The Birth Of Our Ministry

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I disdained my job at BMW (the German car manufacturer, or as we say down here, Bubba Makes Wheels). We have a plant in my town. Ironically, the money I made during those five years (1995-2000) is what enabled us (from a human perspective) to have our current ministry; we were able to be nearly debt-free.

The job was hard, and I was a regular complainer to God about the hardships. I had two Bible degrees, which led me to a production job on an assembly line. (The things they don’t tell you in Bible college.) It was evident to me that God did not want me to be there, so I let Him know my perspective regularly.

One day, I was going through my “grumbling to God routine.” The Lord, not agreeing with my perspective, said, “Once you stop grumbling, you should look around and see all the ministry you could do in this place.”

Gee, whiz, Lord. I think I’ll do that.

Besides Women and Children

And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. – Matthew 14:21

He further reminded me of the feeding of the 5000 where it said, “There were 5000 men, not counting the women or the children.” God wanted me to know that if you added all the spouses, children, and relatives to the 2000 BMW employees, I could impact a lot of lives for His fame.

I began to think how impacting these employees would spread to their families and communities.

Okay, Lord, I repent. I’ll stop grumbling about this awful job.

The next day, I found a Bible study that some folks were doing during lunch. I joined them. In two weeks, I was leading it. From there, a series of other events transpired. Many missional opportunities.

I started making hospital visits. We began another Bible study so more folks could attend. We took up collections for a local family. We ended up on two TV news programs and newspapers. Eventually, I submitted a proposal to become the BMW corporate chaplain. They rejected my offer, but told me on the side,

We can’t let you be the chaplain because if we do, the atheists and other groups will want their chaplains. But we don’t want you to stop what you’re doing. You’re having a positive effect on the employees.

I decided to submit another version of my proposal to my local church. They loved it and hired me part-time, asking me to build a counseling ministry. What I did not know is that they had been praying for a counseling ministry at their church. They also paid for my MA Biblical Counseling degree.

Just Stop It

Once I repented of my grumbling, clarity came, e.g., I started and finished my MABC on the BMW production line. I’ve always said that “BMW is a vehicle” in that it takes you from point A to point B. The Lord used that miserable job to get my heart realigned to His higher purposes. And through that awful job, BMW took me to this fantastic ministry.

Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that flutters over its young, spreading out its wings, catching them, bearing them on its pinions. – Deuteronomy 32:11

Sometimes the Lord stirs up your nest because He wants to teach you how to fly (Isaiah 40:31). In typical human fashion, we begin this process by complaining about the Lord’s “nest stirring.”

Imagine what might happen if you stopped complaining and started exploring what the Lord may be up to in your life. For me, it began when I looked across the production plant floor at BMW and saw 2000 employees, “not counting the women and the children.”

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Counseling Success Six Years After Counseling

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Tonight, our family went to a friend’s 60th birthday bash. He and his wife were born a couple of days apart, so we all had a double celebration. It was a great event.

One of their daughters, along with a few other folks, spearheaded the event. After we arrived, I spoke with his daughter; she thanked me for helping her and her husband through some marriage issues six years ago. I remember it well.

Later in the evening, the husband approached me and expressed gratitude, though he admitted to lying and damage control during our counseling sessions. The counseling did not have the intended effect, as it was a few more years before he came to an end of himself and cleaned up his act.

He told me that after our counseling season ended he began listening to Drive-By Marriage (DBM), our 31-lesson marriage series, on his way to and from work. It was DBM that the Lord used to capture his heart. He repented and had been walking out repentance for the past three years.

Post-Counseling Success

While I was so encouraged by his gratitude, I was struck (again) by the reality that the counseling season is so often not the season when change happens. Most counseling times are periods of watering and planting, not change (1 Corinthians 3:6). Too often, counselors and counselees are put “in a spot” by elevating their season together as a time for a change to happen when change rarely happens during that short period.

God grants repentance, not disciplers (2 Timothy 2:24-25), and it’s unusual for folks to change after two, four, or six counseling sessions. My friend is an example of this truth. He transformed several years after we met. It was only after he came to “an end of himself” did transformation come his way (Luke 15:17). And that “end” did not happen during counseling.

A Spouse’s Perseverance

He was full of joy and gratitude for what the Lord did for him, and I rejoiced with him too. Later I stopped to share with his wife my gratitude for the grace of God in her life as she persevered with her husband. Too often, spouses are exasperated, exhausted, bitter, and even angry about what is happening to them and their marriages. Though it was hard on her, she persevered and stayed the course.

