Most Richly Blessed
Many of you have probably encountered this poem sometime in your earthly journey:
I asked for strength that I might achieve greater things;
He made me weak that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life:
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing that I asked for, all that I hoped for.
My prayer was answered.
~ Author unknown ~
Can you relate? I certainly can. Although I cannot honestly say that I received “nothing I asked for, all I hoped for,” I can say that I’ve received more than I ever could have hoped for or asked for. Some of my hopes, dreams, and prayers early in life were almost entirely selfish and for my own glory. If God had given me all I wanted then, it would have led me to boastful pride and spiritual disaster! James wrote: “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” James 4:3
Several mornings in a row as I’ve begun waking up I have contemplated God’s leading in my life and His amazing grace toward me. I thank Him for the riches of His grace in drawing me out of my pit of unbelief when I declared, “I don’t believe in God – I’ve never seen Him!” As an eleven-year-old boy, that unbelief came naturally from my dad, my older brother, and all my uncles on my dad’s side who were strong on evolutionism and adamant in skepticism about the accuracy and authority of the Bible. However, since God’s astounding answer to my first earnest prayer (to spare my dad’s life after his terrible tractor accident that took off all the flesh from his left ankle and foot and ripped his left arm out of the socket), I felt drawn by His grace and love to regularly attend Bible classes and church services. Since my conversion and baptism into Christ on April 22, 1966, I’ve been learning the discipline and joy of walking with The Almighty King of the universe. The Word says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” Psalm 34:8 I have tasted (over and over again) and I know that He is good! How blessed are those who put their trust in Him! He sent Kenneth Beckman to Longmont, Colorado in the spring of 1961 for an evangelistic meeting. That contact with Brother Beckman resulted in my decision to choose to come to Boise for Boise Bible College after graduation. I was deeply impressed by Brother Beckman’s Biblical scholarship and fervency of spirit. Then the question Talmage Pace asked me: “Where are you going to go Bible College?” made the difference. I had no idea then that God would have a beautiful bride waiting for me in Boise. Kenneth Beckman officiated and preached the wedding service for us on December 14, 1962. He even sang for us, “Whither Thou Goest I will Go,” and Vera Bird sang, “Each For the Other and Both for the Lord”! Precious memories – how they linger!
Early in my ministry I wished I could have been one of the great leaders of the Restoration Movement in the early 1800’s in America – or an honored preacher of a mega-church, etc. However, reading Paul’s insight to the Corinthians that it is not wise to compare myself with others seemed to spark in me the realization of what I would lose if God had created me to be someone else. When it dawned on me that Della would not be my wife if God had created me to be someone else, it shocked me into realizing how foolish it was to waste time wishing to be someone else. Now, from my perspective as a seventy-four-year-old granddad, I also realize I would have missed the joy of having Randy as my son, Sandy as my daughter, and all of our grandkids as my grandkids. What about nearly two dozen emotionally adopted sons and daughters and grandkids? What about our wonderful friends, prayer partners, consultants, and co-workers here in America as well as Ukraine and Germany? I would lose all of these if God had created me to be someone else. How foolish of me to ever contemplate such a wish! Who would I trade places with if I could? NO ONE!
I often tell my students that because of my Biblical worldview, I believe that each one of them is uniquely designed by God Almighty to fill a particular niche. “You are entirely unique! No one who has ever lived, or who is alive now is exactly like you! Also, no one who ever will live will be exactly like you. Even ‘identical twins’ are not really identical. Each one is a unique person. God has a purpose for each of you to fulfill which no one else can fill. Your greatest joy in life is to find and fill the purpose for which God has created you. The two most important questions you can ask are the questions Saul of Tarsus asked on the road to Damascus: ‘Who are you, Lord?’ (Recognize that He is Lord and you are not!) ‘What would You have me to do?’ (Then step by step follow where He leads you.) Usually God will lead you to use the gifts, skills, abilities, and passions that He has given you.” (Note: passions are strong desires – and desires can be good or evil.) Selfish desires are evil. God-given passions are good! How do you know what you are passionate about? John Maxwell suggests that you will know what you are passionate about by asking yourself three questions:
What do I sing about?
What do I dream about?
What do I cry about?
