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Monday, March 26, 2007

Green rocks and gospel shocks: A talk with a stoner (sort of) and how I got a lesson on gospel preaching.

Leslie and I spent another fine evening at Starbucks in Five Points Sunday night. Now that the weather is warming up, I ventured out of my comfort zone and enjoyed a nice cool Carmel Frappachino. She had the same (decaf). USC was out doing whatever USC does during Spring Break, so patronage and foot traffic was minimal.

While I was savoring the whipped topping on my cold brew, a tall young man came in just begging for conversation. His hair was blown every direction hair can be blown, white shirt (slightly wrinkled) untucked, holes in the knees of his jeans so large he was practically wearing shorts and a pair of flip flops so blown out he has redefined the old Parrot-head song. Around his neck was wrapped a home-made hemp necklace (you should have seen that coming) from which hung a huge—and I mean HUGE--light green “gem” about as big as a fist. You can see now why he was just begging for conversation.

He talked to the girl behind the counter and then stepped outside. As he smoked and made a phone call, I told Leslie I just had to see what that rock was all about. I went out, and asked, “Hey, dude! You just gotta tell me what that rock is all about, man!” He put his phone away and stuck his hands in his pockets and laughed and said he “gets conversation” from time to time about it. He explained he had been to Bonaroo (if I misspelled it, it does’nt matter. Bonaroo is a music festival for those who can’t accept the fact that the 60’s are over) and they were using these glass prisms to shoot lasers through. He snagged (Stole? Was given? Bought?) some of these prisms and was making necklaces to sell after he moved down here.

He is new to the area, from California by way of Tennessee and is managing a certain hotel in another town outside Columbia. He was in town to meet his new roommate and “do some stuff.” We talked for a while about his interests (spelunking) and we swapped stories of our journeys into caves and mine shafts. I kept praying for a clear shot to swing to spiritual matters, but it was difficult to find one. Suddenly one came open. He was talking about the risk-takers and old hippies that go into caves to get drunk and do drugs and how he would never do that. He talked about a rescue he was involved with that left two spelunkers in the bottom of a pit while he had to find more rope.

I asked if he had a contingency plan in the event he should be trapped in a cave-in or drop down a pit—what then? “I dunno,” he said, admitting he should be thinking more about “that kind of stuff.”

I asked him, “What would happen to you if you die, man? Have you ever thought about what happens after death?”

His phone rang. Of course it did. He answered it. “Oh, hey dude! I’m down here outside of Starbucks having a very enjoyable conversation with a nice gentleman.” Cool, God! Thanks for getting me “in!” He talked to his friend for a moment and they agreed to meet. He hung up and explained he was meeting someone. I got back to the question. Hmmmmmm. He thought for a second. I prodded, “what do you think happens after you die? Do you think you are good enough to go to heaven?”

“Yeah, I suppose I’ll go to heaven. Whatever Karma brings around, I’m content,” He bobbed his head, satisfied with his answer, hair following his up-and-down motion.

“That’s interesting, putting heaven and karma together like that. How do you do that? How do you come to that conclusion?” Just as he started to explain, a waitress from Starbucks came out and loudly declared to him, “I’m on my break! Let’s get some food.” She looked at me. Of course, it’s break time. I tried to leave some parting shot, but he beat me to the punch. “I’ll be back in half an hour. I think I can put this together for you,” and stuck out his hand to shake.

“Half an hour,” we smiled, I gave him a tract and we parted.

Half an hour later (or more) we met again. This time he smile was wider, his eyes were redder and he was already working on his second beer. Oh boy. His roommate sat nearby and we talked. He had a religious background, but was too universalistic. By the time I was able to get back where we needed to be the chemicals were kicking in and he was having too good of a time—but he told me, “I got this thing you gave me” (he pulled the tract out his pocket), “I read it and it said stuff I never thought of before. I’m putting this a the top of my collection. Gotta think some more,” and he smiled while Knights in White Satin rode through his head. I gave him my cell number and pray he calls.

Out by the fountain I was able to give out a few tracks. A young man sat playing a guitar while a young lady sat beside him. Her hair was four different colors (a blond streak, a black streak, a brown streak and a pink streak) and they were smoking and talking and strumming in the late afternoon by the fountain. I asked them if they’d gotten one of my gospel tracts (I held a couple out).

