"How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10:15
6/23/09 Ahmad about 30
On my way home after a class I stopped at the Chicago River where some men were fishing. I began a conversation with Ahmad, an African-American who grew up in a Baptist family but has converted to Islam. Ahmad was very glad to talk about his adopted religion, and though I have spent some time studying Islam, I learned some new things I hadn’t heard before. For example, I was surprised that Jesus’ reference to the Holy Spirit in John 16 is interpreted by Muslims as a reference to the coming of Muhammad. I respectfully disagreed, but didn’t make that or other points of disagreement the focus of our conversation. Instead I tried to keep the focus on our sin and accountability to God on judgment day, something Muslims believe in. However, their faith in Allah is a belief in a god who lets evil go unpunished, a god who can be bribed by religious works into overlooking our sins. We believe as Christians that God takes sin very seriously, making the ultimate sacrifice in His Son to satisfy his demand for justice for those who have faith in Jesus. This I tried to explain to Ahmad, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears as he told stories from Islam of Allah’s and Muhammad’s forgiveness based on one’s repentance alone. I persuaded him to take a “Why Christianity” booklet, even if he reads it only to better understand Christians for the sake of refuting our beliefs. Please pray that he will read it, and that God will break the hold of Islam on Ahmad’s heart.
6/23/09 Nat, 26
I stopped at a laundromat and handed out million dollar tracts as I walked through. Everyone laughed and thanked me, and I headed back out, where the first man I gave one to, a Chinese man who introduced himself as Nat, was reading his. He had enough childhood experience at a Baptist church that he knew about the Ten Commandments, but not much else. He believed God would say he is a good person, until I confronted him with some of the Ten Commandments. Many people nonchalantly say they aren’t perfect, feeling safety in numbers because nobody is, but when compared personally to the standard of God’s commandments one by one they start to realize their personal guilt before God. So it was with Nat. He expressed his unease with a lot of nervous smiles and fidgeting, and it wasn’t until I talked about forgiveness through faith in Jesus that he began to relax. In the end he was glad to receive more info and my contact info in case he has further questions. Meanwhile, though I didn’t talk to everyone in the laundromat, al least they could see I was willing to answer questions as I talked to Nat, and my hope and prayer is that this might help them take the message of God’s judgment and salvation on their tracts more seriously.
6/24/09 David about 45
Before heading into a grocery store I walked over to a group of African-American men at the back of the parking lot. I planned to hand them all million dollar tracts, but got into a conversation with Dave and his friend right away. They both had some church upbringing but have fallen away and now simply rationalize that “as long as I ask for forgiveness, God will forgive me”, or “my good will outweigh my bad”. These and other excuses and false beliefs were soon exposed with questions about God’s judgment they had never thought to ask. It also seemed like our racial and cultural differences were forgotten as they came face to face with God’s wrath over their sins, and God’s tremendous love expressed in Christ. One interesting analogy that came up in our conversation was when Dave’s friend pictured his sins as being on a kind of heavenly “rap sheet”. I asked “why don’t rap sheets list our good deeds as well as our bad?” They didn’t know, so I told them it’s because society expects us to do the right thing, to obey the laws, and to help people. How much more should God expect of us, since He gave us all good things to begin with, so we can’t pay for our sins with the good deeds God expects us to do in the first place. His friend had to leave early, but I left Dave counting the cost of faith and repentance, having been thoroughly warned of the judgment to come.
6/25/09 Jose and Elsa mid 30’s
As I left the post office I saw a man in his car waiting for his wife and watching their three small kids. He laughed when I gave him a million dollar tract, and when I asked about heaven he said “Maybe this IS heaven!” I said that many people have told me they think they are going through hell on earth, but he was the first to call it heaven. Jose is from El Salvador and told me he grew up very poor, so I can imagine why he is now so grateful. He began to consider some of my questions about eternity, but then went on a tangent about how his mother favors her other grandchildren over his own kids. I spent some time listening and counseling him about this, and afterward felt like I had gained much trust as we talked about various religious issues. He had a lot of questions about major world religions and his Catholic church, especially the worship of Mary and various saints. It was hard to stay on any one subject, but I kept returning to two themes: how in Christ we are saved by God’s grace, not by rituals or good works as in other religions; and how the Bible has precedence over church traditions. Hopefully the trust I gained will help him read some of the info I gave him or to call with additional questions. Please pray that God will bless Jose and his wife Elsa and kids with the truth of His word.