To discern whether your passions are good or evil, ask yourself, “If I do this, will it bring glory to God, or glory to me?” Remember, at the heart of evil is pride and selfishness. The theme song on the road to hell is likely to be, “I Did it My Way!” Satan is the lead singer, too! (Too bad for you, Frank Sinatra – he tricked you!) Has he ever tricked you into feeling sorry for yourself while wishing you were someone else – or envying someone for having something you don’t have? The “poor me” syndrome may be Satan’s favorite trick – even as “I Did it My Way!” is his favorite song. Before you fall for his tricks and follow in singing his favorite song, look where it got Satan. He is God’s enemy – the adversary! And his destiny is hell. Is that the way you want to go?
A Walk Down Memory Lane
At this point in sharing, “Most Richly Blessed,” I want to share with you a copy of my recent letter to Victor Knowles:
“Among the things stacked up for me when I arrived home from Ukraine was a package from POEM containing August and September Knowlesletters. What a walk down “Memory Lane”! I just wrote the following note for Della about your August “Viewpoint”: “See if you can read this Viewpoint and Evelyn’s column without choking up! Sweeter as the years go by! and deeper in love with you! Rick.”
Our 55th anniversary is coming up on December 14. At our wedding, Kenny Beckman officiated and sang “Whither thou goest I will go,” and Vera Bird sang “Each for the Other and Both for the Lord.” Both Kenny and Martha and Lee and Vera Bird are gone now, but we will see them again (now the tears are coming). What a blessed hope we have! What anticipation for glorious reunions on the glory shore!
BBC also has a great record of long marriages. I think it was over 70 years for Kenny and Martha and just short of 70 for Ernie & Zella Chamberlain. Charles and Margaret Crane recently celebrated their 60th anniversary!
In your September issue, “Somewhere in Time,” you listed some items of what was going on in America fifty years ago that I remember clearly – and some that I missed or forgot. In 1967 Della and I were in Eugene working with Norvale Park Church. That’s the year Archie Word held a meeting for us in the springtime and Randy was born in the fall. Today, October 19, is Randy’s 50th birthday. I’m realizing more and more “how time flies.” We are so glad that Randy and his family now live just 3 miles from our house and Sandy and family just 2 miles from our house. We have been taking Brenda and Nicholas (Randy’s step-kids) to Nampa Christian School while his wife, Marilza, has been in Austin taking care of her business. She flies back in today for Randy’s birthday, and Brenda’s 17th birthday. Well, it’s now about 3:40 a.m. and I will try to get more sleep (guess I’m not over the nine hour time change yet).
I’m so glad we can still partner with you and Evelyn in ministry, and I look forward to distributing Knowlesletters at Valley Christian Church on Sunday where I’m scheduled to give a report and preach. I sent copies to Ed Saunders yesterday. Please pray for him to have full recovery from his triple bypass heart surgery in July.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
Yours & His, Rick”
“P.S. Thank you for sharing Reggie’s amazing record of ministry on the front page of your September issue. What a joy and honor for us to also partner with Reggie. And it was at your 5th year “Convocation” in Joplin that Della and I ate breakfast with Reggie and began to get acquainted personally. Then he opened the door to us for what has become our most exciting ministry – Overseas Outreach.
P.S. #2 Fifty years ago today I was in the father’s waiting room of the maternity ward of a Eugene, Oregon hospital reading, World Aflame, by Billy Graham. Wow! How those flames have spread and increased! Even so, come, Lord Jesus!
P.S. #3 Your, “Viewpoint – Beautiful Feet Bring a Beautiful Message,” is not only an inspiring exposition of Isaiah 52:7, it is also a motivating memo of our mutual ministry – for all Christians. Besides, the last few paragraphs accurately describe POEM’s meaning and mission.”
When I arrived home from my trip, I saw a plaque which Della placed at eye level to greet our guests as they enter our entry way and living room. It reads: “We give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way!” All right!
How About You?
Hey – are you feeling, “Most Richly Blessed,” yet? If not, let’s recall the words to a spiritual song from yesteryear: “Count Your Blessings – Name them one by One!” It’s a good place to start in turning your focus from griping to glorying!
Now, How about Starting Every Day with Three Prayers?
First – “Father, thank You so much for giving us the greatest gift ever given – Your only begotten Son. Jesus, thank You for giving us Your life, Your own precious blood to pay the penalty for our sin (my sin!). Holy Spirit, thank You for empowering Jesus to go all the way for us – to endure the torture and death on the cross for me! Thank You for empowering the prophets and apostles to write infallible Scripture; thank You for giving us the Bible!
Second – “Lord, please fill me with Your Spirit and put me in the right place at the right time with the right words to honor you!” Watch what He does in you and through you – and get prepared to be “Most Richly Blessed!”
