Category Archives: Ravi Zacharias

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Cost of Cynicism

 

“Why bother?” Have you been caught off guard by this retort…or perhaps uttered it yourself? The way of thinking goes: “There’s no use trying. This is just the way it is.” And such an outlook may seem realistic in the face of some insurmountable challenge. Indeed, we encounter this reasoning in Mark 5 shortly after a man named Jairus asks Jesus to follow him to his home to heal his dying daughter. Mark reports, “While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. ‘Your daughter is dead,’ they said. ‘Why bother the teacher any more?'” (v.35).

Given this ominous news, their rhetorical question appears entirely reasonable, though they surely show a lack of compassion for Jairus or an understanding of what has just taken place: Jesus was speaking with a woman who was immediately healed when she touched his garments. Yet what interests me further is the attitude often veiled in this question: resignation, cynicism, and false pride.

 

In the face of disappointment or despair our world may encourage a “Why bother?” attitude, but if we take a few moments to really consider this way of thinking we discover just how costly it really is. Moreover, it is anathema to the Scriptures and all that Jesus taught. In fact, Jesus’s response couldn’t be more revealing: “Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe'” Arriving at Jairus’s home, Jesus then ushers those cynically laughing at him out of the house and raises the child to life again before her father and mother.

Now we may reason, “That was then; this is now. Am I honestly to pray and believe that God is going to resurrect a loved one?” No, this isn’t quite what this passage is teaching, for such historical narrative first and foremost provides evidence that Jesus is God incarnate (rather than three principles for receiving an answer to prayer). However, the evidence of Jesus’s identity and power unfolds a very tangible application, and one that we find throughout the gospels. That is this: If God can really overcome death and raise someone to life, surely is God not also able to strengthen, heal, or provide for us in times of trouble? Furthermore, “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you” (Romans 8:11). The question it seems then is whether we believe that this same life-giving power can be at work within us or whether we’ve resigned ourselves to “This is just the way it is.”

A widow without a family in first-century Greco-Roman society could have easily concluded “Why bother?” before a powerful judge who “neither feared God nor cared about men” and who refused her petition for justice.(1) Yet Jesus employs this very story to teach us about prayer. Refusing to believe that “this is just the way it is,” the widow persists in her cry for justice to the judge. “For some time he refused,” says Jesus. “But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming!'”

David Wells comments on this parable: “Nothing destroys petitionary prayer (and with it, a Christian view of God) as quickly as resignation. ‘At all times,’ Jesus declared, ‘we should pray’ and not ‘lose heart,’ thereby acquiescing to what is.”

For “what is” is not always “just the way it is” if we will bother to pray and not lose heart. Yes, such fearless persistence and prayer is indeed costly, yet to counter “Why bother?” is surely costlier still.

Danielle DuRant is research assistant for Ravi Zacharias at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

(1) See Luke 18: 1-8.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Critical Care

 

The “doorknob phenomenon” is an occurrence many physicians know well. Doctors can proceed meticulously through complete examinations and medical histories, taking care to hear a patient’s questions and concerns, but it is often in the last thirty seconds of the appointment that the most helpful information is revealed. When a doctor’s hand is on the doorknob, body halfway out the door, vital inquiries are often made; when a patient is nearly outside the office, crucial information is shared almost in passing. Many have speculated as to the reasons behind the doorknob phenomenon (which is perhaps not limited to the field of medicine), though a cure seems unlikely. Until then, words uttered on the threshold remain a valuable entity to the physician.

If I can speak on behalf of patients (perhaps I’ve been a perpetrator of the phenomenon myself), I would note that the doorway marks our last chance to be heard. Whatever the reason for not speaking up until that point—fear, discomfort, shame, denial—we know the criticalness of that moment. In thirty seconds, we will no longer be in the presence of one who might offer healing or hope or change. At the threshold between doctor’s office and daily life, the right words are imperative; time is of the essence.

One of the many names for God used by the writers of the Bible is the Great Physician. It is curious to think of how the doorknob phenomenon might apply. Perhaps there are times in prayer when the prayer feels as if we are moving down sterile lists of conditions and information. Work. Finances. Mom. Jack. Future. Of course, while bringing to God in prayer a laundry list of concerns with repeated perseverance is at times both necessary and helpful, perhaps there are also times when we have silenced the greater diagnosis with the words we have chosen to leave unspoken. Can a physician heal wounds we will not show, symptoms we will not mention, wounds we cannot find the words to explain?

Thankfully, mercifully, yes. The Great Physician can heal wounds one cannot even articulate. Scripture writers speak of a God who hears even our groanings too deep for words. On the other hand, choosing to leave out certain details is hardly helpful before any doctor. Can God begin the work that needs to be done if we won’t really come near as a patient? Is there a cure for those who do not seek it? Mercifully, there is a physician who seeks us.

The ancient prophet Jeremiah once cried, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? No healing for the wound of my people?” Jeremiah lived during one of the most troublesome periods of Hebrew history. He stood on the threshold between a people sick with rebellion and despair and the great Physician to whom they refused to cry out in honesty.

“I have listened attentively,” the LORD declared, “but they do not say what is right. No one repents of his wickedness, saying, ‘What have I done?’ Each pursues his own course like a horse charging into battle.”(1) His words describe behavior a doctor likely recognizes. A patient who complains of a cough while a fatal wound is bleeding will neither find respite for the cough nor her unspoken pain, and of course, a good physician would not treat the cough until the bleeding has been stopped.

In Jeremiah’s day, as in our own, the promise of a quick and effortless remedy was cunningly presented in many ways. Of these “prophets of deceit” God declared, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.”(2) There are some promises that are quite easy to stand beside but crumble under the weight of us. To stand in honesty before a physician is more difficult. To stand in honesty with the greatest of Physicians is to submit to a kindness that may undo us. It is to ask to be made well, to be made new, to be made truly human by the Son with human hands, knowing that the way to my remedy rests in his own wounded hands.

The great Christmas hymn places before us this powerful resolution:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make His blessing flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found.(3)

The woundedness of humanity is serious: cries of injustice, the wounds of racism, despair and lament at cancers around us, the devastating marks of our own failings left shamefully upon others and ourselves. This cannot be bandaged as anything less than a mortal wound. But the threshold is now. Christ comes near. He weeps with us, ready to address the indications of our illness, imparting healing and kindness. In the coming of Christ, God offers a cure extending as far as the wound can ever fester.

