Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 2

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Pic: Ravi and his son, Nathan, at our home

Once again, we have the privilege to hear from Ravi Zacharias via an interview I did with him.  Though done years ago, his answers are timeless, interesting, and applicable for us.  This time, we take personal and insightful look into his life and ministry.

For those of you who missed Part 1, Click Here .  Ravi was a precious friend and hero who has had an immeasurable impact in my life as well as thousands of others.  He was widely considered as the finest and most impactful Christian apologist/evangelist in the world before his passing on May 19, 2020.

We have used the last two weeks to honor his life and legacy and to help inspire you to have a greater perspective on life and your calling in Christ:

Ravi: A Poetical Sketch – A Tribute to Ravi Zacharias by Daniel Hsieh

Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

Ravi Zacharias: A Singular Life (1946 – 2020)

Ravi Zacharias Buried in Casket Built by Prisoners

A MUST WATCH! – Ravi’s Memorial

Enjoy and glean from this titan of the faith! – Arthur

Arthur:  You said at Founders Weekend (an annual weekend retreat for close friends of the ministry), with respect to the ministry, that God gave you a vision without giving you omniscience.  I knew what you were saying because if you really knew what lay ahead, in your human mind, you would have been overwhelmed and felled before you even started.  But what was it that you did see?  I’m sure you never envisioned the grandness of the impact that RZIM (Ravi Zacharias International Ministries) would have.  What was it that you were looking to do when you started the ministry?

Ravi:  The need.  I saw the need .  That’s about all I could see . . . that the need was incredibly vast to reach the mind and that we were going to be committed.  What I did see in my mind were university open forums, businessmen’s luncheons, international conferences where we are reaching the thinker;  and so I very clearly envisioned these audiences coming in large numbers to listen to a defense of the Christian faith but I did not envision, say, the growth of the radio ministry, the growth of our team, . . . the marvelous opportunities that have come are extraordinary.  I mean we have a full time staff of 18 here (Atlanta), 14 or 15 in Madras (India), and now with Oxford (England), and Canada . . . we have contained growth in our planning.  We have made every effort to limit growth.

[Note: It was in 1984 that Zacharias founded RZIM, which today has 16 offices throughout the world in the United States, Canada, Peru, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Austria, Spain, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, and the Middle East. Through its global team of more than 90 full-time speakers and nearly 300 employees worldwide, RZIM seeks to impact the heart and intellect of society’s thinkers and influencers through evangelism, apologetics, spiritual disciplines, training, and humanitarian support.]

Arthur:  That’s a new approach!  Everyone else seems to strive to do it the other way (i.e. strive for growth rather than limit it).

Ravi:  (chuckling) This is the truth.  People sort of chuckle at it in our meetings but I think one of the most difficult decisions in life is to know when you are at your maximum and not to go wider but to go deeper.

Arthur:  That’s something I came away with at Founders.  Let me tell you that that has been so profound in my life.  Not only the messages but the people I was around . . . talking to different people and listening to the testimonies, I was there humbled . . .  It was kind of scary for me because I had never thought in such grand and deep terms.  It seemed that everyone I was meeting had that kind of deeper vision for ministry.  I was kind of scared because I think, as you would say, Aslan is on the move;  something was going on in my heart, like I was approaching a next step [in my spiritual life] or something.  That was so enriching.  We appreciate that (being included) very much.

Ravi:  I appreciate that, Arthur.  That was a special weekend, no doubt.

Arthur:  Back to the ministry, how did it come about that the vision came to mind.  [Weren’t] you in the business world before you were in ministry?  How did God bring you to this point?

Ravi:  When I came to Canada (from his homeland, India), I worked in the hotel industry.  I trained in catering technology and hotel management.  My whole goal was to be in the hospitality and hotel industry.  I enjoyed that very much and still miss it a lot because I like the hospitality industry, my focus mainly being food and beverage management;  but after working in it for two years, there was no doubt in my mind, that as each day was going by, God’s voice was getting clearer and clearer.  By that I don’t mean an audible voice but a tug at the heart to get myself into theological training and into ministry because that was where I was most fulfilled – in sharing my testimony or speaking to audiences.  It was very obvious to me where it was going but I just did not know what form it would take.  I knew it was going to be ministry but I didn’t know whether it would be as a missionary or an evangelist.  I just did not understand those terms very well, coming from India. . . .  I finished my undergrad and then worked full time for the Christian Missionary Alliance (CMA) for one year.  I then felt I needed graduate level education in philosophy if I was to truly wrestle with the questions people were asking.  I did my graduate level work at Trinity and after that became a professor for the Alliance . . . When I finally left the professorship to form RZIM, it was with the goal of reaching the thinker and training men and women to be able to think again for the glory of God.

