Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: "Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand.” Job 38:1-3
9/17/09 Craig, 26
On the campus of IIT I stopped a young man coming down the sidewalk, cigarette in one hand and a McDonalds bag and drink in the other. He believes in a higher power who shows itself through déjà vu. The more often he feels like he has already done something before the more he feels assured that “I am on the right path”. He thinks his soul is just energy that doesn’t disappear upon death, yet he expects there will be no conscious awareness either. He went to a Baptist church with his parents until age 8, at which time his parents disagreed with its teachings and left the church. They felt the church members were hypocrites for judging them on things like their smoking. Craig said “God is what you understand him to be”, He said he believes Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha and other religious figures all share the same reincarnated soul. I asked if it is possible that the Bible is true about God and judgment day. He agreed it could be. “How would you do, standing before a judge with your eternal destiny at stake?” – and after I pointed out his guilt in the mirror of the Ten Commandments (James 1:25) he said “but there’s always the Jesus clause – I believe in Jesus so I’m saved.” I explained what true faith in Jesus looks like, involving repentance and obedience. Craig finally stopped talking and began to listen (Romans 3:19) I shared the Gospel as best as I could, and he listened intently.
9/18/09 Gail, about 45
After the White Sox lost today I gave out million dollar bill tracts to the groups still partying in the parking lot just a few blocks from my house. Gail was enjoying a beer by her truck with her adult daughter while they waited for her husband in the port-a-john line. I had short conversations with most of the groups I approached, but somehow engaged in a more in-depth discussion with these two. They told me about their community, a Catholic parish in a
9/19/09 Joe, about 25
On my way into a guitar shop I noticed an employee step out for a cigarette. He was heavily decorated with tattoos, body piercings and hardware, and he surprised me with his answers to my questions. I asked if he felt he had a purpose in life and he told me “whatever it is that God wants me to do”. He told me he will be with God in heaven “because I’ve asked for forgiveness, and God will always forgive.” He told me he grew up Catholic, went his own way for several years, and has now been a Christian for three years and attends a Pentecostal church. He had been with his father in his final stages of cancer about two months earlier and his father had finally come to a place of brokenness and sorrow for his life of sin. Joe told him that he just needed to ask for forgiveness and he could be saved. I tried to gently let Joe know more about real forgiveness - that it isn’t cheap because God satisfied His demand for justice by giving His own Son to die in our place on a cross. Jesus said “by their fruit you shall know them”, and from what Joe told me there has been fruit in his life – he has a living faith as written in James 2. Yet I wanted to help Joe communicate his faith more accurately – it is faith in Christ that brings forgiveness, not just faith in a forgiving God. Merely semantics? Maybe, but so important when helping the lost come to faith in Jesus.
9/20/09 Jeff about 20
I hadn’t been in a witnessing conversation all day and it was raining heavily so after an evening church meeting the only place I could think of to find someone to talk to was a grocery store. I gave a young man with a skull jacket and other death-oriented decorations a million dollar bill tract. I pointed out the question on the back, “Will you go to heaven?” and asked if he was a good person. He said he was, but when he began to read the questions based on the Ten Commandments he said he didn’t believe in Christianity anyway. “I think I’ll be reincarnated.” I asked if it was at all possible that the biblical teaching of judgment was true and told him that truth doesn’t change just because we refuse to believe it. He claimed to have checked out Christianity and has chosen to follow Wicca with its belief in the Sun, Moon and Mother Earth as energy spirits. He asked why I approached him in particular. “Was it because of my appearance? Were you judging me by the way I dress? Why do Christians try to force their beliefs on others?” I told him I sincerely want to see him in Heaven one day and asked if he would at least check out the booklet I gave him. In hindsight I think Jeff would have responded more positively to an interview approach, because he enjoyed talking about his beliefs and would have then been more open to mine.
9/21/09 Mike, 21 and Nico, 16
While out doing some errands tonight I parked along the sidewalk and went for a walk in order to strike up a conversation. At a busy intersection I ran into Mike, who I hadn’t seen in several years but was obviously still running the streets like he had been when he attended the youth center I used to direct. He was glad to see me but obviously preoccupied with the street life, checking out every car that passed, answering frequent cell phone calls, and greeting friends who came by. The hours of “friendship evangelism” at the youth center had resulted in no real conversations to clearly share my faith on an individual level so now I decided to take the initiative with some direct questions. He told me his purpose in life is to take care of his 2 year old daughter; he believes in a god who is “like an energy source”; says he is a committed Catholic (though he later said he hasn’t attended mass in a long time); and believes he will be reincarnated as an animal when he dies. His younger friend Nico thought the same thing. They both believed if there is a judgment day they would be found to be good people. I went through several “good person questions” based on the Ten Commandments and they realized they aren’t good like they thought. Our conversation was fragmented with many distractions and interruptions. I forged on into telling about our hope in Jesus, but with all the distractions and their lack of conviction I think it would have been better to just warn them of the judgment to come.
9/22/09 Mark, 38
On my way home after my evening class I stopped at Burger King and asked Mark, sitting at a table, if I could ask some opinion questions. “Do you have a purpose in life?” “I’m here to guard the light from darkness” he said. He is a Star Wars fanatic, and explained that he sees life as a battle between the light and the dark side. He said he gave up on Catholicism a few years ago because of the priest scandals. He now believes all religions are the same but favors Buddhism, though when I asked he didn’t seem to know too much about it. He believes his soul will be reincarnated but his spirit will wander the earth as a guide, and claims to have had memories of some of his past lives through the help of a psychic friend. I was truly interested to hear about all this and more, but when I began to ask him if we should fear God and how he would do if there is a judgment to come as the Bible teaches, he forgot about these other beliefs and listened very closely as I helped him see his guilt according to God’s law and the hope he can have for eternal life based on God’s grace in Christ. He was very positive about it all, took some more info to read, and thankful for the conversation.
9/23/09 Rob, 24
At the IIT campus I stopped Rob on the sidewalk with some questions about his purpose and aspirations in life. He is a professional musician with his own band, feels led in various directions in life through feelings or coincidences that he believes is a higher power, grew up attending a United Church of Christ, plays piano on Sunday mornings for two “more liberal and politically active” churches, and is involved in many of the leadership decisions of one of those churches. He has been exploring many different theological ideas, but seems pretty firm in his opinion that “a loving God would not send any of his children to hell”. I told him that I have struggled with the idea of hell myself, (and why shouldn’t we? It’s a very scary thought), but I recently read through the four Gospels and found out that it is true that Jesus spent more time teaching about hell and warning about the judgment to come than he taught about Heaven. Rob was as surprised by this as I was, and I challenged him to read the Gospels for himself for this purpose. He said God would say he is a pretty good person so I asked him questions on the commandments as a “good person test”. Rob knew he was guilty but said “I believe God is beyond technicalities.” I told him “that’s like saying the truck that is about to hit you will be as soft as pillows – it is the hard and uncompromising truth, not our ideas or preferences about truth, that really matters in the end.” Rob listened closely as I shared law and grace, and agreed that he had a lot to think about as we parted.