About RickThomasNet

Rick Thomas leads a training network for Christians to assist them in becoming more effective soul care providers. RickThomas.Net reaches people around the world through consulting, training, podcasting, writing, counseling, and speaking. In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology, and 1991 he received a BS in Education. In 1993 he was ordained into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s College in Santa Clarita, CA. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). He also received certification from the International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC). His organization is a training center for IABC.

The Canada Conference

RMlogo The Canada Conference

We flew into Calgary, Alberta, Canada on Saturday to meet our friends Chris and Lisa Rice from Bethany Baptist Church, which is in Red Deer, Canada. They scheduled a week of meetings prior to our two-day conference the following weekend.

We spent Saturday night through Monday morning in Canmore and Banff, Alberta, which gave us ample time to walk, talk, and tour. We needed time together to get a good overview of expectations for the week, as well as learn about the church body that we would be serving.

Lisa had done a masterful job prepping the church for this conference, as she partnered with her pastor to serve their congregation. For example, the body has been reading my articles for several months, which gave them a flavor of how we “practicalize the gospel” into lives.

Pre-Conference Prep

Lisa also set up several meetings for me to observe and equip the various teams and ministries, which served as a ramp-up for the conference on Friday and Saturday. Our “conferencing philosophy” is not to “over-prep” until we get onsite and begin learning the church. I did not want to predetermine what I wanted to say until I knew the audience that I would be serving–as well as I could understand them.

The meetings that she had for me were instrumental in gathering the most data to serve them the most effectively. Here is my schedule before the conference.

1. Monday Evening: Met with the Servant Leadership Team to listen as they discussed all their ministry spheres of the church. Then I taught for approximately 30-minutes at the end.

2. Tuesday Morning: Taught the ladies Bible study while interacting with these women by answering their questions based on the discussion.

3. Tuesday Afternoon: Had lunch with the pastor and wife, which was a time to get to know each other and hear their hearts for their people.

4. Tuesday Evening: I attended the elder’s meeting as they covered various topics for one hour and then I equipped them by fielding questions for two hours.

5. Wednesday Morning: Taught the men at their breakfast meeting, which was at the church building.

6. Wednesday Mid-morning: I taught the 65-Alive group, which were the seniors from the church, as well as a few visitors from the community.

7. Wednesday Evening: I taught at the youth meeting, which was also interactive. A total blast!

8. Thursday Morning: Lucia and I met with the church staff to talk about envisioning ideas, things that I had observed thus far, and some plans for future equipping of the church.

9. Thursday Afternoon: We went to lunch with the two pastors and their wives, which was an excellent time of fellowship.

10. Thursday Evening: Lucia and I met with the men’s and women’s leaders for a few hours of questions and answers over light snacks.

These meetings were instructive in that I had met with every demographic of the church, had one counseling session, and several meetings with pastors, leaders, and friends.

The Conference

The conference began on Friday evening where I had two sessions, and several sessions all day Saturday.

They also scheduled me to teach Sunday school and at the preaching hour on Sunday. From Monday to Sunday, there were sixteen teaching contexts, which gave us many opportunities to learn and serve this local body.

I did appeal to them to make all our times together as interactive as possible so I could learn them and adapt along the way. Their questions kept me from doing what I wanted to do.

Do You Know Me?

Our conferencing philosophy is similar to our counseling philosophy in that you don’t want to over-plan without knowing your audience. The best way to help a person or a church is to know them first.

Lisa did a fantastic job in preparing the church before our arrival and then giving me multiple contexts to learn the folks so that I could serve them well.

It was a blessed time. Many tears, deep conversations, encouraged lives, and I trust we collectively advanced the fame of the Father.

Is the Bible True or False?

RMlogo Is the Bible True or False_

After I read the “plan of salvation” in the back of one of those eschatology books, my soul experienced mounting tension. Honestly, it boiled down to only one question that I had to answer. And I intuitively knew that my response to that query would set the course for the rest of my life. So, what would it be? How would I answer? Here is the question.

Is the Bible true or false?

That was it. Pretty simple, aye? The question is a watershed question for anyone: how you answer it will send you in a clearly defined direction. And I knew that my response could be a global paradigm shift for my future.

The reason this question came into view was after I had read that troubling verse in Revelation 20:15. That one sentence tucked in the back of the Bible took things to a whole, new level, and I could not dismiss it.

And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

What’s It Going to Be?

The Bible stated that I would go to Hell if I could not find my name in the book of life. Umm…so what is this book of life, I asked. Answer: “I don’t know.” But Hell? Oh, yeah, I know all about that. My daddy and brothers often requested that I go there.

But this time, it was not about my family’s hyperbolic anger. God was asking me the ultimate question, which I had pared down to, “Is the Bible true or false?” I intuitively knew that it was less about Hell and more about the integrity of the Bible.

