Friday, December 28, 2012

A Wheelchair, a Cross, and the Glory of God

Richard Story grew up in Southern Alabama. His parents divorced when he was eight years old. Until he was 15 he was raised by his mother and grandmother. His grandmother was the greatest influence in his early years. She was a very godly woman who read her Bible daily. She would give Richard his first Bible, which he has to this day.

During his latter teen years, as so many young men do, Richard was captivated by the world. All the while he held on to the false perception that he was a good person. He went to church, but not to worship. He treated church as if it were a night club -- a place to pick up girls. It was during this time in his life that he prayed a prayer and walked down the aisle of the church. He thought this made him a Christian, but there was no appreciable change in his life. Frustrated, over the next several years he would "pray the prayer" several more times, hoping each time it would stick.

Richard graduated with honors from a small, rural high school. His chosen career path kept him in the Southeast, but he moved frequently. He worked in the energy management industry, which encompassed a number of different fields. He even spent some time in Antarctica.

Richard lacked contentment. The job was never good enough. The pay was never high enough. He always wanted more. He wanted to be the best at whatever he did and to earn more money than anyone else doing it. To him, contentment was a sign of weakness. God would soon strip him of his spiritual facade and his self-reliance.

A Life-Altering Drive

One day in 2006, Richard, who was working away from home, was driving his pickup truck, which was pulling a trailer. Suddenly, one of the tires had a blowout. As Richard slowly tried to maneuver the truck and trailer to the side of the road, another vehicle collided with the trailer. The vehicle that struck Richard's trailer was traveling at an estimated 70 miles per hour.

The force of the collision was so great the solid steel nose of the trailer ended up in the back of the truck, after bending the 3" solid steel trailer hitch 90 degrees. The only thing that kept the trailer from crashing into the cab of the truck and crushing Richard were the safety chains he remembered to attach to the trailer.

The impact drove Richard's left leg into the floorboard. Although he was wearing his seat belt, the belt did not keep Richard's body from reacting like a rubber band inside the cab of the truck. So violent was the impact that Richard's body was thrust upward in a twisting motion, which resulted in the top of his head crashing into the steering wheel.

Richard's injuries were not immediately apparent after the crash.

Whom God would use greatly,
He will hurt deeply.
A.W. Tozer

Not long after the accident Richard began experiencing headaches. Although he saw a doctor in the area, he decided to make the two-hour drive home so he could follow-up with his personal physician. The drive became one of the longest of Richard's life. The pain became so intense, Richard had to stop frequently along the side of the road. What should have been a two-hour drive took four hours to complete.

By Monday, just a few days after the accident, Richard could barely walk. Further medical tests revealed Richard had sustained several herniated disks in both his neck and lower back, as well as damage to nerves leading to his legs. The severe trauma to his body also resulted in bone fragments floating dangerously close to his spinal cord.

Over time, in spite of countless medical tests, physical and medicinal treatments, Richard's condition worsened. His physical state deteriorated from walking with difficulty, to walking with a cane, to almost complete confinement to a wheelchair.

Adding to Richard's physical pain and anguish was the battle between and with insurance companies, as one entity wrestled with another to determine who would cover his growing medical expenses. This battle continues to this day.

Richard, a man who lacked contentment, was about to be broken by the God he did not yet know.

Richard could no longer work to support his family. He could no longer hunt, fish, lift weights, and engage in the many physical activities that brought him enjoyment. He could no longer serve as his kids' sports coach. He could no longer sleep comfortably next to his wife, Suzanne. When he could sleep, which wasn't often, he had to sleep in a recliner. He could not sit or lay in one position for any length of time without needing his neck to be supported by a brace. His wife had to escort him to and from the bathroom because his wheelchair could not fit through their standard-size bathroom door.

The Slough of Despond

In 2010, after four grueling years of pain, sorrow, discontentment, dependence on others, being treated like a human pin cushion and guinea pig -- a lab rat as doctors began to shrug their shoulders, at a loss for words and wisdom to help him -- as private and government entries left him feeling like little more than a case number, Richard hit rock bottom. What to this point had been primarily a physical struggle was now beginning to take its toll on his heart and his mind.
Now I saw in my dream that, just as they had ended this talk, they drew near to a very miry slough that was in the midst of the plain; and they being heedless, did both fall suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was "Despond." Here, therefore, they wallowed for a time, being grievously bedaubed with the dirt; and CHRISTIAN, because of the burden that was on his back, began to sink in the mire.

Pliable. Then said PLIABLE, "Ah! neighbour CHRISTIAN, where are you now?"

Christian. "Truly," said CHRISTIAN, "I do not know."

Pliable. At that PLIABLE began to be offended, and angrily said to his fellow, "Is this the happiness you have told me of all this while? If we have such ill speed at our first setting out, what may we expect 'twixt this and our journey's end? If I get out again with my life, you shall possess the brave country alone." And with that he gave a desperate struggle or two, and got out of the mire on that side of the slough which was next to his own house: so away he went, and CHRISTIAN saw him no more.

Wherefore CHRISTIAN was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavoured to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket gate: which he did, but could not get out, because of the burden that was upon his back....
Fear, depression, and anxiety began to overtake Richard; and he knew no way out of the despondency he felt washing over him like a wave of darkness. He developed severe cases of agoraphobia (the fear being in open spaces) and anthropophobia (the fear of being around people). The anxiety and fear became so intense and debilitating he would break into a cold sweat if he had to so much as talk to someone on the phone, or come out of his bedroom if someone other than his immediate family was inside his house.

Out of the Miry Clay
But I beheld, in my dream, that a man came to him whose name was HELP, and asked him what he did there?

Christian. "Sir," said CHRISTIAN, "I was bidden to go this way by a man called EVANGELIST, who directed me also to yonder gate, that I might escape the wrath to come; and as I was going thither, I fell in here."

Help. But why did you not look for the steps?

Christian. Fear followed me so hard, that I fled the next way and fell in.

Help. Then said he, "Give me thy hand." So he gave him his hand, and he drew him out; and set him upon some ground, and bade him go on his way.

"He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings." Psalm 40:2

Then I stepped to him that plucked him out, and said, "Sir, wherefore, since over this place is the way from the city of Destruction to yonder gate, is it that this plat is not mended, that poor travellers might go thither with more security?" And he said unto me, "This miry slough is such a place as cannot be mended: it is the descent whither the scum and filth that attends conviction for sin doth continually run; and therefore it is called the Slough of Despond. For still, as the sinner is awakened about his lost condition, there arises in his soul many fears and doubts, and discouraging apprehensions, which all of them get together, and settle in this place: and this is the reason of the badness of this ground.
Seeing nowhere else to turn, Richard turned to the wisdom of his grandmother. He reopened his Bible. Slowly, subtly, Richard notices small changes in his thinking.

One night while channel surfing, Richard came across his local Christian network. There he saw mention of Kirk Cameron. Richard remembered Cameron from his show Growing Pains. He also remembered Cameron professed to be a Christian. The show was The Way of the Master.

Richard looks to that evening in the quiet of his home, as he watched a television show, when God convicted him of his sin and extended to him the gifts of true repentance and true faith in Jesus Christ alone for his salvation. The Lord stripped Richard of everything, reduced him to nothing, in order to give him everything -- salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. No longer was he under the condemnation of the law of God. For law of the Spirit alive in Christ Jesus had set him free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

But sanctification is a process. While the changing of Richard's heart was instantaneous, the changing of his mind would take time.

Richard dived into his new-found faith with the same zeal he once applied to work, sports, and the great outdoors. He worked his way through the online School of Biblical Evangelism. He took Living Waters' Beginning and Intermediate training courses. And he started listening daily to Living Waters' On the Box with Ray Comfort.

Richard, only a few months as a born-again follower of Christ, became a staple in the On the Box chat room. Richard quickly became a beloved member of our small, online community; we became friends.

The phobias that plagued Richard before he came to faith in Christ have somewhat loosened their grip, but they are not completely gone. Richard has been sharing his faith in online chat rooms for a couple of years, but taking the gospel outside the four walls of his home has not been as easy. Again, sanctification is a process.

