Conversation in Hotel Lobby

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This morning I was reading my Bible on the couch of the hotel lobby when a man sitting nearby asked me, “Are you part of a Bible study group?”
“No, I just like to read my Bible,” I said.
“What denomination are you?” he asked.
“Not really any…I just believe the Bible. What about you?”
“I grew up Roman Catholic,” he said and went on to explain his background and childhood.
“So do you think Heaven is a free gift of something you have to earn?”
“Roman Catholics would say you have to earn it,” he said.
“But what do you think?” I asked.
“You have to earn it,” he replied.
“So, if you have to earn it, your faith is in yourself, right?”
“Well, I suppose…” he said, but then explained at length how everyone’s standards are different and it’s not fair to judge others by your own standard because maybe they have had a different background than you, etc.
“Well,” Sarah (who had now joined our conversation) replied, “maybe God has a standard and, although we can’t judge each other by our own standards, God can judge us by His perfect standard.”
“Well, that could be, but I think that you have to think about everyone’s different background and what is true for one person might not be true for another,” he said.
“So do you believe there is any kind of absolute truth?” Sarah asked.
“No, I don’t think there is,” he said after a moment of thought.
“So you believe everything is relative?” Sarah asked.
“Yeah pretty much,” he replied.
“Are you sure about that?” Sarah asked, (trying to get him to make an absolute statement… )
“No, I’m not really sure, but I heard some people on TV talking about how all of God’s Word is subject to man’s interpretation” he said. “And everyone has a different interpretation.”
“It’s true that there are many people out there who are trying to discredit the Word of God,” Sarah replied, “but I’ve never heard any piece of evidence (whether science, historical, etc.) that discredits the Bible.”
“Well there are theologians that will back me up,” he said.
“Yes, and there are also theologians that will back me up,” Sarah said.
“And that just goes to prove that everything is relative,” he said.
“No, that just goes to prove that some people are right and some people are wrong,” Sarah replied with smile.
He scratched his head, glanced out the front window, and complained that this was too heavy of a conversation to have at ten in the morning. Just then his ride came.
He shook our hands and asked our names. We left him with a creation science tract from Answers in Genesis called, What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? and told him he’d find it interesting.

Afterwards, Sarah and I were discussing the conversation and how it was obvious that he really didn’t know what he believed. In fact, most people don’t. You can tell by the way they keep changing their minds—even as they are talking with you. They don’t have solid ground to stand on. We do, as we continue to stand on the Word of God and Jesus Christ –our never-changing, absolute Truth.

“How firm a foundation ye saints of the Lord is laid for your faith in His excellent Word. What more can He say than to you He has said — to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled.”

Midnight Tire Trouble

It was a typical late night stop. We had just crossed the Oklahoma state line and there was nothing around except one gas station. Stephen bought some gas and Dad bought some coffee. It was after midnight. Dad walked around the trailer to make sure the tires were okay because the roads had been very bumpy and we had just blown out a trailer tire a week ago. It was good he checked because one of the tires was missing! Because we have a duel axle trailer with four tires we hadn’t noticed as we were driving. The rim was still there, of course, but the tire had completely disintegrated except for a tiny bit of rubber around the rim.

Dad and Stephen knew we didn’t have the right jack with us. So before attempting to use our two van jacks, Dad decided to see if the gas station had a floor jack. He noticed two employees standing outside smoking and he asked them if they knew where we could find a jack for our trailer.

“Oh, we’ll fix the tire for you,” they said, “we work at the tire shop across the street. It’s closed but we’ll open it up.”

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Tire shop across the street?! Dad thought…

Yes. Amazingly, we just “happened” to stop at a Love’s gas station with a connected truck tire shop and the tire technicians were still there. It was a good thing, too, because the rubber was wrapped around the axle and it would have been difficult for Stephen and my dad to fix it without better tools. There are only a few Love’s stations with tire shops and this one had opened only three days before. We were thankful for the way God had taken care of us.

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I had been asleep, but I woke up in time to get out of the van and document the event. 🙂 The mechanics were friendly, had the tire fixed in about 15 minutes, and charged a very low price.

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I prayed for a chance to witness to these mechanics because I know that God allows these things to happen for a reason. While dad walked with one of them back to the gas station to pay, I handed the other one a “10 Commandments Coin”. (I like these coins because they are great conversation starters.) Apparently he was a Baptist pastor’s son but “didn’t have very much time for church anymore.”

“So what is in your trailer and what are you guys doing?” he asked me.

