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.
Friday, September 28, 2007
Five Points Friday 9/28/07