"For hundreds of years historians and scholars have carefully studied and evaluated the factors that have caused the decline and death of great empires. Their careful conclusions are readily available to those who really want to know them. Scholars like Edward Gibbon, who wrote the classic "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and Arnold Toynbee, who wrote "A Study of History," have set forth in great clarity and detail that twenty-one of the last great empires on earth all showed the same common signs of decline just before they dissolved and disappeared from world history. This simply cannot be refuted by any honest person!
History is littered with the remains of once great empires, each one having had their turn at the very helm of the world, rising so high, yet today they are only a memory. Will this be true of America? Many historians have catalogued the "commonalities of calamity" or "the pathology of death" for human societies, and the diagnosis is alarming! Nations do not really die; they dissolve, a slow process of erosion. They self-destruct due to disintegration caused by dangers lurking within. Let us list those common symptoms of the end, "harbingers of death" shared by all twenty-one of the last great extinct societies . . ."
Read the rest here.
Friday, September 28, 2007
"For hundreds of years historians and scholars have carefully studied and evaluated the factors that have caused the decline and death of great empires. Their careful conclusions are readily available to those who really want to know them. Scholars like Edward Gibbon, who wrote the classic "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," and Arnold Toynbee, who wrote "A Study of History," have set forth in great clarity and detail that twenty-one of the last great empires on earth all showed the same common signs of decline just before they dissolved and disappeared from world history. This simply cannot be refuted by any honest person!
God displayed Himself in so many wonderful ways the past few days that at this writing I am still in awe of how He works to the praise of His glory. I’m late (again) at getting this posted because I’ve just been so busy—but Praise God for His goodness! He is doing so many wonderful things!
What began last Friday night continued on through Saturday afternoon and Sunday. As far as the street ministry is concerned, more than a dozen people who God brought to our team heard the gospel, and I pray just as many responded to God’s love and grace. As God worked we saw tears, heard voices quiver, witnessed some jaws drop, heard some confessions from heads hanging in conviction . . . but I am getting ahead of myself.
I almost did not make it down to the street last Friday. I was not feeling well and as we met for training, Nick and I were discouraged that we were the only ones present (but we were encouraged that we would still go to Five Points, regardless). People were just late arriving, so we got off to a late start. Finally we had as many as 13 people by the time training began, and about 20 by the time we got to Five Points. Nick brought us some new training material from Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason, a great six-part series that basically trains how to conduct a meaningful conversation and use evidential apologetics. I had previously brought a short crash-course through The Way of the Master (presuppositional apologetics), but am excited about the balance. I pray that the students don’t get overwhelmed.
Anyhoo, I was not feeling well and the further into the training we went, the more I was thinking about throwing in the towel and going home. Transitioning to prayer time, Nick could tell I was not feeling well, and when we went to prayer, the team prayed on my behalf for healing and we pressed on asking God to give us a harvest for the evening. Within five minutes, I was feeling quite well and stayed that way until the moment we were almost back home again. God is AWESOME!
Side note: I’ve become keenly aware in street evangelism, especially when talking to groups of three or more, that the moment the conversation reaches the work of Christ on the cross, cell phones start ringing. This knowledge came in handy during our second conversation.
Chapter 1, Friday Night: “Golden Gates and the Blessing Burger At The Golden Arches.”
While the team went on to Five Points, Chris and I took a small detour the opposite direction to drop my son, Jonathan, off at McDonalds. He was meeting with a skateboard team to go Long-boarding in a couple of nearby parking garages. Think: snowboarding without snow. Nice long, sloping driveways and longer skateboards with larger wheels. At least this week he managed to come home with all the skin on his arms (the previous trip left him with a little less elbow—gross!).
We pulled up the Golden Arches and decided to go in. Before we reached the door, a teen-age boy and two teen girls came out and sat on the curb. I looked at Chris, he looked at me and shrugged, “Why not?” Let the evangelism begin!
The young man was wearing a tee-shirt that boasted something about how “cool” money was, which to me, just begged for a money-changing slight-of-hand trick. I did a trick then let Chris step in with his great card tricks. We talked and laughed for a few minutes, then swung the conversation to the spiritual, illustrating that if one cannot trust their eyes, they certainly cannot trust their heart. We used the Good Person test to go through the Ten Commandments to show how God sees the heart and the girls got quiet while the guy shifted his weight. They admitted their guilt and sin and confessed that in God’s justice, they deserved nothing better than hell. I began to show them what God did on the cross to keep them from hell—cue the cell phone—and we lost the guy.
Note to evangelism teams: send one team member to “shadow” (not eavesdrop, but stay near) the one who gets interrupted in order to start up the conversation again one-on-one.
The girls sat on the curb, processing what they were hearing and I got down on my knees to keep eye contact and encouraged them to listen to what the Holy Spirit was telling their consciences, and their need to repent. I then noticed that one girl had a cross on her shirt and the other had a cross on her neck amidst other bling. I told them to think closely about what they were wearing—the ancient equivalent of the Electric Chair. Their eyes go huge. I tried to drive the point home that the cross was nothing beautiful in itself, for God displayed His Son there to pay for the price for sin through His death an burial, then spoke of the glorious resurrection. We showed some verses from Romans and noted that one girl was wiping tears from her eyes. We gave them each a Good Person tract, a Roman’s Road tract and a Pocket Testament, telling them not to let this moment go and cry out to God.
These girls were employees of McDonalds (we did not know), so they thanked us for talking with them, got up and went inside. My head was spinning with excitement and Chris was smiling. He suggested we go inside and pray for them, so we did. Jonathan’s ride had not come yet and I had some change—the Dollar Menu was sounding quite good. Some guy who pulled up to the restaurant while we were witnessing was still at the counter, and for some reason that was yet never clear, he bought my burger! I felt like this was some kind of blessing from God. Can that happen, a blessing-burger?
Chapter 2, Friday Night: “Five at the Fountain”
Chris and I saw Jonathan off with his friends and we made our way to Five Points in celebratory mode. The main team had already dispersed and infiltrated enemy territory, so we pressed on in our own team. We saw two teams sharing the good news of Jesus as we walked down the street (one team with a girl sitting on the curb outside Hardees, and another talking with a bored valet at a restaurant). We crossed the street to the fountain, where God has already gathered a knot of people just waiting to hear the gospel—they just did not know it yet.
We approached a group of college students sitting around the fountain watching a friend of theirs dance in the open space. We approached and asked if they’d like to see some magic tricks. Sure! The girl glared at us, but she did not leave.
Chris and I took turns doing some tricks, then I took out a sheet of paper to “Tear” the gospel. They listened to my story and watched as I tore the paper, producing from three tears the word “Hell” and unfolding the cross. They sat speechless. I realized that Chris had another conversation going with a couple of guys behind me, so I kept talking to the three guys and now, two girls.
I took them through the Good Person test and they instantly confessed how God saw their heart—and they sat stunned. I told them that what I was about to tell them next was so important that Satan did not want them to hear it, that at least one person would be distracted or pulled away so as not to hear what I had to say.
I asked, “Do you know what God did to keep you from going to hell?” As I began to describe the finished work of Christ on the cross, a cell phone rang and the first girl stepped out to answer the call. Everyone else sat there, jaws dropped open. I don’t remember if I said it, but “I told you so,” was certainly in the forefront of my mind.
I pressed on, taking them down the Romans Road and showing the justice of God, and His love and mercy through the cross. Everyone just sat and listened—undivided attention. I urged them to think about what I was saying and told them to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. I gave them each a Good Person tract (for review) and a Romans Road tract and told them to go home and repent. They thanked us for talking with them and we parted ways, smiling and feeling very encouraged.
Chapter 3: “’Start at the beginning’; or, some thoughts from Joel Osteen and a Hindu Background.”
