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Excerpt Number 7 from my soon to be released book, Overcoming

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My Father’s Mental Illness.

Somewhere in the vicinity of 1967 and 1968 something inside my dad snapped. At the time, people called it a “nervous breakdown.” Later, more clinical descriptions became Dad’s labels, such as “paranoid” and “schizophrenic”. My dad was in and out of the Veterans’ Hospital. During one of the times, my dad was outside the hospital, I experienced one of the saddest and most frightening events of my life.
My father feared to lose my mom in a divorce. Acting upon this fear, he abandoned reason and held my mom against her will in a bathroom in the house. He threatened to kill my mom, but after several hours my mom talked her way out.
The following week, he grabbed me and took me to the bedroom that he and Mom had shared happier times. But this time was different.
Dad didn’t threaten me or hurt me, but he did give me two sleeping pills to swallow without water, and then he told me to calm down and be quiet. After locking the door, he retrieved his favorite handgun from the closet: A World War II German “Lugar” handgun.
Soon the police were on the other side of the door demanding that he give me up and saying something like “come out with your hands where we can see them.”
Very quickly the police ascertained that both my father and his brother were veterans and firefighters with the Minneapolis Fire Department. This afforded some time for my dad to think as the police agreed to stand down out of professional courtesy to a fellow first responder.
Soon after that, my Uncle Bob was talking through the door with my dad, his brother. Bob eventually secured my freedom by removing the bolts from the door and convincing my dad to surrender. The most enduring memory I have from those days was of me that night, sitting at the top of the stairs, weeping, as I watched my dad hauled away in an ambulance and wearing a straight-jacket. I was seven.

Slides from Lesson 3 on Romans 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry

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Here are the slides from Lesson 3 on chapter 8 of Romans from the Maranatha Mens Ministry.

ROMANS 8 THIRD OF THREE

Slides from Lesson 2 on Romans 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry

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Here is a link to my second lesson on Romans chapter 8 for the Maranatha Mens Ministry.

ROMANS 8 LESSON 2

“College Days” Excerpt Number 7 from my upcoming book, “Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime”

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College Days

I began my studies at Stanford University in the Fall of 1979. I was 18 years old.

That first year at Stanford was exciting and life-changing. I was constantly surrounded by both teachers and students who were, putting it simply, brilliant. There was the premed surfer from Orange County, California. There was the space-camp summer scientist majoring in physics. There was the Hawaiian dancer girl who grew up in rural Hawaii, on the “Big Island,” and whose parents were missionaries there. I could go on and on.  Spending too much time thinking about how brilliant my friends and teachers were causing self-doubt because it is only natural that you ask yourself: “what am I doing here with these people?”
I was in a veritable cafeteria of learning experiences, with no limits or bounds. I think Heaven will be something like attending Stanford, except for the political and politically correct stuff.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to anyone else, I found my personal prayer and Bible study habits first wavered and then withered. My efforts to continue in personal fellowship with Christ first began to fail.

Having no car, I was unable to drive myself to church and relied only on the occasional chance to ride with someone else to the driver’s church. This way I visited Menlo Park Presbyterian Church and Peninsula Bible Church (where Ray Stedman was) but because of transportation difficulties was not able to become very active in either. From attending church several times-a- week in high school, I found myself doing well to attend church once per month.

I did get pretty involved in Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship and also a small organization on campus called the Christian Studies Association (which made me its president). I attended and led on-campus Bible studies, attempted to witness to my dorm mates, and went on retreats.

It was no surprise that outside of the Christian groups, such activities did not win me a lot of friends on campus. I began to feel lonely. Living in dormitories surrounded by non-Christians, I began to want to have more friends, to be more “normal” and not to be such an outsider.

As a sign of things to come, I was asked to be the leader of the InterVarsity chapter at Stanford, but I turned it down because I was concerned the time commitment would adversely affect my grade point average.

                My Thoughts and Theories.

As you would expect, being far from home, unaccountable and surrounded by temptations of the flesh never experienced by me up to that time, I began a period of cycles of sin, guilt, repentance and then sin again, repeatedly in a seemingly endless cycle. A cycle which fatigued my will and soul.

