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Editor’s note: In October 2018, Jemar Tisby gave the Covenant College (PCA) Reformation Day chapel lectures. In response, on November 7, 2018, PCA pastor Andy Wilson published an online article titled, “Dear Covenant College Students: Jesus Can Set You Free from the Yoke of Being Woke.” In it, Wilson disagrees strongly with Tisby’s lectures, accusing him of presenting an unbiblical view of a justice-oriented Church that promotes a works-based legalism that is beyond the Gospel forged in the Reformation.

On December 7, 2018, in response to Wilson’s article, Covenant College students Aaron Anand, Sarah Lane Cochrane, Abby Gienapp, Will Payne, Ryan Rhodes, and Mark Roos published in their student newspaper, The Bagpipe, an online article (below) titled “Freedom in Christ to Obey His Word: A Response to Rev. Andy Wilson.”

Article summary: In this article, the students present a biblical case against what they consider to be Wilson’s narrow view of justice as merely “equal treatment under the law,” drawn from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s position in their book “What is the Mission of the Church?” The students present biblical and social evidence for the necessity of a justice-oriented Church from within their PCA college’s Reformed doctrinal standards and confessional commitment. And they argue that biblical justice includes not only “equal treatment under the law” but also obeying Jesus’ command to “love our neighbors as ourselves” so believers are the “sweet aroma of Christ” in all places and to all people–especially the poor and marginalized.

Freedom in Christ to Obey His Word: A Response to Rev. Andy Wilson

Aaron Anand, Sarah Lane Cochrane, Abby Gienapp, Will Payne, Ryan Rhodes, and Mark Roos

Dear Rev. Wilson,

As students of Covenant College, we wish to offer a humble response to your recent article, “Dear Covenant College Students: Jesus Can Set You Free from the Yoke of Being Woke.” We present our own views in this letter, not the views of the College, nor of all our peers. We hope that this reply helps inform your perspective on the condition of academic and theological debate at Covenant. We further hope that our response will be a productive contribution to the broader dialogue that has surrounded Jemar Tisby’s recent Reformation Day lectures on our campus.

For the record, we do not agree with all of Mr. Tisby’s assertions. Students at Covenant are critical consumers of information—we are more than willing to question controversial or debatable assertions made by chapel speakers. His lectures sparked lively discussions on campus regarding several of the issues which you address in your article, including his creative rephrasing of Scripture, his stance on the centrality of activism, and his views on universal healthcare. However, we aren’t threatened by Mr. Tisby rightly pushing us to recognize weaknesses within our own Reformed tradition. As spiritual heirs of the Protestant Reformers, we do not assume that our theology has arrived at its terminus. In light of our cultural blind spots, we need to keep reforming our tradition in light of Scripture (sola scriptura!). Thankfully, God has given us the Body of Christ with many members from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. It is vitally important for our tradition to listen to those voices when they tell us we are falling short in significant ways.

In 1973, O. Palmer Robertson delivered an address to the first General Assembly of the PCA. In that address, he affirmed that, “The Continuing [Presbyterian] Church commits itself to ‘the faith’ as it affects the totality of man’s existence … it searches out the implications of Scripture for the totality of human life.” We believe that this commitment, drawn from the genesis of the PCA’s doctrinal foundations, has significant implications for the modern discussion of race and ethnicity within the church, and we call for interpretation of Mr. Tisby’s lectures in this light.

Biblical Justice and Collective Repentance

Justice, as you have defined it from Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert’s What is the Mission of the Church?, is “equal treatment under the law.” While this is a component of justice as laid out in the Scriptures, Christ takes us a step further. His explicit call to love our neighbor as ourselves, through our actions, thoughts, attitudes, and judgments, is a call to live justly (Matt 22:39). In Deuteronomy 10:18, “He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.” Doing justice, then, entails action that goes beyond creating a fair legal playing field. Feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ministering to the sick, and welcoming strangers are acts of mercy that must be involved in the administration of justice (Matt 25:35-39). By failing to welcome in and pray alongside our black brothers and sisters in Christ, the North American church—and more specifically, the PCA—failed to enact justice. We committed corporate sin by failing to love our neighbors as ourselves.