Arthur:  Going back to [your early life], you were converted in India.  You said you were very sick or something?

Ravi:  Well, I was on a bed of suicide when I was 17.

Arthur:  Oh, that’s right. Was it really that meaningless or seemingly so at that point?

Ravi:  I think so because of the kind of culture in which I lived.  There’s a lot of pressure to do well in your studies and if you’re not going to do well, there’s no hope.

Arthur:  The Chinese kids that I work with have a strong feeling of that.

Ravi:  Exactly.  I talk to them here at Georgia Tech.  I’ve had them come to the office.  A Chinese youngster understands that very well [and] an Indian youngster understands it very well.  There’s a great similarity because of the size of our nations and the emphasis that is placed on scholarship, and then limited opportunities . . . it’s not good enough to do well, you have to be at the top of your class.  That’s the pressure.  If you don’t make it, there’s a lot of shame.

Arthur:  That’s right. So, you said your mother brought the Word in to you?

Ravi:  Yes, somebody brought a Bible into the hospital room –  a friend of mine whom I didn’t know that well – and he gave her John 14 to read to me.  In the hospital room, when she read it, that’s when [I made my commitment].  I had heard the gospel before but I didn’t have full understanding of the terms.

Arthur:  When she was reading the words, did something happen?

Ravi:  When she came to the verse when Jesus said, “Because I live, you shall live also” I said, “Lord, I don’t know exactly what this means but if this means that You’re the giver of life, then I want it, and I want Your life because the life I have I do not want.  I will leave no stone unturned in pursuit of truth if You will just change my life for me.

Arthur:  Afterward, then, was there an immediate difference?

Ravi:  Yes, an incredible difference.  I left the hospital room a brand new man.  I got involved in Bible studies with Youth for Christ and they became my nurturing agent really.

Arthur:  You told me in your letter to me last year that you thought the Chinese people had a special role in God’s plan in the next century.  What did you mean by that?

Ravi:  Well, I think they are a very, very uniquely gifted people.  If you look at the Chinese culture, there’s almost nothing, in terms of human capacity, that they as a culture do not possess.  [They are] incredible artists, very competitive in athletics, very gifted musically.  They know the diligence of thinking [and] scholarship – the Chinese scholar and so on.  They’re very, very gifted in business acumen and learning to make the best out of difficult situations.  They have an incredible survival instinct . . . through thick and thin, somehow they have managed to keep the home fires burning.  There’s a lot of courage in Chinese culture . . . If the gospel takes hold in China, I have no doubt that they will be the agents of change in the twenty first century . . . the key is going to be how the gospel takes root.

Arthur:  Are there any plans for RZIM to (minister in China)?

Ravi:  I think so, Arthur, I think so.  We generally wait for things to come about naturally;  we seldom construct a specific plan but the way God has opened up doors for us in the past, I think something will happen because of the impact we had in Hong Kong and in Singapore.

Arthur:  In your last statement here, what is your life’s passion or purpose?

Ravi:  Oh, to receive the divine accolade, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”;  I think to win the applause of God rather than anything else;  that God would be pleased with my life, that is my goal without a doubt.

Arthur:  Ravi, this has been a great time for me.  Thank you so much!

Ravi:  Oh, I appreciate that, Arthur.  We appreciate you, too, very much.  Give our love to Sandra . . . and thank you for taking the time.  It’s good to talk to you again.

Arthur:  You and your family have a great Christmas.

Ravi:  You too, my brother.  The Lord bless you.

Ravi Zacharias Buried in Casket Built by Prisoners

“Our hope is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty,” said Sam Allberry in solemn graveside service.

“Our hope is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty,” said Sam Allberry in solemn graveside service.

Ravi Zacharias was laid to rest on Thursday, May 21, in a private ceremony in Georgia. It was a largely overcast day with glimpses of sunlight piercing through the clouds, a reflection of those who were mourning below with glimpses of hope piercing through the mournful occasion. His family gathered to honor not just the leader of a global ministry or an evangelist-apologist who crisscrossed the globe in the service of Christ, but a loving husband, a nurturing father, and a loyal and generous brother. Sam Allberry, who officiated the service, rightly reminded all that this is not the end of Ravi’s story. Hovering over the whole ceremony was the confidence of the words that had saved Ravi’s life 57 years ago: “Because I live, you will also live” (John 14:19).

