No, this event I am blogging about was not planned. But, what person can plan a chance meeting? Only the Holy Spirit can of course, and I hold to the realization in the household of God that there are no chance encounters.
I’ll start with saying the day was typical. Nothing out of the usual except for the fact that we had planned to distribute Bibles in the trailer park during the afternoon. Unfortunately, a thunderstorm moved in and the torrential rains made that excursion impossible. So, as any awesomely creative mother does during rainstorms, I took the kids to “Micky-Donalds” (as my youngest likes to call it) to play in the play-land! For safety, you know… [wink wink]
Anyhow… We had eaten up all our food when I was on my 2nd trip back up to the counter to buy ice cream when I stepped behind the last person in line. This person was an older gentleman, dressed nicely and wearing a neat little fishing-type hat. He turned around and asked me if I would like to go ahead of him which was very nice. I told him that I was ordering several ice creams and seeing as he held a couple dollar bills in his hand, I assured him that my order would be more time consuming to prepare than his. Then, in a ‘gently cantankerous’ sort of way, he let me know in no uncertain terms that I was to go before him. Well, okay! I had to do what the man said, because I have to respect my elders, right?!
And it was then that he said the saddest words-
“I’m 70 years old. Been retired for 8 years. I have nothing better to do but to wait. Wait to die, I guess.”
Now this wasn’t said point blank in my face, it was more under his breath in a casual, flippant way masked as a flimsy excuse to let me go ahead. Even still, his words pierced something in my heart and after it was said I tried to sound upbeat about him being retired or something or other. I cannot remember what I said now, but I can assure you that it wasn’t as important as what I heard him say.
So, our orders came up, I thanked the man again and then I wandered back into the back part of the restaurant where the play land was. I sat down with a sad face and of course, had to immediately share what was said with the girls. My oldest (and right-hand girl) who I turned to, seeking some kind of guidance from a 10-year old, I asked, “What should I do?” I felt so bad for this man because I had something in my possession so very valuable that I knew I had to give to him!
She suggested that I go back and talk to him. My sheepish, cowardly face of doubt told her that that wasn’t a good suggestion. The other two girls picked up on it and said, “Just go ask him if he’s a Christian!” This was followed by little bobbing heads of hearty agreement, followed by another uncertain look on my face.
“We’ll go and ask him!” Says my two middles. I say ok, go ask him and then promptly buried my nose back into my Bible at the table (yes, I‘m one of those psycho‘s who carries my Bible with me everywhere! LOL).
Looking back now, I really have to get over this crazy, domineering fear of witnessing if I’m ever going to be a missionary. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of love and of power and a sound mind (2 Tim. 1:7). And besides, I have to do what I am commanded to do and that is, be a witness for Him. All I’m relaying is the good news of the Gospel. I’m a messenger, right? That isn’t so hard! …until the messenger gets shot. But that’s a whole other topic! LOL
Anyway… the girls disappear into the front of the restaurant and they are gone for quite a few minutes (Come to find out later, the younger one jumped ship, leaving the other to ask alone. This took a little time to sum up the courage, but she still braved it and for that I am so proud of her!). I started to worry until I saw them come bounding back around the corner, faces glowing with anticipation, shouting so everyone can hear, “He’s coming back to talk to you! He’s coming back to talk to you!”
I have to say when I heard their words, a feeling of relief swept over me (probably supernatural now that I think on it). The kids took the step I never would; the Lord gently opened that door for me, and now was the time where I sit and simply be His instrument. I knew the Holy Spirit would go to work just like He promises to do when we are in those situations. My words become not my own, they become His and He knows perfectly what to say.
