Father & Son Evening Turned Missions Trip

Yesterday evening, I took Simon to a coffee shop to read books together while Malissa finished up preparations for his birthday party. After reading with him for a while, Simon wanted to get down and walk around. I watched as he smiled and waved at a man a few tables from me. The man waved back and tried talking with Simon.

I walked over to him and we started chatting about Simon’s age. I handed him a Gospel tract and told him it’s a great, short read on the most important matter – our eternal destination. 

As we talked, I learned that Visal is a Buddhist from Cambodia. He moved to America only one year ago to study and work. He is the only person from his family to come here! I began to share the Gospel with him and he invited me to sit down at his table! As I laid out the Gospel – the true condition of our sinful hearts, the gracious gift of God in giving up His only Son to lay down His life for us and rise from the dead, and His call for us to repent and believe – he listened. 

It’s always a joy sharing the Gospel with people, but it was such a special joy to unravel the glorious Gospel to a man who has spent his whole life in Buddhism. I don’t know that he had ever heard the Gospel in truth as he did yesterday. Please pray for Visal. He seemed very interested, and I’m sure we’ll meet and talk again soon.

Without taking a step of faith and starting a conversation with Visal, he would have just been another patron at the coffee shop to me. I would know nothing of his life or his spiritual condition. I would have left and he would not have heard the Gospel from my lips. 

Life is so much more fun when we step out in faith and rely upon God to help us make the Gospel known to the people around us! Pray for an open door for the Gospel today and see what God will do!

A Gospel Tract into a 3-Hour Dinner at the Airport

One simple Gospel tract hand-out or conversation with a lost person can reap eternal fruit.

waiting-at-airportAfter writing yesterday’s blog post about an amazing witnessing encounter I had in the airport, another great airport encounter came to mind –

Several years ago, I went to the airport to witness and met a man named Karim who was standing outside the arrival area, smoking a cigarette. I offered him a Gospel tract. He took it and asked what me it was. I explained to him that it was a card that contained a very important message about where we go when we die, and then I began to share with him about the sinful condition of our hearts and what God has done, in Christ, to make a way for us to be saved. He listened very intently.

After I finished talking, he said to me, “Josh, let me tell you something – I’m on a layover right now. I was just in California visiting my children who I’m separated from. I missed my flight here and had to catch a later one. I fell asleep and missed that one too. I finally caught a flight here and now my next one is delayed for 6 hours. I only have a McDonalds gift card and literally no money, so I was greatly looking forward to getting to Philly for my layover and eating some McDonalds with my gift card. When I got here, I made my way to McDonalds and found out they wouldn’t accept my gift card. I was so frustrated so I decided to come outside to smoke, and then you walked up with this message! I know that God sent you to me!”

As he shared those words, I knew as well that God had arranged our meeting. I asked if I could buy him dinner and he was thrilled! We went in to an airport restaurant and spent 3 hours together talking! He shared his life story with me and I shared Christ with him. It was truly amazing. Two weeks later, he called to tell me that he had bought a Bible and was reading it!

There are people like Karim all around us – people who are broken, helpless, hopeless, and dead in their sins; people who desperately need Jesus.

When Jesus saw the crowds, He was moved with compassion. He saw the people as sheep without a Shepherd, harassed and helpless. Oh that we might have the heart of our Savior with the people we meet today!

Pray for compassion for the lost – A compassion that leads to action. May we do something about people who are going to Hell. May we open our mouth and share the Gospel with them; may we open our lives and love on them; may we fall on our knees and pray for them. But God forbid, may we never, ever remain silent while they perish!

Waiting For a Flight = A Glorious Gospel Opportunity

IMG_6463 While waiting for a flight one evening, I stopped into an airport Starbucks and ordered an over-priced coffee. As I loaded it up with cream and sugar, I noticed a Japanese man sitting alone working on his computer.

I hesitated to approach him because I was unsure of how I’d start the conversation, but I knew this could be such a blessed opportunity for the Gospel. After several minutes of hesitation, I finally walked over to him and said hello and asked where he was from. He immediately began to tell me about himself and how he was in the States for work the past few weeks and was now heading back home to Japan.  He invited me sit down, so I took a seat at his table and we began to talk about his spiritual beliefs.  He was Buddhist, but as I shared the Gospel with him, I could see that he was very intrigued by the Bible.

Together, we went through the Scriptures and looked at the terrible condition of our hearts and the only way a sinful person can be reconciled to a holy God.  I showed him what it means to look up Scripture since he didn’t know what the numbers next to the verses meant – For example the “3:16” part to John 3:16.  I had him look up several verses on his own and read them out loud.  He asked me to write down all of my favorite Bible verses so that he could look them up when he got home.  I was stunned!

