Sunday, March 22, 2015

Word Study: παρρησίᾳ (parrēsia)

Definition

παρρησίᾳ (parrēsia) – 1. Freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e. without concealment; without ambiguity or circumlocution; without the use of figures and comparisons. 2. Free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage, boldness, assurance. 3. The deportment by which one becomes conspicuous or secures publicity.

A French philosopher, Michel Foucault (1926-1984), who was influenced, by all people, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (best known for his “God is dead” philosophy), wrote extensively about this important Greek word.
“Foucault's most complete conceptual analysis of parrēsia appears in his last lecture series, published as The Courage of Truth, when, in the first lecture, he summarizes the previous years' lectures on parrēsia. To paraphrase Foucault: parrēsia occurs when a speaker, at risk to himself or herself, speaks an unwelcome truth or gives unwelcome advice to a powerful person or group (9–11). After defining parrēsia thus, Foucault offers this detailed analysis:
‘In short parrhēsia, the act of truth, requires: first, the manifestation of a fundamental bond between the truth spoken and the thought of the person who spoke it; [second], a challenge to the bond between the two interlocutors (the person who speaks the truth and the person to whom this truth is addressed). Hence this new feature of parrhēsia: it involves some form of courage, the minimal form of which consists in the parrhesiast taking the risk of breaking and ending the relationship to the other person which was precisely what made his discourse possible. In a way, the parrhesiast always risks undermining that relationship which is the condition of possibility for his discourse (Courage of Truth 11; translator's interpolation).’”
Puritan theologian John Gill, in his commentary on Acts 4:29, defined παρρησίᾳ (parrēsia) this way:
“. . . that with all boldness they may speak thy word; and not their own, or another's; the Gospel, which is God's speech, or a word, a message of grace and mercy from him to sinful creatures. The request of the whole church is, that the ministers of the word might not be intimidated by the menaces of the sanhedrim; but go on to declare it with all freedom of expression, with all boldness, courage, and intrepidity of mind, and all openness and faithfulness, and in the most public manner. And such a petition shows, that as it is gift of God to speak his word, or preach his Gospel, so it also is, to speak it freely, boldly, and faithfully, as it should be spoken.”
Occurrences in Scripture (ESV)

This is not an exhaustive list. The English translation of the Greek word παρρησίᾳ (parrēsia) is indicated in red. Following each verse/passage of Scripture are my brief notes (italicized).

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man’” (Mark 8:31-33).

What comes to mind when you hear someone say, "That man is 'plain-spoken?'"

“After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand. So his brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.’ For not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:1-5).

Boldness carries with it the idea of being open, up front, and in plain sight. A bold person is never in hiding.

“And there was much muttering about him among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.’ Yet for fear of the Jews no one spoke openly of him” (John 7:12-13).

Fear is the opposite of boldness. God has not given the Christian a spirit of fear, but rather a spirit of power and love and self-control (see 2 Timothy 1:7).

“Some of the people of Jerusalem therefore said, ‘Is not this the man whom they seek to kill? And here he is, speaking openly, and they say nothing to him! Can it be that the authorities really know that this is the Christ’” (John 7:25-26)?

Boldness is a behavior that testifies to the character trait of courage. Boldness is not simply seen in the mirror; it is seen by others.

‘Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples’ (John 11:54).

Those who are bold often maintain higher profiles--not as attention-seekers, but as those who, even in humility, are a presence or a force with which to be reckoned.

“Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end” (2 Corinthians 3:12-13).

See 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 for more context.

From Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary:
"3:12-18 It is the duty of the ministers of the gospel to use great plainness, or clearness, of speech. The Old Testament believers had only cloudy and passing glimpses of that glorious Saviour, and unbelievers looked no further than to the outward institution. But the great precepts of the gospel, believe, love, obey, are truths stated as clearly as possible. And the whole doctrine of Christ crucified, is made as plain as human language can make it. Those who lived under the law, had a veil upon their hearts. This veil is taken away by the doctrines of the Bible about Christ. When any person is converted to God, then the veil of ignorance is taken away. The condition of those who enjoy and believe the gospel is happy, for the heart is set at liberty to run the ways of God's commandments. They have light, and with open face they behold the glory of the Lord. Christians should prize and improve these privileges. We should not rest contented without knowing the transforming power of the gospel, by the working of the Spirit, bringing us to seek to be like the temper and tendency of the glorious gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and into union with Him. We behold Christ, as in the glass of his word; and as the reflection from a mirror causes the face to shine, the faces of Christians shine also."
“Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy” (2 Corinthians 7:2-4).

With biblical boldness comes humility, other-mindedness, contentment, and joy.

“Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God's grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Ephesians 3:7-13).

The Christian's boldness not only comes from Christ, but his boldness is also in Christ. The same boldness that gives us the confidence to approach Christ is ours also to approach people on behalf of Christ.

‘In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:16-20).

All Christian boldness not only includes, but requires and demands the opening of the mouth.

“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:18-21).

If you are not a bold witness for Christ, could it be that you are ashamed of Christ? And if this is the case, where does your assurance of salvation lie? Might you need to examine yourself, and test yourself, to see if you are even in the faith?

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Colossians 2:13-15).

At the cross, Christ boldly and publicly shamed his enemies--all of them. The triumphant boldness of Christ on the cross shames not only His enemies, but also should shame the Christian who fears man to the point of causing him to refuse to open his mouth to testify for and about the Lord Jesus Christ.

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16).

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:19-23).

How can any Christian claim to have confidence to approach the very throne of the King, while living comfortably and cowardly with a lack of confidence to call others to repent and believe the gospel?

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:13-15).

Because of Christ's propitiation and our redemption as a result, we can boldly petition our God, with the confidence of knowing He will answer.

“‘And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’

“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:12-13).

Christian boldness is an astonishing thing to behold, even to the unbeliever.

“‘And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:29-31).

Boldness was part of the first Christians' new nature, and it is part the nature of those of us who are Christians today. The first Christians prayed for more of the same--for more of the same boldness they already had. The worse the persecution, the greater the opposition, and the more costly their faith, the more boldness the first Christians wanted.

Closing Remarks

Christian: your faith in Christ was never intended to be a private matter. The purpose of a lamp is always to shed light. Unless a lamp is lit, it is a useless ornament and nothing more than a decorative piece of furniture.

God has given every Christian boldness--some more than others--but every Christian has boldness as part of their new nature. The question is will you light the room by boldly opening your mouth to proclaim the gospel? Or will you settle for being an ornament, a decorative piece, serving little to no purpose.


And here is the audio of the study.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Evangelism Report: UC Santa Barbara


Yesterday, Keith Darrell and I spent the afternoon on the campus of UC Santa Barbara. Known for its beautiful seaside location, reputation as a "party school," and 15,000 bicycles, UC Santa Barbara, like every university campus, is a place filled with people who need the gospel.

Larry

Keith and I began our time on campus with prayer. As we sat in the cool shade of a tree, we noticed an elderly gentleman standing behind a very creative, handmade booth. It literally looked like this. No doubt that was the intent.

Of course, there were some clear differences between the older man's and Lucy's booths. The man was not offering psychiatric help. He was offering advice and answers to questions. He did have a small donation jar, but he also had a small, bi-fold, paper tent sign that assured people his services were free.

Keith had before seen the man and his booth on campus. Since the man was set up so close to where we planned to spend the day preaching, we approached him to find out what his plans were for the day. His name was Larry. After very brief introductions, Larry asked to hear our Christian testimonies, which we did not hesitate to provide.

Larry was noticeably cautious with us. Throughout the conversation he gently made his opinion known that conversations with students is a better than open-air preaching, for reaching them with the gospel. Doing our best to respond to Larry with the kindness and gentleness he showed us, Keith and I tried to explain to him that if we are all proclaiming the biblical gospel, of which we are not ashamed and which is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), then our preferred methodologies are of little account. Of course, we stressed the fact that our methodologies should not be overtly offensive, while recognizing that the cross, in all of its biblical presentations, is an offense to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18).

