FRONT PAGE - here you will find the last 20 postings about recent conversations. Please pray for these people!

Karma or Blessing?



11/12/18              Priyesh   (video HERE)    

Do you believe in karma or blessing?

Priyesh, a graduate student, told me about his belief in karma, that the sum of his actions in this life will decide his fate in future lives.  He grew up in a Hindu family in India, and continues to believe in Hinduism.

This belief in Karma isn’t limited to eastern religions, however.  The word might have its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism, but the idea that one’s eternal fate depends on a sort of balance scale of our good and bad deeds in this life is pretty much universal.  Reward and punishment for one’s behavior is, after all, a key characteristic of our human relationships, employment, our economy, our reputations – why not attribute it to God and eternity as well?

Because it’s not biblical. 

Instead of karma, the Bible speaks of being “blessed”.  There is a difference.

In karma, one receives rewards impersonally, as the result of one’s good works and deeds.  God’s judgement and sovereignty are taken out of the picture, and rewards could be said to be one’s “due” for good behavior.  People try to remain humble, however, because a show of conceit could downgrade one’s karma.

The many biblical references to “blessing” or being blessed put the focus on God’s actions, not our own.  God often chooses to reward good behavior and to punish bad behavior, but He does this according to His own wisdom and sovereign will.  There is nothing automatic about it.

And because we start out as condemned sinners, God doesn’t owe us anything but punishment, so that any blessing we receive from God is never a payment He owes us but an act of grace by which He blesses us.

A well-known passage from the Old Testament, and quoted in the New Testament speaks to this. Romans 3 reads
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God.  All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

This is the bad news of the Gospel, which puts the good news that we can be saved in context.  Even on our best days, our “karma” can’t save us.  Our relatively good actions can’t cancel our debt of sin because the good we do is only what is expected of us.  We should use our God-given health, time, energy and resources in service to God.  When we do what we ought, we aren’t being “good”, we are simply being the humans God created us to be. 

In the economy of karma, we are bankrupt!  But in God’s economy of blessing, salvation is a gift we receive, not a reward to be earned.


PS  Thanks to Priyesh for allowing me to record our conversation, which can be seen at

HERE

Too Good to be True?


11/9/18     Alejandro and Diana (video HERE)


Is the Gospel too good to be true?

This was the reason Alejandro, a young man I met while shopping at Target, gave me for the doubts he had about believing the good news of the Gospel.  I could relate, because I often struggled with the same doubts as a young Christian.  I wondered if salvation through faith in Jesus – and even God’s very existence - might just be nothing more than wishful thinking.

But the world’s idea of “too good to be true” is very different from the biblical perspective.  A popular saying says “you don’t get something for nothing”, so the idea that we can get off scot free when it comes to eternity really makes no sense from the world’s point of view. 

But the biblical perspective is very different.  There is indeed a cost for salvation.  We all need peace with God because of the offense of our many sins, and the cost of this reconciliation wasn’t free or even cheap.  1 Cor. 6 tells us that we have been “bought at a price” – nothing less than the blood of God’s own Son – and so to say the Gospel is too good to be true is to say that God wasn’t willing to pay that price. 

But the amazing Gospel says that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  To disbelieve because it is “too good to be true” is to say that God couldn’t possibly be that loving, that we should doubt a part of God’s very being.

But there’s another reason why some say the Gospel is too good to be true.  It’s the question of why the price for our sin is so high in the first place.  Why did Jesus have to die for our sins to be forgiven? 

The reason also has to do with God’s goodness.  Just as God is loving and merciful because of His goodness, God is also wrathful and justly punishes sin because He is good.  It’s good to hate sin and its consequences, and its good to love justice. 

Many people doubt the reality of hell, because they find it hard to believe God is so good that his justice requires such an infinitely high penalty for sin.  That price is more than we could ever pay outside of the eternity of hell, so God in His goodness paid it for us – so that “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.”  (Eph. 1)


Is the Gospel too good to be true?  No, its not, because there is no limit to God’s goodness in His infinite love and His infinite justice, both expressed perfectly through the blood of Jesus at the cross.

