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Hard-headed, hard-hearted – that’s how they grow them in Ventura. I wanted to shake the dust off my feet and call down fire from heaven. Or worse still, just plain give up. But I couldn’t. I was on a mission…

While at a Foursquare leadership conference and full of the Holy Spirit and power, I knew that God would knock ‘em dead for His kingdom. People would clamor to be saved when confronted with the Law of God, the coming judgment and the eternal reality of hell. Why then did the checker at Vons want to argue with me? (more…)

The nerve! This guy claimed to be without sin, but was a big, fat liar…

I walked along the Redondo Beach pier with my daughters and we stopped at the Corndog on a Stick stand to give the owner a million bucks and ask about his eternal destiny. He answered that he’d go to heaven because he was a good person.

“So God will let you in?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said as he wiped down a counter distractedly.

“What do you think the Bible says?” I continued.

“Doesn’t matter. I don’t believe the Bible; it was written by men. In fact, I think that people who talk about the Bible are not good people. That book is just a bunch of opinions.” (more…)

My little girls screamed with delight as we walked into what was billed as “The South Bay’s Biggest Midway!” We rushed in expecting huge crowds, shoulder shoving show-offs and long lines at the scary rides…but we were pleasantly disappointed. Though there were no dancing clowns, fire-breathing midgets or Shriners in mini-cars, there were also no people. Well, very few people. And Frank the carnival barker…

He sat on the corner ledge of his booth with head in hands. Stuffed animals drooped sadly, hanging on walls in the back and to the side of him. The goldfish-dunkin’ or coin-toss-loss or balloon-poppin’ con was a dud. There he was: a barker with no bite. Or customers. Nobody.

“How’s it going?” I asked cheerfully, knowing all too well how it was going.

“All right,” Frank answered glumly.

“Here. Take this.” I handed him a million dollar bill. He examined it carefully turning it over in his hands. I detected a tiny smile at the edges of his mouth. He looked up at me and said thanks.

“You’re welcome. Now you have to answer the million dollar question…”

“What’s that?” he asked curiously.

“You sure you want to know?” He nodded. “If you were to die today, would you go to heaven or hell?” (more…)

(An Interview with Brother Will)

I recently spent 3 days and 2 nights at Mount Calvary Monastery on top of a mountain over-looking Santa Barbara to get some much needed rest. This is a Benedictine Monastery and the “Brothers” are of “The Order of the Holy Cross” which numbers about 40 men who live in various homes in the U.S. and Canada. Their Order is an offshoot of the Episcopal church.

I interviewed Brother William (Will) Brown, a very polite and engaging 80 year-old Englishman:

(Comments in brackets [ ], are when I put down my pen and recalled from memory.)

*
Steve: How did you become a monk?

Will: I grew up in a Methodist family in England where we lived in a rowhouse. My sisters’ peers were Anglo-Catholics who would do research for their college papers by visiting an active monastery in Northern England. They were always so beautiful. My Dad would always say, “Those monks always knew where to live.” Always in the back of my mind, I thought about the monastic life.

I had become an Episcopalian at age thirty. I met a monk after church and asked to visit the monastery where he lived. I visited it many times. At age fifty I entered the monastic life.

S: You said you were single for fifty years, was there a reason?

W: Yes. I’m a gay man. (more…)

They turn it over in their hands, smile and ask, “What is it? Where did you get it? Is it legal?” It then gets passed on to the next person. They smile too… (Click here to start at Part 1 of “My Great Evangelism Adventure.”)

I rarely hand out gospel tracts. Why? I hate to contribute to the littering problem. Most are just plain boring and didactic. Ugly. Old school. Ahhh, but this one people like. They want it and read it. They give it to their friends. I have given out nearly a hundred in just over a week.

The bald and tattooed Mexican guy, arm coiled around his girlfriend, gave a hard look to me as they walked by. I never blinked. Neither did he. “Excuse me,” I said.

Eyes narrowed as he slowly turned to stare me down. (more…)

Talk about a thankless job.

The poor salesguy stood outside the store with his pitiful wares and tried to grab the attention of all passers-by. I was not interested but stopped to listen to his pitch. Maybe I could interest him in what I had to sell – for free…

“Do you do much dry cleaning?” he asked.

“Umm, maybe once a month…”

“This is a great deal!” he said enthusiastically. “You get $130.00 worth of dry-cleaning for only $40.00!”

Wow! A discounted dry-cleaning card! What a concept. How could anyone resist such a deal? A discounted dry-cleaning carrrrrrrrd!!! “Uhhh, no thanks.”

Dressed in shorts and Hawaiian shirt, the huckstering middle-aged Beach Boy said, “Okay then,” as he craned his neck looking for customers.