After our conversation, Larry decided to move his booth to the opposite side of the courtyard, only a couple hundred feet away. Throughout the day, I looked toward Larry's booth, almost always seeing him engaging a student in conversation. During our conversation with Larry, I was left with no reason to question the authenticity of his profession of faith. So, I rejoiced that Larry was communicating the gospel to students, in a way that was in keeping with his personality and godly preferences.

Here's the audio of our conversation with Larry:



John 1-3

Keith and I are different preachers who herald the same message. That should come as no surprise. No two open-air preachers are alike in every way--at least they shouldn't be--accept for the gospel. Keith's grasp of apologetics, the sciences, and philosophy eclipses my own several times over. I can sit and listen to Keith preach and teach all day long. He has the stamina of a German Shepherd, the tenacity of a terrier, and the gentleness of a retriever. Yes, Keith "doggedly" preaches the gospel. Sorry. Couldn't help myself.

I started our open-air preaching with a general law and gospel message, which I followed with the public reading of John 1-3. Here's the audio for my first open-air and Scripture reading:



Gospel of John

My chosen gospel tract for the day was the Gospel of John. Through the generous donations of several people, I was able to purchase almost 1,000 bibles in English and in Spanish. I was also able to purchase several hundred copies of the Gospel of John, in English and in Spanish. With my Bible stock almost depleted, I focused on distributing copies of the Gospel of John. Dozens of students appreciatively received a copy of the fourth Gospel.

As I distributed the Gospel of John, Keith began his first open-air message for the day. Almost immediately, he was engaged by a very pleasant student who professed to be an atheist (see the above photo). The interaction drew a small crowd that listened intently for some time. Keith was, of course, intentional about weaving the gospel throughout the exchange of ideas. And he left the young woman to contemplate that no matter how ardently she denied it, she was, in fact, a relativist.

Daniel

While Keith preached in the open-air, I continued distributing copies of the Gospel of John to those passing by--to those who would accept the free booklet. As happens often while distributing gospel tracts, many people when indicating they do not want a tract will say, "No. I'm good." What most people mean when they say that is that they believe they do not need what is being offered to them. A young man named Daniel walked by and said just that: "No. I'm good." Wanting to engage Daniel in conversation, I asked, "Can you give me your definition of 'good?'" Twenty-five minutes later, Daniel accepted the offer of a copy of the Gospel of John.

Here's the audio of my conversation with Daniel:



Not an Offer of American Evangelicalism

As Keith "tapped out," and I began my last open-air message of the day, I had a sense in my heart that I needed to preach a message to the students in which I made a clear distinction between American Evangelicalism and biblical Christianity. In doing so, I knew it would be important to stress that there is a cost, a real cost, for following Jesus Christ. While the crowd was small, those present listened intently, with most staying for the entire message. Following the message, a number of students accepted copies of the Gospel of John. It also led to a good conversation with a freshman named Michael who recently converted from the Church of the Nazarene to the Orthodox faith.

Here's the audio of my last open-air sermon of the day:



Demoniacs?

Those who know me well know that I am not one to look for or find demons under every rock. While I fully believe in the spiritual forces of darkness (because I believe the Bible), I think much of what I see on the streets in the behavior of people can be attribute to their sinful hatred of God and love of self, and not the direct, possessive influence of Satan. However, there have been times in the last decade when I've been left to wonder, to the point of almost being convinced, that I had been in the presence of a demon-possessed person.

Yesterday on the campus of UC Santa Barbara it happened not once, but twice.

When we arrived at our spot on campus, we noticed a middle-aged woman sitting at a nearby picnic table. We never could determine what she was doing, but she had the picnic table covered with a large piece of black felt or cloth. While distributing copies of the Gospel of John, I approached the lady as she was packing up to leave.

The woman had a look in her eyes that gave me the impression she was there and, at the same time, she wasn't there--if you know what I mean. I asked her if she would like a copy of the Gospel of John. She immediately became hostile. The audio doesn't do the encounter justice. Her posture, the look in her eyes, her facial expression, and the tone of her voice: every aspect of the encounter left me wondering if I had been in the presence of a demoniac.

Here's the audio of our very brief interaction:



The second suspicious encounter was with a large man in his mid-30's. He was dressed in black, with very dark sunglasses, and (I'm not kidding) an Anton Lavey-esque goatee.

As I preached my last open-air message of the day, the man stood a short distance away and to my right. He stood with his arms folded, eyes locked on me, and a very unhappy look on his face.

At one point during my message, I asked those gathered and listening if anyone had lived a perfect life. The man in black slowly and methodically raised his hand. "Sir?" I asked. "Are you saying you have never sinned?"

He slowly nodded his head without taking his eyes off me or changing his facial expression.

"Well, with all due respect, I don't believe you."

Nothing. No reaction. No change in posture or expression. He just stared.

When I finished preaching, I was almost immediately engaged by a young, very personable adherent to the Orthodox faith. The man in black had drawn closer and was standing behind me, talking to a student. I could tell he wanted to talk to me. Meanwhile, Keith sat down between me and the man and engaged the man in conversation. When I finished my conversation, I turned around to listen to Keith's conversation with the man. The conversation revolved around the man's insistence that he was perfectly righteous and his insistence that Jesus was not God.

I had to leave before Keith finished his conversation with the man. But Keith would later tell me that he wondered if the man was a demoniac.

A Good Day

Keith and I enjoyed a good day of fellowship and side-by-side gospel ministry. Please pray for those who heard the gospel--either through our preaching, the conversations we enjoyed, and/or the Gospel of John they received.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Arrest of Street Preacher Tatsuo Akamine

On Wednesday, February 25, 2015, outside of the DMV in Torrance, CA, a street preacher named Tatsuo Akamine was arrested by an officer with the California Highway Patrol. He was first detained for investigation of disturbing the peace with loud noise (415 PC). As of the time of writing this article, I do not know what were the arresting charges.

Before I comment further, here is a video that documents the officer making contact with Tatsuo, which runs through to moments after his arrest. I do not know what happened before or after the segment of time captured in this video.

Please watch the video in its entirety, before you continue reading.




My Bona Fides to Write This Article

While many of my readers are familiar with my law enforcement and evangelism background, there will likely be several people who read this article who have no idea who I am. And they may wonder, "What gives him the right to....."

I have 20 years of law enforcement experience and 10 years of street evangelism and open-air preaching experience. I made thousands of arrests during my law enforcement career, and I served as a field training officer for a portion of that career.

I've been threatened with citation and/or arrest many times while open-air preaching.

I was cited once by an LAPD officer on Hollywood Boulevard who lied on the citation (citing me for using amplification when I had none on my person) and, being Korean himself, encouraged me to go to North Korea to "sell God." The significance of the Korean-American officer suggesting I go to North Korea instead of South Korea should not be lost on you, the reader.

I was arrested in London, on July 1, 2013, for allegations of breach of peace and homophobic hate speech. I was held for seven hours and interrogated about not only the incident, but what I thought and felt about homosexuality as a Christian. I was subsequently released from custody with no charges preferred against me.

I was arrested in Dundee, Scotland, on January 8, 2014, for allegations of breach of peace and homophobic hate speech. I was held for 30 hours and charges were filed against me. In June of 2014, all charges were dropped after investigators and prosecutors reviewed the video evidence of my open-air preaching.

I have provided training and counsel--in person, by phone, and in writing, to thousands of Christians (and several churches) regarding how to interact with private security and law enforcement. I have also provided counsel to a number of brothers in Christ following their arrests, which stemmed from open-air preaching and other forms of street evangelism.

I have written and commented extensively regarding issues pertaining to how Christians should interact with law enforcement, in the context of public evangelism. One article I wrote has seen wide distribution.

I have been on both sides of the criminal justice system, and I have something to say.


Personal Context and Disclosure

I met Tatsuo Akamine outside of Staples Center, during the 2009 NBA championship series. He was one of a number of open-air preachers present that day. Tatsuo was friends with several of the men present--men whom I respect and hold in high regard. To the best of my recollection, I have not seen or talked to Tatsuo since that day. All I know of Tatsuo I've gleaned from watching portions of just a few of his open-air preaching videos.

