In 1464, a statue was commissioned for the cathedral in Florence, Italy, and a single, giant piece of marble was chosen from a quarry. Work was first begun in 1464 by a sculptor named Agostino di Duccio. Agostino only got as far as beginning to shape the legs, feet, and the torso before he gave up in frustration. Ten years later, it was taken up by Antonio Rossellino; however, very little progress was made and his contract was terminated soon thereafter.

Both sculptors had, in the end, rejected the enormous block of marble due to the presence of too many fissures and imperfections, which may have threatened the stability of such a huge statue. It seemed the rock just had too many problems and risks to ever amount to a great masterpiece. It then lay neglected for 25 years. During this time, it was exposed to the elements, standing through 25 years of sweltering sun, driving rain, wind, and even an occasional snow.

Finally, in 1501, 26-year-old Michelangelo was contracted to finish shaping the gigantic piece of marble.  He began work early on the morning of September 13, 1501. He would work on the statue for over 2 years before unveiling His 17-foot-tall masterpiece, David, which is still probably the most famous sculpture in the world.

While other artists saw a block of marble with too many imperfections to be usable, Michelangelo saw David. He said, Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

The thing that changed a shapeless hunk of marble into a world-famous piece of art wasn’t the quality of the rock, it was the vision of the artist. The same thing is true in our lives. Ephesians 2:10 says, For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

When you look in the mirror, do you see a magnificent work of art, or do you see a shapeless block of stone, full of cracks and imperfections? Just like Michelangelo used all sorts of different tools like hammers, various chisels, and brushes to remove unwanted stone and refine other parts into perfection, God uses all sorts of different tools in our lives as he removes unwanted parts and refines and polishes other parts. He uses His word and our worship, as well as the works of our hands and even the difficulty of warfare.

There are three little-known, and rather unique techniques Michelangelo used to create his masterpiece. God often uses these same techniques in his work on each of us.

  1. Michelangelo worked in total secrecy during the years he pounded away at his sculptureGod often does much of His work in our lives while we are seemingly hidden away in total obscurity. In fact, He seems to make a habit of finding unknowns like Moses and David anonymously tending sheep and elevating them to masterpiece status.
  2. Because of the size of the statue, Michelangelo worked outside. He, and the marble, were constantly exposed to the elementsOften the greater the destiny God has planned, the harsher the elements to which we are exposed.
  3. Michelangelo used a unique technique to accomplish his vision: he created a wax model and submerged it in water. Then he would drain a little water at a time, exposing only the part of the statue on which he was workingThis is such an accurate picture of the way our lives develop. It seems we know so little of God’s plans for us in the early stages. Each day, as we look in the mirror, a few more inches of God’s work emerge. Only God knows what still lies below the water level in your life.

So, through the days of anonymity, storms, or wondering what God is up to in your life, rest assured that He is right there with you, pounding away to create His masterpiece in your life.



Five Lessons from My Five Fathers

Dad and meFather’s Day was a couple of days ago. While I was blessed with a wonderful father, I also found myself thinking of a few other men who were like second dads to me. As I thought of these different men, each of them had one particular quality that dominated my thoughts; and that characteristic became a life lesson for me. Here are those five lessons from my five dads:

  • Be committed (Leon Cavitt) – One of my very best friends in my teens and twenties was Danny Cavitt. It wasn’t unusual for Danny and I to come rolling in around 5:00 or 6:00 AM… to go to bed. While we might have slipped in unnoticed in many houses, there was a 100% chance that Danny’s dad, Leon, would be up. Not only would he be awake, but there was only one place you would find him. Every single morning, Leon got up at 5:00, got his Bible, and sat down in his recliner to read and pray. It didn’t matter, either, that many of those early mornings when we drug in at sunup were Saturdays, when he didn’t have to work. His devotional time was an appointment he never missed. I never heard Leon preach a sermon, teach a lesson, or even quote a scripture to us; but the single most indelible memory I have of him is seeing him through my blurry, blood-shot eyes sitting quietly in his chair reading God’s word. What commitment!
  • Major in hospitality (Bill King) – My very first friend was my neighbor, Scott King. One of the really cool perks of our friendship was that his dad owned a motel on Lookout Mountain. On many Friday evenings, he would take Scott and I up to the motel on the mountain and give us a motel room for the evening so that we could climb around the rocks and do all the things you might imagine two 10 or 12-year-old boys would think of with a hotel room at their disposal. Scott’s dad was a high-ranking bank executive who had lots of irons in the fire between his job at the bank and owning two motels. Here is what I remember most about Mr. King, though: every Friday, he would take the two of us to a restaurant called The Albert Pick (which had the most amazing bread ever!). Then, on Saturday morning, Mr. King would make biscuits and gravy for us. I am sure there were a million things he needed to do more than have dinner with two preteen boys and cook us breakfast, but he never made me feel like I was an imposition. Instead, he always made me feel welcome. I am sure Bill accomplished lots of great things in his life, but I remember him most for making me feel welcome and important – like another of his sons.
  • God answers prayer (Bob Blazier) – When I was just starting school, our church got a new pastor named Bob Blazier. His son, Bobby, and I became almost instant buddies (I say “almost instant” because the first time Bobby came over to my house it earned me a spanking – but I’m not still bitter…). At any rate, Bobby and I are still best friends and his parents are still my second parents. Bobby’s dad was from the country, and you could tell it in his speech. He occasionally made up words during his sermons, and he had not had the opportunity to pursue the advanced degrees that many ministers receive. The puzzling thing to many people was how in the world Bob, with some of his seeming limitations, could be such a terrific preacher. He was (and still is) one of my very favorite teachers and preachers. While others may have been puzzled, I knew his secret. You see, Bobby and I would often run and play around the church during the week or on Saturdays when it seemed to be deserted. However, many times there would be a sound coming out of one of the Sunday School rooms. It was the sound of Bobby’s dad praying. He would go into the classroom, close the door behind him, and spend hours crying out to God. Therefore, every brilliant Sunday sermon was a life lesson in Paul’s declaration that “I can do all things through Christ, Who strengthens me.”
  • Live life with a chuckle (My uncle Richard) – When I was in school, I used to ride the bus to my aunt and uncle’s house in the afternoons until my mom got off from work to pick me up. Beth and Richard had five kids of their own, which meant there was usually lots of noise and chaos, fussing and fighting, running and jumping, doors left open, and sounds of things crashing to the ground. Add to that the unique form of disruption and destruction that I brought and it was a scene that could have made Mother Theresa try out a new vocabulary! My uncle Richard had this amazing ability to take it all in stride. He could disarm the most stressful situation, whether it was teenage daughter angst and hormones, or his son and I playing tackle football in the living room, with humor and an easy-going attitude. When I sort through all my memories of Richard (or Papa, as we called him), he seems to have a sort of a bemused smile on his face in every situation. How great would life be if a lot of us took ourselves a little less seriously?
  • Integrity matters most (my dad) – I have always known my dad loves me and would give his life for me. That being said, when I was young I used to kind of wish he were a little different. Some of my friends had cooler dads. Others had richer dads. Still others had Santa Claus for a dad. My dad wore socks with shorts and sandals… colored dress socks. He had a pocket protector and one of those retractable key rings on his belt. He wasn’t particularly athletic and didn’t care all that much for sports or hunting, fishing, camping, etc… As I got older, though, I began to realize that my dad gave me the greatest gift any dad could give: he gave me a good name. I have never once in my entire life had to pause when someone asks me if I am Donald Lance’s boy and wonder why they are asking. Someone could tell me my dad was rude to them, and I might believe them. Another person could say that he was kind of distant or cold to them and I would probably buy it. However, if anyone told me that my dad lied to them, I would double over in laughter. My dad goes beyond the category of honesty into the brutally honest, “I don’t believe I would have said that” category of truth-telling. One of my sisters once suggested that he mark something on a medical form about having the privacy laws explained to him, just to expedite the process and he looked at her like she was a Martian who had just entered the waiting room. The mere concept that he would mark something that wasn’t true seemed absolutely alien to him. Therefore, it was no surprise that when I sold he and mom a car, the bank to whom we submitted their credit information called the dealership right back and asked, “how many would they like to buy?” There is no greater gift he could have given me than a reputation that is above reproach (what I have done since then to sully it is a subject for a different blog…). To this day, my dad lays his head on his pillow every night knowing he has nothing in his past from which to hide. What an amazing legacy.

