“The Golden Compass” movie is due to be released on or about December 7, 2007. This release is just in time for parents to take their kids to the movies to be inundated with yet another fantasy-adventure just before Christmas, which means book sales will skyrocket for that gift-giving time of year.
Harry Potter is a nursery-school compared to this.
Folks, this movie is dangerous, as are the books associated therewith. The author is Phillip Pullman, a devout atheist, an unashamed outspoken hater of God. Through his writing, Pullman takes his punches out on C.S. Lewis and Christianity. Here are a few highlights of the story:
1) In Pullman’s world, people are accompanied by animal spirits, who he calls “daemons” and everyone becomes a ghost at death. No daemon = no soul.
2) The “alethiometer” (“alethia” in Greek means “truth”) is a Golden Compass with Ziodiac-type markings inside. “What is truth?” is the question at the heart of the story. Truth is measured by the operator going into trances to communicate with spirit beings and fortune-telling.
3) Animals are still in process of evolution (the polar bears have opposable thumbs).
4) Witches are people who are considered to be truly free and powerful;
5) The General Oblation Board (the “church” in this story) practices castration of young boys and female circumcision to repress sexuality and maturity. Read: the church is suppressive of true humanity, expressed in sexuality. So “The Magisterium” are the bad-guys.
6) “Dust” is sin. Children do not have it, but adults can accumulate it. “Dust is consciousness, or awareness of the world around you and all of its possibilities. Children do not attract Dust because they are still innocent and are thought to have trouble understanding the world. Adults, because of the knowledge they have gained through maturation, do attract Dust. Once you become an adult, a fully conscious being, you are capable of sinning, or doing bad things knowingly. The Church authorities in Lyra’s world equate Dust with original sin. They would like to eliminate Dust, thereby eliminating the human capacity to sin. But Pullman suggests that the capacity to sin (and the ability to choose not to sin) is essential to the very idea of humanity. Without that capacity, humans would be zombies.” (see SparkNotes link below)
After that, one may begin to realize that Pullman is no athiest, but a pagan, who knows just enough about God to throw his fist up in His face.
Here are two links you will find helpful:
1) Snopes.com discusses the urban legend behind the story.
2) SparkNotes has the fullest treatment yet of the books with insight on the author.
Avoid this movie at all costs.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
“The Golden Compass” movie is due to be released on or about December 7, 2007. This release is just in time for parents to take their kids to the movies to be inundated with yet another fantasy-adventure just before Christmas, which means book sales will skyrocket for that gift-giving time of year.
Monday, October 29, 2007
“And I beg the little band of would-be missionaries (and I have the honour to call some of you by this name for the first time) to remember that though you give your bodies to be burned, and have not Love, it profits nothing--nothing! You can take nothing greater to the heathen world than the impress and reflection of the Love of God upon your own character. That is the universal language. It will take you years to speak in Chinese, or in the dialects of India. From the day you land, that language of Love, understood by all, will be pouring forth its unconscious eloquence. It is the man who is the missionary, it is not his words. His character is his message.”
“Take into your new sphere of labour, where you also mean to lay down your life, that simple charm [of Love], and your lifework must succeed. You can take nothing greater, you need take nothing less. It is not worth-while going if you take anything less. You may take every accomplishment; you may be braced for every sacrifice; but if you give your body to be burned, and have not Love, it will profit you and the cause of Christ nothing.”
“Is life not full of opportunities for learning Love? Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. The world is not a play-ground; it is a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love What makes a man a good cricketer? Practice. What makes a man a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. What makes a man a good linguist, a good stenographer? Practice. What makes a man a good man? Practice. Nothing else. There is nothing capricious about religion.”
“Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character--the Christlike nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice.”
“What was Christ doing in the carpenter's shop? Practising. Though perfect, we read that He learned obedience, He increased in wisdom and in favour with God and man. Do not quarrel therefore with your lot in life. Do not complain of its never-ceasing cares, its petty environment, the vexations you have to stand, the small and sordid souls you have to live and work with. Above all, do not resent temptation; do not be perplexed because it seems to thicken round you more and more, and ceases neither for effort nor for agony nor prayer. That is the practice which God appoints you; and it is having its work in making you patient, and humble, and generous, and unselfish, and kind, and courteous. Do not grudge the hand that is moulding the still too shapeless image within you. It is growing more beautiful though you see it not, and every touch of temptation may add to its perfection. Therefore keep in the midst of life. Do not isolate yourself. Be among men, and among things, and among troubles, and difficulties, and obstacles. You remember Goethe's words: Es bildet ein Talent sich in der Stille, Doch ein Character in dem Strom der Welt. "Talent develops itself in solitude; character in the stream of life." Talent develops itself in solitude--the talent of prayer, of faith, of meditation, of seeing the unseen; Character grows in the stream of the world's life. That chiefly is where men are to learn love.”
