Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
9/8/09 Randy and John, 22
After meeting with a friend for coffee and prayer at Dunkin’ Donuts I noticed two skateboarders in the parking lot. I went over to talk and soon asked them about their beliefs. John claimed that he didn’t have any beliefs about God one way or the other. He had no church background, but he listened intently to my entire conversation with his friend. Randy had grown up Catholic but soon after high school had given up on church because of all the negative things that have been done in the name of religion. He said he believes in some sort of spiritual force and thinks his soul will continue on after this life in some form. I asked what will happen to him if there really is a day of judgment. He believed God would say he is a good person because he is a skateboarder. “Hey, I could be out running the streets, gangbanging and hurting people. But I’m doing something positive for myself.” When I showed how he looks in the “mirror” of the Ten Comandments, he listened intently how he might be saved. I challenged him to repentance and faith in Christ, and he thanked me for the conversation
9/10/09 Cassandra, early 20’s
After work I went to a grocery store and noticed several people waiting in their cars, apparently while someone else did the shopping. After two people declined, the third car had three young ladies in it, and Cassandra, in the drivers seat, agreed to answer my questions. She attended a black Baptist church but hasn’t been there since she was 13, and was unsure why she stopped going. She now believes that everyone will go to the same place after we die, but some people will be reincarnated as different animals based on their actions. She hoped she would be a butterfly. It seemed like she was just indulging in wishful thinking. I asked how she thought she would be judged - “I think God and the devil would fight over me” she said. I invited her to take a “good person” test and she confidently agreed. She seemed shocked that our sins are taken so seriously in the Bible, but didn’t show any signs of conviction. Her teenage sisters in the back seat didn’t seem to take much notice of me and just carried on their conversation like I wasn’t there. Her mother arrived back with the groceries, so I gave Cassandra some additional info to read, hoping that she will wake up to the consequences of her sin and her need for the Savior.
9/12/09 Eileen, “Mark”
At a memorial service today I had the privilege of sharing the story of the rich young man in Mark 10 whom Jesus showed the mirror of the Ten Commandments. Eileen, 31, came up to me afterward thanking me for what I had to say, that it meant a lot. However, through my conversations on the street I am finding that many people sound like believers in polite conversation but all too often their false beliefs are exposed with some direct questions. I asked Eileen about her relationship with God and though I had spoken of our need for repentance and faith in Christ she kept referring back to her good works or her relationships with other religious people, or she would change the subject so much that I really wasn’t able to keep the focus on her need for Christ. She doesn’t attend church or own a Bible so I gave her one and encouraged her to read it and get involved in a church. Then a man named “Mark” (not his real name), about 40, came up to me with the same type of comments and I asked him how his relationship with Jesus began. He told me how after being involved in gangs and coming very close to being murdered in prison he had come to repentance and faith in Jesus. He wants to share his faith, but waits until people ask him about it and witnessing conversations are very rare. I encouraged him to begin to take the initiative to reach out to others. I gave him a copy of Mark Cahill’s book “One Thing You Can’t Do In Heaven” as a good place to start.
9/13/09 Dominick and Richie, both about 40
Before church this morning I went for a walk at the park looking to start a conversation. The park, near Chicago’s Chinatown, was filled with dozens of older Chinese men and women doing their “Falun Gong” (a Chinese cult) exercise routines. They are generally hard to approach because of the language barrier and a disinterest in interaction. On a bench sat two white men, looking very stern with arms crossed over their chests and wearing dark sunglasses. I said hello and got their permission to ask some questions about their beliefs. Dominick had grown up Catholic but because of the scandals with priests he has completely rejected the church, and said “I read the Bible and pray on my own every day”. He said “my faith is in Romans 10:9 – that if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” His friend Richie believes he would go to heaven “because I’m a pretty good person”. After some talk about this I asked “If we could go to heaven because of our goodness, why would Jesus die on a cross?” I wanted to explain this more but Richie left for a phone call. I talked with Dominick about sharing his faith with his friend, encouraged him to get involved in a church, and left him a booklet about how to grow in his faith.
9/14/09 Stuart, 65
I arrived early for my daughter’s volleyball game after school so I walked around Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood and began a conversation with Stuart, who had sat on a bench to read. He had recently begun to attend a Catholic church again, because the same priest who had taught his catechism classes as a boy had served as priest for mass while he was in a rehab program. Yet he doesn’t believe in eternal life, but thinks that God began the world but then stepped out of the picture to see how it would turn out. Stuart felt that maybe it is all a big mistake. He turned out to be very opinionated and jaded in his ideas about religion. He said he has been approached by people from almost any religion there is, including Malcolm X who tried to convert him and some friends to Islam while he worked at a grocery store, and a Buddhist woman he had been married to. He thinks if there is a judgment day he would get a “scolding” from God. At first he was willing to admit to the many “mistakes” he has made in life, but thinks he is a better than average person who deserves heaven. The “good person” test failed to help him understand his guilt in breaking God’s law, because he kept coming up with excuses stemming from his belief that the Bible is written by man and full of lies. Has he ever read it? No, but he sure has a lot of opinions about it. Stuart turned out to be very willing to talk, but not willing to listen.
9/15/09 Rose and Molly, 26 and 28
Coming home after my evening class I stopped at a parking lot and asked two young ladies if they would answer some questions about their beliefs. They grew up in a large family that is heavily involved in a Catholic lay ministry called “Regnum Christi”. When they were in their teens they went on a trip to the Vatican and had an audience with Pope John Paul, and Molly has just returned from 7 years as a missionary in Mexico. Rose has gone on a variety of mission trips to Mexico and South America. They were extremely intrigued by my questions and glad to answer them, yet not very knowledgeable about the Bible or theology. I asked what their spiritual authority was, and they told me the Pope, and then the Bible and Catholic teachings and traditions. Would they go to heaven? Rose said that at times she wondered if she was good enough, then looked to her sister to see what she would say. Molly asserted she would definitely go to heaven and that her 8 years of serving full-time as a missionary spoke for itself. They both had an unusual look of innocence and joy about them with nothing negative to say the whole time, but they turned out to be filled with pride at their good deeds. They talked of their need to continually confess their sins to a priest and their belief that they will probably spend some time in purgatory, and were surprised to learn that this isn’t found in the Bible. We talked for well over a half hour, and I tried to emphasize that we are saved by God’s grace through faith, not by our works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9) Yet our faith will include repentance and good works if it is truly a living faith. (James 2:26) It was incredible to me that these young ladies really seemed to have missed this after so many years of ministry involvement.
9/16/09 Shane, 29
I stopped Shane as he walked down the sidewalk, and he agreed to answer some of my informal survey questions. With his shaved head, tattoos, and constant surveillance of the street life around us rather than our conversation, he surprised me when he turned out to be totally into math and science. He described his belief in God as “professional” rather than religious, talked with disdain about growing up in both Catholic and Baptist churches, and ridiculed belief in Jesus and the Bible. He answered my questions with references to such things as logarithms to determine our destiny, a central data base where the frequencies of our souls are stored, morality as agreement with all ordered pairs and so on. It didn’t make any sense to me, yet I don’t believe this young man was crazy. It just seemed like the result of years of avoiding God’s word with a very cheap substitute.