I have known several men--good men--who, over the years, have preached at the Torrance DMV. Each of them experienced both positive and negative contacts with people standing in line, DMV security, and law enforcement. The fact that Tatsuo was contacted by law enforcement, in and of itself, is no reason to automatically assume Tatsuo did anything to create or instigate a negative contact with law enforcement.

Furthermore, I would like to restate the following. I was not there. I was not at the Torrance DMV when this happened. As I said at the beginning of this article, I have no idea what happened before the video starts or after the video ends.

However, having only the video to critique does not invalidate a critique limited to the content of the video. I did not have to be at the Torrance DMV to speak about what I saw in this video.


Did You Talk to Tatsuo, First?

I am sure to be asked the following questions certainly by some of those who will not like this article. "Did you talk to Tatsuo before writing this article?"

Answer: No.

I have no ax to grind with Tatsuo. I haven't seen, heard from, or thought of him in some six years. Our paths have simply not crossed. I don't know what his doctrinal positions are now. I didn't know what they were when I met him. I don't know if he is walking down the path of apostasy like some of the open-air preachers out there, or if he is a theological Rock of Gibraltar.

I am under no ethical or moral obligation to talk to Tatsuo about this video before writing this article. This video has been made part of the public record, presumably by the person who made the recording, which was made at Tatsuo's request, as evidenced at the beginning of the video. I am no more obligated to contact Tatsuo before writing this article than I am obligated to contact the CHP officer before writing this article. I am no more obligated to contact Tatsuo than you are obligated to contact an author before writing a review of his or her book, or a producer before writing a review of his film.


What Tatsuo Did Right

The video makes it clear that Tatsuo positioned himself on a public sidewalk adjacent to DMV property. Therefore, regulations that apply to the exercise of free speech on DMV property did not apply to Tatsuo's open-air preaching on a public sidewalk. While Tatsuo's distance from the crowd is not germane, the video also shows that there was quite a bit of distance between Tatsuo and the people standing in line outside the DMV.

Tatsuo had someone with him making a video recording.

These days, the Christian who takes to the streets to proclaim the gospel in any way whatsoever and does so without having a voice recorder and/or video camera with him is simply foolish. Had it not been for the presence of a video camera, I might still be in a Scottish prison to this day. Had I been found guilty on all charges and enhancements, my exposure was up to five years in prison.

Tatsuo did not raise his voice or become overly animated while he talked to the officer. Had Tatsuo done otherwise, the officer could have perceived that as a precursor to a physical attack.

Tatsuo put the large cone down, on the ground. With it out of his hands, the officer was less likely to perceive the cone as a potential weapon.

Tatsuo, to a point, engaged the officer in respectful and reasonable conversation, asking legitimate questions.

There is nothing wrong with asking the officer for information regarding the law(s) allegedly violated. There is nothing wrong with asking the officer if he was being detained or was facing arrest.

Not knowing what Tatsuo preached prior to the start of the video, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that one thing Tatsuo did right was tried to preach the gospel to lost people.

Unfortunately, in my opinion, based on my training and experience, this is where the list of things Tatsuo did right comes to an end.


What Did Tatsuo Do Wrong?

Tatsuo initially refused to give the officer his identification.

Tatsuo was lawfully detained for the investigation of a crime. It matters not whether a crime was actually committed. Officers lawfully detain people every day for investigation of infractions, misdemeanors, and felonious crimes, later to determine that no crime was committed. The officer was there, either because someone called to complain about the preaching or because the officer observed what he believed could have been a violation of law. Under these circumstances, Tatsuo was obligated, by law, to show the officer his identification.

The moment Tatsuo refused to show his identification to the officer, he was subject to arrest. The officer was not required to ask Tatsuo more than once for his identification. The officer was under no obligation whatsoever to negotiate with Tatsuo.

The moment Tatsuo refused to show his identification, since he was being lawfully detained, he was also subject to search. The law allows for an officer to conduct a patdown search of a person being lawfully detained for weapons, for reasons of officer safety. The law also allows for an officer to search someone being lawfully detained for identification when the person being detained either cannot or refuses to show identification.

The moment Tatsuo refused to comply with the officer's lawful orders to turn around and place his hands over his head, for the purpose of either a cursory search for weapons or a search for his identification, he was subject to arrest. The officer, at that moment, could use whatever amount of force he deemed both reasonable and necessary to overcome Tatsuo's resistance.

Tatsuo was right in one sense when he told the officer he had "a choice" as to whether or not to comply with the officer. What he experienced from that moment were the consequences of a bad choice. He was not being persecuted at that moment; he was breaking the law by physically resisting an officer.

Tatsuo was very fortunate that he was not injured. The way Tatsuo locked up his body and clenched his hands together, which are behaviors that are obvious to even the untrained eye watching the video, were aggressive acts, which could lead a reasonable officer to believe a physical altercation was imminent. Again, the officer is, at this point, justified to use whatever level of force necessary to overcome Tatsuo's resistance. The officer was not obligated to "play fair" or use the same level of force Tatsuo was using to resist.

Even though Tatsuo was resisting, the officer shows commendable restraint by trying to deescalate the situation through conversation--explaining his "plan" to Tatsuo.

Tatsuo, not the officer, then re-escalates the situation by refusing to comply with the officer. He refuses to obey the officer's lawful command to "turn around," and then he resists the officer's efforts to turn him around.

Tatsuo momentarily resists the officer's command and efforts to place Tatsuo's hands above his head. Tatsuo then refuses to spread his legs and resists, multiple times, the officer's efforts to move his legs so he could safely conduct a search of Tatsuo's person, incident to a lawful arrest.

Even after being handcuffed, Tatsuo continues to physically and unlawfully resist the officer.

Then, Tatsuo and his friends begin to make a scene by shouting.

Any officer--any reasonable officer--would experience myriad of emotions as a result of recognizing he or she was in real and present danger. That the officer didn't put out an assistance request at this moment is a discussion for another time. I cannot get into the officer's head to ascertain to what degree he was in fear for his safety.

Tatsuo then foolishly asks his friend with the camera to follow him, now putting his friend in potential danger and maybe even making him subject to arrest.

For reasons of officer safety, the officer's order to Tatsuo's friend not to follow him was reasonable and appropriate, considering the circumstances. The officer even told Tatsuo's friend, "You're violating my officer safety!" But foolishly, the person behind the camera argues with the officer.

The video ends with Tatsuo being escorted in handcuffs to the patrol car, while Tatsuo shouts Scripture quotes about persecution. Another person, away from the camera, begins to preach.

While I do not believe Tatsuo was in violation of California Penal Code section 415 (disturbing the peace), I also do not believe Tatsuo was persecuted for his faith. I believe he simply suffered the consequences for his unlawful behavior. And, sadly, that same behavior brought a reproach upon Christ and His gospel.


What the Officer Did Wrong

Tatsuo was not the only one to make mistakes, egregious mistakes, in this situation. The officer made mistakes, too.

As many street cops seem to be these days, the CHP officer in this video appears to have a wrong understanding about the relationship between catch-all "disturbing the peace" laws and ordinances and a person's First Amendment right to open his mouth, raise his voice, and proclaim his deeply held religious beliefs, regardless of the religion, in a public place.

Piecing together what I can from just a six-minute video, it appears the officer's assertion that Tatsuo was disturbing the peace was a result of a complaint or complaints made by people standing in line at the DMV regarding Tatsuo's loud preaching. Having received those complaints, the CHP dispatched the officer to the DMV.

The fact that people were bothered by Tatsuo's preaching, in and of itself, does not necessarily constitute disturbing the peace. The Bill of Rights protects the freedom of religion not the freedom from religion. The First Amendment protects a person's right to speak, not a person's desire not to hear something in a public place they don't like. In other words, a heckler doesn't have veto power over someone lawfully speaking in a public place.