To say, the Bible is false meant that I could go on my merry way and enjoy life. Who cares?

And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry” (Luke 12:19).

But if I say that the Bible is true, everything in my life would have to change. So, I went into my muse chamber and began to reason things out. I had to know the truth.

You’re Not Okay, Neither Am I

My culture tells me how great I am. The PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) spinners implore me to have healthy self-esteem because I am somebody. Their positive affirmations about my goodness bombard me every day. All I need to do is think happy thoughts. Even the Christians clichéd me with, “God don’t make no junk.”

But, then, I started reading my Bible, and it had another story. It said that I’m a dirt-bag, a sick sinner, going to Hell, have no hope and the end of my life could not be bleaker. Shoot, even the good stuff that I do is filthy (Isaiah 64:6).

The happy people in our world, a lot of whom are on medication, were selling a message that could not be more contrary to the words of the Bible. (Cf. Romans 3:10-12, 23, 6:23) What was I going to do?

The End of the Matter

I concluded that humans didn’t write the Bible. Someone else had to write it. Up to that point, I had spent my teenage years and early twenties reading PMA books, and all of them told me that I’m a fantastic person. Truthfully, I stunk, and I knew it. They were trying to put lipstick on this pig.

There is no question that a person’s view of themselves is elevated. We are in love with ourselves. We are self-exalting. There is no way a human would write a book that says we’re not like what every intelligent, self-esteem groping human in the world believes.

Someone else had to write the Bible. Its view of humanity is deplorable. And it went on to say that we can’t save ourselves no matter how highly we think of ourselves (Romans 10:9, 13). My conclusion led to more questions. One specifically: Who, then, did write the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16-17)?

It was at that point when I made my decision. God wrote the Bible, and I was going to Hell because my name was not in the book of life.

My path was now set.

The year was 1984.

I Loved My 1966 Volkswagen

RMlogo I Loved My 1966 Volkswagen

I’m not sure if the first child is always the favored child, but in our family that was the case. Robby had his way with my parents and got virtually anything he wanted. That is my perspective, though I admit a bit of historical reconstruction.

The Little Brother

The truth is that Robby was four years older than me and that was old enough in “kid years” to put us in two different worlds, especially when you throw in a pinch of dysfunction. When I went to first grade, he was in the fourth and was moving on with his life.

It took me to the third grade to adjust to school life, which put him in the seventh. And by the time he was in high school, he might as well have been part of another family. I did not know him at all. And he had Joey, who was a year younger.

The Big Rip Off

The most significant time that I remember being angry about his “most favored status” was when he wanted a car. My dad took $1000 from my bank account to buy him a Volkswagen. It was nearly all the money that I had. I was fourteen at the time.

Being a minor, my dad was in charge of my bank account. The “parental consent” clause gave him the ability to control the money. I remember having a savings book, which was the coolest thing to watch the money grow week by week in that account.

Dad took the money to buy Robby a purple, metal-flaked 1966 Volkswagen. I was ticked. I had worked for two years at Jud’s Restaurant bussing tables to save that money, and then, poof. What Robby wanted, he got. That incident was the beginning of the end for me with my dad. By the time I was fifteen, I left home, to live with my grandmother.

The End of the Road

The car was passed down to Joey after Robby went to prison. Then Joey went to prison, and I got “my car.” I was sixteen. By that time, the car had seen its best years. I re-carpeted it, added some cool speakers, and enjoyed it for a few months.

I skipped school with Chip Simpson to go to Greensboro, NC (100 miles away) to pick up some wrestling tickets for a big show they were having. On the way back, the car blew a rod, just outside of Greensboro, and we had to hitchhike home. We made it home “from school” at 11 PM. It was not a good day.

I had just started working for Hardee’s food chain that week and had to call in to let my boss–Steve Johnson–know that I would not make it that day. I did not tell him that we skipped school, blew a rod, and was hitch-hiking 100 miles home with a case a beer. Mercifully, he let me keep my job.

My dad had a wrecker service drop the car off at a mechanic friend. The guy said it would cost more to repair than it was worth, so I gave the car to the mechanic to cover the towing cost and his time.

That was the second time I got ripped off for that car.

Threatening Hell to Get Me to Heaven

RMlogo Threatening Hell to Get Me to Heaven

After my lunch break, where I told my friends that I did not believe Bible, I went to my machine to finish my day. I was standing at the end of my lathe when my boss, Ricky Price, approached and asked if I believed what I said at the lunch table. I told him that I did, to which he said, “You’re going to hell.”

He was not over the top about it, or angry or pushy. He had a matter of fact communication style, which I appreciated because he was clear and there was nothing to read “between the lines.” Interestingly, I did not audibly respond to him about his “evangelistic approach,” but I do remember thinking to myself,

No, I’m not going to hell, and I’m going to prove you wrong.