One day Richard was talking to a friend about his desire to go outside and share the gospel. He expressed his concern about the limitations his wheelchair brought to his life and his evangelism. Unbeknownst to his friend, Richard's phobias were also keeping him from venturing outside to share the gospel. Richard's friend simply encouraged him with these words: "Learn to use your wheelchair to share the gospel."

And that's what Richard did. He learned to use his wheelchair to share the gospel. His first gospel venture outside his home was a trip to the mall. Richard learned from that simple act of obedience and faith that he could overcome his fears. And he has learned that so long as he leaves his home with a gospel mission on his mind, his fears of being outside and around people continue to dissipate.

Don't Waste Your Suffering

Not long ago, Richard was introduced to a man who has now become one of his dearest friends and brothers -- Michael Coughlin. Together, Michael and Richard have built and maintain a Sermon Audio page called Pulpit and Streets for me and Michael's pastor, Eric Cuenin. Through working on the Sermon Audio page, Richard became familiar with Pastor Cuenin's teaching.

Richard found and listened to a sermon series by Pastor Cuenin titled: Don't Waste Your Suffering. Richard listened to the series more than once.Through these messages, the Lord brought him to the realization that even though he was now a Christian, he had spent the last two years wasting his suffering. Richard began to learn how to use his pain to forget about his irrational fears. He started to focus on eternal things and the plight of the unsaved. He realized there was so much more he could do to serve Christ and further His gospel. Richard prayed, asking the Lord to use him and to allow him to help others.

Richard spent the last six years of his life looking out his window at the highway, watching all the cars go by. Since receiving Christ, he wondered how many of the drivers he sees are saved and how many are lost. One night after seeing a post on Facebook by a Crosswalker, it hit him.

"I have that corner (Madison Street and Hwy 82, Mathiston, MS). Certainly I can carry a cross on that corner. It is only about 200 yards from my house."

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Richard sat with the curtain pulled back. He stared out the window. He was waiting for someone, something. Richard had ordered a custom-made ARE YOU READY cross from Vernon Costolo. It was supposed to arrive today.

Richard spent the day making preparations to go out of the house. There are no spur of the moment, "drop everything and go" trips out of the house for Richard. He has to plan well in advance anytime he leaves his home. This kind of planning is intricate: medications, meals (before and after the outing), what and when to drink. There are times certain things do not set well with his stomach. And then there are the side effects from some of his medications, which must be considered.

Richard's medical condition requires him to wear a TENS unit. This device numbs the nerve endings and allows some relief from his constant pain. He also has to wear a neck brace; and, due to some of his medications, he also has to be careful about over-exposure to the sun and heat. The sun and heat wouldn't be a problem today. The weather in Mathiston, MS, is a mere 38 degrees, with a windchill that made a cold 38 feel like an even colder 25.

A smile grew on Richard's face as he saw the UPS truck come down his street and then heard the knock on his door. The cross had arrived.

Richard had to wait for Suzanne, his wife of 17 years, to get home before he could go to the corner. She has to position the ramp for him to get in and out of the house.

Suzanne is protective, as any loving wife would be considering the circumstances, when Richard leaves the house. She is his helpmate in every sense of the word. She takes care of him. Suzanne is not only Richard's wife. She is his caregiver and his best friend.

Suzanne did not hesitate to lend her support to Richard when he told her about his desire to carry a cross in their community. With a folding picnic chair in hand, she walked her husband the 200 yards to the corner of Madison Street and Highway 82. Richard, in his motorized wheelchair, with his cross atop the armrests and with his wife by his side, was about to take a step of faith that was more than 40 years in the making.

When they arrived at the corner, Suzanne helped Richard stand his cross on his lap. She read scripture as Richard prayed aloud.

This is Mathiston, MS -- Small Town, USA -- population: 699. There are no eight-lane freeways, no rush hour traffic through town of the volume you would expect in Los Angeles or other large cities, no intersections where hundreds of people wait to cross the street. But this is Richard and Suzanne's community; and these are the people they want to reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Gone was the anxiety. Richard was thrilled to be out of the house, on that corner, carrying his cross. The cold weather helped him forget he was supposed to be nervous. But the real help came from the Father who adopted him, the Son who Saved him, the Spirit who empowered him, and the wife who loved him.

As Richard sat with his cross, his thoughts turned to the people in the vehicles driving by. Many people looked at the cross as they zipped down Highway 82. Richard wondered if they understood why he was there. He wondered how many were saved and how many were lost.

"I wonder if someone in one of these cars would die before tomorrow?" Richard asked Suzanne. "I pray they see this cross and it leads them to search out Christ and they hear the true Gospel."

Richard hoped someone would stop and talk to him. One truck stopped at the stop sign on Madison, at the intersection with Highway 82. The driver looked disgustingly at Richard and shook his head, as if to say, "I can't believe what I am seeing. What an idiot! What is he doing there?"

No one stopped. No one walked by to take a gospel tract. Some (believers and unbelievers) will likely see Richard's first hour out with his cross as a failed effort. They would be wrong -- so very, very wrong.

A Wheelchair, a Cross, and the Glory of God

The only time a Christian fails in evangelism is when he fails to evangelize, when he fails to try to share the gospel with lost people. Richard did not fail. In fact, what Richard and Suzanne did for an hour one late, winter afternoon brought God much glory.

The key to evangelism is not a slick philosophy of ministry. The key most certainly is not determining what lost people want to see and hear, and then catering to their sinful desires. And the key is not coming up with some new methodology -- a new event, a new program, a new gospel tract, or even a brand new wooden cross. The keys to evangelism are obedience and love.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep
to gain that which he cannot lose.
Jim Elliot

Richard obeyed God. When God saved him, Richard knew the Great Commission was a directive God had given to him, as He has given it to every Christian. Richard knew his infirmities, his wheelchair, and his fears would not suffice as excuses for disobedience to the command of God.

Richard loved God and loved people enough to set aside his fears and pains. He allowed his love for God and people to subordinate his love for himself. He knew he would look foolish to some, and he didn't care. He was more concerned with where people would spend eternity than what people thought of him.

In the world's eyes, Richard lost everything: his health, his prosperity, his independence, the use of his legs. Sadly the same sentiment is held by false teachers, charlatans, and snake oil salesmen (and saleswomen) who have infected the church.

Yes, Richard physically suffers every day of his life. Yes, he is in a wheelchair. Yes, he battles fear. Only God knows when or if Richard will be relieved of these trials and tribulations this side of Heaven.

And Richard is blessed. He is blessed to know God and to be known by God. He is blessed with newness of life -- a life saved by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone.

Richard is blessed more than most Christians because he gets it. He understands that the most most loving thing he could ever do for other people is to speak the truth in love to them -- to share the law of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

Yes, God was glorified on the corner of Madison Street and Highway 82, on Thursday, December 27, 2012. God was glorified because a man in a wheelchair with a cross loved Him and others more than he loved himself.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

CARM Introduces New 'Street Preaching' Section

For several weeks I have been writing articles for a new section on the CARM website. The section is simply titled: Street Preaching. I wrote the following introduction for the section:
Street preaching is as old as the Bible itself. Street preaching has never been popular, either inside or outside the church. Open-air preaching and street evangelism has never been culturally relevant or socially acceptable. But street preaching is biblical. Below are articles that explain what street evangelism in its various forms is, and what it is not. You will find articles that will equip and encourage you to engage in street evangelism and open-air preaching. And you will find articles dealing with issues regarding street preaching and providing answers for those issues.
There are many websites that talk about street preaching. Some are very good. Others are not. My hope as the contributor to this new section of the CARM website is to provide concise, relevant, theological, and practical support to street preachers of every level of experience.

The Street Preaching section of the CARM website consists of a number of categories; the list will expand over time. For instance, one of the categories is Issues and Answers. In this category, I will address both common and uncommon objections to street preaching. In the first article in this section I address a pastor's misuse of Colossians 4:5 in his attempt to discredit open-air preaching.

The Street Preaching section will include in-depth training articles to help the open-air preacher hone his craft, as well as short articles and videos providing quick tips to help street preachers improve specific areas of their open-air preaching.

