Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Leslie Basham: Rick Lawson had lied on his security clearance at work, and he wanted to make it right no matter what it cost.

Rick Lawson: The paperwork fit in a number ten envelope, and I filled that out and took it to work again. It took me about three tries to walk from my desk down to the security office, and I would be thinking thoughts like, “Rick, you know, if there's no God, then you're going to throw your life away, and it's unrecoverable.”

Leslie: It's Wednesday, October 31, and this is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss. Yesterday, Nancy talked with Rick Lawson, who experienced revival at his church. Now, when he experienced this revival, something began to bother his conscience. Five years earlier he'd applied for a job in the defense industry and lied on his security forms about past drug use. The penalty for lying—a maximum of ten years in jail or a ten thousand dollar fine.

Rick: I took a day of vacation actually from work, came home, filled out all the security paperwork again. If you check yes in those boxes, then you have to give an account of everything that you did. I was fairly heavily involved with that kind of thing in college, so it took me awhile to fill out the paperwork.

The paperwork fit in a number ten envelope, and I filled that out and took it to work again. It took me about three tries to walk from my desk down to the security office to turn it in. I would walk down that hall, and I would be thinking thoughts like, “Rick, you know, if there's no God, then you're going to throw your life away, and it's unrecoverable.”

I would turn around and go back to my desk. The conviction would not leave. It was an interesting conviction. It was a certainty I knew what God wanted me to do. It was a seriousness that I knew God wanted me to do it, but it was also a patient one. “I'm just going to stay here until you do it.”

Nancy: But you knew you couldn't be right with God until you did that.

Rick: That's right. I could not think about anything else, almost literally, so on about the third time, I went down to the security office. I didn't jog, but I was walking fast, walked by the inbox, put it in, and left—just left it there as quickly as possible and then began a process of waiting.

It was a few days when I was called into my manager's office. He had the director of security there, and they asked me if I'd resubmitted my security paperwork. I said I had, and he said, “Well, we've had to contact the Navy. They've called and asked that you be suspended from the project, pending the outcome of a Defense Service Investigation.”

They took my access card that I needed to get into the project office, and I was no longer able to get into the facility where this project was being conducted. You remember, I had just been promoted to supervisor in St. Louis for this project and was in the process of moving, and now I couldn't get in the building anymore.

Nancy: You were still on the project, but didn't have the clearance.

Rick: That's right. I was still on the project, couldn't get into the building. First of all, my boss had to find me a place to sit, so he found me a place to sit right back where I used to sit in the midst of all the people that were asking, “Rick, why are you here? You're supposed to be over in this other building,” and I wasn't about to lie to them after God had so convicted me of lying on my paper.

All I could do was just say, “God's found me lying on my clearance. I've just surrendered to Him,” and He gave me many opportunities to just share out of my life what God was doing with me.

Also, the people that worked for me now as a supervisor up in St. Louis—all of a sudden, I wasn't coming, and they would each call me, ask what was going on, and they would hear rumors. Some of them were afraid to ask that kind of thing. God just began to give me opportunity to give an answer for the hope that was within me like it says there in Peter, but it was a process of waiting.

Nancy: How many months was that, Rick?

Rick: I didn't hear an answer back—let's see. I turned it in in November. It was the following August. That's probably about nine months.

Nancy: Did you second-guess your decision during that time, or was your heart just at rest that the Lord was in charge of the outcome here?

Rick: Well, it was interesting. I don't ever remember second-guessing it, but God used those months of me literally being in His hand on a day-to-day basis. In fact, some of the things I remember, for example, for the first time in my life, I remember praying at meals and truly being thankful for the food.

I don't know if I ever shared with Vickie during those days, but I remember sitting at our table and just looking through the kitchen, knowing how much food was there, about how long it would last, knowing that this day may be the day I go in and they arrest me, and I can't provide anymore.

I remember sitting in my living room early in the morning when nobody else was awake, having a quiet time and looking around and realizing for the first time that I had never thanked God for our home, for anything in our home, for all the things that He had provided for us because I had been self-sufficient, provided them myself.

I realized that everything that I had and was going to be was in His hand, I began to realize that everything I'd had up to that time was a gift from Him and really became grateful for all that we had during that time of waiting.

Nancy: God was really answering Vickie's prayer all those years earlier, to make you a spiritual leader and to give you a sensitive and tender heart toward the Lord.

Rick: Yes.

Nancy: I want to come back to what happened on your security clearance, but in the meantime, God had also convicted you about some theft during your college years. That was the second area that you were dealing with clearing your conscience.