Disagreeing with Ricky did not imply that I had any authoritative information to defend my position. I was defenseless because I was ignorant about God’s Word. But what he said did motivate me to prove him wrong. Of course, there was a problem; I did not enjoy the Bible because it made no sense to me. I had a Sunday school Bible from my previous First Baptist Church experience, and I tried reading it. It was a futile attempt.

Can you say, “boring?”

Remembering that there was a Christian bookstore in my town, I went there to get some books about the Bible. I purchased, Satan Is Alive and Well On Planet Earth, The Rapture, Approaching Hoofbeats, and The Late Great Planet Earth. I did not buy these books because of their theological integrity. They all had cool covers, i.e., fire, satan, hell.

Sometimes being cool is better than being theological. – Rick Thomas

All these books dealt with Eschatology, though I would not recommend or agree with their theology today. I did not know about “end time theology” back then because I’d never heard of Eschatology. Later, I appreciated the Lord’s irony, as He led me to read books on heaven, hell, and end times, the very thing I was going to disprove.

In the back of all those books was a plan for salvation. They stated in their own way that I needed to believe in God, trust Christ, and follow Him…something like that. They were saying what Ricky said in his blunt style:

If you are not a Christian, you are going to hell.

There was more detail than that, but the bottomline about my eternal destiny was all that mattered to me at the time. I remember laying on my double-bed in my double-wide mobile home on Helms Pond Road asking God in imprecise language to save me.

I acknowledged my sinfulness. I wanted Christ to make me new. I believed what those authors were saying about God, life, death, and eternity. I believed that Ricky was right. That was the day–sometime in October of 1984–that God regenerated me.

Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” – Jesus (John 3:7)

Chad, Katie, and the Tallest Building in Bismarck

RMlogo Chad, Katie, and the Tallest Building in Bismarck

With much sadness, we left our three weeks, five-day visit with Lucia’s sister and family. We had to press on as there was much more to see and do. Our next stop was North Dakota to meet Chad and Katie, and visit the state capitol.

While we were at the President Trump rally, I posted some pictures of our trip and one of our supporters, Katie, saw what we were doing and said we should stop in and visit them since they were so close.

In the south, when someone says, “Y’all come see us,” we do not always mean it. It’s one of those southern expressions with more air than substance, but I’m a literalist, mostly. So when you invite me over for a meal, I might take you up on it.

And we did.

Chad and Katie have been supporting us for years and part of our “travel objectives” is to visit with our members. It took about three weeks for us to make the arrangements because we were not sure when we were going to leave the Colberts in Euclid.

We do “adventure driving,” which means we plan very little ahead of time. Our traveling is more on the spur of the moment because you never know who or what you might see, (i.e., Chad and Katie), so we keep our agenda open and loose, which is always a more exciting travel experience.

Fargo Again

So we finally made it to our members, who live outside Fargo. They had three girls, and appear to live out in the country, though most of western Minnesota and North Dakota is spacious. Chad and Katie have several acres on a hill that overlooks a beautiful lake.

Chad is in the military, so there was much that he could not tell me, though it was fun listening to what he could say. He did let us try on his jet pilot’s helmet, which was snug for my giant head.

Their girls were super-mature for such a young age. I was impressed with their demeanor, as well as their conversational ability. You could tell that they had been around older folks, as they were comfortable talking to strangers.

We had an excellent meal, and Chad had me sign my book that they just ordered. That was awkward, as I’m not comfortable doing that, and did not factor it into the book publishing process.

Interestingly, Chad emailed me a few days after our visit saying he wanted to enroll in our Mastermind program. Well, praise God. I need to visit more members.

He has been following our work for years. Chad told me that he listens to the podcasts all the time as he goes back and forth from work. It’s about a forty minute drive, which gives him ample time to take in a lot of our content.

Checkout our two podcast, here: Your Daily Drive and Life Over Coffee podcasts

Bismarck

Afterward, we left for Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota. We had no particular reason for going there other than it was there. And there is not much in North Dakota, to be honest with you.

We got to tour the capitol building and the grounds. There was also a museum next door, which was nice. We love factory tours and museums.

The lady in charge of the guest sign-in asked us three times to make sure that we signed their guest book. She said they don’t get many folks from the south. One person did quizzically ask why we were in North Dakota. The vibe they gave was that there might be something wrong with us.

Of course, that’s not arguable.

Next stop: Badlands, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.

Pigs, Preachers and Leaping Dogs

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RMlogo Pigs and Preachers in Fertile

Where can you find pigs, preachers, leaping dogs, carnival rides, tractors, and food? You guessed it: the county fair in Fertile, Minnesota, next to Climax. These multi-day events happen all over the midwest during the summer. We attended the one in Fertile.

