The Hand that Holds the Rod – God’s Discipline

The Hand that Holds the Rod – God’s Discipline

Dearest Christian,

The same God who created all things and made you in His image…

Is the same God who delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt.
Is the same God who exiled His people in judgement.
Is the same God spectacularly described in Ezekiel 1.
Is the same God who looked upon the water and made it blush at a wedding feast in Cana.
Is the same God spoke red hot scorching words to the Pharisees.
Is the same God who touched the hand of the leper.
Is the same God who created the waves then walked upon them like a road.
Is the same God who wept at the death of His good friend and then called him back to life.
Is the same God who drank the full measure of His Father’s wrath for our sin.
Is the same God who died and defied the shackles of death.
Is the same God who now rules and reigns in the Heavenlies.
Is the same God who will return to reclaim and restore what is rightfully His.
The Alpha and Omega – The Beginning and the End.

Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

This morning I was reading from the Puritan prayer and devotion book, “Valley of Vision.” I came across a prayer that was very unsettling. It brought great injury to my flesh and greater fear to my heart. I warn you, dear pilgrim, do not casually passover this admonishment and don’t read it unless you are willing to be antiquated with it. You must be willing to accept the heavy strike of the rod.

“Let me lament for forgetting daily to come to thee,
and cleanse me from the deceit of bringing
my heart to a duty –
because the act pleased me or appealed to reason.
Grant that I may be salted with suffering,
with every exactment tempered to my soul,
every rod excellently fitted to my back,
to chastise, humble, break me.
Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,
as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell
on Christ, and drew me to him.”

I read this prayer over and over. It was terrifying.  Through it, the mighty blow of conviction was brought upon my back. My heart was purged of my sinful pride and slammed to the ground and crushed like a stone. The void left in my heart was filled with the fear of the Lord – the same God of Ezekiel’s vision.

In my fear of the Lord, my heart is so deceitful that I was tempted to turn to the flesh as Adam fled to cover himself after he fell. We fear and flee discipline. Then as I continued this devotion, I read two passages:

“Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18)

“Do not be idolaters a some of them were … We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did.” (1 Cor. 10:7a-8a)

Again, “the rod excellently fitted to my back, to chastise, humble, break me” fell upon me. This time it was not a blow of conviction because there was no sin… yet. It was a blow of correction to keep me from being lured off the path by temptation of the flesh – Divine protection.

Having done His mighty work, the Spirit of that same God lovingly whispered to my soul;

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

“Let me not overlook the hand that holds the rod,as thou didst not let me forget the rod that fell on Christ, and drew me to him.” The hand that holds the rod is the loving hand of a good Father, “for the LORD disciplines the one He loves, as does a father the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)

If Christ did not accept the rod for our sin, there would be no hope. All would be darkness and chaos. But he did, and the grace of God poured forth from His wounds to redeem and restore that which was lost. If only we would believe in that same God.

Lord, fill me with the light of your truth found in your Word every morning and again before I rest. The darkness and lures of the world will lie to me all day. Sanctify my mind in your truth. That I may be filled with light and walk by grace through faith in the only Savior who saves.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

In Jesus’ Name
Amen


Read previous post: “Reconciliation: What do you mean by that?”
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Reconciliation: What do you mean by that?

Reconciliation: What do you mean by that?

The word and concept of ‘Reconciliation’ is getting thrown around quite a bit right now. One must understand that ‘reconciliation’ means different things to different people. That is why it is important to define terms up front in a conversation. The best way to get people to define their terms is to ask the question; “What do you mean by that?”

John Stonestreet likes to say, “People are using the same words but different dictionaries.” In other words, the same word may mean different things to different people.  If you are using the same words but different dictionaries, you and the other person are having two completely parallel conversations.  You are basically talking about two completely different things. You will reach two completely different conclusions. This is frustrating and a waste of time. Not to mention, it can create conflict or exacerbate tensions.

I’m not going to provide multiple nuanced definitions of ‘reconciliation’ floating around the culture. I intend to focus on the Biblical definition of ‘reconciliation’.  By focusing on the real thing, it makes it easier to identify the fakes.