Rick: Yes, when I was in college, I had shop-lifted from several stores. God convicted me about that, that I needed to go back to them and repay—offer, at least, to repay what I had taken, and I began to do that. One particular store was a bookstore—one of the college bookstores there in Stillwater, Oklahoma, at Oklahoma State University. I had not known exactly how to go about it or what would best or not. I ended up writing a little note.

Nancy: What had you stolen from that store?

Rick: I had stolen some textbooks and a calculator, a fairly fancy calculator.

Nancy: You remembered that, what, several years later now?

Rick: Yes. I remember explicitly. I can still remember where I hid the boxes from the calculator still. I mean, it's a very vivid memory.

Nancy: Now the Lord was saying, “You've got to deal with this.”

Rick: That's right. I wrote a letter, and I essentially said that I'd recently surrendered my life to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in doing so, He has shown me how wrong it was for me to have stolen from you when I was a student at Oklahoma State University. Please accept this check as payment for what I owe, and I ask that you would forgive me. I signed my name and mailed it off.

It was a few days later I got a call from a reporter at the Oklahoma State University school newspaper, the O' Collegian, and he said, “Are you Rick Lawson?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Are you the guy that wrote to the bookstore and paid them back?”

I said, “Yes.”

He said, “Well, why did you do that?”

So I had an opportunity to share what the Lord was working in my life.

I was headed out of town. I was going to Philadelphia on business, and my one fear was that they were somehow going to mis-characterize what was going on, give God a bad reputation, something like that, in the newspaper.

I was in the Philadelphia airport that Friday with a co-worker of mine. We were fixing to leave. We had picked up a USA Today newspaper at the hotel that morning, and as we were sitting there, I'd scanned over the front page and turned to the second page in the upper right hand corner. I was scanning it, but I saw this in bold. There was a name that said Rick Lawson. I said, “Ah, let me see what this guy did.”

There was a small paragraph. It essentially said Rick Lawson, a former Oklahoma State University student, repaid bookstore in the area; sent them a note of apology and a check—second page USA Today.

When I returned, I had several phone calls from friends that I'd grown up with in high school and such, from years before, that I hadn't spoken to in awhile. What had happened was the O' Collegian had published it. They'd also turned it over to the Stillwater city newspaper, which got out on the wire service, so the Daily Oklahoman, which, in Oklahoma is a state-wide newspaper—it was on the front page of all three of those.

I was able to see the articles that were written. They were on the front page, and in every case, they printed the whole note that I had written or the most important part . . .

Nancy: Wow! Wow!

Rick: . . . of the note and then just ended. There was no second-guessing, no “Yes, but,” no question of the motivation.

Nancy: Just the testimony?

Rick: Just the testimony and this is what happened, and that was it.

Nancy: Boy, you wonder what the lost world around us might think—how they might think differently about Christ and Christianity if Christians really started to get honest and they could see in us that commitment to live as Christians rather than the hypocrisy that we sometimes rightly get accused of.

Rick: Right. Now that everybody in my hometown that I grew up in knew of this, God gave me opportunities to clear conscience. There was some things with friends and such that had happened years before. There was certainly and overflow of joy. The communication between God and me was continual and open.

I remember one of the prayers I prayed during all this was, “God, I'm so sorry that I have to go and confess all these bad things. I'm ready to do something good for You.” Over the period of several days, He finally brought me back to the foolishness of that prayer. He said, “Obedience is what I want you to do, and that's what I'm blessing because your righteousness isn't anything but filthy rags. Just do what I say, and everything will be okay.”

Nancy: Wow! Now, we left you hanging on your security clearance, and for those who didn't hear the first part of the story, you had also cleared your conscience in relation to an application you'd filled out, you had lied on years earlier. You'd resubmitted the paperwork, and then in the process had lost your security clearance, and you were waiting for nine months. We kind of left you there to see what was going to happen in relation to your job. Your whole livelihood, humanly speaking, was at stake.

Rick: Right. I was just waiting. There was several months, probably—I want to say three or four—before they even had a person from the Defense Investigative Service interview me. His first question out of the shoot was, “Why did you do this? What was your motivation?” That's just such a perfect lead-in because it was unbelievable to most people.

In fact, as I shared my testimony with the co-workers around, I can remember sharing with one particular guy—it was about paying the bookstore back, and he, after I had shared with him what was going on, he said, “Wow, Rick, I just can't believe that!”

I said, “Yes, I used to do some bad things in college.”