PS – Thanks to Alejandro and Diana for allowing me to record our conversation.  It can be seen HERE



Stranger to Brother

10/31/18          Erik  (video)             about 30



It was just getting dark in the city, and the streetlights had already turned on.  Two strangers approached each other on the deserted sidewalk.  Both were from less populated parts of the country where people often greet strangers, but their time spent in the crowded city had made that effort to be friendly seem futile, and on a lonely sidewalk it could even seem intimidating.  They had learned to avert the eyes, to look down at the sidewalk or down the block past the other.  They were part of a culture defined by earbuds, not colored a discreet black but a loud white, proclaiming “I’m listening to my playlist, don’t intrude upon my own private world!” 

But this was an unusual encounter.  These strangers were actually brothers, and they didn’t even know it.  Would urban social mores dictate that they would never meet?  Would they pass by each other on their way home from work without ever meeting and knowing the encouragement and connection that only family can give?

It’s understandable.  Most of us, especially urbanites, pass by a lot of people in our day and there is no way we can interact with everyone.  But can’t we take time out of our busy schedule once in a while to reach out to a stranger and see what might happen?

I’m glad I did.  I met Eric, a deacon at another church near mine.  We share the same faith, the same mission, the same passion for God’s work in our neighborhood.  We have the same heavenly Father and we are part of the same family.  Spiritually speaking, we really are brothers, though we had just met for the first time.

I began our conversation by basically asking Eric about his story.  “How have you arrived at your current spiritual beliefs?”  It’s a great question to ask anyone if they have the time to answer, a great way to get to know unbelievers and a great way to discover other believers all around us.

Unfortunately, as I’ve been asking this question on the streets, I’ve learned that Jesus’ people are relatively few and far between.   Meeting and learning about the passion and work of other believers and churches in our neighborhood is a special joy, for as Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.”  My only regret is I wish I had thought to pray with Eric, for his family, his church, our neighborhood: to “pray to the Lord of the harvest that He will send (and encourage) laborers in His harvest”.

Well Eric – brother - if you read this, I’m praying for you now!

PS - Thank you Eric for allowing me to record our conversation.  It can be seen HERE


Don't Be a Jerk!


10/28/18     
 Jonathan and Troy  (video)     
mid-20's

 “Don’t be a jerk!” the guy told me during a sidewalk gospel outreach conversation.

This surprised me.  No one had really put it like this to me before.  I laughed when he said this because I actually found it to be a very refreshingly simple way to explain what he was thinking.

Let me explain.

I was asking Troy and his friend Jonathan on the sidewalk about their beliefs.  Rather than responding with anger and calling me names, like I thought strangers on the street would often do before I started actually giving them a chance, they responded with interest and honesty.  And Troy’s honestly simple explanation of what he believes it takes to go to heaven was “Don’t be a jerk!”

What he meant was what many people believe about being a “good person”: to avoid any kind of ugly extremism – being too selfish, too rude, too negative, too unbelieving and yes, too religious.  In short, if you are a jerk, you are in danger of going to hell but if you are basically nice to others, you will go to heaven.

This might be a reasonable belief if one thinks the standard by which to measure our good behavior is other people.  There are plenty of jerky people in the world to compare ourselves to and we can always find someone who makes us look and feel better by comparison.

But other people will not be our standard of comparison.  On judgment day, we will be measured by God’s holy law.  Paul wrote to people like ourselves when we think we stack up pretty good when compared with others:  “…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal? You who say that people should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law?”  (Romans 2)

Paul was echoing Jesus’ emphasis on the law when He taught the Sermon on the Mount: 

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them… For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

It's not as simple as “Don’t be a jerk”.  James 2:10 tells us God’s holiness requires perfection:  “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” 

Since we’ve already broken God’s laws, this holy standard is beyond out reach.  Perfect repentance (also impossible) can’t erase the sins we’ve already committed.  We don’t want justice, we want mercy on judgment day.  This is the merciful forgiveness available to us through faith in Jesus.

“Don’t be a jerk” might fall short as a summary of the Gospel, but it is nonetheless good advice.  Although simply trying to be a good person can’t save us, being a jerk who is selfish, rude, negative, unbelieving and religious in the legalistic sense will probably cause us to miss hearing the good news of salvation in Jesus.  Jonathan and Troy were good-natured and kind enough to talk to a stranger on the street, and I did my best to return the favor by sharing the greatest news I’ve ever heard.

