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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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Worldview: What does it mean to be a man?

Worldview: What does it mean to be a man?

What does it mean to be a man in this cultural moment?

This all boils down to answering the question, “what does it mean to be human?”
This is a worldview question and depending on one’s worldview, will render different answers.

Worldview answers these questions:

  • Metaphysical – what is real?
  • Epistemology – what is true?
  • Origin – where did I come from?
  • Meaning – does life have meaning?
  • Morality – what is right or wrong (good / evil)?
  • Destiny – what happens when I die?
  • Identity – who am I and does my life have purpose?

Every worldview must answer those questions in ways that correspond to reality and have coherence.

A secularist-atheist, Muslim, pantheist, Christian, etc will all answer these questions differently. Worldview drives behavior and how we see ourselves in our place in the world. What I believe about being a man in this cultural moment is shaped by my worldview. In the west, The contours of our body ethic are rooted in a worldview and philosophies emerging from Rome and Greece – that were both reshaped and reformed by Christian worldview.

As the Christian ethic is jettisoned for a more naturalistic / materialistic worldview, we don’t actually move toward something new, we move back to something old – Rome.

Therefore, this shift will change how we define our place and purpose in the world, man and woman.

I believe the definition of a man is rooted in biology, theology and character.

What does it mean to be a man?

He does not give in to passivity
He takes responsibility
He leads sacrificially
He defends the weak
He is a voice for the voiceless and a father to the fatherless.
He is faithful
He loves mercy and does justice
He loves well and leads well.
(Notice none of these attributes have anything to do with a man’s physical strength, violence or abilities).

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:27-28)

Note: The content above was taken from a reply I wrote to a friend’s post on Facebook. This is an extension of my recent work in the Colson Fellows residency has helped me crystalize and communicate the contours of what shapes our worldview particularly in America today and our definition of man.

Resources:


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Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s challenge to the church today

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From Birmingham Jail” continues to be relevant in our cultural moment. His words challenge the church to embrace it’s full purpose. The extent to which the Gospel of the Kingdom is proclaimed and integrated into the life of the church is the extent to which the church is relevant and effective in society.

The quiescent church is the gateway to injustice, brokenness and disorder. The witness of the church should be felt throughout the culture as the Gospel message empowers believers to pursue justice and reconciliation, serve the needy, create beauty and restore what is broken.  The death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sin transforms the believer.  This Gospel, rightly lived out will teach, sanctify and transform the society in which believers dwell.  It will be distinctly ‘sacrificial’, restorative and bold in its expression.

Martin Luther King Jr. operated from a distinctly Christian worldview.  It informed his purpose, his view of reality and drove his behavior.  This nation has benefited from his worldview and his actions.  His challenge to the church echoes today.  Dr. King knew what he was about.  Do you know what you are about?

We know what our salvation saved us from (eternal separation from God’s presence, goodness and joy).

But a better question is;

What is our salvation for?

[Put another way, what is the purpose of our salvation?]

Read: Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Letter From Birmingham Jail’


Read previous post: Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]
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Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]

Dear Mr. President – We are their only hope [Kurds]

Below is a letter that I sent to President Donald Trump today regarding the recall of US troops from Syria. There is trouble in Syria, Turkey and Northern Iraq.  This is the home of the Kurdish people.  I’m calling for this administration to take immediate action to protect this region from those groups and nations that would cause them harm.  ISIS 2.0 is ramping up in the region and Turkey (while in NATO) is no friend to the US or the Kurds.

The Kurds stood for us. Let’s stand for them.

Politics must be set aside in order to unite to do good. I encourage you to engage as well.  We live in a country where citizens are free and safe to voice their dissent and opinions against actions or policies of our government.  You have a voice, use it. Be wise and respectful when you do.

Letter Text:

President Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing you in regard to your announcement to recall U.S. troops from Syria.