He goes, “No, I don't mean what you did. I mean I can't believe you're paying them back.” So it was like he didn't even think about what I'd done that was wrong. He just, his unbelief—or his amazement is probably the better word—was that I was paying them back.

I began to wait, like I said, a series of months. When I met with the defense investigator I said—we went through the whole thing again. I had to write my testimony of what I had done out in my handwriting to turn in, and I, after that was all over, I said, “Can you tell me what my chances are here? Can you tell me what I should expect?”

He says, “No, I'm just doing the investigation. I'm not part of the decision-making process, so I just turn my report in. I can't give you any guidance on that.”

I said, “Okay.” I continued to wait. I had to share with my family what was going on because we were in the process of moving to St. Louis. We had tried to prepare our children for the move, and then all of a sudden, we weren't moving anymore. I had to explain that, had to explain why Dad went to work in a different building now.

I'd been very open with them that God had convicted Dad of being a liar. I had to go back and tell the truth, and now I'm waiting to see what's going to happen.

One evening at dinner, we had just prayed. We were fixing our plates, and my oldest daughter, who was five years old at that time, just out of the blue, just opened up and said, “Dad, would you tell me about Jesus?” Over the next couple of days, she was saved, and we learned later that what God had used to work in her heart was that she knew that she had lied like her dad had and was watching what God was doing in my life. She knew that if Dad needed Jesus, then she needed Him as well.

Nancy: That little girl, by the way, isn't a little girl anymore. She's now . . .

Rick: She's 20 years old now.

Nancy: She's serving the Lord on one of the Life Action Ministry's teams.

Rick: That's correct.

Nancy: It's a team similar to the team that God used that came to your church back in the 80s.

Rick: That's right, and there's a second generation there. As part of her application process to Life Action, she had to videotape her testimony. To do that we had our family sitting so she could have a little audience to talk to as she videotaped it. My five-year-old son, when he listened to her testimony, God convicted him, and he was saved that evening.

Nancy: Wow! That is great—just the obedience of a dad or a mom and the impact that has on so many lives but particularly on those children!

Rick: We were continuing to wait. It got to be towards late summer, into August, if I remember, and finally, my boss had been waiting to hear back on the results of the investigation. He had gotten word from our security office that we should not expect an answer anytime soon, so he came to me one morning and said, “Rick, I need to talk with you, something about your assignment.”

As I walked into his office—literally, as I stepped into his office, his phone rang, and he looked over at his phone. He had a little caller ID for the inside, the company phones, and he said, “Oh, I need to take this.” I stepped back out. He was on the phone for a couple minutes. He called me back in.

I remember him just leaning back in his chair and had his hands up above his head, and he was just twirling them around. He said, “I can't believe this.” He told me what he was going to tell me about the delay, no answer expected soon, and he said, “That was the security department, and they heard back on one person who has an active investigation. That person was you, and your secret clearance is reinstated.”

You know, I think back on it now when I find myself wondering whether God can really control everything that needs to be controlled for a particular circumstance in my life. I realized how He sent that answer to arrive as I stepped into the office, and I wonder, how can I wonder?

We had to get permission from the Navy now for me to be back on the project. My clearance was back, but now I needed access to the project. The company wrote a letter asking them to decide. They came back, and they said, “No,” so I had to find another position.

It just so happened that exactly at that time, they were staffing up another project. If the Navy's answer had come any sooner, I wouldn't have gotten that particular assignment. I'm not sure which one I'd have gotten, but if I'd ended up being reinstated on the project with the Navy—it was in January of '91 when that particular project—they decided it was going to be too costly for them to continue, so they canceled it. When they did that, there were thousands of engineers that lost their job on that day of cancellation.

When I think about that—when I put that envelope in the in basket, I just knew I was going to lose my job. God used that as one of the fruits of that process to reassign me to a place of safety whenever that decision came down.

Nancy: You can never go wrong on the pathway of humility and obedience, can you?

Rick: That's right.

Nancy: The blessings, the fruit of having a clear conscience—I assume that wasn't the last time that you had to clear your conscience.

Rick: No. In fact, I was anticipating if you were going to ask me when was the last time. I think it was two days ago with one of my children for the way I had reacted. I had to ask their forgiveness for that.

Nancy: Have you learned to make a habit of keeping your conscience clear?

Rick: I keep re-learning that I have to maintain that. As amazing as it may seem, I go through periods where it doesn't occur to me that one of the reasons I'm struggling right now in my life, from whatever circumstance, is because I have gotten busy or something, and my focus has turned away from listening to what God would have me do specifically and immediately and then end up having to go back and take care of some things.