What is Reconciliation?

Reconciliation is defined: katallagē (Gk) – an exchange; restoration to favor (between God and man) – adjustment of a difference, restoration to favor. It is the restored relationship / favor between God and a repentant sinner who places his/her trust in Jesus Christ’s atoning death on the cross and His resurrection.

In terms of western culture, reconciliation is a cultural artifact from a Judeo-Christian heritage. No other worldview offers the concept of reconciliation in the way in which we know it today. Even as we sometimes misunderstand or misapply it, reconciliation is a distinctly biblical concept found in the New Testament in particular.

Many (not all) well-meaning Christ-followers who love the Lord have a disordered concept of ‘reconciliation.’ I confess, I have adopted a disordered view in the past. As Christians, we know that “iron sharpens iron”. Therefore, we must be personally vigilant and point each other back to scripture frequently. Words (and their definitions) matter because they shape reality and give meaning to the world around us.

What is Reconciliation for?

(what is the purpose of reconciliation?)

Lets’ begin at the beginning!

1. In the beginning God created all things including human beings (who were made in His image). God said it was “very good.” Humans lived in perfect harmony with God.

2. The Bible states that because of sin our relationship with God is broken (referred to as ‘The Fall’ in Genesis 3). We are born into sin, under God’s judgement and wrath.

3. Because God is Holy and perfectly good, we cannot restore that relationship on our own. There is nothing we can do – no number of good deeds can save us. We need an outside agent to reconcile us with our Creator. We need a Savior.

4. Jesus Christ took our sin upon himself and died on a Roman cross innocent. When he rose from the grave, Jesus reconciled sinful man to a holy and perfect God. He essentially made a path where one did not exist.

5. When a man or woman believes and trusts in the finished work of Christ, he or she is the reconciled with God – the formerly broken relationship is restored. The Bible refers to this as the ‘new of life’ and the condemnation of sin is removed forever.

Therefore, Biblical Reconciliation is primarily a vertical process and relationship between an individual and God mediated through Jesus Christ. All authentic and redeeming qualities of reconciliation flow from this vertical relationship with God as the source. There is NO other source of reconciliation. God is it.

For instance, if I am not reconciled with God first, there is no way I can be reconciled with anyone else. This is a spiritual reality. Furthermore, the other person must be reconciled with God before he/she can be reconciled with me. Nowhere in the Bible will you find a doctrine that teaches that horizontal reconciliation (man to man) is a viable primary option. It is always vertical (man to God – through Christ).

In the absence or rejection of reconciliation with God, all you have is manmade acquiescence or genuflection to another’s power, coercion or emotion. From a Biblical perspective, I argue this is a counterfeit ‘reconciliation’. Why?

Without Christ, we are totally incapable of Christ-exalting good (John Piper). As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” In John 15:4 Jesus states, “apart from me you can do nothing.

Every individual Christ-follower is challenged personally with two questions;
1. Do I believe what the Bible says?
2. Am I willing to live as the Bible instructs and commands?

Disclosure: I am guilty of everything I’m about to say because I’m a sinner too. So, the following is a message for me to hear as well.

Well-meaning Christians who love the Lord seem to turn to manmade / man-centered secular concepts of ‘reconciliation’. Why?

First, while the Bible remains the best-selling book in history, the bible is the least read, studied or understood. Basically, well-meaning Christians don’t know their Bibles. Therefore, they misunderstand and misapply the Gospel of the Kingdom to life and culture.

Second, because the Bible is not viewed as sacred scripture and authoritative but more of a “moral manual.” So, people pick and choose what verses they like in order to validate or support their position or sin patterns. When we treat the bible as a cafeteria-style moral manual, we conveniently sidestep hard truths, conviction, repentance and healthy realignment with God’s Word**

Third, while many well-meaning Christians will claim to believe the bible, their worldview betrays their claims. In other words, how we live our lives reveals what we believe. Many Christians today live as secular humanists or functional atheists without realizing it.

