For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:3
9/24/09 Cecil, 61
On my way home after work I stopped at a crowded Starbuck’s to see if I could find anyone to talk to. The first lady I asked seemed like she would have liked to talk but was waiting nervously for someone to arrive for a job interview so she declined. The second was an older African-American man named Cecil. I asked if he had a purpose in life. “I ask God every morning when I get out of bed what He would like me to do. It’s not about me – sometimes he has me doing things that don’t seem to benefit me at all.” He told me he believes in God but when I asked him what he thinks God is like he described Him more as an energy source than a personality. Heaven and hell exist but not separate from this earth – “I think when people see my characteristics in the lives of my descendants then they will know that I am with them. I asked if he feared God. “Of course, why shouldn’t we? He holds our entire eternity in His hands.” He believes he will be in Heaven, not because he deserves it, but “because Jesus died in my place. He paid for my sins on the cross”. Cecil has a few unbiblical ideas, but one thing he seems sure of is his salvation through Christ alone.
9/25/09 Kosta, Staly, Maria, Chad
On the IIT campus I walked up to a group of what I thought were four students but quickly found it was a mother, father, and high school aged brother who were there to visit Maria, an IIT student. They agreed to answer my questions and I soon found out that all except Chad were from Bulgaria. The mother, Staly, told me a lot about growing up in the Orthodox Church and the government repression against the church there. Her only sense of spirituality now comes from feeLling the presence of the spirits of her departed relatives. Kosta, her husband, thinks his soul is made of energy that won’t disappear. Maria smiled, saying “I never knew all this about my parents, we’ve never talked about this before!”. Maria was the most outspoken, basing all she knew on a world religion class she had at a Catholic high school in Minnesota. She thinks it is hypocritical of God to judge anyone since He tells people not to judge others. I asked if she thought we should fear God and Maria thought it would be silly to. I told her that the Bible teaches that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” and that Jesus taught that we should “Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell.” She wondered why people of other beliefs would be punished and how any one religion can claim to know the truth. I told her that we are all born with some truth, a sense of right and wrLong called our conscience, but we disobey it, and the Bible teaches that we will be held accountable. I challenged Maria, simply for the sake of being an educated person, to try to get an accurate understanding of what the Bible teaches. “I wouldn’t change my opinion even if I read it five times” she said. Our conversation had grown long, Maria had become a little defensive, and I told the family that I wanted to respect their time together, so we parted. I think I challenged them with some truth but quit before they would refuse to listen to it.
9/28/09 Mike, 17, and Nick, 15
Walking by a row of storefronts I noticed two teens in the waiting area of a tanning salon so I went in to talk to them. Both Mike and Nick believe they will go to Heaven, and that although they “make mistakes” God will overlook their imperfections. Compared to the standard of the Ten Commandments they are aware of their guilt but don’t see it as a big deal. Mike said “we’re still alive aren’t we? God won't punish us." I told him that God delays His judgment because He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." (1 Peter) Both Mike and Nick seemed to me to be too distracted to take the conversation about sin seriously. Fortunately however, God isn't limited to the short attention span of a teenager!
9/26/09 Nick, 24 and Matt, about 22
On my way back from grocery shopping I noticed two Asian men getting out of a car with their faces painted like clowns or mimes. I was curious so I pulled over and asked them about it. They had just returned from a soccer game and were painted with their team colors. With their permission I asked about their beliefs and background. They are brothers with a Buddhist father and a Lutheran mother. They were involved in both faiths but now call themselves humanists. Matt said they don’t believe in God, and hope that others won’t force their beliefs on them. Matt was more adamant about this, and soon excused himself from the conversation. Nick told me he attends a Catholic church with his girlfriend, not because he believes in God but just out of respect for her beliefs. I told him that I am a Christian and asked if I could explain biblical Christianity to him just for the sake of his being more informed about it. He agreed and was a very willing listener. I felt complete freedom to explain the Gospel as best as I knew how. I believe he now has a much better understanding of faith in Christ but the conviction that changes hearts and lives can only come from God.
9/29/09 Benedict and Woo, about 23
The IIT campus is a convenient place for me to stop to talk with people on my way home from work. Today I spoke with Benedict and Woo, two graduate engineering students who are from South Korea and grew up Catholic. Benedict seemed like he knew better English than Woo and did most of the talking. They have both been active Catholics all their lives. They believe in Heaven and hell but not in a judgment day. It seemed to them to be too, well, judgmental. They believe that Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Judaism are all the same religion and worship the same God. I asked if Catholicism was somehow different or more beneficial and they told me that since it is where they have attended all their lives they just feel more comfortable in a Catholic church. I asked "What was Jesus' purpose, why did he come to Earth?" Ben thought it was in order to teach us morals and values. I talked about Jesus' moral teachings, how in most cases He is more strict than the Ten Commandments. I began to give the "good person" questions to Ben. "How many lies do you think you have told?" "Hundreds." "How many lies does it take to be a liar?" He wasn't sure. "How many murders does it take to be a murderer? He saw my point, and seemed to get louder and laughed nervously as I went on, coming up with a lot of excuses. For example, he asked "If murder is wrong, what about a soldier who kills someone in battle?" Suddenly he told me they needed to get somewhere, late for class I think. I gave Ben some info before we parted.
9/30/09 Jerell, about 50
After a hectic day at work I needed some nature and solitude so I went to a desolate area on Lake Michigan. Far down the shoreline I saw an African-American man sitting on a rock. He seemed to be soaking in the sunshine and praying or meditating. I wondered at this and went to talk to him. After the usual pleasantries I said "I have a question for you." Go right ahead, he said cautiously. "I see you enjoying the sunshine and the fresh breeze and waves crashing on the rocks. What does this all make you think about God?" His face transformed into a huge smile. "I see His glory and His majesty!" he said. We talked about the importance of getting away to spend time with God. "Now don't get me wrong" he said, "we can be in God's presence no matter where we are, but there's something about getting out in His creation." I asked if he read the Bible and he pulled a big well-read Bible out of his duffel bag. We talked about the uniqueness of the Bible and how we keep learning more from it as we go through life. I told him about my recent revelation on the importance of sharing the law before we share the Gospel, because most people see themselves as good people. He said "You don't have to tell me, I know that even in my best moments my righteousness is like filthy rags compared to God's holiness." After a wonderful conversation, we prayed for each other. Jerell was so fired up by this conversation, I could hear him whooping and hollering to the Lord from a block away as I walked back to my car.