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

(1) Jeremiah 8:6.
(2) Jeremiah 8:11.
(3) Isaac Watts, Joy to the World, 1719.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Harmless Petty Sins

A familiar fable tells of the hunter who lost his life to the leopard he himself had saved as a pet for his children when the leopard was just a cub. The moral of the story can be deduced easily from the title, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards; or else, sin is easier to deal with before it becomes a habitual practice that eventually defines our lives.(1) Though the story as it stands is a beautiful illustration of a profound truth, there is a deeper lesson regarding the nature of sin that is easily concealed by this line of thinking and which, I believe, lies at the very essence of the Christian call to Christ-likeness. The problem is that the parallel between little harmless leopard cubs and little harmless sins can be dangerously deceptive.

Whereas leopard cubs are indeed harmless, there is no stage of development at which sin can be said to be harmless, for individual acts of sin are merely the symptoms of the true condition of our hearts. It is not accidental that the call to Christian growth in the Scriptures repeatedly zeros-in on such seemingly benign “human shortcomings” as bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, slander, and malicious behavior (Ephesians 4:31). In his watershed address, The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus placed a great deal of emphasis on lust, anger, and contempt—behaviors and attitudes that would probably not rank high on our lists of problems in need of urgent resolution. Armed with firm and sometimes unconscious categories of serious versus tolerable sins, we gloss over lists of vices in the Scriptures because they seem to be of little consequence to life as we experience it.

But when we fail to grasp the subtleties of sin, we run the risk of rendering much of biblical wisdom irrelevant to our daily life and practice. While we appreciate the uniqueness and necessity of the sacrificial death of Jesus on our behalf, his specific teachings can at times appear to be farfetched and the emphasis misplaced. Does it not seem incredible that the God who made this world would visit it in its brokenness, dwell among us for over thirty years, and then leave behind the command that we must be nice to each other? Can the problems of the world really be solved by having people “turn the other cheek” and “get rid of anger and malice”?

 

Unfortunately, those “little” sins are not only the mere symptoms of a much bigger problem; they are also effective means of alienating us from God and other human beings. How many careers have been ruined only because of jealousy? How many people have been deprived of genuine help as a result of the seemingly side-comment of someone who secretly despised them? How many relationships have been destroyed by bitterness? How many churches have split up because of selfish ambitions couched in pietistic terms? How much evil has resulted from misinformation, a little coloring around the edges of truth? And have you noticed how much we can control other people just through our body language? From the political arena to the basic family unit, the worst enemy of human harmony is not spectacular wickedness but those seemingly harmless petty sins routinely assumed to be part of what it means to be human.

According to a NASA scientist, a two-degree miscalculation when launching a spacecraft to the moon would send the spacecraft 11,121 miles away from the moon: all one has to do is take time and distance into account.(2) How perceptive then was George MacDonald when he uttered these chilling words, “A man may sink by such slow degrees that, long after he is a devil, he may go on being a good churchman or a good dissenter, and thinking himself a good Christian”!(3) Similarly, C.S. Lewis warned that cards are a welcome substitute for murder if the former will set the believer on a path away from God. “Indeed,” he wrote, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”(4) This is as true as much for the individual as for communities.

Now the decisive path out of this quandary is not just a greater resolve to be obedient to God. Such a response is usually motivated by guilt, and the duration of our effort will be directly proportional to the amount of guilt we feel: we will be right back where we started from when the guilt is no longer as strong. The appropriate response must begin with a greater appreciation of the holiness of God and a clear vision of life in God. It is only along the path of Christ-likeness that the true nature of sin is revealed and its appeal blunted. Yes, brazen sinfulness is appallingly evil and destructive, but it only makes a louder growl in a forest populated by stealthier, deadly hunters masquerading as little leopards. It is no idle, perfunctory pastime to pray with King David:

Search us, O God, and know our hearts;
Test us and know our thoughts.
Point out anything in us that offends you,
And lead us along the path of everlasting life.

J.M. Njoroge is a member of the speaking team at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Nairobi, Georgia.

(1) For example, Paul White’s, Little Leopards Become Big Leopards, published by African Christian Press.
(2) John Trent, Heartshift: The Two Degree Difference That Will Change Your Heart, Your Home, and Your Health (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2004), 17.
(3)George MacDonald, in George MacDonald: An Anthology by C. S. Lewis (New York: Dolphin Books, 1962), 118.
(4) C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, in A C.S. Lewis Treasury: Three Classics in One Volume (New York: Harcourt & Company, 1988), 250.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Lazarus Waits, Rachel Weeps

 

Jesus tells the story of a rich man who is content to live comfortably with the great chasm between his success and a poor man’s predicament. At his own gate each day, the man passes a beggar named Lazarus, who is covered in sores and waits with the hope that he might be satisfied with something that falls from the rich man’s table. But as Jesus describes the rich man, he sees neither Lazarus nor his plight. Ironically, when the rich man dies and is suffering in Hades with his own agony and aspirations, he still chooses to view Lazarus as inferior, worthy only of being a servant. “Father Abraham, have mercy on me,” he pleads, “and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony.”(1) Twice he makes it clear in his requests that he sees the man who sat at his gate as subordinate at best. Having refused all his days to see the waiting Lazarus as a fellow soul, a suffering neighbor, the chasms the rich man allowed in life had now grown fixed in death.

Another story that emerges from the life of Jesus came before he was old enough to tell stories of his own. The prophet Isaiah told of a child who would be born for the people, a son given to the world with authority resting on his shoulders. Hundreds of years later, in Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, this prophecy was being fulfilled: The angel had appeared. A child was born. The magi had come. The ancient story was taking shape in a field in Bethlehem. But when Herod learned from the magi that a king would be born, he gave orders to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under. At this murderous edict, another prophecy, this one spoken through the prophet Jeremiah, was sadly fulfilled: “A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”(2) While the escape of Mary and Joseph to Egypt allowed Jesus to tell the story of Lazarus years later, the cost, as Rachel and all the mothers’ who didn’t escape knew well, was wrenchingly great.

