Friday, July 23, 2010

Fishing Report: Back in the Sweet Spot

This is the fishing report for Saturday, July 17. I try to write these right after we go, so I remember all of the details that I can. I'll do my best to recall as much as I can about this trip. Next time, I won't wait so long.

Our fishing morning started with me and Nathan meeting Brandonfor breakfast at McDonald's. Nathan had spent many hours conversing with Brandon over the two weeks since we met him.

On the way, I told Nathan that I'd let him do all of the talking, since he had established a relationship with Brandon. Nathan really wanted me to participate, and you know I can't keep my mouth shut in a conversation about eternity, so that quickly went out the window.

Brandon's goal was to get us to go down Rabbit Trails III. This was not going to happen. With every question, we (mostly Nathan) brought the issue back to the Gospel. Nathan kept bringing him back to his need to repent and trust in Jesus, before anything else we discussed even mattered.

Brandon asked about the person in Africa that never hears about Jesus. I told him to go home and read Romans 1 and 2, because God's Word doesn't get interrupted with questions and his answers are there.

He asked another interesting question: If you all claim to have the same Holy Spirit that leads you into all truth, why are there so many denominations that disagree? I have to be honest. This was a tough one for me. I told him that while I don't know all the answers to his questions, I do know that the core truths of the Gospel (God is holy and just, you are a hopeless sinner without an excuse, Jesus died to pay the penalty you deserve, and God is rich in mercy to all who repent and place their trust in Jesus) are believed by everyone who has the Holy Spirit living inside them. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8).

Nathan pleaded with Brandon: "God has told you all that you need to know, and this may be the last time you hear the Gospel. Please think about it, before it's too late. This may be your last chance."

Unlike previous conversations, Brandon was very combative and even attacked Nathan's character. The turning point was when Nathan, after hours of rabbit trails, banged his fist against the table and said, "We're going to stick to the Gospel. The Gospel is what matters. All these other questions are a distraction from the Gospel."

Every answer we gave headed straight for the Gospel, and Brandon would rather have a part in earning his way to God. His pride won't allow him to see that his depravity keeps him from God, and his "righteousness" (the "good" things he does, like church attendance, following the rules, being nice to people, etc) heaps up more of God's wrath on him, because he's calling God a liar and making a god in his own image to suit his sins.

I took him to Isaiah 64:6, which is a common passage I use in this very religious part of the country. The "good" things we do are a filthy stench in the nostrils of a Holy God. What do you think He thinks of our sin?

After this conversation, I pumped my fist in excitement. Nathan was utterly discouraged that nothing we said got through to Brandon. I had to provide some perspective: "Did you see his reaction? How he turned on you when you stuck to the Gospel? That shows he was affected by what we were talking about. I'm frustrated when you get no reaction at all. We were loving and gentle, but firm in proclaiming truth, and he got mad. It shows the message affected him. He ran from the light, because he loves darkness."

Nathan left encouraged, and l left extremely pumped. We met up with Charlie to head to the park for some new fishing.

First, we encountered a gentleman who was with his family. We asked him if he's given much thought to what happens when we die. Turns out that he had just been released from the hospital, after going into Anaphylaxic shock. He said he'd been near death quite a few times, and he was scared. He knew the Gospel, but wasn't sure about his salvation. Charlie took him through some Scriptures, starting with Jesus' proclamation in John 3 that "you must be born again."

The neat thing about this encounter was that the man and his family needed to get back to kaplan. He tried to sell us some tools. Charlie and I both reached into our pockets at the same time. Charlie's faster than I am, so he gave the fellow what he needed.

Side note: Never, ever give people money unless you are absolutely sure that you've heard from the Holy Spirit. If someone needs a meal, or gas, or whatever, give them a meal, or gas, or whatever. Be sensitive to the needs of others, but realize that the money could be used for drugs and alcohol, or wasted in some other way.