In a 1951 Supreme Court case, Feiner v. New York, the Supreme Court  "reaffirmed that a speaker cannot be arrested for the content of his speech, and that the police must not be used as an instrument to silence unpopular views, but must be used to silence a speaker who is trying to incite a riot."

While the courts are trying to change legal precedence that has stood for more than 60 years, for now the law of the land remains that the government cannot silence public speech simply because listeners are annoyed or even offended by the content of the speech.

In the video, the officer cited that Tatsuo was using amplification. Most municipal ordinances, when regulating the use of amplification, specify that amplified sound refers to sound which is electronically enhanced/amplified. In most cases, using a cheerleader-type cone does not constitute, in a legal sense, amplified sound. Tatsua can be heard in the video, more than once, trying to explain to the officer that he has talked to Torrance PD officers on multiple occasions and that he has received some assurances that standing on the sidewalk and preaching with a cone falls within the guidelines of local ordinances.

Curious as to what the noise regulations are for the City of Torrance, I looked up the code. Under "Definitions," in section 46.1.2 (j), it reads:
"Sound amplifying equipment shall mean any machine or device for the amplification of the human voice, music, or any other sound. Sound amplifying equipment shall not include standard automobile radios when used and heard only by the occupants of the vehicle in which the automobile radio is installed. Sound amplifying equipment, as used in this Chapter, shall not include warning devices on authorized emergency vehicles or horns or other warning devices on any vehicle used only for traffic safety purposes."
The City of Torrance's definition of "sound amplification equipment" is vague, at best. Unfortunately, this gives officers on the street a great deal of latitude when determining what is and what isn't sound amplification equipment. While most officers would not see Tatsuo's cheerleader cone as an amplification device, the code leaves room for an officer to have a differing opinion.

In section 46.5.3 of the City of Torrance Municipal Code, guidelines are given for the use of amplified sound. Once again, the ordinance is vague, not specifying amplified sound as that which is produced electronically.

While the officer could have legitimately (although, in my opinion, unreasonably) considered Tatsuo's cone "amplified sound," the officer still had a problem. The officer insisted that Tatsuo was not allowed to be, well, loud--that raising his voice was a violation of 415 PC. The City of Torrance Municipal Code, like most municipal codes are not on the officer's side.

In order for the officer to make a legal determination that Tatsuo's preaching was "too loud," the officer is required by statute to use a device to determine just how loud Tatsuo's preaching was. The law does not allow for an officer's subjective determination as to what does and does not constitute noise that is "too loud." According to section 46.1.3 of the City of Torrance Municipal Code:
"Noise levels shall be measured with a sound level meter satisfying the requirements of ASA S1.4-1961, American Standard Specification for General Purpose Sound Level Meters, or latest revision thereof. Noise level of steady or slowly varying sounds shall be measured using the slow dynamic characteristic of the sound level meter and by reading the central tendency of the needle. Noise level of impulse sounds shall be measured using the fast dynamic characteristic of the sound level meter and by reading the maximum indication of the needle."
Section 46.7.2 gives very specific enforcement guidelines in which readings of both ambient and source noise levels must be taken before a determination of a code violation can be determined.

The officer was wrong. He was wrong about his application of 415 PC, and he was wrong by applying an arbitrary standard for what constituted loud noise.


Tatsuo's Choices

There were at least three ways Tatsuo could have handled this situation:

1. Submit to the officer's request to stop preaching, contact legal representation such as Alliance Defending Freedom, and allow attorneys to try to bring the situation to a positive resolution--one that would allow Tatsuo to continue preaching at the Torrance DMV

2. Refuse to submit to the officer's request to stop preaching, subject himself to arrest, and peaceably allow himself to either be cited in the field, or be taken to the station where he would likely be booked, cited, and released. He could then challenge the law in the courts.

3. Go the hard way..... Refuse to comply with the officer's request to stop preaching, resist arrest, create more legal problems for himself, and bring a reproach upon Christ and His gospel. This was the choice Tatsuo made. This was the worst and most unbiblical choice of the three.


Scriptural Considerations
"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience" (Romans 13:1-5).
The governing authority, in this case a CHP officer, was wrong in his application of the law. Yet in this situation, Tatsuo should have submitted to his authority. The officer responded to a complaint of noise. There is no evidence (and conspiracy theorists may hate me for this one) that the officer asked Tatsuo to stop preaching because of the content of his message. This was not an Acts 3-5 situation. Tatsuo was not ordered to stop preaching in the name of Jesus. He was ordered to, well, pipe down. There is no indication that this officer would not have acted the same way, making the same mistakes and doing the same right things, if Tatsuo had been a street preaching Muslim or Mormon.

Tatsuo was not persecuted for what he said. He was not persecuted for righteousness sake (Matthew 5:10-11). No; sadly, Tatsuo was detained and subsequently arrested for what he did.
"Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor" (1 Peter 2:13-17).
Tatsuo had an opportunity to bring glory to Christ. He had the opportunity to silence the ignorance of foolish people. But he missed both opportunities and chose to sin instead. Instead of silencing those standing in line who may have been mocking Christ and His gospel, Tatsuo's behavior, particularly toward the officer, gave mockers and revilers more opportunity to store up wrath for themselves on the day of wrath (Romans 2:5). Tatsuo's behavior likely encouraged blasphemers and haters of God to foolishly further justify their unbelief.

I do not know or even presume to know Tatsuo's heart. So, I cannot say that in this situation Tatsuo used his freedom in Christ and freedom as an American citizen as a cover-up for evil. I am only evaluating his actions in the context of the video. However, I believe Tatsuo wrongly tried to assert his freedoms and did so in such away that resulted in evil--sin.

Again, the officer was wrong in his application of the law, but he did not behave unbecomingly in the video. He was not disrespectful toward Tatsuo or anyone else in his group. While his application of 415 PC was in error, he behaved professionally. The officer did not threaten Tatsuo in order to force or coerce him to choose man over God. The officer did not order him, under threat of harm or imprisonment, to not teach in the name of Jesus. The officer, while wrong in his application of a particular penal code section, acted professionally, patiently, and again, showed commendable restraint when Tatsuo began to physically resist him.

Tatsuo did not, as a servant of God, honor the officer. By resisting arrest and then creating a scene, which could have escalated the situation into something more dangerous for both Tatsuo and the officer, Tatsuo disobeyed and physically challenged a man put in place as an authoritative representative of the government. He dishonored one serving as a representative of an institution established by God. Tatsuo did not break the law by raising his voice on a public sidewalk, outside the Torrance DMV. But he did break the law, multiple laws, when he escalated the situation and refused to obey the officer. He sinned. He needs to publicly confess his public sin and repent before God.


What Will Be The Outcome?

Had this situation ended quietly with Tatsuo receiving a citation for disturbing the peace, I doubt he would have ever seen the inside of a courtroom. I believe as soon as the district attorney or a judge saw the circumstances surrounding the citation, the case would have been dismissed.

There is still the possibility of that happening. It is possible, in spite of Tatsuo's actual crimes post-contact with the officer, depending on whether or not other charges beyond 415 PC are filed, that any and all charges might be dismissed. It is possible the D.A. will look at the totality of the circumstances, see that Tatsuo's other crimes, which did not result in injury to the officer, were the result of the officer's misapplication of 415 PC, and dismiss the case.

However, Tatsuo upped the ante when he refused to show his identification, resisted arrest, and created a disturbance as he was being escorted to the patrol car. The D.A. could choose not to file the 415 PC charge and simply file a charge of resisting an officer. The D.A. could concede that Tatsuo did not disturb the peace, but he interfered with an officer in the performance of his duties.

Of course, a dozen other scenarios could play out, with the outcome being something I'm not considering.


The Sovereignty of God in Tatsuo's Sin

Tatsuo's behavior, as dishonoring as it was to Christ and His gospel, did not and will not push a single person away from Jesus. No one's salvation is contingent upon how Tatsuo behaved during this incident. If the CHP officer or the people standing in line at the DMV, or anyone else present at the time of Tatsuo's arrest were offended by Tatsuo's behavior, or if any of them are presently using his behavior as an excuse for their unbelief, there is nothing that Tatsuo did or said that can or will thwart the predetermined, eternal plan of God for the before-mentioned people.