I told her that I remember standing beside my son’s baseball field, taking a call from her, from another city in South Carolina. She was struggling so much. She was at her rope’s end. But she stayed the course. She fought. She persevered. She is a testimony of God’s grace. While we rejoice at his transformation, I did not want her testimony of God’s grace to go unnoticed. She received my encouragement with tears.

As for this old counselor, it’s good to hear about the victories, even if they come six years after you meet with a person. God is so good to all of us. He persevered with me for twenty-five years before transformation came.

God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8

Mexico. Revisited.

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My pastor friend in Mexico has done an excellent job in working through the problem of having me come for a series of meetings. After another round of talks with his pastor friends, they are okay currently with me speaking, though I won’t be speaking at one church because I’m divorced.

This issue is not something for Christians to respond in anger. Paul was clear in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, as he laid out how to respond to those who have unbiblical perspectives; he said knowledge leads to arrogance but love builds unity.

Though you or I may have knowledge about this matter, to beat our collective chests while looking down on those who have training in legalism would be sinful. We hold our perspectives with humility and love, not with condescending attitudes.

I sent this email, below, to my friend in response to the “dust-up” because he asked for my perspective on this issue. Part of my response to him addressed the idea of a sinner teaching behind a pulpit, which is a big deal for these pastors.

Different But Unified

Thank you for your thoughtful email. We are not struggling in any way. All is well with our souls. We will do whatever you want us to do. I do not want to be a stumbling block to anyone in Mexico, so if not coming will accomplish this right goal, then I do not wish to teach in your area.

But if everyone is “in faith” for our visit, then let’s do it. I would only ask that I be used in all possible ways because I’m not looking for a vacation. I go to meetings and conferences to work hard, not to relax, and I want you all to get the most from us. Our joy is to serve, not for you to serve us (Mark 10:45).

As for divorce? I believe Paul told Timothy that a pastor must have no more than one wife. I have only one. My first wife committed adultery and two years later dissolved the marriage. I did not divorce her. I sought reconciliation right up until the judge pronounced us divorced, and it’s a matter of court record that I was against it. I was clear on that matter.

She then married, divorced, and remarried a third time before I ever met and married Lucia. My first wife is no longer my wife, and I only have one. Though I was a pastor for five years, I am not now. I do not see myself as disqualified from being a pastor, though I do not believe the Lord has called me to pastor at this time. I have no desire for the noble office.

Missional Christians Teach

There is no teaching that I’m aware of that says I cannot teach Christians God’s Word. God redeemed me by the power of His Word. I’m also not aware of any forgiven sin that disqualifies a Christian from teaching God’s Word to other Christians. Doing so is at the heart of the great commission.

As for the pulpit? It’s not sacred; it’s a piece of wood (or metal) that some folks use as a means to hold their Bibles, notes, and water bottles. God dwells in people, not in inanimate objects. People are spiritual. Preaching is a spiritual event. The context is not relevant since any context is acceptable for sharing God’s Word, i.e., wood, rock, metal, or nothing at all.

I said the following on my family blog, which I write as an oral commentary on our family’s lives so our friends can see the “other side” of our lives, not just the ministry side of things.

Ironically, it would have been “better” if I had murdered my ex-wife rather than her divorcing me. (I say this in hyperbolic jest only, as I have no ill-will toward her.) But sometimes you can’t choose the sins that follow you through life. I just happen to have the “leprosy sin” of divorce.

I am aware that some folks have a weak conscience on this matter of divorce (1 Corinthians 8:1-13), which is why I would rather not come than to cause one of my brothers to stumble.

Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. – 1 Corinthians 8:13

Therefore, if [divorce] makes my brother stumble, I will never [teach to them], lest I make my brother stumble. – RLTV

I’m at your service. You tell me what you want me to do, and I will do it. But if I do come, I request that you fill up our time helping others.

Grace and mercy to you, my friend.
Rick

Divorce Is the Unpardonable Sin

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I just got word from my friend in Mexico that they do not want me coming down there to speak in their churches. My friend does, but not his friends. They found out that I was divorced, which is the unpardonable sin when it comes to speaking in Christian pulpits.

This worldview is not the view of my friend; he’s a supporting member of our site and has much respect for me, as I do for him. He did not think about this minor (divorce) detail, which he knows now that is not a small talking point with these pastors. Though the fact that we don’t hide that I’ve gone through a divorce on our website, it did not occur to him that he should say that I was. And he shouldn’t have “majored on a minor,” as though that tidbit is a disqualifier.