Finally, making manmade or man-centered (horizontal) ‘reconciliation’ primary feeds man’s pride and ego. In addition it gives him a psychological escape hatch from sin. This stems from the sinful trait of self-determinism. In my estimation, man-centered reconciliation reveals our idolatry and fear of man rather than a fear of God.

Biblical Reconciliation begins with our realizing and admitting our sin against God

Psalm 51:4 states the following from an individual perspective, Speaking to God the Psalmist cries, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight…” We sin against God first.

Romans 3:23 encompasses ALL humans who ever lived, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Basically, God has put ALL human beings on notice regarding sin. We are all born in the same sinking ship. Thank God, he sent Jesus to save us.

Does the bible say, “Be reconciled to the world?”  Nope, the Bible says the following;

God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s trespasses against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ: Be reconciled to God.…”

The Great Commission of Christ’s church is to call the world to be reconciled with God, not to call the world to be reconciled with the world. There will be no reconciling the world to the world without God. That is a biblical impossibility and antithetical to the Gospel.

Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments and 613 Jewish laws in two commands.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” – Matthew 22:37-39

Relationship with God is primary and is the post on which the second hangs. Our message to the world is ‘be reconciled with God!

In conclusion, it is vitally important to define our terms up front in a conversation. A good way to do that is to ask a question like, what do you mean by that (reconciliation)? As I have pointed out, the Christian must be focused on the primary work of reconciling the lost with God through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We also love our neighbors and even enemies as ourselves (our witness). Biblical reconciliation is quite different from worldly reconciliation… The results are quite different as well.

Live your life the way in which you were saved – by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

** [Section Note] When a Christ-follower is out of line with God’s Word, it grieves the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the believer feels conviction and frustration. The Holy Spirit ceases working through the believer and begins to bring conviction in order to bring about repentance and realignment with God’s Word. This is why I believe that Christians who dabble in non-biblical versions of reconciliation end up feeling frustrated and confused when the world’s version just simply does not work (ever). Keep at it long enough and it will have a callousing effect on the heart and you risk losing the sensitivity to sin – that can lead to backsliding. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by following worldly philosophies or patterns of living (see Eph. 4:17-32)


Read previous post: “Is Virtue Signaling Sinful?
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Is Virtue Signaling sinful?

Is Virtue Signaling sinful?

I’m addressing the Church (the body of believers redeemed and reconciled to God through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection).

Virtue Signaling is the secular world’s version of repentance. Everyone, and I mean everyone with a social media account is expected, pressured or coerced to virtue signal. Should Christians be caught up in this? I’m guilty of folding under cultural pressure at times. So, I’ll let you be the judge of your own heart and draw your own conclusions.  The following is aimed toward my heart as much as your’s.  I wrote about Hashtag Culture in 2018 and that accomplishes very little.

What the culture says:

Virtue Signaling Defined: the sharing of one’s point of view on a social or political issue, often on social media, in order to garner praise or acknowledgment of one’s righteousness from others who share that point of view, or to passively rebuke those who do not.
The term virtue signaling is often used to accuse someone of trying to win praise for showing support for a social cause without actually doing anything meaningful to advance it. This charge is often used against people for being self-righteously “woke” on social media.
The Conspicuous expression of moral values

Let’s look at some key characteristics of Virtue Signaling:

Social media (where)
sharing (how)
garner praise (why)
one’s righteousness (who)
passively rebuke others (who)
trying to win praise (why)
Social cause (what)
Without actually doing anything meaningful (when)
self-righteously “woke” (why)
social media (where)

The “whys” above point to our motives…

What the Bible says:

Matthew 6:1-4 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

QUESTION: What is the motivation of your heart?

Proverbs 3:27 “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”

QUESTION: Do you actually DO GOOD works? Or just virtue signal good intentions?

Proverbs 6:16-19 “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.”

QUESTION: Does what you say or signal bring about unity or discord?

Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight.”

QUESTION: Are you faithfully taking actions in line with your words that bring honor to God and point people to Christ?

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!

Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

QUESTION: Ask God to search your heart, are you seeking God’s justice or vengeance or something else?

Romans 16:17-18 “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”

QUESTION: Are you orientating yourself to the truth of God’s word or the falsehoods of the world?