In some evangelical circles, talk of “corporate sin” is controversial. Properly understood, we don’t think it should be. The Reformed theological tradition contains robust support for the notions of corporate sin and repentance, beginning from the earliest pages of Scripture. The Fall affected the totality of human existence. With the sin of Adam and Eve, all subsequent generations sinned as well; individual sin impacted and continues to impact the body of Christ as a whole (WSC Q.16). While the doctrines of the fall and original sin are clearly a special case, they suggest that a corporate understanding of sin is woven into the biblical way of thinking. In the questions regarding the Lord’s Prayer, the Westminster Larger Catechism notes that “we pray for ourselves and others” for the remission of sin—such prayers would include the sins of people and their institutions from earlier generations (WLC Q.194). Thus, there is strong evidence throughout all our doctrinal heritage for collective, corporate sin and repentance (along these lines, see Sean Michael Lucas, For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America [P&R, 2015]).

The 30th General Assembly in 2002 addressed the need for the PCA to repent of racist elements of its past: “We therefore confess our involvement in these sins. As a people, both we and our fathers, have failed to keep the commandments, the statutes, and the laws God has commanded. We therefore publically repent of our pride, our complacency, and our complicity.” This was followed in 2004 by an extensive Pastoral Letter, “The Gospel and Race,” adopted by the 32nd General Assembly. The 44th General Assembly’s 2016 lament for the collective sin of racism “does recognize, confess, and condemn these past and continuing racial sins and failure to love brothers and sisters from minority cultures in accordance with what the Gospel requires; and be it further resolved, that this General Assembly praises and recommits itself to the Gospel task of racial reconciliation.” We gather that this 2016 denominational decision was contested at the time; nevertheless, through these formal actions, the PCA has affirmed collective responsibility for racist sin, and for the PCA’s past role in perpetuating injustice.

Individual repentance for individual transgression is called for throughout the Bible, but this is not the only sort of repentance with biblical grounding. Throughout the Bible, the entire people of God are treated as an entity that can be called to corporate repentance. All of Israel, in Amos 5, is condemned for their oppression of the poor and for turning their backs on the responsibility to carry out justice. Ezra prayed as an individual for the collective and historical sins of Israel (see Ezra 9 and 10). The prophet Jeremiah exhorts the Israelites to repent of their own individual sins and the sins of their ancestors (Jer 3:25; 14:20); in Isaiah, the Lord chastises the people for “both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together” (Isa 65:7). In a similar vein, we should not forget Daniel’s heartfelt prayer in Dan 9:1-19. In the New Testament, as Stephen is condemned in Acts 7, he traces the sins of the Jewish leaders all the way back to the sins of Israelites who went before them—the effects of collective sin can span millennia. The body of Christ today should confess its collective failure to bring justice to those oppressed through the sin of racism.

An individualistic view of salvation is devoid of the important contributions of kingdom and resurrection theology—cornerstones of the Reformed tradition. The resurrected King Jesus, the righteous king who renders justice to the oppressed (Psalm 72), is reconciling all things to himself (Col 1:19-20). This redemption is cosmic. Christ will stand as preeminent Lord over all creation, with the Church as the primary instrument for the advancement of his Kingdom. The Gospel’s power is far broader than individual salvation—it’s about renewing creation to be the temple of God’s dwelling that it was always meant to be. Many lay believers forget that much of the goodness we take for granted in our governmental structures, marriage, education, medicine, business, scholarship, and the like, is directly related to past Christians proclaiming God’s kingdom far and wide. Hospitals, for instance, are the legacy of gospel-centered Christian stewardship (e.g., see Charles Rosenberg, The Care of Strangers: The Rise of America’s Hospital System; and for earlier Christian influence, see Gary Ferngren, Medicine and Healthcare in Early Christianity). Wilberforce and other evangelical abolitionists labored tirelessly to make the English slave trade illegal. American checks-and-balances style government had its inspiration from the Presbyterian understanding of total depravity. Literacy and liberal democracies grow in a more robust fashion in countries around the world which received proselytizing Protestant missionaries (e.g., see the Christianity Today article by Andrea Palpant Dilley, “The Surprising Discovery About Those Colonialist, Proselytizing Missionaries”). The renewal of the gospel is not limited to personal salvation, but extends into all creational structures.

Equal Treatment in Modern America

We have noted already that much of the discussion within the PCA turns on how we define justice. In your understanding, justice is “not about equality of outcome, but about equal treatment under the law,” and you assert that in America today, “people of all races do receive equal treatment under the law.” Even accepting this definition of justice, modern “equality under the law” is not a factually supportable claim. The racist attitudes of the past, which you are right to decry, have cast a long shadow. In his 1978 book Micromotives and Macrobehavior, Nobel Prize-winning economist Thomas Schelling found that if a population has been segregated, segregation will continue unabated even in the absence of discriminatory laws. Accomplished justice requires a new behavioral impetus, not mere deletion of the old.