Allberry gently ministered to the family through his message of hope and assurance in Christ during the graveside service. He explained that the Christian’s hope is grounded in the assurance of Christ’s life and faithfulness. Since Christ lives, we know that Ravi lives. In that sense, the grave is something of a painful deception. Ravi now rests cradled in our Lord’s earth not as one who has been snatched from life, but as a dear saint ultimately liberated to life everlasting in the presence of his Lord and Savior. Using an analogy fitting of a man who had spent his life spanning the globe, Allberry described the grave as an airport transit lounge visited before one reaches their final destination. We know it is not the final destination because it was not Christ’s final destination. “Our hope,” Allberry said, “is as certain as Jesus’s grave is empty.”

Ravi passed away on May 19 after a short battle with cancer at the age of 74. He died on his mother’s birthday. He is survived by his wife, Margie, their three children, and five grandchildren.

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The love that many around the world felt for Ravi through his lifetime of work was present in the very receptacle in which Ravi’s body now rests. Ravi’s message of hope in Jesus Christ resonated with many, especially those in prison populations around the world. He developed a special relationship with Louisiana State Penitentiary, known widely as Angola Prison, inspired by his friendship with the late Chuck Colson, a leading figure in prison ministry and the man who first urged Ravi to put his Harvard Veritas lectures into the written form that became his second book, Can Man Live Without God?

Ravi visited Angola a few times over the years, most recently in June of 2019. It was an incredible experience he wrote about in a June 8 Facebook post:

“In the ante room to the execution room is where the sentenced man has his last meal. A prisoner has painted two paintings that grace the wall there. One is Daniel in the Lion’s Den, meaning, “God might still rescue you.” Next to that is another one: Elijah going up on chariots of fire. One way or the other, God will be there for you. …

Even in a dark place, the Gospel is shining with grace and power. That is the only hope for the world because we are all prisoners of sin, and only the cross has the answer and the freedom.”

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The prisoners at Angola held a very special place in Ravi’s heart. In a beautiful example of the Grand Weaver ever-present in Ravi’s life and death, it is these very prisoners who lovingly crafted the casket in which Ravi was buried.

Ravi wrote about his request to be buried in a casket fashioned by Angola inmates in his most recent book, Seeing Jesus from the East (Zondervan, 2020). With great insight, he wrote of the inspirational lessons one can learn from these dear brothers in Christ. Ravi did not know that his words would be full of so much meaning for his loved ones just a few months after they were penned. “These prisoners know that this world is not their home,” Ravi explains, “and that no coffin could ever be their final destination. Jesus assured us of that. Such is the gospel story.” He expands on this message later, writing “The story of the gospel is the story of eternal life. My life is unique and will endure eternally in God’s presence. I will never be ‘no more.’ I will never be lost because I will be with the One who saves me.”

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These sentiments were felt throughout the service, which began with the reading of God’s word in John 11:25, 26; Romans 8:38, 39; and 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 17b, and came to a close in the Anglican committal prayer

We have entrusted Ravi to God’s mercy,

and we now commit his body to the ground:

in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life

through our Lord Jesus Christ,

who will transform our frail bodies

that they may be conformed to his glorious body,

who died, was buried, and rose again for us.

To him be glory for ever.

Amen.

Ravi Zacharias, a friend of Christ who tried to end his life after 17 years and was given 57 more by and through God’s grace, has finished his race and entered Eternal Rest. As God rested from His works, Ravi now rests from his as well (Hebrews 4:9, 10). At the conclusion of this solemn graveside service, as Ravi’s casket was lowered into Georgia’s red clay soil, Allberry could not help but to reflect on those famous words attributed to George Herbert, “Death used to be an executioner, but the gospel has made him just a gardener.”

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Photos by Elizabeth Lauren Jones Photography.

Margie and the Zacharias family have asked that in lieu of flowers gifts be made to the ongoing work of RZIM. Ravi’s heart was people. His passion and life’s work centered on helping people understand the beauty of the gospel message of salvation. Our prayer is that, at his passing, more people will come to know the saving grace found in Jesus through Ravi’s legacy and the global team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Story courtesy of RZIM Canada

The Space for Sorrow in the Christian Life

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Photo: Jill Carattini, Sandra, Margaret Manning Shull

Hey TD,

Some of you have experienced real sorrow in life, like the passing of a loved one, while others of you have yet to do so.  What’s for certain, unless you personally leave this earth early, you will experience deep sorrow at some point, and maybe a few times.  I have – more times than I’d like to count.

The 21st century has been a doozy. After burying both of my parents, my brother, and Sandra’s mom, we just experienced the death of Sandra’s dad on Christmas night.  In terms of my personal friends and heroes, Coach John Wooden, RC Sproul, and Ravi Zacharias have been personal titans for me.  I have looked up to them, leaned on them, been personally befriended and ministered to by them, and have drawn so much from them. And now, with Ravi’s passing last week, all three have moved on to be with the Lord in the last eleven years.

