Monday, February 21, 2011

Fishing Report: "Get To"

Mark Cahill, in his book, One thing you can't do in Heaven, talks about shifting our mindset regarding Christian disciplines. It's not that we "got to" go to church. We "get to" go to church. Same thing with reading our bible, praying, and even sharing our faith. Today, I finally "get it." I finally understand that "get to" feeling that comes from simply doing it over and over again.

What an amazing honor and privilege it is to have the words of eternal life, and to be able to share that message of hope and life and love in Jesus Christ with the world around us. The world has a debilitating disease, and we have the cure! We get to give it away for free! What an amazing privilege. Once you strip away all the devil's excuses, and share your faith regularly despite your fears, I bet you, too, will find that you want to share this precious gospel more and more and more. I'm hungry for more after today!

One good thing about returning to the same fishing hole every day (in my case, the University of Louisiana campus), is that you start to learn some things. I'm learning that it's better to go in late afternoon, because people seem to have more time to talk then. Earlier in the day, people are rushing to class and a witnessing encounter requires track shoes. I'm also learning some surprising places on campus that people hang out, alone. I haven't approached any groups yet. That's the next hurdle.

Anyway, had a very pleasant conversation with Shawn today on campus. He was eager to take the $20.00 challenge, but could only name 4 of the 10 commandments. I went through the law and the gospel with him. He was eager to hear and very receptive. I wasn't sure he truly understood what it meant to be "born again," so I explained more about trusting in Jesus instead of trusting in your own efforts. I explained that when you do, Jesus gives you a new heart with new desires to please Him, and the bible calls it being "born again." I pleaded with him about the urgency of the matter, and asked him to get right with God tonight. I left him with an "Are you good enough to go to Heaven?" tract, because I wasn't sure he truly understood the essentials.

I asked him if anyone had ever talked to him about this stuff before. He said, "Yes, but not in such a way that made it simple and easy." I told him that the gospel is simple to understand, but it's far from easy. It requires that you repent and surrender your life to Jesus Christ. But I told him that everything else pales in comparison to the joy you'll find when you give your life to Him. He thanked me for our conversation. Can you imagine being thanked for witnessing to someone? We're firefighters, and this world is perishing in the burning building. It shouldn't surprise me that people thank me. But 3 out of 6 have as I continue fishing on the UL campus. Somehow, though, I think God's taking it easy on me and that the big guns are yet to come.

6 conversations
$0.00 given away

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Fishing Report: So close!

Today was another very encouraging day. People may not want to talk to you about Jesus, Heaven, Hell, judgment, repentance and faith, but they'll jump at the chance to win $20.00, and I'm having a blast using this as a springboard to the law and the gospel.

I wasn't feeling well today. I think I ate some bad crawfish and got really sick last night, so I slept until almost 2pm. When I woke up, I rushed out the door. I set a goal to talk to 5 people, because witnessing opportunities may be few over the next few days. My wife's leaving for a ladies' retreat, leaving my two sons and I to party hard!

So I headed to my new fishing hole. Suprisingly, there were very few people there. Maybe they were all in class. I found a gentleman sitting near the UL library. Sherman was very nice, even though he could only name 3 of the 10 commandments. He knew the gospel, sort of, but said he'd never had anyone put it to him in such an easy to understand way. He admitted that although he goes to church every Sunday, he was not born again. He seemed sincere in his desire to repent and trust in Jesus, so I asked him if he wanted to do that now, or if he felt more comfortable praying in private. I asked him, "I bet you've prayed the sinner's prayer at least once in your life, right?" He shook his head yes, with a somber look on his face. "But a prayer doesn't save you. Neither does all your effort, going to church, or anything else you do. God sees your righteousness as filthy rags. Know why? You have a rap sheet of crimes you've comitted against God. Jesus paid your penalty, and God offers forgiveness to you if you repent and trust in Jesus. But tonight may be your last chance to do that. You're one heartbeat away from stepping into eternity. Then it's Heaven or Hell, forever. Please get right with God tonight, before it's too late. God loves you and He wants to save you, if you turn to Him in repentance and trust." Sherman thanked me for talking with him, and he said he knew that our conversation was a divine appointment.