Discriminatory structures are still present in America today. A brief perusal of national headlines provides ample evidence, as does widespread academic documentation and research. As one example, in May of 2018 the Vera Justice Institute published an evidence brief titled “An Unjust Burden,” which found statistical evidence to support the conclusion that past structural racism has placed minorities at a present disadvantage in America. Even beyond this source, we have little reason to believe that implicitly racist attitudes have disappeared from our country. Substantial research has shown that mild biases of individuals are capable of producing a broadly unjust system—systems are products of the sinful people who inhabit them, not creations of neutral written codes.

Your article assumes an individualistic, meritocratic interpretation of modern American social structures. This attitude has never been broadly accepted outside of Western cultural contexts. Research indicates that white Americans have always been more likely to believe in general social fairness than members of any minority. This difference in perception should alert us that we may be missing important information which is obvious to our nonwhite brothers and sisters. Indeed this is precisely what some of our nonwhite brothers and sisters are presently trying to tell us.

In America today, mortgage loan research indicates that people with “black” sounding names typically need to have a credit score that is 71 points higher just to receive the same response rate as identically situated whites. In emergency situations, whites call for help if the victim is white 75% of time and only 38% of the time if the victim is black. White-sounding names get job interviews at a 50% higher rate than ethnic-sounding names even when the resumes are comparable. Black people are far more likely to be incarcerated than white people charged with the same crimes. Juries are more likely to find blacks guilty, compared to similar white offenders. These are but a very, very few undisputed facts, and they are not representative of a fundamentally fair, fundamentally post-racial system.

The Yoke of the World and the Yoke of Christ

You object to the notion that Christians ought to do penance for social ills they haven’t directly caused, or for implicit racism. Since we are free from guilt and sin in Christ, we shouldn’t feel obligated to work out our repentance through acts of social justice. Calling such an obligation a manmade yoke, you call us to cast aside this burden and instead take up the easy yoke of Christ. We wholeheartedly agree with the picture of grace presented by your argument and join you in gratefulness for Christ’s lifting of every heavy burden.

Nonetheless, we believe that the notion of “Christ’s yoke” doesimply action. To assume that there are not difficult tasks involved in the Christian life verges on cheap grace. While it is true that we are saved by grace through faith, not by works (Eph 2:8-9), the apostle Paul goes on to say in the very next verse, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Jesus Himself specifically says that he will commend us or condemn us at the Judgment based on our works (Matt 25:31-46). As you said at the end of your article, “living under Christ’s yoke includes the call to strive, as best as you can, to extend comfort to those who are distressed, to defend those who are vulnerable, and to further the outward estate of others.” Our motivation is not penance; it’s to follow God’s call to be doers and not merely hearers of the Word (James 1:27).

Although your article claims that Mr. Tisby wants to make Christians feel guilty, at the end of his final lecture, Tisby also affirmed the danger of guilt. He distinguished a self-centered guilt from what he calls “Godly grief.” The former seeks resolution so that the sufferer may feel better about his or her own character; instead Godly grief appropriately recognizes injustice against our brothers and sisters and seeks resolution, not out of a desire for catharsis, but out of a desire to comfort the hurting. To ignore such feelings of sorrow would be a sin of omission (James 4:17). You also rightly condemn a wide range of racist attitudes, but fail to acknowledge that not actively opposing racial injustice allows an unjust system to persist. If we are to comfort the hurting and champion the vulnerable, then we are necessarily at odds with any systemic problems that put them in that position.


We write to you neither as apologists for Jemar Tisby, nor as enemies of your view. Instead, we wish to encourage you to consider the broad doctrinal and social evidence for the necessity of a justice-oriented Church. We proclaim this stance from within the doctrinal standards and confessional commitments of the PCA itself. We share your conviction that Jesus frees us from the burden of guilt and every burden imposed upon us by the world. At the same time, we are excited to be the sweet aroma of Christ in all places and to all people. Jesus frees us from paralyzing guilt to something far better, something that is much closer to what Reformation Day is all about: to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbors as ourselves.

For our sources, see Jillian Olinger and Kelly Capatosto, “Chipping Away at Implicit Bias,” Aug 23, 2017, available at:; Jonathan Kunstman and Ashby Plant, “Racing to Help: Racial Bias in High Emergency Helping Situations,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 96.6 (2008): 1499-1510; Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” American Economic Review 94 (2004): 991-1113.