That being said, God's sovereignty does not give me, Tatsuo, or any other Christian a license to sin. The extent to which God will discipline Tatsuo for what he did, only God knows. Whatever God decides to do and/or allow will be good and perfect and loving toward Tatsuo. Of this we can be assured (Hebrews 12:7-11).

I hope Tatsuo will read this. Although the article is critical of his behavior, I hope he will be able to receive what is written in the spirit it is written.

I hope Tatsuo is released from custody soon, if he hasn't been released already.

I hope Tatsuo does not spend any time in jail if he is found guilty, in a court of law. I doubt that will happen, anyway. With the jail overcrowding and the minor nature of Tatsuo's offenses, if he is found guilty he is probably looking at a fine and probation.

I hope Tatsuo will learn from his mistakes. I hope he will humble himself enough to be able to see the mistakes he made.

I hope this situation draws Tatsuo closer to Christ and is used by God to further mature his faith.

And I hope in this situation and in all things the Lamb will receive the reward for His suffering.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Mall: A Great Fishing Pond..... While it Lasts


After reading Ray Comfort's Militant Evangelism, being convicted by the Holy Spirit for my sins of evangelistic apathy and depraved indifference, I was determined to engage in biblical evangelism. Through the Living Waters website, I discovered there were other people (not many) in my area for whom the evangelism light bulb was now illumined.

It was about 11 years ago that I went to a mall for the first time to engage in evangelism. A man who would become a good friend, and remains one to this day, Dru Morgan, was my leader that evening. It was one of the first times I distributed gospel tracts, and I think it was the first time I ever engaged a stranger in evangelistic conversation. Wow. A lot of life and ministry has happened since.

Thanks, Dru.

The Westfield Valencia Town Center  is the only mall in my community. I arrived at the mall yesterday afternoon, about a half-hour before my appointed time. After I parked, I packed up my rolling cart with bibles (English and Spanish), gospel tracts (again, English and Spanish), and an assortment of other visual aids.

I made my way to the security office where I signed in. Liking to patronize the mall while I'm there, I stopped at Starbucks on my way to my assigned location, on the second floor. My spot was at the top of the escalator and situated between the children's play-place and the family lounge. A great location.

Waiting for me was a table with a nice, black tablecloth and three chairs, provided and set up by mall staff.

The above photo is what my evangelism table looked like once I set up everything.


It's a Different Kind of "Fishing"

Allow me to use some fishing analogies to describe the various kinds of evangelism in which I engage.

Open-air preaching is like commercial fishing with nets. The preacher casts a wide net hoping to catch many fish at one time.

Engaging strangers in conversation is like fly fishing. The fly fisherman is hunting with rod and reel. He reads the flow of the stream. He looks for tell-tale signs of spots where fish might be hiding. And then he tosses the fly in the general proximity of where he suspects fish to be, hoping they will bite. Engaging strangers in one-to-one conversation involves many of the same tactics. The Christian is constantly surveying the area in which he finds himself, looking for people who might be ready for a conversation.

Tract distribution is like chumming the water--throwing bait on the water to attract fish. The Christian distributes tracts hoping everyone who takes one from his hand will come to repentance and faith as they read the tract. He also hopes people will stop as they receive a gospel tract and engage in conversation.

Mall evangelism is like the kind of fishing you might see in a Norman Rockwell painting. Picture a fisherman sitting on a chair or his tackle box along the shore of a peaceful pond or lake. His pole is propped up on a Y-shaped stick. He eats a sandwich, or reads a book while he waits for the pole to move, indicating that a fish is going after his bait.

In all of the above scenarios, there is a common denominator. They are all examples of fishing, which doesn't always equate to catching.

If you were to ask me what is my favorite kind of "fishing," my answer would be open-air preaching. If you were to ask me which of the before-mentioned forms of evangelism is the most effective, I would tell you they are all tied for First Place. Why? The effectiveness of evangelism, when the evangelism is biblical, is not found in a particular or preferred method of evangelism. The effectiveness of evangelism is found in the power of the message (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the power of God for salvation. The gospel.

While God has hard-wired me to be a herald on the streets and college campuses, I love all forms of biblical evangelism, including (but not limited to) conversations, tract distribution, and mall evangelism.


Some Resources

If you would like to read some stories about my experiences in mall evangelism, you will find them here, here, here, and here.

THE VERY BEST mall evangelism team of which I am well-aware is the NorCal Seedsowers. This is the group, under the leadership of my good friend, Daniel Beaudoin, who inspired me to starting "fishing" at my local mall. Daniel is also a security supervisor for the Westfield Mall in San Jose, which gives him some obvious street cred (or should I say, mall cred) when it comes to evangelizing in malls.

Seven years ago, I wrote an article titled "Hello Officer! -- Interacting with Law Enforcement and Security." I believe you will find the information in this article helpful all of your public evangelism efforts.


Legalities

Disclaimer: What I'm about to offer is NOT legal advice. I'm not an attorney, and I don't even play one on TV. The following is for informational purposes only.

A 1980 United States Supreme Court decision in a landmark case, Pruneyard v. Robins, set the standard for the exercise on private property that is accessible by the public.

Here's what happened.
Soon after appellees had begun soliciting in appellant privately owned shopping center's central courtyard for signatures from passersby for petitions in opposition to a United Nations resolution, a security guard informed appellees that they would have to leave because their activity violated shopping center regulations prohibiting any visitor or tenant from engaging in any publicly expressive activity that is not directly related to the center's commercial purposes. Appellees immediately left the premises and later filed suit in a California state court to enjoin the shopping center and its owner (also an appellant) from denying appellees access to the center for the purpose of circulating their petitions. The trial court held that appellees were not entitled under either the Federal or California Constitution to exercise their asserted rights on the shopping center property, and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. The California Supreme Court reversed, holding that the California Constitution protects speech and petitioning, reasonably exercised, in shopping centers even when the center is privately owned, and that such result does not infringe appellants' property rights protected by the Federal Constitution.
And here's how the United States Supreme court decided the case.
"Appellants first contend that Lloyd Corp. v. Tanner prevents the State from requiring a private shopping center owner to provide access to persons exercising their state constitutional rights of free speech and petition when adequate alternative avenues of communication are available...

Our reasoning in Lloyd, however, does not ex proprio vigore [by its own strength] limit the authority of the State to exercise its police power or its sovereign right to adopt in its own Constitution individual liberties more expansive than those conferred by the Federal Constitution...

Appellants next contend that a right to exclude others underlies the Fifth Amendment guarantee against the taking of property without just compensation and the Fourteenth Amendment guarantee against the deprivation of property without due process of law...

Here the requirement that appellants permit appellees to exercise state-protected rights of free expression and petition on shopping center property clearly does not amount to an unconstitutional infringement of appellants' property rights under the Taking Clause. There is nothing to suggest that preventing appellants from prohibiting this sort of activity will unreasonably impair the value or use of their property as a shopping center. The PruneYard is a large commercial complex that covers several city blocks, contains numerous separate business establishments, and is open to the public at large. The decision of the California Supreme Court makes it clear that the PruneYard may restrict expressive activity by adopting time, place, and manner regulations that will minimize any interference with its commercial functions. Appellees were orderly, and they limited their activity to the common areas of the shopping center. In these circumstances, the fact that they may have 'physically invaded' appellants' property cannot be viewed as determinative...

Appellants finally contend that a private property owner has a First Amendment right not to be forced by the State to use his property as a forum for the speech of others...

[T]he shopping center by choice of its owner is not limited to the personal use of appellants. It is instead a business establishment that is open to the public to come and go as they please. The views expressed by members of the public in passing out pamphlets or seeking signatures for a petition thus will not likely be identified with those of the owner. Second, no specific message is dictated by the State to be displayed on appellants' property. There consequently is no danger of governmental discrimination for or against a particular message. Finally, as far as appears here appellants can expressly disavow any connection with the message by simply posting signs in the area where the speakers or handbillers stand. Such signs, for example, could disclaim any sponsorship of the message and could explain that the persons are communicating their own messages by virtue of state law...