Five great fathers in my life; five great life lessons! How blessed I am this Father’s Day.

ReWiring Church

Hey guys, this is a call for help! When you remodel an old house, or renovate an older building, you often have to do some rewiring to bring everything up to current building codes. At True Life, we think it might be time to do a little rewiring on the church. Actually, our building is quite new, so that isn’t the issue. It is the approach to, and perception of, church that might need a little updating. Let me tell you why I say this. A recent survey told me that over 90% of Americans believe in God or some sort of superior universal being. In addition, over 75% of Americans believe in the same God that I do. Here is the problem: less than 20% of Americans go to church (in my hometown of Chattanooga, the number is about 18%). Let that register for a second… 9 out of 10 Americans believe there is a God, but less than 2 in 10 think church would be a good place to learn more about Him, or to get better acquainted with Him! Is it possible that, just like codes for wiring in buildings need to be updated fairly often to keep up with new innovations, so do our approaches to this thing called church?

This is where I need your help: I started a new series called ReWiring Church this past Sunday. My goal is for it to be a very interactive dialogue (not monologue) about how we approach this thing called church. We need as many different viewpoints as possible. If only members of True Life respond, then we will hear a lot of similar viewpoints based on shared experiences. I would love to hear from people who are parts of other churches; and it would be especially helpful to hear from the 82% of people who don’t attend church! I want to hear things like:

  • What do you love about church?
  • What do you wish was different?
  • If you attend church, why do you attend?
  • If you don’t attend church, why not; and what would make you want to try it?
  • What is something you wish just one church was radical enough to try?
  • What role should the church play in the community around it?

This past Sunday was the first message in the series. It was entitled ReFocus, and in it, I asked two questions:

  1. What is a church?
  2. What is the primary mission of the church?

You can watch it on our True Life mobile app. Just download true life church – ga from the app store and look under the messages tab. It is free. It is also posted on our website: It was simply a starting place for our conversation, but it was a good chance to refocus on exactly what Jesus had in mind when He established this thing called the church. In each of the upcoming weeks, I am going to incorporate some of your comments and emails I received.  Here’s how you can get in the conversation:

  • Email your questions or ideas to
  • Go to the Rewiring Church Facebook page
  • Comment on this blog site or on Facebook
  • Tweet me at @dlance10

Please jump into the conversation. We might just be a church crazy enough to try your idea!

Thank you in advance,


How to Move a Mountain


In Mark 11:23, Jesus said, “I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” To be honest, that verse has troubled me for a long time. The mental image I get from Jesus’ statement is that of a huge mountain being suddenly lifted up and thrown into the sea; but never – not once in my life have I seen that happen. In reality, I can’t even find one example of a mountain going swimming in the entire Bible (with the possible exception of the flood, where God brought the sea to the mountain instead of vice versa).

Was this just a figure of speech from Jesus? Possibly. A parable? Perhaps. Still, that poses a problem for me: If Jesus said I could move mountains, but He was just using that as an exaggerated figure of speech, how do I know which of my problems fits into Jesus’ category of mountain? The actual problem lay in my interpretation.

Let me illustrate with a story: About a year ago my wife was looking through some boxes in one of our upstairs closet. She came across an old prayer list of mine. I had written it in the year 2000. That had been a year of many changes and lots of uncertainty. I changed careers, changed houses, had only recently married, and spent half of the year unemployed. During that period I had begun to use a prayer list on an everyday basis. Over the next couple of years I prayed with that list nearly every day. There was one entire page of personal requests and another page of prayer topics related to my church and its ministry.

Sometime during the next few years we moved to another house and this list got packed away into the box. As I read through the list, fifteen years later, I was stunned. Every item on both pages had been answered by the Lord! Some of them would only qualify as hills or ridges; others were full-blown mountain ranges. Some of them sounded really noble and spiritual (i.e. discipleship and ministry goals) while others sounded trivial or even slightly selfish (like asking for opportunities to work with certain people in the music industry, or wanting to break par with some regularity). The thing is: God answered them all!