“We are on our way to a home school conference in Oklahoma,” I told him, “In our trailer we have some resources for families including some books about Creation Science. Science and the Bible don’t contradict each other – in fact, science is consistent with Genesis.”

He raised his eyebrows and seemed interested.

“Most people don’t hear this because schools today teach evolution,” I continued. “Schools claim to be ‘neutral’ about religion, but they are actually ‘anti-god’ in what they teach because evolution is in essence an ‘anti-god religion’.

He agreed with me, and seemed to find what I was saying very interesting.

I thanked him for his help with our tire and told him that their help was pretty much a miracle for us. I told him about how the Lord had provided in similar ways recently and we were grateful to the Lord for taking care of us.

My dad came back about this time with the other mechanic. We left them both with a Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends book, and prayed that the Lord would continue to work in their lives.

Witnessing Adventures in Los Angeles

Last week I flew to LA for a 3-day evangelism course with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron’s ministry — The Way of the Master.
It’s called the Ambassador’s Academy. It was truly an amazing experience for me. and I couldn’t recommend it more strongly for anyone who wants to be equipped in learning to share their faith.

img_1130 The first day was an intense (and wonderfully rich!) time of training from Living Waters Staff. Over the weekend we heard from Toni Miano, Ray Comfort, Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne, Stuart “Scotty” Scott, Mark Spence, and Kirk Cameron…

img_1228 Here was our group doing open air preaching in Hollywood. Wow–what an experience! It was like a zoo!

03130900051 We often used trivia questions to draw a crowd and then shared the gospel. I admit, I never seriously pictured myself doing this. 🙂 But it’s true– you can speak to more unsaved people during one open-air session then you may reach in a whole year if you simply try to invite people to various church evangelistic events. It’s certainly a Biblical approach as Jesus, Paul, Peter, and many others preached in the open air… and it still works today. Also, it seems that people are especially curious to know what young people have to say. And with trivia questions, illustrations, etc. it’s not as difficult as we may imagine.

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“Prayer is not a preparation for work, it is the work. Prayer is not preparation for the battle, it is the battle” -Oswald Chambers

img_1280 Open air preaching at Hunington Beach.

n1089054404_150388_7453759 This was an exciting conversation. These girls understood that they were lost sinners and were anxious to know the way to be saved. We had a long talk and they left with enthusiasm. It was very encouraging.

img_1285 There were fifty in our class. It was so refreshing to be around fifty other people with a passion to win the lost. The fellowship was wonderful.

If you are not familiar with the Way of the Master ministry, definately check it out. The Lord has used their organization so much to equip and teach me.

Click here to visit the Ambassador’s Alliance Website. Ambassador Academy classes are held approximately once a month.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade

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St Patrick’s Day is just around the corner! We have found that St. Patick’s Day parades are a great place to get the gospel out to thousands of people. Few know the true history of St. Patrick — he was actually a great missionary to Ireland. We printed up a little green tract that explains the story of who he really was and what he really preached. Each year, together with the help of friends, we walk up and down the streets passing out the tracts and telling people it’s the, “…history of Saint Patick!” People smile and take them like candy. People like history. They’re interested! Afterwards we always go out for hot chocolate and a snack.

Click here or here for St Patrick’s Day reports from previous years.

If you live in or near a town that does a parade on the 17th, I’d strongly recommend you do the same thing! You are welcome to use our tracts! (link below) Even if you can’t go to a parade, this is a great week to be passing out the tract wherever you go.
Click here to view tract

Note: The tract is a PDF file and will require Adobe Acrobat Reader to open it. Click here to download a free version of Adobe Reader.

I was just praying that God would…

Last Wednesday evening, Sarah, my mom and I were on our way to church. We stopped by a grocery store to pick up some hot cocoa mix.

It was about 10 degrees, but with the wind it felt like it was below zero. As we were leaving the store, I noticed a lady sitting by the door, huddled over in her coat, looking very cold. I handed her a little coin with the 10 Commandments and told her it was a gift for her to look at while she was sitting there.

As she looked up, I noticed she was wearing a Salvation Army apron and had a bell in her hand. Apparently she had come inside for a few minutes to warm up.
She loved the 10 Commandments coin.
“It’s such a cold night to be ringing the bell outside!” I mentioned. “You must be freezing!”
“Well, I’m a flood victim, you see,” she explained, “and some of the flood victims are very bitter and depressed, but the Lord told me to stand by His side, and He’s taken care of me all the way.” She said, “Salvation Army has given me their 100% to help me through this tragedy, and I want to give them my 100% back, so that’s why I’m out there ringing the bell.”
I asked her when she became a Christian, and found out that she has been a believer for eight years. We talked for several minutes about the Lord; it was refreshing to both of us. Eventually, when I had to pull myself away, she stood up, gave me a big hug, and told me, “I was so cold out there, I was praying to Jesus that He would help me–that He would send someone along to encourage me. And then you came! You are my little miracle!” she exclaimed.