As I’ve told some, each time a loved one leaves this earth, a part of me leaves with them.  While there’s so much of me left here and so much of God’s calling for me to fulfill, there are parts of me that have just gone and moved on.  It leaves me as such a work in progress … and next in line, generationally speaking.

Perhaps some of you resonate somewhat with what I’m saying, but haven’t had too many people who understand to share it with. I want you to know that you’re not alone. Several TD leaders have experienced significant loss in their lives and have been shaken. If you would ever like to talk, please don’t hesitate to let us know.  There is value, profit, and therapy in shared grief.

In the meanwhile, here’s a valuable “Slice of Infinity” from our friend, Margaret Manning Shull of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), no stranger to sorrow and grief herself.  It’s a helpful read for those of us who have experienced and are experiencing sorrow.

Space for Sorrow

A Slice of Infinity, RZIM

Sitting with clients in therapy, I am frequently overwhelmed by their experiences of loss, heartache, and suffering. Many of my clients did not have the opportunity to grieve or feel the weight of their suffering. Messages sent and received with good intention functioned to suppress emotional expression. But suppressing emotions does not mean they go away. Sooner or later they come out and often in ways that end up being destructive to the individual and to her relationships. Within the safety of the therapeutic relationship, these emotions are encouraged towards an appropriate expression.

Giving voice to grief and sadness over the loss of Ravi Zacharias—particularly during the ongoing constraints of the COVID19 pandemic feels particularly important to me. I have found myself saying to many people that even though we do not grieve as those who have no hope, we still grieve. We still experience the emotions of those who are bereft of a dearly loved leader, friend, mentor, father, brother and spouse. We grieve the loss of his presence among us and the loss of his ongoing and influential ministry around the world as an author and speaker. Holding Christian hope in the resurrection of the body does not preclude feeling and giving expression to the sorrow that is felt over the loss of Ravi’s life and the huge absence left now that he is gone from our lives in the present.

As a young girl, one of my favorite bible stories was the epic encounter between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. With David meets Goliath odds, Elijah faces off against 450 prophets of Baal in a contest pitting the God of Israel against the Canaanite god Baal. Which deity would answer the prayers of the respective prophets to consume the altar sacrifice?

This is a narrative filled with dramatic tension and awesome displays of power. The Lord answers Elijah with fire from heaven that not only consumes the sacrifice, but also licks up every last drop of water poured out from not one, but four pitchers of water. The story ends with the destruction of the prophets of Baal and the peoples’ declaration that the Lord is God.

I still love this story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal, but not for the reasons I loved it as a young girl. Instead, I love what seems to be an anti-climactic postscript to the story. Despite seeing the glory and power of God on display in such dramatic fashion, and winning a great victory, Elijah falls into what would today be described as major depression. Fleeing to the wilderness, he prays to God to take his life, not once but two times. As one commentator notes, “Those who have suffered mental anguish in their lives know all too well the depths to which Elijah has descended. He (and they) has entered the deep spots in the psychological ocean, and then has found a narrow slit in the ocean floor, a Marianas Trench of the soul, where he descends further still into the inky abyss. All he can think of is his desire to die.”(2)

Dirk Volckertsz Coornhert, Elijah Fed by Ravens, etching, 1549.

Reading and re-reading this story, especially as I sit with grieving clients and experience the weight of loss, I recognize the author’s desire to highlight something profound about human sorrow and despair and the comfort of God. The readers of these narrative in I Kings 18 and 19 are meant to be shocked by Elijah’s emotional response to Queen Jezebel’s threats to kill him. After all, didn’t we just see God’s dramatic demonstration of power in consuming fire? One might expect a God who would reproach Elijah for wanting to die, for his apparent lack of faith, and for his despair. And yet, the narrative offers no exhortation or chastening. Instead, an angelic messenger comes to urge Elijah to eat bread and water—to be nourished for the journey is too great for you.

Given God’s powerful display from heaven in the encounter with the prophets of Baal, the reader might expect another dramatic display from God to correct Elijah’s depressed mood. And indeed, as Elijah waits on Mount Horeb, the Mountain of God, he experiences a strong wind, and a mighty earthquake, and then a consuming fire; but with each of these cataclysms the narrator repeats a refrain: The Lord was not in the wind, or the earthquake or the fire. Instead, the Lord comes to Elijah in a gentle blowing. God meets Elijah at the very place of his despair, not with correction or reprimand, not with a buck up and get going or a keep your chin up but with a grace as gentle as a soft breeze.