No sooner did Chris and I turn around when we saw an Eastern Indian family (Dad, Mom, a boy about 12 or 14 years of age, and another fellow I will guess was the “uncle”) sitting on a nearby wall. Chris reached for his cards, and I brought out the Curved Illusions. We asked permission to show some tricks, and the family broke out in smiles. The boy was a great participant. After a couple of illusions, the father took me aside and happily asked if we were for hire. I declined and expressed that our purpose was to engage people in conversations about spiritual things. He understood and I asked basic family and occupation questions. By this point, two girls from another team had engaged the mother and Chris talked with the boy. “Uncle” watched, smiled and listened to all three conversations. He’s the best conversationalist, so stick with me . . .
I talked to Dad for a while about what he thought his purpose was in life, to which he talked about the significance about making contributions to people and to life in general. This was a great conversation, because “dad” never stopped smiling . . . most of the time . . .
I asked, “what do you mean by ‘contributions’?” He mentioned his profession (accounting) and basic stewardship of resources, even mentioning sending offerings to Lakewood Church in Houston.
I asked what his relationship was with Lakewood Church, and he told me he was a follower of Joel Osteen. Ok. Now I had something to work with! I asked him if he thought he was a “Good Person.”
“Sure,” dad smiles back.
I asked if he thought he’d kept the Ten Commandments. The smile (briefly) disappeared.
I asked if he’d ever stolen anything. Yes.
I asked if he’d ever lied. No. He was brought up being taught not to lie. (I find this to be a point of commonality in Indian culture). Very emphatic—NO! No lies!
I asked if he’d murdered anyone. No.
I pointed to 1 John 3:15. Ok, maybe some hate, BUT (he began to rationalize) he makes more “contributions” to that person he hated to make up for the hate. I told him that did not matter in God’s eyes.
He admitted to lust/adultery.
I showed him that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4) and asked him what God was to do with liars, murderers, adulterers, etc. He said, “forgive” and let go.
I took him to Psalm 5:4-6, Exodus 23:7, Proverbs 17:15 and 24:24. He stared at me, deeply processing what he was hearing and seeing from scripture.
I told him about the cross of Christ, and we went for a stroll down the Romans Road. I thought he understood, but when he began to rationalize, I took him back to the Law and God’s justice. Then we used accounting language to illustrate and he finally got it! He then asked “what is the main thing you are telling me this evening?”
Before I could answer, “uncle” came up and stood almost right on top of my feet. I told him to imagine he was standing before a dam, and the dam breaks. He closed his eyes to imagine. I told him that as the water rushed from the dam, he would die in the deluge and his body would never be found. He nodded, picturing the scene in his mind, not expecting the final picture. Then I told him to imagine himself standing before the dam again and as it breaks, someone steps between him and the dam, and drinks every drop. As he pictured it, I told him that is what God did for him in Christ Jesus. Jesus “drank” all the wrath of God if he will repent of his sin and place his trust in the finished work of Christ. “Repent of your sin,” I said, “and find new life in Christ Jesus.” He smiled, thanked me for talking with him. I gave him some tracts and we shook hands.
(This is the best part) “Uncle,” with his great smile, let me know immediately he had some questions, so we stepped a few feet away and sat together on a wall. He told me that since leaving India, he has watched, listened and observed Christianity and he very much liked what he saw, but did not understand it. Please explain it to him. I told him about the need to be saved from sin, disobedience to God and the role of Jesus. He said plainly, “start at the beginning. I not understand.”
I asked him if he was familiar with the Ten Commandments. He said, “What is that? Start at the beginning. I know nothing of Christianity, or of Jesus. Please tell me everything.” He meant it. I realized I had a huge missionary opportunity here, so I started in Genesis and described how God (a personal being) created everything out of his abundance, of Adam’s disobedience and God forming a people through which Messiah came. He learned that through one man’s disobedience, death spread to all men because all sinned and that God provided a solution by becoming flesh and blood, stepping into time and space and paying the penalty for sin. He learned the Bible was a library of 66 books and letters, and the details were worth the attention.
He asked the golden question, “How can I know that what you tell me is true?”
I only hope you can know the joy I felt when he asked that question. I told him it was his responsibility to read the Bible and check what he hears with what he reads—everything should line up with scripture. May God be found true.
We talked for a while more. He kept the questions coming and I tried to provide the answers. Finally it came time to leave, and I wanted to pray for him. “What is prayer?” he asked. I told him this is how we talk to God—a personal God who can be known—and his eyes widened. “You can do that?” he asked. Yes, we can talk to God—and talk we did. I gave him my card and told him to call me (nobody had a pen to jot down numbers) and I have yet to hear from him—I pray for him every day.
Chapter 4, Saturday: “Opening a New Account in Heaven”
I’ll make this brief. Saturday we made an errand stop to pay our cell phone bill when I met Randy and Joe in the parking lot. I lingered in the parking lot while Leslie was inside when Joe pulled into the spot next to us. While Randy went inside, Joe played with his radio while I prayed for God to open the door for our conversation. A minute later I got out, walked over and started a conversation with him. Not long after, Randy came back out and joined in the conversation. I did a quick money-change trick and challenged them by pointing out that could not trust their eyes . . . could they trust their heart? They both felt they could.
I presented the “Good Person” test and we quickly discovered that they were not the people they thought they were in God’s eyes. They were surprised by their discovery, and Joe became quite concerned. Randy thought he was alright because all he had to do was “ask for forgiveness” and God would fix the problem. Of course, I took advantage of the teachable moment and set up the court-room scenario. I asked if he’d ever been in a court of law. He had. Matter of fact, he has just been released from jail. I pointed out that if God simply forgave and let the offender go, He would be worse than the criminal. This got his attention and he understood.
I pointed out the sacrificial death of Christ and the payment for sin, emphasizing the need to repent. They both listened intently, Joe leaning over in the car across the passenger seat and Randy propping his elbow on the open door. I told them their need to repent and live in the mercy and grace of God’s love and walk away from sin. I walked them down the Romans Road and they listened and read the scriptures with me. I gave both a “Good Person” tract and a “Romans Road” tract and told them to listen to what God was telling their consciences. Joe seemed to be quite broken and told me this is what he needed to hear. Randy thanked me for talking with them, we shook hands and parted.
God, please save their souls.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
“My brethren, my heart is enlarged towards you! O think of the love of Christ in dying for you! If the Lord be your righteousness, let the righteousness of your Lord be continually in your mouth. Talk of, O talk of, and recommend the righteousness of Christ, when you lie down, and when you rise up, at your going out and coming in! Think of the greatness of the gift, as well as the giver! Show to all the world, in whom you have believed! Let all by your fruits know, that the Lord is your righteousness, and that you are waiting for your Lord from heaven! O study to be holy, even as he who has called you, and washed you in his own blood, is holy! Let not the righteousness of the Lord be evil spoken of through you. Let not Jesus be wounded in the house of his friends, but grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, day by day. O think of his dying love! Let that love constrain you to obedience! Having much forgiven, love much. Be always asking, What shall I do, to express my gratitude to the Lord, for giving me his righteousness? Let that self-abasing, God-exalting question be always in your mouths; "Why me, Lord? Why me?" why am I taken, and others left? Why is the Lord my righteousness? Why is he become my salvation, who have so often deserved damnation at his hands? . . .