PS - Our conversation can be seen HERE

The Schoolmasters

10/25/18        Marco  (video)             21

The old schoolmaster had done his job.  He had instilled fear in his student, Marco.  It was a healthy fear, a fear that caused him to be careful, to be cautious of his thoughts and actions.  Marco had paid attention during instruction, learned his lessons well and now lived in a quiet confidence that no longer focused on fear.

It was time to move on to a different schoolmaster, one who had a different lesson to teach, a lesson about faith and love and willing obedience.

The old schoolmaster, a Mr. Law, knew that his was just one step in a series of lessons, all building on each other.  If he didn’t do his job well his pupils would build their knowledge on a crooked foundation and eventually come to ruin as a result.  His wasn’t the most glamorous lesson to teach, and his work often went unappreciated, but he played a crucial role nonetheless.

Mr. Law had to train Marco in preparation for another schoolmaster, also named Mr. Law, and they worked well together.  Mr. Law #1 had a longer name – Mr. Law-of-Sin-and-Death, and Mr. Law #2’s full name was Mr. Law-of-Spirit -of-Life-in-Christ-Jesus.  They both taught at the corner of Romans 8 and 2.

I met Marco while he was on an extended break between the two schoolmasters.  It was that period of time described by Superintendent Paul at the corner of  Galatians 3 and 23.  There he wrote: “But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.” 

We talked on a quiet Saturday afternoon, quiet compared to lessons of the dark and stormy Friday before and quiet before the bright Sunday morning to come.  

I was impressed by Marco because, more than anyone I’ve talked to in a long time, he seemed to have learned his lessons well from Mr. Law-of-Sin-and-Death.  He had a healthy fear of God that gave him a quiet humility and confidence that no longer focused on fear. 

I believed him to be ready to learn from Mr. Law-of-Spirit -of-Life-in-Christ-Jesus.  It was time to continue on to the corner of Galatians 3 and 24, where we read: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

My conversation with Marco might be the first of many lessons used by Mr. Law-of-Spirit -of-Life-in-Christ-Jesus.  It was very new to him, and might have left him with more questions than answers.  But because Mr. Law-of-Sin-and-Death had taught him well, I trust Marco will continue on until he receives everything Mr. Law-of-Spirit-of-Life-in-Christ-Jesus has for him to learn.

(Hope this wasn’t too confusing.  Just thought I’d try out a creative way to convey some Gospel truths.  This was based on a conversation I had with Marco, which can be seen HERE)

Abuela Evangelista




10/23/18          Lupe  (video)            around 60

Si podemos ganar cielo por buenas obras, no tendriamos necesitar Jesus, verdad?

Lupe, una mujer religiosa y abuela de cinco nietos,  en verdad no ha pensado de cosas en este manera.  Ella me habia dicho que saldria al cielo como una mujer buena, pero esto le causar a pensar cuando expliqué cosas asi.  Ella habia olvidado que Jesus es la fuenta de vida.

Cuando nosotros sigido a hablar, comencé a creer que ella si crei en Jesus como su salvador, pero cuando se trato a explicar el fundacion de su fe, ella confuso la resulta de su fe con el causo.

Cuando nostros estamos salvado por fe en Jesu Cristo y nos convertimos vivo en Jesu, con nuestro reaccion guiadado por el Espíritu Santo, y la resulta es amor y gratuismo que traega la obedencia y buenas acciones.

Ya no tenemos tratar ganar la salvacion por medio de rituales religiosas que es una forma de legalismo.

Por medio de nuestro conversasion, creyo que Lupe es una creyente en Jesu Cristo aunque no puede explicarlo muy bien.  Pero este habilidad es muy importante, por que compartiendo el evangelio atraves los generaciones es una importante forma de evangelismo, como muestrado en 2 Timoteo 1:5  -  “Traigo a la memoria tu fe sincera, la cual animó primero a tu abuela Loida y a tu madre Eunice, y ahora te anima a ti. De eso estoy convencido.”

Seria granisimo si ella podia entender el evangelio claramente, y aun mayor mucho si ella podria explicarlo a sus cinco nietos.

PD: Lupe accedió a permitirme grabar nuestra conversación. Échale un vistazo a AQUI