I headed toward the union, and kept right on going past the union. Whoops. Not many people there, except people in a hurry. So I meandered to the quad, where a young man named Brian sat on a bench by himself. He gave me a run for my money, naming 7 of the 10 commandments in 30 seconds to capture the record. I knew he was in trouble, though, when he said, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods." Friend, if you're Catholic and reading this, I say this with love in my heart - go get yourself a bible and read Exodus 20. Compare it to the Catholic church's version of the ten commandments. How come they split commandment 10 into two, and removed number 2?

You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

They've removed God's command against idolatry from the ten commandments? Why? I'll leave you to wrestle with that.

Brian, like the rest of us, admitted that he's a liar, a theif, and an adulterer at heart. But he said that all he had to do was ask for forgiveness. I went over a number of examples to show him that he doesn't think that way in his interractions with others. So why should a holy God be any different? I talked to him about judgment, the cross, and the need to repent and trust in Jesus. He was polite, but not really interested in changing his way of thinking.

The third and final conversation almost cost me $20.00. Devin named eight of the 10 before the beep of my watch. He's a Christian, but wasn't sure what it meant to be "born again." After going through the commandments, the cross, judgment, repentance and faith, and challenged him: "So I'm a pretty good Buddhist. Am I OK?" He couldn't bring himself to tell me that I wasn't okay on judgment day. So I reasoned with him that our righteousness is like filthy rags. "Why?" I asked him. He thought for a minute. I said, "Because you're guilty of a life of rebellion toward God. He sees your thought life. Just 3 sins a day means you've committed 1,000 crimes against God every year of your life. Now you may have done a million good things, but what kind of judge is going to let you go with a rap sheet like that?" It looked like a lightbulb went off in his head as he shouted, "OHHHHHH!" It was a very neat conversation.

I'm excited and encouraged. The $20.00 question gets people's guard down, and by the time they're in a spiritual conversation, they are on the clock and the pressure's on. They have no chance to say, "Well I don't talk about religion," because they'll miss their chance to show off their knowledge and win the $20.00.

Eventually, someone will win the $20.00. Tomorrow maybe, but not today.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Fishing Report: I'm going to rant for a bit

With a late start to my day, I didn't get out for 1-a-days until after 4:30 this afternoon. I was a little nervous about what I'd find, but I didn't want to succumb to excuses. I headed toward UL, and quickly found a young man named Kyle who was sitting by himself and appeared not to be in a hurry.

Two elements make evangelism on college campus trickier than at Girard Park. One is that I don't have my fishing buddy, so it feels scarier. Second, you really have to be sensitive to people's time and understand how much time you have left to talk with them. With the Lord's help, I'm getting the hang of finding someone who looks like they have time to talk. It's a little trickier without the sight of my fishing buddy, too, but visual impairment is just another excuse the devil uses to try to keep me away from what I'm called to do. It's amazing how something that has never limited me in my whole life becomes a concern when it comes to evangelism, doesn't it?

So I sat next to Kyle on a bench, and asked him if he could talk with me for a couple minutes to help me with a project. He was happy to talk. I challenged him to name the ten commandments in 30 seconds to win $20.00. He got two correct- adultery and stealing. I told him that he tied for the record with two, and he got a kick out of that. "Those two?" he asked.

I told him I'd give him another shot at the money. He was excited. He said he thought he was a good person, but readily admitted to being a liar. I said, "Ever stolen anything?" "Yes." "What does that make you?" "A steeler." I said, "Well, if you're from Pittsburgh. But if you're not, you'd be a ...?" "Sinner." "more specifically a..." "Theif." Ype. An adulterer too.

He admitted he'd be guilty on judgment day, but thought he'd end up in Heaven. Why? "Because I ask for forgiveness." I asked him to try that in an earthly court room. Would the judge let him go if he asked for forgiveness? He said, "I don't know any judges like that."

So I talked to him about Hell. I emphasized God's holiness and justice, and asked, "But God is also loving, and merciful too, right? So how can God do both - punish your wrongdoing and let you go free? Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell?"

