I am a recovering KNOW IT ALL….

The Teen Challenge Southwest and Northwest Regional conference was a blessing this year, and I found some fodder for the preaching ministry this week as well. I am always challenged and intrigued by the view point and wisdom of those who have have forged new Teen Challenge centers, ministry works and the like- all from a “word from God” and the many trials and tests that they have passed and failed. I was recently reminded why it so important to make time to spend listening to the voice of God and be still and know that HE is God.  There were many leaders present at said conference and some are well known and very Godly and humble to say the least- the anointing was very present in their life. Awesome- is the word that kept coming to my mind. I was feeling quite small and insignificant in scheme of things, funny how making comparisons will leave you feeling the exact opposite of what the word declares, nevertheless, there you have it. I was gathering “all the things I know” and presenting them in a package that I felt would make me feel a little more important and not so, well, inexperienced.  SHEESH…HELP ME JESUS!!!  In retrospect, as I look back on the gathering- I learned some things that I feel are valuable and worth noting.

1. Make time to do things right; some things you can not do over. One of the presenters who was well known and famous to us Teen Challenge folks was not well prepared and it showed. Confusing dialogue and broad topics added to the fray as I tried to find the path he was presenting. I really wanted to get something out of this workshop!  I realized that relying on your status or position and experience will not make up for a sloppy presentation- We generally have our first impression to folks around us as a “living epistle,” let’s be legible. Be excellent in all you do, and in all you do, do it for HIM.  I did get something out of it- see next point!

2. Become a “learner” instead of a “knower.” The “knower” assimilates knowledge to be secure in his circle, to have  all the answers and be “the man,” so to speak. The “knower” is insecure and his power  and security rests in the “knowing of facts,” the pursuit of knowledge is not about being a help it is about being the one who “knows it all,” It is about control or the lack of it, the “knower” can not be influenced or taught.  A learner is willing to be influenced and taught- he is a sponge in absorbing truth and applying truth to become more like Christ, not to be “one up” in the conversation. Humility is the key word in a learners disposition, he has ceased from striving and has learned to wait, and process the truth and then apply it to his life FIRST.  THE KNOWER IS PROUD the LEARNER IS HUMBLE. The learner is in process and the knower presents himself as if he has almost arrived.

3. Run to the Source of life not from it.  The conference had something special just for me- it was like God set the table so I could eat real food and real drink and be satisfied. I am always hesitant to share my weaknesses publicly because the “religious and pious” can be quite the “knowers” when I share my heart. After all, having the right answer is more important that sharing ones burdens, or esteeming another higher than one’s self- sarcasm intended. I digress, I have recently been challenged with a set of new fatherly duties alien to the “knower” it is called LISTENING! Not for information mind you, to be regurgitated later for some self serving rhetoric, But soul listening- or maybe soul hearing. My oldest daughter has been struggling with an injury to her knee, and she has been asking hard questions that I do not have the answer for. “Dad, why has God not healed me yet?”  “I am so angry at God right now dad….” Wow….. My daughter tends to push me away when she struggles with her faith and trials. It hurts my heart to see her struggle. My tendency is to “solve her problems” in the bigger scheme of things this is an EPIC FAILURE on my part….. You guessed it, I am a recovering “knower” and I instantly wanted to spout off all I knew in the scriptures of faith and standing and believing and that doubt is from the devil and so on I spoke with some peers of mine from ministry and humbled myself to ask their opinion and counsel and they said “just affirm her and listen to her.” WHAT? REALLY?  IT SOUNDED TOO SIMPLE.  So I risked “not knowing the answer,” to apply this new wisdom and it was just what my daughter needed, she needed my heart, not my head!  My daughter needed me-her father- to listen and affirm her ability to hear from God; and to stand firm, and not to find fault in her moment of weakness. Then God spoke to my heart later and said that I do the same thing when I am struggling- I push Him away as I try to solve the problem with my FAITH, and knowledge of the WORD and that I traded “knowing the answer” from “Knowing Him!”  KNOWING THE ANSWER IS NOT THE SAME AS KNOWING HIM! Intimacy with Jesus is more important than having all the answers to life’s problems. AT SOME POINT IN MY JOURNEY I TRADED BEING THE ONE WHO KNOWS THE ANSWERS FOR KNOWING THE ONE WHO HAS THE ANSWERS. SO, I AM TRADING UP OR TRADING BACK- REPENTING IS WHAT I AM DOING!


My Testimony

Testimony of Rev. Rick Casto

Former Drug Addict ~ Now Director of Teen Challenge

I was raised in a violent home.  Physical fighting with emotional and verbal abuse was a normal part of every day. I started looking for peace and approval outside my family but looked in all the wrong places.  I wanted to be liked and I wanted to be cool.  The kids I felt comfortable with, where I fit in, was with those smoking pot and drinking beer. Following their path led me into a life filled with more physical and emotional abuse than I ever dreamed possible.  By the time I was 17 I had become a full-blown cocaine addict with all its robotic actions and destructive consequences.

