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!

August 24 - 31

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? Romans 10:14

8/24/09 Brandon, about 25

While out riding bike I rode past a security guard for a construction yard. I introduced myself to Brandon who was on a break and glad for someone to talk to. When I asked him to describe his spiritual beliefs he didn’t hesitate to say he is a Christian. He had attended church with his grandma as a child, and got baptized while attending with his mother in his teens, but had stopped going to church about five years ago for no particular reason. He has a child but has broken off the relationship with her mother. He has had several near death experiences, having been shot and stabbed, but when I asked what he believes about eternal life he said that heaven or hell are what you make for yourself while on earth, and after he dies he believes we will just “go to sleep” “Why then, did Jesus die on the cross? What was that all about?” I asked, but he honestly didn’t know. If there is a judgment day “God would say I’m a good person because I believe in Him” he said, but I reminded him that even the devil “believes” in God, but true belief is life changing. Brandon gladly listened as I shared the Gospel and challenged him to real, life-changing faith in Christ. He was glad when I told him I will bring him a Bible, and thankful that I stopped to talk.

8/25/09 Mark, Tiffany, and Valerie

During Vacation Bible School at our church, a couple walked by on the sidewalk and we invited them in for coffee. One of the women of our church, Chris, introduced Mark to me before engaging his girlfriend Valerie in conversation. Mark and I stepped out on the sidewalk in the cool night air to talk. Since I was associated with the church it was easy to inquire about his church background and beliefs. He only attended church a few times as a child – he is now 38 – and he really seems to be floating through life without giving God or eternity a second thought. As we talked a neighbor girl, Tiffany, 14, began responding to some of the questions I was asking Mark. At first this was annoying but I realized that since Mark hadn’t given much thought to matters of faith he really didn’t have many preconceived beliefs to talk about. Tiffany thought that we just ask God for forgiveness and we can go to heaven. We talked about God’s justice which requires punishment for sin, and how in his mercy he has sacrificed his own Son in our place. Mark responded positively but I believe it will take a lot more time and questions before he might come to repentance and faith in Christ. Meanwhile, Chris had a fruitful conversation with Valerie, a Jehovah’s Witness, who showed heartfelt conviction as she realized her good works could never earn forgiveness for her sins. Both Mark and Valerie were challenged in different ways, and I hope they had a lot to talk about after stopping in for coffee.

8/26/09 Arindam, late 20’s

While he stood on the sidewalk in front of his apartment building for a cigarette, I asked Arindam, a University of Illinois doctoral student from India, if he would answer some questions about his spiritual beliefs for an informal survey. “How many questions?” he asked suspiciously. Half an hour later, it was he who was asking me the questions. Arindam grew up Hindu, but doesn’t believe in organized religion. He tries not to judge anyone else in any way, and avoids concepts such as absolute truth and morality, preferring instead to talk about “ethics”. When asked how he would do if judged according to the Ten Commandments, he told me he would do badly because he breaks many of them. When I told him I am a Christian, he had many questions for me and proved to be very knowledgeable about the Bible. He said he had attended a missionary school while growing up in India, which I assume was Christian. We talked about how Jesus’ teachings affirm and complete the law, and how one purpose of the law, which one finds impossible to obey perfectly, is to help us see our need for God’s mercy. Arindam asked me why Jesus came, and I had the privilege of telling him. Please pray for this thoughtful young man, that he will continue to seek truth and that God will bring him to repentance and faith in Jesus.

8/26/09 Harold, about 45

This conversation did not go well. At the grocery store I used a tract to start what I thought would be a good conversation with a middle aged black man named Harold. Judging from his strong accent I thought he was from Haiti or a French speaking country in Africa, but he claimed he was not. He told me he grew up Catholic and was once very serious about becoming a priest, but when I asked about his personal beliefs he became very vague and mysterious. Does he believe in God? “Well I might or I might not, I can’t really say”. After some vague talk about spiritual questions he changed the subject to some of the problems of society and began to grow loud and animated as he talked. He ranted about how public pay phones should offer free 911 calls, and believed that to solve our crime problems “laws should be passed to force gangbangers to go to church.” Harold wasn’t angry at me and we weren’t arguing, but just the same he was getting way too loud for a grocery store. After a few more attempts at getting back on a spiritual topic, I gave up and began to try to break away from the conversation. He asked some questions about my church and said he would like to visit, but never really disclosed any of his personal beliefs. In hindsight I believe his refusal to state any beliefs and changing the subject were just his way of avoiding the thought of any accountability toward God.

