Sunday, September 09, 2007

Five Points Friday (9/07/07)

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!

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