of Raymond Charles Stedman
5, 1917 - October 7, 1992)
was born in Temvik, North Dakota where his father, Charles, worked
for the railroads. The family lived for a while in Miles City,
Montana, then in Tacoma, Washington and finally settled in Denver,
Colorado where his father worked in a Burlington Railroad roundhouse.
Ray's mother, Mabel, was asthmatic and developed a heart condition,
and after the age of six Ray lived with his aunt. His father
abandoned the family, and all efforts to locate him were to no
Ray came to know the Lord at a Methodist revival meeting at age
of ten and, living on a farm, began to preach to the cows. His
dream was to one day become a surgeon, and after high school
in Montana he entered a premed course at Whitworth College, Spokane,
Washington. Financial difficulties forced him to drop out. After
working in Montana, Chicago, Illinois, and Denver, he moved to
Hawaii to work for Libby Pineapple when World War II broke out.
He enlisted in the Navy there in 1943. During the Hawaii years
Ray began to lead Bible studies for both civilian workers and
navy personnel as well as preaching on a local radio program.
It was during this season that Ray realized the Lord wanted him
in full time vocational ministry.
Ray met his wife Elaine in Great Falls, Montana, and at the close
of the war they were married in Honolulu on October 22, 1945.
Upon their return to the mainland in 1946, Ray began a four-year
course of study at Dallas Theological Seminary, graduating in
l950. Ray and Elaine spent two summers during seminary with Dr.
J. Vernon McGee at Lincoln Avenue Presbyterian Church in Pasadena,
California doing youth ministry. This was just before Dr. McGee
began his long ministry at the Church of the Open Door in Los
Angeles. The Stedmans went on to spend one additional summer
in Pasadena at Emmanuel Baptist Church. In the fall of 1950,
after traveling for several months with Dr. H.A. Ironside, Pastor
of Moody Church in Chicago, Ray accepted the call (conveyed to
him by Robert W. Smith) to serve on the staff of Peninsula Bible
Fellowship in Palo Alto, California. The Stedmans then moved
from Great Falls, Montana to the Bay Area with their two young
daughters, Sheila and Susan.
PBF had begun two years earlier as a small Bible study, prayer,
and fellowship group led by a group of lay leaders from several
local churches. By l950 it had grown to the point of needing
pastoral staff care. Three letters arrived in the PBF mail box
on the same day, written by Christian leaders in different parts
of the country, with none of them having any knowledge of the
other letters. All three encouraged the PBF Elders to consider
a young man named Ray Stedman to fill their pastoral need. Based
on the strength of those recommendations, a brief meeting with
Bob Smith at DTS, and a meeting after graduation in Palo Alto
with the directors of PBF resulted in Ray being offered the position
without hearing him preach.
PBF was to become PBC, and Ray's leadership here was to last
40 years, culminating in his retirement as a Pastor and Elder
on April 30, 1990. During those 40 years God blessed Ray and
Elaine with two more daughters, Linda and Laurie, and eventually
eleven grandchildren. Ray and Elaine have lived in Grants Pass,
Oregon since his retirement, surrounded by their daughters, Sheila,
Susan, Linda, Laurie, and their families, all of whom live in
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by Christianity Today- Ready for Something Tremendous
October 14 (1992) we lost to cancer an outstanding leader among
us, Ray Stedman. Long-time pastor of Peninsula Bible Church in
Palo Alto, California, and author of Body Life and other
books, Ray contributed largely, yet humbly.
Why? "He had his ego under control," says his close
friend, Fred Smith. Fred always marveled that a man so gifted
could seek applause so little.
Another close friend, Jack Modesett, Jr., quotes Ray himself
as saying, "If we will admit our inadequacy, we can have
God's adequacy....The greatest problem in the church is trying
to do God's work with man's strength....The key to Christian
sufficiency is realizing that everything comes from God and nothing
comes from me."
Then Jack adds this: "In Ray's book Authentic Christianity,
he tells the story of Paul's escape from Damascus by being let
down over the wall in a basket. Ray commented that Paul was useless
to God until he became a basket case! He adds that we also are
useless until we are 'utterly bankrupt before some demand of
life, and then discover it to be a blessing,' because it forces
us to 'depend wholly on the Lord at work in you.' When I read
that I thought, It may be that no one has ever lived a life that
was fully yielded to Christ, but Ray Stedman came very close."
