Our recent family ministry newsletter contains the story of a witnessing encounter which reminded us of God’s faithfulness to work in people’s lives, drawing them to Himself. You can read it here if you’d like. If you’re not on our list and would like to be, you can sign up in the left-hand corner of that page.
Saint Patrick’s Day is less than two weeks away. I hope this short video is an encouragement to you to “make the most of every opportunity” (Colossians 4:5).
To see more information about the tract or order, click here.
Last night some friends and I went downtown Cedar Rapids to pass out gospel tracts. We thought we would be giving them to people that were going to see a rodeo in the US Cellular Center. Little did we know that Bernie Sanders was also speaking downtown. We were thrilled to see hundreds of Bernie supporters walking down the sidewalk…now we had more people to give tracts to! They eagerly took the gospel IQ quizzes we were passing out. I think they may have thought we were part of their campaign. 🙂
Shelby and Luke also did a great job sharing the gospel with some people protesting the rodeo. They seemed to think they were good enough to get to Heaven on their own. Yet, if this could be so, why did Jesus need to die? His death on the cross was unnecessary if we could get to Heaven by our good lives. Galatians 2:21 says “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” I hope they remember this point.
My friends and I look back over the evening with gratefulness to God for how he arranged the circumstances, provided swarms of unexpected people, good weather, and good conversations. Praise the Lord.
A few weeks ago my friend Kayla wanted to go somewhere to share the gospel, and she suggested the “Pumpkinfest” in a nearby town. I was so glad she mentioned this idea. We decided to meet up and go together. (And no, we didn’t plan to match 🙂 )
As the parade was getting started we tried to engage some people in conversation (using a questionnaire), but they didn’t seem very interested, so we felt a little discouraged. Sometimes that happens. We just have to persevere!
Then we saw this booth selling cookies run by a Baptist Church. I went up and asked them about renting a booth because I am thinking of renting one next year to give away gospel tracts, etc. The lady told me her husband was passing out gospel tracts at a different location in the parade. We learned that they had already heard of our little witnessing team in Cedar Rapids and had wanted to get in touch with us! We told them we’d come back later that afternoon to talk more about it.
Then I noticed a guy walking with a t-shirt that said “Jesus” on the front. I thought, I’ll go talk to him. I wonder if he’s a Christian?
I gave him a gospel tract. “So… are you a Christian?” I asked.
His friend (who had a picture of a monster on his shirt) put his arm around him and said “He’s very, VERY Christian.”
“Are you a Christian?” I asked the guy with the monster T-shirt.
“Uh, kind of,” he said.
“Well, either you are a Christian or you are not!” I commented.
Kayla jumped in and said, “Well, we are doing a spiritual questionnaire today, would you like to try it?”
Jeremy (with the monster shirt) agreed. He and his Christian friend (Ben) both looked about college age.
Kayla went through a few questions, asking them about their spiritual beliefs. Then she referred to the Ten Commandments and asked them, “Have you heard of the Ten Commandments?”
“No,” Jeremy said.
“You haven’t heard of the Ten Commandments?” she asked once more, just to make sure she heard right.
“No,” he said again.
Kayla graciously explained about them. Not only did Jeremy seem to understand our point about the seriousness and consequence of our sins, he was very interested to hear the solution God provided in Christ! Kayla did a great job sharing with boldness and love!
I looked over at his Christian friend, Ben. Ben seemed pleased we were talking to his friend.
“You should do Bible studies with Ben!” I told Jeremy. “Not everyone has a Christian friend who can help you understand it.”
He agreed, and Kayla and I were very encouraged by the whole encounter.
Then we went back to talk more with our new friends at the Baptist booth…
They told us that they used to do various creative Christian floats (combining pumpkins and a cross) in the parade, but in recent years they have come to the conclusion, We just need to put our time into getting the gospel message out there! So this year, they did something more simple. Their high school son carried a cross through the parade while his dad passed out gospel tracts.
I gave them a Will Our Generation Speak? book for their son. Just a few days ago I received this e-mail from him.
