So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ. Philemon 1:6

FRONT PAGE - here you will find the last 20 postings about recent conversations. Please pray for these people!

Choices



2/8/18              Daniel          about 35

Years ago, I had the privilege of serving for a summer at the Tenwek Hospital in western Kenya.  The area was very underdeveloped at the time, and I remember visiting a grocery store that sold mostly staples – rice, beans, sugar, etc., and perhaps a couple types of breakfast cereal, a handful of flavors of pop, etc.  Options were limited to say the least. 

I became friends with a young man my age – Johnson Kamau, and we kept in touch over the years.  He was involved in ministry, first with the migratory Masai peoples as a Bible translator and then as a pastor.  He eventually came to study and live here in the United States.  I will never forget picking him up at the airport in Detroit on his first visit, and the look on his face when I brought him to a local Walmart with long aisles filled with every type of product choice imaginable.  I saw through his eyes the unimaginable options our culture takes for granted.

I was reminded of this in a conversation with a truck driver named Daniel at a local McDonalds.  Daniel believes in God in general but has many of his own theories and ideas of what He is like, many taken here and there from the different beliefs on the internet, and he has little to no religious or Bible background. 

Daniel clearly stated something that many in our culture actually believe without saying it so plainly.  “God should just allow us to choose what we want to believe about Him, rather than forcing us to believe he is a certain way.”

So he believes should be able form their own image of God, based on preferential choice?  That’s called idolatry.  Instead of statues, we form images or ideas about God that we are more comfortable with.

I might blame it on Starbucks for its over 87,000 different drink combination choices, but it goes much further back than that, long before our American rugged individualism and insistence on personal choice, long before the obsessive insistence on man’s creativity on display during the renaissance, all the way back to Adam and Eve’s insistence on choosing their own sense of morality rather than God’s.

God gives us unlimited outlets for creativity in a life lived in gratitude toward Him.  But choosing how we will design our own version of God himself isn’t one of them.    “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”      Colossians 3:23-24

Art of Rhetoric



2/8/18             Micah           about 25

I walked into our local coffeeshop after work today with the intention of initiating a Gospel conversation.  When I walked in the place was strangely empty, except for three men, one of whom was Chicago’s mayor!  He looked directly at me and we made eye contact, like he was expecting me!  I knew he wasn’t but was probably waiting to meet someone, and when I looked at the other two men standing inconspicuously around the shop, I realized they were his bodyguards.  I felt so intimidated I turned around and walked out!   

It made me feel like the early years of outreach, when I was often frozen with fear at walking into a public place for this purpose and the mere thought of doing so made by blood run cold. 

After running some errands, I returned an hour later and found the coffeeshop back to normal.  I found Micah, in her senior year as a communications major, working on her computer, so I asked if she would be willing to take a study break to respond to a question – “What do you think will happen to you after this life and how did you come to your present belief?”   

I’ve found that by asking how people come to their belief they are far more likely to answer, because many people love to share about the milestones in their life that have made them who they are today.  
 For Micah, it was a chance to do some reflective thinking about things she admitted she hadn’t thought about in years, and she really appreciated the chance to share it with someone who cared to listen.

Micah is African American with a Catholic father and Baptist mother, and her church experiences have left her with the conclusion that its all just basically “B_S_” – which she stated before she knew my position.  Later, after I told her I’m a Christian, I asked what she had meant by this.  She realized that the basic message of Christianity had never really made sense to her.  She had felt that like all religions it is basically about certain morals and values, and the cross was a symbol of Jesus’ sacrifice meant to set the ultimate example of self-sacrifice for us to follow.  I walked her through the biblical narrative, beginning with Adam’s broken relationship and the need for all of us to come back into a right relationship with God, not through self-righteousness, but through the righteousness that only Christ can give.

As a senior, Micah’s area of concentration is rhetoric, which she described as the art of persuasion, so it meant a lot to me when she repeatedly told me my explanation of Christianity was the most compelling she has ever heard.  She had to make an appointment to go meet a friend, but stayed as long as she could and received my church invitation and some further information about the Gospel which was now starting to make sense. 
 
I may not be ready to talk with the mayor, but with a lot of practice over the years I have learned how to present a compelling case for the Gospel to people like Micah.  I am grateful for the ability, but I know that no amount of persuasion can bring new life to a heart dead in sin.  This is something only God can do but in which He invites us to participate. I have accepted that invitation and now, for Micah’s sake, I pass that invitation on to you, dear reader.  Will you pray for Micah?

John the Baptist


https://youtu.be/a-2Cnc8KGIo



1/31/18        Terri           about 30

How would John the Baptist do as a youth pastor?

He was known as someone who could “tell it like it is”.  He was not a respecter of persons, didn’t care about the latest fashions, he was colorful in speech, marched to the beat of his own drum, was not self-promoting, didn’t back down, was not a food snob, didn’t accept excuses and didn’t promote victimhood.  His was a message of repentance in preparation for the Savior.

I’m thinking he would be just what most teenagers need, but no church would dare hire him.

I was a youth leader for years, and I was no John the Baptist.  In my desire to share the Gospel as a young Christian, I turned to what worked for me as a teen – Young Life, the youth outreach ministry which specializes in reaching out to young people on their turf, building relationships and “earning the right to be heard” in relational evangelism.

Following the example of the faithful adults who had reached out to me in my high school years, I did the same when I moved to Chicago and joined LaSalle Street Young Life in the Cabrini-Green housing projects.  Trying to build a consistent youth group in the inner city, though, was a problem.  The teens who lived in the projects around the basketball courts where I hung out all went to different high schools, and the teens who went to the high school where I hung out and coached wrestling all lived in different neighborhoods.

So when I moved to the south side and wanted to establish a new Young Life ministry there, I decided to experiment with a new approach.  We built a youth center where teens from different neighborhoods and different high schools could all meet on common ground, and where adults could have a place to invite them to as we reached out to them in the neighborhoods and in their schools.  I was inspired at the time by a new movie at the time – “Field of Dreams”, and its famous slogan “If you build it, they will come.”  

It was a great experiment that lasted about 20 years, from 1990 to 2010.  Why do I call it an experiment?  Because I’m not sure if it was a success or failure.  I think we did a great job of “loving on” kids, and most everyone has good memories of their time with us. 

After 15 years, I was surprised to happen upon Terri, a former “youth kid” from years ago, at a laundromat.  As she says in the video, everything she knows about Christianity she learned from us, and I believe she knows she is loved and accepted by God.

But she hasn’t pursued a relationship with God in the years since, and it makes me wonder if it is because we focused too much on the “good news” of our Savior, without the “bad news” that we are lost without Him.  Maybe what our young people need is a little more of John the Baptist in order to appreciate the wondrous gift that Jesus is.  

What would happen if our youth leaders started preaching, ““You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Most of the teens would run to a friendlier youth group, but I believe some would rise to the standard.  And they would hear the rest of John’s message, which wasn’t all fire and brimstone:  “And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.”

My conversation with Terri focused on something I failed to emphasize years ago – how our hearts and behavior actually compare with God’s holy standard.  And Terri received it well.  It makes me think she would have also received it well years ago, if only I had been bold enough to share it.