A big part of my problem was guilt. Before I really turned my back on God calling for my life, I’d been on a seemingly endless cycle of sin followed by repentance followed by growth followed by sin followed by repentance. An even larger part of my turning away was that I was just plain tired, exhausted, ready to quit, feeling defeated. I’d hoped God would have used me like Joseph or Calvin or Spurgeon or something, but I was a spiritual failure.

Perhaps if I had returned to any good church where I was reconnected with the fellowship of fellow believers, I might have returned to him sooner. But I was cut off and far away from all my Christian friends and mentors. And no one held me accountable, rebuked me or disciplined me. Accordingly, I strayed further away during those subsequent years and as a result, my heart just got harder and harder.

If it came to defending the faith, arguing evolution vs. creation or any number of other things, I was thoroughly and adequately prepared. No professor or seminar class was my undoing. On the contrary, in classrooms, I regularly spoke out defending my faith and I felt no fear of the non-Christian intellectual academic citadel.

You can prepare your children to face attacks from non-Christian worldviews, but if they’re not prepared to deal with sin, there’s going to be a problem. I don’t mean just being able to resist sin all the time. Sooner or later they’re going to sin, but how will they deal with the consequences and the aftermath of sin?

But I should have known better. God gave me a long leash and there was no fire and brimstone because God relates to his children as their father, not as their judge.

 

Romans 8:28? Excerpt Number 6 from my upcoming book: Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime

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Rom. 8.28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

                Entire books have been written about Romans 8:28. This verse about God working everything for good is probably the most frequently quoted verse spoken to those who are suffering and afflicted.

                In some case, the delivery of this message actually fans the fires and is downright hurtful. But the world has many alternatives to Romans 8:28 that are not Biblical and are quoted by mindlessly by meaning-well Christians.

For example, during an ecumenical ceremony honoring those who died on 9/11, the speaker misquoted God’s word by merely saying,” All things work together for good.”

                Several important elements are missing from this misquote: It is God who does the working. It is not a promise for everybody, but only for the called/those who love God. The good that is worked together is God’s good which is according to his purpose. The good in this verse is God’s good, not whatever “good” you desire or describe.

In some cases, we will never know what “good” was the purpose. Deut. 29:29.

Besides misquoting Romans 8:28, we also encounter many lookalikes or worldly substitutes.

Below is a list of some worldly wisdom commonly offered as a substitute for Romans 8:28.

Romans 8:28 Doesn’t Mean:

                 1. ”Every cloud has a silver lining.” The “good” in Romans 8:28 is not in the things themselves. It is in their divine purpose. It is in the plan God has for the things.

                 2. ”Things just have a way of working themselves out for the best.” Romans 8:28 is not about benevolent fate. It’s about a personal God who takes care of those who love him.

                 3. ”If life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.” Romans 8:28 is not a command, it’s a promise. The good that God purposes in the lives of the called is not dependent on human efforts.

                 4. ”God helps those who help themselves.” God’s promise in Romans 8:28 is unconditional and applies to those who are called and love God, not those who are self-reliant.

                 5. ”Trust God but keep your gunpowder dry.” There are no exceptions or surprises for God. He works all things together for his good purposes.

                6. ”Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.” We can be assured that the things in our lives truly work for good, even if they appear not to.

                7. When imagining Gods plan for our lives or when struggling with the issues of God’s sovereignty being used selectively to ensure that only those who love God and are called according to his purpose will benefit. Especially before loading the debate and argument guns, it is very advisable to take a moment to worship God and remind ourselves of just how much above our understanding God truly is.
                No illustration I could ever conceive would do justice to the vastness of the universe, let alone God its Creator.

Romans Chapter 8: First of Three studies: “Victory Through Mind Control

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These slides are from my teaching of Romans 5:11-17 at the Maranatha Men’s Ministry.

Romans Chapter 5: The First Adam and the Last Adam.

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These slides are from my study of Romans Chapter 5 at the Maranatha Chapel Men’s Ministry.         

Sorry, this Chapter 5 Study is being published after Chapter 8, it was overlooked.

Dead Sea Scrolls Expedition Excerpt Number 5 from my upcoming book, Overcoming the trials of a lifetime.