As many of you know, my spiritual father and mentor, Behzad Pakizegi, died last week after suffering with cancer. Special thanks to my family and friends for your prayers and timely words of comfort to me and Behzad’s family.

By God’s grace, I was able to fly to San Diego to spend personal time with him before his death. To help me process my grief last week, I wrote: Reflections On the Passing of My Spiritual Father: Behzad Pakizegi

In 2014 Behzad faced another life threatening illness when he suffered a severe heart attack and had to be admitted to a hospital in San Diego for triple-by-pass surgery. As he was lying in a hospital bed waiting for his surgery, we were, like recently, talking and emailing back and forth on our cell phones.

My youngest daughter, Laura, who had never met him, asked me if she could also write him an email. And she did. He told me later that words cannot express how much her email meant to him just before his open-heart surgery.

Little did any of us know that Behzad would keep Laura’s 2014 letter and draw great comfort from reading it again prior to his death last week. Behzad wanted me to share Laura’s letter with his family and friends again. So, here it is:

Dear Behzad,

It’s likely that by now my proud and adoring father has told you all about me and maybe even shown you my picture or made you listen to my singing. I am sorry. If it’s any consolation, you are not alone. You join a long line of people who have been made subject to my parents’ doting and to whom I now feel more than slightly indebted.

My parents told me that you were in the hospital. I hate hospitals: the beeping, the fluorescent lighting, the smell of rubbing alcohol, the endless waiting, the food that looks and smells like it’s from space. Hospitals make the panic bird light inside my brain. So in the chance that you are at all like me, I hope this letter can provide a small respite.

Do you know — your story was somewhat of a legend in our household? I have heard about you since I was a very small child. My father is a born storyteller, and your story has always been one of his favorites to tell. It’s also one of my favorites to hear. Perhaps it’s the warmth that creeps into his voice and his eyes when he says your name. Do you also know — part of the tale made its way into a 1997 issue of Reformed Quarterly (the RTS seminary publication)? I’ll start the story myself and then let the excerpt provide the rest.

“Always the life of the party, Steve’s teenage years were steeped in rock concerts, riotous parties, and rides in his sports car with chrome side pipes. In 1973, he was studying business at Oklahoma State University when…

…one day he saw a sign in the dorm advertising a lecture on the claims of Christ. He and his buddies thought it would be great fun to disrupt the meeting and hassle the speaker. How dare someone come and preach to them! The speaker turned out to be a petrified student with a memorized Gospel presentation who was no match for their cynical questions.

Behzad Pakizegi in 1973 at Steve’s university dormitory

“We had him up against the wall and were delighted with ourselves,” remembers Steve ruefully. “Suddenly from the back of the room, a Middle Eastern man stood up and walked forward, carrying a Bible and smiling broadly. With disarming gentleness, he took us on one by one and answered our questions with a boldness I had never seen. My friends grew tired of it, but this articulate and intelligent man fascinated me. I argued with him until 3 a.m.”

That night was the beginning of Steve’s spiritual pilgrimage with Behzad Pakizegi, a converted Jew from Tehran who was working toward his Ph.D. and had studied with Christian apologist Dr. Francis Schaeffer. Behzad bought Steve a bible and a few weeks later led him to Christ in his dorm room. Thus began a three-year discipling and mentoring relationship that has impacted Steve’s life ever since.

“He didn’t give up on me,” says Steve with a warm smile. “I would have probably given up on someone like me a hundred times. His commitment to me had to be God-given.”

Dramatic changes began to occur in Steve’s life, including a new desire to hear the Word with God’s people and a heavy burden for those without Christ. His parents didn’t understand; they thought Behzad was a “spiritual” guru out to take advantage of their son. Step by step, Behzad helped Steve mature in the Christian faith. During their second year together, Behzad decided it was time for Steve to learn how to share his faith, so he set up a meeting with the leader of the B’Hai cult on campus. Steve remembers that “he ate my lunch, but Behzad jumped in and rescued me.” It was on such difficult playing fields that Steve learned well how to share his faith.

Behzad and Steve in 1976

At Behzad’s direction, Steve became involved in Campus Crusade for Christ, a ministry that would also shape the rest of his life. He took all the training which they offered, including advanced leadership instruction, and began discipling others. His teaching gifts were obvious – large groups of people began attending weekly Bible studies in his apartment. During his junior year, he poured himself into three new converts, a ministry that opened the door for yet another Bible study group and a Sunday School class, and then another door and another…

“I just tried to honor God faithfully and let Him show me what to do next,” says Steve. “Eventually I found myself speaking about the claims of Christ in university fraternities, at times to as many as fifty or sixty hard-core partiers and cynics. I laughed at God’s sense of humor; I had been just like them only two years before.”

