Monday, March 25, 2024

Post Movie Musings A Case For Christ

The church I attend does monthly movie nights. This past Sunday Calvary played A Case For Christ. It’s a great movie about an atheist man, Lee Strobel, who sets out to disprove Christianity and is radically changed in the process. I’ve seen it before and have read the book but I enjoy every time I watch it.

When I got home I went out to walk my dogs under a nearly full moon. As I walked, I looked up at the vast and clear night sky and thought about the movie. 

I can see why Lee Strobel doubted. The Gospel story is incredulous. When you really think about what Christ did for you, it is humbling. Why would anyone die for me? How could anyone love me that much to die for me? Why would anyone willingly put themselves through torture and death by crucifixion? 

Strobel continues to try and put holes in the gospel story but continues coming up short. The idea behind the gospel seems unbelievable yet Jesus appeared to 500 people after His death. 500! If I had 10 different people telling me they witnessed something, all with similar accounts, I would tend to believe them. 

So Strobel decides if he can’t disprove these accounts then could Jesus have faked it? And again he comes up short. The Romans were professional killers, if any prisoner survived crucifixion and escaped, the soldier would be put to death. They knew how to kill. The flogging alone would have left Him in critical condition, on the brink of death. Plus, our modern medical knowledge proves when they pierced Jesus and blood and water came out that He was in fact dead. That’s a sign of death.

Strobel continues to dig and sees there are countless accounts of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection written 30 years after His death. So many of our historical pieces from history were written 1000s of years after the fact, and only have a handful of copies yet we hold them as factual. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection have numerous eye witness accounts attesting to it.  

As I walked I couldn’t stop thinking about what Christ did for me. But the more I think about what He did, the harder it is for me to wrap my mind around it. Christ, You died for sinful, broken, arrogant, selfish, conceited people like me. Why? For love! 

It’s hard to fathom this type of love. And the more I try to wrap my mind around it and understand it the harder it is for me to understand. But I do not need to understand. I just need to accept. And accepting often lands me on my knees with tears as I humbly accept this gift I can never repay nor am I required to.  

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” -1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV

Monday, April 10, 2023

Silent Saturday is Not Silent Today

Easter is my favorite Holiday. Christmas is right up there with it but Easter just invokes such feelings of hope and renewal for me. Christmas gives us the birth of our Savior; Easter brings our salvation. Without Christ dying on the cross and rising again three days later, all of our hope would be lost. We would be slaves to our sins forever. But Christ’s sacrifice freed us from our bondage. All we have to do is put our faith in Him.

Lately, I have been feeling and seeing God moving in the world and in my life more than before. I’m not sure if God is moving more or if I am just more aware of God and His presence in my day-to-day life. But I do know that with each passing day we are getting closer to His return. We do not know the exact hour or day or month or year He will return but we are told to be ready for that day and not let His return catch us off guard. While we await His return one of the things we are instructed to do is to, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) And that leads me to the story I want to share with you today, about a man, my Father, doing just that.

My Dad has been in Florida on vacation. He texts me little updates about his trip, sends photos of the many Alligators and creatures he has seen, and tells me about his runs, etc. but his most recent text on Silent Saturday moved my spirit and I wanted to share that with you all.

This is the text I received from my Dad (emphasis mine):

Today my father would have been 102 years old if he were still alive. Every morning Lisa and I get up at 6:00 am and go running. She runs slower and farther, and I run a mile as fast as I can. I haven’t run in a year so this is how I’m breaking back into it. I honored my father this morning by running a mile in 7:15 (my Dad is going to be 64 this year). It was hard because I ran 7:11 yesterday. This goes against all common-sense training philosophy, but I did it anyway for my Dad.

After we run, we meet out on the end of the pier to watch the sun rise. It’s the same pier I used to swim a mile to every morning when I lived a mile away on the beach (as a teenager my Dad ran away to Florida. He had a troubled childhood). I saw a big crowd of people gathered on the beach. They were all black. I could see people were getting baptized. When Lisa came, I asked her if she’d go down there where the people were being baptized with me and we went. A lady named Dawn came up to us and asked us if we wanted to be baptized. We told her we had already been baptized and were already believers in the Lord. I told her a little about my past and how I ran away to this place (from Massachusetts) and I pointed down the shore and told her I lived on this beach a mile away from here when I was just 16 years old. She took me by the arm and led me to the Minister.