If you have suggestions for additional content to the CARM Street Preaching section, please email me at:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Street Preaching and Spiritual Warfare

For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
2 Corinthians 10:4-6

Spiritual warfare is real.

The video you're about to see was shot on Saturday, November 10, 2012, at the North Hollywood Metro Station. Prior to the scene in this video, a very angry and quite possibly demon-possessed woman went on a tirade against Brad Snow while he was preaching and me when I tried to engage her in conversation.

Any effort I made to reason with the woman was met with vicious cursing and blasphemy. After a few minutes of this very one-sided exchange, an African American gentleman name Richard walked up and asserted he was Buddhist and agreed with what the woman was saying. At that point, I disengaged from talking to the two people, although Richard followed me, wanting to continue to assert his point of view.

Brad Snow intercepted Richard and engaged him in conversation. A few moments later is the time when the video starts. You will hear Brad and Richard talking in the background for the first several minutes of the video.

While I am not one who senses demons under every rock or around every corner, or one who believes encounters with angels is normative in a Christian's life, I believe the woman was possessed by demons. The woman, as you will see in the video, was dressed in blood red and black. She had tattoos along the sides of her face and around her ears. She wore a necklace of a cross with a skull sitting atop the cross. She claimed to be a medium. And, as you will see and hear in the video, she hated God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, and the Word of God.

You will see the woman spit on me and then a few moments later kick our evangelism supply box, which was just outside the view of the camera. The box and its contents weighed more than 50 pounds at the time of the incident. Yet the petite and vicious woman almost succeeded in dropkicking the box into the street. The contents in the top of the box flew into the street when she kicked the box.

You will notice, as the rest of my team did, that the more of God's Word I read the more quiet the woman became. Darkness and light cannot inhabit the same place at the same time. She wold get up and leave as I read 1 John. You will see me turn toward her as she walked by and continuing to read the Word. I did so hoping the Word of God would drive her and whatever demonic presence was with her away for good. She did not return.

Toward the end of the video, a very interesting man named "Eddie" walked up and stood in front of me, just a few feet away. After a few moments, I paused my preaching to ask Eddie if he understood what I was saying. He affirmed the preaching of the gospel.

When I finished preaching, I stepped down and shook Eddie's hand. Another young man would come up to me and affirm the preaching of the gospel.

We talked to Eddie for a bit and gave him some gospel tracts, which he distributed there at the metro station. After some time, I noticed Eddie standing off in the distance, by himself. I walked over to Eddie and asked him if he would like some lunch. He said, "No. I've eaten good today and I've got some money in my pocket; but if you could spare some more gospel tracts that would be nice."

Eddie and I walked back over to the box the demon-possessed woman tried to kick into the street -- the box containing gospel tracts, gospel DVDs, and bibles. I gave Eddie several-hundred gospel tracts. He thanked me and walked away. I don't remember seeing Eddie leave the area.

Just as I don't believe encounters with demons is normative in a Christian's life, I also do not believe such interaction with angels is normative. But I believe every word of the Bible, and the Bible says this: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares" (Hebrews 13:2).

Was Eddie an angel sent by God to encourage my team and me? I will not know with certainty this side of Heaven. But whether Eddie was an angel or a mere man like me, the sovereign Lord of all creation either caused or allowed Eddie to encourage us that day. So, to God be the glory and my thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1 Peter 3:15 and Friendship Evangelism

Recently, I wrote an article for the CARM website titled: Does 1 Peter 3:15 Support Friendship Evangelism?

Here is an excerpt from the article:
In 1 Peter 3 :15, Peter is not describing a relational conversation ( i.e. friendship evangelism) between an unbeliever and a Christian. Rather, Peter is preparing his readers to stand firm in the faith, to be ready to valiantly testify that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior -- the very hope that was in them -- in the face of persecutory opposition and hatred. Peter’s has an eye upon his readers’ likely persecution and potential martyrdom. He does not have an eye upon his readers’ ability to make friends with unsaved people.

1 Peter 3:15, when viewed in its proper context, cannot be used to support the idea that Christians must be ready to share the gospel with friends when asked. Rather, the verse makes it clear that Christians must be ready to testify to their faith in Jesus Christ, in the face of death. They must be ready and willing to persevere for Christ’s sake, until the very end (see Matthew 10:22).

One of the reasons many Christians misinterpret 1 Peter 3:15 as a verse supportive of the practice of friendship evangelism is that they focus their attention entirely on the phrase “always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” There are no commands for Peter’s readers in this phrase. The command is found in oft-forgotten first phrase of the verse.
I've been very blessed to assist the CARM team in beefing up the evangelism section of their amazing website. I will be writing additional articles regarding Scripture verses and passages that are commonly misused to support friendship evangelism.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Two Conversations That Changed My Open-Air Preaching


It was a very hot Saturday morning at the North Hollywood Metro Station. It had not yet reached the noon hour and it was already over 100 degrees.

Maurice, a 24-year-old, African American, son of a pastor approached me as I was standing atop my stepladder preaching the gospel. I cannot remember his initial question. But the conversation soon deteriorated into an argument between two sinful men -- the open-air preacher and a pastor's kid.

I was angry with Maurice. He became belligerent and disrespectful. And, to my shame, I responded in kind. After it was all said and done, my team and I gathered to pray. We prayed for Maurice. I knew I would likely never see him again, and I had little hope for his soul.

Over the next couple of weeks, reflections of my conversation with Maurice, along with a very timely and important conversation with my sister, Cheryl, about my open-air preaching, caused me to do some painful soul searching. My sister shared with me that she thought I was sounding angrier, over the last couple of months, when I preach.

I didn't take what she said with a grain of salt. I took it to heart.

Then on a Thursday morning not long after my conversation with my sister, I was once again at the North Hollywood Metro Station, preaching the gospel. I tried to be vigilant to watch my tone of voice and the sharpness of my rhetoric, and I have done so ever since.

After I finished my preaching for the morning, I noticed a young man standing off in the distance, close to the subway structure. I walked up to him and tried to hand him a tract.

The young man glanced at me, and I could tell he was not happy that I approached him.

“You don't even remember me, do you?” The young man said.

It was Maurice.

Maurice, while remaining calm, let me have it. And I thank God he did. He told me that I belittled him and humiliated him in front of his friends.

I apologized to Maurice. I made no excuses. I told him he was right. And I asked him for a second chance.

We spent the next half-hour together, talking to one another -- listening to one another. This time Maurice heard the law and the gospel, and not merely the words of an angry street preacher. I do not know if the Lord saved him at that moment; but I do know God the Holy Spirit was at work in both of our lives. The conversation ended with us embracing each other, with a hug.

I sinned against God in a terrible way. I used the preaching of the gospel as a hammer to beat a struggling young man over the head. I used the preaching of the gospel not as the double-edged sword to change Maurice's heart. I sinfully used it to crush Maurice's spirit. I did something I vehemently oppose -- something I make very clear to those I teach and disciple they should never do. I had become the offense, instead of the word of the cross, which is foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:18). Maurice wasn't offended by the truth that day. He was offended by me.

But God is greater than my sin! And God is so loving and gracious and kind that he allowed me the opportunity to be reconciled to an unsaved young man I had hurt deeply with my words.


The Saturday following my reconcilliatory conversation with Maurice, I was back at the North Hollywood Metro Station to preach the gospel. I have preached at the North Hollywood Metro Station for a few years, now. By and large, I have preached with negligible contact with security and law enforcement. Unfortunately over the last several months, security has shown obvious preferential treatment toward the Jehovah's Witnesses who are at the station every day of the week. The disparity of treatment has gotten so bad that security has sought to have us removed from the property while asserting the Jehovah's Witnesses are welcome there.

Every Saturday, for several weeks, the security guards at the station called the police to complain about us -- going so far as to lie about what we were saying and doing, trying to paint a picture for the officers that we were there to cause trouble. Each and every contact with the police was resolved without us having to stop our activities.

Well, on this particular Saturday, my frustration with the ongoing harassment reached critical mass, and I was not my typical diplomatic self with the security guards.