By his senior year, Steve began to sense the Lord might be calling him to full-time Christian work. Steve’s father wanted him to go on to law school, but Steve wanted to acquire some more experience in ministry and consider going to seminary. His father agreed to allow Steve to move back home and follow that plan, provided Steve could earn enough money to pay his own way.

So, taking the principles of discipleship he had learned in college, Steve developed a Bible conference called “Journey Into Usefulness,” which he began to teach in local churches. In 1977, during the summer after his graduation, he met the woman who would share that ministry – his wife, Becky. They married in August, 1980.

I don’t know who wrote this piece but it’s clear whoever it was also noted the warmth of my dad’s affection for you. It’s also clear that my father told the same story he has been telling me ever since I was old enough to understand it. My favorite part?

“Suddenly from the back of the room, a Middle Eastern man stood up and walked forward, carrying a Bible and smiling broadly. With disarming gentleness, he took us on one by one and answered our questions with a boldness I had never seen.”

It always gave me the chills!

But may I also point your attention to where the tale ends: with his meeting Becky and marrying her in August 1980. Just between us, I promise you that Becky would never have married Steve if it weren’t for a converted Jew from Tehran named Behzad Pakizegi. I also promise you that Steve and Becky’s third child, Laura, would never have been born if Becky had not married Steve.

So I guess what I am saying to you is that I know very well — and have know for a long time — that if it were not for you, I wouldn’t have even been born. But it’s more than that. What you have done for my father has positively impacted me throughout my life in different ways. I’ll give you just five.

By teaching my father about Reformed Theology, you influenced my education. For my sisters and me, attending Covenant College has shaped our thinking and our worldview. Some of my richest friendships with other believers also began during my time there.

By introducing my father to the writings of Francis Schaeffer, you influenced my thinking about art and life. Schaeffer’s thinking is ingrained into the ethos of our family. This has been great for me—the only family artist and musician! In the past few years, I have often thought about taking a trip to L’Abri — not only to learn more about God amidst the beauty of the Alps, but also to see for myself the Mecca of the thinking in which I was raised.

By being honest with my father about your own failings, you influenced my understanding of sin.  When I was in college, I realized some ways my dad had failed me. But when I confronted him about it, he was completely honest with me about his wrongdoing. It rocked my world to have someone I esteemed so much reveal himself as such a sinner. But his honest acknowledgement of his own frailty ultimately led to me developing a healthier view of Christian leaders. He told me then that you taught him this lesson many years back when you decided he was mature enough for you to openly reveal your flaws to him. I hope that I, like you and my dad, can also be a person that is humble and vulnerable with others about my sin. Simul justus et peccator!

By teaching my dad about Jesus, you influenced my perceptions about Jesus. When my dad talks about Jesus, his voice has the same warmth it gets when he talks about you or his own dad–real people he has known and loved. To him, Jesus is not just a gateway to eternal life. He’s real! He’s alive! He’s present! He’s powerful! When Jesus was here on earth, He laughed and He cried. He hugged people. He felt everything we feel.  I don’t normally hear Christians talk about Jesus affectionately. I want to be a person that does.

By leading my dad to Christ, you paved the way for me to meet my grandfather one day. You likely know better than I do about how difficult it was for my dad to lose his father soon after he graduated from college. But think about it: he now knows he will live for eternity with his father in the New Heavens and the New Earth. I, too, look forward to that time of reunion when I’m planning to plant a huge kiss on my grandfather’s cheek. As an aside, do you know that my dad describes you as having the same “quiet strength” that his father had?

You should know, Behzad, that I do not warm to people easily. It’s actually a great flaw of mine — just ask my parents. So please do not take it as flattery when I say these things in gratitude to you. The truth is, though I don’t know you, I consider you as part of my family. I don’t know if God will ever give me a chance to meet you on this side of eternity–I hope He does. But if he does not, please know that there is a girl out there who considers you her uncle Behzad.

With love,


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Behzad Pakizegi in 1973 at Oklahoma State University during his Ph.D. studies.

My spiritual father’s departure from this life came last night. He is now with Christ and no longer suffering. I’ll never forget the first time I met him in the Fall of 1973. I had gone with friends to disrupt a floor meeting in my freshman dormitory advertised as a presentation of the claims and credentials of Christ. After we disrupted the meeting, suddenly, a dark bearded Middle Eastern man stood up and walked toward us, carrying a Bible and smiling broadly.

