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
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.
8/25/09 Mark, Tiffany, and Valerie
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
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
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
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.