And it was great.

Because it was Sunday and they had “preaching on the grounds,” we decided to combine our Sunday church service with the country fair. I did miss the fine print that said the preacher would be a woman. At least she didn’t distort the gospel since she never talked about it. The music was good, though.

Foot tapping good.

The upside is that they transformed the preaching area into a parade route where everyone in the county with a tractor, old car, or trailer came through throwing candy at us. And for a bonus, they redid the area again into a demolition derby.

It’s amazing at what you can do to a church service if you have a pile of dirt and a few front-end loaders.

We Could Not Resist

Our goal was to mill around for a bit and then go home, but there was so much happening that our “milling around” turned into an all day, early evening event. It was that good.

The smell of pigs, horses, cows, chickens, ducks, hamsters, dogs, and cats was stupendous. It was a “full on” countrified event that entirely satisfied my inner-redneck. And then there were the rides, the petting zoo, all sorts of 4H displays, plenty of food, and four-wheeled everything.

We toured the barns first. They had scores of prized animals, big and small. I had no idea that there were so many brands of rabbits. Or chickens.

After the barnyard, we went to the petting zoo where we saw birds, camels, llamas, potbelly pigs, goats, and more. (We have since talked about getting one of those little pigs. They were so cute.)

Be a Kid at the County Fair

Later, we could not resist the rides, or at least two of my children could not. Tristen seems to be in the later stages of her childhood.

Now, I’m sad.

But I’m dealing with it, though I have not come to terms with her growing lack of desire for kid things.

Fortunately, the two other children are clinging to these wonderful years, but the clock is ticking for them too. In the meantime, they got their “fix on” by riding most of the rides. Multiple times. I was so happy for them.

The biggest draw was the dog jumping contest. The fairground folks had filled a large pool with water and then had the dogs jump from a platform into the water. Each trainer threw a “bone looking thing” way out in front of the dog as it was leaping from the platform. The judges had a laser that measured the dog’s jump distance.

Step Back in Time

It was a great opportunity, and we can check it off our list, though I’m game to do it again. And again.

It did appear that many of the folks took the county fair seriously. The 4H kids were the most serious. Pig and pie competition is big business as it sets the youngsters up for future college and vocational choices.

The country residents were also into it, which I suppose it is because there is not much to do in the area. The towns are small, and the endless fields are massive. And the work is hard, a far cry from a lot of my fellow Americans.

I did appreciate the simple life in the breadbasket of our country. I was also grateful for the lack of civil discord and nonsensical noise that seems to be accelerating at warp speed everywhere else.

There was also a tent meeting with an old-timey preacher doing his thing. Nine people were attending. All of them except for one teen was over sixty years old. I’m not sure what to think about that. They seemed out-of-step and disconnected from our culture. It was an innocuous echo from another era. Nobody was interested in what they were doing. Sigh.

Where the Mississippi Begins

RMlogo The Headwaters of the M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I

We knew it had to begin somewhere. But where? Katherine told us about the headwaters of the Mississippi River being two hours away. When you travel 10,000 miles, two hours from anywhere is no big deal. So off we went.

It was Lake Itasca at Itasca State Park. Explorers back in the day found it and others affirmed that this is the place where the Mississippi River begins. It ranks as the fourth-longest and fifteenth-largest river in the world by discharge.

No doubt it’s surreal to think about how small it begins when you consider the massiveness of the river at other places. We saw it recently in Davenport, IA. We have seen it many other times, and it’s always impossible to keep your head in your devices when you cross one of the many bridges that take you over the mighty river.

There is a lake in Itasca as well as a lot of reading material. There were trails to hike and a store to buy stuff. And, of course, the mosquitoes. Oh, my.

“Dear Jesus, deliver me from these little menace bloodsuckers.”

We did drive partly through the park and dashed out to see a few attractions like the biggest tree in the park. I say, “dashed” because that is what we had to do in our futile attempt to dodge and outrun the mosquitos.

Futile it was.

Chick-fil-A Day

The day we were in Itasca was also Chick-fil-A Day, so we donned our cow attire and made another dash; this time to the only Chick-fil-A near us, which was several hours away in Grand Forks.

Come on, Chick-fil-A. We need more stores up north.

With our suits adjusted, we went in only to find out that they changed the rules: they stopped the free giveaways at 7 PM. We were there by 8:30.

Shazam.

(I did share this story with my friend in Laredo, TX, who happens to own a store. He sent us some coupons. And, no, I did not tell him my sad saga to “work him” for some coupons. I wanted to know if the Grand Forks store had a new rule or if it was company-wide. It was company-wide.)

Next stop: The County Fair in Fertile, near Climax, Minnesota