She wrinkled up her nose. “What is it?” she asked, looking at it as if I’d squashed a bug with it.

“It’s a ‘Good Person’ test. A Gospel tract. Ever had one?”

“Are you Christian Science? If you are Christian Science I don’t want one because I’ve had one before and that stuff just don’t work.” The guy just looked at me.

I gave her assurance this had nothing to do with Christian Science. I explained the “Good Person” test and about God’s perfect standard. I just wanted to know if she’s gotten one to see how she squared up with God’s perfect law. She took one. He didn’t. They expressed their thanks and I took that as my cue to go away. I did.

I walked around the block and saw practically nobody. Coming back around the other side I headed toward the fountain. Girl and guy saw me and were waving, wanting me to come back. I came back and sat down beside them.

They proceeded to tell me how the cow ate the cabbage. I had no place to go around telling people that if they did not repent, they would be doomed to hell. This day and age is not meant for hell-fire preaching. They got all that from a tract? Wow!

The girl proceeded to tell me that God is love and I was misrepresenting God, who is not a God of wrath. I agreed with her. God is love, but I wondered to her if she had created for herself a god of her own understanding, because the Bible is perfectly clear about God’s love and His wrath. She looked at me funny. I asked her, “As a parent, am I any less loving if I am angry with my children for doing wrong?” I explained that I would discipline those whom I love, but relationship was the key.

I told her, “you must be thinking of that passage of scripture that says, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth, who keeps lovingkindnes for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin . . .”

She said, “Yeah. That comes to mind.”

I wondered to her what she did with the rest of the verse? She looked at me funny again.

I told her the part that said, “yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation.” [Ex 34:6-8]

“But God is a loving God!” She said. And I agreed, adding, “and a wrathful one as well. Do you think God punishes sin?” I asked.

She then told me a story of a harlot who lived next door to a church and the pastor of that church. They both died and went to heaven. The harlot was let in and the pastor was not. The reason was because the harlot always wished she could leave the brothel and the pastor always wished he could enter the brothel—God judged their intentions and their desire. So there.

I said, “Let’s try that in a court room. A judge has a list of all your crimes and is about to let justice run it’s course. What do you have to say for yourself?”

She could not argue and agreed that desire does not change the crime. I agreed that God sees all our hearts as sinful. The problem is that good intentions will not let us enjoy God forever—we need to repent and place our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, or be separated from Him for eternity.

They tried the “just ask forgiveness because God is loving” thing. I wanted to open my Bible to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Rev. 21:8 and ask them where in scripture it says we appear before the throne to ask forgiveness. The time is now. Now is the day of salvation.
They guy spoke up setting my understanding straight that the reason why more young people are not in church today because of hell-fire preaching. I argued that there must be some other reason because I don’t hear much of hell-fire preaching any more. He told me he came from a Presbyterian background and church is just not the same anymore.

The longer I sat and listened to this couple tell me I had the gospel all wrong, the narrower I saw the road and the narrower I saw the gate. There was no justice with their god, only love and the God I was “preaching” (thought I’d not preached at all) was the wrong God. Then they wanted to know why I was out there—who was I with? What was my agenda?

I told them I was out to tell people, like the Bible says, repent of their sin (like lying, stealing, blasphemy, etc) and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, to be made into new creations. I was preaching more than salvation from hell, but salvation from sin (like lying, stealing, blasphemy, etc) that displeases God. I told them I was not out to invite people to church. I was out to see people get right with God. I did not want to see the church bursting at the seams with people. I wanted to see people cry out for holiness.

They could not respond.

I asked, “If you saw someone’s house on fire, what would you do? Would you bang on the door or hope the neighbors noticed and got out safely?”

She got mad and said, “You put fire detection devices in the home! Fire alarms! That way the people are safe!” She was disgusted.

I told her, “but it’s too late. The house is already burning. What do you do?”

They guy stuck out his hand, gave me his name, thanking me for talking but we were done. She gave me her name and said that they just wanted me to back off, that I was coming on too strong. She handed me the tract back. I said, “My only hope is that if you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are obeying scripture and are out sharing your faith.”

They mumbled something and we parted.

I wondered what would have happened had I actually preached and not simply gave them a tract?

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