O Christless sinners, I am distressed for you! The desires of my soul are enlarged. O that this may be an accepted time! That the Lord may be your righteousness! For whither would you flee, if death should fine you naked? Indeed there is no hiding yourselves from his presence. The pitiful fig-leaves of your own righteousness will not cover your nakedness, when God shall call you to stand before him. Adam found them ineffectual, and so will you. O think of death! O think of judgment! Yet a little while, and time shall be no more; and then what will become of you, if the Lord be not your righteousness? Think you that Christ will spare you? No, he that formed you, will have no mercy on you. If you are not of Christ, if Christ be not your righteousness, Christ himself shall pronounce you damned. And can you bear to think of being damned by Christ? Can you bear to hear the Lord Jesus say to you, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Can you live, think you, in everlasting burnings? Is your flesh brass, and your bones iron? What if they are? Hell-fire, that fire prepared for the devil and his angels, will heat them through and through. And can you bear to depart from Christ? O that heart-piercing thought! Ask those holy souls, who are at any time bewailing an absent God, who walk in darkness, and see no light, though but a few days or hours; ask them, what it is to lose a light and presence of Christ? See how they seek him sorrowing, and go mourning after him all the day long! And, if it is so dreadful to lose the sensible presence of Christ only for a day, what must it be to be banished from him to all eternity!”
From “The LORD our Righteousness.”
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Monday, September 24, 2007
This last Friday night, the LORD had a lesson for me I was quite unprepared for. In the past, He has blessed with so many opportunities to share the gospel, giving me a boldness I’ve never had before, so I prepared for our Friday foray as usual and 20 of us made our way down to Five Points, expectations soaring. I was not prepared for being held back, and made silent.
Chapter 1: Silence
We got to the street, divided into teams and made our way toward the fountain. Our team wandered a bit, and we took an adventure up a side street we had never ventured on to before. As we walked, I began to grow increasingly aware an unsettling feeling. Now, as feelings go, I don’t pay much attention when evangelizing; but this time, the more we walked, the more I began to notice that I was being held back from speaking—and this was unnerving to me. I was greatly troubled about this. We even stood on a street corner, waiting for the light to change, and became surrounded by people I would normally have given tracts to or started conversations with. But I could not tell if God was holding my mouth shut and my hands in my pockets, or if some kind of warfare was going on. I was that confused. Never had that happen before. We crossed the street and joined another team who struck up a conversation with a couple of guys. I sat on the bench and prayed, waited, and tried to figure this out.
About an hour later, we went back to the fountain where one of the other teams was playing music and handing out bottled water. I just sat on the wall. I called Leslie and talked to her for a few minutes and asked her to pray. Nick, our leader, came over and noticed I was not my usual self. We agreed that I should sit and pray. So sit and pray I did. Conversations were going on all around me and I felt so useless sitting on a wall in the middle of party-central. I could not produce a tract—I was frozen.
I watched a cabby eat her dinner and read a tract someone else gave her. I prayed for her salvation. I watched a team member hand out water and blessings. I prayed for her and that she could get a conversation going. I watched others point people to Christ. I prayed. And I finally realized I had to thank God for keeping me silent—maybe getting a little prideful about this work of ministry. I was not ready to be silent, but I accepted it and gave thanks.
Chapter 2: The Floodgates Open
Just then a cab pulled up right in front of me and the driver just sat there. I found my legs lift me up and I walked over to the open window on the passenger side and looked in. “Did you get one of these?” I asked, producing a tract from my pocket. The driver got out of his cab from the driver’s seat, came around to the passenger side, opened the door and sat down. We talked for nearly an hour. I thanked God for letting me talk to this man—in His right time, in His right place. Later, as my friend Javaris was praying, he thanked God (in a prophetic way?) for the times when we hold on to the pearls. I almost started crying.
The cab driver was living under the wrong gospel and was bound in sin—he told me all about it. He could not get out of his shackles because he did not have the right gospel. He did not know about the justice of God and the centrality of the cross, so I took him through the law to the cross. He plainly (and surprisingly) saw how God saw his heart, but was so convinced he had to show God his good own works that he was reaching the line of despair. He wanted out of the cycle, but could not admit it. I took him down the Romans Road and showed him the cross and begged him to repent, let go of the works. He asked good, deep questions, but when it came down to it, he was back at works again—“doing good deeds will erase bad deeds” mentality. I took him back through the law again, to the cross. He sat quietly and thought. My prayer is that he repented. He had to leave, so we shook hands and he melted into the traffic of the night.
Not long after this, another team member and I crossed paths with two girls, obviously well down the path to drunkenness. I don’t like to talk to people when they are drunk, but God does not care what I think—He’d demonstrated that once already. We talked to them about what they looked for when dating and the only thing they were concerned about is that the guy shell out lots of money on them—and keep their hands off. I asked them if they would go out with liars or thieves. Of course not. They were very vocal about dropping cheaters. Then I turned the tables on them with the Ten Commandments. They confessed to lying and stealing and it became obvious they were busted when it came to adultery. Then one girl, quite indignant, said rather loudly and sloshingly, “But I asked Jesus into my heart and he forgave me. God is in my heart!” All I could say is, “Are you sure?” I pointed her to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and encouraged her to repent. The girls’ eyes were huge as she glared at my open Bible. I was going to ask if she was aware that, if God was in her heart, then she was also breaking the 3rd commandment, and was not living in obedience . . . she stamped her foot and told me what she thought of me and left, quite upset. My team-mate smiled, and I had to smile too because the Holy Spirit was obviously working despite the other spirits.
Chapter 3: “A Lutheran, an Agnostic and an atheist were standing on a street corner, when this Christian come up and says . . .”
Our time was about up, but on the way back to the rendezvous point, we struck up a conversation with three guys waiting for the light to change. They were very quick to recite a list of 10 beers and 10 football teams, but when it came to 10 Commandments, why you could almost hear the crickets chirp. Suddenly, the situation became like a typical joke—we discovered we were talking to a Lutheran, an Agnostic and an atheist. What is fun about talking to groups of friends is that the friends learn things about each other they never knew once a good evangelistic conversation gets started. They spent more time arguing with each other and all I could do is . . . be silent. After a while the atheist and agnostic were at odds (as should be expected) about the existence of God, which was quickly proved with a closing appeal to the conscience.
The Atheist went to find food and the Agnostic tried to dismiss the reality of hell, but I showed his philosophy does not follow—denial does not change reality. He insisted it did. I told him to follow me because we were going to stand in the road and deny the existence of trucks. For some reason he would not follow me. Point made.
I tried to drive home the hard realities and inevitability of God’s truth and the agnostic stood with his arms crossed. The atheist returned to the conversation unfed and took up the conversation again, asking me to prove the authority of scripture. I appealed to natural revelation and told them 1) they could not argue with their conscience; 2) history and archaeology backed me up; 3) honest investigation would find confirmations. Though I was able to shake hands with two, the agnostic would not uncross his arms and left upset with me—and his Lutheran friend. None of them repented, but at least they saw how God saw their heart and their need for regeneration.
Pray for the lost.
Friday, September 21, 2007
From my friend, Dr. John Williamson:
"Tucked away in a rather obscure corner of Isaiah's prophecy is a most remarkable verse. It is hardly noticed when someone is reading through the book in a perfunctory manner. Yet, slow down for a moment and notice these words. "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars. The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of his might and the strength of his power not one of them is missing" (Isaiah 40:26).
We all know that God created the stars--big deal--right? But He also named them all. Think of the billions and billions of stars that twinkle, glimmer, and blink in the night sky; they each have a name known only to the Creator. And, on top of that, "Not one of them is missing." It is this last statement that I find the most profound, and, I must admit, it took me a while to ponder it. That statement implies that each star that we can see serves a purpose, and every star that is suppose to be there is there, and there remain there by the power and might of God.
God not only created all the stars and named all of them, but his inventory is perfect and complete. There is nothing lacking in the work of the Almighty. When He finished his work of creation, He not only finished it; He completed it."
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Here it is, Wednesday and I am just getting to post the events of the weekend. I almost feel like it’s taken me this long to process all the fun! This is going to be the condensed version.
A total of 24 students went to Five Points for evangelism Friday night. While we met for training and worship, a nice thunderstorm rolled in, threatening our evangelistic outing. As much as we’ve needed the rain, (we’ve been in an extended drought season) I had mixed emotions about making the announcement concerning the rain then joining in prayer that God would stop the rain when we got downtown. As Nick led our prayer, I could not help but think of Elijah.