I am a pastor in Fort Worth, Texas. In 2018, I visited Northern Iraq (Kurdistan) with an NGO assisting the rescue and recovery of Yazidi women and children from ISIS terrorists in the region. They are also providing trauma care for those victims in the refugee camps around Duhok. I have seen first hand what ISIS has done to families and communities. It is impossible to describe the horrors they have experienced.

While in Kurdistan, I had the privilege of meeting Kurdish people from all over the region. Many of whom had fought ISIS and lost family members. Every Kurd I met was warm, kind and loving toward our great nation, the United States. The hospitality extended me while in-country can only be credited to the hard work of Americans over the last several years. I could not have been more proud to be an American.

The Kurdish region is the hidden gem of the Middle East. The Kurdish people are an international treasure – made up of Christians, Yazidi and Muslims. With vision and U.S. partnership, the region can become the epicenter of human flourishing, freedom and economic growth. No other nation on the face of the earth has the foresight and fortitude to stand for the Kurdish people like we do. ISIS or other terror groups will fill the security vacuum. We must protect the vulnerable and stand in the gap for our friends. We are their only hope.

In conclusion, Kurdish children have hopes and dreams – just like my children and your children. I’m humbly asking leadership to consider the unintended consequences of our actions. Please stand for the Kurdish people. We have an opportunity to make history and save lives. I hope to visit my Kurdish friends again one day and know that my nation stood in the gap for them. I ask myself the haunting questions, “What if that was my family? Who would help us?”

May God continue to grant you favor, vision and wisdom in your service to our nation. Thank you for giving me a hearing.

Serving you,

Lance A. Cashion

What is Good, True and Beautiful

What is Good, True and Beautiful

In times of cynicism, banality, negativity and outrage there are two kinds of people. There are those who race to the bottom and make things worse. Then, there are those who elevate the cultural conversation and take action.

A few bad actors don’t make an entire group of people bad.

Don’t judge a philosophy by its misuse.

What is meant for good can be used for evil and vice versa.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.

Worldview matters. A vital key to understanding reality is to know what is good, what is true and what is beautiful. Only when we know those core essentials can we create a vision of restoration and act on it.  C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Engage reality – create solutions, combat evil, restore people and relationships.

Ask these four questions

1. What is good you can celebrate?

2. What is missing you can contribute or create?

3. What is evil you can stop?

4. What is broken you can restore?

Develop these three life skills

  • Wisdom (the art of living well in light of objective truth – in community, in our cultural moment)
  • Discernment (identifying the nature of things – good or evil)
  • Moral Courage (the will to stand for what is good, true and beautiful)

Goodness, truth and beauty find their source in God. When you look at a world in crisis, ask yourself; What is Good, True and Beautiful?  When you experience brokenness,  understand that it’s not supposed to be this way.  Ask the four questions before racing to the bottom.

Elevate the conversation and respond with your heart set on restoration.

Practice – Training 

Next time you sit with your family for dinner, ask each person to share something good, true and beautiful they’ve experienced today.  Challenge them to focus on these things over the next week – to see their reality differently.  When we know what is good, true and beautiful – we can frame solutions to all the bad stuff and negativity in our world. Our ministry is based on a good, true and beautiful God.  Its from that foundation that we deal with sin, brokenness, evil and pain.  Our mission is reconciliation and restoration.

*Note: The ideas in this post flow from Colson Fellows course study and talks given by John Stonestreet (Colson Center).  I am thankful for those who stir the hearts and minds of men to think carefully in our culture.


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Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of your Failed State

Essay: Letter to the Emperor – The Rise of your Failed State

Dear Emperor of China,

You have a choice in this moment. Choose wisely.

Your dynasty will perish by self-inflicted wounds of unlearned lessons from the past. You sit upon the limb of a great tree, yet you saw the branch on which you perch.

Do not make the mistakes of your predecessors. They demolished the foundation on which their empires stood. Understand, you will die a failure, in a failed state leaving a legacy of failure.

The ‘strong men’ of broken empires past and empires falling today are nothing but ‘foolish men’. The fool is marked by pride. His hubris crushes him in shame. Are you such a fool? Does wisdom not call to you from the streets of your empire? Ah, but you think it wise to suppress the voice of truth and ignore the cries of the helpless.