Man, no one is going to buy one of those, I don’t care how nice and friendly he is. Okay…time to rain on this guy’s parade. Let’s see if he’ll continue to be so polite when I tell him about Jesus. Should I tell him about Jesus? This period of time – deciding to give the Gospel or not – is called “The Wall of Faith.” Every person has to break down a wall in their minds and walk through it by faith to talk about salvation. (more…)

A trip to the Magic Kingdom presents a lot of opportunities to share the gospel, but can a Disney character really be saved? My goal was to visit Mickey Mouse and ask if he was going to Heaven or Hell…

My family and I started our pilgrimage through “The Happiest Place on Earth” where no one has a care in the world. The streets were not pure gold but well swept. And the city did not need the sun or the moon to shine on it because they had great artificial lighting. Everyday is an experience in mortal bliss. John Lennon once sang, “Imagine there’s no Heaven, it’s easy if you try…” I wonder if he penned that song in Anaheim? Off we went to Fantasyland.

“Wow! Aladdin’s genie!” I wanted to pray with the guy ’cause he looked kinda blue but he was in a hurry. No opportunity to share any good news with this dude; he was definitely in lala land. Probably a New Ager anyway.

With special autograph books in hand, my girls were on a mission to get as many signatures as possible. I on the other hand, had another mission in mind. “Ooooo, isn’t that Sleeping Beauty, girls?” (She’s much better looking on T.V.) The Princess was in a rush also and way too concerned with the things of the world so I didn’t waste any time evangelizing her.

I still had this vague sense of urgency about presenting Mickey with the good news of Jesus. I needed to see him quickly since he’s pushin’ eighty and well, ya know. The big mouse trap of life could snap any day…

There’s Pluto! That faithful old canine has been Mickey’s pet for a long, long time. He was always around when his master needed him. Rolled over. Fetched. Begged when he had to. Nah, no chance of him believing. He thinks just being a good dog will save him.

Chip and Dale signed our books. Man, talk about a couple of losers. You want to stay away from those guys. They had a great reputation ’til they opened that strip club at Donald’s suggestion. Bad company really does corrupt good character. Couldn’t share with them either, they were too squirrely.

Goofy also signed. I didn’t understand a thing he said. Confused. Amiable. No real opinions just some garbled platitudes. The ultimate Post-Modern. I’m sure if I shared about eternal things, he’d agree and say something like, “Uhh huuh, uhh huuh! That’s cool for you man, if that’s what you believe. Just don’t push your stuff on me. Uhh huuh, uhh huuh.”

The Mouse House. Large, new, conspicuous. Inside, a complete museum dedicated to the life of Steamboat Willy himself. Mickey with this famous person and that celeb. Mickey headlines. Mickey, Mickey, Mickey. You’d think he was Elvis or somethin’. The viewing room showed clip after clip of the little cheese-breath himself. The guy has major pride issues.

We were escorted into a private room and there he was in his royal-red robe. My kids jumped into his lap as I stood on the side. I glanced at my wife and waited patiently while he signed his name to the girls’ autograph books. A few more seconds and… I lost my nerve. I didn’t do it. I wouldn’t do it!

Though the Bible says that the righteous are as bold as a Lion King, I was a mouse.

98% of the time

I was a little bummed out. A tad discouraged maybe. It might have been the caffeine…

I stopped to chat with one of our Children’s Church teachers, Jae Hauser, a committed and serious college student who lives out his faith daily.

“Hey Jae! Are you still reading E-vangie Tales?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“I’m a little discouraged,” I confessed. “People read those things, they say they are inspired to evangelize then…”

“Then what?” Jae asked.

“You know what percentage of people stop evangelizing after they say they will start? 100%! That’s right, 100% of the time people stop. What’s the use? Jae? Can you tell someone about Jesus next week? Just tell someone that you love Jesus and write me the response.” I wanted to grab him by the lapels and shake him a little. I refrained. Besides, he had no lapels. “Will ya do it Jae? Will ya? Huh?”

“I will Steve! I’ll do it! I’ll do it!”

I walked away slowly, head down, and muttering to myself. When I checked my email a few hours later, I read this from Jae:

Hi Steve,

Wow, that was quick!

About a minute after our conversation this morning, I talked to Stephanie. Stephanie has been a youth helper this past year in my 1st grade classroom and started coming to church when her dad, Armando, was invited. She heard our whole conversation. But I just assumed….

However, I decided to start practicing for my assignment this next week and playfully asked in my best Steve Sanchez voice, “Stephanie, if you died today would you go to heaven or hell?”

“I dunno.”

“What?! You don’t know? You believe in Jesus, right?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“Well then how come you don’t know?”

She told me that she had grown up Catholic and had been taught all her life that if you weren’t perfect then you were going to hell. And she rightfully stated that she wasn’t perfect. I explained to her that if that were true then everyone would be going to hell. She agreed.

So, we looked up Romans 10:9. It reads, “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Then John 3:16. We finished up with 2 Corinthians 5:21: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

I asked her if she believe all that. She said she did.

