All posts by Geoff Zahn

The Lion and Chad tough: A story of Hope

As I sat through the Celebration of Life Service for Chad Carr, I couldn’t stop looking at the picture above which was on the cover of the program.

First I saw a little boy, barefoot, walking away with purpose. Chad had heroically battled Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma, (DIPG), for 15 months before going home to God. One hope was born 15 months ago when Chad’s Dad Jason, Mother Tammi, and brothers CJ and Tommy started “Chad Tough Foundation” to support pediatric brain tumor research. Jason is a past quarterback at the University of Michigan and the son of Lloyd Carr, the University of Michigan Hall of Fame football coach, which provided a national platform to help ChadTough raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the hope that there will soon be a cure for pediatric brain tumors.

But what kept drawing me back to the picture was the lion seeming to lead Chad to heaven. I immediately thought of Aslan the Lion King from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, one of C.S. Lewis’s children’s books written to help people understand the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the book one of the characters, Edmund betrays his brother and sisters to the White Witch. The White Witch, according to the laws of the Deep Magic had the right to sacrifice Edmund because he was a traitor. When Aslan heard of Edmund’s betrayal, he agreed to be sacrificed in Edmunds place so that Edmund’s life would be spared. As the story goes, because Aslan was an innocent victim, the laws of the Deeper Magic dictated that he would be resurrected. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan the lion was a “type” of Christ.

As I kept looking at the picture, I was reminded of the book of Revelation which refers to Jesus as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Revelation 5:1-5 reads like this, “And I saw in the right hand of Him, (God), who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven, or on the earth, or under the earth, was able to open the book, or to look into it. And I began to weep greatly, (no hope), because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and it’s seven seals.” And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, (He still bears the wounds of the cross), having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth.”

Jesus is both the Lamb of God and the Lion of the tribe of Judah. In the gospel of John 1:29, when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to him he said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” From Old Testament times until Jesus was crucified, a lamb was used as a sacrifice during Passover, so the Jews were very familiar with the sacrifice of a lamb to temporarily cover their sins. They understood that, “without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22b)   Jesus as the Lamb of God offered one sacrifice for sin for all time by being crucified on the cross.

A story titled, “The Brave Little Soul” written by John Alessi, was on the back side of the Celebration of Life program. In the story the little soul asks God, ‘Why do bad things happen, why is there suffering in the world?”    “God paused for a moment and replied, ‘Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts.’ The little soul was confused. ‘What do you mean’, he asked. God replied, ‘Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences, and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.’ The story goes on and the little soul becomes very excited and says, ‘I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into this world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!’ God tells him he is a brave soul but that he will not be able to do this alone. The gist is that God uniquely provided Chad with such a loving father and mother and two loving brothers as well as his grandfather Lloyd and thousands of people supporting and bathing him in prayer to help him through this journey. But in the end, Chad traveled to heaven in the love and comfort of the Lion of Judah, Jesus, in faith and boldness.

What hope God’s grace offers us! I’ve had sorrow in my life but I can’t even imagine the sorrow that the Carr family has had to face. But in the end, sorrow and tribulation, once they are endured with faith, bring about a hope that, “does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5)

That was so evident in Chad’s Celebration of Life Service. But the story doesn’t end there. Support is still needed for the ChadTough Foundation with hope for a cure for pediatric brain tumors. You can donate through

Don’t let the hope of heaven pass out of your mind with the business of daily life. Chad’s struggle brought about so much love and support with a view to eternity. In the end, whether we are 5 years old or 95, we will all walk that final walk into eternity.   The Carrs taught Chad all about Jesus and His love and grace. The song he sang so often was “Jesus loves me”.

If you are a parent, don’t leave the teaching of the Gospel of Christ to chance. First make sure all is well with your soul in faith and hope in Jesus and then, as Deuteronomy 6:6-7 says, “And these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Jesus offers so much love, joy, comfort, and peace here on earth and He offers true eternal hope in a hopeless world.

In the last book of the Chronicles of Narnia series, The Last Battle, King Tirian says, “But courage, child: we are all between the paws of the true Aslan.”(Jesus Christ) I believe that is where Chad is. As a Christian, that is our comfort and our hope.

Note: If you are not sure of the Gospel here are a few Bible verses that may help you to understand the riches of His grace; John 1:12-13, John 3:16, Romans 3:23, 6:23, and 10:9-10, 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, Ephesians 2:8-10, and Philippians 2;1-8.


THE BIBLE: Living Playbook or Outdated Manual

For many people today, the Bible is a nice book to have on the shelf with many great sayings and suggestions for life, but it is not relevant for the culture today. Progressives today say the constitution is living if it evolves with the changing culture, but the Bible as the Word of God claims to be the inspired word of God that, “is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). So, on the one hand the progressives ‘living’ is changing standards to accommodate the culture or one’s personal ideology where God’s definition of ‘living’ is that He gave us faith in scripture that was, “once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 3d)

God’s ‘living’ deals with the heart and soul of His creation. He knows how we are wired and about the human condition. He loves His creation and has given us Jesus and the scriptures which lead us to true inward joy and happiness on this earth and salvation eternally. By contrast, cultures change to accommodate fads, and humans search for identity and power to manipulate their environment.