 

Of the many objections to Christianity, one that stands out in my mind as troubling is the argument that to be Christian is to withdraw from the world around us, to follow fairy tales with wishful hearts and myths that insist we stop thinking and believe that all will be right in the end because God says so. In such a vein, Karl Marx depicts Christianity as a kind of drug that anesthetizes people to the suffering in the world and the wretchedness of life. Likewise, in Sigmund Freud’s estimation, belief in God functions as an infantile dream that helps us evade the pain and helplessness we both feel and see around us. I don’t find these critiques and others like them troubling because I find them accurate of the kingdom Jesus described in any way. I find them troubling because so many Christians live as if Freud and Marx are quite right in their analyses.

In some impervious boxes and minimalist depictions of the Christian story, we can comfortably live as if in our own world, blind and unconcerned with the world of suffering around us, intent to tell our feel-good stories while withdrawing from the harder scenes of life. In fact, to pretend as if Christianity does not at times function as a wishful escape from the world is perhaps another kind of wishful thinking. There are some critiques of Christianity we ignore at our own peril.

But in reality the stories Jesus left us with reach unapologetically beyond wishful thinking; his proclamations of the kingdom among us are far from declarations of escapism. The story of Rachel weeping for her slaughtered children and Lazarus waiting in agony at the gate of someone who could make a difference are two stories among many that refuse to let us sweep the suffering of the world under the rug of apathy. The fact that they are included in the gospel that brings us the hope of Christ is not only what makes that hope endurable, but what proves Freud and Marx entirely wrong. Jesus embodies the kind of hope that can reach even the most hopeless among us. He hasn’t overlooked the suffering of the world anymore than he has invited his followers to do so. It is a part of the very story he tells; it is a story written on his own scarred hands and feet.

Thus, precisely because the faith Christians proclaim is not a drug that anesthetizes or a dream that deludes, we must tell the whole story and not merely the parts that lessen our own pain. We must also live as people watchful and ready to be near those who weep and wait—the poor, the demoralized, and the suffering. There are far too many Rachels who are still weeping and Lazaruses who are still waiting, waiting for men and women of faith to inhabit the good news they proclaim, to live into the startlingly real identity of Christ himself.

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

(1) Luke 16:24.
(2) Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Come to Me

 

Grief is a strange thing in that its memory is more characterized by what the relationship was or was not than by what characterized the death.(1) You look forward and ache over what has now been lost for the future. You look backward and grieve what never truly was and can now never be.

The award-winning author Paulo Coelho is a beautiful writer, and his lines of pure poetry are disguised as novels. His book The Witch of Portobello, a mystical story with many unusual turns, remains on my shelf, no matter where I live. I often pull it off, brush my hand across the cover, and flip it open to a page I have nearly memorized.

The story begins in Beirut, Lebanon, a country that boasts of warm hospitality, platefuls of hummus and tabouli, the Mediterranean coast, and beautiful cedars. Coelho describes his heroine, Athena, as an unusual girl who possessed a sense of spirituality from the time of her youth. She married when she was nineteen and wanted to have a baby right away. Her husband left her when the baby was still young, and Athena had to raise him alone.

During one Sunday Mass, the priest watched as Athena walked toward him to receive Communion, and his heart was filled with dread. Athena stood in front of the priest, drew her eyes closed, and opened her mouth to receive. I picture her standing there in vulnerability, asking to receive Christ’s body, given for her. She was hungry for the grace that it offered.

But he did not give it to her.

The young girl opened her eyes, terribly confused. The priest tried to tell her in hushed tones that they would talk about it later, but she would not be turned away. She persisted until she received an answer.

“Athena, the Church forbids divorced people from receiving the sacrament. You signed your divorce papers this week. We’ll talk later.”(2)

She was crushed, speechless, numb. People began to step around her, an obstacle in the way of their path.

 

I imagine Athena devastated. She had lost something that mattered to her, something she thought would always be hers. And when it was gone, it claimed her dreams, her respect, her ability to hope, her very sense of self. I imagine that many of her friends turned against her. Some saw her as tainted, regardless of the details. I imagine that her marital status became part of her name, as in “Athena, the girl who is divorced.” I wonder if they told her there was no place for her in ministry, if they sat in comfortable chairs, dressed in their suits, and held meetings behind closed doors to decide, while their own stories remained tucked away with their coordinated handkerchiefs. Did someone say, “Do you know that God hates divorce?” And did she answer, “I know. So do I. Possibly even more than you”? I wonder if it hurt when they pinned the Scarlet D on her, or if she was so wounded and fragile that she added the pain and guilt to the shame she had already inflicted on herself.

Did they know how hard it was for her to come to church that day? And now, in a final act of driving the knife into her gaping wound, she was told she was no longer worthy to come to Christ, the one who could give refuge in her anguish. For unlike them, he did know all that lay within her heart. And it was to him that she actually answered, not the masses who tried to occupy his place.

As the priest finished administering the Sacrament, he slowly stepped back to the altar. Athena stood where he left her and cried out what many have only cried on the inside: “A curse on all those who have never listened to the words of Christ and who have transformed his message into a stone building. For Christ said: ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ Well, I’m heavy laden, and they won’t let me come to him. Today I’ve learned that the Church has changed those words to read: ‘Come unto me all ye who follow our rules, and let the heavy laden go hang!”(3) Athena vowed to never set foot in a church again. She turned on her heels and left with her crying baby, tears streaming down her own cheeks.

Years pass within this single chapter, and the priest cannot forget her face, the forlorn look in her eyes, the poignancy of her words, and Christ’s: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” As he looks back on life and ministry, the priest affirms his confidence in God and in a practice of faith made up of human beings trying to do the best they can, though they fall short. The chapter ends with the priest’s words: “I like to imagine that when she left the church, Athena met Jesus. Weeping and confused, she would have thrown herself into his arms, asking him to explain why she was being excluded… And looking at Athena, Jesus might have replied, ‘My child, I’ve been excluded too.”(4)

As for me, I imagine that Jesus took her broken heart and held it carefully, gently. I imagine he called her by her first name, and it was not followed by any failures. I imagine he loosened the Scarlet D they had pinned to her and told her she carried his image and his name. I imagine he opened his hand to show her the scar of a nail, maybe he pointed to the mark that the spear had left in his side. And then he called her to his table and told her that his broken body was also offered for her.