Read the full sermon here.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
“We are not here to play, to dream, to drift; we have hard work to do, and loads to lift. Shun not the struggle; face it—’tis God’s gift.” (Maltbie D. Babcock)
“Followers of Christ are also His soldiers—called to do battle with the forces of Satan and evil. Victories are never won while resting in the barracks.”
Last Friday we had a Gideon’s Army go down to Five Points, 12 as opposed to the usual 20 or so. I want to highlight the fact that what I report here are primarily conversations and experiences I have with people. I cannot report for or on behalf of the entire group—I wish I could, but can’t. So you just get one set of stories out of a team’s worth.
This was a strange week. First, it was the last Friday before the end of the State Fair, so many people were there instead of at party-central. This includes those who normally go down evangelistic purposes. Some of our team had volunteered to work the WMHK booth, so they were at the Fair doing face-painting and sharing the gospel there instead of coming downtown.
We prepared for our weekly foray by watching an interview with Leonard Ravenhill. It is over an hour long, but well worth the time as he discusses true and false conversion, the gospel, revival and the church. Highly recommended. Feel free to stop the video and pray about half-way through.
Chapter 1: The [Million Dollar] Sub Pub and The [Million Dollar] Bushes.
The twelve of us made our way to Five Points and split up into 6 teams. Slow night. We had a hard time “getting settled” and walked about three blocks talking with each other. Jill said she wanted to go see if a certain fellow was working at the Sub Pub. We went in and found some other fellow was working as her target was out on delivery. Thanking the young man, we turned to leave and noticed a Million Dollar Bill taped to the wall at eye level with one of the tables. If you sat in the seat and looked at the wall you would get an eye-full of Million Dollar Bills. But then we noticed it was taped on backwards—the gospel message printed on the back was unmistakable to the reader! Talk about an eyeful! Taped on the wall over the next table was one of our “Big Money” tracts! Cool! Talk about “encouraged!”
Leaving the Sub Pub, Jill and I walked down the sloping sidewalk, passing another pub with walls nearly throbbing with music. Passing by, the revelers therein could not help but share their drunken joy by banging on the window, glasses raised in celebration for the sake of celebrating. Wet red-rimmed, glazed eyes bright with the sparkle of the fruit of the vine, shouts of barely intelligible “heeyyyyyyy!” as they banged on the window. We laughed (with sadness) and moved on, but suddenly I froze as an idea blossomed in my head. I took a few steps back and motioned for their attention. Everyone turned, smiling at me through the window, glasses poised in mid-air as the pub throbbed with the thump-thump of rock music. I pulled one of my street tricks out of my pocket and did a money-change trick, the revelers in awe of the “magic” that unfolded before their eyes. “Heeyyyyyy!” They celebrated as the two one-dollar bills became a Five Dollar Bill.
“You like that?” I asked the deaf ears behind the glass. Glasses went up again and cheers announced their approval and they called for more.
I pulled out my wallet and peeked out the edge of a Million-Dollar Bill. Their eyes bugged out as they looked down from the window. I inched another one out, just peeking the corner of the two bills from my wallet. They almost crawled over each other to see what I was going to do next. I inched a third one out and this time began to taunt from the safety of the sidewalk, “You want some of this?” The revelers did not know what to think. I could almost hear them, “this guy is pulling presidential flash cards out of his wallet! What’s he going to do?” I held them out, the partier’s mouths hanging open, staring at the bills. Jill and I took a few of these precious tracts and stuck them into the bushes . . . and walked off, waving and smiling. It was hard to resist the temptation to turn around and see how many came outside to reap the harvest of a crazy man. I pray they read the back!
Chapter 2: Silence, then a Good Conversation
Moving down the sidewalk, Jill and I were impressed that we should just wait on the Lord and not strike up conversations—sometimes those “open doors” are not so “open.” We came back to the fountain and talked for a while about how God was glorifying Himself through our testimonies. We sat, prayed, waited and sat.
