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…

View original post 655 more words

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

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  

To Liberate or Alienate

“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 debate was more about who possessed the truth and not about discovering each others position and why they held that particular view. It degraded to the age old division, “I am right and you are wrong…”  My time in ministry has taught me some valuable lessons, but one lesson that stands out above all else is that people are important to Jesus so much so he died for every one of them. Jesus did not come to teach doctrine per se but to make dead folks come alive. Leonard Ravenhill said it best, “Jesus did not come to make bad men good, He came to make dead men alive.”

I think at times we have little faith or patience in the ability of the Holy Spirit to teach, correct, guide and lead- He said in John 16:13 that He would in fact tell us things we do not know. Over the years I have come to the realization that I am dependent on the Holy Spirit for all truth, including the truth I think I know already. In addition, if I can not help those who are weaker in their faith and beliefs and I use the Bible to destroy a believer’s confidence- who am I working for or with really?  Seldom did Jesus use what I would call a “hot rebuke” towards his followers, it was usually towards the religious folks that He addressed- yet I still believe that Jesus’ goal was not to alienate but to liberate.

As a pastor I deal with lies that folks believe all the time, it can be frustrating at times to be sure. However, I wonder how frustrating I was when I was brand new!  The abiding power of the Holy Spirit is awesome and without equal, His patience without limits and I find that participating with the Holy Spirit is much more liberating and advantageous to those that I shepherd. Patience and humility are the keys is making disciples; you can not make anyone believe but you can lead people to the Revealer of Truth.  Bickering, judging, name calling, slandering, finger pointing are not the places the Holy Spirit leads me to. Usually that is the flesh and it has a bi-product of death.

Paul’s day saw many lies and teachings that where not from the heart of God- from the Jew and the Gentile alike. Paul lived in a culture steeped in tradition and hedonism, from Mars Hill to the Jewish synagogue- lies of the enemy abounded.  Yet Paul did not stand on Mars Hill and declare that they were all believing lies and doomed to hell. In fact, he found the one commonality between them and preached the Good News!  Exposing lies that an individual may believe at the expense of the relationship is destructive.  Even when Paul opposed Peter to his face about Peter’s hypocrisy, I believe it was with a motive of love to restore right fellowship among the brethren. Paul’s heart was apparent.  Paul’s motives were always to communicate the heart of God.

I believe Paul used his freedom for liberating not alienating folks form the truth that sets us free.

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. 1 Cor 9:19-23 NIV

Peace-

PR

GRACE

I read a very interesting blog today and it made me think on how important our belief system is and how it points to the reality of what we really believe, i.e if I say I believe that smoking will kill me and I keep smoking, I really do not believe that smoking will kill me by my actions. The true belief in my heart destroys the mental assent of what I like to tell myself and is replaced by the true belief that “I need to smoke to relax, or deal with stress…”

The hurdle is replacing the lies I believe with the truth and the empowerment to apply it to my life. GRACE! Grace is the ability to overcome the lies I believe and it accepts me right where I am at and believes in me before I do or change anything.
Acceptance of who I am before I change a thing is what makes grace so powerful and controversial. When I came to Jesus He did not say to me, “Clean your act up, then I will accept you…”

Yet, I find that people spend a lot of time trying to control behavior, like diets, programs, and the like, instead of creating an environment where GRACE can happen and real change takes place. I am still on the journey discovering God’s GRACE- it really is HIS DNA and I am closer to the One who made this all possible.

Random thoughts on Overcoming

Recently, I have been zeroing in to some things I really want changed in my life. The obstacles to my Faith and the disciplines that are necessary to achieve success. I have found that discipline seems very unpleasant. However, the payoff is exponential in habits that are healthy for your mind, body and your soul. A roadblock that has hindered me since I was a young boy has been my eating habits. My family celebrated and medicated with food- and so do I. Have a bad day- EAT SOME STEAK! Have an awesome day CELEBRATE WITH RED LOBSTER. The irony of it is that we need food for fuel and when you are like a drug addict with food, this presents a problem! Would it be possible for a heroin addict to continue using drugs and say, “I am not an addict?” Obviously, he can not. Yet for me, I find the struggle just as terrible as that. I need food for fuel and the struggle to eat the right amounts of the right foods at the right times. ARGH! I came up with a plan a couple of days ago (it was the Holy Spirit) but this idea came barreling out of my heart- You need to FAST…….. What? How can that be a good idea…LOL Anyway, my next step is to embark onto a 7 day fast that would be a fast unto the Lord to break the “the yoke of bondage.” I have lost weight and have even started to work out regularly- When I started this journey I was 300 lbs! I am down to 235- Praise the Lord! Yet the yo-yo effect is still there- Lord Jesus help me overcome!

The Silver Bullet…

I was pondering on the struggles we often have as we come out of the desert of sin and the affects of the past. How I often wished there was a magic wand- a genie in the lamp, a Walt Disney character that had the magic dust… Something nice and painless that made all the poor choices and life altering decisions vanish. Anyway, the reality of  dying to “self “and denying “self” is still difficult at times no matter how long or genuine our walk with Jesus is.   One group of people will say, “All you need is FAITH,” and another will say, “His Grace is Sufficient for me” and yet another will say- DISCIPLINE YOURSELF! I would say they are right, however my experience in working with guys coming out of addiction is that it requires a combination of all three working in concert together bringing us to maturity in Christ. The goal is to become like Christ-.  I have  decided in my  heart that God is always teaching me the art of surrendering to the Lordship of the Holy Spirit in all areas of this life. In other words- walking in the Spirit of God.  I must confess that reading the word, praying and fellowship are my life source- yet the pain of the carnal nature is real, the loss of dreams and the pressure of being in leadership can all take center stage at times in my life. Things I wish  I had not said in anger- regret from missing the mark. The pain of seeing a long term dream turn to ashes before my eyes. Watching a dear loved one destroy their life with booze and drugs. You start looking for the silver bullet!- I feel like Neo from “The Matrix” ~Everyone believes in me except me! I have felt like NEO just before he lets go of what he thinks he knows and goes to confront the enemy he says, “There is no spoon” and flys into battle holding onto an elevator cable as he disconnects it from the elevator itself! YIKES!  He denies the momentary safety to embrace a greater reality! JESUS is the greater reality! GLORY!   – Galations 5:24  “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The carnal man desires comfort above all else- even at the cost of relationships at times. The carnal man does not want to DIE! Yet Jesus said some pretty hard things like, “If any man desire to come after me he must DENY himself, take up his CROSS and follow me.” CRUCIFIED is a very violent term!  The Apostle Paul was not using a bunch of “sugar coated” words to convey to the Galatians what must be done to the flesh….I do not know about you but I am tired of the “Self Help” sermons and the self appointed behavior police, and the heresie hunters that have infected the church. The cry of my heart and the cry of many that are hurting and lost is Give us Jesus. Jesus is more than a “Silver Bullet” He is more than an “addictive” to make my life better. He is the “Great I AM!” He is the King of the Armies of the God Most High! I like to remind myself that all the cleaver quips and fortune cookie “Christianese” can not replace time with the KING!  The cry of the Lords heart is “be with me.” Mark 3:13-14 “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…” He still says this to us today- Follow Me. While there is breath in your lungs there is hope- some of the most painful things that I have endured have turned into stories of victory and promise- stay in the fight!