2 Cor. 4:7 – “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.”
On a side note, I know there are so many people (I’ve done this myself) that really beat themselves up when a witnessing experience goes bad, or is unfruitful. Or the person shuts up and becomes completely hardened to what you are saying. But this is going to happen more times than not! The Bible says so! When you open up your mouth and speak the Word with boldness you are doing what you have been asked to do, simple as that. This in itself is reason for joyous celebration and a sense of Godly accomplishment! Besides Rom. 1:16 tells us that “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”
Did you catch those 9 not-so-little words? We can’t save anybody, for salvation is within God’s power and His alone. Also, He is the only one who is omniscient and can see into the future; He knows whether or not the experience will garner any fruit. So note this next sentence carefully all you disciples of Jesus- we are merely seed planters and if you plant the seed, take heart in knowing that it is up to God to either provide water for that seed or let it die. All of that is outside of our realm, so don’t beat yourself up if someone doesn’t recognize their need for the Savior right on the spot. From what I hear, that rarely happens so I usually keep my expectations very low. When all is said and done, it is with this knowledge that I can truly praise God for just giving me the opportunity to speak about His Son! Whether the results are immediate or not.
Anyhow… I digress! The man is coming! The man is coming! But before I start, for time’s sake and the health of my typing fingers, I will make this as brief as I can because we all know that I can talk, and talk, and talk, and TALK J!
So, the man makes it to our table. He walks up and immediately tells me (and I’m going to paraphrase the conversation as best I can) that he was raised in a Christian household, but went to Catholic schools (Catholic doesn‘t equal Christian, but I won‘t go down this rabbit-track here. Maybe in another post!), then he moved up into going to a Lutheran church and throughout his life having had so many damaging issues and emotions from the Catholic church that now, after he has lived his whole life, he wants no part of religion.
Basically, long story short- He wasn’t buying what I was selling! LOL – He said it in a gentle, smiling sort of way. In his geniality, he told me he was not quite open to what I was all about, but I could see through the exterior; the interior held a very scarred and emotionally hurt person. At his age, I can imagine there were a lot of false “strongholds” the enemy has set up in his mind about what “religion” is due to his upbringing.
Now. To be more glorifying to God and to do this experience justice, I’m going to bullet point the comments he made, and then counter them with the comments I was able to interject in between. This will be more factual since I really can’t remember word for word, mmmmk? J And I’m going to give God all the praise for what I was able to say since when I did, I could tell this was quite possibly, NEW information he was hearing since he looked at me a few times like I had grown a 3rd eyeball in the middle of my forehead!
All square bullet points will be his point, “O” are mine.
He stated emphatically that he was not interested in any type of religion.
O I told him that Christianity is not a religion (this is when I got the funny look), it’s a relationship with a person, Jesus Christ. He started to disagree with me, but stopped.
He wasn’t interested in what the Bible had to say because no one could ever figure out what it truly said because there were “too many interpretations”.
O I agreed. There are a lot of versions! Chinese versions, Bibles in German, French, Farsi. Unless you are going with a Bible version like The Message (that‘s another rabbit-track), I told him that most translations say the same thing (Can you mistranslate, “Thou shalt not kill, or…. John 3:16 anyone?). Basically he was using that as an excuse to not pick up a Bible.
He told me that just about every priest he knew, or grew up with was crooked or gay. He touched on how much damage the Catholic church has done to society and summed it up by expressing how they have practically ruined him from seeking anything religious.
O Again, I basically agreed with what he was saying. I told him that human beings themselves have done so much damage in the name of religion and in fact, I knew several ex-catholics who left Catholism due to simply reading the Bible for themselves (thus choosing to move beyond the wounds left from people and finding out for themselves). This happens quite frequently when the Lord removes the scales from their eyes through His Word. From what I have heard from several sources, Catholics are not encouraged to read their Bibles. I would imagine it’s to maintain control (more rabbit-tracks!).
He talked a lot about homosexuality. Quite a few times I thought he might be gay, but then in the other things he said, I wasn’t quite sure. Apparently, he was married for many years and had 2 kids. Kids grew up, then he and his wife drifted apart and eventually got divorced. From what I gathered he seems to be a good father (and grandfather), but he just doesn’t understand why people can’t be gay and can’t be part of the church. The church (I’m assuming the Catholic church) shuns homosexuals even though half their priests are gay! What hypocrisy (in his eyes)!
