daughter while simultaneously destroying the things I said I loved.

Dad’s suicide slowed things down for me a little. The following day, my Mom’s pastor was at the hospital waiting with us as we stood by Dad’s bedside. They gave us the news that Dad was not going to make it, too much brain damage… We stood by Dad as they unplugged the machines and we watched his heart beat slowly stop… Even now- after all this time, I get a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. I still miss him and love him.

I was shattered… I informed everyone quietly that I was going to the house to clean up the mess left from Dad’s shooting. The Pastor would not let me go alone; irritated- I relented. It was in this moment that God began working on me.  As I cleaned up the blood and bed sheets, I saw my dad’s wallet and the addict inside me lept for it. As I went through his wallet I found a one dollar bill and it struck me so hard I crumpled almost to me knees and began to sob.  Pastor Paul caught me in a hug and said in a voice of weeping and tenderness that I had not experienced before, “oh Rick, I love you…” I was ruined from that moment on. Jehova Sneaky was doing His work…

Forgiveness was what I needed, the love of God through Paul met me and the process began. I had a very hard time forgiving my Dad, and forgiving my wife for leaving me for the Army. Eventually, I lost it all even my relationship with my daughter, (we were separated for almost 13 years before I would see her again at age 16.) Forgiveness was not easy for me at all!

Paul was my hero that day in every way.  He knew I was a drug addict of the worst kind, a liar, a thief, a drug dealer- it was no secret. Paul insisted on spending time with me that day when even my family wanted to run away. I was not judged or condemned. I was shown mercy that day and it triumphed over judgement. Finally, Paul carried my burden that day and because of his love in action I became a born again Christian. Paul introduced me to a real Savior.

I was reading my bible and read the words that Jesus said hanging on the cross, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” It was a moment I will never forget.  For some reason it read to me, “my dad, my dad, why have you left me?” I was ruined again… I knew that Jesus had felt everything I have ever felt and I was not alone and would never be alone ever again. I was transformed by the truth of the Word. It was no longer just academic it was alive to me.

Forgiveness was a call to die to my selfish nature- holding my Dad accountable for my pain was futile. In trying to protect myself, I created this “bubble” that kept all the pain out, or potential pain makers out. The problem with the “bubble” is that it kept out the love and the potential love makers I needed and wanted as well. When I made the choice to forgive my Dad the “bubble” began to fade, along with all the pain of rejection and betrayal.  It was a process for me not an event- but it all started with the choice I made to forgive.

Let me encourage you today with the reality of Jesus and His love for you. He is very near!  “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”~ Psalm 34:18  Sometimes, it was all I could say in those days… Jesus help me… Jesus save me from myself… Jesus change my heart…  I can say with confidence that Jesus has helped me, is changing me and is saving me from myself!

Blessings!

A Call to DIE- part 2

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”~Philippians 1:21

“An actor struggles to die onstage, but a puppet has to struggle to live. And in a way that’s a metaphor for life.” — Handspring Puppet Company

When we “act” or play the part that people are needing from us so we can be accepted, is like “struggling to die while pretending to live.” I can totally relate with “struggling to die while pretending to live…”  This paradoxical juxtaposition takes a lot of energy to perform and is impossible to complete. This act of placing two or more seemingly contradictory things side by side is completely insane!  Yet, this happens quite often in the Christian life. The dichotomy of the Spirit and the flesh is raging away everyday for this preacher.

In addition, our being crucified with Christ and living by faith at the same time is absolutely impossible in our own strength. Dying to our “self life” is impossible without the power and revelation of the Holy Spirit as guide, comforter and teacher. However, faith is the key to opening the door to the  “Call to DIE.”  I believe the Lord is leading me into a season of death to self. As I typed the last sentence out, I shuttered knowing that it is a true statement inside my spirit.

However, there is also great joy in my heart because I  know that it is the leading of the Holy Spirit- and with His leading to “DIE” comes a season of bearing fruit or fruitfulness after the soil of my heart has been prepared to receive the seed. I do not think this is a formula or check list, but learning to be lead by the Spirit of God. How do you “DIE to self….?” Follow the leading and initial promptings of the Holy Spirit.