And I imagine she left with a grace all-sufficient for her broken story too.

Naomi Zacharias is director of Wellspring International at Ravi Zacharias International Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

 

(1) The following essay is an excerpt from Naomi Zacharias’s The Scent of Water: Grace for Every Kind of Broken (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010).
(2) Paulo Coelho, The Witch of Portobello (New York: HarperCollins, 2007), 44.
(3) Ibid., 45.
(4) Ibid., 46.

 

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – In Defiance, Hope?

For many Jewish people living after the Holocaust, God’s absence is an ever-present reality. It is as tangible as the concentration camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, and as haunting as the empty chair at a table once occupied with a loved one long-silenced by the gas chambers. In his tragic account of the horror and loss in the camps at Auschwitz, Elie Wiesel intones the cries of many who likewise experienced God’s absence: “It is the end. God is no longer with us….I know that Man is too small, too humble, and inconsiderable to seek to understand the mysterious ways of God. But what can I do? Where is the divine Mercy? Where is God? How can I believe? How can anyone believe in this merciful God?”(1)

This experience of absence, dramatic in its implications for the victims of the Holocaust, has repeated itself over and over again in the ravaged stories of those who struggle to hold on to faith, or those who have lost faith altogether in the face of personal holocaust. In a world where tragedy and suffering are daily realities seemingly unchecked by both local and divine government, the absence of God seems a cruel abdication.

The words of Job, ancient in origin, speak of this same kind of experience:

Behold, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;
When He acts on the left, I cannot behold Him;
He turns on the right, I cannot see Him.(2)

The story of Job is at least in part a story of the experience of God’s absence. While the narrator of the story and the readers of the story know the beginning and the end, Job finds himself in the silent middle struck down by unjust suffering. His story poignantly explores the silent mystery of a God who seems to go missing in the moments of greatest need. Job’s cries out: “Oh that I knew where I might find Him that I might come to his seat” (Job 23:3). Somehow, Job clings tenaciously to the hope that he will find God, and find a just God in his case. “I am not silenced by the darkness,” Job proclaims, “nor deep gloom which covers me.”

Job’s anguished cries against God’s absence paradoxically assume God’s presence. There is no hint of atheism in his cries. Rather, Job cries out of a tenacious faith in God who seems distant from his pain, silent to his cries, and absent from his world. In the face of his suffering, Job affirms God’s presence by taking issue with the injustice of God’s apparent absence. He longs to plead his case with God as one would with a neighbor.

Surely, Job’s cries represent each and every person who protests God’s apparent abandonment in the midst of suffering and injustice. The current cries of racial injustice emerging from our hurting cities and communities ring with a similar weariness: How long, O LORD? As one author notes, “In a roundabout way, man’s indignant protest against God’s silence would be deprived of meaning if there were no Presence behind the Silence.”(3) And here, an unexpectedly encouraging apologetic is found in this paradox.

C.S. Lewis suggests that “the defiance…hurled at an apparently ruthless and idiotic cosmos is really an unconscious homage to something in or behind that cosmos which he recognizes as infinitely valuable and authoritative: for if mercy and justice were really only private whims of his own with no objective and impersonal roots, and if he realized this, he could not go on being indignant. The fact that he arraigns heaven itself for disregarding them means that at some level of his mind he knows they are enthroned in a higher heaven still.”(4)

Lewis goes on to argue that this is, in fact, a central offering from the book of Job. While no explanation of the problem of God’s absence in the face of unjust suffering is given, Job’s wrestling with God ultimately receives divine approval. Indeed, Job’s righteous friends who attempt to explain away Job’s pain and justify God are actually condemned. Lewis concludes: “Apparently the way to advance from our imperfect apprehension of justice to the absolute justice is not to throw our imperfect apprehensions aside but boldly to go on applying them.”(5)

In this season of uncertainty as we grope in the darkness of our own imperfect apprehension of God and all that is happening in the world, and as we wrestle with God’s absence as Job did, we might come to experience the presence of God in a different way. For it is also the season of Pentecost, where we remember the movement of the Spirit who changed the world by changing the hearts and minds of a handful of disciples. Perhaps we too might proclaim with Job: “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye has seen you.”(6)

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

 

(1) Elie Wiesel, The Night Trilogy: Night, Dawn, The Accident (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 83.
(2) Job 23:8-9.
(3) Gary Henry, “Story and Silence: Transcendence in the Work of Elie Wiesel,” Public Broadcasting System, www.pbs.org, 2002.
(4) C.S. Lewis, “De Futilitate,” in Christian Reflections (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 69-70, cited by Gary Henry in “Story and Silence: Transcendence in the Work of Elie Wiesel,” appendix.
(5) Ibid., 69-70.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Beginning and the End

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you understand.”

—God to Job in the whirlwind

To a child of four or five, the rejoinder sounded something like the response of a parent who had reached the end of her rope with the current line of questioning.

“Mom, what happens when we die?”

“We go to heaven to be with Jesus.”

“What’s heaven like?”

“It’s a place where all of our tears are dried up, and we dance on golden streets in the presence of God.”

“For how long?”

“Forever.”

“But won’t we get tired of dancing?”

“No, we won’t.”

“But why not?”

“Because we’ll be with God.”

“But what if it’s boring?”

“It won’t be.”

“Why?”

“Because God said so.”

A child learns quickly that there are certain lines parents use to signal the end of the current arsenal of questioning. Coming from a parent, “Because I said so” is intended to be a conversation stopper. “Because God said so” is even trickier. There was nothing my five-year-old mind could even begin to conjure up to counter that one.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Beginning and the End

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Christianity Without Christ?

 

Paul Tillich, the noted existentialist theologian, traveled to Asia to hold conferences with various Buddhist thinkers. He was studying the significance of religious leaders to the movements they had engendered. Tillich asked a simple question. “What if by some fluke, the Buddha had never lived and turned out to be some sort of fabrication? What would be the implications for Buddhism?” Mind you, Tillich was concerned with the indispensability of the Buddha—not his authenticity.