With disarming gentleness, wisdom, and a boldness I’d never seen, he answered all our questions. My friends grew tired of it, but this articulate and intelligent man fascinated me. I argued with him until late in the night. That night marked the beginning of my spiritual pilgrimage with Behzad Pakizegi, a converted Jew from Tehran, Iran who was working toward his Ph.D. and had studied with Christian apologist Dr. Francis Schaeffer.

Behzad gave me my first bible and challenged me to begin reading it and meeting with him. A few weeks later he led me to Christ in his dorm room. Thus began a discipling and mentoring relationship that radically altered the trajectory of the rest of my life. For the next three years he invested himself in me, teaching me not just by his words, but mostly by his life, what it means to be a follower of Christ.

With remarkable tenacity, love, and patience, Behzad did not give up on me, especially during the next few years. I would have probably given up on someone like me. But his commitment to me was God-given.

Steve and Behzad at Heritage Reformed Presbyterian Church where Steve was the church planter and founding pastor.

We were friends for almost five decades. He was in my wedding in 1980. In recent years we met in Orlando when he was there for business. And just as Paul told Timothy, “I remember you constantly in my prayers,” Behzad frequently told me of his faithful prayers for me and for my family. He faithfully prayed for each of my grandchildren whom he knew by name.

So when he told me recently that he had terminal cancer, it hit me very hard. And when he said he wanted to see me one more time while he was still alert, I was honored. I remembered Paul’s similar request to Timothy to “come before winter.”

My recent trip to San Diego to be with him was priceless. He was very alert. We spent days together talking, praying, laughing and remembering. When he looked back on our first meeting, he told me with a smile that he couldn’t let this “rabble-rouser” (me) get away with disrupting that meeting.

When he said he wanted to see me one more time while he was still alert, I was honored. I remembered Paul’s similar request to Timothy to “come before winter.”

We talked about what it’s like for him to be this close to being in the very presence of the ascended Christ. At the end I told him I was having a very strange feeling as he talked. I told him there is a very real sense in which I am deeply jealous of the glorious freedom he’s about to experience on the other side from all forms of brokenness, corruption, and pain.

We hugged a lot every day I was there. But as we shared what we both knew was our last hug on this side of the veil, my last words to him were, “I love you and I look forward to seeing you soon.” I didn’t cry until I got on the plane the next morning and read his brief text he sent from his bed while I was on my way to the airport early Friday morning:

“Dearest Steve, Thank you for paying me a visit before my departure to be In His presence. It was a great blessing to have you shower my family and me with such undeserved love. Please send my love to your wife and daughters. Look forward to seeing you. Love. Behzad”

Since I returned home, Behzad and I continued to stay in touch, mostly via texting because he found it difficult to talk. After learning of his death last night, I reviewed our texts over the last several days. Most of them were bible verses he loved (Is 41:10, Is 43:1-2, Psalm 46, 1 Cor 15, Rev 21:1-5) and poems from William Cowper. The last stanza of the last poem I sent him was a request from me:

Such Jesus is, and such his grace,

Oh may he shine on you!

And tell him, when you see his face, 

I long to see him too.

By God’s grace and through the prayers of many friends and family, I was given the privilege of “coming before winter” to be with him one last time before his death. What a remarkable gift for which I will always be grateful to God.

Through this, I’m reminded that there are some things we’ll never do unless they are done “before winter.” Before winter or never!

Through this, I’m reminded that there are some things we’ll never do unless they are done “before winter.” So, let’s all hear God’s voice through Paul’s final request: “Come before winter!” knowing “Before winter or never!”

“Before winter or never! There are some things which will never be done unless they are done “before winter.” The winter will come and the winter will pass, and the flowers of the springtime will deck the breast of the earth, and the graves of some of our opportunities, perhaps the grave of our dearest friend. There are golden gates wide open on this autumn day, but next October they will be forever shut. There are tides of opportunity running now at the flood. Next October they will be at the ebb. There are voices speaking today which a year from today will be silent. Before winter or never!”    – Clarence Macartney

PS: Little did any of us know that Behzad would keep my daughter’s 2014 letter to him and draw great comfort from reading it again prior to his death last week. Behzad wanted me to share her letter with his family and friends again. So, here it is: Dear Behzad: A Letter From My Daughter to My Spiritual Father Before His Death

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