Once law enforcement arrived, talked to us, and left the location I walked over to the security guard and apologized to him for my tone of voice. The security guard was standing inside the tented area of one of the vendors who sells food and drinks at the station. The vendor's name was Rick.

Once I finished talking to the security guard, Rick decided to interject.

"Ya know, I'm here every day. And I hear a lot of you preachers. And you're a jerk."

I appreciate a man who says what he thinks and doesn't beat around the bush. Reminds me of someone else I know.

Rick, a Mexican man probably a few years older than me, went on to tell me that sometimes I sound angry when I'm preaching. He told me he was amazed that someone hadn't yet hauled off and hit me.

Rick was a Catholic by way of tradition who had a "live and let live and it doesn't matter what a person believes" mindset.

I spent the next 30-45 minutes talking to Rick. I spent most of the time listening to what Rick had to say. Of course I took advantage of the time and shared the gospel with him.

Toward the end of our conversation, Rick said, "Now that I've had a chance to talk to you, I feel like I know you better. I don't think you're the same guy I've heard preaching."

That really resonated with me. "I don't think you're the same guy I've heard preaching."

I should be the same guy. The guy who steps atop the stepladder to preach in the open-air should be the same guy who engages a person in a one-to-one conversation. Granted, there will always be a difference in volume between open-air preaching and one-to-one conversations. There will always be a greater chance and frequency of heckling with open-air preaching than one-to-one conversations. But I should be the same guy in both situations, both environments.

Rick opened my eyes to that.

I still see Rick every day when I'm at the North Hollywood Metro Station. Today, we're friends. We greet each other every morning. We say goodbye to each other when I leave.

The Fine Line Between Passion and Anger

There is a very fine line between passion and anger. As the above testimonies show, there have been times when I have crossed the line -- when I have crossed the line from righteousness to self-righteousness, from righteous indignation to sinful anger, from humility to pride, from Christ-likeness to sinfulness. Oh, there are explanations for these times, but there are no excuses. There are no excuses for sin.

Since it is so very difficult to avoid stepping on or crossing this line, especially in the dynamic, emotional, and fluid context of open-air preaching, a wall -- a barrier, if you will -- must be erected between the realms of passion and anger. I've come to realize, at least for myself and my ministry, I must grow in this area of my life if my open-air ministry is to continue and grow. I need to build a protective barrier that will help me to stay on the right side of the spiritual battle between passion and anger.

The Wall of Compassion

The word "compassion" or "compassionate" is used 56 times in the Bible (ESV). For the purpose of this article we will consider two occurrences -- Matthew 9:35-38 and Colossians 3:12-13.
"And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'"
The Greek word translated as "compassion" in Matthew 9:36 is the verb form of the word splagchnon. It is defined as follows: "to have the bowels yearn, i.e. (figuratively) feel sympathy, to pity -- have (be moved with) compassion."

Jesus's compassion for the people, as he went through the cities and the villages proclaiming the gospel, was more than a passing feeling of pity. His was a deep sympathy that moved Him to respond and act. It was more than a fleeting emotion. It was quite literally a "gut feeling." It was a deep, to-the-core, other-minded sacrificial, loving emotional response to the spiritual plight of the people.

In Colossians 3:12-13, Paul wrote:
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive."
In Colossians 3:12, Paul uses a combination of two Greek words to form the expression translated as "compassionate hearts." The word "compassionate" is a translation of the Greek word oiktirmos, and "hearts" is a translation of the same Greek word Jesus uses in the Matthew passage: splagchnon.

Oiktirmos literally means: "pity, mercy." And what is mercy? Mercy is best understood as not receiving what one deserves for a sinful act.

Taking these two passages at face value and in their proper context, along with applying a right understanding to the word compassion and the phrase compassionate hearts, the application of these things to the context of open-air preaching becomes obvious to me.

Brick, Mortar, and Rebar

The wall of compassion, which prevents the open-air preacher from crossing the line between righteous indignation and sinful anger, is built with bricks of mercy, mortar of sympathy, and rebar of pity.

The wall of compassion is built with bricks of mercy. To be merciful in an open-air setting toward passive-aggressive listeners (the eye rollers, those snickering, and those making negative gestures) and aggressive hecklers (the verbally, even physically abusive) is to keep one's self from responding in kind. While the flesh of the open-air preacher may want to give what he's receiving from an angry, blasphemous heckler, and while many present (even the unsaved) may feel the heckler deserves a sharp rebuke and a corrective "tongue-lashing," the Bible gives no such behavioral latitude to the Christian. It is not for the Christian to give the unsaved heckler what he or she may deserve, for the open-air preacher (a fallible man) cannot apply such corrective measures without the possibility of falling prey to sin.

To be merciful in an open-air setting is to hold one's tongue when appropriate and wise to do so.

"Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself" (Proverbs 26:4).

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person" (Colossians 4:6).

The wall of compassion is built with the mortar of sympathy. One way to be sympathetic in an open-air setting is for the open-air preacher to be ever-vigilant to remember he is not better than the lost person in front of him or yelling from the crowd. He is simply better-off. Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus of this very truth.
"And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind" (Ephesians 2:1-3, emphasis mine).
The open-air preacher must remember to be sympathetic to the spiritually dead and spiritually blind (1 Corinthians 2:14), for that's exactly who the open-air preacher was before God caused him to be born again (1 Peter 1:3), and extended to him the gifts of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

And the wall of compassion is built with the rebar of pity. Paul made it clear to the Corinthians that the whole of the Christian faith relies upon the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.
"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope[b] in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:12-19, emphasis mine).
Yes, if Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, Christians are of all people the most to be pitied. But the reality is that Christ is indeed risen. He is alive! And He will return at a time of the Father's choosing. That being true (and it is true) the Christian is not the person who is most to be pitied. It is the person who denies the resurrection of Jesus Christ who is most to be pitied.

Those who deny the resurrection of Jesus Christ, those unbelievers who blasphemously discount the resurrection of the King of kings and the Lord of lords are the most pitiful people in the world today. The wrath of God abides on them (John 3:36). And in their repetitious unbelief (Proverbs 26:11), relying on their own intellect instead of the fear of the Lord for wisdom (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7), merit the open-air preacher's pity and not his scorn.


I will never forget my conversations with Maurice and Rick. In fact, just yesterday I told Rick that I daily think of our conversation and that I'm thankful to God we had it. As a result of these two conversations I am working hard to build the wall of compassion in my open-air preaching. With the Lord's help, I want to help prevent myself from sinning against God and hurting people by lacking the mercy, sympathy, and pity I should not only feel for the lost, but also express to them in my preaching.

I have been adopted by God and beloved by Him. How shameful to dishonor Christ by showing less compassion to others than He has shown to me! Lord, help me to never sin this way again!

"For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen" (Romans 11:36).

Monday, October 29, 2012

2013 Super Bowl Outreach

I have accepted an invitation from Bill Adams to serve as a team leader for Sports Fan Outreach International's 2013 Super Bowl Outreach. This year the Super Bowl is in New Orleans. The dates are January 31 to February 3, 2013.

If you've never been to an SFOI Super Bowl Outreach, then it is unlikely you have ever before experienced anything like it. You will remember it for the rest of your life. And the friendships you will make with like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ will last a lifetime.

Register, today!

Friday, October 19, 2012

How a Parachute and a Lawnmower Helped Danny Understand

My team and I were at the Westfield Valencia Town Center this evening manning an evangelism table. Danny, a 17-year-old high school student and non-practicing Roman Catholic, curious about the Intelligence Test flip chart, came up to the table. I would spend the next half-hour with Danny, sharing the law and the gospel with him. Listen how the story of a parachute and a lawnmower helped Danny to understand the difference between religion and faith.

If this conversation does not move you to pray for Danny and to step out in faith to share the gospel with the Dannys of the world, then you should not only check to see if you have a pulse, but you should examine yourself to see if you are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

CSUN: A Conversation with Shay

Shay is a first year student at CSUN, majoring in psychology. Shay professed to be a Christian, having come to faith in Christ only a year ago.