Like Elijah, there are days when we feel at the height of heights, assured of all answers, victorious in our daily battles, maybe even confident of God’s saving activity all around. But there are also days when regardless of all that we have seen and witnessed of God’s power and glory, we crumble under the weight of sadness. Despair feels like our only friend and the daily obstacles and challenges of life conspire against any faith, hope, and love. It is deeply encouraging to see that even in this place, God draws near with gentleness.

The comforting news of these narratives is that God is not only available to us when we feel good, but makes his dwelling with us even in the darkness of despair. There can often be a pressure to suppress these more difficult emotions, to avoid the problem, to “get over” bad feelings. But the God of Elijah is not put off by our sorrow, or our depression or the weariness of despair. The God of Elijah draws near as a gentle breeze surrounding us with grace and welcoming the full expression of our anguish or tears. God is present in the victory, to be sure, but just as present in what feels like defeat. The God of Elijah prepares a meal, provides shelter, welcomes our sadness, and speaks gently into all our uncertainties.

Margaret Manning Shull is a member of the writing and speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Bellingham, Washington.

(1) See 1 Kings 18-19:18.
(2) Bill Long, “Man on the Run,” June 9, 2007, www.drbilllong.com, accessed October 10, 2011.

“A Slice of Infinity” is aimed at reaching into the culture with words of challenge, truth, and hope. By stirring the imagination and engaging the mind, we want to share the beauty and truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Ravi Zacharias: A Personal Conversation, Pt. 1

 

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Pic: When Ravi visited our home

Hey TD,

It was great to spend time with you on Friday at “Remembering Ravi: A Conversation.”  It was our honor to introduce many of you to Ravi’s life and ministry for the first time, as well as to recollect with others of you who have been touched by Christ through his life. For several of the TD leaders, it was a time of renewal and refocus, as we receive our portion of the baton that he handed off.

I am reminded of something I shared with you earlier this year … that in order to really live, something or someone must die.  In that spirit, as promised, I will be sharing with you some valuable insights from Ravi’s life that will help you deepen your life and ministry for Christ.

Here’s part 1 of a personal interview I had with Ravi years ago.  Please take the time to read, reread, and internalize his comments as I truly believe it can make a difference in your walk with God.  It has made a huge difference in mine.

Arthur:  I’ve heard you state many times that “the loneliest moment in life is when you’ve experienced what you thought would deliver the ultimate and it has let you down.”  Could you comment on that?

Ravi:  A lot of young people, particularly in their days of aspiring and dreaming, they look at their heroes that are ahead of them that are in sports, or in the entertainment world, or in the business world, and say to themselves, “That’s the kind of success I’d like to enjoy.  That’s the kind of wealth I’d like to own.  That’s the kind of power I’d like to wield.”  For many of them, as each stage comes and certain accomplishments are made that they never thought were possible, they find it to be very surprisingly hollow.  One look at the movie stars’ world and you’ll see how they constantly are in situations of broken homes and broken situations; sometimes there’s drugs, sometimes there’s violence in the home.  There are certainly lots of breakages in marriage and so on.  It just goes to prove that in the pleasures of the world, even in the legitimate pleasures of the world, there is no consummate expression;  only in God can you find constant fulfillment.  Take Deion Sanders, for example, in his conversion, making the comment that after attaining everything, the Super Bowl and all of that, he was still emptier than ever.  So that’s the comment, the comment that we need to learn quickly in life that in worldly terms all those momentary fulfillments come and go and they leave you hungrier than before.

Arthur:  That can come in a Christian context too, right?

Ravi:  You’re right!  You’re absolutely right.  That’s an important point.  Even success in ministry can become a disappointing factor after some time because that ought not to be the goal of your life.  The goal of your life ought to be God Himself.

Arthur:  Last year, I told you that I worked with youth and I had asked you what your advice would be to youth today.  Your response to me, as far as what I should do with my kids (youth), was, “Teach your kids how to read.”  Could you explain that a little bit?

Ravi:  Yes.  I think there’s so much that is going on today where minds are growing without our imaginations being given their freedom and their sovereignty.  So much is being given to us visually that I feel our imagination is being taken hostage and in reading you have two things happening:  First of all, words, concepts, ideas are coming into your mind that’ll help you relate and interact with the idea;  but more than that, it gives you the sovereignty of your own imagination.  I think a lot of havoc is wreaked in a life when an imagination has not matured, when an imagination has not been rightly tutored.  So reading is an important aspect in training the imagination.

Arthur:  So you yourself are not engaging your mind particularly in media very much are you?