Parents, please, I'm begging you with everything that is in me - listen up. Kyle went to a Christian church every day as a kid. Yet he had no idea what God did so that he wouldn't have to go to Hell. My children may not choose to follow Jesus. I can't control that. But if some guy comes up to them and says, "Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell?" they will know the answer. Pastors, please, please preach the Gospel. How could anyone sit in your church week in and week out, no matter what age, and not know the gospel? I'm not better or worse than anybody. I'm just very sad about what this conversation says about the state of the Christian church. What could you possibly be preaching about week after week after week, that trumps a clear presentation of the gospel? Please preach the gospel. When your hearers take their last breath, nothing you've said about how to have a happy marriage, experience your best life now or have health and prosperity will matter to each one of them. What will matter is whether you clearly preached the gospel to them. At that moment, it's Heaven or it's Hell, for all eternity. Please...preach the gospel.

Back to Kyle. I talked with him about Jesus dying on the cross in his place, taking God's wrath upon Himself so Kyle could go free. He broke the law, Jesus paid his fine. It's a legal transaction. God can legally dismiss Kyle's case, because the fine has been paid.

I talked to him about the need to repent - turn from sin. If you're driving to Mexico and you see a sign that says, "Canada - 40 miles," you recognize you're headed the wrong way and you turn in the opposite direction. Instead of trusting yourself, you trust Christ, because he died in your place.

I told him that if he leaves our conversation and decides he's going to try to do better, it's like the man who murders on Monday, helps an old lady across the street on Tuesday, volunteers at a soup kitchen on Wednesday, gives all his money to the poor on Thursday, and faces court on Friday. None of that other stuff matters, because he's a murderer. Instead, trust in Jesus. He'll give you a new heart, with new desires, and you'll want to do things that please God - not because you're a religious fanatic, but because God changes your desires. It's called being born again.

I asked if he'd ever heard that before, and he said his mom talks to him about it all the time. I encouraged him to tell his mom some cross-eyed wierdo approached him at school and offered him $20.00 to name all of the commandments. He said he will. Hopefully, his mom will be encouraged, because I bet she's been praying for her son for a long time. Lord willing, tonight she'll know tangibly that God is working in her son's life.

I told Kyle that every day, 150,000 people take their last breath. Then it's Heaven, or it's Hell for all of eternity. His degree, job, happiness, and everything he holds dear won't matter to him at that point. And right now God's wrath abides upon him (my voice got real soft so that he had to lean in to hear. I always want to be careful to display the compassion of God by my demeanor when I talk about the wrath of God with someone who's not hostile). You're an enemy of God through your wicked works, I told him, but that if you repent and trust Christ today, God will forgive you and refresh you. For what shall it profit you, if you get your degree, a nice house, nice car, beautiful family, and everything else you've ever dreamed of, and lose your soul? You never know when your time has run out, I pleaded. Get right with God tonight, before it's too late.

He was very receptive and seemed to be open to what I was saying. You never know what's going on in the heart of the person you're speaking with, but I'm extremely encouraged and I can't wait until tomorrow.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fishing Report: I still have my $20.00

Today was the first day of 1-a-days. Today, the short walk to UL seemed longer than ever. The excuses came at me like bullets in a battlefield, and for I've never felt less at home on the UL campus than during that walk.

I prayed, and reminded myself that Jesus promised He'd always be with me. I quoted bible verses to redirect my attention from the fear. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. The righteous are as bold as lions. Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. I have every spiritual blessing in Christ and everything I need. I will never leave you or forsake you.

Still, it felt strange. The university where I spent many hours of my lifeseemed like a foreign land today. It was like an away game with the whole season on the line, a hostile crowd, and yet I was on my home turf. Strange.

I went to the ATM on campus and got $20. I found a gentleman sitting alone, reading. He was friendly. I asked him if he could talk with me for a couple minutes for a project I was working on. He politely told me he was studying for a test, so I politely told him I'd try to catch him another time.

I headed toward the quad. Since class was going on, there were only a few folks sitting on benches. The excuses flooded, and I decided to head toward the student union. I saw someone walking by herself. I walked alongside her and said, "Hey, you walking to class?"

"No," she said politely.

"Where you headed?"

"The bus."

"Mind if I walk with you and talk to you a couple minutes for a project I'm working on?"

She stopped, smiled and was eager to help me with my project. I invited her to keep walking, so we kept walking toward her bus.

I told her, "I've got $20.00. I'll give it to you if you can answer one question correctly. Sound easy enough? She laughed and agreed.