I don’t know how much time passed, but I saw two young men sitting on the wall about 30 feet or so behind us. We got up and approached, and they were quick to know we were “up” to something. I did a couple of street tricks and we laughed and had a good time. I swung the conversation over to the spiritual realm by a “story trick” where I “tear the gospel.” I embellished the third man in the story to work in the “Good Person Test” from the perspective of the third person. They stayed with me the whole way, but one fellow started to give the impression he wanted to be somewhere else. It was not long he did abandon the conversation, leaving me to talk alone with Michael.
Michael said he had repented, but seemed to be very unclear as to what God expected of him, so he was living life as best he could. He thought he was going to heaven, but did not know why. I reviewed the Law with him and stressed the human predicament and what God did to provide salvation by taking a stroll down the Romans Road. He seemed to understand what was being said and his countenance changed from “carefree” (when we met him) to “cautionary” (when we went through the Law and he saw his guilt) to “careful” (as he examined his heart and confessed his need for Christ).
I finally asked him, “would you bow the knee tonight and repent of your sin and by faith accept the work God did for you in the cross in Christ Jesus?” He said he would lay on the sidewalk with his face to the heavens, but he was being deceived that he could not get his words right. I reminded him that if he were drowning, he would not worry so much about words, but would cry for help. We talked a few minutes more and he just wanted to make certain he got it right with God, really, really right. I gave him a Pocket Testament and told him to read Psalm 51 and make that his prayer. He was many-times grateful we talked and shook hands. I prayed for him, that God would continue His work in his life. I believe he left a changed man. I never saw what happened to his friend.
We found two other teams not far off deep in prayer. They finally ended and we agreed that we should finish out the evening on a prayer-walk.
Chapter 3: Visitors From Afar
We took our prayer walk down the street a couple of blocks and around the corner. About half-way down, three rather large and burley men stopped one of our students to ask him about his tee-shirt that merely read, “Columbia International University.” He told us he had just passed some of our other team a block or so over and was wondering about a CD he was given. We really did not know what it was, but the “talker” said his two friends were visiting from Bosnia and he was showing them the town. We welcomed them by giving them each a Pocket Testament and a gospel tract.
“Talker” looked down and asked the significance of the book. I told him it was the life of the Lord Jesus Christ making certain to point out that, “these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:31) Then he surprised me with some very good questions about the Gospel of John in contrast and comparison with John’s Letters and the Revelation. Obviously some religious background there. As much as I wanted to spring into the “Good Person Test,” we just did not have clear opening to do so, but I answered their questions to the best of my ability. Since we were able to give them tracts and the gospels, we simply trust the Lord to do His work in changing these men’s lives. They thanked us for talking with them and we all moved on.
Chapter 3: The “Drop”
As we were preparing to leave, a car pulled up behind us and the driver wanted directions to a restaurant in the Vista (opposite side of downtown—another party area). We gave him directions, but as I reached for my wallet to give him some Million Dollar bills, Nick was way ahead of me. He stuck his arm in the car with almost a whole package, maybe 75 or so bills and gave them to the guy. Nick told him when he got to the restaurant, ask for such-and-such a person who worked there. When that person came, he was to give him some bills and ask permission to distribute the rest to the patrons. Now, remember, the driver had no clue these were gospel tracts. All he saw was money with lots of zeros. Nick told the guy to take a few for himself, but he had to promise to read the back and pass the others out. The guy’s reaction? His eyes kept bugging out of his head (I’m sure his head was already swimming from alcohol) and he looks at us and says, “This all you going to give me?” We sent him on his merry way, armed with the good news of Jesus to a lost a dying world.
Osbeck, Kenneth W. Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions. Includes indexes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Here are two scenarios. The first is: You are standing by the edge of a swimming pool on a hot summer's day. Your flesh is hot; the water's cold. It's not going to be pleasant when you first hit the water. The longer you hesitate, the harder it becomes. Your friends call out, "The water's fine. Come on. You can do it. Just dive in!"
Now here's the second scenario: You are hesitating by the water's edge. Suddenly you see your beloved four-year-old sink beneath the water in front of you. He's drowning! Do you still think about the cold water? No! Not for a second.
Every day 150,000 people sink into the cold waters of death. Do you need to be coaxed to dive in to reach them before they pass into eternity? There goes another minute. Gone forever. Go share your faith while you still have time .