Let me go back to Jesus’ statement and read you the very next thing He says: I assure you: If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.Therefore I tell you, all the things you pray and ask for – believe that you have received them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:23,24  HCSB – emphasis mine)  

I assumed mountain moving was one dramatic, gigantic event. In reality, I realized that most mountains are moved one shovelful at a time. There is this beautiful picture in the book of Revelation of God sitting on His throne and in front of Him is a bowl, which is full of the prayers of the saints. This shows that there is a cumulative effect of praying. This is what I had missed. While a mountain being picked up and tossed into the sea might be more impressive, the mountain that is moved by shovels and front-end loaders is just as gone.

I began to look at my latest list, which I have been using for about 3 years now. I highlighted the mountains that were completely moved in green and the mountains that were showing signs of progress in yellow. I’ll be honest; there are a lot of requests that don’t fit either category. It is that way with mountain-moving. I don’t imagine the first hundred shovelfuls would even be noticeable if I started trying to move Lookout Mountain (the fact that I might get arrested would also impede my progress). However, the reality is that eventually even a great mountain could be moved one shovelful at a time. Thankfully, the time frame isn’t quite that long. First of all, every problem isn’t an Alp; and secondly, there comes a tipping point where God sees that you have cleared enough space for Him to bring in the heavy machinery and finish the job.

That great twentieth century philosopher Tom Petty put it this way:

“The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith; you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part”

I have to agree with him, but it sure helps to picture each prayer I pray as one more shovelful off of that mountain, as well as one more prayer in that bowl in front of God’s throne.

Here are three pieces of advice from one mountain-mover to another:

  1. Pray with a list – It helps with your focus, as well as the cumulative effect.
  2. Use a Journal – Record each small bit of progress in the various situations. It helps bolster your faith.
  3. Keep diggin’ – When you feel hopeless, helpless, and joyless, just pull out your list and stick that shovel in the ground one more time.

So, how do you move a mountain? One shovelful at a time.

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin… (Zech. 4:10)

Time for a Better News Outlet?

I was in a fast food restaurant today and a young man who looked to be around 20 years old was cleaning the dining room. He looked over to me and said, “It’s almost New Years.” I grunted my agreement with my mouth full. He then said, “Maybe 2016 will be a better year.” “What made your year so bad,” I asked (thinking, how bad can things have really been for a 20 year old?). He said, “Nothing really, I just heard a lady talking about all the bad things that happened this year and saying that she hoped next year would be better.”

I began to think about some of the horrible things that happened in the past twelve months. There have been terrorist attacks (including my own hometown), senseless acts of violence, questionable police tactics, and wars and rebellions around the world. Who knows, this might have been a record setting year of bad news.

On the other hand, what about all the good things that happened in 2015? While we have painstakingly compiled accurate statistics about how many lives have been lost to violence, sickness, and starvation, where can I find the numbers on how many lives have been saved by vigilant doctors and nurses and emergency medical personnel? How many deaths have been avoided by the millions of dollars and man-hours of humanitarian aid and philanthropy? How many children have had their futures redirected because one teacher saw past the problems and recognized the potential? And how many acts of violence have been avoided because of the excellent work of a therapist, pastor, or mentor? Who knows, this might have been a record setting year of good acts!

That’s the rub, isn’t it? We don’t know. While CNN and FNN tell us all the bad news (and MSNBC just seems to rail against life, in general), who is telling the good news? Why isn’t there a GNN… a Good News Network? Think of the stories they could tell 24 hours a day, seven days a week: stories of selflessness and generosity, stories of police and fire personnel who risk their lives to protect others, or stories of people getting onto planes and travelling halfway around the globe to build a shelter or dig a well for the less fortunate.

To be honest, I am not sure we have any more bad things going on today than at any other time in history. Since there are more people on earth than ever before, I suppose it is possible. However, it is also possible that, because we have 24 hour news coverage rather than 2 time slots a day, we report a lot of stories that didn’t make the final cut 20 years ago.

If you subscribe to the first theory of population growth being the cause, then the converse would also be true: there would have been more acts of kindness, love, and generosity than at any time in history. We just don’t have anyone telling those amazing stories. You might say that you don’t choose to see the world through “rose-colored glasses;” but why choose welder’s goggles as the alternative? Do we really want the dark and beauty-less perspective with which we are often presented? The Apostle Paul gave us this suggestion:  Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.” (Phil. 4:8 HCSB) 

Why not tune in to GNN for a little while? It might change your whole perspective.