CSUN: A Conversation with Luis

Luis is a first year, civil engineering student at CSUN. Watch and listen as a simple explanation of the eternality, universality, immutability, and immaterial nature of the laws of mathematics shows Luis he knows God exists.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Don't Give Up on the People of Society

On Sunday, October 8, 2012, I preached a sermon titled: "Don't Give Up on the People of Society." I delivered the sermon at Faith Bible Fellowship Church, of Lancaster, PA.

You can listen to the sermon, here.

And here is the text, some of which did not make it into the presentation of the sermon. It would appear God had other things for me to say.

Bible Reading: Ephesians 2:1-10


In preparing my messages for this weekend, I must admit that this morning’s message was the most challenging. While I had in my mind for some time where I wanted to go in God’s Word and what I wanted to say, I found the title chosen for me, “Don’t Give Up on Today’s Society,” a difficult one of which to take ownership since today’s society is in such an utter mess.

While I believe there is most certainly hope for people in today’s society, I hold out very little hope for the society, in general. I believe (and I agree with John MacArthur on this) God’s wrath, in the form of abandonment, is upon this society and upon this nation. And I think Romans 1:18-32 makes that clear. In fact, let’s turn there and read the passage together.

Read Romans 1:18-32.

I believe God has given this nation over to all of the elements of depravity we see in this passage. I believe God is continuing to remove His hand of restraining grace from this nation. So, for the purpose of this morning’s message, when I use the word “society,” I have in mind the individual people who make up this society. While I do not see our society getting better, over time (in fact I believe it will only get worse), I do hold out hope for the people in our society. I firmly believe there are people, here, in this country, in this society, which God intends to save. So, with that in mind, I can most certainly encourage you with the words, “Don’t Give Up on Today’s Society.”

Considering the theme for this morning’s message, the passage I’ve selected to be the impetus for this message might leave some of you scratching your head. After all, what can we glean about reaching society with the gospel, from a passage that speaks primarily about salvation by grace, through faith? In a word: everything. And this is why.

In order for us to have a heart burdened for reaching the lost of this world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, in order to keep from giving up on society, we must be continually conscious about three things: who we were, who we are in Christ, and what God has called us to do.

Who We Were

In Ephesians 2:1-4, the apostle Paul gives us a clear picture of who we were, before Christ saved us.  We were dead, disobedient, children of wrath.

Verse one begins with a stark and to the point phrase: “And you were dead…” Now, some have tried to argue that the word “dead” in verse one means something other than, well, “dead.” The Greek word translated as “dead” in verse one, is translated from the Greek word nekros. The adjective, which we see here, is derived from the noun nekus, which literally means “dead body.” While the word can be used in a literal or figurative sense, it has but one meaning…dead.

Needless to say, Paul is not telling the believers in Ephesus that they were once physically dead—that they, somehow, were zombies or walking corpses. Paul has in mind the Ephesians’ spiritual deadness, prior to being saved by Jesus Christ.

Before Christ saved you, you were spiritually dead. You were not merely spiritually sick. You were not simply in need of a prescription to make you well. You were dead and in need of spiritual resuscitation.

Having performed CPR more than once during my law enforcement career, I can assure you of something. The person upon whom I performed CPR did absolutely nothing to help me in my effort to bring them back to life. There was nothing they could do to help themselves. They were clinically dead.

Prior to God saving you by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone you were spiritually dead. But that spiritual deadness did not render you spiritually inactive. Verses 2-3 make it clear you were spiritually active.

“…in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

You were, in God’s eyes, spiritually disobedient. Your god was Satan (“the prince of the power of the air”) and the passions of your flesh ruled your lives. You were not children of God.

Many people believe that, if left to our own devices, we will desire God—we will, by nature, want to receive His love, mercy, grace, and salvation. But the Word of God makes it clear the opposite is true. Left to ourselves, left to our own desires without the direct and gracious intervention of God the Holy Spirit, we would forever continue to worship the god of this world and pursue sin like a dehydrated man pursuing a cold glass of water. We would not and could not pursue the Living Water, Jesus Christ. We would and could only pursue that water of our iniquity, and we would drink up our sin as if it were water.

Another common misunderstanding among most unbelievers and many professing Christians is that everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, are children of God. This passage makes it very clear that it is not true. While everyone is created in the image of God, not everyone is a child of God.

Only those who are adopted by God the Father, through the gift of God the Son, are children of God. Everyone else is a child of wrath.

And, you were children of wrath.

And what is the wrath of God? The following definition comes from the New Bible Dictionary: “It is the permanent attitude of the holy and just God when confronted by sin and evil [that] is designated his ‘wrath’ . . . It is a personal quality, without which God would cease to be fully righteous and His love would degenerate into sentimentality . . . It is as permanent and as consistent an element in His nature as is His love.”

Scripture defines God’s wrath as His righteous anger.

In Numbers 32:10-13 we read: “And the LORD's anger was kindled on that day, and he swore, saying, ‘Surely none of the men who came up out of Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land that I swore to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, because they have not wholly followed me, none except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have wholly followed the LORD.’ And the LORD's anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone.”

Scripture tells us God’s wrath is great.

In Zechariah 7:12-14 we read: “They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the LORD of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the LORD of hosts. “As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,” says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.”

Scripture tells us that God’s wrath has been revealed and continues to be revealed.

In Romans 1:18-19 we read: “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.”

But God has yet to unleash the full fury of His wrath. Scripture tells us that His wrath is being stored up.

In Romans 2:5-8 we read: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

And Scripture tells us the wrath of God will be accomplished.

In Revelation 16:15-17 we read: “Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”

It should make sense, now, why the writer of Hebrews makes this frightening and sobering and truthful statement: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Other translations use the word “terrifying.”

What does all this talk about the Christians former spiritual deadness, our former wanton disobedience to God, and the reality that before Jesus Christ saved us we were children of wrath have to do with not giving up on the people in our society in others? Again, Everything.

Much of American evangelicalism has given up on society. Oh, American Christians will love their neighbors so long as it’s comfortable and so long as they receive something in return; but most American Christians fall woefully short of really loving their neighbors. The reason is that most American Christians wrongly see themselves as better than unbelievers, instead of simply better off.

That’s right, American Christians—not all, but many—have an ego problem. More accurately, American Christians have a self-love problem—not that they don’t love themselves enough, but rather that they love themselves entirely too much. As a result, American Christians, by and large, withhold the most precious gift they could ever give to an unbeliever the lovingly brought and truthfully spoken gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many American Christians cite fear as the main reason why they don’t share the gospel with friends, family members, co-workers, or strangers. But if one would take a look at their fears, they would quickly see that their fears have everything to do with self-preservation (self-love), and have nothing to do with the lost person who so desperately needs the Savior.

Now, before you shut down on me; before you engage in rationalization to make the discomfort go away that you might be experiencing at this moment; please hear me. This is very important.

We do what we care about. We do what we care about. If we say we care about something, but we don’t do anything for or do anything about that which we say we care, the reality is we don’t care as much as we think.

And I think one of the main reasons Christians share so little and ultimately care so little is because they have forgotten from whence they came. They have forgotten who they were before Christ saved them. They have forgotten that but for the sovereign grace of Almighty God, they would still be dead in their sins; they would still be wallowing in their depravity and drinking up sin like water; and they would still be a child of wrath—not a child of God.

Have you forgotten, dear friend? Have you forgotten not only from what you’ve been saved, but also from Whom you’ve been saved. The same God whose wrath abided on you is the same God who—by His grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ His Son alone—saved you from His own wrath. He allowed His just, holy, and furious wrath against sin and sinners be poured out upon His Son, instead of you, Christian.

And that same wrath from which you have been saved is the same wrath awaiting those who the Father does not draw to Himself, for those who do not repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Your family members who are yet dead in their sin, your friends who are yet dead in their sin, your neighbors and co-workers who are yet dead in their sin, and the strangers you easily ignore who are yet dead in their sin—all of them, every one of them may have the righteous and holy gavel of God’s eternal judgment fall upon them, today.

If you have forgotten from whence you came, then you will likely think little of where the lost are going—even the people you love most.