From: Way of the Master Minute.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
Several times in my life I've worked in the retail grocery business,and if there is one thing I hated it was inventory. You had to gothrough out the store counting and recording every single piece ofmerchandise. Talk about the most boring, humdrum, mind-numbing existenceon the face of the earth. When you got all done, you had one figure ofwhat the inventory was worth. All that work that could be reduced to asingle figure written in a very small space.
The Lord Jesus also did an inventory, but his was spiritual.After He finished, He revealed the contents of the human heart, and readwhat He found. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evilthoughts, adulteries, fornications, murder..." (Mark 7:21). It was not a pretty picture. All the parts of that heart could be reduced to asingle word--sinner! This is the load that each of us carries aroundevery day of our lives. No wonder we trip and fall into sin from time totime. No wonder we do the things we shouldn't and neglect the things weshould be doing. No wonder there was a great price to be paid for ourredemption. No wonder Paul wrote that he was "crucified with Christ"(Gal. 2:20) and "I die daily" (I Cor. 15:31).
(thanks again, Dr. Williamson, for this thought)
Watch this video:
Some facts about this story (Team Pyro did all the work on this):
"1) Johnny MacArthur [the field-goal kicker] is John MacArthur's eldest grandson. He's a high-school senior this year and a scratch golfer with a full-ride golf scholarship to Pepperdine next year;
2) Johnny is a senior, playing football for the first time in his high-school career. Of course, many well-meaning friends and conservative grown-ups advised him not to go out for football because of the risk of an injury that could jeopardize his scholarship. He tried out and made the team anyway;
3) Hart and Canyon High Schools have one of the fiercest rivalries ever in US high-school football. Johnny plays for Hart High School. Canyon was last year's state champ in football. (Canyon's stadium is down the hill from my back yard. I hear their marching band practicing in the mornings. Hart, across the valley, is this community's oldest high school, named for William S. Hart, an early cowboy actor, who founded the Western film studios that originally built this community.) "
Now click on this to hear why this play was so celebratory and what God was doing through it.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I'll explain what the title means in a minute. This has been Fall Break, and what a weekend it has been!
I took my boys to go see Team Impact at a local church. This is a group of body-builders who put on an amazing show of strength (breaking blocks of concrete, blocks of ice, blocks on concrete on fire, power-lifting telephone poles on fire, driving nails with bare hands, ripping phone books, and my personal favorite—rolling up frying pans into “burritos” with bare hands . . . and much more) and preaching the gospel. The reason why I took my boys to see this is to hear these men 1) put sports and body care in proper perspective. Many of these guys have worked out with and competed against big names, but walked away from the fame and glory of the body for 2) preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their testimonies are found on the webpage linked above.
We went back again Sunday night.
Went to the State Fair. For some reason we got in less displays and more rides than our trip two years ago, but the day out was great fun—we needed the diversion immensely. I tell you, there is nothing better than seeing your kids laugh and scream and get turned upside down together for hours on end. Sure they scrap and bicker, but they spend more time having fun with one another—and watching my kids spin their guts out on “The Fireball” or some such contraption is the best thing in the world. Add to that the smells of Elephant Ears, fried mushrooms, foot long corn-dogs and very expensive lemonade . . . sorry, my eyes were rolling up in my head again. Good thing we tail-gate!
Only got to share the gospel in a couple of very brief encounters.
Leslie and I were able to enjoy a morning together sitting at the feet of Ray Comfort, Kirk Cameron, Todd Friel and Emeal “EZ” Zwayne at the “Way Of Master ‘Transformed’ Conference.” We sat right behind Kirk Cameron’s mom.
Watch “Hell’s Best Kept Secret” and other video here.
One thing that impressed me about the conference was how “normal” (not hyped) it was. I know that may not sound like much, but as much as I wanted to get a picture of me and Ray or me and Todd I chose not to do it because it would be all about me. Just shaking a hand, saying “thanks for the hard work,” was enough. It was easier to relate to Ray and Kirk’s mom as ordinary people that way, and our time was not glazed over by “celebrity.”
Todd introduced the conference with the charge, “Are you willing to do what you hear, if it is biblical? Then evangelize!” Then he showed the video, “8 Reasons Why I Don’t Share My Faith.”
Ray talked about the difference between “transgression” and “sin.” Sin misses the mark, transgression goes far beyond simply missing. He also spoke of contrition and the importance of valuing what is truly valuable: God. Ray stressed the truth that the death of Jesus was to take away sin, not merely die because of sin.