Want to know how I knew the Holy Spirit told us to give him that money? Because Charlie and I both reached into our pockets at the same time, despite both of us believing what I just said. And the fellow dropped the money on the ground accidentally. They came back, and his girlfriend was looking on the ground for the money. I had a feeling that if these guys were honest (as opposed to seeking more money), we'd lay our eyes on that twenty dollar bill on the ground right away. Within 3 seconds, Charlie spotted the bill on the ground and handed it to the lady. It was truly a moving experience to know that the Holy Spirit was guiding our day.

Next up was two Frisbee golfers between games. One in particular was especially interested in talking. He goes to a local, nondenominational, very charismatic church here in town. We pressed him about what he believes about eternity, and I have to tell you that the gobbledy gook that came out of his mouth was incredibly mind-numbing. But he did say something interesting: he said his wife is usually the one that "shares the verses" when they share the Gospel with someone.

Charlie talked with him for a while, and then I asked him, "So if I had a knife in my back and had 3 minutes to live, would you know what to tell me about how to get saved?" He looked sad and said, "No." So I asked him to do me a favor. Go home, sit down with your wife, and tell her, "Hey, these 3 crazy guys came up to me today and asked me if I had 3 minutes to share my faith with someone who's dying, could I do it? Can you show me how?

He seemed excited and promised he would.

Charlie also gave him the "man of God" test. "What's your favorite bible verse?" He couldn't give one. Now, this man has been in a "Christian" church for over 5 years, and can't quote one single favorite bible verse. What are we preaching in our churches?

I hope and pray that he's had that conversation with his wife.

Our ministry is different. There are no notches on my belt. I believe that if God saves someone, He can keep them. I'm planting seeds that God will use in people's lives. For years, his wife has sown into this man's life. Can you imagine what an encouragement it would be for her to come home and hear her husband ask her this question? Can you imagine how that would affect their relationship? We're not trying to get to a sinner's prayer and a tally on a tally sheet. We're trying to present the Gospel and leave the results to God, while being sensitive to the Holy Spirit's guidance throughout the process. I don't do the converting. I'm the preacher that tells the message. God does the converting. All the pressure is off of me. What could be better?

Next up: a fellow with his young kids at the playground. I asked him for permission to talk about spiritual things, and he agreed. I asked a little about his background, and if he considered himself to be a good person. His little one needed the bathroom, and I offered to wait for him. He went to the bathroom and predictably, never came back.

That's because God had set up another appointment for us. Charlie probably doesn't remember this, but he mumbled something about this one probably not being a good idea. But we trust the Spirit to guide us, and it was one of my favorite conversations we ever had.

2 young college-aged ladies were sitting on a blanket, in the shade, away from the hustle and bustle. They were laughing and joking over lunch. Here comes three crazy evangelists to spoil the party.

Charlie asked, "We hate to interrupt your lunch. You look like you're having a good time. But can we talk with you for a few minutes?"

Nervously, they agreed. We sat on the grass next to the blanket.

We talked with them about school and other stuff for a few minutes, then mentioned that we were from a local church and wanted to talk with them about spiritual things for a minute. They agreed, although I must say that they weren't too excited.

I took them through the commandments, in a light-hearted way that they appreciated. One of them said she had lied, but that she had never stolen anything. I joked, "Come on! You just told me you're a liar! How can I believe you?" She laughed, and admitted she was guilty.

I took them through the cross, repentence and faith, emphasizing that Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished." That it was a legal transaction. We broke the law, and Jesus paid our fine in His life's blood. I emphasized the need to embrace by faith Jesus' death on the cross as totally sufficient punishment for our sins, and that He'd give them a new heart with new desires and forgive every sin they've ever comitted. We talked about being born again and how membership in a church, doing good things, etc cannot save you.

Charlie asked me, "Where you getting all this stuff?"

The girls (and I) looked puzzled. "The bible."

Charlie pleaded with them to read the bible for themselves and find out what was true. The girls were very receptive and open, and the conversation was a real blessing.

One of the biggest challenges we face in the Lafayette area is getting through people's religion so they can see their need for Christ. What we have working in our favor, however, is that many people are open to discussing spiritual things. The Gospel is the power of God to save those who believe, and this area is ripe with people who want to talk about eternity.

Looking forward to the next fishing trip, and catching some fish before then!

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