The word saints stands for all those who have put their faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, and thus, they are called CHRISTians. According to recent Barna surveys there are around 72% of those in the USA that identify with Christianity.   That survey, as reported in “Casual Christians and the Future of America” (May 22, 2009), stated that 82% of the adult population identified with Christianity. Of those 82%, Barna listed that 66% were labeled Casual Christians and only 16% were Captive Christians. He goes on to define Casual Christians as “faith in moderation. It allows them to feel religious without having to prioritize their faith”. He then says that, “Casual Christians are driven by a desire for a pleasant existence. Captive Christians are focused on upholding the absolute moral and spiritual truths they glean from the Bible”.

As I read this article by Barna, I couldn’t help but think of this illustration. I attended and coached at the University of Michigan. At Michigan, football is king. Hundreds of thousands of alumni and fans identify with Michigan football and pledge undying loyalty to Michigan athletics. On game day, they wear Michigan jerseys, hats, tee shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, and other paraphernalia and ‘live and die’ with the maize and blue. The truth is that only the 100 or so athletes and 10 or so coaches are actually on the team. The coaches build the rules and the playbook, and that playbook is expected to be memorized by all the players and coaches on the team. They then spend countless hours practicing the execution of the playbook until it is second nature to them. Every player has faith the playbook is true, and they learn, practice and execute their responsibility as part of the team to best represent Michigan football. There is no moderation. That playbook is their priority as a member of the team. All the other hundreds of thousands of people that identify with Michigan are just fans. They don’t practice, analyze game film, or spend countless hours in the weight room. They take Michigan football in moderation and while they can jump up and down and scream with each touchdown and victory, they don’t get the prize.   It is only the team that gets the championship rings.

The good news is that God calls everyone to believe in Him, to be on His team so to speak.   He has given mankind His playbook, the Bible. Here is just a small snippet of what the Bible tells us:

Joshua 1: 7-8, “Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.”

Deuteronomy 6: 6-9, “And these words which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

2 Timothy 3:15-17, “and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”

Not only did God give us His living written Word but He gave us His living Word incarnate: Jesus Christ.  John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And in Hebrews 12:1-2 to, “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

So, where are you? Do you claim to be a Christian but in reality you are a fan of Christianity in the stands and not at practice every day or on the field.

The Bible has many pronouncements about those who think they are Christians but are only fooling themselves. Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.”

James 1:22, 26-27 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” James is saying that true faith and belief in Christ results in works that honor God and not yourself. If you are quick to shoot your mouth off it is usually to make yourself look good and you are deceiving your own heart. Pure religion is when you show true sacrificial love by doing things for people who have no means to pay you back. In addition you saturate your heart with God’s word so that the culture and the things of the world which are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life do not affect your walk with God.

A believer, by faith, says the Bible is the Word of God, therefore it is true. A fan of Christianity, casual Christian, or a sceptic says “if I can prove it is true, or if it is true for me, then it is the word of God”. No, the Bible is the Word of God leading you to Jesus. He wants you to treat it as such by believing, following and keeping Jesus’ commandments. It is your ultimate living playbook for life here on earth and eternal life to come.

Values Turned Upside Down

Sometimes when you look at something, like the picture above, everything looks fine until you look at it a little closer and realize everything is upside down. I am feeling that way as I look closer at America 2015.

Did you ever think that our fine military would be called oppressors, by our own citizens? Did you ever think that our police would be ordered to stand down to give rioters and thugs space to express themselves by looting and setting fire to businesses homes and retirement homes? Did you ever think that it would be OK for politicians to lie to Americans and suffer no repercussions? Did you ever think that you would be called a homophobe or a woman hater for quoting the Bible? Or did you ever think your child would be reprimanded for mentioning Jesus’ name in school? It seems like our value system has been turned upside down……

Heart surgery needed for U.S.

The events of Ferguson, Missouri and more recently, Baltimore, Maryland, have highlighted a range of emotions going on in America. I am struck by the anger and bitterness of the demonstrators which led to full scale looting and lawlessness. Some said it was because of the uncertainty of how Freddie Gray died while in the custody of the police where others said it was the boiling over of decades of disrespect by the police. I have to remind myself that the looters and demonstrators were mostly youths 13 to 16 years old. So I ask how do these youths carry on a torch of hatred that is decades old? Who incited these youths to “purge” the city by posts on the internet or facebook? Who organized these youths to attack the police with concrete weapons and bottles? How do these youths hate so much that they are willing to loot and set fire to their own neighborhoods’ residences and places of business? That kind of hatred has to be taught from hearts that have gone dangerously out of control. The Bible in Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperatsely wicked; Who can know it?” It’s time for a heart transplant not only in our youth but all across the United States.A demonstrator in Philadelphia was interviewed expressing her reason for demonstrating was to bring to the front the fight against the oppression of blacks that has been going on since they were freed. My understanding of America is that it is one of the only societies where a person can move from one class to another either up or down. However many the opportunities in a society, if you believe you are oppressed then you become a victim of that oppression which leads to anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, and hopelessness. It has been my experience in life that when I harbor bitterness and unforgiveness toward others it hurts me much more than the person I believe hurt me or oppressed me. I become the one handcuffed by my own attitude.