The scholars did not hesitate to answer. If the Buddha was a myth, they said, it did not matter at all. Why? Because Buddhism should be judged as an abstract philosophy—as a system of living. Whether its concepts originated with the Buddha is irrelevant. As an aside, I think the Buddha himself would have concurred. Knowing that his death was imminent, he beseeched his followers not to focus on him but to remember his teachings. Not his life but his way of life was to be attended to and propagated.

So, what of other world religions? Hinduism, as a conglomeration of thinkers and philosophies and gods, can certainly do without many of its deities. Some other major religions face the same predicament.

Is Christianity similar? Could God the Father have sent another instead of Jesus? May I say to you, and please hear me, that the answer is most categorically No. Jesus did not merely claim to be a prophet in a continuum of prophets. He is the unique Son of God, part of the very godhead that Christianity calls the Trinity. The apostle Paul says it this way:

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Christianity Without Christ?

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Space for Sorrow

 

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.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Space for Sorrow

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Face to Face

 

Many of us may likely have missed it. Couched between Wednesday’s building crescendo of assignments and zoom calls and Friday’s promise of their conclusion, Thursday hardly seems more than a means to an end. Though the day is every bit as holy as Easter Sunday, most of the world moves through it unsuspectingly—even those who have confessed the momentous lines of the Apostles’ Creed: “On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.”

Last Thursday was Ascension Day, the day that marks the ascension of Jesus Christ. For those of us grieving losses and loved ones, it is a profession of faith worth peering into closely. For those of us grieving the immense loss of Ravi Zacharias, the Ascension is a personal and particular comfort we might hold near. Forty days after the celebration of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, the church around the world holds in remembrance this eventful day. The gospel writer records: “Then [Jesus] said to his disciples…. ‘See, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’ Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.”(1)

The ascension of Christ may not seem as momentous to the Christian story as the resurrection or as rousing as the image of Jesus on the cross. After the death and resurrection, in fact, the ascension might even seem somewhat anti-climatic. The resurrection and ascension statements of the Apostles’ Creed are essentially treated as one in the same: On the third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty. One might even think that the one miraculous act flowed immediately into the other: as if the death of the body of Jesus was answered in the resurrection, a presence who then floated onto heaven. Unfortunately, the result of this impression is that many think of the ascension as somehow casting off of Christ’s human nature, as if Jesus is a presence that only used to be human. Hence, Jesus seems one more fit to memorialize than one we might expect to actually see face-to-face one day.

But in fact, this couldn’t be farther from the experience of the disciples, to whom Jesus appeared repeatedly in the days following the resurrection. To them it was abundantly clear that Jesus was not any sort of spiritual ghost or remote presence. He ate with them; he talked with them; he instructed them as to the ministries they would lead and the deaths they would face because of him. He was in fact more fully human than they ever realized, and it was this holy body, this divine person that they held near as they lived and died to proclaim his kingdom. In the words of poet Malcolm Guite:

We saw his light break through the cloud of glory
Whilst we were rooted still in time and place
As earth became a part of Heaven’s story
And heaven opened to his human face.

The ascension they reported was no different than the very future they envisioned with him: he was raised as a human, fully human. As the disciples were watching and Jesus was taken up before their very eyes, a cloud hid him from their sight. The text then refers to them “looking intently up into the sky as he was going” when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them: “‘Men of Galilee,’ they said, ‘why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go’”(3) In this resurrected body, Christ ascended to heaven, fully human, fully divine, entirely glorified. They said goodbye face-to-face. And it will be the same when they greet him again.

For the Christian, no action of Jesus is without weight, and this, his last action on earth, is weighed with far more hope than is often realized. Ascending to heaven, the work God sent him to accomplish was finally completed. The ascension was a living and public declaration of his dying words on the Cross: It is finished. In the ascension, Jesus furthered the victory of Easter—the victory of a physical body in whom God had conquered death. Because of the ascension, the incarnation is not a past or throwaway event. Because of the ascension, we know that the incarnate Son who was raised from the dead is sharing in our humanity even now. And just as the men in white informed the disciples, so we carry in our own flesh a guarantee that Christ will one day bring us to himself. It is for these reasons that N.T. Wright affirms, “To embrace the Ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.”(3)

Ascension Day, a holy day falling inconspicuously on a Thursday in May, is the conspicuous declaration that we are not left as orphans. In the same post-resurrection body that he invited Thomas to touch, Jesus invites us to full humanity even today. He ascended with a body, he shares in our humanity, extending his own body even now, promising to return for our own bodies. Christ is preparing a room for us, and we can know it is real because he himself is real. We say goodbye face-to-face. And it will be the same when we greet our Lord and our loved ones once again.

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

 

(1) Luke 24:49-53.
(2) Acts 1:9-11.
(3) N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (New York: Harper Collins, 2008), 114.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Embodied Truth

 

We have been sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. Thank you for sharing your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters. Ravi’s family and the RZIM global team have been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.

 

The first and most important step to understanding the nature of truth is exemplified in a conversation between Jesus and Pilate. The conversation began with Pilate asking Jesus if indeed he was a king. The very surprising answer of Jesus was, “Are you asking this of your own, or has someone else set you up for this?”

In effect, Jesus was asking Pilate if this was a genuine question or purely an academic one. He was not merely checking on Pilate’s sincerity. He was opening up Pilate’s heart to himself, to reveal to Pilate his unwillingness to deal with the implications of Jesus’s answer. In the pursuit of truth, intent is prior to content, or to the availability of it. The love of truth and the willingness to submit to its demands is the first step.

But second, Jesus said something even more extraordinary. After claiming his lordship was rooted in a kingdom that was not of this world, he said, “They that are on the side of truth, listen to me.”(1) Jesus was not merely establishing the existence of truth, but his pristine embodiment of it. He was identical with the truth. This meant that everything he said and did, and the life he lived in the flesh, represented that which was in keeping with ultimate reality. And therefore, to reject him is to choose to govern one’s self with a lie.