Ravi:  No, I really don’t.  For various reasons, I find the visual very unattractive to myself.  I’m kind of a news man and the few things that I would watch would be historic documentary type things. The world of entertainment on TV has very little appeal for me personally.  I would sooner read a book than be entertained by the visual media.  I’m not saying it’s all wrong or bad, that’s not the point.  I’m just saying for my personal preference, I have very limited time to give to that kind of entertainment.

Arthur:  So with you, personally, with all the demands on you to be right at the cutting edge of social commentary, you have to saturate yourself with news items and things like that, which also brings the temptation to be overloaded that way too, right?

Ravi:  Oh, you’re right.  You’re absolutely right.  Over the years, I’ve been very selective in the magazines I subscribe to and read ones that will give me the news and keep me in tune with the culture.

Arthur:  Ravi, how do you nurture your soul, then?

Ravi:  Two or three things.  I think first of all, a daily devotional life and scripture reading is going to be very, very important.  You have to be disciplined.  You have to have a pattern.  You can’t do a hit and miss approach.  If you do not have a pattern or a plan, you’ll drop the ball with the busyness of life. . . You have to be careful that you’re not neglecting that.  Then I do a lot of reading of devotional material so that there are others whose writings are inspiring me and raising me to new heights.  I plan on a lot of time at home with my wife.  We travel together [and] we spend time together.  I have time with my colleagues in ministry.  They inspire me [and] sharpen points, as it were.  So I would say through the devotional life, the biblical readings, the devotional readings, my wife, and my colleagues, that’s the way [I] stay fresh and accountable.

Arthur:  Does music play any part?

Ravi:  It does.  I really enjoy music but I’m a great old traditional hymn man and that’s what I enjoy.

Arthur:  Yeah, me too.

Ravi:  I like language to be used well and to probe.

Arthur:  You were saying you read inspiring writers.  Do you have any off the top of your head?

Ravi:  Yes, I really enjoy the Scottish writer, James Stewart.  I like G. Campbell Morgan.  I like the English writer, F.W. Boreham.  I enjoy reading F.B. Meyer.  I love reading Spurgeon. . . A.W. Tozer, I enjoy him very much.  James Montgomery Boice, R.C. Sproul. . .so I’m a reader of the grand themes.

Arthur:  That segues into my next question which is not meant to make you feel [embarrassed] or anything.  What is it that sets you apart from most people?  I guess in my definition and in many of ours’ we would consider you a great man of God.  So if we can say, neutrally, that that perhaps is a fact or a developing fact as you continue to grow in your sanctification, what is it that makes you so uniquely different?  Maybe it’s a gift or maybe not.  Maybe it’s a discipline you’ve committed yourself to.

Ravi:  Well, first of all, it’s humbling when you make a comment like that, Arthur, and so I don’t even know what’s the best way to respond to that.  I think the simplest thing I can say is when people are relating to each other, we generally tend to look for people who either sharpen what we are thinking, to take it to a higher level, or else complement what we are thinking so that we find a balance.  In a lot of my friendships, for example, I look for people who have gifts that I don’t have and that brings you to a real sense of a balanced friendship.  You’re giving and taking. . . I suppose what people possibly find helpful in their lives in the way we have focused our ministry (he is referring to RZIM) is that people seem to appreciate the privilege of thinking and the privilege of growing and having their minds challenged and complemented.  So I think what I have committed my life to is to stretch my mind and my spiritual commitment;  those are definitely goals that I have so that I never stagnate, and I think the result of growing is that the average person you meet, whom you befriend, or whom you love, or are ministering to . . . appreciates that priority because that’s what they want for their lives too.  So, in a sense, I believe what brings about the response from people to what we are trying to do is an affirmation that they too want to go higher.  I think that’s what they’re saying when they thank you for challenging their lives.

Arthur:  I think that states it pretty well.  But with that being the case, you carry a lot of responsibility with so many people looking up to you.  How do you guard against 1)  getting big headed or prideful, and 2) falling into temptation.  Do you know what I’m saying, with the burden your bear?

Ravi:  Yeah.  The first is easier than the second.  I think you make enough mistakes in life.  You fail enough number of times to know that there is never a guarantee that you are going to succeed or you’re going to do well.  God has enough ways of bursting your balloon and keeping you humble.  That happens so many times in a year that there’s never a sense of overconfidence.  I don’t think that’s been a struggle for me at all through life because I know that if it weren’t for Him, we would never even have this privilege, leave alone have the capacity.  There have been enough blunders and failures and shortcomings that keep us very close to Him.  (Now referring to part two of the question)  Temptation of different kinds will always stalk us, especially when I think things are going well.  Temptations are easier to handle when things are not going well because your life and energies are being consumed in just turning things around in life.  When things are going well, Satan will try and knock you off your feet.  The best thing to do is to take the precautions.  One of the precautions I take, for example, [is that] I never travel alone anymore . . . I’m always with my wife or with my colleague, Gavin.  I do not ever turn the television on in a hotel room . . . the movies or shows seduce the mind in some way because you’re alone on the road.  I’m very, very aware of what I watch when I’m on the road.  Generally, it’s a sporting event or the news.  I guard my reading as carefully as I can as well as the places that I go.  I think the best time to whip temptation is when it makes its first approach on you.  So the lines should be drawn well before. . .