I worshiped the needle.  But it too abused me.  I was infected with hepatitis and became very sick.  This didn’t stop my journey into drug use.  Some friends introduced me to crystal-meth and my life spiraled straight down into the pit of hell before I knew what was happening. The darkness of meth addiction is unbelievable; it steals your mind, it cripples your emotions, and it controls your will. Lying, stealing, committing every kind of crime is just the beginning of a life under the dictatorship of Meth.

Getting arrested and going to jail became routine for me.  My family was devastated by my actions.  I knew I was making wrong decisions but I just could not quit. In the middle of all that madness my father committed suicide. My 3½ year-old daughter Ashley found him.  It is very hard to describe the anger, the hurt and the despair that churned inside my gut. I felt like it was my fault that my dad had taken his life.  Shortly after that my wife divorced me and I was no longer a part of my daughter’s life.

I didn’t think life could get any worse.  I didn’t think life would ever get any better.  I walked into the tomb of addiction not really expecting to ever be free from the chains that bound me. I knew deep inside my heart that I too was committing suicide while everyone that loved me watched. The guilt and the shame of what I had become were unbearable.

That year I was again arrested for possession of a dangerous drug.  This time no one would bail me out. I sat in jail alone.  No longer able to get high or drunk my body cleared itself of the drugs and alcohol and their numbing effects.  Sober, I looked at my bail sheet and it read “transient” that is when I began to cry out for God’s help.

Even though I was released from jail and placed on probation I could not stop using meth.   I wanted to stay clean, to straighten out my life; but, I just could not quit.

I violated my terms of probation and was headed back to jail when the mercy of God met me.  Not wanting to go to jail, I asked my probation officer if I could go to Teen Challenge instead.   February 19th 1999, I entered Teen Challenge in Phoenix.  Anger still smoldered within me.  In fact, it took time to understand that really I was hurt more than I was angry.  While doing my required devotions one morning I was “arrested” by the words of Jesus as he hung on the cross, “My God my God why have you forsaken me?”  To me those words cried out, “my father my father why have you forsaken me?”  It was a galvanizing moment and one of the first times God spoke to me.  God began to heal the scars and peel away the protective shell I had put on during the years of abuse from my father. I finally understood all that Jesus had suffered for my sake.  He had suffered it all–even feeling rejected by his father. Teen Challenge was God’s hand healing me from years of destruction both from my family and to myself.

Soon after that, during one of the Wednesday night chapel services, God removed the desire of addiction from my heart.  He replaced it with a stronger desire–to go into ministry.  I couldn’t believe how much my life had changed in just a few short months.  From years of no purpose and no hope I faced a new life full of purpose, full of God’s loving guidance.  This path I was eager to travel.

As I approached my graduation from the Teen Challenge program, I was asked by the Director of the Christian Life Ranch to do an internship.  Becoming a part of Teen Challenge as a staff member was harder than going through the program as a student! The Lord began to mature me and grow me through the leadership at Teen Challenge.  In 2003, I received the privilege to attend Western Bible College while I continued working for Teen Challenge.  I just could not believe how good my life had become. I thought it couldn’t get any better…until I met Marie.  Marie was working for an evangelist setting up crusades and mission trips, working out of the church I attended in Scottsdale.  I asked Marie to marry me on Valentines Day 2004.

Today, I am the Center Director at the Christian Life Ranch–the very center where God had spoken to me and changed my life forever.  Marie and I minister together to the men going through the recovery program and to the staff and their families.

2007 was a year of even more miracles and restoration.  I had been separated from my daughter Ashley and had not seen or spoken to her since 1995.  Every lead I had, every search I made had come up blank.  On February 12th 2007, which happens to be Ashley’s birthday, the Lord spoke to my heart.  He gave me the verse Isaiah 42:9, “He would make all things new.”   We had just found out that Marie was pregnant and I thought God was confirming what was already taking place.   He was; but not the way I thought.  My daughter Ashley contacted me!  She wanted to get to know her father!  And, she knew Jesus Christ as her own personal Saviour.  In fact, Ashley goes on her first missions’ trip with her youth group this summer!  Since that phone call, she has visited Marie and I and we are building a strong relationship.  Truly, God is making all things new!  To God be the glory great things HE has done!  I didn’t believe it possible; but, since choosing God’s path, my life has only gotten better and better.

As the Director of the Christian Life Ranch I receive the additional blessing of overseeing addicts and men with other life-controlling problems become new creations in Christ and begin their own paths filled with hope and promise.  It gives me an extreme feeling of fulfillment   God has placed a passion in me to preach and teach His Word.  Looking back on my former life, this is amazing.  Watching new testimonies being formed by the hand of God is truly awesome.

God is no respecter of persons, what He has done for me He will do for anyone who will put their trust in Jesus.  Over the years my testimony has changed because the Lord continues to change me.  He continues to use me, to do miracles for and through me, and to bless me.  I am following God’s path and my life is an ongoing testimony that God is able and does do exceedingly abundantly above all that I (my family or anyone else) could think or ask according to the power that works inside of me.   To God be all the praise and Glory.  Amen!