 

God’s answers to life’s questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny are not just proven by the process of abstract reasoning, but are also sustained by the rigors of experience. And in the reality of history, God has demonstrated empirically the living out of truth in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of his Son, recently celebrated. In short, the intimations of truth come in multisensory fashion. God as guardian of reason leads us to check the correspondence of his word with reality and to ascertain the coherence of the assertions. But our experience in life proves those truths in concrete reality. Our grand privilege is to know God, to bring our lives into conformity with truth, which leads us to that coherence within. Christ has said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” In a world increasingly enslaved by error and alienation and seduced by ideas and images to believe a lie, how wonderful to be freed by the truth to Christ’s peace. The Scriptures tell us that the enemy of our souls is the father of all lies. He will do anything to keep us from coming to the truth because it is the most valuable thing in the world, and leads us to the source of all truth, to God alone.

To all of this the skeptic might say that such conclusions may be drawn only if the God of the Bible exists. To that I heartily answer, Absolutely! And on numerous campuses around the world it has been my thrilling privilege to present a defense for the existence of God, the reality of the resurrection, and the authority of the Scriptures unique in their splendor and convincing in the truth they proclaim. But let us not miss what the skeptic unwittingly surrenders by saying that all this could be true only if God exists. For implicit in that concession is the Law of Non-contradiction and the Law of Rational Inference, which exist only if truth exists. Truth, in turn, can exist only if there is an objective standard by which to measure it. That objective, unchanging absolute is God, further revealed to us in the person of Christ.

I heard a cute little story, growing up in India. It is the story of a little boy who had lots of pretty marbles. But he was constantly eyeing his sister’s bagful of candy. One day he said to her, “If you give me all your candy, I’ll give you all of my marbles.” She gave it much thought, and agreed to the trade. He took all her candy and went back to his room to get his marbles. But the more he admired them the more reluctant he became to give them all up. So he hid the best of them under his pillow and took the rest to her. That night, she slept soundly, while he tossed and turned restlessly, unable to sleep and thinking, “I wonder if she gave me all the candy?”

I have often wondered, when I see our culture claiming that God has not given us enough evidence, if it is not the veiled restlessness of lives that live in doubt because of their own duplicity. The battle in our time is posed as one of the intellect, in the assertion that truth is unknowable. But that may be only a veneer for the real battle, that of the heart, which even now the risen Christ pursues.

 

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

(1) John 18:37.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love That Followed

 

We have been sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. Thank you for sharing your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters. Ravi’s family and the RZIM global team have been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.

Writer Philip Yancey tells of his experience playing chess against a master player. He explains his rapid realization that no matter what move he made, no matter what strategy he chose, the master seemed to turn his play around to serve his own purposes. As I look back upon my life, it is so evident that the Master, that Hound of Heaven, has been on my trail, working all things out for God’s own ends—God’s own good and perfect ends, I might add.

In studying when the gospel first made inroads into my lineage, I have found that on both sides of my family, the first believers came from the highest cast of the Hindu priesthood six generations ago. The first Christian was a woman. She was interested in the message brought by missionaries, in spite of her family’s terrible displeasure. One day as she was about to leave the missionary compound in order to return home before her family found out, the doors of the compound were shut because of a cholera epidemic. Remaining with the missionaries until the time of the quarantine was past, she committed her life to God. Threat of disease and the walls of a closed compound were the freeing means of her coming to Christ.

Readers of English poetry will recall the turbulent life of Francis Thompson. His father wanted him to study at Oxford, but Francis lost his way in drugs and failed to make the grade time and again. This was a slumbering genius, if only his life could be rescued. When Francis finally succumbed to the pursuing Christ, he penned his immortal “Hound of Heaven”:

And he concludes:

Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest me.

I am utterly convinced that neither walls nor suffering, neither unfortunate mishaps nor poor decisions can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. Perhaps you have noticed footprints of one following closely across your own life. Will you follow them?

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Creative Evidence

 

We have been sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. Thank you for sharing your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters. Ravi’s family and the RZIM global team have been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.

 

This is where I think that the Christian faith rises to its most authentic. When Lazarus, a friend of Jesus, came down with a serious illness, his sisters Mary and Martha sent for Jesus.(1) Before Jesus arrived at their home in Bethany, Lazarus died, and the sisters greeted the Lord with the half indicting words, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha added, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask” (John 11:21–22).

What an odd construction of thought. She is really saying, “Since you were not here to keep this tragedy from happening, it is now our expectation that you will reverse it.” Jesus did assure her that one day Lazarus’s death would be reversed (verse 23). But that was not good enough; Martha wanted it reversed right then. In effect, she was willing to let Lazarus die twice. (I have visited a grave in Cyprus that purports to be the grave of Lazarus. Inscribed on the grave are the words, “Lazarus, Friend of Jesus, Twice Dead.”)

In a dramatic move, Jesus went to the tomb. When he saw where his friend lay, Jesus wept (see John 11:35). He wept, even though he knew that, at least for then, he was going to reverse death. Death is powerful, but the power of God to raise us indeed shouts the triumph of love over sin.

Lazarus’s resurrection portended what would happen to Jesus himself. And here is the point: if Jesus were a charlatan or had deceived himself, he could have kept his plan going in perpetuity simply by saying, “I will spiritually rise again.” Such a claim could never be contradicted or proven false. But Jesus made no such promise. He promised a bodily resurrection—a concretely demonstrable falsehood if it were not to happen. This is vitally important. Jesus made an empirically verifiable claim and then fulfilled it. This statement has profound implications. It means that these bodies of ours, which the apostle Paul describes as a “temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19) will some day be transformed to be like [Christ’s] “glorious body,” just as the Bible declares (Philippians 3:21). They will continue to exist and our individual identities and personalities will be translated into an eternal realm.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Creative Evidence

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Obituary: Ravi Zacharias (1946 – 2020)

When Ravi Zacharias was a cricket-loving boy on the streets of India, his mother called him in to meet the local sari-seller-turned-palm reader. “Looking at your future, Ravi Baba, you will not travel far or very much in your life,” he declared. “That’s what the lines on your hand tell me. There is no future for you abroad.”

By the time a 37-year-old Zacharias preached, at the invitation of Billy Graham, to the inaugural International Conference for Itinerant Evangelists in Amsterdam in 1983, he was on his way to becoming one of the foremost defenders of Christianity’s intellectual credibility. A year later, he founded Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), with the mission of “helping the thinker believe and the believer think.”