Arthur:  Like Daniel in Marching to A Different Drummer (the title of one of his messages)

Ravi:  Exactly, exactly.

 

Prideful Words Hurt Your Life

“Why do I put up with you?”

“I can handle it, so back off.”

“Do you even know what you are doing?”

Prideful statements. Have you ever said anything like this? Ever thought it? In some form or another, we all struggle with pride. Whether with our words or in more subtle ways, none of us escape its grasp.

Pride is exalting yourself to a position you don’t deserve. It’s thinking too highly of yourself. It’s making yourself more valuable, more competent, more intelligent, more sassy, more fun, more whatever. You stand on a pedestal looking down your nose at everyone else.

If you know God, there is no room for pride. A relationship with our sovereign and good God, and a trust in His Son, puts our pride in check (James 4:5–6). Rather than seeing ourselves as big and seeing everyone else (including God) as small, we have our perception rearranged so that everything takes on its proper size. God becomes big in our lives, and we become minuscule. Our pride withers as we stand before the awesome majesty of a holy and merciful God. We are no longer the center of our universe—Christ is, and we bow down to Him.

Solomon writes, “The proud speech of a fool brings a rod of discipline, but the lips of the wise will protect them” (Prov. 14:3, CSB). The fool experiences consequences for his proud speech. His proud words “bring a rod of discipline.” The fool’s pride brings chastisement and harm down on his life.

You get angry at your coworker, and he gets angry in return.

You belittle your spouse and, not surprisingly, she fires right back at you.

Like a boomerang, pride shoots into the air, curves around, and then hits you squarely in the head when you are not looking.

The wise guard their lips. They are careful with their speech. Rather than angrily or impulsively letting things roll off their tongues, the wise don’t respond in kind. Belittling is met with a gentle response (Prov. 15:1). The wise put a Christ-centered filter on their lips (13:3). They preserve their lives rather than harming them. In Christ, through the empowering grace of the gospel, we can be wise with our words. We can show humility, guard our tongues, and respond graciously.

Imagine a friend, with a tense voice, blurts out to you: “I’m better at this; let me do it!” You angrily respond, “Since when have you been better?” That’s a prideful response from an offended heart that feels demeaned. Or, you could say, through the strength of the Spirit, “God has gifted you, but let’s work through this together to find out who is best suited to get this done.” This second response is possible for those who repent and believe in Him.

Don’t let pride poison your words. Be like Christ, who was loving, humble, and wise with His words.

Dr. Deepak Reju is pastor of biblical counseling and family ministry at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. He is author of several books, including On Guard and She’s Got the Wrong Guy.

My Messy House (The Monster Who Was Sorry)

Marc Chagall, The Yellow Room, oil on canvas, 1911.

Hey TD!

During this off-weak from TD, we want to continue to lay the groundwork for real enjoyment of the life and call God has for us; and it starts with cleaning house. Please read this Slice of Infinity from Jill Carattini that illustrates what we’re looking for here at TD:

Kathleen Norris tells a story of a little boy who wrote a poem called “The Monster Who Was Sorry.” The poem begins with a confession: he doesn’t like it when his father yells at him. The monster’s response is to throw his sister down the stairs, then to destroy his room, and finally to destroy the whole town. The poem concludes: “Then I sit in my messy house and say to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have done all that.’”(1)

The confession of Saint Paul bears a fine resemblance: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but I do what I hate.” Regret has a way of shining the flood lights on the mess within us. Norris further expounds the faithful candor of the child describing his own muddled story: “‘My messy house’ says it all: with more honesty than most adults could have mustered, the boy made a metaphor for himself that admitted the depth of his rage and also gave him a way out. If that boy had been a novice in the fourth-century monastic desert, his elders might have told him that he was well on the way toward repentance.”(2)

The journey of a Christian through the many rooms of faith posits countless opportunities to peer at the monster within. There are days in the life of faith when I question whether I am living up to the title of Christian or disciple—or even casual acquaintance. In certain rooms of awareness I find there is no question: I am not. Yet, as G.K. Chesterton wrote in his autobiography, I have only ever found one religion that “dared to go down with me into the depth of myself.”(3) This is precisely the invitation of Christianity. What we find are messy houses, filled with hidden staircases built of excuses, and idols of good deeds atop mantels of false security—in short, the home of Christ in disarray at our own hands.