Kirk Cameron stepped up next and talked on the Five Fruits of True Conversion, that we are saved to righteousness, offering to God a cup clean both on the inside as well as the outside. True conversion takes place when God cleans the inside of the cup, filling, washing, spilling over, cleaning both inside and outside to the praise of His Glory. The Fruits are:
1) Repentance. Matthew 3:8. Hate sin, not just be sorry you got caught with it;
2) Good Works. Colossians 1:10. Works point out integrity, backs up what is being said for credibility. The Holy Spirit empowers both to “be” and to “do” (something I’ve said for years);
3) Thanksgiving. Hebrews 13:15. The value of His blood should drive us to gratitude.
4) Fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22ff. Find out if you have these by asking others;
5) Righteousness. Philippians 1:11. We don’t want “decisions” but true conversions from sin to righteousness.
Christians have conflict in the world because we serve a God of righteousness, putting God’s will and good pleasure above our own.
Todd Friel gave a short talk on the nature and character of true repentance, then gave a short version of his article on “15 Reasons NOT To Ask Jesus Into Your Heart.”
Ray spent the next session talking about “How To Get On Fire For God” using 1 Corinthians 2:1ff to show that if we are fearful, weak, have no eloquent speech and are trembling, then we qualify for the awesome task of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ! “Enthusiasm” means “en” = in; “theos” = God. Get on fire for God and people will come to watch you burn! AMEN!
Ray and Kirk closed the conference by talking about the role and ease of using tracts in evangelism and Kirk demonstrated the WDJD principle with some video.
We took the whole family back to hear Ray preach on 1 Timothy 6:11-12, “Fight the Good Fight of Faith.” I think this was a version of his sermon “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition.” He stressed:
1) Know your task: the supreme object of the church is the supreme object of the Savior: Seek and Save the Lost;
2) Know your weapons: God’s Word and Prayer. We cannot pray without preaching nor can we preach without prayer. Prayer is no substitute for obedient reading and proclamation of God’s Word.
3) Know your Enemy. Of the world, the flesh and the devil, watch out for the flesh!
Went to Taco Bell. Passed out a few Million Dollars. Found three teenagers who needed something to do, so did a little Street Magic to break the ice, and gave them a gospel tract. At first, one girl was upset that I was talking with them. I had crossed a racial barrier and she was trying to get her friends away. I made her the center of attention of the next trick, a number trick where a number is written down on a paper, folded and passed for one to hold without looking. I asked the now-calming “agitated girl” some questions that causes her to produce figures at random based on her birthday and age, etc.. After some math, the end result agrees with what is on the paper and hidden. When the trick was over, she laughed and almost screamed, “How did you do that? Are you Jesus, or something?” My wife quickly told them who I was and we had a good laugh. I gave them another gospel tract and stepped out to leave, but we were not able to do so immediately, so I went back inside. The teens could not decide what to order, so sat down near the door. I brought over another magic trick and was finally able to present the gospel clearly through it. I wish I had a camera as they sat quietly, listening, jaws dropped open as I spelled out “Hell” in torn letters from my trick and a cross from the remaining pieces. One girl looked visibly shaken when being confronted by her sin and I think she saw her need for a Savior. The other girl and boy listened, a strange stillness in the midst of tacos and piped-in jazz music.
God please save their souls.
Monday, October 15, 2007
"Atheists Aren't Bad People; They Just Have a Bad Reputation"
By Patrick Smith
October 15, 2007
Many people cringe when they hear the word, "atheist." Atheists are assumed to be all-around bad people, and are sometimes even confused for devil worshipers. That is simply not the case. Free thinkers tend to be educated people who are very ethical in work and they tend to take morality very seriously, yet they are among the most discriminated-against belief group in existence. For those atheists who need some guidance in being a good person, along with anyone else who may wish to use this how-to, I offer you “How To Be A Good Atheist.”
Read the rest here (in case you were wondering) . . .
Friday, October 12, 2007
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? You live in a Christian land. You probably attend the worship of a Christian Church. You have perhaps been baptized in the name of Christ. You profess and call yourself a Christian. All this is well. It is more than can be said of millions in the world. But all this is no answer to my question, "What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?"