Nathan Craig, who had walked in a few moments earlier, was standing there with us. I wanted to get some one else to agree with what was just said, and knowing that Nathan is a godly man I asked if he thought all that was true. “Of course I do,” he answered back resolutely.

“Do you want to say the sinner’s prayer and accept Jesus into your heart and be sure you’re going to heaven?” I asked. She said she did, and we asked Nathan to pray with us.

I hardly remember what was said, except I asked Nathan half way through if he had anything to say – I must have sounded like George Bush on the late night Letterman blurbs that highlight the President’s mess-ups. Despite my lack of smooth talking Nathan and I covered all the points: I’m a sinner, I repent of my sins, Jesus died for my sins, He is the Son of God and was raised from the dead, and I accept Jesus into my heart!

I then found [our women's Pastor] Karen Horger to follow up with Stephanie because frankly, Stephanie needed to talk to a mature godly women – not a college boy.

Like I said, I was not some smooth talking evangelist. Certainly no Billy Graham. Nonetheless, God works even through me. And I think the most important thing I learned is that the old adage is true. “Assuming….. allows people to go to hell.”

Praise God Stephanie is in the Kingdom of God!

I’m looking forward to reading yours…

*****
I received a reply back from Jason of the Stereo Types giving me a fuller perspective of our conversation. He has given me permission to post it after he edits it a little. It will be posted at Thirst in a few days – hopefully.

The following is a response from Jason, a member of the band, “The Stereo Types. He is answering my E-vangie Tale #59: “Lost Objects” -Steve Sanchez

[From Jason Boyer of "The Stereo Types]:
i feel as if my character, as well as my band was portayed in a position we neither support, nor exercise, i went line by line and attempted to present our position, or at least some how exude the point we intend to pass on to others:
………………………………………..
i actually told you i am NOT a christian, i said that i dont believe that the Jesus i read about in the bible or the other holy texts wouldnt want me to focus on his name, only on his message. jesus was not a self-declared leader or king, he was a man, and my point was this:if jesus is the son of god, he was sent as a messenger, not as the message. even if it is all a lie, a hoax, if jesus wasnt real at all, still the overall message jesus spread is appliccable, the message is right, so why do we care about how magical or not jesus was?
the way jesus taught does point to something greater, but the “righteousness” of this path was not decided by jesus or even God. example:running makes you lose weight, just because my uncle told me, or my teacher,or my mom, or i stumbled upon it myself, doesn’t change the “fact” that running makes you lose weight.
religious liberal doesnt mean anything, your labels only cage your mind.
i did not challenge you at any time, and keep in mind you brought up religion as a third party entity to be discussed, i live my religion at all times, i do not want/need to bring it into the light, as every single actionand thought i have is my religion.
we both agreed that jesus wasnt white, but we both agreed that some sects believe he was blond and blue-eyed, and furthermore i pointed out that it didnt matter either,
i dont think i can speak for jesus, if i ever have or do, please discard it and forgive my arrogance, i cannot speak for any man (or god)

Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” what does saved mean? what is salvation? for this salvation to be found IN no one else, doesntthat mean that no rescritions exist? that nothing more or less than jesusness(peace-making) will save???? please answer the first two, you never really did that many times i “grilled” you about it face-to-face
i appreciate the clause at the end, but my point was that you can be both christian and gay, and that no one on this earth can tell you differently.
i never grilled you on being either a creationist or an evolutionist,because my point all along is that you can be both. that i am both. i asked to see if you could realize the ideal of compromise.

if you can understand that people are pro-choice and pro-life. it is the same for any and allwalks of life, existence is too multi-facetted to take any single stance.
you didnt know what i believed, and regardless of endless swapping of english words, you never will, the same goes for me, regardless, itsludacris to think you knew what position i held, and for you to assume I knew yours, furthermore you continued to miss my point of compromise and tried to focus it into an argument, and you choose to take some parts of the bible literally, and yet not others. this doesnt “make sense.” God is beyond our comprehension, and thusly God does not exist within the structures of our world. what is a God-day? what is light to God? what is a son to god? or a child of god? what is “un-godly”? or the image of God is what, of man, of humanity, of earth, of all nature???

jesus = son of god……peacemakers = children of god “blessed are the peacemakers for they are the children of god”

the bible doesnt mention xtacy at any time, and it doesnt mention reading glasses either. so if the bible never said not to, then i can/should be on xtacy all the time right? or wait science is bad, so i shouldnt wear glasses or take medicines to feel better. or wait, maybe the bible mentioned intoxication, and i have to INTERPRET the ill-natures of all intoxications.