In the time between the sari seller’s prediction and the founding of RZIM, Zacharias had immigrated to Canada, taken the gospel across North America, prayed with military prisoners in Vietnam and ministered to students in a Cambodia on the brink of collapse. He had also undertaken a global preaching trip as a newly licensed minister with The Christian and Missionary Alliance, along with his wife, Margie, and eldest daughter, Sarah. This trip started in England, worked eastwards through Europe and the Middle East and finished on the Pacific Rim; all-in-all that year, Zacharias preached nearly 600 times in over a dozen countries.

It was the culmination of a remarkable transformation set in motion when Zacharias, recovering in a Delhi hospital from a suicide attempt at age 17, was read the words of Jesus recorded in the Bible by the apostle John: “Because I live, you will also live.” In response, Zacharias surrendered his life to Christ and offered up a prayer that if he emerged from the hospital, he would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of truth. Once Zacharias found the truth of the gospel, his passion for sharing it burned bright until the very end. Even as he returned home from the hospital in Texas, where he had been undergoing chemotherapy, Zacharias was sharing the hope of Jesus to the three nurses who tucked him into his transport.

Frederick Antony Ravi Kumar Zacharias was born in Madras, now Chennai, in 1946, in the shadow of the resting place of the apostle Thomas, known to the world as the “Doubter” but to Zacharias as the “Great Questioner.” Zacharias’s affinity with Thomas meant he was always more interested in the questioner than the question itself. His mother, Isabella, was a teacher. His father, Oscar, who was studying labor relations at the University of Nottingham in England when Zacharias was born, rose through the ranks of the Indian civil service throughout Zacharias’s adolescence.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Obituary: Ravi Zacharias (1946 – 2020)

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Love Unsought

 

We have been sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. If you would like to share your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters for Ravi you can share them on social media using the hashtag #ThankYouRavi or through RZIM Connect: https://ravi.care/ThankYouRavi. Ravi and his family family have been greatly encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.

 

 

How do you know that God exists? How do you know that God loves you? How do you know God is present versus absent? These questions, upon the hearts of so many, have answers as real as the formative moments in your life.

As I have aged, I seem to grow more and more prone to nostalgia. Many of us do this instinctively, clinging to memories past, perhaps looking backwards with the hope of seeing a purpose for our lives. When I travel to India, I make it a point to revisit time and again those significant marking points of my own life. As I recall these moments past but not forgotten, I hear the gentle voice of the God very much in the present. And God says: I was there. When on you were on your bed contemplating suicide, I was there. When you were but nine years old and your grandmother died, I arranged for her gravestone to hold in time the very verse that would lead you to conversion. I was there. I was there. I was there.

It is often in these harrowing moments—your parents’ divorce, your child’s birth, the death of a loved one—where God leaves a defining mark. There is reason you remember such moments so vividly. We have a choice to hear or to ignore, but regardless, God’s voice cries out in our memories: I was there. God has been in our past. God is here today. God will be there in our future. We have this promise in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.

God exists, as C.S. Lewis worded it so well, in the “eternal now.” And the psalmist, always writing with feet firmly planted in time, but arms ever reaching for the eternal, beautifully explains, “Thou art God from age to age the same.” While hindsight is often God’s means of gently revealing his presence all along, we can be comforted in the peril of the moment nonetheless. For as we encounter these markers in time, our sorrow is held in the beautiful mystery of one who wept with a friend, one who answered her question “Where were you?” with tears of his own. Beside Lazarus’s tomb, Jesus offered Mary a glimpse of the present love of God, though he knew of an even greater future both for Mary and for Lazarus. Christ is God’s living promise: I was with you then. I am there with you now. And I love you. I love you.

William Shakespeare once reasoned, “Love sought is good, but given unsought is better.” How do you know that God loves you? While you and I were yet wandering, Christ was wandering after us, pursuing us, even by way of the cross: love seeking the lost in human flesh. It is this sacrifice that stands as the greatest marker in all time.

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – From Disparate Threads

 

Some years ago, I was visiting a place known for making the best wedding saris in the world.(1) They were the producers of saris rich in gold and silver threads, resplendent with an array of colors. With such intricacy of product, I expected to see some elaborate system of machines that would boggle the mind in production. But this image could not have been farther from the real scene.

Each sari was made individually by a father and son team. The father sat above the son on a platform, surrounded by several spools of thread that he would gather into his fingers. The son had only one task. At a nod from his father, he would move the shuttle from one side to the other and back again. This would then be repeated for hundreds of hours, until a magnificent pattern began to emerge.

 

The son certainly had the easier task. He was only to move at the father’s nod. But making use of these efforts, the father was working to an intricate end. All along, he had the design in his mind and was bringing the right threads together.

The more I reflect on my own life and study the lives of others, I am fascinated to see the design God has for each one of us individually, if we would only respond. All through our days, little reminders show the threads that God has woven into our lives.

Allow me to share a story from my own experience. As one searching for meaning in the throes of a turbulent adolescence, I found myself on a hospital bed from an attempted suicide. It was there that I was read the 14th chapter of John’s Gospel. My attention was fully captured by the part where Jesus says to his disciples: “Because I live, you shall live also” (John 14:19). I turned my life over to Christ that day, committing my pains, struggles, and pursuits to his able hands.

 

Almost thirty years to the day after this decision, my wife and I were visiting India and decided to visit my grandmother’s grave. With the help of a gardener we walked through the accumulated weeds and rubble until we found the stone marking her grave. With his bucket of water and a small brush, the gardener cleared off the years of caked-on dirt. To our utter surprise, under her name, a verse gradually appeared. My wife clasped my hand and said, “Look at the verse!” It read: “Because I live, you shall live also.”

A purposeful design emerges when the Father weaves a pattern from what to us may often seem disparate threads. Even today, if you will stop and attend to it, you will see that God is seeking to weave a beautiful tapestry in your life.

 

Ravi Zacharias is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries.

 

(1) This essay also appears in Ravi Zacharias’s The Logic of God, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019).