Hello Grace, my name is Seth. I am the one that carried the cross in the … Pumpkinfest… [My dad] … gave me the book that you made. I am half-way through it … it lit a light in me that wasn’t on. I have prayed and asked God for a witness at school on Tuesday, and guess what?! Moments later my friend Haley walked up to me and started talking to me about God. I was so happy and continued to preach the gospel. Even when people are putting me down. Someone even was being sarcastic and saying “It’s stupid that God would curse man just for eating a stupid apple.” This doesn’t make me mad though, it just fuels the fire of God’s works in me….
Praise the Lord for how He is using Seth. He is just one of so many young people I have heard from recently who have shared amazing stories of how God has opened doors for the gospel. The Lord IS raising up laborers unto the harvest. Let’s keep praying!!
And guess what? It looks like his family will be joining us to witness at the University of Iowa this Sunday. We’d appreciate prayer, “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ …that [we] may make it clear, which is how [we] ought to speak” (Colossians 2:3-4) !!!
Below is a continued report of some ways we saw the Lord working at the NEA Convention in Orlando last week.
For the third day, we moved the booth to a different part of the convention center. The conversations continued to be fruitful and we praised God. The girl in grey stayed at the booth talking for about thirty minutes.
Faith and Khylie (Tony’s daughter and James’s daughter) helped the third day. They did an excellent job showing the books to the teachers and reaching out to the lost. Tony and James purposefully bring their children along to almost all their gospel outreaches in order to give them “hands on training”. Reminds me of when my dad used to take me out witnessing when I was their age. Doing evangelism as a family is one of the best ways to train the next generation to be powerful witnesses!
One conversation Steve Ham had with a Jewish lady (not the lady pictured above) came to a surprising end:
“How did you convert to Christianity?” Steve Ham asked a Jewish lady who claimed to be a Christian.
“You know, it’s a process…” she said, explaining about her rough background.
“Can I ask a follow-up question?” Steve asked. “How does somebody get to Heaven?”
“I just think you have to be true to yourself … and be true to life,” she replied.
“Isn’t it God that’s going to let you in, though?” Steve asked.
“Of course,” she agreed.
“So isn’t He the authority?”
“Of course. But to me, it’s being true to yourself…” she said and made a reference to the “atoning sacrifice.”
“Of Christ,” Steve inserted.
“Of Christ,” she agreed.
“Actually the Bible says that’s the ONLY way,” Steve confirmed. It says, “There is no other way under Heaven by which you must be saved—and that’s Jesus Christ.”
She recoiled at this statement. “Yeah, I wasn’t saved, I’m not into that, I’m just not,” she said definitively. She said it was too basic, too black and white for her.
Interesting remarks for someone who claims to be a Christian!
“You see,” Steve replied, “I would say the Bible alone tells us how to get to Heaven.”
“Yes, and I agree with that,” she said.
“But,” Steve said, “what the Bible says is not that we should be ‘true to ourselves,’ you know what I mean?”
“You need to just live your life the best you can!” she emphasized.
“Well, I’m going to tell you something. I love people. I do what I do because I love people.”
“Good for you,” she replied.
“But here’s what I get really concerned about,” he said.
“If I have the truth of the Scripture that says the only way to Heaven is through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, and somebody says that it’s something other than that, I don’t think I love that person if I say, ‘Well, that’s okay.’”
Ouch. This comment touched a nerve with her!
“Ooo, but you, but you’re supposed to, but you should love!” she argued.
“I do!” Steve replied.
“Mmm, but you’re judging!” she said.
“But the Bible makes the judgment about what gets into Heaven, not me,” he said gently.
“BUT–but–you’re saying to me… oh, I gotta get going,” she said.
At this point, I’m thinking, Of course. He just gets to the gospel and she “has to go.” But I was surprised by how things ended.
“Okay can I just give you one book?” Steve asked her.
“Sure, that’s great,” she said. “These are expensive materials,” she commented (obviously trying to be polite).
“Well it’s our pleasure to give them away,” Steve replied. He handed her a Begin book (which is a great overview of the Bible and contains the whole books of John and Romans) and explained, “This goes through the sequence of the Bible that clearly says what the Bible teaches about salvation. I want you and everyone else I speak with to be in Heaven with me.”