you said you used to do meth, i never read anywhere in the bible that you shouldnt do meth, so why do you think its more godly of you not to be on meth? (maybe because drug use is often selfish, and selflessness over selfishness is the same as jesus/god/ “righteousness”) polygamy was an act of kindness, a man taking in many widows, who have no way to take care of themselves otherwise, so marriage as just one man and one woman isnt in the bible either. you are the one upon a slippery slope, because you consider the bible to be literal. well, not all of it, but some of it. if you can “ground” yourself in the interpretory nature of Jesus’ word, and the bible, and other religious texts, and all expressions, you might might be grounded in using the many blessings God has given you, not focusing on the many things we all lack.
(i can follow up on the many slippery slopes of taking the bible literally, and of course the many virtues of interpretting the work, but that is a whole other email)
i did not say heaven and hell seem selfish, heaven and hell ARE selfish, it is simple, the goal and motivation are for your personal place after life on this earth, i will leave that sort of concern to God, selfishness is a negative trait, if you for some reason consider selfishness a virture, feel free to do so, but there is no “seems” about it, life after death is SELFISH.

well i said you should read other holy books, i never asked if they are right or wrong, i am trying stray away from thinking there must be a right and a wrong, there does not have to be a loser for you to be a winner, the world is too multifacetted. your faith will be strengthened and you will be more well equipped to strengthen others faith, regardless of one book being more right than another, i can assure you there are many matching points in all of the religious texts, and each contains insight of their own.
you dont know anything about other religions, so dont say anything about them. in the quran (a book you never read) a man named hussain is actually killed, and he is raised from the dead, his beating of death also results in him transcending into heaven. sounds a lot like jesus doesnt it?

you know that in buddism they believe that they can be reincarnated, so budha isnt dead either, he is just in a different form. i mean you can think that’s wrong, but either way, the point is, that jesus beating death doesnt make his message more valid than it already is, and many other religions also express the idea of life after death and the power to beat it.

why must jesus be superior? why must you be superior?
“How can you say there are absolutes? How can you know if things are true? Beliefs are based on individual perceptions about the truth.” you didn’t answer this question….
the next part is truly saddening, you asked “What are yours based on?” and I replied, kindly with what MY beliefs are based on. i used jesus to be funny, because jesus doesnt make being nice a good thing. being nice and compromising were good long before and long after jesus said to.

i never at any time said that ALL people should live according to those values, i dont think i am any more right, i simply can see how compromise can transcend all situations and all arguments.

furthermore, i did back-peddle a lot, and i am in fact quite proud to admit it. i am glad to acknowledge when i am mistaken and look very forward to addressing or correcting it, and most importantly apologizing for it.
what i actually said is that i believe that love, peace, unity, and equality are the four elements that transcend all faiths, and my back-peddling was deserving because not all faiths work that way. many faiths strive on superiority, converting, and inequality, and love and peace often seem hard to come by, if existent at all, and i will try to fall back on the singular “position” of compromise, of peacemaking.
oooooo, heres my favorite, because i am from new york so we say soda, and the rest of the midwest boys still say pop. but you chose coke. you know whats funny? you know what is really really funny? coke is a leaf. it is, not even from a relativist point of view. in english, in america, incalifornia, probably in your rhetoric, coke=cocaine=a leaf. if you think youcan tell me coke is not a leaf, that is fine, but it doesnt change the fact that coke is a leaf. i mean coke is soda too, its carbonated water and sugar…or splenda…well, or nutrasweet… get my point?

if you want to get specific enough, nothing is the same. a tangerine and an orange are different. they are different sizes, grow in different ways, in different places. if you want to get really specific you can find a lot of differences, a tangerine is not an orange. but you can find a lot of differences between two different oranges, some grow sweet, some sour, some in california, others in florida, some organic and small, some grow as big as grapefruits, but we still label them all oranges. try to think of it this way, a tangerine and an orange are both fruit.they both contain the same nutrients and vitamins, they both serve the same purpose. we can label them very specifically and find differences, but as not two oranges are the same orange, grapefruits, tangerines, mangoes and oranges all contain the same nutrition, the same purpose, do you understand how that translates into faith?

ADDENDUM: not only did we not find the camera, we also lost a bag of luggage.
THIS IS NOT AN ARGUMENT! I DO NOT WANT TO WIN! THERE IS NO COMPETITION! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, GETTING ALONG IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN BEING RIGHTEOUSS! JESUS WANTED US TO GET ALONG, SO DID GOD, SO DOES REASON, AND SCIENCE, AND RATIONALITY. EVERYTHING POINTS TO GOD, EVERYTHING POINTS TO GETTING ALONG.

please do write back, and i sincerely apologize for the length of these emails, i hope you dont find them tiresome or overly repetitive,
peace and love,
jason b

thanks to steve for posting this on his site, and i hope you guys enjoy our music, www.thestereotypesrock.com there is a link for myspace to listen to some free tracks on there as well, we have lyrics and a lot of other stuff on the site, thanks again to everyone for reading this, and i look forward to any replies, peace and love, thestereotypesrock@hotmail.com

How would you reply to Jason? Let me know and I will forward it to him. Be gracious, please. -Steve stevepsanchez@yahoo.com

E-vangie Tales #59 Lost Objects

August 2nd, 2005 | Posted by Steve Sanchez in E-vangie Tales - (Comments Off)

“There’s a rock band parked in front of the house!” my wife shouted excitedly, “And they’ve lost their $500.00 camera!” Seizing the opportunity I ran to the street and offered a prayer for them to find it…

I prayed with Jason, a bright, tall, articulate man in his twenties who was in the midst of unloading their entire van and cargo trailer. “I’m a Christian too,” he said, “though not the type you probably imagine. I’m kind of a social justice type.”