Jack is not alone in that assessment. Perhaps it was because
Ray's perspective on earth foreshadowed---his current perspective
from heaven. In a sermon he preached just a year before his death,
he quoted Paul's statements about our "light affliction"
working in us "an exceeding great and eternal weight of
glory" and followed that with a call to break out of the
limitations of this-world thinking:
"The world tells us, if you don't take it now, you're never
going to get another chance. I have seen that misunderstanding
drive people into forsaking their marriages after 30 or40 years
and running off with another, usually younger, person, hoping
they can still fulfill their dreams because they feel life is
slipping away from them. Christians are not to think that way.
This life is a school, a training period where we are being prepared
for something that is incredibly great but is yet to come. I
don't understand all that is involved in that, but I believe
it, and sometimes I can hardly wait until it happens."
best is yet to be
In the same message, Ray spoke of being readied for "something
tremendous" and warned his congregation, "Don't succumb
to the philosophy that you have to have it all now or you will
never have another chance. You can pass by a lot of things now
and be content because you know that what God is sending you
now is just what you need to get you ready for what he has waiting
for you when this life is over. One of my favorite quotations
is the words of Robert Browning, which you sometimes see carved
Grow old along with me!
The best is yet to be,
The last of life, for which the first was made."
Ray is now experiencing "the best," and the best conclusion
here is to quote Ray's own challenge to his congregation: "So
don't lose hope. You are headed for hope, headed for life, headed
for glory. All of this life is working toward that end; that's
the first thing to hang on to. You don't need to be depressed
or feel that everything is useless, that you can't do anything
because you are getting older ...that is not true. Paul prays
that these Christians may feel in their hearts the great hope
to which God has called them. It is all waiting for them, the
shining hope beyond death."
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from the Sermons of Ray C. Stedman
Death and Dying
is your view of your approaching death? Do you have some sense
of anticipation about it, with the awareness that beyond death
is the final explanation of all the unanswered, unexplained questions
of life? I became a Christian when I was 11 years old. Like all
young boys, I faced life then with mixed feelings of both anticipation
and dread. But one thing I have always wanted to do was to grow
old. God has answered that prayer. Now, as I near the end, I
can say that looking ahead is a time filled with happy anticipation
that God is going to answer all the questions which I have had
to leave unanswered, because the full meaning of this present
experience will never be brought out until death intervenes.
Then will come all the answers, abundantly, satisfyingly, fully.
"That is the Christian perspective of life. If we succumb
to the empty view of the worldlings around us we too will find
ourselves all ajitter, frustrated, feeling bitter, angry and
upset with our circumstances. But these words call us to the
realization that the meaning of life can never be found by trying
to solve all the problems. Rather, it is by trust in the Living
God, who knows what he is doing and is working out his strange
purposes through our existence, teaching us all we need to know
as we go on through, so that our eyes should reflect the peace
of God and our hearts respond with joy at the promises that await
fulfillment yet to come."
own personal death is the hard, harsh, square peg that refuses
to fit into all the round holes we plan for our future; it is
the sand in our oyster that irritates us and makes our spirits
protest against it. Why should we learn all these great lessons
of life and, just when we have learned them we must give them
all up and there is no opportunity to exercise them? Something
about that makes us protest.
"If we have been brought up to believe the universal lie
of our day which is being flung at us all the time through the
media that we deserve to live, then this constantly approaching
termination of our life reminds us that that is not so. In the
eyes of the God of the universe we do not deserve to live. If
we are allowed life beyond death it is a gift of God's grace,
not something we have earned ourselves. Something in us deserves
to die; that is what universal death declares.
"That fact is what makes everybody essentially religious.
This is why man cannot live like an animal. Even those who claim
atheism, and attempt to act and live as though there were no
God, give evidence from time to time that they do not really
believe that. Beyond death is something someone they do not know
who or what waiting for them, so they cannot be comfortable with
the idea of atheism. They have to find some answer to the problems
of life, and death is what forces them to do that."
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|Anecdotes and Testimonies
Stedman had an encyclopedic mind and could quote hundred of poems,
hymns, literary quotes and of course Bible verses. He had a wonderful
and warm sense of humor. If you knew Ray Stedman or were influenced
by him, or if you have comments on his sermons, please send us
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|Books, Tapes, and Papers
his life time Ray preached over 800 sermons at PBC (and probably
as many more out of town during his extensive world travels).
He authored more than 28 books, many of which are still in print.
You may read many of his messages on these web pages, and you
may order sermons, books and tapes from Discovery Publications,
a ministry of Peninsula Bible Church of Palo Alto.
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