Once downtown, the rain stopped. We joyfully and with thanksgiving divided up into teams and made our way down the street to the fountain and on to what the Lord had for us.
All traffic (foot and otherwise) was minimal and that was expected with the rain; but, understanding that where Satan builds bars, clubs and whatnot, his children would come. We spent some time wandering about or sitting enjoying the cool of the evening. Finally, our team crossed paths with three guys on the far end of Five Points.
I thought I would try the same approach I used on the girls in the Vista, so we got them talking about what their expectations concerning dating and girls (they like girls who don’t spend all their money). I asked what they thought of girls that lied, stole, cursed and cheated. Lying did not bother the guys, and neither did cursing or stealing. Cheating seemed to be more of an issue, but spending their money was the hottest item.
I turned the test around and asked if they’d ever lied, stolen, blasphemed, committed adultery, etc. Two of the three guys answered quite truthfully, but the third guy was disturbed that we were asking these questions. The only thing I could think to tell him was that Jesus commanded us to “go into all the world and preach the gospel” so we were there on His authority. They just stared at us, incredulous.
The guys tried to either rationalize their sin, or appeal to God’s forgiveness apart from the cross. One fellow even told us he was a Bible College student, I think as an attempt to let me know he understood what we were saying, but did not feel the need to repent. At this point it started to rain again, but I persisted that Satan did not want them to hear about how God displayed His Son on the cross as the payment for sin. We took them down the Romans Road. I tried to press the law of God upon him and the need to repent. They would not on the spot, so we encouraged them to go, read their Bibles and listen to what the Holy Spirit was telling their consciences. We shook hands and left, looking for a dry spot.
We found refuge under an awning with a well-dressed couple in their late 40’s. One team member showed them some slight-of-hand tricks and we shared some small talk. I took out a sheet of paper and “tore the gospel” for them, and they were very attentive, listening and watching. They said they attended church, but I felt the need to make certain they understood that church attendance does not equal salvation. We shared some scripture and took them to the cross and they politely said they understood. The rain abated, we shook hands, and left. A few minutes later they found us by driving around and expressed gratitude for talking with them.
Much more could be said about the evening, but suffice it to say that about 12:15, we finally reconnoitered for debriefing—24 of us standing in a circle in the parking lot. This got the attention of the Columbia Police Department—who stands around in a large circle in the middle of the night talking in the middle of party-town? I broke off, gave them my business card and identified myself as being with the University . . . and the police expressed gratitude for what we were doing out there. Really surprised, I was! Then they left!
Not long after this, a car came through the parking lot and tried to run some of us over. The boisterous driver and his two passengers got out and made their way to us, spewing foul language and clearly under the influence, looking for a party scene. It puzzled them why all these people were standing around in the parking lot in a circle, so they came over to investigate “the Rally.” We told them we were sharing the gospel and were preparing to leave. One of the guests took it upon himself to step into the middle of the circle and share his life story, nearly in tears.
We broke off into small groups, a couple of others taking the other two guests and each heard the gospel one-on-one. The rest of us, prayed, sang, and waited patiently. Then another car pulls up, three more people get out, wondering what was going on. We let them in on the party.
Out of the whole evening, three people expressed their need for Christ, but would not bend the knee.
I finally got home about 2:30 a.m.
Since we had a veritable slumber party after I got home, we slept in late. The older kids wanted to go to a concert downtown, so while Leslie went to work for a few hours, I took everyone else downtown about 3:00 Saturday afternoon. William and I played while the older kids enjoyed loud music.
This Holy-palooza was an interesting event. Scream-o Heavy Metal Christian bands and Skateboarding. Yum! This was a combined event: Christian outreach + fundraiser for building a new Skateboard park in Columbia. The whole park was awash with the grunge crowd. At times when I could understand the music, the message was clear, but the rest of the time, it was noise. I can’t think I ever liked this stuff in my day.
(music begins at 1:20, below)
Making a long story very short, I returned to the park about 7:00, because I thought the concert would be over. I arrived to hear one band literally preach about the curse of sin and God’s remedy in Christ Jesus. I just about welled up thinking of all the kids hearing this. The music continued. And the preaching continued. And the grunge continued.
Between sets, somebody presented the gospel message plainly (not in the way I would have preferred) and an invitation was extended. The music was confusing enough, but this whole setting with a gospel invitation was just weird! Apparently a number of people “went forward” to receive Christ. The speaker then made this strange request: he asked for any pastors or youth leaders present to come help at the prayer tent. I took this as my cue and jumped up from my spot and made my way over and took my place with one youth pastor and a few staff people working the event. I think in all, less than a dozen people came to the tent. But at least that many openly responded!
After a couple of counseling sessions, I armed a couple of staff people with tracts and we went back into the crowd as Flyleaf (see above video) played. I talked with small knots of people, taking them through the “Good Person” test, and got a few nods of consent, but no openly broken hearts before the Lord. It was exhilarating, regardless.
I thank God so much for the chance to be used by Him in this way. I can’t think I’ve ever felt more joyful in service to Him. Please keep praying for our impromptu evangelism team and especially, for the conversion of souls.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
by Sally Peck
Last Updated: 1:19am BST 06/09/2007
Following technical problems with one of its aircraft, Nepal's state-run airline has sacrificed two goats in a bid to appease the sky god.
Nepal Airlines sacrificed two goats in front of the troublesome Boeing 757 in an offering to Akash Bhairab, the Hindu sky god.
Here's the rest of the story.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
My daughter works in the Vista area of Columbia, a restaurant/club area much like Five Points, drawing the same kind of USC crowd, and late last night I was waiting for my daughter to get off work when I noticed the traffic of people leaving one restaurant/bar. People were just walking up and down the sidewalk and I had time to spare.
I prayed, “Lord, since you told us to ‘go’ and you’ve given me people to talk to, please let your Spirit have His way to the praise of your glory.”
I approached a group of girls, introduced myself and told them I was waiting for my daughter to get off work—would they mind answering a few questions? They were agreeable. So I asked what, in their mind, was the ideal date. Eyes went starry and sighs exchanged as each girl talked about getting swept off their feet and romance.
I asked what they looked for in a guy. The consensus was that a guy should be funny, nice, not a jerk. One girl sat quite stone-faced and said to the surprise of everyone that she did not believe in lasting relationships, they did not exist. She did not date, but believed in keeping close friends, and nothing really beyond that. I encouraged her that relationships were valuable and volunteered that I married my best friend and we just celebrated 20 years this last month—everyone “awwwed” and congratulated us—even this one girl.
I asked, “What do you think about guys who lie?” Oh, the disdain! The girls were very vocal not only about what they thought of guys who lie, but shared brief stories and the pain and the hurt. Then came the cheating—they were very plain about how many boyfriends they’ve been through and cheating was a definite no-no.
Would they date a thief? No, of course not. One girl told us her boyfriend stole her earrings, but that did not seem to be a big issue with them.
I asked, “what about the language. What do you think about cursing, swearing, and blasphemy. Does it matter to you if a guy does this?” Interestingly, the girls somewhat admitted to doing it themselves, though the stone-faced girl and her friend held the opinion that, given this day and age, it was to be expected and there was nothing anyone can do about it—just put up with it and go on.
I then turned the question. “Would you consider yourself to be a good person?”
They all agreed.
I asked if they’d kept the Ten Commandments.
Silence. You could see the conviction setting in right on their faces. One girls said she sure she’d kept most of them, but I prodded, “how do you know?” She looked at me matter-of-factly and said, “I’m not sure.”
“Let’s find out,” I said, then asked if they’d ever lied.
Everyone agreed to lying.
I asked if they’d ever stolen. Most admitted they had.
I asked if they’d every committed adultery . . . and the hedging began.