Third – “Lord, what would You have me do today? Please give me the wisdom to prioritize the use of my time.” Then focus on one task at a time, perform that task with joy, then move to the next.
Highlights of My Fall Mission Trip to Ukraine
(September 25 – October 16)
I arrived in Kiev/Borispol airport early afternoon of Tuesday, September 26, where Sergei Golovin, faithful to his word, was waiting to meet me. Tony VanManen was scheduled to arrive about fifteen minutes after my flight, but missed his connection and did not arrive until after 7:30 p.m. I enjoyed a relaxed lunch meal with Sergei with time for fellowship and prayer together before returning to the airport for Tony’s arrival. Three significant facts have stuck with me from the visit with Sergei:
1. He is enjoying better health now, and is thankful that he did not submit to having a fifth surgery this year. Praise God!
2. His forced move to Kiev from Crimea because of Russian aggression has turned out to the furtherance of the gospel with many new open doors for him to teach Biblical creation and scientific evidences to university students, seminary students and public school teachers. Praise God!
3. There is still an open possibility for Christian Center for Science and Apologetics to supply creation science textbooks and my book, Millions of Miracles: The Evolutionist’s Dilemma, in the Ukrainian language to public school libraries all across the nation. The final decision rests with some bureaucrat, so please pray with us for God to move his or her heart to grant this freedom of information. If and when Sergei gets a “yes” answer, then we need to urgently pray for at least $30,000 to produce and deliver all those books!
After Tony’s arrival, Sergei took us to the train station for dinner together and our departure on the overnight train to Kharkiv.
At the train station in Kharkiv, Zhenya Molodchy, faithful to his word, was waiting to meet us. (I’m so thankful for faithful co-workers!) Since it was still very early in the morning, Zhenya took us to our host family for rest, breakfast, and fellowship time. Volodia and Maryana Vakula are the couple who are planting a new church with the converts from their rehabilitation ministry. Their transformed house, which was formerly a wreck where addicts bought and used drugs, is an outward symbol of the inner and outer transformation He has worked in Volodia. “From Pusher to Pastor by the Power of God” could be the accurate title of Volodia’s testimony. Volodia and Maryana graciously transformed their family room and living room into our bedrooms, then provided more than we could hold for a scrumptious breakfast.
Zhenya came by late that Wednesday morning to take us to meet with Sergei Datskov, lead pastor for Living Hope Church in Kharkiv, which is living up to its name by ministering and providing living hope to hundreds and hundreds of refugees (IDP-Internally Displaced Persons) from the war zone. God is using their outreach to transform multitudes of lives by the grace and truth of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the One who gives beauty for ashes, hope for despair, joy for sorrow, and peace for turmoil. Is He working that same transformation in your heart?
Mid to late Wednesday afternoon, Zhenya took Tony and me to meet Natasha and their two teenagers for a late lunch. It was Tony’s only opportunity to meet Natasha and two of their kids before we would depart for Mala Vyska early Thursday morning. I told Tony that both Zhenya and Natasha are gifted teachers, but they are exceptionally good at personal evangelism. They know how to open minds by touching hearts for Jesus! No wonder Tony wrote this about his experience in Ukraine. “It’s amazing how you can form relationships that will impact the rest of your life in such a short time. The people that I met in the Ukraine will be on my heart and mind, and in my prayers, for many years to come. I am asking the Lord to show how me how he wants me to continue to be involved in the ministries there.” (Do you remember reading that in our October letter under, “Tony’s Reflections”?)
That evening Zhenya took us to visit his English Club group and invited Tony and me to participate along with the others in the group. The big room quickly filled with seating arranged in an oblong circle for interaction and conversation. After several praise songs, Zhenya had each person share his or her name and a summary of pertinent information for us to get to know each other better – then we could also share helpful information with each other and specific prayer requests. From this English Club, Zhenya is planting a new congregation that meets in the offices of the Messianic Jewish congregation where Zhenya often attends and preaches on Saturday. “Shabat shalom” (rest and peace) is the common greeting at those meetings. The new congregation meets on Sunday, and one of the key members of the new congregation and the English Club is Vladimir Lipov, who is a professor of economics and an author of several books. He was one of my first two English Bible students in Kharkiv sixteen years ago when I first started going there. In 2008 he also participated in The Man and the Christian Worldview Symposium as my guest. It took fourteen years for Vladimir to surrender his heart to Jesus, but praise God, he did! Zhenya baptized him about one and a half years ago and it’s so good to see him functioning in the group as a Christian. Please pray for more and more of the participants in the English Club to surrender their lives and humbly submit their pride and intellectual speculations to the Lordship of Jesus.