What is the solution?

Repent!

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Romans 2:4 “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

Renew your mind!

Romans 12:2 “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Take action!

Luke 8:15 “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

James 1:22-25 “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

In conclusion, Biblical faith is faith is rooted in words from scripture, animated by the Holy Spirt and expressed in actions by individual obedient believers.  We don’t just signal the problems with the broken world, we have a cultural mandate that commands us to DO something about it.

One of the most effective ways to bring restoration is to serve those around you; the poor, the needy, the prisoner, the widow and the orphan.


Read previous post: “The Justice Impulse – what it means
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The Justice Impulse – What it means

The Justice Impulse – What it means

When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.

After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.

About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.

This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.

Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.

It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.

I walked away knowing that justice had been served.

What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.

Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:

  • the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
  • rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
  • the moral principle determining just conduct.
  • conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS

The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.

Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.

From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism.  We need a unmovable point of reference.

We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.

C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.

In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.

There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.

Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it.  Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?

Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.

You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.

When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.

However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.

When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.

We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.

I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.

First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.

Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.

Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.

Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.

How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?

1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?

2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.

3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.

4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.

5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.”  People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.

Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

“He (God) has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.


Read previous post: “Thank you Ravi (Zacharias) – A Story”
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Thank You Ravi – A Story

Thank You Ravi – A Story

News: Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias has been battling a rare form of bone cancer since March and was recently informed by doctors that his cancer has spread and there’s nothing more they can do medically. He has ceased seeking treatment at MD Anderson in Houston, Texas and has returned home to Atlanta, Georgia to be with family and friends.

Thank you to Dr. Ravi Zacharias and a story…

In early February of 2014, I heard that world renown preacher, philosopher, author and Christian apologist Dr. Ravi Zacharias would be coming to a church in Fort Worth to speak. I’ll refer to him as ‘Ravi’ because his ministry has been a part of my life since around 2009 – He’s almost like family! Although, we only know him through radio, books, videos and podcasts. He is a very familiar voice around our home and God has used him to shape my life and ministry.

About a week prior to his scheduled appearance in Fort Worth, I decided to send him an email. Below this post is that email. I wanted to personally thank him for the impact he has on my life, shake his hand and introduce him to my wife Kathryn. That’s it. Just an good ole Texan, “Howdy and thanks for everything!”

On February 16, 2014 Kat and I showed up at Bethesda Church a little early because I figured there would be a pretty good turnout to hear Ravi. The sanctuary was packed.  We took our seats 20 minutes before the service began.

As Ravi preached, he covered a lot of ground – constantly contextualizing the texts from which he was speaking. He unpacked the story of the Prodigal Son, where the father runs out to meet his disobedient wayward lost son. Ravi noted that it was “counter-cultural” to the way middle-eastern fathers would have treated their disgraced sons. The boy would have been expected to crawl back to the father begging for mercy. But, in Jesus’ story, this father is DIFFERENT! This father runs to meet his hurting boy.

Then Ravi said, “Christ met me on a bed of suicide. I never went in pursuit after him, He pursued me… The Hound of Heaven.”

This is where my story with Ravi began many years prior to Bethesda in 2014. This is where his ministry was legitimized in my mind and where he threw an anchor into my heart. I had been there too, having suffered with depression many years prior (my story here). When someone you don’t know can bear witness to your suffering because they have been there too, there is a deep connection. I knew from 2009 on that Ravi would be able to minister to me and teach me in ways others could not. From then until now, Ravi has never let me down. Sure, he is human and a sinner. I do not put him on any pedestal but, he demonstrated to me how I could walk a similar path – a fearless abiding walk with Jesus Christ. The key word being “Fearless”.

Ravi’s sermon ended and the host pastor closed out the event and dismissed everyone. As expected, a massive crowd flocked to the front of the sanctuary to meet Ravi. I was one of hundreds. With my wife (who HATES crowds) in tow, I made my way up to the front to shake his hand and thank him. This was the first time that it occurred to me that Ravi had become an unknowing mentor of mine.