“And you know what?” she replied, “I think everybody’s journeys are going to be different but hopefully the end results the same, whatever it is. I’ve been through a lot. I’ve had one traumatic experience that, you know, no matter what I’ve learned to not look at color or somebody because they are different … ”
“Yeah. Do you know there’s not even color?” Steve replied, “Do you know that we’re all brown – we only have different amounts of melanin?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard that,” she laughed. “I like this guy. Where are you from?”
“Australia,” he replied, and continued, “I sincerely don’t agree with you about how someone gets into Heaven. I do believe the Bible says otherwise.”
“But I’m still on this journey … you know what I mean? You’re kind of ‘done,’” she told him.
“But there’s only one reason I’m ‘done’ in my mind, and it’s because I’ve accepted the authority of God’s Word instead of my opinion…” Steve replied.
“Don’t you think it’s based on individual interpretation?” she asked.
“Read the Scriptures,” Steve replied.
“Oh, I have, and I’ve been through Hebrew school … and isn’t interpretation interesting?”
“Well, Ephesians 2 says that you are saved by grace through FAITH, and it’s not of your own doing, it is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one may boast. It’s only through Christ Jesus that we are saved. The Bible says that’s the only way!”
And this next part was my favorite part of the whole conversation: Steve explained to her WHY Jesus was the only way. He said, “Jesus, who came, was not a sinner, and He paid a penalty that I could never pay. So it makes sense that it is only through Him! … when I put my faith in Him, He gives me His righteousness.”
“I do like what you just said. That was pretty incredible,” she stated.
“Yea, well, it’s all in that book I just gave you,” he said, referring to the Begin book.
“I will read it. And if you’re here this week, maybe I’ll come and talk to you again.”
“Lovely to meet you,” Steve said.
Earlier in the conversation I thought she was going to walk away angry, but instead, she walked away on great terms. She had learned something.
You see, before Steve explained WHY Jesus is the only way, this lady accused him of “judging.” But after he explained it, she acclaimed what he said as “incredible”! What a contrast. I wonder how many reject what we say because we are not teaching the “why” as we should be. So many people (especially in America) are familiar with the idea of Jesus dying on the cross and even Him being the only way, but because they don’t know the “why” of the gospel, they are turned off by the exclusivity of salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. Let us make a deliberate effort to explain the “why’s” and “how’s” of this amazing gospel we’ve been entrusted with.
I praise the Lord there are great, biblical answers to be shared with people. May we, by His grace, be always ready to share them! (1 Peter 3:15)
This man told me he was a 5th generation Mormon. He began explaining his views about the resurrection and celestial bodies, etc. I was glad Tony joined the conversation about this time.
“How do you attain to that resurrection?” Tony asked him.
“Through Jesus! By keeping His commandments,” he said.
“Oh, okay, so have you kept them all?” Tony asked.
“I’m trying!” he said.
“The thing is, what does God require: Trying hard or perfection?” Tony asked him.
“I think that if we are trying hard, the day will come when He will perfect us,” the Mormon man answered.
“Well, how is He going to deal with our sin?” Tony asked, “Because even when we try hard, we fail—and that’s sin.”
“He’s paid for those sins,” the Mormon man replied.
“Then why are [you] ‘trying hard to keep the commandments’?” Tony questioned.
“Because He’s told us to keep the commandments,” the Mormon man said.
“For what reason?” Tony asked, pinpointing the heart of the issue.
“So that we’ll be qualified for whatever degree of glory God has for us,” he answered.
Interesting how Mormons use similar lingo but have totally different beliefs. This Mormon was speaking of qualifying for entrance into three supposed levels of “heaven.”
Tony explained, “Let’s say one man keeps 90% of the commands and another keeps 70%. There’s still a 10% shortfall with one, and a 30% shortfall with the other. God has to punish that sin in order to be just. If somebody commits a crime, a just judge will mete out a penalty … As Christians, we believe that our sins are forgiven by grace ALONE. Not by my efforts. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, ‘It is finished!'”
The Mormon man objected to this. “After all you can do!” he inserted.