We conclude that neither appellants' federally recognized property rights nor their First Amendment rights have been infringed by the California Supreme Court's decision recognizing a right of appellees to exercise state-protected rights of expression and petition on appellants' property."

The US Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Supreme Court of California.
While this court decision was good news for free speech advocates in California and 36 other states, to this day there remains 13 states that refuse to follow the precedent set in the Pruneyard v. Robins case. Those states are: Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Wisconsin, and Washington.

Now, I know some of my friends who live in the before-mentioned 13 states just had their hearts broken. I'm so very sorry. Really. I know what such news would do to my spirits.

But all is not lost.

Just because you live in a state that has not adopted the Supreme Court decision in Pruneyard v. Robins as state law, that doesn't mean the malls in your area will not allow you to engage in evangelism on mall property. It simply means they are not legally obligated to allow you to engage in evangelism on mall property. That is an important distinction.

Now, if you live in one of the 37 states that recognizes the Pruneyard v. Robins decision, this does not mean you can simply walk into your local mall and do whatever you want. Don't expect to waltz into the mall, stand atop a table in the food court, and start open-air preaching without quickly being told to stop and/or escorted off mall property by mall security. In the before-mentioned scenario (which has been tried by some zealous evangelists, by the way), mall management would have every legal right to send you and your gospel tracts packin'.

If you look again at the Supreme Court's decision in Pruneyard v. Robins, you will see that business owners/management, while they cannot prohibit free speech exercise, they do have the right to regulate it. The Supreme Court indicated that businesses can establish "time, place, and manner" regulations for free speech exercise on their property. This means malls can legally require you to fill out an application and determine where, when, and how you will engage in free speech while on their property. If you do not comply with their legitimate "time, place, and manner" policy they can (and will) ask you to leave.

When it comes to mall evangelism, I want to strongly encourage you to play by the rules. Do not bring a reproach upon Christ by trying to be a law unto yourself, by ignoring legitimate and legal policies of property owners.


Getting Started

Step One: Talk to your pastors/elders about what you want to do.

Explain to them what you want to do. While in American Evangelicalism anything is possible, it is unlikely your pastors/elders would balk. Get their blessing. Get their prayerful and maybe even their financial support (i.e. tracts, bibles, etc.). Do everything you can to make your mall evangelism a ministry of the church. Get your pastors/elders permission to have information about the church available on the table.

Step Two: Go to the management office of your local mall.

If your local mall is part of a larger corporation or groups of malls, as is the case with my local mall (Westfield), then you will likely discover your mall has a well-researched, nice and tight, legal "time, place, and manner" free speech policy. If the mall is an independent establishment, then, if they are current on the issue (and smart) they will likewise have a solid free speech policy.

Go to the management office of your local mall and request an application for use of the common area for free speech. Or you can ask for an application for the distribution of literature. Or you can ask for an application to set up a free speech table.

The application will likely ask for your name, address, phone number, email address. It will also ask for information regarding the group, organization, ministry, or church you represent.

Give the information. Set your conspiracy theories and fears of "big brother" aside. Getting the gospel to the lost is more important than the illusion of privacy. That's right. Privacy is an illusion. But that's another article. The mall has the legal right to know to whom they are granting permission to exercise free speech on their property.

When you go to the mall to complete and submit the application, have some samples of the material you plan to distribute at the table. Mall management will likely request this, too.

As part of the application process, you will be given choices regarding dates, times, and locations within the mall to set up your evangelism table. In my case, it has been a very pleasant experience working with mall management. My local mall provides me with the choice of one of seven different locations in the mall. Most of them are well-traveled areas. And a few of the options are high traffic areas where I can go through hundreds of tracts in a matter of a few hours.

Step Three: Decide what you will put on your table.

Your mall will likely provide you with a table (6'-8') and a few chairs. My mall limits me to three people working my table, at any given time.

Pack your table with bibles, gospel tracts, DVDs, church information, and any other material you would like to give away.

Try to include some eye-catching props that will draw attention to your table. The mall will likely allow you to small, standing signs on the table. Get creative.

Step Four: Demeanor

Okay. So, you went to your pastor. He's an on-fire evangelist and loves that you've taken the initiative (nothing wrong with being hopeful, is there?). You've gone to your local mall, completed and submitted the application, and picked your time and date. You've got all of your material and props together, and you're ready to go.

The big day comes. You've got everything set up. You've posted pictures of your table on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and in your favorite atheist chat room, just to send them into neurotransmitter misfire (some evangelists are a little twisted that way).

You sit down behind the table and begin to check your email on your phone or your begin to dig in to that new book you've been meaning to read.


STOP!!!!!!!!

How inviting do you think it is to a stranger walking toward your table when all he or she can see is the top of your head? In my case, the reflection of mall lighting off my cranium could blind the person and potentially expose me to a civil suit.

Your demeanor need not (and should not) be over the top. But you should be at least as excited to be there as the kids working the different kiosks throughout the mall. Come to think of it, you should be more excited than the kids working the kiosks. Many of them look like they are waiting for a root canal.

Keep your head up. Keep your eyes open. And smile.

Yes. Smile.

Look. I'm a retired deputy sheriff. I look like a cop. I sound like a cop. And when I make eye contact with a person, I can leave them thinking, "What? I haven't broken the law. Have I broken the law? Is he going to take me to jail? I think he wants to take me to jail." Sometimes their first impression would be accurate. But I digress.

The point is that I know enough about myself to know I have to be intentional to smile--to look and sound friendly.

Again, at the mall you are going to be contacting strangers. People you've never met are going to be the majority of folks who walk up to the table. You can have the best looking table on the planet, but if the look on your face, your body language, or your overall countenance is telling folks to stay away, what do you think people are going to do? That's right. They're going to stay away.

When someone makes eye contact with you, say hello. Whether or not the person comes over to the table, wish people a good day.

Did I mention the whole smiling thing?

If someone stops and his eyes seem to linger in the direction of your table, let them know that everything on the table is free. Ask them if they would like a free Bible. Engage them in conversation. Ask them about their day. Ask them what brings them to the mall. Ask them if they attend church locally or if they have any spiritual beliefs. One look at the table and the person knows why you're there (at least they should). So, you can skip all the uncomfortable formality of trying to engage a stranger in a conversation without the other person having any context for why you are talking to them.

Oh, one more thing.

Have fun! Let the joy of the Lord be your strength! Think nothing of how many or how few people are coming to the table. Remember, this is a different kind of "fishing." You're the fisherman sitting peacefully on the lake's shore, waiting for the big one to bite.


Conclusion

I've titled this article "The Mall: A Great Fishing Pond..... While it Lasts." The reason: the availability of this kind of evangelism won't last forever. I think it's pollyannic for anyone to think laws are going to become more favorable for Christian evangelism. Free speech rights for Christians are not going to become more liberal, but rather more prohibitive.

Yet for now, malls are still a wonderful place for reaching your community with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While this article is detailed, it is not exhaustive. However, I hope you find it helpful. And I look forward of hearing your testimonies of how you've seen the Lord work around your mall evangelism table.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Joy of Freedom from Fear's Grip


I often receive private messages, emails, and the like about the many different things that can kill me. My Facebook and Twitter feeds are also inundated with news about things that can kill me: microwaves, carrying my cell phone in my pocket, caffeine, a lack of caffeine, whole milk, meat and dairy products containing antibiotics, Mad Cow, Mac & Cheese, the second-hand smoke I inhaled as a kid from my chain-smoking parents, vaccinations, not getting vaccinations, medications, not taking medications, drinking tap water, living or driving underneath radio towers, terrorists who want to kill me because I'm an American, FEMA camps, being on "The Grid." The list goes on an on. In fact, I'm a bit hesitant to post this article, anticipating warnings and conspiracy theories showing up in the comments (which are strictly moderated, by the way).