I left, rejoicing, and went to the nearby Starbucks to bring back a hot chocolate to my new friend. The cashier girl at Starbucks had a huge tattoo on her neck and her hair was in matted dreadlocks, but she had a very nice smile and pleasant personality. After ordering, I told her how the hot chocolate was for the Salvation Army bell ringer next door and explained the story.
Her reaction was different than what I expected.
“Wow!” she exclaimed, “That is such a good deed!”
“Well, it’s just something small,” I replied.
“No,” she emphasized, “I don’t know anyone else who would go through the effort!”
Because it was such a small thing to do, I was surprised by her surprise. It showed me how much it stands out to people even when we do something small for others.

I couldn’t think on the spot of how to turn the conversation to the Lord (plus there was another person behind me in line) so I figured I’d go back and talk with her later.

As I walked to the other end of the counter to pick up the hot chocolate I heard her say to the next lady, “You are not nearly as bubbly as the last girl who was here.”

Amused by her comment, I discreetly glanced over and noticed that–it’s true–the lady behind me didn’t look very happy. I wasn’t trying to be especially bubbly, it’s just that as Christians we have a purpose for being friendly with everyone we meet. It could lead to a conversation, a friendship, or even leading someone to the Lord. Those who serve the Lord have a motivation in life that others don’t have, and a purpose that others are looking for, so they have an ability to touch people in a special way. And the Christmas season opens lots of opportunities.

When I went back to Hy Vee I couldn’t find my new friend, the Salvation Army bell ringer. So I remembered that the girl who checked me out was really cold because she was located close to the doors. I gave the hot chocolate to her and told her I hoped she warmed up.

So now I have 3 new friends who I need to go “follow up on”. I had just been praying for the Lord to provide opportunities for me to speak encouraging words and witness. Isn’t it neat how He opens doors?

Hey, will you get my shoe?

The other night while Sarah and I were raking the leaves in our yard, three boys came walking down the street. They were in their early teens and were trying to act cool. It crossed my mind that maybe I should witness to them, but I wasn’t sure if I should stop them as they were walking.
About a half hour later, Sarah and I decided to go running since the weather was so nice. As we walked through the nearby park headed toward the trail, guess who was there by the merry-go-round? The same three boys.

As I was wondering again whether I should witness to them, one of them called to me.
“Hey, will you go get me my shoe? It’s over there!” he said, pointing to the soccer field.
“Sure,” I said and brought him his shoe.
“I’m lazy,” he said.
His friends laughed at him. “That’s so weird you just ask a stranger like that to get your shoe.”
“Ok,” I said, “since I got your shoe for you, will you answer a question for me?”
“Sure,” he replied.
“It’s actually a series of questions,” I told him.
He and his friends looked at me curiously, glad for some entertainment. (Sarah and I enjoy talking with young teenagers because we can be straight forward with them and they don’t get offended.)
“Do you consider yourself to be a good person?” I asked.
One said “yes”, another said “no”, and the third said “sometimes.”
“So have you ever lied?” I questioned.
“Yes,” they all answered.
“Have you ever stolen anything?” I asked.
“Yes,” said two of them.
“No,” said the other.
“YES YOU HAVE!” his friends corrected him.
“So if you’ve lied, what does that make you?” I asked.
“A liar” they replied.
“And if you’ve stolen something, what does that make you?”
“A stealer,” one guy said.
“A THIEF,” the other guy corrected him.
We laughed.
“Ok, have you ever been disrespectful to your parents?” I continued, smiling.
“Oh yeah,” they all answered emphatically.
“And have you ever been angry with your brother?” I asked.
“Uh, yeah,” they answered with a tone of voice like, that was a no brainer.
“Ok,” I said, “Those are all from the 10 commandments—the law God gave us. So let’s say you get hit by a car today, and stand before God, and he asks you why He should let you into Heaven. What would you say?”
“I’m an atheist,” said one kid.
“Ok, well, I’m asking the questions to your friends,” I told him.
“I don’t like questions like that!” his friend, Reese, said. “If I stood before God….He’d probably squish me!”
“So what would you say?” we asked.
“Uh…” Reese responded, “I’ll make You cookies!”
“So if you were standing before God,” we clarified, you’d say, “‘Here, I made you cookies!”
“Yep!” he joked.
“So,” we continued, “if you were standing before a judge because you had murdered someone, the judge couldn’t just let you go because you were sorry, could he? He wouldn’t be a good judge if he did that! And he wouldn’t let you go because you make him cookies either…”

Although initially they were just all acting silly, Reese began listening and becoming more serious, so we continued.