Read in browser »

http://www.rzim.org/

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ex Cruciatus

 

Dear Slice Readers,

In light of the recent announcement about the health of our beloved founder, we will be sharing some of our favorite A Slice of Infinity essays written by Ravi Zacharias over the years. If you would like to share your own stories, testimonies, reflections, and letters for Ravi, you can share them on social media using the hashtag #ThankYouRavi or through RZIM Connect: https://ravi.care/ThankYouRavi. We plan to share these with Ravi and his family, and know they will be encouraged by the outpouring of support during this difficult time.

Gratefully,

The RZIM A Slice of Infinity global team of contributors

There is a striking verse in the New Testament, in which the apostle Paul refers to the cross of Jesus Christ as foolishness to the Greek and a stumbling block to the Jew.(1) One can readily understand why he would say that. After all, to the Greek mind, sophistication, philosophy, and learning were exalted pursuits. How could one crucified possibly spell knowledge?

To the Jewish mind, on the other hand, there was a cry and a longing to be free. In their history, they had been attacked by numerous powers and often humiliated by occupying forces. Whether it was the Assyrians or the Babylonians or the Romans, Jerusalem had been repeatedly plundered and its people left homeless. What would the Hebrew have wanted more than someone who could take up their cause and altogether repel the enemy? How could a Messiah who was crucified possibly be of any help?

To the Greek, the cross was foolishness. To the Jew, it was a stumbling block. What is it about the cross of Christ that so roundly defies everything that power relishes? Crucifixion was humiliating. It was so humiliating that the Romans who specialized in the art of torture assured their own citizenry that a Roman could never be crucified. But not only was it humiliating, it was excruciating. In fact, the very word “excruciating” comes from two Latin words: ex cruciatus, or out of the cross. Crucifixion was the defining word for pain.

Does that not give us pause in this season now before us? Think of it: humiliation and agony. This was the path Jesus chose with which to reach out for you and for me. You see, this thing we call sin, but which we so tragically minimize, breaks the grandeur for which we were created. It brings indignity to our essence and pain to our existence. It separates us from God.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Ex Cruciatus

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Embodied Empathy

 

In the still of the night, in the world’s ancient light
Where wisdom grows up in strife
My bewildered brain, toils in vain
Through the darkness on the pathways of life
Each invisible prayer is like a cloud in the air
Tomorrow keeps turning around
We live and we die, we know not why
But I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.(1)

In just a few lines, Bob Dylan describes much of modern dread: every road a path of resistance, every work a Sisyphean exercise in futility, every pathway littered with burnt out lamps, every prayer a fleeting vapor, every tomorrow suddenly a forgotten yesterday, every death impersonal and frighteningly mysterious. These all speak to the deep psychological wounds of life and vulnerability, the trauma of living and loving, the thick of despair and depression. But the ending is what all who long wish to hear: “I’ll be with you when the deal goes down.”

It is hard and uncomfortable to be with people when they face these defeats, though. One of the reasons for this is that, simply put, we don’t want to be dragged down into the pit of despair with anyone. No one wants to be in that pit: neither the person who is in it, nor those of us who can’t imagine why they seem to want to stay there. (Hint: They don’t.)(2)

It is hard to describe depression to one who has not felt it in their bones. It is not mere sadness or pessimism, as I learned but a few years ago. The words that best describe the overwhelming and unshakable darkness inside of my head at the time are hopeless, forsaken, worthless, and guilty. Mere words can never express this extreme despair, though. It was this feeling deep within my soul of being separated from the world, my own self, and my God. Intellectually, perhaps, I knew of my status before God, but I did not feel it at all. One cannot simply “snap out of” this predicament. Most of the time, it feels utterly uncontrollable, and yourself inconsolable.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – Embodied Empathy

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – At Home

To the people of ancient Israel, God’s house was an image that shaped the way they saw everything. In the minds of ancient Israelites, the house of God was the center of the world. As strange as this might sound to our ears, to their ears, the modern notion of the separation between heaven and earth would have seemed strange and wrong. God’s was a house reaching from the heavens to the liminal, tangible places on earth where God caused his name to be remembered. God’s house was seen in experiences like Jacob’s: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.”(1) It was experienced in the tabernacle that once moved among them as pilgrims, and later in their pilgrimages to the temple. Ever-expanding their vision of God’s house, altars were built over the places where God had appeared to them, marking the reach of its walls. Though at times as prodigals, their longing for home was a part of their identity as children of the house of God: “One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple.”(2) In the imagination of the Israelite, the house of God as it reached from heaven to earth was occupied by the Creator. As the people of God, they had been invited inside and they longed to remain. They longed for the healing embrace of home.

As with any group with a clear vision of inside and outside, belonging and not belonging, the Israelite’s understanding of the house of God could have easily become the very rationale for excluding foreigners, neighbors, and outsiders. Yet not long after God had called the people of Israel his own, God instructed them very specifically on the treatment of such people: “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”(3) “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”(4) The house of God was to be a house of hospitality, for such a spirit reflected the very God within it: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those who are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt.”(5) Called to ever-remember their own status as foreigners, the people who were invited into the care of God’s house were to become a sign of that care themselves.

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – At Home

Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Most Important of the Least Important Things

To say I was looking forward to watching my team play was an understatement. My excitement was heightened by the fact that the value of the tickets I possessed far outweighed what I had actually paid for them. The high demand and difficulty in obtaining them meant they were worth much more financially than the purchase price. They were also of personal value, as this was to be our oldest son’s first game, to mark his tenth birthday, and I have only ever been a handful of times in my life myself. Lastly, the game had taken on a much greater historical significance, as my club appeared to be on the brink of winning the league for the first time in 30 years, and there was even the possibility that the championship might be clinched at the match we were going to. Everything seemed perfectly poised. Everything, that is, until the world suddenly changed…

COVID-19 has wreaked havoc across the globe and has caused some of the richest and most technologically advanced nations to grind to a halt. Sporting fixtures were of course one casualty of the chaos, prompting the coach of my team to reflect that the game was simply the “most important of the least important things.”

This succinct reflection perfectly captures the way in which the on-going tragedy has put everything else into perspective. It has given us all pause for thought about how we spend our time and what we consider valuable in normal life. Has the crisis caused you to think about or re-evaluate what or who is important in your life?

Continue reading Ravi Zacharias Ministry – The Most Important of the Least Important Things