(To those of you who have sent me correspondences about the less-than-silly things mentioned above, I am NOT making fun of you. I love you for your concern for me. And I am grateful. This post is NOT about you; it's about ME.)

I used to have a very unhealthy, unbiblical, and frankly sinful fear of death and dying. It effected where and what I ate. It effected where and when I would travel--even to minister the gospel. It effected where and with whom I stayed when I traveled. It negatively impacted my family and close family relationships. It permeated every area of my life, including my faith. Thank God that He was and is faithful, even when I was and am faithless, because He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Those outside my immediate family who know me very well know how bad I got.

I was a functional and very secretive hypochondriac. Which also made me a liar.

No, I wasn't being tormented by Satan. The devil wasn't making me do it. The sin--both the thinking and the doing--was all mine. I alone was responsible (James 1:12-15).

Several years ago, God set me free from this particular, debilitating sin of the flesh--from this love of self, from this lack of faith and trust in the goodness and sovereignty of God. The Lord used His Word, prayer, the prayers of others, biblical counsel, tough love from family and friends, and a whole lot of patience from the same folks. The Lord used the biographies about and/or writings of men like Martyn-Lloyd Jones, Charles Spurgeon, Oswald Chambers, and Jerry Bridges (to name a few), to help me right the ship of my mind. The Lord used many things and a few very special people (family and friends) over the years to release me from fear's grip.

Someday I might write more extensively about this aspect of my life that is, by God's grace, behind me.

So, why am I telling you this. Well, I'm not sure. Maybe it's, in part, the recent dust-up over the vaccination debate. Maybe it's the comment I recently received on Facebook from a good friend who, in response to a post I wrote about the goodness of God as seen in the provision of a new microwave oven. He innocently shared that his research about the health risks related to microwave ovens led to his decision years ago not to have one in the home. I dunno.

What I do know is this:

I spent many, many years--time my family and I can never get back--worrying about the myriad things the world says can, might, or will kill me. What does that say about who ultimately received my worship during those times of worry, anxiety, and fear? It says that I receive my worship. It says that I feared man and the world around me (seen and unseen) more than I feared God. It said that in those times of worry, anxiety, and fear, I would have rather stayed here on earth (with unholy motives, unlike the apostle Paul) than be with my Lord in heaven (Philippians 1:23-25). It said I feared physical and emotional pain more than I was thankful for the pain and suffering Jesus endured to save me (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 12:4). It said I was not willing to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Christ (Luke 9:23).

Now, this is not to say that I throw all caution to the wind. I believe I am still obligated to be a good steward of the physical life God has given me. But I am so obligated as a means of worshiping Christ, not as a means of preserving my physical life so I can worship myself.

I will be 51-years-old in ten days (Feb. 22). I will never again have the waistline when, as a 23-year-old, I graduated from the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department Training Academy. Life and ministry does not allow me to spend 3-4 days in the gym every week. I'm on the streets most days, and I travel away from home 80-100 days each year. I do not have the time, or the practical ability to count calories, milligrams of fat and cholesterol (I know, I know, those things can kill me, too). I have to eat what's available. I have to eat what's put in front of me. And I have to do so with joy and praising, with thanksgiving in my heart, for the provisions of my great God and King.

As an aspect of ministry, I have to travel (a lot) by land and air in packed petri dishes. And the day could very-well come when I have to get used to and be thankful for.....jail food, a plastic-covered mattress used by hundreds of criminals before me, and roommates infested with bugs or infected with disease.

Yes, I need to try to take care good care of myself. But I cannot allow the fear of death, the fear of disease, the fear of injury as a result of my own carelessness or as a result of the hateful act of another human being (this last one has never bothered me much, probably because of my 20 years as a deputy sheriff) keep me from serving Christ. I cannot allow it to hinder me from loving God and loving people. I cannot allow it to become an opportunity for sin--declaring myself sovereign when only God is.

Since being brought to repentance and I believe wholeness in this area of my life, the Lord has allowed the ministry to which He has given me stewardship to flourish. He has allowed me to travel to places I never thought my eyes would ever see or my feet would ever trod. He has allowed me to meet Christian brethren I otherwise would never have met. He has allowed me to stay in their homes and sit at their tables. He has allowed me to be adopted by so many young ones, as "uncle" or "grandpa." Oh, what a tragedy it would have been to not be loved by the brethren around the world who have shown me such great, sincere, and sacrificial love! Oh, what a tragedy it would be to one-day stand before Christ and have Him say something like, "But Tony, had it not been for your sin, I had all of this for you, too!"

Some will see what I've shared in this article as an opportunity to question, to gossip, to deride. Others will see what I've shared as a balm, an encouragement, a provision of hope. I pray, dear reader, you are the latter. And if you find yourself in the former group, well, I pray for your repentance.

A godly, young man once share with me a very biblical way to battle the sins of the mind--what my family and I like to call "stinkin' thinkin'" (also not an original thought). I, in turn, have shared what he taught me with many Christians who struggle with sins of the mind. I present it in a sermon titled "How to S.T.O.P. Wrong Thinking." I hope you find encouragement in this humble offering.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

American Evangelicalism: Where Bad Things Happen



What I Believe about American Evangelicalism

I believe American Evangelicalism is a Christ-less religious system that creates myriad false converts and is used by Satan to deceive the lost and to lead astray, as if it were possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24). The children of a generation ago raised on Foosball, Pizza, emotionalism, bad teaching from untrained, unqualified man-cubs, and a sinner's prayer every Tuesday night for reassurance are today's American Evangelical pastors. And the state of American Evangelicalism isn't sliding, but is free-falling, from bad to worse.

I hate American Evangelicalism. I love American Evangelicals.

I shudder and my heart breaks at the thought of the untold masses, boasting of membership in American Evangelical churches, who will stand (or who have already stood) before Christ, rubbing their hands together, just waiting to receive their condo in the sky, only to hear Jesus say, "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23). False converts who made false commitments to a false Jesus represented in a false gospel, which was presented by a false pastor. American Evangelicalism, as a system, is false.

I hate American Evangelicalism. I love American Evangelicals.

While American Evangelicalism is not Christian, there most certainly are Christians within this demonic system--both solid churches that are included in the definition of "evangelical" and remnants of God's people in churches that are not His. When I speak of American Evangelicalism, I am not speaking about the Bride of Christ. While not yet fully sanctified, she is beautiful and she is cherished by the Bridegroom. Shame on and warning to anyone who mocks the Bride of Christ--the true Church.

I have not received any new revelation from God about being a very outspoken critic of American Evangelicalism. While some may think I rant on my keyboard while wearing a camel hair kilt, with honey dripping from my goatee (can't quite get passed the crunch of the locust), I don't. I know I am not a lone voice crying in the American Evangelical wilderness. I know there are many brothers and sisters in Christ who agree with me. But, even so, a minority we make. I believe the genuine Body of Christ is much smaller than I or anyone else realize. It is certainly smaller than American Evangelicalism would have the world believe.

Last night, American Evangelicalism, that reoccurring bur under my saddle, got me thinking.....and tweeting.


American Evangelicalism: Where Bad Things Happen.

American Evangelicalism.....

Where everyone's will is free.....except God's.

Where Katy Perry's Half-Time Show is an acceptable form of worship.

Where any man (or woman) can be a pastor.....no qualifications needed.

Where a pastor's "spiritual vision" can be 20/200, but he'll still get the keys to the family car.

Where more biblical titles can be found in Barnes & Noble than in the church bookstore.

Where vacationaries are called missionaries and they actually believe they're reaching the world for Jesus.

Where pastors, maybe struggling with porn themselves (according to published statistics), see "50 Shades of Gray" as an opportunity to draw a crowd.

Where you can find Joyce Meyer's and John MacArthur's study bibles on the same shelf, in the Christian bookstore.

Where calling people to the stadium floor, getting them to repeat a prayer, and then welcoming them to the family of God on the Jumbo-Tron is seen as biblical.