People were singing and clapping hands and praising the Lord. She told the minister this man has a testimony to share. The minister nodded. I faced all the people. I told them that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I pointed down to the spot on the beach I used to live on and I told them how I lived there. I told them I was bound by drugs and alcohol. I told them I tried everything to break the chains of the bondage I was in but nothing could deliver me out of my addictions. I told them I even joined the Marine Corps as a means to try to heal myself. Then I shared the scripture verse saying Jesus said come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden, take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for my yoke is easy and my burden is light and you shall find rest for your souls.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30

By now some people were crying, others were shouting praises to our Lord, I went on to explain that I eventually, 5 years later, moved out to Montana and there I gave my heart to the Lord. I told them Jesus broke my chains and shackles and I arose a new creation and from that day since I have never touched another drug or any alcohol. I told them I used to believe nothing good could ever come from my life and how God blessed me with four beautiful children!

Then I said brothers and sisters, we are living in the last days, to which there were shouts of praise. I shared how Jesus told us in order to be His disciple we must deny ourselves take up our cross and follow Him. I told them following Jesus will cost you everything but nothing, no earthly riches, can compare and that it is worth it. People were crying and shouting praises to God. I told them to give their lives fully to Jesus.

God told me to go down there. I honored my earthly father by running a mile as fast as could this morning and honoring and remembering him on his birthday. I honored my Heavenly Father by first hearing His voice and then by answering His call. It was an amazing time. We stayed and sang songs with them in praise to the Lord. Thanks be to God. Amen.”


When I talked to my Dad about his experience he told me he was in the 48th hour of fasting. He said, “It never fails how God brings opportunities to witness during the times of fasting and prayer.”

As believers, we are called to be ready to witness and share the Gospel at all times. We are called to be bold and step out in faith to proclaim the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how that truth has changed and saved us.

This past January my Dad did a mountain lion hunt in Nevada. He told his guide Monty, “Yes I am here to hunt a mountain lion but first and foremost I am here as a witness to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Yes, I am on what we call a vacation but we are never on vacation from doing God’s Will. We must decrease and He must increase. We are His witnesses and He told us He would pour out His spirit in the last days and we would perform miracles and great works. We are His witnesses and He commanded us to go forth into all the nations and preach the gospel. I am like the one leper who was healed by Jesus and came back worshiping and praising the Lord and witnessing what the Lord had done for him.”

On the way to Jerusalem He was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. And as He entered a village, He was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus' feet, giving Him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered, "Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" And He said to Him, "Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.'" 

Are you living a life like the nine or the one? Do you see all the good that God has done and continues to do in your life? Will you be like the Samaritan and worship God, praising Him for all He has done? Or after receiving a blessing, do you simply go back to your everyday life and not worship the One who gave you everything?

Are you actively sharing your testimony? We are called to do just that. We are called to share the Gospel and its truth. We are called to be bold in Christ. When you hear the Holy Spirit’s call to your heart, you are to do more than just listen. You are to answer the call and witness, to go where He leads and keep faith.

Faith is a journey. That’s why it’s described as a walk with God. It’s not a stand where you say you believe and that’s it, there is no outward change. It’s also not a short sprint, where you do some work for a brief time, then sit on the bench until the game is over, telling yourself you put in your time, now it’s someone else’s turn. It’s a continuous journey that is not complete until you are with Christ in heaven. So, continue on! If you have accepted Christ as your Savior His Spirit dwells in you! You have nothing to fear in this life. Keep persevering until the day you hear your Lord say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:3)

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39)

My Dad, Nick Ricardi, a changed man after surrendering his life to Christ years before in this photo. He never dreamed any good would come of his life, yet God had other plans for him. My dad is an exceptional Father and I couldn't have a better example of an earthly Father living out his life in full submission of our heavenly Father.




Tuesday, December 13, 2022

A Star Answers

I was outside in the snow last night looking at the starry sky, listening to Christian music while praying, and shedding some tears as I did. When I think about God and all He has done for me, a sinner, the tears just come. They aren’t tears of grief or sadness, but come more from a sense gratitude, of humility, and feeling undeserving of the grace I have been given. I don’t deserve anything I have been given and yet God has given it all to me through the blood of Jesus. 

At one point I looked up at the night sky and asked, “Where are you God?” even though I knew what the answer would be. My gut said, “All around, just look!” But I asked anyway. “Where are you God? Show me!” And immediately a shooting star shot across the sky in the exact place I was looking. 

Sometimes it’s in the very small answers to small prayers that give us the strength to be bold in Christ in the most difficult of circumstances that we may face down the road. In that brief second of a star shooting across the sky I knew God was there. Even when you don’t feel it, He is with you. He will never leave nor forsake you.

“It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; He will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)

Friday, November 18, 2022

Being Resistant to The Father of Lies  November 17, 2022

As believers do you ever not feel prepared if the end times were to happen in your lifetime? I know I do. I like to think that I am ready but my sin nature of fear gets the best of me at times and I find myself not feeling like I can handle what the end times may bring. I do not want to endure the hard times or see the world crumble all around me. I have this hope that it will be a slow build up to when Jesus comes back so I can be long gone before it happens. Because I know when that time comes, we will all be enduring some very hard times, much harder and evil than what we are living in today. Whether you take a pre-tribulation view (God will take the church/His believers to heaven so they don’t have to endure His wrath poured out on earth), a mid-tribulation view (God takes believers half through the 7 year tribulation) or a post tribulation view (Believers will have to endure the tribulations before God takes them away) hard times are a given.