On Thursday morning, Zhenya came by Volodia and Maryana’s home to pick us up for the long car trip to Mala Vyska, near the center of Ukraine. Stephen and Ira had us scheduled to speak for a house church in a neighboring village at 6:00 p.m., and we arrived just in time to go there. It was a hard location to find and we were late for the service. I thank God that Ukrainian believers are so gracious and flexible – so they still had both Tony and me speak (Olya, one of their own members interpreted for both of us, so Zhenya didn’t have to concentrate on interpreting after driving all day.) Their pastor, Maxim, punctuated our messages with his own brief summary. The believers were enthusiastic in their response and lavish in their thanks for our messages. Also, following the service, they insisted on blessing us with hot tea and warm food (delicious too!). How could we resist?
John Murphy arrived by train late Thursday evening and could only stay until late Friday evening when he caught the 11:00 p.m. train back to Odessa.
Friday was packed full of activities:
1. Speaking appointments for Tony and me at a local elementary school.
2. Gathering and buying toys, games, books, etc. for our trip to an orphanage on Saturday and for the Harvest Party on Sunday afternoon and evening.
3. Fellowship, doctrinal and spiritual discussions around my fifteen core convictions, and earnest prayer together with Stephen and Ira, John Murphy, Zhenya Molodchy, Tony and me. This was a rich time of interaction and clarification about Biblical truths and our mutual convictions for outreach to our hurting, broken world. This meeting was intentional for laying the groundwork for mutual support, growing friendship, exchanging prayer requests and working together for outreach by: 1. creation evangelism 2. compassion evangelism 3. new church planting. Zhenya and Natasha, Stephen and Ira, and John and Ira are the three couples who had already agreed to be our Overseas Outreach representatives in Ukraine. I believe the baring of the soul and heart- to-heart discussions and prayer were extremely valuable.
Saturday Stephen and Ira had meetings arranged for us to speak at an orphanage to two groups: First the elementary age kids. Second the middle school kids. Stephen and Ira’s co-workers, Oleg and Oksana, are very gifted communicators with children. Their teaching and visuals laid the groundwork for both Tony and me to speak to the kids. They were very good about listening and paying attention – then their excitement and appreciation poured out with the presentation of the gifts and candy at the conclusion of each meeting. Some of the orphanage workers also were listening in to the truths of God’s Word and our wonderful Savior!
Sunday morning Tony and I both preached for a very upbeat, contemporary church in a neighboring town, and for a more subdued, hymn singing, older people congregation in Mala Vyska in the afternoon. The older group had lived through the persecution of Soviet times, so their building looked like an ordinary house with no indication of it being a church meeting place – and they were very cautious around us strangers. However, they warmed up to us when we shared the Word of God with clarity and conviction.
We came back to the transition home late afternoon for the 5:00 Harvest Festival for the orphans and the local community. What a beehive of activity and wonderful feast with lots of praise to God and expressing of thanks to Stephen and Ira and her elderly mother. What an exhausting yet exhilarating day! Then at 11:00 p.m. we caught the overnight train to Odessa! (It’s a good way to sleep on the train – get completely worn out first! )
1. Praise God for Sergei Golovin’s good health – and please pray it continues.
2. Please pray for a favorable decision for Millions of Miracles: The Evolutionist’s Dilemma, and creation science textbooks in the Ukrainian language to be placed in public and school libraries all across Ukraine.
3. Please pray for God to draw seeking souls from both the down and out in rehab centers and the up and out in English Clubs and universities to the new churches being planted in Kharkiv and to Biblical churches throughout Ukraine.
4. Please pray for massive spiritual awakening in Ukraine, Israel, and America.
5. Please pray for more and more refugees from the war zone (Internally Displaced Persons) to come to Christ and more new churches to be planted – and pray for the funds for Living Hope Church to continue the outreach to them (as well as other ministries to the IDP – approximately 1.6 million people).
6. Please pray for continued effective outreach to orphans and orphanage workers through Love Cradle International and other orphan ministries.
7. Please pray for the necessary funds and expanded personnel for Northwest Science Museum, and for health for board members and advisory council members and their wives.
Insight from Joni
As we consider the terrible devastation of war in Ukraine (as well as Sudan and Liberia, and terrible mass murders in America) and then consider the multitudes of souls coming to Christ in the wake of war, it’s good to ponder Joni Eareckson Tada’s insightful comment: “God permits what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves!”