8/27/09 Charlie, about 65

In contrast to some recent lengthy conversations, a conversation I had today was so short I can almost remember it word for word, yet I believe a seed was still planted that can grow by God’s grace. My neighbor Charlie has only recently become more approachable after many years of alcohol abuse and negativity. He is now a proud grandpa and delights in taking his grandson for walks around the block. Today I chatted with him on the sidewalk, then asked him about his beliefs. “Well, I’m Catholic” he said. “So you believe in God?” “Sure” he said. “What do you think will happen after you die?” “Heaven, I hope” “Well, I hope so too, and I want to see you there” I said with a smile. “So how do you think God would judge you?” “I think I’d do pretty good”, he said. “So God will say you’re a good person?” “Well, I hope he’ll give me a few breaks” he said. “Well, lately I’ve talked to a lot of people who believe they are going to heaven because they are good enough, but the Bible teaches that there is nothing we can do to earn heaven. We deserve to be punished, but Jesus took our punishment for us. We need to trust Jesus, not our own goodness.” Charlie nodded in agreement. Well that’s basically it, a friendly reminder to a neighbor I see often. Can God grow this seed that has been planted? I believe He can. I pray He will.

8/28/09 Julia, about 30

At a laundromat I asked a young lady if I could ask her some informal survey questions about her spiritual beliefs while she folded her clothes. She cautiously agreed and so I asked her if she could describe what her spiritual beliefs are. She said “I really don’t have any beliefs to talk about, so I think I’m the wrong person to ask”. I told her that I’ve heard a wide variety of opinions, and asked if she had a religious background. Julia is from Russia and grew up going to a Russian Orthodox Church. She has attended one here in Chicago, but basically sees it as irrelevant. She doesn’t really believe in any sort of existence after we die, and claims not to care one way or the other. She believes we all receive whatever judgment or reward we deserve during this life and that’s all there is to it. She finished her laundry and wanted to get going, so I gave her some info on basic Christianity and wished her a good evening. Sometimes “planting a seed” might be as simple as helping a person think about the possibility of eternity. Maybe I could have been more insistent, because after all tomorrow isn’t promised for anyone and eternity is at stake. But God is in control and orchestrates the entire process of redemption involving many people and circumstances. I just pray I can follow His lead, so that He might work through me rather than in spite of me. Please pray for God’s work in Julia’s life.

8/29/09 Guadalupe, 31

I met Guadalupe at a bus stop and he agreed to answer some questions about his beliefs. He told me he believes in God and that after we die we will go to live on another planet which is where heaven will be, and some people will be sent to hell. He believes God will say he is a good person and he is very confident he will go to heaven. He went to church as a child but no longer attends and seemed to disregard any references I made to the Bible. He is very proud that he works hard and pays his bills and said “at least I’m not a gangbanger”. He views his drinking every Friday and Saturday night as his only vice. I asked about some specific commandments and how well he has kept them and he really only admitted to lying, having just told his landlord that he could only pay half the rent so he could have drinking money for the party he was going to. Guadalupe didn’t seem too convinced that God would punish him for his sins, so I just just gave him a friendly warning not to trust in his own goodness for salvation but to put his trust in Jesus. “I want to see you in heaven some day, and you can remember me as the guy who talked to you at this bus stop” I said. We shook hands and went our separate ways.

8/31/09 Jose, Diego, Manny 17

On a sidewalk I stopped 3 young men and asked them about their beliefs. One of them, Manny, is a regular churchgoer. All believe in God, and all except Jose thought we should fear Him. All three believe in a heaven or hell after we die depending on our actions, and that we must be sorry for the bad we’ve done but if we wait until judgment to ask for forgiveness it would be too late. Jose posed some questions. “What if I committed murder in an angry rage, before I thought about my actions?” I questioned whether people really do “lose control”, especially with someone bigger or tougher than them. “That’s what guns are for, and we can’t help it if we lose control when someone makes us so mad”, replied Jose. He went on to ask whether people who are crazy and don’t know any better would be judged by God for their actions. I told them that those are good questions, but then I pointed out that no matter how God judges other people or other situations, we are all still personally accountable for the sins we have done. “When we stand alone before God, we can’t point the finger or place the blame on anyone but ourselves.” As I had talked about some of the Ten Commandments, I think these guys were shocked to hear an adult take God’s law so seriously. I also told them about what Jesus did for them but I believe the real value of this conversation was to help these teens toward a more healthy fear of the Lord, which the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom.

1 comment:

Marsi Danielsen said...

Wow, what a blessing to read your stories and a huge prompting for me to witness more than I have been latley.I'm glad to have your example.