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                Dead Sea Scrolls Expedition.

                After my time in Greece, I went to Israel and had a few adventures with my traveling companion, Todd. The two most notable adventures were in the desert at the Qumran caves and in Jerusalem, at Hezekiah’s tunnel. I thought “Maybe there are more Dead Sea Scrolls out there to be found.” Why not?

                Todd and I went to a fancy rest stop kind of place down by the Dead Sea where there’s a big panel window and you can see the Qumran caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947-1948. You can identify the caves if you stand in a certain place and look through a window. They were only about a half a mile from where we were standing.

                When I was in the desert sun my eyes were dilated and was squinting because the Sun was so very bright. So, I went into the cave that was dark, as dark as dark could be. I stood there in the dark so that my eyes would adjust.

                It was an easy decision, really, since we knew that we would never be so close to the Qumran caves in our lifetimes. Soon I was out there climbing a cliff and I go into one of the caves. No flashlight, no ropes, no first aid kit. What was I thinking? Soon I was out there climbing a cliff and I go into one of the caves. What was I thinking?

                When my eyes adjusted, I found myself nose-to-nose with an upside-down face of a vampire bat. I ran out of the cave screaming, and that was the end of my Dead Sea Scrolls expedition.

Salvation and Calling: Excerpt No. 4 from my upcoming book, Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime.

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                Salvation.

I was born again at home in Dallas, Texas and sometime in 1973.

I was twelve years old.

               My brother Karl had found Christ while in high school and was visiting us in Dallas while on leave from the Army during the very end of the Vietnam war. He explained to me how I was a sinner in need of God’s mercy, how Christ died for me and would save me from my sins and eternal punishment if only I’d believe and place my trust in him. My heart had been readied by God to listen and understand this simple witness, but I didn’t immediately accept Christ.

                After several discussions with my brother, I remember one time being alone in the house. I got down on my knees in the hallway right outside my bedroom door, and I prayed to God asking him to forgive me for my sins and to save me.

             Salvation in the New Testament is not merely about that one day in the past when you were “saved“. It’s about being saved continually throughout your life. It’s about waiting and trusting that upon our death we will be truly and finally saved from sin, saved not just from the penalty of sin but from its power over us. Eternal security is not about feeling secure in our salvation. It’s about needing God to persevere with us, while trusting that God will keep his promise and that we will, in fact, do so. Sanctification is not about observing the past progress; it’s keeping one’s mind on how much more progress is necessary.

                Therefore, let us not merely thank God for having saved us one day in the past. Let us thank God for saving us each and every day! Let us feel the need to be saved that day, notwithstanding any assurance of salvation that we understand.  Let us thank God for saving us that same day we’re thanking Him for it.  Let us thank God for saving us tomorrow because we know that even by tomorrow, we will once again fall short; it’s our old nature.

           Karl gave me a New Testament in the “Good News for Modern Man translation, and I devoured it like a starving person at a dinner table. Karl also gave me several comic book tracts and Navigator booklets with comic book descriptions of the Christian life– how I should walk and grow in the Christian life. God’s Holy Spirit motivated me to try to grow fast in the Christian faith.

                After my prompt devouring the Good News New Testament, Karl gave me his own copy of the Scofield Reference Bible, and he encouraged me to read 10 chapters per day. I, however, thought the Bible was a book, so I just read it front to back like I would have read any other book.

               I attended Believers Chapel in Dallas.    Believers Chapel is a church that allows the free exercise of gifts during a spontaneous Sunday evening Lord’s Supper service. At this service, any member of the congregation is free to stand up and share, exhort, sing, or teach, as the Spirit so moves. It was at these services that I first began to preach.

                One Sunday evening I stood up in front of the congregation and preached for about 15 minutes from my notes about what God meant to me as a father in light of my not having a human father. I believe my primary text was a Simon and Garfunkel song which I quoted extensively. The “sermon” was well received by the congregation and several of the elders encouraged me to speak again. I was

                Soon I was almost a regular Sunday evening preacher, standing up and expositing about some Biblical text or theme that was meaningful about once a month. Although I felt that I had a gift and was being moved by the Spirit to preach, I took these sermons very seriously and put the great study time into them, carefully followed an outline and even practiced them in front of a mirror on Sunday afternoons.