“Let’s say you had a fine of $1,000,000 and you couldn’t pay it. Then imagine that a stranger just walks up, pulls out his wallet, and pays your fine. What would your response be to that person?

“I’d be like, shocked. And I’d probably cry,” Reese answered.
“And would you take the gift?”
He quickly nodded and said he would.
I explained how that is exactly what Jesus did for us. I told them that most people know that Jesus died on the cross, but they don’t really understand why.

One of the boys said, “This is really funny because my church just taught this exact thing last Sunday.”

“Hmm…maybe God’s trying to get through to you,” I remarked.

“So I have another question,” I told them.
“If you had a chance to ask God one question, what would it be?”
They all began to talk at once.
“How is it that God, like, never started? I mean, wasn’t he ever born? It’s so weird, like, he doesn’t have a birthday?”
“Well, if you could fully understand Him, he wouldn’t be much of a God would he?” we said and explained a little about what infinity means.
“How do you know God is really really big? Maybe he’s really small!” he said, squinting and forming an inch between his thumb and finger.
“Well, it’s interesting you say that,” I mentioned, “because God did choose to become small when he became a man.”
“How do you know God was a man and not a woman?” another kid asked.
“Uh, because he called Himself a he and God doesn’t lie,” we said.
“How do you know the Bible is true? And was it written by God? Or, wasn’t it written by the disciples?”
We explained that God wrote it through the disciples. Sarah told them some facts about how the Bible was written over 1,500 years on 3 continents, in 3 languages, yet it all fits perfectly together. We also mentioned prophecies, etc.

“Well, I don’t understand, like, how Judaism and, like, the other religions, well, how they all like, I mean…and then Hindus—they’re so different.”

“Yes, there are a lot of different religions, but we know they can’t all be true because they say very different things. And one thing about Christianity that’s different from all the other religions is that Jesus rose from the dead. Buddha and Mohammed and other religious leaders died.”
“Buddha is cool!” one kid said.
We talked a little more about Buddha and then they said they had to go.
I gave them each a 10 commandments coin. (Btw, coins work great for carrying in your pocket. I used to carry tracts in my pocket but they’d always get wrinkled.)
We told them to go to the website www.needgod.com and do the little survey on there.

No matter how silly they were, these kids also had real questions. They needed answers. It’s a lie that people don’t want to talk about spiritual things. People out there have questions! And they enjoy the excitement of talking to someone about their questions.

On our way back from running, they were still there, along with 2 girls.
Should we just walk by or should we say something else to them? I wondered.
“Hey, ask your questions to her!” Reese called, pointing to a girl.
“No, please don’t, it’s getting annoying,” the atheist kid said.
“Can she have one of the silver thingies?” Reese asked.
“Sure, I’ll go get one and bring it down”, I told them.
“Thank you!!”

I went to my house and came back with several more tracts. I did a little IQ quiz with the girl that then led into the gospel. She seemed to be interested and she thanked me.
I brought an athiest quiz down for the boy who claimed to be an atheist and asked if he wanted it.
He didn’t.
“YES HE DOES!” Reese said and made him take it.
I left them all with a few more coins, and thanked God for opening the door by causing Reese to ask me to get his shoe.

It really encourages me to realize that this is all something God does. He prepares hearts, puts us in the right place at the right time, opens doors (in unusual ways sometimes!), guides conversations, and then causes seeds to be watered and grow. Please pray that these young people would seek after God.

Adventures on the Plane

A new Japanese friend of ours was amazingly scheduled to be on the same flight as us from Singapore to Japan. Since he had just returned from a trip to China (working with house churches) we were anxious to hear about it and see pictures. Unfortunately, the plane was packed and his seat was in the front while we were sitting in the way back. So I prayed that somehow we’d still be able to see his pictures…



…and we found a creative solution. 🙂 I sat on Danielle’s lap, he took my seat, and we were all be able to enjoy the slide show. We were encouraged and educated by his detailed report.

God didn’t answer our prayer of missing our next flight so we could tour Tokyo 🙂 ….but that’s ok. Maybe another time.