I reminded them of Jesus words, that if you look with lust, you’ve committed adultery . . .
You know, it’s interesting that many times, this is where the interruptions really begin. Cell phones began to go off and cars with very VERY loud engines pulled up to the stop-light and revved.
I pointed out that, though they said they were “good persons,” God’s perfect law shows we are far from perfect and that, on judgment day, we would be guilty. One girl right away dropped her jaw and said, “I’m going to hell!”
I asked if that bothered her—it clearly did.
I told her (and all of them) of the justice of God and the love He showed us in Christ Jesus by his death on the cross and it is through the blood we can be forgiven of sin. I began to press the need to repent, but the cell phones started ringing again and a car pulled up to the side of us with very boisterous partiers. Clearly Satan did not want them to hear this.
When I was sure the conversation was lost, I gave them each a gospel tract and told them to seriously think about our conversation and read this tract.
They thanked me for talking with them, and we parted ways . . .
My prayer is that when they think of dating, the Holy Spirit will convict them.
Psalm 19:7, Galatians 3:24
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
Someone once said that your mentor is the one you are reading. If that is the case, then I am enrolled in the J. Oswald Sanders school of Spiritual Leadership. I’ve read through the much-too-short first three chapters of the book and am excited to see what God is going to be doing through this time of training. Maybe soon I’ll be able to sit down with Spurgeon’s class.
The subject of leadership seems to be a slippery fish, and honestly, I am wary about jumping to register for every class, seminar or conference that pops up touching on the subject. Part of my hesitation is that given the sheer number of training possibilities that are out there, I am not convinced so many have it right—too many new methods, too many new approaches, too many new ideas. Also, I am convinced that people who continue to flock to these resources are not really learning anything at all but are looking for the quick-route to being successful leaders. I recently had lunch with an individual who is in the Veruca Salt school of leadership and development, the “I want it now” track. I was greatly concerned. Finally, I don’t believe there are principles of worldly leadership that cross over into Christian leadership—I don’t believe unregenerate men have any business teaching want-to-be spiritual leaders; or perhaps I should say that the other way around—Christian leaders have no business going to the world to learn how to be Christian leaders! This will become clear shortly.
Sanders plainly teaches that a Spiritual Leader (I would venture to say, a Biblical Leader) is one that is God-created and God-qualified. Spiritual or Biblical leadership is not office-occupying, but rather the discipline of seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Spiritual or Biblical leadership is not getting up above people and coaxing emulation of upward movement, but coming alongside and pointing the way to the Wicket Gate. Spiritual or Biblical Leadership is about righteousness in accordance with the Kingdom mandate, serving others, not being served.
If God is looking for people after His heart, then we will find leadership in those who look after God’s heart. The reason why biblical leaders are in short supply is because righteousness is in short supply. One the one hand, the world looks for leaders who are intellectual, personally forceful and enthusiastic; on the other hand, the biblical leader is authoritative, doing kingdom work in a God-mindful way; is spiritual and sacrificial. Under God’s guidance and authority to lead, the leader compels movement, modeling obedience and love for God. Worldly leaders (and those who train them) often are selling themselves while lining their pockets—leadership = materialism. Spiritual leaders serve, showing how strong God is.
I find it difficult to compare leaders in the business world with spiritual leaders, so we will consider a contrast. The general thrust of the business world has no room for servants in leadership, for the servant is the consumer. The servant leader, the true spiritual leader seeks no position for himself, but the growth and development of others. Look how Jesus turns upside down thinking aright:
“But Jesus called them and said to them, You know that they who are accounted rulers over the nations exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority on them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever desires to be great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever of you desires to become first, he shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)
Worldly leaders prepare themselves. Biblical leaders prepare others, and here is no fast-track. God forgive our impatience.
Here’s a snapshot from God’s photo album of a spiritual leader:
“Behold My Servant, whom I uphold; My Elect, in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit on Him; He shall bring out judgment to the nations. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking wick He shall not quench; He shall bring out judgment to truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He has set judgment in the earth; and the coasts shall wait for His Law.” (Isaiah 42:1-4)
In other words, God’s servant, a true spiritual leader, is one that is dependent (“Behold My Servant, whom I uphold”), approved (“in whom My soul delights”), is modest or non-flamboyant (“He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street”), is empathetic (“A bruised reed He shall not break, and a smoking wick He shall not quench”), optimistic (“He shall not fail nor be discouraged until He has set judgment in the earth”) and anointed (“I have put My Spirit on Him”). I would add to Sander’s interpretation, and I believe we can see God’s leaders bound to this, that a spiritual leader is one who is after God’s heart, His Kingdom, His righteousness.
“The ultimate foundation for our passion to see God glorified is his own passion to be glorified. God is central and supreme in his own affections. There are no rivals for the supremacy of God's glory in his own heart. God is not an idolater. He does not disobey the first and great commandment. With all his heart and soul and strength and mind he delights in the glory of his manifold perfections. The most passionate heart for God in all the universe is God's heart. This truth, more than any other I know, seals the conviction that worship is the fuel and goal of missions. The deepest reason why our passion for God should fuel missions is that God's passion for God fuels missions. Missions is the overflow of our delight in God because missions is the overflow of God's delight in being God.
(click on image)
And the deepest reason why worship is the goal in missions is that worship is God's goal. We are confirmed in this goal by the biblical record of God's relentless pursuit of praise among the nations. "Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him all peoples!" (Ps 117:1). If it is God's goal it must be our goal.”
Monday, September 10, 2007
A few weeks ago I asked readers to participate in a survey and I would like to discuss those results here. First, however, I would like introduce a sensitive topic that may completely derail the way one thinks about God. First, let’s set this up with a common scenario: when I am witnessing, taking people through the Ten Commandments to show how God views the heart (“there is none righteous, not even one”), and people confess with their mouths how they have broken the law of God I ask, “If God were to judge you by the Ten Commandments, would you be innocent or guilty?” Most everyone will admit guilt (which is quite a movement through Proverbs 20:6)! Next I ask, “Would God send you to heaven or hell?” Many will say, “Heaven.” This is an odd statement, considering one’s confession of guilt. When I ask people why they think they will go to heaven, I often hear, “all I have to do is ask forgiveness and God will forgive me and let me into heaven . . . right?”
What is forgiveness? When the Moravian missionaries first went to the Eskimos, they could not find a word in their language for forgiveness, so they had to compound one. This turned out to be: Issumagijoujungnainermik. It is a formidable-looking assembly of letters, but an expression that has a beautiful connotation for those who understand it. It means: “Not-being-able-to-think-about-it-anymore.”[i] Is that what we mean by God’s forgiveness, that God is not able to think about how He sees our heart anymore? Do people just hope that God suffers some divine amnesia when He looks and speaks forgiveness, after all the Bible does say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9) How can God let the offender into heaven, despite the guilt already agreed upon through simple forgiveness?
I used to think that is exactly what happened, that I would say, “God, please forgive me,” and that sealed the deal. But then I saw this verse, “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.” (Proverbs 17:15). It says that the justifier of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord. This means that if God forgives the wicked, simply says, “it is just as if you’ve never sinned, you may go,” He would be an abomination to Himself!
Picture this: you are standing before a judge who has list of your crimes before Him and He says, “Well, what do you have to say for yourself?” What can you say? “Judge, please forgive me. I’ll never do it again.” If He says, “You are forgiven and are free to go, just as if you’ve never done any wrong,” He is actually worse than any criminal that could stand before Him. On the other hand, if He is good judge (and He is), the only act He can do is pass down justice.
Listen to what God says! “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty.” (Exodus 23:7) In other words, “I will not acquit the guilty!” That means, “I will not acquit the guilty!” God, because He is a good judge, cannot absolutely discharge a criminal from the obligation justice demands, which is punishment. The sinner is an enemy of God, who will give an enemy what an enemy deserves: eternal destruction.