I want to tell you what the greatest Christian that ever lived thought of the cross of Christ. He has written down his opinion. He has given his judgment in words that cannot be mistaken. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul. The place where you will find his opinion, is in the letter which the Holy Ghost inspired him to write to the Galatians. And the words in which his judgment is set down, are these, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
How what did Paul mean by saying this? He meant to declare strongly, that he trusted in nothing but Jesus Christ crucified for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul. Let others, if they would, look elsewhere for salvation. Let others, if they were so disposed, trust in other things for pardon and peace. For his part, the apostle was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place confidence in nothing, glory in nothing, except "the cross of Jesus Christ."
Reader, let me talk to you about this subject. Believe me, it is one of the deepest importance. This is no mere question of controversy. This is not one of those points on which men may agree to differ, and feel that differences will not shut them out of heaven. A man must be right on this subject, or he is lost forever. Heaven or hell, happiness or misery, life or death, blessing or cursing in the last day,--all hinges on the answer to this question, "What do you think about the cross of Christ?"
Read the rest of J.C. Ryle’s message “The Cross.”
Monday, October 08, 2007
“I often talk about missions and evangelism in terms of ‘winning the world to Christ,’ as do many other Christians. Does that mean that I believe everyone in the world will be won to Christ? No. It simply means that I recognize the universal implications of the gospel. The cross is to be taken to every person everywhere because every person is responsible for accepting its message or rejecting it.”
Michael Horton, “Putting Amazing Back Into Grace.”
Friday, October 05, 2007
The towering over-tattooed, baseball-capped, long-haired, bristle-chinned, mildly-pierced biker dude glared at me as he turned and caught me contemplating the above-mentioned declaration calligraphed across the back of his black tee-shirt. Honestly, I was too scared to ask his thoughts about the statement; however, I could not help but think how well this phrase summed up the events of the previous night.
Our Five Points Friday was unusual this week, thanks to the City of Columbia. For the past few years, the Five Points area has been the hubbub of construction, and the city decided to mark the end of the construction by throwing a party. Since the Five Points area forms a star configuration, two parts were blocked off for the celebration. Parades, live music, indie-films, much beer and sundry forms of street entertainment and various booths provided the are for the evening.
The celebration got underway at 5:00. By the time we got to Five Points, the celebration was in the final stages. Bands were playing their encores, belly-dancers and fire jugglers were giving their bellies and burning brands their final wiggles and belches, while the hundreds stood around drinking or were already drunk. Usually the party gets started about 10:30 and ends "whenever," but by the time we were arriving, most people were either going home or had assimilated into one of the bars or restaurants. Trash everywhere.
I would like interject an interlude at this point to describe an event that marks every Friday Night evangelistic outing, an event that I’ve not given much attention to in these reports. This is an amazing event, a truly holy moment that concludes the evening—our debriefing. This is an amazing time of fellowship when all the teams come back together to share both discouraging and encouraging stories of the evening. This is the part that is the "most real" as far as what the world sees and hears from us. Sure, we’ve been down there sharing the gospel, but debriefing is a sacred moment, and the party-crowd seems to know this. The conscience screams this knowledge.
Now, imagine what this looks like: it is about midnight and the parking spaces are emptying and filling with people coming and going from the bars to the parties or the parties to the bars. There is a group of 20 or so people standing to the side of the lot beside the street in a large circle. Only one person in the group is talking and everyone else in the circle is listening—everyone is not talking at the same time, nor is anyone drinking. Every once and a while a car drives by very slowly with the windows rolled down, the people inside trying to hear what the one person is saying. The car parks and guys in clean shirts and girls in skimpy clothes and high heels get out. To get to the bars, they have to walk by this strange crowd of people where one person is talking softly. The revelers arrive in a boisterous mood, but as they get closer to the circle, all conversation ceases.
Someone in the circle seems to be telling a story, a conversation is being recounted. Heads nod in agreement, or wag slowly as the teller tells. Words like "sin" and "repentance" and "hell" and "salvation" sprinkle the conversation. They may hear the talker say something about prayer or bending the knee or "The Lord." Why aren’t these people at the party?
Every once in a while new arrivals to the parking lot may see this group standing or sitting in the circle, heads bowed, eyes closed. A couple of people may have their hands raised in the air. They are praying. Pass by softly on the way to the party. "God please save that guy, bless ‘em," one may be heard to say as an irreverent reveler spews filthy language from his mouth at the group.
Some people get too close to the group and one or two break away and start up a conversation. The Five Points guests just have to know what is going on.
We are out here telling people about God’s love in Christ Jesus. Do you have a religious background? Would you like to talk?