We boarded our next plane from Tokyo to Minnesota. We were a little disappointed that our seats were split up.

I’m often surprised by the person the Lord provides to witness to on the plane. This time it was a young Asian guy with spiky hair and tattoos. He had the window seat, I had the aisle seat, and my friend Nickie was in between us.
He probably doesn’t even speak English, I thought.
“Hello” Nickie said as we sat down.
“Hello” he said.
“Where are you from?” she asked.
“Philippines”

After talking with him for a while we found out that he lives in Minnesota, works a nightshift at Target, is a UFC fighter, and his parents attend a Baptist Church.

We talked with him for about 30 minutes or so, just getting acquainted.

“So I have a question,” I said, trying to bring the conversation to something more substantial, “In schools in the Philippines, do they teach evolution, creation, or both?”

“I went to a Christian school, so they kind of taught Creation but then basically let you choose for yourself what you want to believe. I don’t really think or worry about it,” he said.

“Well, I don’t worry about it either,” I replied, “in the sense of ‘trying to figure it out’ because I already know what I believe; but I do think the topic is very important. For one thing, it helps us to understand why people act the way they do. If people believe there’s no God, then there’s no right and wrong, and no accountability. People can do whatever they want! For example, what’s wrong with abortion, if we’re just animals anyway?”

He responded with interest, and began to ask questions.

“So, how do you know the difference between all the religions?” he asked.

We smiled.
“Well, there’s many people today who say that it doesn’t matter which religion you follow—we’re all worshipping the same god,” we said, “But there’s no way that could be true. Christianity is so different from all the other religions. For one thing, it’s the only one with a risen Savior. Mohammed, Buddha, and other leaders died and were buried, but Jesus rose from the dead and is alive now.”

Nickie added, “And it’s the only religion that even has a Savior. Other religions just have leaders.”

“Christianity is also the only religion that has a cure for sin,” I continued, and explained how Jesus took our punishment on the cross. “And it’s also the only religion that’s not a ‘do it yourself’ religion,” I emphasized. “Most people in this world are trying to be good enough to go to Heaven.”
Gelix agreed.
“But” I said, “Christianity is the only religion that says ‘hey, we can’t do this on our own. There’s no way we could meet up to God’s perfect standard.’ So the only way we know we’re going to Heaven is because God made a way to save us.”

He seemed both surprised and interested in our answers.

Side Note: Just one week earlier I had read a little gospel tract entitled, “Are All Religions Really the Same?” That tract provided me with the fresh thoughts I needed to share with Gelix at that moment. Isn’t it neat how God equips us? He doesn’t lead us into a situation without providing the words for us to say. He’s so good.

Gelix continued to ask questions. We discussed many things including life purpose, the power of spiritual warfare in this world and the danger of polluting influences in our lives.

Then he said, “I think I should start going to church again.”

We supported that idea 🙂 and since I have some friends who live near him, I got his e-mail and I’m going to try to hook him up with a good church in his area.

Gelix had lots of questions. Maybe he didn’t feel comfortable talking to his friends or family about them. However, “strangers” on a plane whom he’d never see again were a different story. I’m so glad we became friends with him and were able to have this talk. Please pray that he’d run from darkness into the Light.

It seems that often when I’m witnessing to someone, they tell me about a Christian relative they have. It causes me to wonder, Could it be that our conversation is an answer to the prayers of their Christian relative?

About 8 rows behind me my dad had been talking with a young couple about Creation Science and homeschooling. Although they weren’t Christians, they seemed very interested in what he was saying.

After a while he switched places with Sarah (who was in another part of the plane). Continuing the conversation, Sarah learned that they run a T-shirt shop on the beach together, call themselves non-religious, and love to surf. One had grown up Mennonite, and the other Mormon. Both had turned away because of hypocritical people they knew in the faith.

I joined the conversation about this time and stood next to their row, enjoying my little stretch break.

“So what do you believe happens when you die?” Sarah asked.
“I don’t like to think about death,” the girl said, “it’s sad.”
“I think you just die and that’s it” the guy said. “But I think religion is a really good thing,” he continued, “It can draw people together and cause them to develop good morals…”

“Well, it can be a good thing or a bad thing,” Sarah responded. “People do good things because of religion, but religion also has caused divisions, wars, and people have done horrible things over the years– all in the name of religion.”

He probably wasn’t expecting that response. Sarah explained, “I don’t call what I have a ‘religion’ but rather, a relationship with the Creator. Many who say they are Christians don’t really know God—they are just following rules.”

“It seems like you guys are really living for what you believe,” he said.