Because God is a good judge, he says, “To show partiality to the wicked is not good, nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment." (Proverbs 18:5). The wicked cannot be dismissed because of a simple, “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” Justice MUST take its course, and punishment must fall on the one who tells one lies (regardless of reason or outcome), or has ever stolen anything regardless of value, or has ever committed adultery (lusted), or blasphemed, or created a god of one’s own understanding, or does not set one day aside out of seven, or murders (hates) or dishonors parents, or desires the things of the world or even fails to love God above all else! Partiality does not come from a righteous, good judge! “He who says to the wicked, ‘You are righteous,’ peoples will curse him, nations will abhor him; but to those who rebuke the wicked will be delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.” (Proverbs 24:24-25)
How is it we can preach God’s love and forgiveness, give hope for deliverance from wrath, sin, death and hell, and still understand that God cannot simply grant forgiveness and justify the sinner? Is this an inconsistency? What are we missing? I’ve learned that we have missed a most vital element. The Bible cannot be wrong, for God is consistent. Since we have nothing to offer God and He certainly cannot be bribed, what makes us think all we have to do is ask forgiveness and we are off the hook? Partially the blame lies in a cheap gospel, the truth that Satan does not want the world to know.
This is part of the reason I asked for the survey a few weeks back. 45.5% of those who responded to my survey said they were saved from hell. 43.2% said they were saved from sin. 11.4% said they were saved from God. Nobody said they were saved from the Devil. If we understand what forgiveness entails, then we will understand the right answer for this survey. First, everyone was correct in that we were NOT saved from the Devil. When we get the right view of forgiveness, we learn that we are saved from God, who delivers us from the power of sin (and ultimately, the presence of sin), and lastly, from hell. Look at it this way, when we ask forgiveness, what or who is the object of the asking? It is not sin, nor is it hell. We ask forgiveness of God because we have offended His holy majesty by breaking His law.
I like to ask people this question: “what is the difference between a good lawyer and the best lawyer?” Do you know what the difference is? Think for a moment before you read on. Most people tell me the best lawyer is the one that gets you off. This is not correct. While the good lawyer knows the law, it is the best lawyer who knows the judge. Let that sink in for a moment while you read these verses:
“And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22)
“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13-14)
“But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Ro. 3:21-16)
During the Revolutionary War there lived in Pennsylvania a pastor by the name of Peter Miller. Although Miller was greatly loved by everyone in the community, there was one man who lived near the church who hated him and had earned an unenviable reputation for his abuse of the minister. This man was not only a hater of the church, but it also turned out that he was a traitor to his country, and was convicted of treason and sentenced to death.
The trial was conducted in Philadelphia, and no sooner did Miller hear of it than he set out on foot to visit General Washington and interceded for the man’s life. But Washington told him, “I’m sorry that I cannot grant your request for your friend.”
“Friend!” Miller cried. “Why, that man is the worst enemy I have in the world!”
“What?” the general exclaimed in surprise. “Have you walked sixty miles to save the life of an enemy? That, in my judgment, puts the matter in a different light. I will grant him a pardon for your sake.”
The pardon was made out and signed by General Washington, and Miller proceeded at once on foot to a place fifteen miles distant where the execution was scheduled to take place that afternoon. He arrived just as the man was being carried to the scaffold, and when he saw Miller hurrying toward the place, remarked, “There is old Peter Miller. He has walked all the way from Ephrata to have his revenge gratified today by seeing me hung.” But scarcely had he spoken the words when Miller pushed his way through to the condemned man and handed him the pardon that saved his life. [ii]
Man in his sin is the enemy of God. The judge Himself has gotten down from the bench and come around the other side, gave up everything He had to make payment Himself to provide deliverance from Himself. Should one wish to partake of the forgiveness God offers for the cleansing of sin, one must take Jesus and all He offers and requires, for without what God accomplished on the cross, there is no forgiveness for sin.
Justice must fall somewhere, and it fell on Him. Too many people nod their head at Jesus, but want to take their chances with the judge. They say, “Oh, God is not a wrathful, mean God. He is God of love!” and I remind them they have broken the 2nd Commandment, making a god to suit their sin.
Someone said it well. "A God without wrath, brings people without sin, into a kingdom without judgment, to a Christ without a cross."
[i] Tan, Paul Lee. Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : [A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers]. Garland TX: Bible Communications, 1996, c1979.
Sunday, September 09, 2007
Saturday night my wife and I stopped by the Sportsman’s Warehouse looking for some specialty items when the strangest event occurred, which I am about to relay. Now those who know me well know that I am not found frequenting such establishments, as hunting, fishing and all sports associated thereunto, do not appeal to me as they may have when I was a pup. Walking through the store, one could almost hear the faint Tim Allen-esque grunting noises as gruff-looking men knuckle-dragged their way through fields of insect repelling camo-clothes, camping gear or stood drooling while staring at the lastest lake-fishing notices on the white-board near the front door. My neck turned red as I walked through the door.
At some point in our foray, I needed to find a bush (you know, "check the plumbing") and found my bearings from the local counter-ranger. I noticed the small caravan of men making their way down the well-worn foot-path to the local "bush," and so caravanned with them. After taking care of business, I went to the sink to wash up and there noticed the perplexing activity of men standing at their basins to wash, hands thrust under the tap—and no water coming out. These sinks had no apparatus with which to turn the flow on and off so the stream depended on a small wave of the hand over the electronic sensor. Great hunters, fishers and rugged outdoorsmen stood there, looking at each other with embarrassment, trying to clean themselves, but not able to turn the water on. They did not know what to do, but stand with their hands thrust under the faucet and, well, pray for rain, I suppose. I walked up, thrust my hand under the sensor and washed my hands. Tribesmen looked at each other, and in some silent fireside counsel, decided they would follow suit. I shudder to think about what life has become in the bush . . .
Now to real business.
I love Friday nights. Groups of Bible College students meet to take the good news of Jesus Christ to the streets, not because they have to, but because they want to. There is no class, no credit associated with their activity, but if there is a "must" it is due to the command of Jesus to go into all the world and preach the gospel. These guys give up socials, parties, studying, and whatever else a college student might do on Friday nights to love the Lord by taking His word to the streets. I love Friday nights.
11 folks gathered for training, praise and worship, then we got to Five Points about 9:30. When we got there it did not look as if much was going to happen at all as the streets were fairly empty, but we made our way down the sidewalk to the Fountain and set up. One guitar joined our one violinist, and we spread out.
One of our team-members decided to hit Starbucks (a little early, but we let him anyway), so we followed him after he made his purchase. Coming out of the store, I saw two young ladies playing Monopoly at a table on the sidewalk, so I pulled out a Million-Dollar Bill and plopped it down on the board, declaring my desire to purchase Boardwalk. We laughed together and made some jokes about the game, and the girls took turns passing the bill back and forth surmising what they would do with the money. I volunteered a new game, A "Good Person" test, into which they entered with penache.
We discovered together the truth that they were not as good as they thought based on the Ten Commandments, and before I could get to the gospel, two boisterous young men came up and dominated the conversation. I asked to include them in the game, and the girls thought it would be interesting to see how these guys thought of themselves (the ultimate pick-up line, right? "Have you kept the Ten Commandments? Ever commit adultery?")
One fellow got upset when he saw where our conversation was going and declared he did not believe in God. I told him that was ok, because I don’t believe in painters, artists, architects, or contractors. His eyes got huge and he took a step back. The girls’ eyebrows went up. I told the man that there was nothing he could say or do to prove the existence of artists or architects.