I told her, "I'll give you 30 seconds to name as many of the ten commandments as you can. Name them all, and I'll give you 20 bucks. Ready, go!"

She quickly sprung into action: "You shall not commit adultery. You shall not have any other gods. Um, um, I know them, but when you put me on the spot..." She nervously laughed.

"You're doing great! 10 seconds left."

She thre in the towel.

"OK, tell you what. I'll give you another chance to win the money, ok? I'll ask you something else." She agreed. It was a very pleasant conversation so far.

"Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" "Yes."

"Okay. I'll ask you a 3 question test. If you prove to be a good person, I'll give you the 20 bucks. Deal?" She was excited. Surely she was going to get her 20 bucks.

"How many lies have you told in your life?" "Lots!"
"So what does that make you?" "A bad person...?"
"Well, sort of, but more specifically...a 4 letter word, rhymes with pants on fire?" Silence, with a nervous smile.
"What would you call me if I told lies?" "A liar." "Yep, that's right. We're not doing good so far!" I joked, and she laughed.

"OK. 2nd question. Ever stolen something." "Yes." "What does that make you...a thief, right?" "Yes." "Me too," I told her.

"This is the one that got me. Jesus said that if you look with lust, you commit adultery in your heart. Ever looked with lust?" "Yes," she said, getting more and more nervous.

"So, I'm not judging you, but by your own admission, you're a liar, a theif, and an adulterer at heart. Me too. And you have to face God on judgment day. You're in big trouble aren't you?" "Yes."

Would you be innocent or guilty if God judges you by that standard we just went over? "Guilty."

Would you go to Heaven or Hell? "I hope Heaven..."

But you've broken all his laws, and you're guilty, so God should send you to..."Hell."

"That's not good news, is it?" I asked. She was visibly concerned.

Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to go to Hell? "Sent his son to save us?"

"Yes, He died on the cross so that you can be forgiven." Getting closer to the bus stop, my time was ticking quickly toward its end. "Do you know how to get that forgiveness before God" "repent?"

"That's part of it. "Repent, and trust in Jesus. Have you ever done that?" "I'm working toward it."

"This is so important for you to understand. If you continue trying to work toward your forgiveness, you'll never make it. It's like this. You're standing in front of a judge on earth, guilty of multiple crimes. You say, 'But judge: I helped an old lady across the street yesterday. i helped at a soup kitchen. I gave money to the poor. And, on the way into the courtroom, I washed your car! And I noticed one of your tires was low, so I put air in it for you. I'm rally sorry, and I'll never do it again.' If he's a good judge, what's he going to say to you?

"You're going to jail." That's right.

"But all of a sudden, someone you don't know steps into your courtroom and pays your fine so that you can go free. Now what do you have to do about the fine to pay for your crimes?"

"Work hard to pay for it?"

"But this man you don't know has paid the fine, hasn't he? You don't owe any more, do you?"

Her face changed from concern to excitement. I bet she's never seen what Jesus did for her presented so clearly before.

"You don't have to pay for your crimes, because he paid for it. Right?"

"Right," she said with excitement.

"So what's your attitude toward the man that paid your fine?" Gratitude.

"Bingo. Jesus stepped into your courtroom and paid your fine. You can't work enough to erase your crimes against God, but Jesus paid the penalty for you. When you repent and truly trust in Jesus, you want to do good things - not to be right with God but because of gratitude for what He did for you."

I thanked her and gave her an "Are you good enough?" tract. I told her it explains the things we've been talking about, and asked her to think seriously about it, because there was nothing more important than where she will spend eternity. She thanked me for talking with her. It was a very pleasant interaction.

Don't let the devil tell you nobody wants to hear what you have to say. If you truly show you care and explain the gospel clearly, some will still scoff. But others will seriously consider what you've said. Perhaps today is her spiritual birthday. Please pray for her.

So I've still got my $20.00. We'll see if someone can win the money again tomorrow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Training Camp

Super Bowl winning head coach Jimmy Johnson, on the last season of Survivor: Old vs. Young, said that of all the things he's done in his life, the game of Survivor was the hardest. He'd survived 2-a-days as a player and a coach, won national championships in college and Super Bowls as a coach with the Dallas Cowboys, but nothing prepared him for the elements he faced in the game of Survivor.