“Well, if you truly believe in life after death then it makes sense to live with that in view,” Sarah said.
He could see that.
“My philosophy,” he told us, “is to do as much good as I can in my life and if I come to the end and it wasn’t good enough—well, at least it was a good system.”

I went back and sat down but noticed that Sarah continued to talk with them for about an hour or so. I hear that it was a really good talk. It’s fun meeting new friends. They like to travel so we are hoping they’ll come visit us sometime when they come through Iowa.

I fell asleep and was awakened by a girl holding a sleeping baby. It was Nickie. “Grace, can you move over so I can sit down?” she asked. Apparently a young mother from Korea was having trouble keeping her 5-month-old quiet and was grateful for Nickie’s help.



Nickie mentioned what an open door it was to be holding a baby. As she stood rocking the baby, people would just walk up and start talking to her.

My mom also made a friend on the plane. She got acquainted with the Chinese mother sitting next to her and learned that she had 2 young kids. We gave her a Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends book and 2 Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends Coloring Books for her kids. She was so appreciative and began reading the book right away.

We got off the plane with lots of new friends — and we were grateful to God for splitting up our seats on the flight.

The mother of the baby was a Christian and since she had a 9 hour layover in Minneapolis with nothing to do, we invited her to stick with us for the 5 hours that we would be there. We enjoyed getting to know her and learning more about Korea.

No Coincidence (Continued)

This post is a continuation of last post from 8-3-08. (Read that one first.)

About thirty minutes had passed. We were total strangers–still sitting a few tables apart from each other–having a great conversation about spiritual things (and adding quite a bit of interest to the cafe)! It’s awesome when the Lord arranges opportunities like this.

As our conversation in the Starbucks cafe continued, my “new friend” eventually came and joined me at my table. He brought up the subject of “resurrection” and life after death.
I explained how I am 100% sure that I’m going to Heaven, but that it’s not because I’m a good person; it’s because I believe the Bible when it says ‘believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved’ (Rom 10:13) and ‘these things I have written unto you who believe on the Lord that you may know you have eternal life…’ (1 John 5:13) [emphasis added]

There were about 10 other people in the small café pretending to read the newspaper, but I had a feeling most of them were listening to us.

My feelings were confirmed when another lady came up to our table and said, “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but your conversation was just so interesting! I just wanted to know what you were talking about.”
“Have a seat!” I offered.

Now there were three of us sitting around the table.
I asked her the same question: “Do you think eternal life is a free gift or something you have to earn?”
“Oh my, honey, you gotta earn it” she said. “You gotta work for it every day, doin what’s right, being a good person…”
“So how do you know when you’ve been good enough?” I asked.
“Well, if you’ve been a good person all your life, then you can pretty much just know that you’re going to heaven.”
“But” I said, “where does God actually draw the line between good people and bad people?”
“What do you mean by that?” she asked.
“Well, we may think that we are a good person compared to someone else we know, but we can’t just compare with those around us because God’s standards are higher than ours.”
“Well, you tell me what you think then,” she told me.
“Ok” I said. 🙂
I shared—again—the good news that we don’t have to earn our salvation, using the example of the thief on the cross. When he believed on Jesus, Jesus told him, “today you will be with me in paradise”. But the thief hadn’t even done one good work to get there. Not one! And even if the thief had done thousands of good works, it wouldn’t have gotten him into Heaven. He needed his sin to be paid for, and only Jesus could do that.

“That’s right,” the lady agreed emphatically, “You can’t get there on your own, no, no, we need God’s forgiveness!”
Hmmm…. I thought, She just said the opposite a few minutes ago. I wonder if she really understands.
So I said, “But if God is a just Judge, He can’t simply forgive anyone just like that. A truly good Judge wouldn’t let a murderer go free, would He? –no matter how sorry they are? God can’t simply let everyone ‘go free’ because they are sorry. It’s only because Jesus took our punishment that we can go free, and God still be just.”

About that time my friend, Ally, (a Bright Lights leader who has gone on many conference trips with us) walked in to Starbucks.
“Ally!” I waved her over, “I’m talking with two friends here that I just met, do you want to join us?

Now we had four people around the little table. This was getting fun! I was glad (and a little relieved) that Ally was now there to contribute to this conversation.
It is no coincidence that she walked in just now, I realized.

A guy sat down at a table next to us and opened his lap top. I wondered whether he was actually working on his computer or listening to us.