As soon as we got to the front of the stage, crowds were pressing in on all sides – shoulder to shoulder. Kat pealed off to the stage steps to get away, telling me to go ahead with out her. It was gridlock. Several minutes past and I could see Ravi about twenty feet away. It made me very glad that he was spending a few moments with each person whom he met. Several more minutes past and I was not any closer. I saw a security person flash the 2 minute sign to Ravi’s assistant. I was no closer than when I had set out on my endeavor. In my mind, I decided that it was not meant to be. I resigned to that – albeit a little bristled by being so close but unable to reach my objective.

After looking at my watch, I saw that two minutes has quickly flown by. The crowd had me hemmed in from the front and sides. I lost sight of Ravi, turned around to leave and get out of the crowd. I looked up, scanned the stage steps for my wife, locked eyes with her and started walking toward her in disappointment.

Then, Kathryn’s expression changed and she pointed past me. Her eyes grew bigger and she mouthed the word, “LOOK!” I stopped. You know when your wife gives you a look that tells you everything you need to know. It was like she was saying, “Turn around, silly, you are missing something!”

So, I slowly turned around and I was nearly face to face with Ravi. It was like the crowd parted like Moses parted the Red Sea and I found myself on the other side. No telling what kind of expression was on my face.  My prepared remarks went out the window and I babbled a few words that included my name, “Thank you, sir” and something about an email I had sent a few days prior. Ravi looked at me for a moment as if to check his mental Rolodex (Contact Management System for you younger folks).  His face softened. He reached out his hand, returned the pleasantries and said, “I read your email. Thank you for sending it along.” I was struck by the fact that he actually took time to read it much less remember it. The man must receive a couple hundred emails a day. I had just randomly found an @rzim.org address and hoped it would get to him. It did. I turned around to try to find Kat to introduce her to him but she was far away and just waved at us and smiled. She was there for me more than anything else. But, she did ask a young man with a camera to run up and take a photo of me and Ravi. He did.

Our visit was less than a minute in a half. We took a photo and I thanked him again. As I turned and walked away, I heard my name uttered by a strangely familiar voice behind me.

“Lance!” the voice said. I turned around. Ravi said, “Keep up the good work.”

An encouragement from a gentlemen and leader I greatly respect. “Yes sir, I will.”

As I reflect over the years that have passed since that day and this moment, my response is the same today as it was then, “Yes sir, I will.”

I hope and pray that will continue to be my response until I meet my Savior.

Brother Ravi, our days will continue afresh in the celestial Kingdom with Christ. May God Bless you and keep you and your family in these days. May God grant RZIM a double portion of impact in the decades to come. Whatever time God has ahead of you, “Keep up the good work!”  Fright the good fight.  And may goodness and mercy follow you all your days until you step foot into the everlasting.

I leave with you what you have left with me and so many. Distilled truth bathed in Grace and Goodness from the lips of our Savior … “Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:19)

Thank you sir.


Feb 2014 Email to Ravi Zacharias

Dear  RZIM Team,

Hope this email finds you well.  My wife, Kathryn and I will be at Bethesda this Sunday.  If you could pass a message along to Ravi, I would appreciated it very much. 

Dr. Zacharias,

You and RZIM have been a part of my life for about 5 years through radio out-reach, podcast, books, videos and Slice of Infinity.  The topics, questions and sermons have driven me deeper into God’s Word and equipped me to engage the world with truth in love.  I feel like I’ve been taking an extended course in apologetics with a touch of pastoral ministry.  You have had a profound effect on my life and my personal ministry.  God has Blessed me and those I reach through you all.  Thank you.

We share something in common, sir.  I too nearly ended my own life about 11 years ago (I’m 39 now).
In 8th grade, I accepted Jesus as my Savior and was Baptized. By the end of college, I had become the worst of sinners as Paul in 1 Timothy 1:13-16.

My girlfriend became pregnant and we had an abortion. I gave my approval and sanctioned the death of the innocent.

I came to the end of myself on an early morning in 2003. All of the sin in my life weighed on me and the fact that I had murdered my own child put me over the edge. It was darkness and Satan was whispering lies for me to end my own life. At that moment, the Lord reminded me that I belonged to Him. A glimmer of hope entered the darkness.