O I see where he is coming from. However, unless you are up for it, a theology debate isn’t…. searching for the right words…. Appropriate when you are trying to share the Truth. This man wasn’t looking to hear doctrine, or to hear that you cannot be practicing sin (any sin, including homosexuality) and be on your way to heaven… (1 John 3:9 – “ Whosoever is born of God doth not commit (practice) sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” – 1 John talks so much on this. We all struggle with sin, but we are to NEVER practice it, or live in it, or revel in it, or enjoy it, etc.). This man to whom I was speaking, I could tell, probably would have disengaged the conversation had I taken this route. The route I did take was still a Biblical one, and it is this; I told him that WE ARE ALL SINNERS. And, he agreed with me on that! Praise God!
Although, I’m not quite sure how celebratory that might be now, I do know that too many people have been hurt by the self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitudes of others. Pride stands in the way of many… where if they could just see how depraved human beings are, that we are ALL depraved and that yes, we have all broken God’s laws, and that yes, there is a way where we don’t have to feel guilty any more, and that we can be free and be FORGIVEN in Christ! That is the good news! We do not have to be slaves to sin! But I didn’t get that far with him as he did most of the talking. And that’s ok… He needed to be listened to, not talked at.
He asked me what kind of church I went to. I always get a little deflated like a balloon when this subject comes up because I’m not there to tell anyone what denomination I am. I’m not talking to people in order that I preach a church! Pre-conceived notions always rear their ugly heads and then, the subject pivots into “Churchianity”.
The Apostle Paul encountered this and then wrote about it in his letter to the church in Corinth.
1 Cor.3:4 – “For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal (fleshly, babies, immature)?”
1 Cor.3:6 – “I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.”
Even Jesus Himself rebuked secretarianism in Matt. 12:30 – “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”
O But the good news is that I was able to relay this important tidbit of information: I told him that I do not preach a church but a person. Jesus Christ. This again, got me “the look”.
[[[Before I go any further, I have to share about the resistance I felt happening during this entire discussion. Enemy forces were working hard at quenching the fires that were possibly being ignited in his spirit! It’s almost difficult right now as I type this to talk about it… But, when we started talking about Jesus and His person, it was almost as if the play-land EXPLODED in noise. I don’t know how, but the magnitude of the noise coming from the kids in the play-land got so intense it was like the raging of water in my ears. I could see the words coming out of the man’s mouth, but I was having an extremely difficult time hearing what they were. I had to piece together bits and pieces of his sentences many times and I was trying hard not to show my frustration. By the end of it all, after it was over, it seemed as if the noise simmered down like a pot of boiling water having been removed from the stove. What was left was a painful banging headache between my ears. It was no matter though, because when we left I just stopped and picked up some Tylenol. I wanted to mention this because I think this sort of thing is common, so we must be prepared for it. Never forget, the enemy was defeated at the cross, victory IS in our possession! The enemy can scream and holler all he wants, but he‘s already lost, so don‘t be afraid, just keep marching on, soldier!]]]
Now, the follow-up of the comment of preaching a person, not a church is the frosting on the top! Now listen up because I believe this to be so very common among many unbelievers. This is the hang-up for many! And the funny thing is, is that this tidbit is known among more atheists (that I have encountered, that is) than the average person.
Now, atheists who know about what I am going to say (but don’t believe it because they don‘t believe a true, knowable God exists), this is their biggest stumbling block and thus, their reason for being an atheist. Other than the ones who believe in evolution, of course. Or, in other words, if Jesus being God is not their biggest problem, then an Intelligent Creator who made the world in 6 days by the breath of His mouth, is (personally, I think the latter is more unbelievable to them than the deity of Jesus, crazy as that sounds).
Ok, now the comment he made was that he had read about a man who wrote about Jesus proving (?) that Jesus was gay since He was always around 12 men… Plus, He was a Jewish man… (not sure what that has to do with anything) … and the Jews were the chosen people of God and still are.
O I hate to say this, but what he said in the first part about what he read about Jesus wasn’t that shocking to me. Sadly, my precious Lord and best friend, love of my life, has been dragged through the mud worse than this. I hate to sound flippant or even apathetic, because I’m really not. It’s just the reality of this world… it’s hate, pure and simple. We know that Jesus said many times that the world hated Him (that would include evil speaking and lies about Him), so again, this is no surprise.