That got me to thinking. I love to "train" to evangelize. I love to watch folks that talk to people on the streets, take notes, formulate questions, ponder answers and study apologetics so I'm always ready to give a solid defense of my faith. It makes me feel like I'm really working hard on kingdom work and fulfilling the great comission.

But it's not. All of that stuff is like those voluntary off-season workouts. Sure, they help. A little. But players still arrive at training camp, out of shape and unfit for the big games to come.

Bring on the 2-a-day practices in the hot August heat. Training camp. The dread of every millionaire NFL player. It's where you begin to really earn that hefty salary, putting on the pads, hitting, running, aching, sweating....and getting stronger, faster, more agile and more familiar with the playbook. As UL softball coach Michael Lotief says, it's when you "embrace the hard." You stop kidding yourself about the shape you're in, you stop "preparing to prepare" and you get in the practice that makes you better.

It's time for me to enter evangelism training camp. I've prepared to prepare for too long. It's time to "embrace the hard" and truly start learning the playbook, getting stronger, faster and more agile as a spiritual athlete for Jesus Christ.

How? My fishing buddy gave me the idea of committing to talking with at least one person every day. There was a point in my life where I dreamed I'd have the guts to share my faith that often. That dreaming ends tomorrow. How do I get stronger? Practice. Hit hard against the objections and snarks and whatever else is out there.

Sure, I've been in a number of conversations about my faith. I can articulate it clearly. But I'm still afraid. I'll probably always be afraid, and that's okay. It's not a natural battle I'm facing, and that fear will make me pray each and every time I get out there.

So tomorrow starts my training camp. How do you train to share your faith? Share your faith. Make mistakes. Fall on your face. How do you know what you don't know? Share your faith. Think about the conversations you've had, and ask God to show you how to do it better.

I think I understand why Jesus sent the disciples out in groups of two. I once thought it was for protection. Then I realized that Jesus calmed storms (Mark 4:35-41), walked on water (Matthew 14:22-33), and told a man to go home because his servant was healed "at that moment" (Mat 8:5-13). Surely, he could've helped his disciples avoid harm if they got into trouble. That wasn't the reason he sent them out in twos. So what was it?

I believe he sent them out in twos so that they can encourage each other. When I'm with my fishing buddy, I'm on fire. I can't wait to share my faith. When I'm alone, I'm timid and fearful, like a firefighter standing outside a burning building, reaching his hand out toward the people trapped inside, instead of jumping into the building to save them.

My experience over the past couple weeks shows me how dependent I am on my safety net. It seems a lot harder by yourself, because the devil doesn't have to compete with the encouragement of a brother who's fired up, armed with the gospel and not ashamed. That is, until I pray. And Jesus is with me. My suspicion is that this "training camp" isn't going to be nearly as hard as I thought.

So, 1-a-days start tomorrow. Why not 2-a-days? Because I'm chicken, because I need to get back home to work and because my family needs me, too. Mostly because I'm chicken.

What's the playbook? If you're in Lafayette, LA and you're reading this, you've got a chance to earn yourself some cash. All you have to do is learn the ten commandments, and find me when I'm out doing my 1-a-days.

This is either going to be a blast, or a really bad idea. I'm going to approach someone and ask, "Hey, do you have a minute to help me with a project? There might be some money in it for you...I'm going to ask you one question. If you get the question right, I'll give you 20 bucks. Sounds easy enough?...I'll give you 30 seconds to answer the question. Your time starts as soon as I finish asking the question. Ready? The question is: name as many of the ten commandments as you can in 30 seconds. If you name them all (in any order), I'll give you 20 bucks. Ready? Go."

"...I'll give you another chance to earn the $20.00 (assuming they didn't name them all, of course). Would you consider yourself to be a good person? I'm going to give you a 3 question test. If you prove to be a good person, I'll give you the 20 bucks, ok?" Then, of course, I'll take them through the commandments, judgment day, the cross, and the need to repent and trust in Jesus to be saved.

It'll either be a complete dog's breakfast or a few very cool conversations. I wonder how long it'll take me to lose my 20 bucks.

Ready for 1-a-days?

Now that I've posted it, I guess I have to do it, don't I? :)

Maybe the weather will save me? 69 and sunny tomorrow. Guess I'm all out of excuses. Time to "embrace the hard." See you tomorrow.