It was not an immediate transformation. However, Jesus began drawing me to Himself and gave me Hope in my heart. My journey with Jesus is nothing short of miraculous. I’ve gone from being the worst of sinners to an abiding faith in Christ. I serve as the spiritual head of my loving family.

About three months ago my mother revealed a dark secret she had been hiding since before I was born. When she was pregnant with me, her marriage to my father was falling apart. She went to her doctor and asked about an abortion. He told her that he did not perform abortions. So, this lonely, angry, frightened young mother chose life.

Even while I was in my mother’s womb, God’s sovereign hand protected my tiny life. Even as He knew the choices I would make later in life, He protected me. I live Jeremiah 29:11-12

I currently serve as Chairman and Director of the ForLife Initiative at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth. I have experienced healing and forgiveness the same way I was saved, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. On SOHL Sunday 2014, I told my story to our church family (7000 people). I went ‘all-in’ with Christ in order that he may reach those walking wounded among us and encourage men to step forward, get healed and join me on the battled field.

The years of ministry/training/encouragement from you and RZIM played a huge part in demonstrating the boldness and abiding faith I would need to step into such a hostile battle ground. I thank you for being obedient to your calling and God for calling you.

I hope to personally shake your hand and thank you this Sunday at Bethesda. Most importantly, introduce you to my wonderful wife, Kat. Obviously, if that doesn’t occur, please know that you, your family and team are in my prayers.

May the Lord go before you and prepare hearts to receive the Gospel of Grace through you.

My deepest thanks,

2Tim2:4
Lance

ps. Sorry this was so long.


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A Church Without Walls – Serving Others

A Church Without Walls – Serving Others

I have been on staff as the Local Outreach Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas for 6 years. We have campuses in Willow Park and Burleson as well. My main role is deploying our people into the community serving as the ‘hands and feet’ of Jesus Christ.

For as long as I remember, Christ Chapel has had a motto that we’re ‘a church without walls’.

That has been our aim. A mature Christian is a servant in his or her community. Whether its volunteering at a shelter for those experiencing homelessness or ministering to the widow down the street, my mission is to get our people to live missional lives of service. Biblical faith in Jesus Christ will bear the fruit of serving others. We are to be ‘doers of the Word, not hearers only…”

Like any other church, you have those crusaders who need no direction or encouragement, they just go and do. Additionally, you also have those folks who need to be encouraged, coached and directed to take a first step into service. Finally, like most churches, there is a small population of fence-sitters who attend church services faithfully on Sundays but absolutely refuse to serve anyone other than themselves. They are consumers, not contributors – which is antithetical to Biblical faith in action.

That said, there are those faithful who are physically unable to serve due to age or disability or illness. But, they will pray, support and do what they can to undergird gospel ministry. I’d add that those who serve as intercessory ‘prayer warriors’ form the backbone of the church.

We have been praying that our church would become the ‘church without walls’ we’ve claim to be for years. Today, I’m glad to announce that we are now a church without walls! Thanks to the COVID19 pandemic, local congregations across the globe cannot gather within the walls of a building we call ‘a church’. Referring to the church as building is a misnomer, because the church is not a place, it is a people. The Church is the redeemed universal body of believers in Jesus Christ who is Lord over all. The Coronavirus pandemic has stripped down the walls of the church gathering place and forced Christians outside. We are now a ‘church without walls.’

There is no going back.

The church throughout the ages has run into the flames of adversity, injustice, pestilence, war and famine to provide care, compassion and assistance to those in desperate need. If you think church is a Sunday affair of dressing up, going to a building, singing some songs, seeing friends and listening to a sermon, I encourage you to read the book of Acts. Biblical faith has always been active, outward-bound and other-focused by serving others. We are called to be the church without walls. That was God’s original intent when He designed how His people would go about His business across the globe throughout history.  His command has always been ‘Go’.

The true Church is a church without walls. It never had walls. We are being reminded of that in this historical moment.

Now, go and do in Jesus’ name.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” – James 1:22


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