James 1:25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.class>
8/1/09 Steve, 49
Walking down my street after a morning workout, I ran into Steve, a neighbor I’ve only said hello to from a distance for years. An ex-marine, he had his dark sunglasses on as usual and sat expressionless and unapproachable on his front steps, and I wanted to just do the usual macho head nod, say “whasup” and call it a day. But God has challenged me to get out of my comfort zone, so I stuck out my hand for a handshake and asked what he’s been up to. Steve was happy to talk as long as I put up with all his profanity and highly opinionated and negative attitudes about everything we talked about. I thought to myself “there’s no way I’m asking spiritual questions unless he takes his sunglasses off so we can talk eye to eye about a serious subject like that”. Less than a minute later he took off his sunglasses which took away my excuses, so I asked what he believed would happen after he died. “Oh I’m a born-again Christian and all that so I know I’m going to heaven, no doubt. My mother was an evangelist and my father was a deacon. I don’t go to church now but I watch Joel Olsteen on TV.” Long story short, he believes he will go to heaven because he has confessed his “mistakes”, but he really doesn’t consider the tremendous price of those sins, or his need to repent and follow Jesus.
08/02/09 “Uncle Ta”, Jim, and others
I arrived half an hour early for a church-related home visit, so I went for a walk to a nearby park. At the crowded basketball courts a group of young men were waiting for the next game, so I handed them million dollar tracts to get a conversation started. I told them on the back of the tracts was the question “Will you go to heaven?” They all told me they would, admitting they weren’t perfect but they were good enough to make it. I asked if they could pass a “good person test” and one guy confidently told me he could so I began to ask him about some of the ten commandments. His confidence faded quickly as he admitted he had broken each one I brought up. Then an older man jumped in, saying “But God is supposed to forgive, what about that?” I started to explain but he would hear none of it, giving me a “talk to the hand” gesture. We talked a while and he told me they called him “Uncle Ta” and he was a Christian and was trying to keep these boys off the streets and out of trouble. He said he believed everyone would go to heaven, “even Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and Osama Bin Laden” and that my talk of God’s judgment and punishment for sin was scaring him and he would hear no more. He sat down about 30 feet away, but one of his players named Jim and the first guy whom I had given the good person test to came to ask more about what the Bible said, clearly concerned and hungry to know more. They ignored Uncle Ta “loud talking” me in the background, and I answered their questions as best as I could. In the end they shook my hand and thanked me for what I was doing. I went over to Uncle Ta, shook his hand and wished him well.
08/03/09 Chris & two friends, all about 16
Late at night, 3 teens hung out on a desolate side street. I was on my bike, and surprised them when I stopped to talk. I told them I had an interesting question. “How old will you be when you die?” About 70, they said. “I do hope you live long, but where would you be tomorrow if you died today?” They all believed God would send them to heaven because they were good people. “How do you know if you are good enough?” They didn’t know and wanted to take my “good person test”. I began to ask one named Chris about the Ten Commandments, and he told me he had never lied (other than a “white lie”), never stole, never called anyone a name in anger (which Jesus said is like murder), never looked at anyone with lust. He only admitted to using God’s name in vain. Though I didn’t believe all this, I took him at his word, and told him that the Bible says if we break just one law we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2) so he would be guilty on judgment day. They didn’t seem at all convicted, but agreed that eternity shouldn’t be taken lightly. I pray it won’t!
8/04/09 Basia, 52
I’m learning that I shouldn’t make assumptions about a person’s beliefs based on their church involvement. I was at the hospital again visiting Paul in intensive care and his friend Basia was also visiting, whom I’ve known as an acquaintance. I asked about her background and found out she grew up Catholic and attended a Lutheran Church which helped her through a divorce, but stopped going to church when she began working weekends four years ago. Did she miss church? “Not at all” she replied. “What do you personally believe about God?” I asked her. She told me she believes in reincarnation. I spent some time asking about this and found she really had no basis for her belief other than wishful thinking. I didn’t argue with her belief, but just went on to explain biblical teachings and God’s judgment based on the standard of His law. She adamantly insisted that she has broken none of the Ten Commandments except for the fourth – taking the Lord’s name in vain (just like the teens I talked to last night). I took some time to explain our guilty standing before God and His sacrifice of His Son for our sins, and she seemed interested, but not convicted. Her “default” mode, like so many people, is to return to her identity as a “good” person whom God will reward on judgment day. I pray God will grace Basia with a new heart that has a humble and repentant spirit. I look forward to further conversations.
