The page on which I write was once a small seed that fell to the earth;
and God sent rain.
It grew in the soil and sprouted as a sprig above the ground;
He created nutrients in the rich dirt.
He sent winds and storms over the years to make the trunk strong;
and the tree grew mighty in the forest.
At the right age, the lumberjack laid an eye on the tree;
and the tree was felled.
It was milled by the hands of man,
It was pressed into pages and lined with ink;
and it was bound in cowhide.
This is the page of paper on which I write.
We tend to forget God’s common grace. We forget God’s magnificent gifts and blessings of this life bestowed on the good and the wicked. Consider the abundant blessings in the seemingly mundane – The air you breathe, the sweat on your brow, the water you drink, the sweet apple you eat, the seed, the sun, the rain, the tree and the paper. There is a gift nature to all that God has created because, in the beginning He said, “It is good.” All gifts from God are good. All good things come from His hand – because He is good. My meager gratefulness is no match for God’s goodness in the mundane.
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
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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.
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,
ps. Sorry this was so long.
Read previous post: “Why We Need Beauty”
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Do you ever wonder why humans need beauty?
“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer. Elegant splendor reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.” – Thomas Dubay
We’ve been in self-quarantine / lockdown for over a month. Each day I’m asking myself questions about what I’m learning. I’m looking for lessons, both big and small. Some days, I come up short and can’t seem to find the lesson.
This morning I was reflecting on some interesting aspects of my life. There are themes that seem to rise to the surface now and then. One of those themes is beauty.
The further down the path of life I wander, the more important beauty and wonder become. The more of the hurt and pain I see and experience in the world, the more I find myself searching for that which is beautiful. Beauty is a salve for the human soul.
When I was younger, I was an artist of sorts. From an early age, I had a keen interest in music and visual art. I started drawing and painting at a very young age, I got my first drum set at 3 or 4 years old and my first tape recorder when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. I would listen to the radio and record my favorite songs. It wouldn’t be long (7th grade) before I would get my first turntables and mixer. My first DJ gig was at the end of 7th grade – a birthday party for a classmate. I have tinkered with various instruments my entire life. As an introvert and only child, I would sit in my room for hours drawing and building things both real and imagined.
I was a poor student in school, but I always excelled in art and writing. In fact, I was nearly headed to art school for college. I had my eyes set on Parson’s School of Design or Rhode Island School of Design. I had a great art instructor at my boarding school in Connecticut. Over 4 years, she showed me different ways to see the world. However, the rigid demands of creating a portfolio in Advanced Placement art class to submit to colleges proved to be too rigid. Add on top of that a growing interest in social activities and sports – and I walked away from ‘art school’ but not art or beauty.
Some of my fondest memories; are of exploring the woods around Avon Old Farms School (CT), wandering down to Bondi Beach (outside Sydney) to watch the surf, sitting on the top of a truck staring at the expanse of sky with friends at midnight in the middle of the Australian outback, relaxing on a balcony in Costa Rica with my wife watching birds circling in flight over the ocean and beholding a Texas sunset in the country with my family. These are just a few memories off the top of my mind. I have hundreds more.
Some of my best friends are extraordinary artists. To be able to see and hear the beautiful artifacts that emerge from them is a privilege and joy of the highest order.
A shift occurred
When I reflect back to why I loved beauty and art when I was younger vs. today, I learn that a major shift has taken place. When I was younger, I loved beauty and art mainly because it was an escape from reality. I wanted and needed to find a way out of the chaos and brokenness of my life. Beauty and art brought a kind of order and control. As I’ve gotten older and matured, I have learned that beauty is rooted in ultimate reality and an artist’s personality is the prism through which we see that reality. It is colored and shaped by the artist’s perceptions and expression outward.
So, why do we need beauty?
I have concluded that beauty points to an ultimate reality that remains thinly veiled in this life. From a Christian understanding, we live in a broken world that is slavishly chained to time. Everything, and I mean everything we see, hear and create will eventually decay or be destroyed. On the surface, this is kind of sad. But, if we consider ‘why’ beauty exists in the first place and ‘why’ we humans seem to need beauty – we begin to understand that the beauty we enjoy points to something else.
Beauty points to an ultimate reality and truth rooted in God’s character and expressed through his created order. Before the ‘fall’ of man into brokenness, God called His creation ‘good’. Since the fall, man has attempted to get back to that original state of goodness. Because we are all created in the image of God (Imago DeÍ), humans, like prisms reflect, refract and shape expressions of our creator’s beauty and goodness.
When we experience or express something beautiful, we’re getting a glimpse of an ultimate reality that is purely beautiful. We are seeing but shadows of that original ‘goodness’ cast onto the paths of this short life. When you see or hear something astoundingly beautiful, know that the reason why you love it and want it to last forever is because, beauty, goodness and truth are eternal. In this life, we merely perceive and enjoy dim glimpses of what was originally intended and what ultimately will come.
And so, if the world is slavish, harsh and cold, beauty is the warm inviting fire emanating a kindly light. We need beauty because, whether you believe it or not, beauty is a way that a good God reminds us that he love’s us.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)
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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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The other day, I went to the optometrist to get my eyes checked.
After my appointment, I strolled into the eye glasses shop to get my glasses adjusted.
The optician was a kind lady and I could tell at once she REALLY loved her job. She was so excited to adjust my bent glasses. She knew I wasn’t going to buy anything, she didn’t care about that.
After introducing myself, I remarked, “You must really love your work.” Her eyes began to shine and twinkle.
She responded, “I love my job because I get to help people see.” She continued, “Your eye doctor is the best and he wants the best for his patients. When they come to me, I give them the best glasses. So, I get to help people see!”
Wow! What a lovely and contagious attitude.
As Christ-followers, we get to help people see too. We help people see Jesus. Whether we’re meeting a need, preaching, praying for someone or answering tough questions; we are clearing a sight-line to Jesus. He is the good doctor who is responsible for opening their eyes to the truth. But in God’s providence, we get to be a part of his work by sharing the gospel. That is staggering. What a privilege.
What if my attitude was more like that lady in the eye-glass store?
What a winsome way to open up a spiritual conversation with someone; “I love my work because I get to help people see!”
We don’t have to optician to help people see our Savior. We’ve got everything we need in Him. The question is, “Who am I helping to see Jesus right now?”
May this encourage you to ‘see’ your ministry from a different angle today.
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