As we continued our discussion, the older man who I met first said, “In the Catholic Church, we go to confession. If we’ve confessed everything to a priest before we die, then we can be pretty sure we’ll go to Heaven.”
“Yes, I’m familiar with that,” I said, “But could you tell me where in the Bible it says that?”
“No” he said, “I don’t even know if the Bible teaches it.”
“Then, with all respect,” I asked, “why do you believe it?”
“Because that’s what I was taught,” he said.
I nodded. “That’s the same as most people,” I mentioned, “Usually Muslims are Muslims because that’s how they were raised. Hindus are Hindus because their parents were, etc. But the different religions can’t all be right as if all of them ‘eventually get to God’ (as some people say) because they teach very different things.”

Next we talked for a while about the accuracy of the Bible.

“I’d say” he mentioned, “that the Bible is kind of like God’s ‘reference-manual’ for how to live our lives on earth.”
“I’d give it a stronger definition than that,” I countered.
“Roadmap?” the lady suggested.
“One way I like to look at it” I said, “is by remembering an acronym for Bible. B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. Eternity is a long time. Nothing is more important than knowing what God says in the Bible about what happens when we die.”

We talked for over two hours in the Starbucks cafe and I wish I could remember and record everything we talked about! Ally shared some good comments and a personal testimony of how the Lord had recently been working in her life.

I left with the excitement of knowing that God had orchestrated our paths to cross, and God would still be at work in their hearts. He is the One who draws people to Himself. It’s such a special gift that He allows us to help.

No Coincidence

A couple days ago I was running errands and I prayed that God would lead me to someone I could speak with about the Lord. Suddenly I had a thought: Why don’t you walk into Starbucks.
I walked in (I’m never hesitant to enter Starbucks…) and was quite surprised by what I overheard! An older man was talking to another man a few tables over from him about the Creation Museum.
“It’s very interesting,” he explained to the other costumer, “it’s a whole museum in Kentucky based off the Christian book of Genesis. It proves by science how evolution couldn’t have happened. –Very convincing!”
It is not a coincidence that I am here, I realized as I overheard these comments.

I walked over to his table and introduced myself.
“I’m sorry to interrupt. I just had to say something,” I told him, “because I volunteered at that museum and have actually spent quite a bit of time there. I agree—it’s a great place, and something our country definitely needs!”
Feeling God was arranging something here, I ordered an iced latte and sat down a little ways over from him. Right away he began asking me questions, not seeming to mind the space between my table and his. (I didn’t mind that gap between our tables either, because this way, since we had to project our voices a little, the whole café could overhear our conversation. 🙂 )
After talking about the museum, I shared a few interesting facts with him about how the Bible has demonstrated it’s reliability in all areas (history, biology, geology, etc.). The scientific facts point toward a literal, 6-day Creation. I mentioned how many people believe evolution simply because they want to. If there’s no God, then there’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and people can do whatever they want.
He agreed.
After a few minutes of chatting about this, I showed him one of my favorite tracts, “How Can We Know We’ll Go to Heaven?” by Randy Alcorn.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked.
“Sure” he replied.
“Do you think eternal life is a free gift or something we have to earn?” I asked.
“What’s that?” he asked, surprised.
I restated my question.
“I guess I haven’t really thought about it much,” he said after a moment’s thought.
“What’s your opinion?” he asked me.
“Well,” I said, “Romans 6:23 says that ‘the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ So the Bible says pretty clearly that eternal life is a gift–which is great news for us! I know that I could never make it on my own (God’s standard is perfection!) but Jesus died the death I deserved.”
He seemed interested so I continued, “You know, if you think you have to earn your way, you’ll never really know when you’ve been good enough. But the Bible says that we can be sure we are going to Heaven before we die. Like in I John 5:13 where it says, ‘These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…’ “1 John 5:13
(I like to quote Scripture because I’ve found people respond well and God’s words have much more “power” than my own!)

“I’ll have to say, I really can’t argue with you,” he said. “Most of what I believe I was taught in the Catholic church when I was young. Honestly, I don’t know why I believe some of the things I believe.”

“Well, there are lots of people who teach lots of different things these days,” I said. “so it’s important that we know the Bible well, and compare everything with that, because that is the ultimate truth God’s given us.”

“You know,” he told me, “You sound a lot like my grandson and his wife.”

My ears always perk up when I hear this. This likely means that he has a believing grandson who is praying for him!
“They’ve been trying to get me to go to church with them,” he continued, “And, you know, I should probably go one of these days….”