6/26/09 Bernice, Rosalinda, Jessica 17,17,15
On my way home after an evening church meeting, I decided to stop and look for a witnessing opportunity. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into a conversation, so I stopped to go for a walk to pray first. I soon walked up to 3 teens sitting on some front steps. I asked if they were Michael Jackson fans, (no, but their parents were) and we talked about how sudden and unexpected his recent death was. From there I asked what they thought happens after people die. They really didn’t seem to have thought about it before, and didn’t have an opinion to offer. I asked if they had a church background, and Bernice had been to catechism classes, so we talked about what she had learned there and what the Bible teaches. At one point, Bernice’s mother came out to water her plants, eying me suspiciously, so I stopped to introduce myself and explained that I’m from a church in the neighborhood and just sharing my faith. That seemed good enough to her, so I continued to explain the bad news of the law and the good news of Jesus as best as I could. I asked a lot of questions as we talked which helped make it more of a conversation. Just the same, I’m sure it was somewhat overwhelming, and I simply pray God will use this as one stepping stone on their road to a faith relationship with Jesus.
6/27/09 John, about 25
Lately as I greet people with a warm smile and friendly eye contact, very few turn down the million dollar tract and only about half aren’t willing to talk further. I believe that by far most people who avoid a conversation are preoccupied or in a hurry. At a Target store near downtown Chicago today I looked for a conversation but everyone seemed so rushed, until I walked by the music section, where people were just browsing and killing time. I gave a million dollar tract to one man, who began to read it. I pointed out the question on the back, asking if he thought he’d go to heaven. “Well of course not, I’m Jewish” he said and walked away. Near him was John, a bicycle messenger guy who welcomed the conversation. He grew up going to his family’s church but has since decided that organized religion was “manmade” and that if God wanted him to do anything religious “He will let me know”. I asked how he thought God would do that and we began a long friendly conversation in which John gained a new understanding of the law and gospel, showing concern about eternity but not deep conviction. In the end, I asked if he wears a helmet when he does his deliveries, which he does not, and he could see that tomorrow is not promised, that today needs to be the day of salvation. I pray that John clearly heard the Lord speak to him through our conversation.
6/29/09 Andrew about 30
I went for a quick bike ride and rode by Andrew, sitting in front of his house waiting for his two young sons to come out for a baseball game. I stopped, backed up, and said I had an interesting question for him. I began to ask about Michael Jackson’s death as a conversation starter about spiritual things. This was not a good topic, judging from his annoyed expression and short answers. I forged on with some probing questions about his beliefs. He believes people who give more than they take are allowed into heaven and proclaimed himself to be an extremely giving person. I could foresee the conversation turning into a confrontation, so instead of challenging his self-righteousness, I asked Andrew about the most holy people in his church – say, Mother Theresa, or the Pope. I helped him to understand that ALL have sinned, even them, and that the good they have done is simply expected of them and all of us. Their good deeds don’t erase their sins against God. I could see Andrew’s expression visibly soften as he realized that his good deeds won’t save him from his sin either. He became concerned, and truly wondered how anyone could be saved. Now he was really listening. I had the privilege of explaining the meaning of the cross, and what saving faith in Jesus looks like. By this time Andrew’s sons came outside and I joked around with them for awhile, but Andrew seemed truly grateful when I gave him some more information and my contact info.
6/30/09 Daniel and Anna, both about 18
At McGuane Park I walked up to a young couple sitting on a park bench, and got their attention with a million dollar tract. While Anna listened, Daniel talked about his beliefs. He recently started attending Catholic church again after not attending for many years, but has never read the Bible. He readily admitted his guilt in breaking God’s commandments as I talked about them one by one, but didn’t believe hell was a reasonable punishment for his sins. I asked if he remembered the man in Iraq who threw his shoe at President Bush. If he threw his shoe at a dog or an average person, he would not have been punished severely, but since he showed contempt for such an important person, he received several years in prison as punishment. “How much more important is God than the President Bush?” I asked Daniel. “No comparison, God is infinitely more important” he replied, and he understood that a just punishment for breaking God’s laws would also be infinite. When they saw that hell is indeed a reasonable punishment, Daniel and Anna were ready to hear about Jesus, and are counting the cost. The law fulfilled its purpose, according to Galatians 3:23 “So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”