I’m sure he viewed me as one of those Moral Majority Conservatives. I saw him as one of those Religious Liberals. “I’m a religion major!” he declared.

Taking up the challenge I declared back, “Good. I’m a pastor, let’s go for it!” Jason met me head to head on the sidewalk.

“You know Jesus was black,” he stated flatly.

“Yes, He was Jewish and dark skinned. He certainly wasn’t blonde and blue-eyed,” I answered calmly.

“He probably looked like Osama Bin Laden,” he persisted.

“Probably,” I replied matter-of-factly.

“I don’t think Jesus would want us always talking about Him and using His name. We should just be examples.”

“I think we need to be examples also, but His name is very important. There is something about that name. He is God and He wants to be glorified in people’s lives. I want to give him all the credit. (After the conversation I remembered Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under Heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Darn. I wished I remembered it then!)

“Can gays be Christians?”

“Yes. If they repent and don’t have sex.”

“Who are they hurting? What does God care?”

“God has a moral law that is to be obeyed. But God loves gays too.”

The band was from Kansas where a very vocal and obnoxious “pastor” preaches that God hates homosexuals. Their concern for these people -and wariness of me- was valid.

“Are you an Evolutionist or a Creationist?” he grilled.

I knew what Jason believed and he knew what I believed, “You already know that answer,” I said.

My wife Karen interrupted our little chat by serving a bowl of soup to the band on the sidewalk complete with a little table. Jason took a slurp and continued, “The whole concept of Heaven and Hell seems so selfish. You come to Christ to avoid Hell and then just go to Heaven. It seems so selfish.”

“That’s not the only reason. I tell people that God loves them and wants a relationship with them. When they have their sins forgiven by believing and repenting, they can enjoy a real relationship with Him.”

“What about the Koran and the other holy books? Are they wrong?”

“Yes. Muhammad is still dead. Buddha too. But my God said that He would defeat death! He came to earth for about thirty years, said He would die and rise again. My standards and my beliefs are based on the Bible. They don’t change. They’re absolute.”

“How can you say there are absolutes? How can you know if things are true? Beliefs are based on individual perceptions about the truth.”

“What are yours based on?” I asked.

“They are based on what I believe God tells me. I believe in loving people, being kind and living by the example Jesus set. That’s what we should all try to live by.” The rest of the band was now gathered around, listening.

“Do you really believe that we should all live according these values?”

“Yes.” The other members nodded too.

“Sounds like an absolute to me.”

With one voice and in perfect harmony, they protested, “Nooooo! That’s not what we said! That’s not what we meant!” Some major back-peddling was going on.

“Let me ask you a question. What is Coke made of? Can we agree that Coke is essentially carbonated water and flavoring?”

“Yes,” everyone agreed.

” We all agree then, that Coke is carbonated water and flavoring?”

Again yes.

“It can’t be anything else…”

All heads shook, “No.”

Setting a trap for the post-moderns, I held up a leaf and pointed to it, “This is a Coke!”

“If you believe it is, if that’s what you feel,” they echoed.

“NO! This can’t be Coke, we all agreed to the same terms! A leaf cannot be Coke, ever! It doesn’t matter what I think or feel! The objective truth is that this a leaf!”

“What if you don’t speak English?” a band member asked.

Exasperated, I huffed out another intelligent response, “Whaaaaaat?” I knew that relativists didn’t have much basis for their beliefs but this was ridiculous; I couldn’t pin them down on anything. They were exactly what I thought, but more so.

I’m sure to them, I was a pig-headed, mouth-breathing Neanderthal still stuck in the 1800′s. A Sith from the dark side.

“What’s the name of your band?” I asked.

“The Stereo Types.”

*

ADDENDUM: As I finished the first paragraph of this E-vangie Tale, my email dinged, alerting me to a new one. It was from The Stereo Types (I gave them my address). They were back in Kansas, and wanted to let me know that they enjoyed our conversation. They also wanted a copy of this story and I’m adding them to my weekly emailing.

They never found the camera.

I had just ordered a Kid’s Scoop at Coldstone’s when a really old guy called me over. He sat against the wall, wrinkled and smiling, but there was something up his sleeve…

“You know what Tutti-Frutti is?” he queried with a twinkle in his eye. “I asked the servers if they had Tutti-Frutti and they just looked at me. Heh-heh-heh-heh!” Then he whispered conspiritorially, “Ask them if they have Tutti-Frutti.”

