Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

It is amazing to me, but this month marks 30 years that our family of five boarded a plane to take us to our new home in the former USSR. We had rented our first house in October 1991 when the USSR still existed, but on January 27,1992, our family physically boarded a plane to forge into unknown territory both naturally and spiritually. Paul was 8, Philip was 6, and Joel was 2. It’s hard to fathom, but I was only 33 years old at that time.

But with precious Denise at my side, along with our boys, we walked onto the plane, got into our seats, buckled our seatbelts, and started the trip — not understanding what awaited us or the monumental work God would use us to do in a new land. If you want to read the whole story, it’s in Chapter 9 of my new autobiography UNLIKELY. (It can be ordered on our online store at

But before I go any further, I want to say THANK YOU for all your prayers — and for every gift that every person has given — for our Ministry Expansion Project. At this point, we are preparing to move into the new Tulsa building and we are working on the interior of the new TV studio in Moscow. We are believing for every dollar we need to finish these projects right on time, and we are so thankful for every sacrificial gift that precious people have sown into this expansion project. People are reaching out to us for teaching materials and prayer, and we simply need space so we can better minister to them. THANK YOU for all your prayers and gifts!

It is just amazing all that has happened in the last three decades of our lives and ministry in the former Soviet Union. When we made that move in 1992 to this part of the world, I had so many questions I needed God to answer for me — and He told me everything I needed to know. In my life, I have heavily leaned on the instruction in James 1:5, which says, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….”

The word “if” assumes that there are times when we simply need an answer from God. The word “lack” is a form of the Greek word leipo and describes a deficiency. It depicts a deficit, insufficiency, shortage, or undersupply. As used in James 1:5, it means to be without, to have want of, to be in need of, to be lacking, to be short of, to be low on, to not have enough of, or something that exists in an insufficient amount. All of these meanings correctly convey the idea in the Greek text. But for our purposes, we will say the first part of James 1:5 could be interpreted, “If you are short on wisdom…” or, “If you find yourself to be lacking wisdom….

The word “wisdom” is from the Greek word sophos, which describes special insight or special understanding. This verse could be interpreted, “If any one among you lacks special understanding [regarding an issue]….” The verse could even be interpreted, “If any of you are short on knowing what to do…” or, “If any one of you is in need of special answers regarding what to do….

Then James tells us, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask….” The word “ask” is from the Greek word aiteo, a word that means we should have a full expectation to receive what we have requested. But God gives one condition we must fulfill before He answers our petitions. James 1:5 continues, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God….”

The word “of ” in Greek is para, which means close, side by side, or alongside. As used in this verse, this word provides the condition we must meet in order for God to answer us. To qualify for God’s answer, we must be in a close, side-by-side position with Him. God doesn’t want to just answer our request for wisdom — He wants us to come alongside Him, close to His heart. In that position, He will not only answer us, but He will embrace us, cleanse us, and change us. Once we are in that close, side-by-side position, God opens His hand to show us the wisdom we lack and are seeking to gain.

James 1:5 says that after someone asks God for wisdom, He “…giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not….” The rest of that verse concludes, “…And it shall be given him.”

In this verse, we find five guarantees God makes to those who seek answers from Him:

1.James 1:5 guarantees that when we ask for wisdom and we meet God’s condition of drawing close to Him, God will “give” us the answers we need.

The Greek word used for “giveth” does not describe a random, occasional act of God, but it pictures the regular behavior of God. It means God is the giving God. He is not one who “holds out” on us when we need wisdom. He is the giving God — the One who guarantees to give answers to those who meet His conditions.

2. James 1:5 guarantees that God gives “to all men.” This removes the uncertainty that God may answer some and not others. If we draw near to His heart and come closely alongside Him, He will answer us, because each of us fits into that category of “all men.”

3. James 1:5 guarantees that God gives to all men “liberally” — from a Greek word that means bountifully. This pictures one with an open hand, as opposed to one who keeps a closed fist. God doesn’t dangle the bait before us and then quickly jerk it out of our reach. If we have pulled up alongside His heart, He reaches to us with an open hand to give the answer we seek — and He gives us the answer bountifully.

4. James 1:5 guarantees that God “upbraideth not.” The Greek word for “upbraideth” means to berate, to censure, to correct, to rebuke, or to scorn. In other words, God is not going to get upset with you if you ask Him for answers. He will never berate, censure, rebuke, or scorn you when you come alongside Him to receive wisdom.

5. James 1:5 guarantees that answers “shall be given” to the one who is seeking them. The words “shall be given” in this verse is a promise you can count on God to keep!

James 1:5 conveys this idea in the Greek:

If you are short on the answers you need, insistently ask God for them. But God first requests that you come alongside Him. That is the one request He makes before He will provide the answers you seek Him for. God is the giving God. He is known for habitually answering those who seek answers from Him, and when He answers, He does so lavishly and with an open hand. He never berates, scolds, or scorns you for asking. One thing is for sure — answers will be given to you when you ask God’s way!

This verse tells us that God likes it when we ask Him for His wisdom! So draw near to Him and ask in faith today — and get ready to receive a bountiful dose of guidance for the path right ahead of you! Over the years as Denise and I, our family, and our ministry has moved forward, we have leaned heavily upon the promise in James 1:5. You can claim it too!

And if you need someone to pray with you, please reach out to us and let us know how to pray for you. We’ll put our faith together with yours for God to clearly give you the guidance you need for whatever you are facing right now. God will give it — but you need to ask for it! So please, let us know how we can pray with you!

I pray this letter has been a blessing to you today. Please continue praying for us as we press forward to do what Jesus has asked us to do. And, again, thank you so much for being our partner in this wonderful ministry that God has entrusted to us. Right from where you are, you are changing other people’s lives around the world! Thank you so much for your obedience to God and your willingness to give to make an eternal difference for others!

Have a very blessed and prosperous new year!

We love you and thank God for you!

We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,

Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families