Hey, I’m a gang-banger or a homosexual. I’m a pagan. You don’t want to know what I think.
Actually, now that you said that, I am really interested to know what is on your mind about spiritual things. Why do you say you are a gang-banger or homosexual? What do you mean by that?
Do you believe there is God?
Do you believe God cares about right and wrong?
Are God’s standards the same as ours?
Will God punish sin?
Is there a hell?
Will you avoid hell by living a good life?
And another conversation or two gets started, so while we are debriefing, more are hearing the gospel.
I love debriefing. This is where open sinners and true saints go toe-to-toe, eyeball-to-eyeball. I just thought I would share that with you.
My team did not have many conversations Friday night, but the ones we did have were significant. Randy and T.J. admitted they were sinners and with the wrath of God over their heads and the flames of hell licking at their feet, they made it clear to me that their purpose was to sin tonight, to do it loud and proud—no intention of stopping tonight or any other night.
Later we met Dwayne, Matthew, Cameron, Steve and one other person (I cannot remember his name). We got Dwayne, Matt and Cameron through the Good Person test, but Steve had a problem and pulled me aside. He made me understand that he respected what we were doing—shoot, he was downright proud of what we were doing—but his problem was that he is a Christian and was willfully living in disobedience to God and had no intention of stopping tonight. Please don’t tell. He knew his friends were going to hell and he was not. At leas that’s what he had convinced himself of.
Our conversation was much longer than I will recount here, but I made it clear that, 1) their blood was not on our hands because we were warning them to flee the wrath to come; and 2) if he wore the name of Christ, he better get on his face before the Lord and repent. Besides, his friends may have no other chance but to hear from him. He refused to comply and I almost started crying right there on the sidewalk. He said he would rather disobey God tonight. The three guys got away before I could finish talking to them and Steve and I finally parted, with him proud of what I was doing . . .
About an hour later, we found the three sitting on the wall at the Fountain. For some reason they just could not "get the party on" so they were just sitting and waiting. I approached them and asked what they thought about what they’d heard. They were honest and we had a long conversation, asking and answering many questions. They admitted they had no intention of coming down to party-central to be confronted with eternal matters, but had to come to grips with the fact that this is what God wanted, so we talked and talked. Besides, I found out, Steve told them that if they ever crossed paths with us again, they should listen because "those guys know what they are talking about." They were frustrated. They were mad. They were scared. They were concerned. But they were not ready to bend the knee and repent.
I found out their ages (17, 20 and 19). I told them to think of this: the average person dies at the age of 70. This meant they had approximately 2500 weekends left to live (their mouths dropped open) what were they going to do with their time, especially not knowing if their hearts were still going to be beating in the next five minutes?
What would it cost to obey God’s command to repent? "Everything", I told them. "But what profit is there if they gained the whole world" and lost their souls? They were silent. They knew they had to repent, but were not ready. But they knew, for them, the party was over. I told them to think of this: if ever they got to lay eyes on heaven, it would be the moment God sends them to hell, and all heaven will stand to sing praises to God when He is finally rid of all sin in the place prepared for the devil and His angels. They heard. They understood.
I asked if I could pray for them, and they bowed their heads and let me pray for them.
While we were debriefing I saw them drive by. Six people were in the car, three were drunk, three were sober. Three pairs of sober eyes met mine and we smiled, and I pointed to them. "Do it! Tonight!’
I’ve tried to call them today, and only get voice mails. I prayed they made it home alive.
God, please save their souls.
"A missionary was flying over Bombay, India, and saw the massive crowds crawling like ants beneath him. At first he wanted to turn back. 'Look at all those people!' he gasped. 'I won’t even make a dent.' Then he remembered that God had not called him to save India, nor to save anyone in India, but that He had called him to preach the gospel of Christ in India to all who would listen; God would do the saving. That thought, the missionary said, got him through the frustration and depair so he could be an unencumbered divine instrument."
Horton, Michael. Putting Amazing Back Into Grace.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
Give us a watchword for the hour,
A thrilling word, a word of power;
A battle cry, a flaming breath,
That calls to conquest or to death;
A word to rouse the church from rest,
To heed its Master's high behest,
The call is given, Ye hosts arise;
Our watchword is Evangelize!
The glad Evangel now proclaim,
Through all the earth in Jesus' name,
This word is ringing through the skies,
To dying men, a fallen race,
Make known the gift of Gospel Grace;
The world that now in darkness lies,