I walked back to the ice-cream counter, looked over my shoulder at the really old guy and asked the server, “Do you have Tutti-Frutti?” With a knowing look, one of the servers guffawed a little too loudly. I winked and asked again, “Do you have Tutti-Frutti?” This time both servers busted out with phony laughter. I looked over at the really old guy; he had a big grin. So did his daughter. As did the other four members of his family.

I walked over to the family with my ice-cream cup and found out that the really old guy was eighty-nine years old! “Wow! Eighty-nine! I have a question for you then. When I ask this question people sometimes laugh, others get mad, but mostly they ignore me. What do think this question is?” I looked directly at the really old guy, “If you were to die today would you go to Heaven or Hell?”

“Heaven,” he replied. “I’ve been a good boy all my life and I drink a lot. Heh-heh-heh-heh.”

“Believe it or not,” I explained, “according to the Bible good people don’t necessarily go to Heaven, but bad people sometimes do. You know why?” The really old guy pointed to the ceiling and mumbled something.

“Now listen to him Dad…” his daughter chastened while the whole family looked on.

“Because you’re a sinner. If you’ve sinned just once you go to Hell. But Jesus Christ died for your sins. If you believe and repent you will go to Heaven.”

“What nationality are you?” he interrupted.

“Uh… Spanish, English and Welsh,” I replied.

“I’m Polish!” he declared. “I looked at the rain and said ‘Jesus Christ, how did that rain come down? Did you carry it up there?’ Heh-heh-heh-heh!”

“You’re Polish? I asked with mock surprise. “If I would have known that…I would have told you all this more slowly!” The whole family broke out in raucous laughter. I turned to them also, “Now what I’ve said to him, goes for all of you as well.”

They all nodded agreeably while the really old guy mumbled something and pointed to the ceiling.

I left with a half melted cup of ice-cream.

The busboy started to clear the tables and it was painfully obvious that he was trying to avoid us…

“How ya doin’? I greeted.

He gave a begrudging nod and averted his eyes while clearing a table adjacent to ours at Seafood Port Restaurant. My friend Dennis asked, “Is this going to be an E-vangie Tale?”

Being an astute student of human nature I answered sadly, “No. Did you see his body language? He was half-turned. If he had turned fully around and looked at us, then I could have talked to him. Sometimes the timing just isn’t right.”

Dennis listened intently and nodded his head as I continued, “Yesterday, I was at Adventure Theme Park with my family and I stood next to the Ferris Wheel operator for five minutes while my kids rode. I felt I should’ve said something but didn’t. Again, the time didn’t seem right. Besides, did you see the weird look he gave us? I’ll bet he thinks we’re gay.”

We both chuckled, then the busboy suddenly reappeared. Now was my chance. “Excuse me, what’s your name?”

He looked at me reluctantly and answered in a thick accent, “Fernando.”

“Can I ask you a question?” Fernando backed up a step and started clearing another table. “If you were to die today would you go to Heaven or Hell?”

“I don’t know,” he said with a shrug.

“You want to know?”

“Yes.”

After I gave Fernando the gospel he replied, “I’m a Christian.”

“Really? You’re a Christian and you didn’t know you were going to Heaven?” I asked in disbelief. Then he said something I didn’t quite understand so I turned to Dennis to see if he knew what Fernando said.

“I don’t think he understands English,” Dennis said.

I had to find out conclusively. “Excuse me what did you say?”

Fernando gave me another weird -actually, rather shy- look. “I don’t understand English so good.”

Sometimes people are grouchy. Irritable. Other times, they just don’t want to be bothered. Still, I have to remember that Jesus loves them too…

I have a love/hate relationship with Whole Foods Market. I get irked by the trendy, New-Age, Buddhisty, cooler-than-you ethos and the “dollar more than other stores” pricing scheme. I have to admit though, that they have the best chocolate peanut butter maltballs around and a pretty fair price on firm tofu. So, I endure the Blue State attitude and lotus position mindset when I go through the check-out line. Besides, it’s a lot of fun to talk about Christ with a Politically Correct employee like Elvira.

“Hi Elvira, what’s new?” I asked.

“I’m good,” she replied with a great lack of enthusiasm. “How are you?”

“Good. What’s new?” I repeated.

“Things are okay.”

“You know what’s new? God’s mercies are new every morning if you believe in Jesus Christ.”

“I believe in a Higher Power,” Elvira said matter-of-factly.

“Oh? Who is it?”

“It’s personal.”

Being a bit perceptive, I could tell she didn’t want to further this conversation, but I was not ready to give up. “Is he real? Does he have a name?”

Just then, a bagger person named Amber, walked up and joined the conversation. “I believe that everyone has their own beliefs about God and they all lead to the same place.”