Look to the great north! There is a ‘strong man’ where an empire once stood. It’s economy is in shambles. The Czar’s castles crumble in self-delusion and a philosophy tried and left wanting. He is an autocrat cornered by his own pride. He is food for jackals and ravens.

The parable says, the foolish prince’s pride is his folly. He is deficient in wisdom and humility. He’s defiant of truth – even when empirical evidence points to the coming failed state. History is replete with examples of this futility of the mind and disjointed governance of peoples.

In 50 years, your empire has risen on the tide of the Christian worldview and ethic. The freedom and virtue of that ethic undergirds the very economic foundation on which you rest and enrich yourself. The entrepreneurial spirit does not arise from atheistic materialism, Confucianism or totalitarianism. In fact, the worldview you vainly espouse is rooted in envy.

Envy destroys everything.

Envy says, “If I can’t have what you have, I will destroy what you have and neither of us will have it!” Envy is therefore folly and leads to mass misery. Your worldview was born of envy and the will to power. All are folly and futility.

Your system is bifurcated. You benefit from economic flourishing and freedom but you attempt to crush the very spirit that brings them about. Are you so short-sighted? You can’t have it both ways. Your economic engine is stalling and falling. Your people and the heritage you claim to cherish are fading into the darkness (again). Your future is a failed state in the ashes of human history.

When you are alone, you indulge in the proclivities of your heart. Your thoughts are dark and you must crush the hope you cannot possess for yourself. Your will to power leaves you empty and power-less. You enslave others because you yourself are in bondage to darkness. Therefore, you attempt to snuff out the light to ensure ALL are forced to live in darkness.

Wisdom stands at the gates of your empire and mocks you. Folly is there too. Folly beckons you to follow the crooked path of darkness not knowing over that which you stumble. To see the world through your eyes is to see utter darkness.

“One child for one family” was your empire’s evil decree. Murder was rampant in your midst as little girls were sacrificed on the altar of your materialistic god. Today, your “god” has blessed you with too many males and too few females to replenish your land. You are a dying nation – a dying culture.

You lay siege on the church as you foolishly ignore history. Don’t you know the gates of your hell will not prevail against her? History proves that persecuting the church fuels the fire of its own growth. “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.” The old emperor of your land once proclaimed, “I have rid this empire of Christ and His church.” It begs the question; Who is dead? Is the church dead? Is it not your old emperor who is dead? The old dead emperor is rotting in his grave as the church is mighty in your empire. He was a fool thinking himself to be wise.

Don’t be so foolhardy to follow such empty ideas and crooked paths. They all lead to death. One day you will meet death. It will come upon you like thief in the night. Your body will cease functioning, you will soil yourself, draw your last and be heaped into a hole in the ground to rot and feed worms. You will have lived and died a fool. Is that what you want, sir?

Your government is built on a foundation made of sand – of lies, thievery and fear.  No house built on sand can withstand the forthcoming tempest.

If you heed the voice of wisdom, a new day will dawn for your empire – prosperous new day when the emperor understood that he is but a mist.

Don’t be deceived. Humility, not hubris is the mark of a true leader. The choice is yours. Choose wisely, for he who enables your heart to beat will not be mocked. There is a more dangerous emperor and judge waiting in your path. He can fell you with a word. Or he can redeem you and bring peace to your land. You can run to Him or ru with the hunted.

An ancient king was struck down on his throne 2000 years ago “because he did not give God glory.” There is a more powerful and dangerous emperor who hears the cries of the poor. He has whetted his sword of justice and waiting for you. There is no escape. Will you meet him as friend or foe? The choice is yours.

Listen to wisdom this day while it remains today. There may not be a tomorrow for you. Early morning rains are the sweetest and most refreshing. A messenger has been sent to you with good news that you may not perish. Behold, even now, there is a knock at your door…

“The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.” (Proverbs 21:7)


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