New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson’s thoughts on Ferguson and Baltimore have gone viral. He believes there will be more riots like those in Baltimore if we don’t address “the problems facing the nation”. He believes the problem facing our nation is our sin that must be dealt with. I agree whole ‘heart’edly. The only person who has already dealt with our sin nature is Jesus Christ, and we need to turn away from our sin and to Him. The facts are that Jesus was a Jew whose people were looking for a powerful savior who would lead them out from under the oppression of the Romans. Throughout history Jews and Israel have been persecuted and oppressed more than any other people. Even this hour in history our nation is trying to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, a nation preaching the annihilation of Israel and all Jews. Jesus came fulfilling the prophesies of the Messiah but he came preaching forgiveness and love and took the sins of the world to the cross offering forgiveness and a new life in Him for eternity. God proved He was satisfied with Jesus’ sacrifice by raising Him from the dead. By believing that Jesus is both your Lord and Savior you are saved into His family forever and freed from the bondage of sin on this earth.Jesus said in John 8:31-32, to all who believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”From what are you free? You are free from the power of sin that causes bitterness, and hate, and unforgiveness. This freedom in Him fills you with a peace that allows you to forgive and to be content in all circumstances. No politician can give you that and no government can give you that. I don’t care what your color is or how much money you make or how much stuff you have. Only Jesus can set you free.According to a Barna survey in 2009, over 80% of the adult population in the U.S. identifies itself as Christian. So where is the Christian influence in America? Christians have stood by while the Government and secular progressives, under the guise of separation of church and state, have removed the Bible or any reference to the Bible from the schools or school functions. We are supposed to be a country that has freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. The First Amendment says that,”Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” The phrase,“wall of separation between church and state”, does not appear in the Constitution. Our country was built on Judeo/Christion morals and ethics and it prospered. Now those same morals and ethics are being challenged daily by Hollywood, the press, the music industry, minority groups and our government and, for the most part, Christians have remained silent.

I was heartened by the coverage of Toya Graham as she loved her son enough to go after him and prevent him from becoming one of the rioters and lawbreakers. To an extent she is a hero. At the same time I was asking, “Where are the Dads?”   Over twenty five years ago as I was listening to a sermon, the pastor reported that Hollywood, through situation comedy, was going to diminish the role of the father as head of the household. Can you name one show today that depicts a father as a strong leader in his home? No, today men are regularly portrayed as bumbling idiots for all to laugh at with no sense of leadership, and men have been all too content to fall into that role. Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a childin the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Hebrews 12:11 says, “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” And Ephesians 6:4 instructs fathers, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” It’s been said that the police were told to stand down in the beginning of the Baltimore demonstrations because the demonstrators needed space to do their thing. As the demonstrations turned to assault and rioting the youths were labeled thugs but that accurate description was quickly walked back to “poor misguided youths”. If you go along with that line of reasoning then you must ask how they became misguided. The void left by God fearing fathers is being filled by music, anarchists and terror radicals on the internet, and pastors who preach a message of oppression and victimization. Who’s teaching them the message that seems to get through to those who are still trying to get into this country, that the United States still offers opportunities?Black role models should be people like Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Ben Carson, Condoleezza Rice, and Martin Luther King; and most importantly, the Bible tells us to, “fix our eyes upon Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2) Who’s teaching our kids to respect authority? The Bible declares in Romans 13:3-4, “For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.” Police brutality should not be condoned but who is teaching that police are oppressors when these same police are the ones who daily risk their lives to keep our neighborhoods and cities safe?.

Today the sad joke around women is that men find it so difficult to commit to a relationship and take responsibility for a wife or child. Much has been made of the disintegration of the family as a cause of the problems in neighborhoods such as the South Side Chicago and in Baltimore. I say it is also the lack of men’s commitment to the principles of the Word of God and especially the lack of Biblical teaching from the pulpit. One pastor calls what is going on in all of America as sermonettes for christianetts. Many church services today are full of entertainment and drama and stories that support a social gospel but not the hard truth of Scripture. That truth states that if you believe that Christ died to pay the penalty for your sins then EVERYTHING changes, ‘heart surgery’ if you will. Galations 2:20 proclaims, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the son of God, who loved me and delivered Himself up for me.” How does that play out? Philippians 2:3-4 tells us, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” It takes a new heart to live this way because it is not natural. It’s far easier to take judgment into your own hands. But can you trust a sovereign God who Proverbs 21:1-2 says, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes. Every man’s way is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts.”

The truth is that although most in this country know God, we have stopped honoring Him as the sovereign God of the universe and we take His blessings for granted. Our heart has become dark. This has happened in our government, our schools, some of our churches, and in our personal lives. God still wants our faith to be in Him who loves all of us; black, white, brown, red or yellow.The result is, we are a new creation ready to love one another with a ‘new heart’ full of thankfulness, forgiveness, and love in obedience to our heavenly Father. God says that will bring about peace in your own life and in your community. That’s good enough for me.