“Jesus said that He was the way and the truth and the life and no one comes to the Father except through Him. That’s pretty narrow don’t you think?” I explained.

With a deafening finality, Amber declared, “I don’t want to get into it!”

Wham! Slam! The fat lady sang. Done. The End.

I walked away and felt like I was being laughed at…again.

Probably not.

*****

Why do I do this? What value is there in talking about Jesus everyday with strangers? Especially when it seems there are so few converts?

You never know who is going to listen and how they might respond someday. I scatter seeds, and sometimes water but God makes it grow. “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” (1Cor. 3:6-7) At some point in time, I trust that the Lord will use my words to spur someone on to faith in Him.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? (Romans 10:14-15)

That’s why I do it

I heard a loud and enthusiastic voice shouting, “D.D.! LAUREL!” while I was getting our tickets to enter the Natural History Museum with my two little girls. They were visiting the museum store and had made a new friend, Huy Tran. He had no way of knowing what was going to hit him…

I rushed inside to find out what was up, did a slow-motion “Matrix” scan of the surroundings, and popped the question to Huy (pronounced “We”): “I have to ask you something, what do you think the question might be?”

“Are the bathrooms around the corner?” he answered.

“Nooo,” I replied.

“Is the restaurant downstairs?” he said confidently.

D.D. piped in, “Do you believe in Jesus?”

That was indeed the question. She had heard me ask it in a variety of ways, many times. She was bold and unafraid to proclaim Jesus to a dying, sinful, Hell-bound world. She was not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. She is also five years old and hasn’t yet learned to be timid about her faith.

“Jesus Christ died for your sins,” she explained, “was buried for three days and rose again. If you believe, you will go to Heaven.

I whispered to her, “And he needs to repent of his sins…”

“I’m a Buddhist!” Huy declared.

“Really?” I said. “What do you do about sin? Ever lied?”

“If you sin just once you go to Hell,” D.D. said truthfully. Never has a Dad been so proud to hear his daughter tell someone that they were going to Hell.

“D.D.,” I interrupted, “He believes in exactly the opposite of what we believe. He has to work to get to get to Nirvana. Is that right, Huy?”

Huy’s a sweet-natured, talkative guy and was willing to engage us in spiritual matters. “We have to learn The Four Noble Truths: 1) All life is suffering; 2) Suffering comes from desire; 3) Free yourself from desire; 4) When you are able to free yourself from desire then you can achieve Bliss.”

“How do you know if you’ve achieved it?” I asked.

Huy hesitated, “Uhhh…I don’t know.”

“It’s kind of interesting…” I replied, “In Christianity there are a few parallels to your beliefs but with different conclusions. Suffering in the world is a result of sin; desire gives birth to sin; you can free yourself from sin by believing that Jesus paid the price; and you can go to Heaven because of what Jesus did for you!”

We shook hands and the girls and I left to see an exhibit based on a book called, “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.”

I’m not in the habit of eaves-dropping, but I overheard the end of a conversation between two customers that was too good to pass up as I wandered aimlessly down the aisles of Home Depot looking for a widget…

“I’m seventy-seven years old,” Chuck said to another man.

“You’re not really seventy-seven are you?” I interrupted. I was sincere in asking this because Chuck didn’t look his age. He was a healthy, gray-haired guy with an outgoing personality. But I did have an ulterior motive.

“Yes I am!” he answered jovially.

“Must be all that clean living,” I said with a wink.

“I don’t think I ever did anything I was supposed to and I’m still healthy. I can do more work than my kids. It makes my wife mad though, she’s been sick.”

“Oh yeah? My wife has been sick for nearly seven months.”

“Mine for fifteen years,” he said. “She’s Catholic. I told her that the Pope said all her suffering will get her into Heaven.”

“Tell me Chuck, are you going to Heaven?”

“I’m going to Hell.”

“You don’t have to. You have a choice. You need to have your sin forgiven. Ever sinned?”

He hesitated, “Well..I, uh…”

“Ever broken one of the Ten Commandments? Ever lied?”

“Oh yes, in my younger days…”

“Me too. Hundreds of times.”

“Hell is right here on earth,” Chuck declared.

“It can be, but the Bible says that there is a real Heaven and a real Hell. If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, was buried for three days and rose again, then repent, you can go to Heaven.” Then I used the “Silver Bullet”. Never try this at home. “What do you think, Chuck? You’re seventy-seven. You don’t have that much time left.”

“Oh, I’m okay. I don’t believe.”

“Are you sure? It’s not a coincidence that I overheard that you’re seventy-seven. God wanted me to tell you about Him.”

“I probably have a lot of time left,” Chuck said, not so jovially.

“Do you think Jesus ate ice-cream?” I asked the server at Baskin Robbins.

“Did they have ice-cream back then?” she replied.