If we were to remain shut up in this place alone, we might begin to wonder why we should ever hope for anything other than mess and wreckage. Paul’s confession marks the futility of our own efforts to clean the house. But we do not make the journeys to the depths of ourselves alone. In fact, we should not have discovered the messes had they not been shown to us in the first place. We are guided to these places in our consciences, to images of ourselves unadorned, and finally to broken and contrite hearts. Faith in Christ is the opportunity to be searched by the Spirit of Truth, the Breath of Holiness, the God who maneuvers us through messy rooms and sin-stained walls and mercifully exposes monstrous ways. It would indeed be a futile journey if we walked this path alone.

Instead, the very Spirit that shows us the monster in a messy house shows us the one who removes the masks, clears the wreckage, and makes us human again. In a scene from C.S. Lewis’s Narnia, Aslan the lion is seen tearing the costume off the child in front of him.(4) The child writhes in pain from the razor sharp claws that feel as though they pierce his very being. With mounting intensity, Aslan rips away layer after layer, until the child is absolutely certain he will die from the agony. But when it is all over and every last layer has been removed, the child delights in the newfound freedom, having long forgotten the weight of the costume he carried.

The journey of a soul through its messiest rooms is not merely a drive-by glimpse of the depths of our sin and our need for repentance; it is not a journey for the sake of guilt or even right-living. It is true that we are shown the weight of our masks and the extent of our messes; we are handed the great encumbrance of our own failures. But all so we can be shown again the one who asks to take them all from us. All so we can be fully human. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows… But he was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Quite mercifully, it is through the dingy windows of a messy house that one has the clearest view of the cross.

Jill Carattini is managing editor of A Slice of Infinity at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) Kathleen Norris, Amazing Grace (New York: Riverhead, 1998), 69.
(2) Ibid., 70.
(3) G.K. Chesterton, The Autobiography of G.K. Chesterton (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2006), 334.
(4) Story told in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 115-117.

 

Coping With Anxiety

Image result for coping with anxiety

Hey TD!

As school has now officially started for everyone, for many of you that comes with anxiety – anxiety about your performance, your social position, relational drama, and so on. With anxiety comes uncertainty and worry.  The truth is that God will not remove many of the circumstances that we fear; He will, however, be with us and help us walk through them.

Here’s a short article to help ground you with the right thoughts and perspectives as you head back into the new year.  If you prayerfully and humbly work on putting them into practice, things may just turn out better than you thought. Enjoy. – Arthur

In 1 Peter 5:6–7, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Christians spread across the Roman Empire who were suffering persecution from the unbelieving Jews and gentiles: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” In this passage, Peter shows in what way his readers were to face the anxiety they were feeling in this situation: they were to cast their anxiety upon God. By doing so, they would recognize their own powerlessness and weakness, as well as God’s power to take care of them.

“All your anxieties” is a reference Peter makes to the anguish the Christians felt due to the hostility and persecution of the pagans. It included fear of death, fear of suffering, preoccupation with family and friends, and other similar fears. The word translated “anxiety” comes from a Greek word that means “part,” “piece,” or “division.” The anxious heart is divided, pulled in all directions, and in constant affliction.

Christians must “cast on him” all these anxieties; that is, they should put all their preoccupations and fears into the powerful hands of God and rest their afflicted hearts. That is done, in practice, through prayer and petition, in which we confess to God our weaknesses, tell Him of our anguishes and needs, beg for His favor and grace, and rest confident that He has listened to us. It is implicit, although not said, that remaining with these anxieties would be a form of exaltation and pride.

Thomas Schreiner writes:

Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust in is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in His mighty hand, acknowledging that He is Lord and Sovereign over all of life.

Peter encourages his readers to cast their cares on God “because he cares for you.” Even though it didn’t seem like it, God was taking care of them in the midst of their suffering, not necessarily ridding them of pain, but not permitting it to go beyond their limitations and giving them grace to endure and remain faithful. God was not insensitive to their suffering. God’s care for them may also be a reference to what He has prepared for them at the coming of Christ (1:3–7).

This exhortation by Peter reflects the teaching of many psalms that encourage the faithful to unload their burdens on God (Ps. 22:10; 37:5; 55:22), as well as the teachings of the Lord Jesus against anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34). Christians are encouraged to trust in God and rest in Him in the midst of the most terrible of sufferings, confident that the all-powerful God is taking care of them, even though this care is not always perceptible.