                One time, not funny for me at the time, but funny in retrospect, I was preaching about the importance of a Christian education. I guess I went on too long, and before I was finished another member of the congregation arose and said, “While Brother Randy finishes, let’s all stand and sing Hymn no. such and such. “I was quite shocked, but more shocked when the senior pastor immediately arose and said, “No, let him finish.“ What an experience!

                I believed the congregation and elders of Believers Chapel recognized me as having a gift and the elders encouraged me to consider the ministry as my vocational calling. I too was convinced that I would go into the ministry and that this was my true calling. No one anticipated what would happen when I went off to college in the Fall of 1979.

            

              

Wander in the Woods: Excerpt No. 3 from my upcoming book, Overcoming the Trials of a Lifetime

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                Wander in the Woods.

                When I was about five or maybe six years old, my family went on a camping vacation in a national park. The campsite was very interesting to me. I was particularly impressed with the long and large culvert that spanned the road above as sort of a magical tunnel.

                Beyond the culvert, there was a parking lot with several rows of cars and it was connected to the campsite area only by the culvert. Our family had a pickup truck parked in the lot and a camper trailer parked at the campsite.

                My three older brothers decided we should all go for a hike to explore the park, but with our mom and dad remaining at the campsite. So, I, being 5 years younger than my nearest in age brother, took up the tail end of the hike, trying hard to keep up. Sooner rather than later I became tired of the hike.

                My protests calling us to take it a little bit easier and give me a chance to rest were unheeded. So, not surprisingly for those who know me, I decided to take my own rest and return the way we came. The trek through the woods in the opposite direction from my brother’s path didn’t seem all that difficult.

                There were trails to follow and even the occasional sign, though at age five I was unable to read the signs. It was already late in the day when I came upon a parking lot. Soon to be back with Mom and Dad in time for supper, I thought, not knowing whether or when my brothers turned back or even if they had noticed I was no longer with them.

                The trouble was it was the wrong parking lot.

                There was no family pickup, no culvert and no parents cooking dinner. What was I to do? Well, I wasn’t going to give up so easily, so I climbed an embankment to get a good look around. Spanning the horizon, I noticed in the distance another campsite. Could this be our campsite… the one with the culvert? Well, I was getting hungry, so I determined to make a beeline directly to the camp I’d spotted.

                But I forgot about an important thing: the sun was setting. It wasn’t about to go dark immediately, so I could make it, I said to myself. Well, you already know what happened. Very soon I was lost in a forest and in the darkness. Like nearly everyone who gets lost in the forest, I found myself going in circles. Perhaps I didn’t know I was going in circles until I was told I was later.

                But it was clear I was by myself in the forest when apparently the whole campground was searching the woods for a trace of the missing six- year old.

                My mom must have had many scenarios going through her head. Could he have been snatched? Could there be a bear? Or is he just lost out there in the dark forest?

                Then I remembered what my dad, the boy scout, had told me and all my brothers. He said if you ever get lost and it’s a dark night, let the stars guide, well one star in particular – the North Star.

                My dad had said that the North Star always maintained a position that was due north, so it could be followed. This prevented one from walking in circles even if the destination was not north. Thankfully, my dad had also shown me how to find the North Star (it had to do with the stars of the Big and Little Dippers, as I recall).
                I followed the North Star and soon found a dirt road, so I followed that until I was picked up by park rangers and returned to my family–still just in time for dinner.  I understand also that my brothers were severely disciplined by our dad.

                My thoughts and Views.

Now in retrospect, I am not sure the angles of the stars and the north indications of the North Star would actually have been of that much help to me in the small space of the forest where I had gone missing. I also don’t remember being afraid, and I wasn’t missing very long—not long enough to be famous like that girl that fell into a well or even when Tom Sawyer got lost in the cave.

                But does it matter? I believe God refreshed my memory about the North Star with the result that I believed I was being guided by the star and, so believing, I walked in a straight line until I met the road. It didn’t need to be complicated. God wasn’t done with me yet.

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