I wrote down several Scriptures that had to do with the Gospel.  A few days later, Yoshi sent me an email thanking me for talking with him and included a picture of the list of verses I provided him that he had looked up and written down in English!

Remember that when you have the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone, God can use that small encounter in a mighty way! Don’t let fear stop you from sharing this Gospel of God’s grace with anyone! And don’t let yourself believe that the Gospel seed you planted in someone’s heart is too small for God to grow. The Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes!

A helpful tip to get into Gospel conversations in the airport or anywhere is to always carry Gospel tracts with you and hand them out whenever you have an opportunity. This will help start conversations with people about eternal things. I usually hand out a tract and then say something like, “Make sure you get one of these! It’s got a very important message on the back. I have an interesting question for you. If you don’t mind me asking, what do you think will happen to you if you died tonight?”

Now the door is wide open for a great conversation!  Rarely does a person refuse to answer that question. In fact, I’ve found it to be the easiest way into a witnessing opportunity.

However you can, seek to get into meaningful conversations with the people that God has placed around you, and share the Good News of the Gospel with them!

The Lord is with you!

 

 

A Well-Watered Garden Makes For a Well-Prepared Evangelist

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We have a small garden in the front of our house. It’s nothing extraordinary, but it’s special to us. Like any garden, we have weeds that often sprout up, and they spread very quickly. We’re constantly having to maintain it. I started thinking recently…

Our hearts are much like gardens. Before Christ redeemed us, they were so darkened that nothing good could grow. We had no light. Our soil was bad. The only thing that sprouted from our garden was sinfulness – anger, pride, lust, selfishness, etc.

The same God who once spoke to a formless world, “Let there be light” spoke again to a lifeless soul and shined His light into our hearts, raising us from the dead! We have great soil anchored on the Rock of Christ, and we have brilliant light since we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Now we may bear fruit! Jesus said, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8)

The thing about gardening is that it takes work on our part. Fruit doesn’t just appear. One of the things we need to do daily is remove the weeds of sin from our lives. They will grow rapidly and spread all over destroying the good fruit we might have yielded. This is why Paul said, “Put to death what is earthly in you” and then proceeded to give a “hit list” of different sins we need to kill. (Colossians 3) It’s important to note that you must pull weeds out by their root or they will grow back quickly. We must not merely deal with sin at a surface level (managing it); we must destroy it! Pluck it out. Rid yourself of it. Put it to death or it will put you to death! Jesus said, “And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:30) That is far deeper than managing sin; it is killing sin.

Gardening also requires daily watering. We need to be watered by the Word of God every single day. His Word nurtures our soul and grows us into the image of Christ. As we make His Word our meditation and our great delight, we will be like a tree planted by streams of water which yields its fruit in season, and its leaf does not wither. (Psalm 1:3) Peter said, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Peter 2:2-3)

We must cultivate the garden of our hearts so that we may give to God the fruit He is worthy of. Solomon said, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Just as a gardener keeps his garden with all vigilance, protecting it from weeds, pests, and malnutrition, so we must also guard our hearts and ensure they are nourished with Christ, and protected from spiritual pests.

From our heart flows our words, actions, thoughts, and the motivations behind the things we say and do. 

A well-watered garden makes for a well-prepared evangelist. When we tend to our hearts – ridding ourselves of sin, watering our souls with the Word, growing closer to the Lord  we will be more sensitive to the Holy Spirit and more tender to His compassion for the lost. We will also have a greater sense of urgency with which we carry the Gospel into the world. As Paul spoke of being Christ’s ambassadors, he made this distinction, “For the love of Christ compels us..” (2 Corinthians 5:14) If our garden is not tended to, the love of Christ will be waning. We must be compeled by the love of Christ as we fulfill His Great Commission.

May our gardens blossom and bear rich fruit for all the grace that has been poured into it!

 

Allison and the Orlando Shooting

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While waiting to be seated at a restaurant this afternoon, I started talking with our hostess Allison about her day. She immediately mentioned how awful it was hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando last night that killed 50 people and wounded many others. I told her I was very saddened by it as well, and then handed her a Gospel tract mentioning it was a card that contained life-changing information.

I said to her, “If you were to talk with any of the guests seated in this restaurant right now about where they’re going when they die, I’d be willing to bet that most of them would tell you they’re going to Heaven because they’re good people. Sadly, this is not the case. The Bible shows us that no one is good from God’s perspective. He sees us in truth. When we compare ourselves with the Orlando terrorist, we appear good; we don’t shoot people. When we compare ourselves with rapists, we’re great; we don’t rape. However, God will not judge us compared to other people; He will judge us compared to Himself. He is the standard of righteousness, and we fall short. Very much so. We have all sinned and turned our backs on God to do our own thing.”