“The Bible doesn’t say that,” Tony corrected. “That would be bad news! The good news is that Christ died for sins once for all … The Just (Jesus) for the unjust (us), so that He might bring us to God… It’s not ‘after I try to pay for my own sins’!
“You believe as you have been taught. I believe as I have been taught. I know that Jesus died for our sins,” the Mormon man said.
“All of them?” Tony asked.
“Yes, he died for all of our sin,” he replied.
“Okay, so you can rest now?” Tony asked.
“No, I can’t rest!” he said.
How sad. He is trying to do the impossible! What a burden. If he would only believe God’s Word.
“Therefore, let us fear if, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you may seem to have come short of it. For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because it was not united by faith in those who heard. For we who have believed enter that rest…” (Hebrews 4:1-3).
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
We are praising God for the victories He accomplished at the NEA Convention last week. (NEA stands for National Education Association and every year public school teachers come together for this annual convention.) I thought you might be interested in a few stories. Though some were resistant and opposed to our message, many were extremely grateful and moved to the point of tears. There’s no doubt in my mind that the LORD was reaching out to individuals through those working at our booth. It was beautiful to watch. Because there is so much to report, I decided to post a “Part 1” and “Part 2.”
“You just blew my mind,” the girl in the green vest told Tony (in black) gratefully after he explained to her how science points to the truth of creation, not the theory evolution. But that was just the start. Next, Tony asked her about her spiritual background and led her into the gospel. (We always try to move toward the gospel and not just speak about the origins issue, because the gospel message is what contains the power!) Kayla said she was a Christian but thought she’d go to Heaven because she hadn’t sinned much.
Tony turned the conversation over to Haley and me, and the next 30 minutes were spent answering her questions and showing her verses from the Bible about the problem of sin, and the solution in Christ. She was on the verge of tears as she learned more about God’s love for her and His desire for her salvation.
Dozens of conversations went this same way: they started with the topic of origins and transitioned to the gospel of Jesus. As Steve Ham talked with this lady, she was so touched she started crying. I was challenged as I listened in on many conversations. I was reminded of how far I have to grow in witnessing, but encouraged to see how powerfully the Lord works through His servants!
I got to know them a little bit, and appreciated their concern to be good neighbors to us. May the Lord touch their hearts and open their eyes to the truth of the gospel!
The NEA is one of the most liberal organizations that exists in America. There might be a tendency in this environment to be be cautious or quiet to avoid “ruffling feathers” in hopes that we don’t get kicked out. But we’ve chosen to not worry about that and be very clear about our purpose for being there: proclaiming the gospel.
I liked the way Tony Ramsek from Answers in Genesis (who heads up this outreach every year) put this during one of our lunch breaks. He said, “Here at the NEA I want to be as bold and loving as possible, but I’m constantly getting pressure from everywhere saying ‘you have to be careful.’ But I say, ‘You know what? God is the One sustaining us. If God wants to shut us down or allow us to be shut down, God will provide another audience.”
Tony continued, “I see this all the time: people become scared of losing their audience [and it causes them to refrain from being bold] … but I’m not at all. Because I believe God will provide the audience if we are faithful.”
See Tony’s report of the outreach on Ken Ham’s blog.
God certainly provided an audience for us last week! At our booth there were often many conversations going on simultaneously, with Scripture verses being shared all day long. It would be interesting to know how many times Ephesians 2:8-9 was quoted by someone working at our booth 🙂 .
The 4,000 DVDs and 4,000 books given away were helpful spring boards to get these conversations started.
My favorite conversation was with a young Native American guy, Frank, who was searching for meaning in life.
“What is your version of the meaning of life?” he asked Haley and me.
We shared that we get meaning from our relationship with our Creator. Then Steve Ham (who thankfully joined the conversation) went deeper by explaining that our purpose is to bring God glory and WHY that is.