Who We Are In Christ

Yes, if we are going to avoid giving up on society, we must be mindful of whom we were before Christ save us. Likewise, if we are going to avoid giving up on society, we must also be mindful of whom we are in Christ.

Look again at Ephesians 2:4-9

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

This is one of the most beautiful and most important passages in the New Testament. It is a passage filled to overflowing with great and encouraging doctrine. There are many important words and phrases in this passage—phrases like:

“Rich in mercy…”
“The great love with which he loved us…”
“By grace you have been saved…”

But the two most important words, in my estimation, are the first two of the passage…. “But God…”

I was dead in my trespasses and sins…but God!

I was a slave to sin and love my sin…but God!

I was a child of wrath…but God!

I deserve eternity in Hell for my sins against God…but God!

There is nothing I can do to save myself…but God!

On my own, I would never love Jesus; I would never look to or turn to the cross…but God!

I had no hope…but God!

I had no peace…but God!
But God!

Salvation is of the Lord! It is not a cooperative work between God and man. It is the sovereign, gracious, merciful, loving, and kind work of God alone. God alone receives the honor. God alone receives the glory. God alone receives the praise. God alone!

But God!

He did not simply make me well. He brought me to life!

He did not arbitrarily set me free. He took the place of punishment rightly mine!

He did not simply cancel my debt. He canceled it through the only acceptable payment—the death of His only Son on the cross!

He did not see anything good in me. He clothed me in the righteousness of His Son!

He did not give me what I deserve. To me, the chief of sinners, He extended mercy and grace!

I am weak…but God!

I am weary and heavy-laden…but God!

I am tired…but God!

I do not understand the reasons why…but God!

I can’t control what’s happening…but God!

But God!

Are you in Christ Jesus this morning? Do you know Him as Lord and Savior? Does He know you as one of His beloved children? Then God has made you alive together with Christ. You have been saved by grace, through faith. And you will one-day be raised up and seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. He will show you the immeasurable riches of grace in His kindness. This is who you are in Christ.

If you are born-again, God has adopted you. Turn with me to Romans 8. Let’s look at verses 12-17. Romans 8 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, and this passage is one of my favorites, in my favorite chapter.

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

As you think about this beautiful passage about spiritual adoption, allow me to share with you the story of my nephew, Jay. Jay is now eight-years-old…

As an infant, Jay was found on the side of the road by a Ugandan police officer. The police officer took him to a local orphanage and left him there. The orphanage cleaned him up, clothed him, fed him, and otherwise took care of him. Then the orphanage put the word out through their usual channels that Jay was available for adoption.

My sister and brother-in-law, who were seeking to adopt a child at the time, heard Jay’s story, saw his picture, and fell in love with him. They traveled to Uganda to meet Jay, in person. Their love for Jay was not only confirmed, but it grew. My sister and brother-in-law made the decision to adopt Jay.

They flew Jay home to Southern California. They gave him a new name. They gave him new clothes. And they gave him a new home. Jay was not merely a guest in the home. He was not merely a new relative. He was part of the family, having all of the rights, privileges, and responsibilities of my sister’s natural born children.

Now, I have a few important questions for you. Did Jay do anything to make the police officer pick him up out of the dirt and take him to the orphanage?

Did Jay do anything to make the orphanage take him in and take care of him?

Did Jay do anything to motivate, much less command my family members to fly to Uganda, adopt Jay, and bring him home to America?

The answer to all of these questions is “no.” What happened in Jay’s life was entirely the result of intervention from outside sources.

The same is true with our salvation. Salvation is of the Lord. We are in Christ because God wanted us in Christ. We have been adopted by God as His beloved children because God wanted us to be part of His eternal, heavenly family.

And when God does that miraculous work, when He draws you to Himself and causes you to be born-again, He gives you a new name. You are no longer called “wretched.” You are now called “redeemed.” You are no longer called “lost.” You are now called “found.” You are no longer called “condemned.” You are now called “saved.” You are no longer called a “child of wrath.” You are now called an “adopted child of the Most High God.”

And when God saves you, He gives you new clothes. You are no longer clothed in the filthy, putrid garments of your sins and your perceived good works, which are nothing more than an abomination and a bribe before God. You are now clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ.

And when God saves you, He gives you a new home. You are no longer of this world. You are of another world. Your final destination is no longer Hell. You are homeward bound—bound for Heaven to spend eternity in the perfect presence of Jesus Christ.

My friends, if we are mindful of who we were before Christ saved us, and we are mindful of who we are today in Christ, then why is it still so very difficult for most Christians to open their mouths and declare the glory, goodness, and grace of God, which is given freely to those who turn to Christ, repent and believe the gospel? Why would we withhold from anyone, even our most ardent enemies, the great kindness, mercy, grace, love, forgiveness, and freedom we have received in Christ?

Only a sense of depraved indifference toward those who are lost could keep the Christian from boasting—not in his good fortune, but in the Pearl of Great Price, Jesus Christ the Lord.  Only a tragic lack of love could keep the Christian from telling the world what was done for him, an unworthy sinner, by the One who did it all, Jesus Christ the Lord.

Only a sense of false superiority could keep the Christian from pointing unsaved, unredeemed, unforgiven people to the cross—the cross where his Lord and Savior died for his sins. My pastor put it oh so very well when he said of the cross and the darkest three hours of human history as the wrath of God the Father was poured out upon God the Son. My pastor said the cross shows us the enormity of our sin and the immensity of God’s love.

The cross: where justice and mercy kissed. The cross: where the enormity of our sin was dealt with as the wrath of God the Father was poured out upon God the Son. The cross: where the immensity of God the Father’s love for sinners was displayed for the world to see, as He allowed His Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the enormous sin debt owed by sinners.

Never forget who you are in Christ by constantly remembering what Christ has done for you. Do this, and you will not be able to keep yourself from testifying of God’s immense love and the Lord’s great sacrifice, and Jesus’ eternal victory over sin and death. Do this, and you will not give up on the people of our society or any other in the sense that you will want Christ to save others as He has saved you.
What God Has Called Us To Do

What God Has Called Us To Do

In order to avoid falling into the ungodly trap of giving up on the people in society, we need to remember who we were before coming to faith in Christ. We need to remember who we now are in Christ. And, lastly, we need to remember what God has called us to do. This brings us to the last verse of our passage, Ephesians 2:10.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

The born-again follower of Jesus Christ (and there is no other kind) is the very workmanship of his or her Creator. The Greek words in the verse, when used in a secular context, quite literally mean: “to fabricate a product”—“a workmanship created.”

God did not cause any Christian to be born again for the purpose of simply sitting the Christian on a shelf, on display for the world to see. God has adopted every Christian into His eternal family to do something—“good works”—and not only do them, but to do them continually. As a way of life, our Christian walk should be a walk filled with good works.

And what are “good works?” Good works are any activity done for the glory of God and not for the glory of self, and are consistent with the Word and the will of God. We could spend the rest of the afternoon listing activities—activities we could likely find in the Bible—that we could classify as “good works.” But considering the theme of this morning’s message, and this entire weekend, I will focus on just one. It shouldn’t be hard to guess which one.

But before we do that, I would like you to turn with me to John 14:11-13. Now, unfortunately, this is a passage often taken out of context or misapplied in such a way that we, as Christians, will perform greater miracles than Jesus. First of all, no mere sinful human performs a miracle. In fact there is some debate in the theological community as to whether or not miracles still take place. I have not come down on one side or the other of that debate. But I do know that many ministries, particularly those of some televangelists, will take this passage to justify false healings and other false miracles.

Now, am I saying God no longer heals? Of course not. God has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is still the Great Physician. But if all the men in the world claiming to have the ability to perform greater miracles than Jesus were legitimate, there would not be a single occupied hospital bed, today. The reality is there is not enough room in our hospitals, today. People still get sick. People still die. And some televangelist still get richer by the day, as they bilk vulnerable people out of not only their money, but their hope.

There is one “good work,” for which we were created that we can perform to a much greater extent than Jesus did. Oh, we will never do it better, for we will not have His perfection this side of Heaven. But we can do greater in the sense of the quantity of the work. And that work is evangelism.