But some folks, due to their religious preferences and prejudices, have another perspective. Mercifully, the Lord brought this out for those pastors, and they are asking us not to come to Mexico to share the gospel of Christ. As one pastor said, “I will not permit him to speak in my pulpit.” (I say “mercifully, the Lord brought this out” because it’s far better to find out now than after we arrived in Mexico.)

Murder, Yes – Divorce, No

Ironically, it would have been “better” if I had murdered my ex-wife rather than her divorcing me. (I say this in hyperbolic jest only, as I have no ill-will toward her.) But sometimes you can’t choose the sins that follow you through life. I just happen to have the “leprosy sin” of divorce.

My friend is sad. He has used much of our content in his preaching over the past few years and genuinely loves me and our resources. I’m sorry for him.

My children were listening to the phone call through the speaker, as was Lucia. They don’t understand, though they shrugged it off with mild sadness that they could not go with us for this trip. Ansa hugged me and said that she loves me anyway, and always will. Her love for me is more important than a handful of legalistic pastors.

It’s been a while since someone has disqualified me from Christian ministry. I don’t think about it any longer since my identity is in Christ, not in what the Lord has permitted into my life. I suppose it’s been thirty or so years since I walked away from fundamentalist’s teaching preferences. I do remember my friend (and pastor) in Commerce, GA telling me that I could speak in his pulpit anytime that I wanted to as long as I was not dating or remarried.

Oh well.

Pray For My Brothers

It is possible these Mexican pastors will change their minds, though it seems unlikely since they believe so firmly and the trip is less than a month.

As for me? I’m a sovereigntist; God is in control of all things, and I know that He works in mysterious ways. I don’t say that simplistically. I do believe it, and because of that, I’m not struggling with this turn of events. God is good. He opens and shuts doors.

From my viewpoint, it was God’s work in me as I went through a divorce that gave me (and this ministry) a significant platform to help hundreds of thousands of people. We just won’t be serving a group of folks in Mexico.

Apparently.

But then the Lord could do something different for them and us.

Stay tuned. Pray fervently. We are one in His body.

Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Mexico

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Update To Our Member Community – I’m in the middle of a significant public speaking stretch, for which I’m grateful to God for the privilege to serve Him and His body this way.

What happens during these events is that the ministry continues, which means prep for speaking, travel, and the work at these conferences do not replace my regular ministry duties; I add these responsibilities to my day-to-day work. (FYI: One of my “requirements” for speaking events is access to wifi so I can continue to work while away.)

To accomplish these events, I have to “pre-load” a week’s worth of work before I travel. E.g., This week I will do seven articles and podcasts between Sunday and Wednesday. Also, I must complete all our student’s assignments in our Mastermind Training Program. And then there is the usual ministry work, which is myriad, which includes a new book launch next Tuesday that I must complete in the next couple of days so it can go through the edits and populate globally by next week.

We’re also in the middle of a significant website launch, which we hope will be ready for you in a couple of months. There are numerous details involved with this launch.

Mercifully, many of you support this ministry, which has permitted us to hire Brandi Huerta, Chris O’Donnell, and Doug Graham this year. Julie Hansen has been working for us for a couple of years now, and Lisa Rice volunteers her time to the ministry. (We hope to bring her onboard by year’s end, which will coincide with the completion of her Mastermind Training.)

Without them, I would not be able to add these events to our workload. Without you, we would not have them. This work is a partnership in the gospel.

A Testimony – A lady in Alaska said that this past retreat was the best one that she had attended. She added that the previous retreats were fun and informational, but not as transformative. She said this retreat gave her a lot to think about and respond to personally and in her marriage.

It’s important to me that you know God is doing good work at these events. The assistant pastor in Alaska said the Sunday night meeting was one of the most well-attended meetings that they have had in recent memory.

Please pray for Lucia, the children, and me. We have Idaho, Oregon, and Mexico coming in succession. We knew it would be a challenge, but believed this was God’s will for us. We’re “in faith” for the process, but we’re also desirous of your prayers.

Thank you!
Rick

If you know of individuals, churches, or businesses that you believe would be interested in supporting us, share this link with them: https://rickthomas.net/recurring-membership/

One Final Note – This website ranked our site as #10 of the top 30 best Christian websites for men.

The Lord is kind to us!!