“A year ago, I asked this question to a whole bunch of people … ” Frank said. He explained that the common denominator he found was “connection.” He thought lots of religions could coexist and we just need to have connection to something. “Even if it’s not to God,” Frank explained, “it could be connection to yourself, to the earth, etc…”
Steve replied, “Here’s what I would ask us to consider. I believe there’s one Truth. If there is only one Truth, then there are other ideas that are actually not truth. Truth is not relative. Eight can’t equal nine. If someone is saying, “Truth in identity is for me to connect with my mind or to connect with the world, I would say ‘where do you get that truth from?’. If it’s just ‘what I believe’ then, ‘what’s your authority for believing it’? Our authority is the Word of God … which claims to be the one Truth. Jesus claims, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.”
Then I was sort of blown away by how well Steve responded to Frank’s “connectivity” point. He said, “If you go back to the beginning of Scripture, to Genesis 1, when we were created in God’s image, we were told to have dominion and multiply on the earth … one major thing happened. Instead of wanting to seek God’s glory with our whole heart, humanity rebelled against God. He gave us one rule… and instead of seeking connectedness only with God, and bringing Him glory, they tried to connect with the creation and themselves. They tried to bring about their own glory. And that is the event that brought rebellion to all of humanity. So we actually see the idea of wanting to be connected to ourselves or to the world outside of Jesus Christ to be the problem, not the solution.”
This is very much in contradiction to Native American religious beliefs, but it is what Frank needed to hear!
After more discussion and explanations, Frank was out of arguments. He said to Steve, “Pretty solid right there, that’s cool. I can’t say much.”
I thought that was awesome. Here, Steve totally contradicted so much of what Frank believed in, yet Frank could tell he loved him, he could see his wisdom, and he appreciated the conversation greatly.
As the conversation was wrapping up, Steve stated, “I want you to hear this very, very carefully: We are not dissing Native American culture. When I share about Jesus, it comes out of great love for the people that I’m talking to. I love the Native American people so much I want to preach the gospel to them so that they might come to faith in Jesus.”
“Are you here tomorrow too?” Frank asked, commenting on how interesting the conversation was.
“I’d love to talk more,” Steve agreed. Then he left them with this thought: “It’s good to have discussions and say ‘they were interesting.’ But from our perspective, these discussions actually mean something. At some point it comes to whether you do or do not have faith in Jesus Christ. Which means you have to come to the point where you say, ‘I’m repenting and believing in Jesus Christ for my salvation,’ or, ‘I’m rejecting Him.’ I’d like to see you accept Christ …”
As you can see, Steve made it VERY CLEAR that it was not possible to have both “Native American religion” and “Christianity.” It was one or the other. Frank needed to hear this. Praise God He led Frank to one of His servants who was bold enough and loving enough to share the truth.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is NO OTHER NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”
On Sunday, we went downtown Iowa City to share the gospel with University students, using the resurrection of Jesus as a conversation starter.
“Hi! I’m doing a little questionnaire about Easter. Could I ask you a few questions?” I asked two Asian students.
“We don’t know anything about Easter,” they told me.
“That’s okay! You can still answer the questions.”
“When did you first hear about the resurrection of Jesus?” I asked them.
“When I came to the States … on a TV show,” the guy replied.
“What do you personally believe about God and what happens when we die?” I asked.
“We don’t believe in God; we believe in evolution,” they both said.
“Well, when I look at that brick building over there and see the design and beauty in it, I know someone designed it. How much more our bodies, and this universe! How do you think everything started?” I asked.
“Through a big explosion,” he said.
“What exploded?” I asked.
“Gasses; chemicals,” he replied.
“Where did those come from?” I asked.
“Well … they were already there,” he said (or something like that).
“How did something come from nothing?”
After a bit of deliberation, he replied, “I guess there must have been a maker [of those original elements].”
Interesting! This Asian student went from claiming to be an atheist to believing in a “Maker” in just a few minutes.
“I’ll think about this,” he told me. He seemed to appreciate the Evolution Vs God DVD.
A few minutes later, I met Katherine and James, strolling down the sidewalk.
“Would you be willing to do an Easter questionnaire?” I asked them.
“Really?” I said, surprised. (A lot of people had been turning me down!)
“When did you first hear about the resurrection of Jesus? Like … was it Sunday school, or … ?”
“I think it was when I was 10 in California and a friend talked to me,” James said.