Yes, Jesus Christ, the Creator of the world did change the entire world when He came to earth, lived, died, and rose again. But he did that from a small, insignificant area of land, in a tiny country, with little to say for itself on the world’s stage.

I was blessed to go to Israel in May of 2010. One moment among many very memorable moments was my time on a boat, on the Sea of Galilee. There were about twenty-five of us from our group on the boat together. At one point, our tour guide asked us all to stand in line, facing the northeast shore. He then asked us to extend our arms to our side so that the tips of our fingers touched. He then explained that from the area of land, within the span of our line, was the approximate area where Jesus conducted 90% of His earthly ministry. Our span couldn’t have covered much more than a quarter-mile of shoreline.

Think about that for just a moment. God in the flesh, the Creator of Galilee its Sea and the entire world, the One who came so that the world might be saved through Him—relegated Himself and His ministry to a relatively small patch of land near the shore of a desert sea. His personal ministry did not span the globe. He did not have the benefit of the various forms of transportation we have today; or the various forms of instantaneous communication we have today.

On the other hand, you and I can hop online, right now, and send the gospel out to thousands—maybe millions.  If the financial resources are available, we can literally travel the entire world, in much less than a lifetime, to proclaim the gospel to the lost. Or, we can simply hop in our car and cover more territory in an afternoon than Jesus did in three-and-a-half years of earthly ministry.

God, by causing us to be born-again—by saving us from His great wrath, a wrath He poured out on His Son instead of those of us who have repented and believed the gospel—has opened an extraordinary window of opportunity, a door to the entire world, to preach the good news of salvation by the grace of God alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. God, by His grace and steadfast love—not only for us, but for the rest that He would saved, has granted us the amazing gift and huge responsibility of taking His gospel to people and to parts of the world, Jesus did not reach during His time on earth.

This is not only a good work. This is the greatest work—to make Him known to a lost and dying world. This is the yet-to-be-finished work that is the reason why the Lord has not yet returned to take His people, His Church, home.

This, like all of the good works God has for us (and, again, there are many good works that do not involve evangelism)—evangelism is a work God has determined for us to do from eternity past. And it is a work He fully expects to be an ongoing, regular part of our walk through life. Evangelism is a good work in which, according to Ephesians 2:10, we should walk.

Is evangelism a regular, noticeable, significant, consistent aspect of your Christian walk? Is evangelism, a good work for which you have been created, part of your life—even a way of life? My dear friends please do not be deceived. The Great Commission—Jesus Christ’s evangelism and discipleship mandate for world missions—was not given only to eleven frightened men on a mountain top, outside the City of Jerusalem. It is not a mandate; a commission given by God to a select few especially gifted Christians of today. It God’s command to everyone He has determined to save and everyone He has destined to be His very workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works.

If evangelism is not a normal part of your Christian walk (and sadly this is true of far too many American Christians), then you have, for all intents and purposes, given up on society. You have given up on the stranger you pass on the street. You have given up on your co-worker. You have given up on the soccer mom who stands next to you on the sidelines. You have given up on your friend—a friendship you allegedly established for the purpose of reaching that friend with the gospel. And you have given up on your unsaved family members.

My friends, we do what we care about. And if we are not doing whatever we can to bring the gospel to lost people, then we do not really care about lost people as much as we think. And if this is you (and only you know if this is you; I certainly do not know), you must repent. You must repent of your lack of love for lost people. You must repent of being more concerned about your comfort than Christ’s glory. You must repent of the indifference you express toward the state of lost souls by the lack of evangelism in your Christian walk. And you must repent of your disobedience of God, for God has commanded you to share the gospel with the lost.

A couple of weeks ago, I made a horrible mistake. I gave up on a lost soul; and I did it in a terribly sinful way. His name was Maurice.

It was a very hot Saturday morning at the North Hollywood Metro Station. It had not yet reached the Noon hour and it was already over 100 degrees.

Maurice, a 24-year-old, African American, son of a pastor approached me as I was standing atop my stepladder preaching the gospel. I cannot remember his initial question. But the conversation soon deteriorated into an argument between two sinful men—the open-air preacher and a pastor’s kid.

I was angry with Maurice. He became belligerent and disrespectful. And, to my shame, I responded in kind. After it was all said and done, my team and I gathered to pray. We prayed for Maurice, but I think in my heart I had given up on him. I knew I would likely never see him again, and I had little hope for his soul.

Over the last couple of weeks, reflections of my conversation with Maurice, along with a very timely and important conversation with my sister, Cheryl, about my open-air preaching, have caused me to take a moment of pause. My sister shared with me that she thought I was sounding angrier, over the last couple of months, when I preach.

I didn’t take what she said with a grain of salt. I took it to heart.

So, Thursday morning, I was once again at the North Hollywood Metro Station, preaching the gospel. I tried to be vigilant to watch my tone of voice and the sharpness of my rhetoric.

After I finished preaching for the morning, I noticed a young man standing off in the distance, close to the subway structure. I walked up to him and tried to hand him a tract.

The young man glanced at me, and I could tell he was already unhappy.

“You don’t even remember me, do you?”

It was Maurice.

Maurice, while remaining calm, let me have it. And I thank God he did. He told me that I belittled him and humiliated him in front of his friends.

I apologized to Maurice. I made no excuses. I told him he was right. And I asked him for a second chance.

We spent the next half-hour together, talking to one another—listening to one another. This time Maurice heard the law and the gospel. I do not know if the Lord saved him at that moment; but I do know God the Holy Spirit was at work in both of our lives. The conversation ended with us embracing each other, with a hug.

I sinned against God in a terrible way. I used the preaching of the gospel as a hammer to beat a struggling young man over the head and through the heart. I did something I vehemently oppose—something I make very clear to those I teach and disciple they should never do.

But God is greater than my sin! And God is so loving and gracious and kind that he allowed me the opportunity to be reconciled to an unsaved young man upon whom I had given up.

Have you given up? Have you given up on the people in the world around you—the lost people who, if they died today, would spend eternity in Hell as the just punishment for their sins against God? If so, repent. Turn from the sin of writing off the people of the world—of writing them off as less important than yourself, or unimportant altogether. Don’t give up. Don’t quit.

Instead, engage. Engage the culture, not by diving into it to the point no distinction can be made between you and the lost person with whom you make contact. Christianity is counter-cultural. The gospel is counter-cultural. Jesus was and is and always will be counter-cultural. The culture, society, our world is captivated by sin and captive to darkness. You have been called to be a light—a representation of His light, through the proclamation of the gospel.

As a Christian, you alone have the only real hope to offer every person on Planet Earth; and that hope is salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Don’t keep it to yourself any longer. You know it’s wrong. You know you shouldn't do it. Repent.

There is much work to be done. I believe there are many, maybe multiple millions of people God will yet save before the window of His grace and mercy is closed forever, and He closes the door to His Kingdom to anyone who is not already inside. God does not need our help to accomplish His plan, but He has made it abundantly clear in His Word that His people, His Church, preaching His gospel will be the means by which He will draw sinners to Himself, for His glory.

So, in conclusion, don’t give up on society. Remember who you were without Christ. Remember who you are in Christ. And remember what God has called you to do.

And let us not forget this important truth. All of the lost people in the world are not out there. Some of them are right here, in Christian churches, across the United States. So I would be remiss if I preached about not giving up on lost people in this world, if I did not share the gospel with the lost that might be with us, today.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A Weekend with Faith Bible Fellowship Church

What a wonderful weekend in beautiful Lancaster, PA!

I was the guest of Dwayne and Cheryl Eberly and Faith Bible Fellowship Church. It was a wonderful weekend of fellowship, discipleship, open-air preaching, street evangelism, team building, and pulpit ministry.

What follows are the audios of two of my open-airs and two of my sermons.

Here is my first open-air on Friday evening.

Here is my second open-air on Friday evening.

And here is a short video of Friday night, put together by Dwayne Eberly's daughter, Sarah.

I preached this message on Saturday morning, during the church's men's breakfast.