The good news in this last comment was that I was able to plainly declare that Jesus was God in the flesh!! I of course, flat out told him that what he read, written by this supposed person, was: BLASPHEMY. It got me “the look” which led me to explain why I said it was blasphemy. It was blasphemy because: Jesus. Was and IS. God.
I think this may have well been extremely new information to him! I do not know! But I am so happy and excited that I got to be the one to tell him. And I nodded my head in agreement that, yes, Israel and the Jews are still God’s chosen people (and that in itself is a rare find in an unbeliever as well) and always will be.
So, to sum this all up, I was able to share that Jesus was God, Christianity is a relationship, we are all sinners in need of a Savior and regardless of what he feels about interpretations of the Bible, he should be reading it!
In the end, he pretty much thanked me for talking with him and wished me a good life. I mean, he was genuinely thankful that we talked together, but you know, he took his coffee and just gingerly hobbled away as a 70-yr-old would do. But besides all that I’ve typed up, we did speak about more than spiritual matters, like his retirement benefits, how bad the economy is, his physical ailments coupled with his inadequate state provided health insurance, how he took speaking classes and was used to standing all the time (he refused my invitation to sit down, saying he preferred to stand. I‘m assuming he chose to stand should the overwhelming urge to run screaming from the room come upon him. LOL), you know, all those issues that unbelievers are caught up in, etc., etc., etc. But I really do believe he was grateful to have someone to talk to. And I can only pray that the kindness I showed him as a reflection of the kindness of Jesus will, most importantly be remembered. Again, it will be the Holy Spirit who will bring the words that were spoken into his heart and mind in the future.
And although the end of this story may sound like it has a sad ending, I refuse to believe it does. Why? Because later that night, my oldest and I took to God’s promise in Matthew 18:19-20 that says,
“Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
We held hands and prayed for the unnamed man we witnessed to today. We never found out what his name was, but God certainly knows! And we prayed that God would send someone like an “Apollos” of 1 Cor. 3:6 to water the seed… Maybe what was spoken through me will be echoed by someone closer to him and with the Spirit of God drawing him in, he will recognize what a glorious relationship he can have with Jesus for all eternity.
Psalms 34:8 – “O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in Him.”
Pay particular attention to the order of the phrase, “taste and see”. In Hebrew, the word, “taste” is along the line of “experience”, so essentially it says, “Experience and see…” It’s not, “See, then experience…”! The psalmist tells us to experience first that the Lord is good, then we will SEE. Isn’t that a beautiful illustration? We are praying that this man will somehow call out to, or experience Jehovah God and then see that He is good and take Him up on his free offer of salvation through His Son.
On a side note, as we puttered around Meijer waiting for our power to turn back on after the storm, it occurred to me how witnessing is like being a salesman. But then that didn’t seem right, because I’m not really selling anything… What I AM doing is trying to give something away. Something so very valuable. Its like it goes back to what I was saying about the winning lottery ticket that a believer has. I can liken it to trying to GIVE AWAY a winning lottery ticket and the unbeliever does not want to take it because they do not believe it’s a winner! If they could only take that ticket and match the numbers, they will see. If they handle that ticket with anticipation and take it to the bank first, then they will see it’s a winner when the money is in the account!
Well, you all know I can go on and on about all this… However, in conclusion I would like quote Galatians 6:6 – “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.” This verse came to mind today as I prepared this post. I think you will find very similar parallels in this story as with most witnessing experiences you will have with the lost. I know myself that many people have problems with bible interpretations, denominations, or hurtful religious experiences of the past. There will always be something the enemy uses to keep people from the Cross. These “strongholds” (2 Cor. 10:4-5) are erected in the mind and they can only be torn down through the Truth.
John 17:17 – “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.”
So, take these bullet points of contention that this man had, and use it as a preparation! Study to show thyself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:17), and be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in you to all men (1 Pet. 3:15). I believe these issues to be very prevalent among most unbelievers. So, let’s share the Truth! Take these “strongholds” as examples, and then use Truth to then pull them down. Don’t give up!
This song captures how I feel… perfectly.
I will echo Paul‘s sentiment,
1 Cor. 16:24 – “My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.”