About this time, a homeless man walked up and began interrupting the conversation in a kind of strange way. I felt this was likely spiritual warfare and this gave me stronger determination to do the most I could to communicate the gospel to this couple!
I decided to get right to the point. [smile]
“So what does one do to get right with God, and know they will be with Him when they die?”
James and Katherine had an “earn-your-way-to-Heaven” mentality.
“So if you were standing before God and He asked you why He should let you into Heaven, what would you say?”
“That’s a really good question!” Katherine said.
“I guess I would ask for forgiveness and try to prove to Him that I am worthy of getting there,” James replied.
After I shared about God’s justice, our sin, and His need to punish, I showed them some verses about how God’s rescue plan is a gift that we can either receive or reject.
“Have you understood this before?” I asked.
“No, I have not heard this until today; no one has ever explained it to me,” James said.
“Would you like to meet up again to study the Bible?” I asked them. There was interest, so I am praying this will work out.
I was reminded how a successful witnessing conversation is not getting them to “make a decision for Jesus” and then leaving them, but rather, giving them a taste for the Word so that we can continue to teach them! It reminds me of Ephesians 4:20-21, which I read this morning: “But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus.”
You see, another way of saying that someone “got saved” could be they “learned Christ.” We may not always know the moment of spiritual birth (the moment God detects faith in their heart) but God does! Our responsibility is to teach Christ! “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).”
It is so encouraging to meet students who want to learn about the Lord. One guy that my dad talked with asked for his contact info and told him, “Don’t be surprised if you get an email from me about this.”
I was also particularly encouraged to see the teens on our witnessing team growing in boldness! It’s thrilling to see God orchestrating and working.
People love the opportunity to dress up in their funny green attire, and this simply gives us more ways to start conversations with them!
“I like your hat!” my dad told a man with a really tall green hat.
“I like yours too!” the man replied.
“But yours is better,” my dad said. He then explained how we were passing out “The History of St Patrick” at the parade and offered him one of our tracts. The man wanted one, just like almost everyone else does. Many are curious about who St Patrick actually was.
Cheryl had a good talk with this guy. She shared the gospel with him and recommended a good church in his neighborhood. I was surprised to run into him on a different street corner about twenty minutes later and was able to continue the conversation!
“I can’t adopt a dog, unfortunatley,” I told this lady after taking this picture.
“But we adopted a son!” my dad added.
“A what?” she asked.
“A son!” my dad said. “From Korea.”
“And that’s how we ALL get into GOD’S family…” he said and continued to share how that can happen to any of us.
My dad especially enjoys going up to small groups of high school guys and asking them “Have you gotten one of these? It’s a history of St. Patrick. Do you know anything about Patrick? Why does Ireland remember him 1600 years later?”
He then tells the story, sharing something like this: “Patrick convinced many in Ireland that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead. They worshiped the sun and Patrick told them, ‘If you worship the sun you will die, but if you worship the Son of God you will live, because the Son of God rose from the dead and is alive. You will live forever because the Son of God lives forever.’ So many Irish believed that it influenced the whole nation. They abandoned sun worship and turned to the God who created them!”
My dad then shares how people today remember Patrick, but know nothing of Christ. And only Christ can save us!
When talking with small groups of youth at the parade we find that some are politely disinterested, some are embarrassed, but some have that interest in their eyes.
Our team came back together after the parade and shared about the conversations we had. Several reported how they saw a sincere interest in the gospel in those they spoke with. Praise God!
My mom sat down next to this lady on the picnic bench and they ended up having a good conversation through most of the parade. This lady was a single mom and shared a lot with my mom about things going on in her life.
We had a big scare part way through the parade. Little David (8), Naomi’s brother, was missing. He had been doing a wonderful job passing out tracts (had distributed about 400!) but then David got separated from those with him. All of a sudden, our “witnessing team” became a “search and rescue team.”
After about a half hour, as I was scanning the crowds, a lady approached me asking urgently, “Are you looking for a lost child?”
“Yes,” I replied, wondering how she knew.
“He’s in the police car,” she said, pointing.
Someone had taken him to the parade judges, who took him to the police, and apparently the police man had told David to watch for someone he knew.