I preached this message during both Sunday morning services.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

CSUN: A Conversation with Monique

CSUN: A Conversation with Estelle

As part of my effort to engage students on the CSUN campus in spiritual conversations, I'm asking them the following question--a question I took from my friend, Greg Elsasser's, evangelism playbook:

"If you knew you only had three minutes to live, what would be your last words, and to whom would you say them?"

This question led to the following conversation with Estelle.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Judge Not That You Be Not Judged!" - A New Gospel Tract


“Judge not that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Second only to John 3:16, Matthew 7:1 is probably the most often quoted verse in the Bible. But what does the verse really mean? It means that one should not judge another person in a condemning, hypocritical, or self-righteous manner. But you make judgments all the time—judgments about right and wrong (murder, stealing, lying, etc.). That’s okay. God does the same thing. The Bible makes it clear there is only one Judge, and that is God. “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor” (James 4:12)? When you die and stand before God, you will give an account for your life. “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). If you’ve ever lied, stolen, taken God’s name in vain, harbored hatred or lust in your heart, or sinned against God in any way, He will judge you as one who has broken His law. God’s punishment for sin is eternity in Hell. God has provided only one way for you to receive forgiveness of your sins and the joy of eternal life in Heaven. God the Father sent His Son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ—fully God and fully Man, who knew no sin. He voluntarily went to the cross where He shed His innocent blood and died, taking upon Himself the punishment you deserve. God the Son subjected Himself to the wrath of God the Father in order to pay the ransom (the sin debt) for many. Three days later, He defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave. What God commands you to do is repent (turn from your sin and turn to God) and, by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Available exclusively through

Friday, September 14, 2012

An Agnostic, a Catholic, a Lesbian, and an Inquisitive Girl

Sep 14, 2012 | At the Valencia Town Center with Mahria, Peter, and our evangelism table. by TonyCrosswalk on

They were all about 17-years-old. They all had questions. As the title of this post asserts, they were all very different people. For over an hour I reasoned with them and shared the law and the gospel with them.

Justin was the agnostic who prided himself as an intellectual. Christian was the Catholic who relied on his religion and his chosen set of beliefs. Lian was the self-professed Lesbian who was not comfortable with her sexuality. And Chelle was the quiet, inquisitive young lady who asked questions with a great deal of gentleness and sincerity.

Join me. Be a fly on the wall, as I engage these four young people in what I believe was a remarkable conversation--one that left all four of them thinking.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

CPR, Man's Inability, and God's Irresistible Grace (Part 3)

The above image is courtesy of my friend, Sye Ten Bruggencate.

In Part 2 of this series, I addressed man's utter inability to participate in his own salvation. Salvation is of the Lord (Psalm 37:39; Psalm 68:20; Lamentations 3:26). Salvation is not a right earned by man's participation in the salvific process. It is a right given by God, and God alone (John 1:12-13). Because man is dead in his trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), he cannot participate in being born again. For it is God who causes man to be born again (1 Peter 1:3), as an act of His will (John 1:13).

Going hand in hand with man's inability regarding salvation is God's perfect irresistibility. God will do what He wants, with who He wants, when He wants, and how He wants. God's grace is irresistible.

Irresistible Grace

One last time, let's return to the CPR analogy. A person whose heart stops beating, a person who stops breathing, is clinically dead. And dead actually means.....dead. The person who is clinically dead cannot participate in any way, in their resuscitation. They are completely at the mercy, ability, and power of an outside source--the one who is performing CPR. But there is something else that must not be overlooked.

Just as a person cannot participate in their resuscitation, a person cannot thwart the rescusitative effort. Let me say that again. If a person is clinically dead, they can do nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop the effort to resuscitate them. And the same is true with salvation. No one can stop God from saving them.

And let's spend a few moments in a courtroom.

You have been found guilty of breaking the law. It is the day of sentencing and you are standing before the judge. The Judge commands you to pay a million-dollar fine or spend the rest of your life in prison. You cannot pay the fine. As the judge is about to impose his sentence, someone walks into the courtroom and announces to the judge that he is there to pay your fine.

The requirements of the law being met, the judge turns to you and says, "On the basis of this person making payment of the fine on your behalf, you are free to go."

With a look of determination on your face, you point at the judge and say, "No! I don't except the payment of the fine! I did the crime, so I will do the time! I want to go to prison for the rest of my life!"

So, who wins the day--you, the convicted criminal, or the presiding judge? If you assert you win the day, then you lack even a requisite knowledge of the judicial system and with whom authority in that system lies. It does not lie with you the convicted criminal. It lies entirely with the judge.

It matters not what you think of the judge or his decision. All that matters is the will of the judge. If he chooses to set you free, you will be free indeed. You can kick and scream and protest, all to no avail. The judge's decision is the only one that matters.

Granted, no analogy is perfect; but I think the point is clear. Yes, in this scenario, the judge imposed his will upon you, the convicted criminal. There was nothing unjust about the judges imposed will. So to with God. He is sovereign and free to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants, to whomever He wants, in keeping with His perfect character. Paul makes this clear in Romans 9.
"What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God's part? By no means! For he says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.' So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.' So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills" Romans 9:14-18).
Man is not autonomous. His free will, as he perceives it, is limited by his corrupt, sinful nature. And the will of the creature will never supersede the will of the Creator (Romans 1:15). The will of the slave will never supersede the will of the Master (Matthew 10:24; John 13:16).

While the above is certainly true and consistent with Scripture, God's salvific work in a person's life entails so much more than merely overcoming or subjugating a person's will. Oh no; what God does to save a person is so much more miraculous than that. God changes the person's will!

I appreciate what Brian Schwertley wrote about God making the unwilling heart willing.
The reason that God’s grace is effectual or irresistible is that the Holy Spirit imparts an inclination to holiness in the human heart. Man’s heart is changed in such a way that the unwilling become willing. The person who is regenerated by the Holy Spirit embraces Jesus Christ because he wants to. Shedd wrote: “In the Scripture phraseology, he is ‘made willing,’ (Psalm 110:3. God ‘works in him to will,’ (Philippians 2:13). In the phraseology of the Westminster statement (L.C., 67), he is ‘powerfully determined.’ By renewing the sinful and self-enslaved will, the Holy Spirit empowers it to self-determine or incline to God as the chief good and the supreme end.” The old heart which hated Jesus Christ and considered spiritual matters to be foolishness (1 Corinthians 2:14) is replaced with a new heart which is spiritual, which is deeply concerned about spiritual affairs. After a person is regenerated, Christ becomes the most important person in his life. The Savior becomes to him like a hidden treasure and a pearl of great price (Matthew 13:44, 46). Because the heart is made spiritual it desires and loves “the things of the Spirit.” “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Romans 8:6-9). God doesn’t put a gun to man’s head and coerce him into the kingdom; rather, He changes him internally so that he voluntarily chooses Christ. The human will always acts in accordance with the human heart.
God is sovereign! Praise be to God! God is sovereign!

God is sovereign over the will of man. He can overcome any resistance sinful man can offer. And He can change any man's heart. And God does not need anyone's permission! The man who thinks He can withstand the will of Almighty God is every bit as foolish as the man who, while standing in an open-field, thinks he can withstand the power of an oncoming F5 tornado. Oh sinful man, you are but dust!

God is sovereign. You are not.

"The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord . . . The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:1, 9).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me" (Jeremiah 32:40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures" (Luke 24:45).

God is sovereign. You are not.

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 'He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them'" (John 12:39-40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul" (Acts 16:40).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"For God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled" (Revelation 17:17).

God is sovereign. You are not.

"And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is sovereign. You are not.

And anyone who balks at the perfect, comprehensive, masterful, unopposed, magnificent sovereignty of God should examine themselves to see if they are even in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Salvation is of the Lord. It is not a synergistic (cooperative) effort between God and man. It is a monergistic (God working alone for His own glory) miraculous, loving, gracious, merciful, and kind act of God.

Man is utterly incapable of assisting in his salvation, in his being brought from death to life. Likewise, there is nothing man can do to thwart God's predetermined plan, if it be His sovereign will to save him. God's grace is, indeed, irresistible.

In my final segment of this series, I will look at the implications of these precious doctrines, in the evangelism efforts of the Christian.