A thought popped into my head of who his grandson and grandson’s wife could be. Unbelievably, after asking a few questions about his grandson’s wife, I realized that I knew her! A mutual friend had introduced us because she knew we both excited about “Matt 4:19 Fishing”. And here I was, witnessing to her Grandfather-in law. This must be an answer to her prayers?!

(Often it’s more difficult for relatives to talk plainly about Jesus, heaven, hell, etc. because they don’t want to be offensive. But for me—just a friendly stranger in Starbucks—I can say anything and get away with it! )

This is no coincidence, I realized again.

TO BE CONTINUED. (TOO LONG FOR ONE POST! 🙂 ) CHECK BACK IN A DAY OR TWO.

Flooding


An intersection downtown

Our town of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is undergoing major flooding at this moment—exceeding the records set in 1993,1929, and 1851! A mandatory evacuation has been issued in many neighborhoods. Some streets and railroad tracks are covered with water, and so many roads and bridges are blocked off it’s hard to drive through downtown. The Cedar River has now crested to a height that no one has ever seen before. The city is alerting residents by using the Code Red reverse 911 system, media announcements and going door-to-door. (Since we live in a suburb, our house is fine.)

Hundreds of volunteers have been filling sandbags around the clock in a warehouse downtown. Last night, my dad, myself, and some friends (Nickie, Brian, Michael and Steven Biegler) went and filled sandbags from midnight to 5am. It was neat to see people pull together to help, and there was a special sense of camaraderie–even among strangers.


Team work. One shovels sand down the cone, another holds the bag under the cone, a third person ties it up with wire and the last one stacks them on palates. And our friend in the truck faithfully delivers more and more and more sand…


You may not have known that construction cones served more than one purpose.


We laughed at how often the truck came around to deliver more sand. They did a great job keeping us busy.


Thousands and thousands of sandbags are being used not only in our town, but in all the other towns that are flooding near us.

While we were working, I began chatting with the guy next to me, Troy, who had an interest in Cuba. I made a comment about a missionary friend I knew who had spent some time in Cuba. He mentioned how Cuba has a lot of Catholics.
There was a moment pause.
I wanted to get a spiritual conversation rolling, and I knew I needed to ask something to get it started.
“So…” I said to him, “Did you grow up in a Christian family, Catholic family, non-religious family—?”
“I grew up Lutheran, but my family wasn’t very devout. Now I go to church about 3 times a year,” he replied.
“I see. Well let me ask you the question I love to ask people: ‘Do you think Heaven is a free gift or something we have to earn?’”
He said he was kind of “in between.” Troy was a debater, and the conversation took off right away.
Soon Jenny, another girl who I had just met, came back from a break and wanted to know what we were talking about. I asked her the same question.
“I don’t think I believe in Heaven,” she answered, and then explained criticisms she had of the church she grew up in.
About that time a guy named Nick came over to help us load more sandbags unto the palate and wanted to know what our conversation was all about.
“Well, I’ll ask you the question, too, then,” I said. “Do you think going to Heaven is a free gift or is it something we have to earn?”
“It’s free because Jesus died for my sins and I don’t have to take the punishment I deserve!” Nick replied confidently.
Troy let out a little whistle so as to say, “woe—here’s another radical religious person…”
“And do you think the Bible is 100% accurate?” I asked Nick.
“Well I better believe that,” he stated, “otherwise how would I know what was true and what wasn’t?!”
(I was thinking, Amen!! )
As you can see, I was sandbagging with a unique combination of people. We also had an audience—all the other volunteers who didn’t have a choice but to listen to us.

Troy and I talked for 2-3 hours. I think he must have recently taken some religion course, because he knew so many of the common arguments against Christianity.
You know, it’s not that hard to learn the answers to the basic arguments people make, and once you learn them you can use them over and over. This is something I;m trying to work on.

As we shoveled sand into bag after bag, Troy and I covered a lot of ground. We talked about the accuracy of the Bible, the deity of Christ, hell, the cure for sin, hypocrisy in the church, crusades, absolute truth vs. relativity, “intolerance” of Christians, creation science, the age of the earth, the dead sea scrolls, etc. He had so many arguments and doubts, but he was also seeking. I didn’t try to win every argument, but I prayed that the Lord would give me the right words and I tried to speak the truth in love.
I’m praying that the Lord will not allow him to forget the answers I gave him. When we left, I gave him the book One Heartbeat Away by Mark Cahill. It clearly explains the gospel and confronts the world’s false thinking with the truth. Troy promised that he would read it. “Or even if I can’t get through the whole thing, I’ll at least read half of it” he promised. Please pray with me that Troy would find the Truth!