Poor David was quite shaken emotionally!
We are grateful for the kindness, security, and protection we were given from the police and parade officials. David said his favorite part of the day was “getting found.”
In the same way, may we have great urgency and concern to search for those who are “lost” spiritually, and find great joy in the fact that our Shepherd has found each one of us who has put our trust in Him and brought us to Himself, our secure Refuge!
After everything was over, we set out, tired and hungry, for Chic fil A! =P
“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
On my recent flight to the East Coast, I needed to review some notes. But the guy seated next to me was very chatty. He explained, “Normally, I have my ipod and listen to my music [on airplanes] but about a month ago I wiped all my music off.”
Hm, I see God’s hand in that [smile] I thought.
I put my notes back in their folder, and figured the Lord had arranged this encounter with this man (who I’ll call Tim). I heard about everything from the difference between working with sugar and coal in farming equipment, to the details around his father’s death, to the time in Louisiana when a giant cockroach crawled up his shirt while he was on a platform in a grain elevator.
“So why again are you going to New Jersey?” Tim asked me after a while.
I explained about the Bright Lights ministry, and the main messages we try to emphasize when working with youth.
“What church do you go to?” he asked.
After explaining a bit about our church, I returned the question and asked about his spiritual background.
Tim didn’t have a good experience with “religion” growing up. He exclaimed, “I don’t like organized religion.”
“Oh I totally agree with you,” I said. “There’s a lot of greed and desire for power, and many who are not even real followers of Jesus …”
After I mentioned the concept of a relationship with God by faith in what Jesus has done for us, Tim said, “I don’t agree with people who say that you can be a rotten person your whole life and then repent right at the end and get to Heaven. That’s just not right,” he said.
“Well, what we need to understand is how God sees it—because He’s the One who decides who gets into Heaven and who doesn’t, right?” I asked.
“So, the question is, does God decide on the basis of what we do or on the basis of what we are trusting in?” I asked.
Tim waited for an explanation.
“Because if God decides on the basis of what we do,” I said, “We’ll never know if we’ve done enough. I mean, what if someone just needed to do five more good deeds and they would have squeaked by—but because they didn’t, they can’t go to Heaven now …”
“Exactly!” Tim exclaimed.
“But if God decides on the basis of what we are trusting in—in the fact that Jesus died a substitutionary death in our place—then it’s already taken of! It’s done, and we can know we are going to Heaven.”
Not only was this the start of deeper gospel discussion with Tim, but I was also able to recount this conversation to the lady next to me on a following flight. It provided a helpful way for me to share the gospel with her also – praise the Lord.
So if someone asks you that question (“How could a really bad person just repent at the end of their life and ‘get in?’ to Heaven?”) remember a couple things:
1) They are asking the wrong question, because the question itself assumes that some are “good people” when in reality there are none truly good (“As it is written, There is none righteous, not even one” Romans 3:10)
2) A better question to ask would be “how can ANYONE ‘get in'” !!!
Praise the Lord that He, “being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Ephesians 2:4-5)
*Thanks to Michael from New Jersey for his helpful thoughts on this =)
I love airports. They are great places to witness. I don’t always feel like it, but I am always glad afterward.
Two weeks ago I took a trip to New York for the CMML “26 Below” Conference (which I will post about soon). One of the highlights of the trip was seeing the Lord arranging witnessing opportunities on flights and in the airport. Here’s a summary:
On my first flight, I began chatting with the couple next to me who were about my parents’ age. I explained that I was going to a Christian youth camp. They thought that was really nice and I wondered if they were Christians.
“Do you have a spiritual background?” I asked them.
Now, if I wouldn’t have asked that first question, the conversation may have never really taken off. But after that question, we talked for about 20-30 minutes about spiritual things. It was a reminder to just ask a question and see what God does with it!
“We’re Episcopalian,” he told me.
“Oh, on one of my last flights (last summer) I also sat next to an Episcopalian!” I told him. “But I don’t know too much about it…”
He explained the Episcopalian history, saying it has similarities to Catholicism but without a pope. I brought up the issue of salvation by faith or works. “What are your thoughts on that?” I asked. He believed we were saved by both faith and works.