08/05/09 Angel, about 45
Over the past few years I have seen and talked with Angel occasionally at the local gym, but really didn’t know where she was at spiritually. This morning during a conversation I happened to find out that her husband had been shot to death seven years ago. I wanted to be sensitive to what was obviously a painful memory, but decided that it would be okay just to ask her about her spiritual beliefs, and see where the conversation would go from there. She believes “there is something out there” because she has felt a sort of supernatural help through this very difficult time in her life, but she has a hard time believing in a God who would “allow children to get sick and gangbangers to go free”. She said “I’m a “cafeteria Catholic - I pick and choose what I want to believe”. I told her the story of Job, which she had never heard, and how it shows us that though we may wonder why bad things happen, God sees the big picture, and that He may do things we don’t always agree with. But if he is truly God we can’t just pick and choose what we want to believe about Him. I didn’t share much more because I felt this was enough “seed planting” for that conversation, and I’m reasonably sure we will be able to continue the talking another day.
8/06/09 Michael & Michael, about 17
On the campus of IIT I asked several people if I could interview them on camera about their spiritual beliefs. Two young men were the first to agree. “Michael #1” told me he was a Christian, and so believed he would go to heaven after he died. Michael #2 told me he believed that when we die, his soul would die too. I asked both what would happen if the Bible were true and they stand before God to be judged. They both thought they will go to heaven because God would find them to be good people, until I started asking in detail about how well they had kept some of the commandments. Their confidence began to fade and they began to realize they needed saving, and I felt they were ready to hear about the Savior. Of course, like so many Americans, these guys had heard the phrase “Jesus died for our sins” many times, but not many people have really thought through it’s implications, so I tried to stress that because God is good, He loves justice and will punish sin. We don’t deserve Heaven, we deserve punishment, but Jesus took that punishment for us. They joked around a bit at the end of the interview, but I hope something sunk in. (note: to view this video, click HERE)
8/07/09 Nikolae, Phillipe & friends, 20’s
I handed out souvenir million dollar tracts to fans in the parking lot after a Sox game. One group of two guys and two girls asked what they were for and I told them “They have a good person test on them” “I can’t read it” they said. (It was too dark in the parking lot) “Okay, I’ll give you the test. How many lies have you told in your life?” “42,000” Nikolae said. How many lies does it take to be a liar?” “One” they finally conceded. “How many times have you stolen something?” “Six” Nikolae said. “How many times does it take to be a thief?” “Seven” Nikolae joked. After the game it was obviously a party atmosphere, and our conversation was lighthearted, but as they were convicted by more of the commandments they started to look for ways to excuse themselves on technicalities. These four said they didn’t have any religious background, but finally a fifth friend who was more experienced in such things jumped in to “save” them. “I have one thing to say”, he said, “predestination. If we are meant to be saved, we will be. If not, so be it. Look it up – Romans 9” as they walked away. Taken out of context, he was right, for it says, among other things, "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" But who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” Taken in context, however, the Bible also commands us to repent and believe, so again, “who resists His will”? Was the conversation in vain? I trust that it wasn’t, for seeds were planted, and God alone can make them grow.
8/8/09 Joe, about 25
Today I had the opportunity to deliver the sermon at a memorial service. I was asked to share an evangelistic sermon because this was a crowd with many people who rarely set foot in a Bible-based church for any other reason. I spoke about the rich young man who asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life (Mark 10), and was able to invite the crowd to participate in the “good person test” that Jesus gave the young man. I was glad to share the good news that “with man this (salvation) is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Afterward a young man named Joe had to talk to me, tears in his eyes.. “I needed to hear that”, he said. “I’m not right with God”. What would it take for you to get into a right relationship with God?” I asked. He said he would have to leave everything – family, friends, neighborhood – because of the sinful lifestyle he is so deeply involved in. I believe he understands that a right relationship with God requires repentance, and he is counting the cost. He asked if I would pray for him, so I did right then and there, and he was very appreciative. Pray that Joe will not only count the cost of following Jesus, but also of NOT following Him.
8/9/09 Danny, about 25
I gave celebrity million dollar tracts to a group of six 20-somethings hanging out in the parking lot after a White Sox game। They were friendly enough, until I pointed out the question on the back. “Will you go to heaven?” “No way” a few said. “I wouldn’t hang out with anyone who would” a guy named Danny said. ‘What do you think happens after we die?” I asked him. At this point the rest of the group edged away to start other conversations. Danny answered, “I’ll just turn into dirt. I’ll probably have a fancy casket, but that’s about it.” I asked if God did exist, how would he be judged? “I think He would send me to hell”. I asked why. “Because I don’t believe in Him”. “Other than not believing in Him, do you think you’re basically a good person? “Oh yeah” he answered. I asked why he didn’t believe in God. “I’m very scientific. I have to see something in order to believe in it. And besides, what sort of god would allow all the wars and suffering in this world?” He also said he didn’t think he would do very well following the God’s rules. At this point, parking lot security started moving us along, wanting to clear out the parking lot. In hindsight, as usual, I thought of things I wish I had told Danny. I could have pointed out that a true scientist is open to all possibilities – even that God exists, or that we can know there is a Creator by looking around us and seeing His creation, or that it’s not really up to us to decide how God should reveal Himself to us. I believe every witnessing conversation helps teach and prepare me for others, and though much was left unsaid, God can use this conversation as He reveals Himself to Danny in tangible ways.