Looking very surprised, she said to me, “That’s crazy! I’m that person! I’ve always considered myself a good person and I’ve always thought that God would forgive me based on my good works.”

I started to go through some of the Ten Commandments to help her understand the nature of her sin, “We’ve all lied to people and taken things that don’t belong to us. We’ve taken the name of God and used it flippantly, or even as a curse word in moments of anger. In fact, Jesus told us that when we hate one another, we commit murder in our hearts. Likewise, when we lust after someone we’re not married to, we commit adultery in our hearts. Nothing is hidden from God’s sight, and that is terrifying for us when we are covered in sin. If God simply swept our sins under the rug as if they weren’t a big deal, He would be corrupt and unjust. But God is perfectly holy and perfectly just. Because He loves you, God went on a rescue mission to save you from your sins and grant you everlasting life. The only way He could do this without compromising His holy character was by becoming one of us, a human being, and being punished in our place. Jesus, fully God and fully man, lived a life of no sin. This perfect, spotless Lamb of God was mocked and mutilated and nailed to a tree that He Himself created. He was spit on and humiliated. While He painfully hung on the cross, God the Father poured out His fierce anger toward sin on His very own Son and crushed Him. Jesus paid for your sins with His own blood shed on the cross. This is why you can never work your way to Heaven. Jesus paid your debt by His sacrifice, not by your good works. Three days after He died, Jesus rose from the dead proving that He is God. After showing Himself to over 500 people, He ascended to the right hand of His Father. He now offers you forgiveness of your sins, but you must recieve this gift. Jesus commands you to turn from your sin to Him, placing your complete trust not in your good works, but in the work that He did on the cross.”

Alison listened intently the entire conversation and then said to me, “Thank you so much for sharing this with me. It’s perfect timing! I’ve never been open to these things until recently. My mom is battling stage 4 colon cancer right now and it has caused me to feel so helpless and hopeless, but I’ve started to read the Bible and pray lately, and now you’re sharing this with me!”

I would never have known these things about Allison if I hadn’t spoken with her. So many people are struggling with the issues of life and eternity. They aren’t ready to take their final breath, but it will come upon them suddenly just as it did for 50 people last night in Orlando. The Lord has commissioned us to preach His Gospel of salvation to all the world. He desires to use us in people’s lives, but we must open our mouths.

The Gospel shared with a shaking voice of fear is infinitely better than the Gospel not shared at all.

How To Turn A Trip To Wal-Mart Into a Missions Adventure!

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It’s the holiday season and many people flock to Wal-Mart to get their gifts and groceries. Imagine if every Christian were to make the most of every opportunity this holiday season and boldly testify about our Lord! Faithful ambassadors speaking Truth in and out of season! (2 Tim 4:2) That kind of obedience to the Great Commission would turn our cities upside down. (Acts 5:28) Here are a few tips you can try next time you visit your local Wal-Mart for the glory of God:

1- This first tip is the most important because without it you won’t be motivated to witness to the lost. As you leave the comfort of your home and journey to the store, arm yourself with the mindset that people are perishing. Remind yourself of the fact that the whole world lies under the control of the evil one. (1 John 5:19) Remember that unbelievers are blinded by the god of this world. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Realize that lost people are taken captive by the devil to do his will and that unless the Lord grants them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the Truth, they will perish. (2 Timothy 2:26) If this does not shake you up, there is something terribly wrong in your own heart. Paul had unceasing anguish and great sorrow in his heart at the thought of people going to Hell. (Romans 9:2-3) The horrifying reality that people live as enemies of God drove the Apostle Paul to tears. (Philippians 3:18) If we are not sober-minded, then we will are simply drunk in distractions and we will not open our mouths for the Lord.

2- Park towards the back of the parking lot so that you can pass out tracts on your way into the store. When I go to Wal-Mart,  I will sometimes place tracts on driver’s side doors of cars.  Sometimes on my way into the store, I will see people loading groceries into their car so I’ll offer to take their cart back for them and leave them with a gospel tract.  I did this for a man once and we talked for a long time right there in the parking lot.

3 – Smile and be friendly! After all we are celebrating a day of giving thanks and the glorious birth of our Lord! The joy of the Lord is our strength, right? When you smile and greet people around the store, it can open a door into a conversation and it will help you get out of your comfort zone. Let’s be honest, sometimes smiling at someone you don’t know is challenging simply because we live in a culture where it’s practically a crime to say hi!

4 – Find people to chat with and be intentional about it. When you see someone standing around, just say to them, “Happy Thanksgiving!” or in a few weeks, “Merry Christmas! Hey, did you get one of these yet? It’s a gospel tract. What do you think happens after death?” Most people will answer with what they believe and will be willing to have a conversation. I did this in the magazine secion to a girl last week and we had a 15 minute conversation. She was convinced she was a good person so I took her through the Law to show her the true nature of her sin and then shared the Good News. I didn’t get stoned or beheaded. It was great.