He laughed and said with incredulity, "have you ever seen a painting?" and he listed off great works of the world. I told him I had, and questioned if he was implying that the painting was proof there was a painter. He agreed. I turned to the building and said, "I supposed now you are going to tell me that the building is proof there is an architect and a contractor." He took it, hook, line and sinker. Before he could reply, I told him that all he had to do was look around at creation and know there was a creator—his conscience told him this was true and he could not deny it. His friend and the girls laughed as he stood dumbfounded. His response was very pointed, "I am a scientist. I only believe in what I see, what the evidence shows and what statistics reveal. I don’t believe there is a God."
I asked him if he ever enjoyed a sunrise.
He told me he had, now a little "gun-shy," not knowing what I would do next. The others held their breath.
I asked him if he believed what he saw . . . "are you sure you’ve seen a sunrise? Describe it to me." And he proceeded to talk about the darkness giving way to light, the colors, and the sun breaking the horizon and climbing into the sky.
I told him that he could not trust his eyes, and he could also could not trust his heart. I told him that if he knew his science, he would know the sun does not rise, but the planet is in orbit around the sun, and what we see is not what we think we see. "Are you sure you can trust your eyes? How can you trust your heart?"
He could not take anymore and left without saying a word.
The girls, laughingly, told me they knew what I was trying to do, and they were not going to "fall" for it. I asked if they knew what I was trying to do. "Make us Christians," one said. I told them I could make nobody into anything, but was curious to know what made them say this.
"I’m Jewish!" says one girl, but then began to deny the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps I got a little excited, but I reminded her of the importance of listening to Law, the Prophets and the Writings. I took her through the Torah, and the Davidic writings trying to underscore the judgment of God and the need of repentance, but also the significance of the Messiah. She listened, but finally said she did not have to believe any of it because she was one of God’s chosen.
At this point, the music in the neighboring bar began to systematically increase to the point that I felt that I was literally shouting over the music. I realized this girl must think I am yelling at her, and started to back off a little. Her friend finally interrupted and said, "thanks for talking with us," and indicated their desire to get back to their game.
I did not realize this until a few hours later, but standing behind me was a man listening to everything that was being said. He crossed paths with one of our other team-members, and spent over an hour talking about eternal matters. God used that one conversation to start another. Also, I learned two women were also sitting within earshot who were Christians and were praying for me as they heard the witness to this Jewish girl and her friend. Praise the Lord!
About 10:30 I was getting ready to do open-air preaching for the first time, so I played the guitar and prayed for a while, and tried to draw a crowd with a free-cash give-away. We drew a knot of people to the fountain and I gave out some small cash prizes for some trivia questions, the harder the question, the larger the prize. The largest cash prize was for the one who could prove he (or she) was a Good Person. One guy stepped up to accept the $20.00 challenge, and I launched into the Good Person test.
He confessed to being a liar, a thief, an adulterer and a murderer at heart. I held onto the $20.00 to illustrate the cost of grace and mercy, giving it to him when I spoke of the costly work God did to provide forgiveness in Christ Jesus. The small crowd heard what sin was, the call to repent and obey Christ. Finally, the crowd gave way and two guys remained—the one who won the cash and his friend. We talked for a while about how God sees the heart and what true repentance was. They seemed to be very humbled and were agreeable to what they were hearing. I pressed the need for repentance, giving them a Gospel of John and took them down the Romans Road. They left in good spirits.
15 minutes later I noticed seven kids, literally, walking down the sidewalk. By now it is 11:30 or so, and here come these sixteen or seventeen year olds (5 boys, 2 girls) down the sidewalk. I walked up to them and asked them to name 10 beers. One boy proudly and loudly listed them off. I asked him to name 10 football teams. He did, and shared high-fives all around. I asked him to name 10 Commandments, and immediately, every mouth fell open . . . not a sound. Everyone laughed in embarrassment. One guy finally got it together and listed them all—and I could not help but notice the Catholic order (they drop the 2nd commandment, and make the 10th into two separate commandments). I asked if they thought they were Good Persons, each replying in the affirmative.
I asked if they kept the 10 Commandments, and they laughed to the embarrassment of the negative.
I took them through 4 to let them see how God sees their heart, and asked if God were to judge them of their innocence or guilt. Clearly guilty.
I asked if their destiny was heaven or hell. Response? Purgatory. That settled the religious background part.
I pressed that since Jesus spoke of heaven and hell, and there is no mention of purgatory, we must dismiss it. I asked what they would do come judgment day . . .
One boy taught me that they did not have to worry about that because they go to confession.
I showed them Proverbs 17:15 and wanted to go on to 24:24 and Exodus 23:7, but that was enough. The wicked do not get off with God. I taught them about how the cross of Christ works to effect forgiveness and their necessity to repent.
The Church was clearly in the way for these kids, one specifically denying everything I was saying because he did not accept the authority of scripture and vocalized (to his friend’s surprise) his disdain for the church. He told me the Bible could not be trusted because it was written by men. I asked him where he got his information, and he caught my point immediately. I stressed the need to repent, gave them each a Gospel of John and reminded them that the answers were right there—read it and listen to what God is telling their conscience.
Other teams had some great conversations as well, a couple reporting that two individuals had repented and come to Christ on the street that night. Praise the LORD!
Please pray for those we are to meet as we continue to go out to sow seed. Pray for us as we spend our weeks at work and in school, to have clear communication of the Good News of Jesus Christ!
Friday, September 07, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I asked you to participate in a one question, anonymous survey. I will discuss the implications of this later next week, but in the meantime, ponder the question once more with the results:
"If you consider yourself to be a Christian and are 'saved', what are you 'saved' from, exactly?"
The Devil 0.0%
See you next week!
Many cults have latched on to that verse to say that Christ was a created being himself. After all, doesn't "first-born" imply, or even state outright, that Christ was"born"? Hence, he was the first creature made by the Father. The title is used in other portions of the Bible to indicate the first born of a family and rules out earlier children (Genesis 4:4; Exodus 4:22, 23).
The fallacy of this argument that "first-born," when used of Christ meant a creature and not the Creator, is not difficult to see. The argument assumes that the phrase "first-born" always means a starting point. Actually, the title also assumed the idea of "exalted one." Note the Psalmist's use of the term when speaking about David. "I also shall make him [David] My first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth"(Psalm 89:27). David was the youngest of Jesse's sons, not the oldest. He became the first-born of God which meant a title of exaltation.
(ht: Dr. John Williamson)
Sunday, September 02, 2007
Last night I was sitting in the mall, waiting for my family to finish their shopping (I love going to the mall, or any store for that matter—not that I love shopping, but because I get to do some evangelism!) and this clerk came out of the GNC (General Nutrition Center) eating a box of Fruit Loops, just turning the box up on end and letting the cereal fill his mouth. He caught me looking at him and retreated back into the store. I had to laugh. This really has nothing to do with anything, but it was so funny!
20 students (ok, 19 plus me) gathered in Memorial Dorm on Friday night for training, prayer and worship before hitting the streets of Five Points. I did a short presentation on Hell’s Best Kept Secret (the DVD player and big-screen TV were conspicuously missing) and explained the importance of using the Ten Commandments in evangelism (Ps. 19:7; Gal 3:24; Ro. 3:19, to name a few). Nick and I did a short role-play to show how it works. Great stuff! Our prayer time was a sacred time of conversing with the Father, and many students really poured their hearts out, being very transparent about their love for God and desire to obey Him in carrying out the Great Commission.
Two significant contributions to the evening were two violinists who not only accompanied in worship, but also the contribution of bottled water to distribute to any who would have it, as an opportunity to share the love of Christ, these were great additions. When we got to Five Points, the violinists set up at the Fountain, where rhythmic strains of melodious refrains brought a refreshing stream of curious peace to the growing hubbub of the night. Not long after getting set up, I noticed a couple of passers-by trying out their Riverdance on the street corner.