“Could I get your opinion on something? Are you familiar with Ephesians 2:8-9? What do you think it means?”
“Well, I’d have to see it again,” he said.
I handed him my Bible and he took about a minute reading the passage. He came up with an explanation of the passage to go along with his viewpoint, but it was a pretty big stretch. It was also very clear to me at that point that he simply did not understand the gospel! He called the “gift” in Ephesians 2:8 “mysterious” saying something like, “whatever that mysterious gift is, it works itself out in our works… does that make sense?” he asked me.
“No, not really…” I replied.
He explained it again. Then he went on to explain, “You know, one thing our church is really big on is tolerance … ”
I told him I think it’s important to accept and love people, but at the same time, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life—no one comes to the Father but by Me.”
“You will probably think about that verse 100,000 times in your life,” he replied, “And each time your thinking will evolve and it will mean something different to you…”
“But, you know, it can really only mean one thing!” I said.
He replied, “I read the Bible very differently now than I did fifty years ago. I have friends who are very rigid in their understanding of Scripture, but …” and he went on to explain that we all have our own interpretation and lifestyle.
“Well,” I said, “When we look at Hitler and what he did, we can’t just say ‘that was fine for him.’ There is a point when someone is just wrong!”
The whole conversation was very gracious and respectful, but I do think that a nerve was pricked. He seemed slightly uncomfortable after a bit, and I think that was a good thing. It’s sad how far he is from Christ. He is simply blind to the truth of the gospel. But I am grateful for the opportunity we had to interact, and I pray that the Lord opens his eyes.
Of course, my desire wasn’t to offend, but to help bring to light the truth that no matter how “good” one is, we are separated from God because of sin. God in His love has provided a way to be reconciled with Him through Jesus, but one will not come to Jesus in repentance if they do not see the need to do so. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…” Ephesians 2:4-5
Jehovah’s Witness and Catholic:
Upon arrival at the airport, I had two hours before being picked up as I was waiting for someone else to fly in also. After passing out tracts and having a seemingly not-to-productive, but friendly argument with a Jehovah’s Witness couple who had a table set up there, I prayed for the Lord to lead me to someone else to talk with.
Then I noticed a girl sitting alone by the door. I decided I’d do my questionnaire approach with her.
“I’m Catholic but I don’t know anything” she told me. She was 100% interested in talking, and thankfully, I had another 45 minutes before my ride came. Praise the Lord! I started back in Genesis [smile] and began to teach through from the beginning, and it was so sweet to see her desire to learn.
“I want to see Jesus” she told me.
“Me too!” I replied [smile].
I’d appreciate prayer for Gabrielle, that the Lord would bring other Christians along her path to continue to teach her.
On my flight home, I had a very long conversation with the Eastern orthodox girl next to me. She had her earphones in, but when we were served snacks and she took them out, I realized, Here’s my chance! and asked her, “Where’s your accent from?”
I also asked her about her religious background. I was so glad I asked those questions, because they led to about an hour of discussion! She had a lot of thoughts and seemed eager to discuss them.
She was convinced that we have to work hard for our salvation. I took her to some verses in Scripture, but she was still firm. However, then SHE brought up two examples from Scripture which were perfect examples making my point! One was the thief on the cross, and the other was the publican/Pharisee prayers (the proud prayer and humble prayer). Those gave me wonderful spring boards to talk about how amazing the gospel is and how we cannot come to God boasting! She seemed deep in thought for a while. After that we began talking about various life issues and became better friends ….and we learned that we were also on the same next flight (from Minneapolis to Cedar Rapids) so we walked to our gate together, took turns watching each other’s stuff, shared a pizza… and decided to meet up for coffee sometime in the future since we live close. It was so special to become friends with her.
Although I often would prefer to just keep to myself and read, I try to remember that some of my best witnessing conversations have been on airplanes! And I’m always so excited when I see the Lord arrange those opportunities. Nothing is more fulfilling! As ambassadors of Christ, we are “on duty” every time we are in the presence of another human being – and that is a life full of blessing.