5- Often times when we venture out to witness, we think of worst-case scenarios: What will they do to me? What if I get yelled at? What if I get punched? Change your thinking – Instead of thinking of your worst-case scenario (rejection), think of their worst-case scenario (Hell for eternity). Swallow your fear and go for it! Let compassion for the lost drive you.

6- Place tracts in soda and beer boxes. Nice little gifts for them! Tis the season for giving, right?

Remember that you are Christ’s ambassador as though God were making His appeal through you. Plead with people on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:20-21)

I love the testimony of Paul when we he was in Athens. It says that he reasoned  in the marketplace (Wal-Mart) with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17) Paul knew that God placed them there for a reason, so he was faithful to share the Gospel with them.

Go for it, friend. The Lord is with you.

May the store intercom blare out, “Revival on aisle 7!”

Acts 5:42, Philemon 6

Blood Bought Freedom

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I was in Washington DC last month sharing the Gospel with 100 other Christians. It was a glorious time. The Gospel went forth to thousands of people. We grew tremendously in our love for Jesus, and inevitably, in our love for the lost.

One afternoon, I went walking around the front of the Capitol building to spend some time in prayer. I saw a young woman from the Middle East taking pictures of the Capitol so I went over to her and handed her a Gospel tract. I explained that it contained the message of true freedom. She was very curious so a conversation began…

I learned that Rifat is from Bangladesh and is a strong Muslim. She told me she is a flight attendant for Saudia Arabia airlines and was in DC for a few days for a long layover.

Nice place to spend a layover!

I asked her if she ever had a close call during a flight and she told me about a time when she was a little girl and was on a frightening flight where the engine burst into flames and they had to make an emergency landing. Once safely on the ground, flight attendants deployed the inflatable slides that shoot out from the emergeny doors to the ground. Rifat told me she slid down, but fell off the slide before reaching the bottom and broke some bones. To this day, she suffers pain from her fall. Now she is a flight attendant!

I asked her where she would have gone if she had died that frightening day. She did not know. I asked where she would go if she died today and she did not know. She told me that as a Muslim, she works hard to do good hoping that her good will outweigh her bad so that Allah might allow her to enter Paradise.

What a tragedy – To work for something you can never earn. Salvation is a gift.

I went through a few of the Commandments with Rifat to show her that the Prophet Moses understood we are not good people because we cannot keep the Commandments. I shared with her how the prophet Isaiah said that our good works are like filthy rags in the sight of God. If we were allowed into Heaven because our good outweighed our bad, which it doesn’t, then God would not be just.

She asked me a lot of questions and I did my best to answer them.

Obviously, Rifat could not accept the fact that Jesus is God. To her, this was blasphemy. She was willing, nonetheless, to hear me out.

“Rifat”, I said “You believe that God is all powerful, do you not?”

“Oh yes, of course He is!” She exclaimed.

“So you believe He can do anything. He is absolutely all powerful, right?”

“Yes!” She answered.

“With that in mind, that God is all powerful, is it not possible that God could become a man in order to be a sin offering on our behalf?”

She didn’t know how to respond.

“Rifat, that is the beautiful message of the Bible. You see, God is so holy He cannot forgive sin without the shedding of blood. If God simply swept our sins under the rug, He would be corrupt and unjust. Because He loves you, Rifat, God devised a special plan to rescue you from your sins and grant you everlasting life. The only way He could do this and still remain holy and just was by becoming one of us, a human being, and being punished in our place. Rifat, Jesus was fully God and fully man. He lived a life of no sin. This perfect, spotless Lamb of God was mocked and mutilated and nailed to a tree that He Himself created. He was spit on and humiliated. On the cross, God the Father poured out His fierce anger toward sin on His very own Son and crushed Him. Jesus was punished in your place. He paid for your sins in His own blood shed on the cross. This is why you can never work your way to Heaven. Jesus paid your debt in His sacrifice. Three days after He died, Jesus rose from the dead proving that He is God. After showing Himself to over 500 people, He ascended to the right hand of His Father. He now offers you forgiveness of your sins, but you must recieve this gift. Jesus commands you to turn from your sin to Him, placing your complete trust not in your good works, but in the work that He did on the cross.”

She was silent.

Remembering that it was the Fourth of July, I smiled and said,

“Rifat, Jesus purchased your freedom!”

The two of us talked for nearly an hour at the foot of the Capitol that day.

She told me at the end of our conversation, “There is a Bible in the drawer of my hotel room. I will read it tonight.”

I pray for her often.

I am traveling back to DC tomorrow for a friend’s wedding and I’ve been earnestly praying to run into people I spoke with last month, Rifat included!

Please join me in prayer for this precious soul.