God lead Abraham to the place of sacrifice or death of his son then replaced the death of Isaac with the promise of God to multiply Abraham’s seed through the sacrifice God had provided. I believe Abraham was finally dead to making things work his way and had entrusted himself to God to fulfill the promise.

I believe that God’s provision in Jesus was enough- Jesus+Nothing else. The sacrifice that was provided has enabled us to move past our nature to sin into a place of promise and provision. Because it is God’s nature to cause us to “overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.”~Romans 8:37

A Call to DIE

“I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” John 12:24

Hello Internet-

I am reading a new book that is quite good and challenging as well.  I love new perspectives as I re-examine my life and heart. Motives surely dictate some of our tastes and preferences however, I find that motives are the driving force behind my choices in life. Jesus plus nothing equals everything is quite a good read and highly recommend it to anyone! I am seeking a deeper understanding of why some painful things happen to us in life and the purpose of those difficulties as well. I came upon this statement and it totally just blew me away-

“…because Jesus was strong for me, I was free to be weak; because Jesus was extraordinary, I was free to be ordinary; because Jesus succeeded for me, I was free to fail…”~Tullian Tchividjian

Some would argue that it sounds too complacent, not agressive enough, too passive to be of worth. It sounds like trusting God to do what He said he would do for me and you could be too easy?!  The more I read, the more I am compelled that it is truly on point with the heart of God. The question I have is this, “did God call me to a life of striving against my sinful nature?” It seems so far away from John 10:10- “I have come that you may have life and life more abundantly.”

Abundant life- fruitfulness, peace etc.  Am I truly experiencing abundant life right now? And if I am not- why? Hmmm, I think I place some of my creature comforts above sacrificing it all. I think a call to DIE is un-inviting and sounds terribly painful. Yet, for us to be fruitful we must DIE… DIE to all of the idols in our life- things that take over our heart, time and passions. A call to DIE… Here is the ironic part- we can not DIE without help. Without the power to DIE to these things we are just faking it, acting and conforming to please people, maybe to gain acceptance in our world of pain… A call to DIE sounds very unpleasant… Surrendering my life to the King of Kings to do with it as He wills… A call to DIE it is…

The Holy Spirit will lead you to a place of DEATH so HE can resurrect you into the real you! I am on the altar Lord- kill the idolatry inside of my heart Jesus!

Faithfulness Wins

The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. 2 Timothy 2:22

Recently, I was part of one of my staff being promoted to the Director of the Tucson Teen Challenge. It was extremely awesome to see, and it was humbling to have been a part of it. I have to come to realize that faithful men are made in the fires of life and not necessarily born. In addition, I believe God ordains moments for us to exercise our faith and grow into our responsibilities. I am sure had you told Jon or myself that either one of us was going to be pastors 10 years ago we would have laughed in your face!

Over the years I have learned some hard lessons- One lesson that has had a recurring theme is the temptation to use the gifted versus faithful. I have also been guilty of promoting the gifted and trying to make them faithful…No es bueno… The end result is dealing with wreckage from said scenario because the person had no character or what character this person had was “no es bueno.” There is a “patient tarrying” that is called discipleship. Character building takes time, pressure and consistency. Much like a tug boat guiding a huge ship into a harbor. The tug boat applies steady pressure consistantly over an extended period of time to produce a course change. When I look to the example of Jesus I find that He looked for something deeper than ability.

Mark 3:13-14 is an encouragement to us all! “And He went up on the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed twelve, so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach…” NASB 

He called them that “He wanted, so that they would be with Him…” Wow- the fact that He just wants us first is amazing and add the fact that he wants us to be with Him is AWESOME!  But look at the qualities of the folks Jesus summoned to Himself- none were theologians, none had social status, none could give Jesus special access to the powers that be to help the cause. In fact, some were hot headed, judgmental, full of doubt, envious and even quite unpredictable at times. It reminds me that Jesus desires our heart and He guides the course, even applying pressure over an extended period of time to produce change.  

Entrust these things to faithful men- look for the faithful ones!

 

Peace-

PR