I took two students with me and did not get too far down the street when I saw three large guys coming our direction. One could not help but notice the bling around the middle guys’ neck, a Jesus-looking bust. I stopped them and commented on the spark, asking him if he was a religious person, to which he replied in the affirmative. I asked, “out of the three of you, which would you say was the best among you, the ‘do-gooder?’” They laughed and two stepped back, leaving the “do-gooder” in a prominent position on the sidewalk.
“Ok,” I continued, “which one of you two guys is the ‘baddest?’” The “do-gooder” pointed out one of the other guys, and they we all laughed, I thanking them for their honesty.
“Let’s try something,” I said, “lets try a little test, the same standard for all three of you, to see if you are right. Have you kept the Ten Commandments?”
All three said the loud, embarrassing, “Oh!” and rolled their heads back, knowing they were busted. We laughed with them in embarrassment.
I asked if they’d ever lied, stolen or blasphemed, to which they admitted two out of the three. I asked if they’d ever committed adultery, to which one spoke for all, saying, “we’re not married.” I noted how when I ask this question, especially in Five Points, the guys do not try to hide the fact they are out to satisfy lust. One of the three typically found a girl within eyesight and committed the lingering look, even while we spoke. But one guy would not take his eyes off me. He seemed mesmerized.
They freely admitted how God saw their hearts, and admitted their sin, impending judgment and need to repent. I had the undivided attention of the one. I asked if they knew what repentance was, to which they replied, “Get baptized, go to church.” How they needed to be born again! I explained to them the need for reconciliation to God through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, and their need to admit how God saw their heart, turn from sin and put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, to live on obedience to Him. One guy started fidgeting, another took a step back and the one guy gave me all his attention. I pressed the need for repentance, gave them a Good Person test tract and told them to think about what I said and act as quickly as possible—don’t put this off. We shook hands and parted ways.
Not long after this, we came across three other young men standing between a bar and Starbucks. We approached (it must seem weird with this old guy and two college students walking up to people) and I asked, “Hey what would you guys do for a Million Dollars?” holding out a Million Dollar tract to them. We got into a lively conversation about what one would do, and what would be over the top. I asked, “Would you sell one of your eyes for a Million?”
Surprisingly, one said, “Sure!” His friends looked at him, incredulous. I asked, “Would you sell both for two Million?” He actually had to think about it for a while. He declined the offer and I had to know why. He could not go through life with all that money not being able to see, relying on his other senses. I think his friends were ready to berate him if he said something else.
We launched into the “Good Person” test and the eye-seller vacillated on whether or not he was a liar. I pointed out that everyone is a liar and lying is not something one learns—it is part of our sin-nature. Babies don’t learn to fake cry to get what they want. No argument there. The three admitted that God saw them as coveting, lying, thieving, adulterers at heart and one fellow loudly exclaimed, “I can’t believe this! I’ve never seen myself this way!” He was astounded, and knew he was in trouble with God. I talked about sin, their need for righteousness and to miss the judgment to come. I asked if they knew what repentance was and, to my surprise, gave the same answer as the other three guys we just talked to! We discovered they were students at a local college that has mandatory chapel, but is apparently unclear with the gospel—and this caused these three students great consternation. When they asked about asking forgiveness and “getting off,” I showed them a Bible verse that I will discuss in a later blog. I pressed the need for repentance, encouraging them to wrestle with God in prayer and be truly converted. They promised to read their Bible and we parted ways in good spirits.
Making our way down the street, my partners were starting to feel at ease, and one of them said she wanted to try using a survey Nick had put together. We found a bored bouncer sitting outside a bar and she talked with the man for nearly 45 minutes while me and the other student distributed tracts to passers-by. She had a good, thought-provoking, soul-probing conversation with the bouncer and he was very appreciative for the exercise. I pray we see him again. This was very encouraging, so we pressed on down the street.
We walked down a couple of blocks and circled back again, crossing paths with other students we were with in the larger group, encouraging one another as already many were getting tired. Stopping at another corner, about 10:30, the crowds were finally starting to show up and masses of people were on the sidewalk. My team-mates found another couple of girls to talk to, so I stayed within earshot as they spent some time in good conversation, pointing out the need for repentance and the Lord Jesus Christ.
While waiting, another trio (two guys and a girl) crossed the street to where I was standing. One fellow was wearing a black tee-shirt with “Got Jesus?” across the front. I stopped them to engage in conversation, when not even two entire sentences into it, the girl let loose the fowlest language. I arrested her attention, saying, “please watch your language, there are women present.” Her mouth dropped open and she stared at me, trying to move away. She clearly did not know what to do with herself. I turned to the “Got Jesus?” guy and said, “let me ask you a question—would you consider yourself to be good person?” I took all three through the Good Person test, and the closer I got to talking about Jesus, the angrier the tee-shirt guy got. I said, “I’m curious, why are you wearing that shirt?”
“I just want to know if everybody else got’s Jesus,” he said in a very nasty tone. I asked if he’d kept the third commandment, to which I heard another explicative. He made it clear to me that I had just now totally torqued him off, and he was leaving, so he disappeared down the sidewalk, friends in tow.
We made our way back to the Fountain where other teams were coming and going, engaging people in conversation. My team took up another conversation with a fellow who had some very good, serious questions (he was very much out of place with this party crowd) and spent the rest of the evening with him. As they were talking, I saw two girls sitting on the wall near the street. Now, I don’t like to talk to girls alone, but I was compelled to go talk to them—after all, we were on the street, people were everywhere, my team was just a few yards to my left.
I pulled out this tract that looks like a newspaper with headlines like, “Man Cuts Up Raped Wife,” and “Fat Guy Found Dead in Bathroom” and my personal favorite, “Woman’s Body Devoured by Dogs.” I asked them what they thought of these articles (we scanned them briefly) and they were grossed out. I then told them these were actual stories that came out of the “Good Book.” Then asked if they knew what the “Good Book” was. They knew it was the Bible, but could not seem to put the pieces together. I then asked, “why is the Bible called ‘The Good Book,’ but is full of stories about killing, rape, cannibalism, war, incest, beheadings, etc.?” They were stunned and literally sat with their mouths hanging open. I let them off the hook, teaching them that the Bible is an accurate record of how God sees the heart, we are not as good as we think we are.
I took them through the Good Person test and showed there was no difference between the way we really are and those who live around us. I began to talk about the substitutionary death of Christ and the need to repent, when this guy came from out of nowhere and sat right down beside the girls, interrupting me by telling me what he thought about these girls. I knew right away this was a spiritual attack and at the most crucial moment, these girls had to know the expediency of their action—the rest of eternity depended on what they did with Jesus. The guy kept trying to interrupt, and if he was not talking, cell phones began ringing. One girl kept her eyes on me. The guy leans over to her and says, “Come with me.” She looks at him, looks at me, looks at him, looks at me—an obvious sign of struggle. I pressed the urgency to repent and follow Jesus.
He started to bring up things that had nothing to do with the price of tea in China and was more slippery than a catfish with a cold on a warm summer day. He smiled and retorted, smiled and cavorted, smiled and blasphemed. I pressed even harder, perhaps should have prayed that the Lord rebuke him . . .
They got up and left with the man. All I could do was shut my eyes, hang my head and pray they had a restless night, that their consciences would nag them, the Lord keep them safe and save their souls. I felt gut-punched and wanted to get up on the wall and begin open-air preaching out of desperation for the lost—everyone passing me by was going to hell . . . all I could do was pray. I was finished for the night.
About midnight we made our way back for debriefing and dragged ourselves back home, praising the Lord for what He had done. One guy on drugs approached another team and asked, “Are you guys Christians?” When they asked why he wanted to know, he said, “Because you guys are always in two’s.” Interesting!
Someone else reported reaping a harvest of one repentant soul, while others shared experiences of meeting freshmen who were trying out the party scene, after leaving home and church for the first time in their lives. We praise God He was there to meet them and convict their hearts.
Can’t wait for next week! Pray up!