I also fear that I won’t be able to withstand the evil when it comes, that it might happen so subtly I won’t recognize it. I would like to believe that I won’t get “duped” by the Anti-Christ or the False Prophet when they arrive on scene, but on my own strength I know I would be lost. I like to think that I could withstand all forms of temptation, I am a believer after all, but on my own strength, I know I will fall. So many of us can get caught up in our own ego and thinking that we are good people and will be able to spot evil a mile away. But Satan is a master deceiver, the Father of Lies, and we would be foolish to think we can withstand him on our own merit alone. We can’t.

That is why we have to put our full trust in Christ each and every day. We need His strength and wisdom to overcome the enemy. As believers we have to be even more discerning when we witness “miracles” for we are the ones who believe in miracles and look for them and may be more likely to think the signs we see are from God when they are not.

When I think of the story of Adam and Eve in the garden and Eve eating of the forbidden fruit, I like to think that I would never fall for that. I wouldn’t believe the serpent. His scheme looks so obvious to us but that’s only because we get to see exactly what happened as a result. It’s easy for me to think I would do exactly what God told me to do because I know He is good and has the best laid out plans for me. But that is arrogant to think. I fall like Eve, every day! We all do! We are tempted every day in many ways and we do not always resist the temptation. We all sin. Part of the lie we tell ourselves when putting ourselves in the place of Eve in the Garden, is that we are good people, we know right from wrong and we simply won’t do the wrong we shouldn’t do. Eve gets a bad rap in the Bible but she really is just a mirror to all of us when we think we know what is best and choose to go our way instead of following God’s.  

In John 8 we see Jesus, teaching in the temple courts, when a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law come to Him, bringing a woman caught in the act of adultery. The law says they are to stone her. Jesus told them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And you know what happened? They all left. Not one could stand and condemn her. They all sinned. Even the most “upright” religious leaders fell short. The only one who could condemn her was Jesus, and He told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” She was offered forgiveness in Jesus, not condemnation.

The apostle Paul summed up our sinful state well when he wrote in Romans 7:15, 18-19, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep doing.”

None of us are without sin. We have all tried so hard to be “good” and have failed. We cannot overcome evil by relying on our own strength. It takes someone more powerful than Satan to help us overcome. It takes Jesus. Without Jesus, we would all be condemned to hell if we were to truly get what we “deserved.” It is arrogant of anyone to think they will be saved for being a “good person.” None of us are good. None are without blemish.

When the end comes, we do not want to be left unprepared. Whether the tribulation comes in our lifetime or not at some point we will all face an end and need to be eternally prepared. How do we prepare ourselves? One of the best tools we have is to read the Bible and surround ourselves with other believers.

I heard a story recently about a person who was in a “Christian” cult. They didn’t know they were in one at the time. They were being taught all sorts of falsehoods by their religious leader that he claimed were Biblical. I was baffled by this, thinking if they just opened their Bible and read what it says they would see that what was being preached was not true! I have found that many people who claim to be “believers” have not read the Bible and do not know what it says so they are even more vulnerable to deception. The leader stoked their egos of being good people and a part of some “club” where only they were saved. Even if they did read the Bible, many would not want to accept what it says. Who wants to hear they are sinful and deserve hell? No one.

We must be born again in Christ. “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) We have to humble ourselves at the feet of Jesus and recognize our shortcomings, we need to see that we cannot save ourselves. We are not our own god. There are many (little g) gods vying for the number one spot in our lives, we have to be willing to set those aside, set our own personal pleasures aside, and put God first.

When you are born again you have a direct and personal relationship with God. He is not just some omnipotent, far-off God out there in the Universe. He is all powerful and all loving and knows everything about you. He cares for you and is not far away. He is with you and His Holy Spirit can dwell inside you.

As believers we should study God’s Word. We need to be able to draw on it to help us be discerning of the deception that is all around us. But knowing your Bible is not enough. You need to have a personal relationship with Jesus otherwise when those temptations come, you will know what you should do but you will lack the ability, the strength to carry it out. There will be many “good people” even “Christians” who know God, say they believe in Jesus, but don’t actually have a relationship with Him, that will fall for Satan’s deceptions. If you do not have a personal relationship with Christ and know what the Bible says and heed its warnings, it will be nearly impossible to withstand the evil one when he is right out in the open and many will fall for the anti-Christ and False Prophet.