Where 80-90% of the people's giving go to staff salaries and facility upkeep, while missionaries beg and starve.

Where elders pray about how they can remove the cross from the church logo and remove church from the church name.

Where CRU exists. Nuff said.

Where church and ministry leaders can be found on the local crime blotter, but will be "restored" to ministry in a matter of weeks.

Where bibles are optional (from pulpit to pew) on Sunday morning, but coffee is not.

Where the first song on Sunday morning isn't really a call to worship, but a stall tactic to accommodate late arrivals.

Where Bill Johnson, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll, Russell Moore, and the Pope can all coexist. And it's seen as a good thing.

Where some pastor will replicate Katy Perry Liger Zoid ride to make his entrance on a Sunday morning.

Where a pastor can boast about how little time he spent preparing his sermon and his people will smile.

Where pastors have their own lines of clothing.

Where, for many pastors, "B" stands for "Bentley," not "Bible."

Where the Message and the New Living Translation are considered viable options for deeper study and the Purpose Driven Life is considered deep theological reading.

Where.....oh, just fill in the blank. Whatever the world is doing, American Evangelical is doing, but with less talent.

Yes, sadly, the list could go on and on and on. But I think (I hope) you get the point. American Evangelism is where bad things happen.

I believe American Evangelicalism is the largest mission field in the United States. And it is one of the toughest fields in which to labor, for everyone believes they are already saved. So, until American Evangelicalism ceases to exist in its present ungodly form, or the Lord takes me home--whichever comes first--I will keep banging the drum. I will keep warning Christians and non-Christians away from the spiritually dead vortex of American Evangelicalism. I don't want to see another life sucked into the dangerous, whirling, contaminated water that only poses as Christianity.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Nigel the Black Hebrew Israelite

Today was my first time preaching alone at Pershing Square. I set up just outside the square, on the northwest corner of 6th Street and Hill Street. It's a great spot. Constant pedestrian traffic and a large sidewalk area large enough for people to stop and listen without running into each other.

Many people were praying for me, and my sister encouraged me to read Psalm 25, which I did. After reading Psalm 25 and praying, I decided to try to read the entirety of the Gospel of John, in the open-air. I began with a gospel presentation. No sooner did I finish that gospel presentation that a young, black man named Nigel approached me. It's possible Nigel isn't his real name. It took him a few moments to recall it. As soon as he asked me a couple of questions, I knew I was dealing with a Black Hebrew Israelite, a racist cult that hates "the white man's Bible," "the white man's Jesus,' and "the white man." Black Hebrew Israelites also hate any person of color who does not hate white people.

For 90 minutes I read John 1-10 aloud while periodically engaging Nigel. I did my best to apply the wisdom of Solomon. I did not answer Nigel so not to be like him (Proverbs 26:4). And I did answer Nigel so as not to allow him to be too wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 26:5).

Nigel was relentless. Taking time only to catch his breath and collect his thoughts, Nigel was profane, self-deceived, and blasphemous with every hate-filled word that came out of his mouth (Matthew 15:17-20). It's been some time since I encountered a heckler as depraved as Nigel.

By God's grace there were a couple moments of peace and rejoicing as I stood atop the step stool. One young man stopped to ask me if I was familiar with Ray Comfort. I told him I was. Another man stopped to listen. When he heard Nigel berating me, he smiled at me and told me to keep preaching the Word of God. The man was able to distract Nigel with conversation, which allowed me to finish reading John 10 and preach the law and the gospel.

When I finished preaching and packed up my gear, I started for the subway station. Nigel followed me and continuing his self-righteous, scornful harangue. He seemed genuinely stunned when I asked him if he wanted to join me for a cup of coffee. It was the first time I saw him smile. But he quickly pulled himself together and told me he would only sit down with me if I would debate him. I told him I couldn't. To do so would be to cast pearls before swine.

Nigel followed me all the way to the subway station entrance, calling me "Esau" and other assorted names.

Sadly, in the Black Hebrew Israelites, Nigel found a religious cult that encourages him to hate The Triune God, the Word of God, people made in the image of God, and the only Savior who can forgive his sins.

Here is the unedited audio of my time at Pershing Square.

WARNING: this audio instances of blasphemy, the 'N' word, and other profane speech.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Living on Infinite Regress Avenue in Absurdityville


Yesterday, I was really blessed. The Lord gave me the opportunity to take to the streets of Los Angeles with two younger brothers in Christ--Jorge and Andrew. These two men of God co-lead the Evangelism Society at The Master's College, where they are both students. Jorge was too busy honorably and sacrificially serving his country in the military, right out of high school, to get an early start on college. Andrew will graduate this year and is hoping to attend Westminster Theological Seminary, Southern California.

Mahria and others were a bit nervous about me heading into downtown Los Angeles alone to open-air preach. It's good to be loved. :-) There was a collective sigh of relief when Mahria and others concerned heard that I had a couple brothers going with me.

It was a wonderful day of fellowship and ministry. We evangelized at Pershing Square and on Hollywood Boulevard, with a break for an amazing pastrami sandwich at a place just outside MacArthur Park. Many people heard the gospel by way of open-air preaching and conversations. And many others received the gospel by way of gospel tracts.

Some audio and possibly video from the day's efforts is forthcoming.

While waiting on the subway platform to make our way back to North Hollywood Station from Hollywood Boulevard, we met Omar. Omar claimed to have grown up in a Christian church, but converted to Islam because there was so much he didn't like about Christianity. Omar asserted, among other things: the Bible was written by a white man named King James; the concept of "one God" was brought about by King Tut's father; Jesus never existed.

While some might think it a little too sarcastic, I told Omar that he spent entirely too much time on the Internet.

Omar was also one of those people who wanted to have a conversation, so long as he was the only person to speak. When I could slip a word or two in, I asked Omar, "How do you account for truth and determine what is true?"

With a slight stammer, as his mind tried to catch up to his mouth, Omar answered, "Well, it's the truth that will set you free!"

"Omar, do you see what you just did? You assert that the Bible can't be trusted and that Jesus never existed, yet you quote the words of Jesus, from the Bible. You can't account for truth without coming into the Christian worldview to do it."

Befuddled and even angrier, Omar tried to change the subject with ad hominems and more Internet-derived wisdom. Sadly, this is all-too-often the response of unbelievers when confronted with the reality that their attempt to defend and live according to a worldview without God is to live in a windowless and doorless condo, in Absurdityville. And how does one make himself comfortable while locked in his home on Infinite Regress Avenue? It's simple and common: deny; dismiss; deflect; disdain.

While the conversation didn't go well, Omar was confronted with the reality he has always known: God exists, and he hates Him. For a moment, Omar was forced to deal with the reality of his self-imposed absurdity.

Much of American Evangelicalism would assert my encounter with Omar was a failure. After all, I didn't hear his whole story. I confronted him with truth. We didn't agree to disagree. And Omar may never join the "Christian" club. Yet my evangelistic efforts with Omar were anything but a failure. I stood on the truth of God's Word. I implored him to repent of his blasphemous idolatry (before parting company, Omar asserted he was god--not very Muslim of him). And Jorge, Andrew, and I prayed Omar would have no rest until the Holy Spirit convicted him of his sin and brought him to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

There are only two worldviews: the truth or all lies; the worship of the one, true God or all other forms of religious belief (i.e. Catholicism, Muhammadanism, Mormonism, Buddhism, Atheism, and every other man-made "ism"); submission to the Creator or worship of that which is created. Sadly, the vast majority of people in the world today are like Omar. They walk in darkness. They walk not in ignorance, but in willful rebellion against the God they know, whether they are numbered among aborigines living far removed from the modern world or they are among the academic elite sitting in their first-world ivory towers.
"For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen" (Romans 1:18-25).
Omar couldn't account for truth while trying to live outside the Christian worldview. Neither can anyone else, be it the college student with only a semester of philosophy under his belt or the current pope of atheism, Richard Dawkins.

Omar was right about something. Only the truth will set him free.
"So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free'" (John 8:31-32).