He's always good to remind me of that, but I do know the importance of it and the necessity of it and that to avoid that, just means that I'm going to avoid having that close relationship with God.

Nancy: It's not a one-time thing. It's a way of life.

Rick: That's right. It's a way of life.

Leslie: Rick Lawson has been talking with Nancy Leigh DeMoss about being free. If Rick could clear his conscience when facing serious, potential punishment, you can clear your conscience, too. Jim Cymbala, from the Brooklyn Tabernacle, has some thoughts on what it means to have a clear conscience. He's reading from Matthew 5:23 and 24.

Jim Cymbala: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift” and it's one of the basic, first principles of spiritual life according to God's Word, that horizontal relationships can obstruct us from an open heaven and the blessing of God that He wants so much to pour out upon our lives.

I think that's what we all want. What is the secret of an open heaven, an open hand from God, pouring out grace, supplying our needs? As we look around the landscape, we know that we're all blessed by being Christians, but what is the secret as you look at church history and around you that some were so blessed by God? There was such an abundance of fruit, such a joy and a peace, such a spirit of life that emanated from that person and their relationship with the Lord that brought blessing to others.

One of the secrets of an open heaven, if I may put it that way, is an open life, an open heart. When we get closed in and begin to hold in resentment and injured feelings and when our horizontal relationships get tangled, these are the things that the enemy uses to cloud our conscience. We can murmur. We can hold resentment in our heart. Worse, we can begin to talk and criticize to others, not in the presence of the person who offended us, but to someone else.

How many churches have been held back? The pastor's praying. The pastor's preaching the Word of God, but how many churches right now are on a treadmill, spiritual treadmill, going absolutely nowhere because that you cannot violate this principle of having tangled, horizontal relationships and yet have an open heaven, have a vertical channel that's free and clear before God?

The Lord tells us very directly, “Leave your gift there in front of the altar.” Just don't even—as much as that gift is appropriate according to Scripture, it's not going to be given in the proper spirit if you have a tangled relationship with someone else. Your conscience is become soiled. There is hurt, so let's ask the Lord to help us, first to have the grace to confront those things in our lives and be able to deal with them by the grace of God.

The other thing that I would like to just point out—if we've made mistakes, if we've talked inappropriately, thank God for the throne of grace. We not only are to go to others, and then their response is irrelevant—when we go to someone with the right spirit and say, “I have a problem. You've hurt me,” or whatever, “I've talked about you,” or, “what you did bothered me, and I just want to tell you this. I want to know your side,” (because you can't answer a matter until you hear both sides) but as we do that, it doesn't even matter what the person's response is because we've done what's right before God.

That burden is lifted. If they accept it and peace is made, wonderful. If they want to maintain a wrong attitude, we leave that with the Lord, but thank God that we can do that and then go to the throne of grace and say to the Lord, “Thank You that the only thing waiting for us this morning as we pray, is mercy and grace.”

The two great things from the throne of grace that God has promised, no matter how we've messed up, no matter what we've done, is there's mercy for past failures and mistakes with other people or however, and then well-timed grace if we'll just come boldly to the throne of grace. That word boldly there means speaking everything that's in our hearts just like a child would before their parent. Waiting for us today is the ability to have a clean conscience with others and before Almighty God through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Leslie: Pastor Jim Cymbala from the Brooklyn Tabernacle offered those thoughts on maintaining a clear conscience during a unique prayer meeting a couple of years ago. Christian leaders from around the country, including the host of this program, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, connected by phone to pray for revival.

That unique opportunity to pray is happening again. We're calling it Seeking Him, a National Prayer Meeting for Revival. The next meeting is this Saturday, and you can listen and pray along. Visit ReviveOurHearts.com for more details.

The National Prayer Meeting for Revival is coinciding with a special series on Revive Our Hearts called Seeking Him. So far, in this series we've studied many characteristics of personal revival such as: humility, honesty, repentance, and obedience. It's been challenging and deeply meaningful. If you missed any, you can listen online at ReviveOurHearts.com or order the series on CD.

It's not too late to begin studying these marks of personal revival on your own. Get a copy of the workbook Nancy co-wrote called Seeking Him. It will walk you through these qualities, identifying Scriptures and helping you think through areas of your life that need personal revival. We'll send you the Seeking Him workbook when you make a donation to Revive Our Hearts. Ask for it when you call 1-800-569-5959 or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss has known people so angry with each other it appeared that they would never speak. Find out what happens to those relationships when revival comes. That's tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scriptures are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

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