We were on a family outing and ready to spend some gift certificates. My kids anxiously nosed against the glass to see what they wanted while my wife waited at a table for her one scoop sundae (no nuts). I quietly thought about how I could steer the conversation to spiritual matters. I spied the tip jar: “Good Karma” was written in runny black felt tip.

“What if I don’t believe in karma?”

“Then you don’t have to tip,” Vanessa said.

“What if there is no good karma?” She gave us our desserts without answering. “What do you think about the love of God? Ever think about it?”

“Uh, not really.”

“What do you think of God’s love?”

“I think He loves everybody.”

“Indeed He does.” The conversation was getting a little bogged down so I decided to cut to the chase. “Tell me, if you died today would you go to Heaven or Hell?”

She paused for a moment, “Heaven.”

“Why is that? Why would God let you in?”

“I’m a good person; I do good things…”

“You make good sundaes too. Do you believe that the Bible is God’s Word and that there can only be one truth?”

“I believe they all have something to say.”

“Can they all be right? The Bible says that if you sin just once you go to Hell, so based on your answer, you won’t be going to Heaven. No other holy book talks about sin. God is a God of justice and all wrong doing must be dealt with; God will punish us for our sin. But you know what? God loved you so much that He sent Jesus to die for your sin and if you turn away from it and turn to Him, you get off scot-free. That’s how much God loves you. Have you ever heard any of this before, Vanessa?”

“No.”

“You know why I don’t believe in good karma? Because it’s God who blesses.”

I dropped a tip in the jar as I left.

It’s amazing the flack I’ve received as I’ve tried to witness to people about the love of Christ everyday – the flack that has come from Christians…

I’ve been writing E-vangie Tales for a year now and have received a lot of mostly positive feedback regarding these “evangelistic adventures”. I say “mostly positive” because on occasion, fellow believers tell me that they don’t like what I do or how I do it. They take issue with my “in your face” style, though I don’t think my style is really “in your face.” I really do try to take Peter’s charge seriously: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1Peter 3:15-16)

The problem I suspect is that I don’t wait around to be asked to give an answer. I want to tell about the hope I have now and I do it in many different ways. It’s these different ways that offend other Christians (the people I evangelize are rarely offended).

One pastor accused me of having no follow up. “I don’t see where Jesus just said to preach the Gospel!” he said accusingly.

Actually, Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) I just stop short of witnessing to a cactus.

Another man said my exegesis was all wrong. “You know when Paul said ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day’, he was speaking to a pagan culture who didn’t know the Gospel and was trying to speak to them in their own language. What are you trying to do?”

I asked one lady what she thought of my latest adventure and as she picked it out of the trash she said, “I don’t read your “E-vangie Tales. I don’t agree with what you’re doing.”

A young man in ministry wrote, “I used to be the old school: handing out tracts, open air preaching, just introducing myself and talking about Jesus straight away…all those methods have there place, but I [learned] an important lesson: People don’t care what you know, until they know that you care.” Then he told me how I should do it.

I always try to give the Gospel with gentleness and respect, and usually the person I’m telling about Christ welcomes the conversation. Evangelism though, is necessarily “in your face”. To tell people that they are sinners is “in your face.” To tell them that they are going to Hell if they don’t repent and have their sins forgiven is the most “in your face” thing anyone can say.

Even if you tell them nicely. And smile.

No matter how you say it, the bad news before the good news ain’t nice. To tell people that their relativistic beliefs are wrong ain’t nice. To tell people that Jesus is the only way ain’t nice.

I’m reminded of a story that evangelist D.L. Moody told:

A woman came up to him one time and said, “I really don’t like your method of evangelism.”
He responded, “Ma’am, I don’t like my method that much myself. What’s your method?”
“I don’t have one,” she answered.
“I like my method better,” Moody said.

-Steve Sanchez

I was the “Pastor on Duty” when I received a call from the receptionist, “Steve you have two visitors in the lobby.” I wasn’t prepared for what was about to happen as I introduced myself to Gonzalo and Marianna…

“How may I help you?” I asked.

“We have a question,” Gonzalo said in a thick Peruvian accent. “We want to find out about God.”

I subtly looked around to see if there were any pastors in on the joke. None. No hidden cameras either. I waited for the office staff to break out in raucous laughter and applause. They didn’t. Hmmm, April 1st had already passed. “C’mon,” I thought, “There is no one who seeks God, not even one!” I refrained from pinching myself.

“Excuse me. What did you say?”

“We want to find out about God,” Gonzalo stated matter of factly.

“Uh, why? What motivated you to come here today to ask this question?” I really thought my leg was being pulled. You have to understand that this simply doesn’t happen very often. When people ask to see the “Pastor on Duty” they usually need food, shelter, prayer, maybe a bit of biblical counsel…they never just come in and want to find out about God. The nerve!

Gonzalo pointed to his wife, “We were down in Santa Ana a few weeks ago and a lady came up to us and said we needed to know about Jesus, so she talked a little with us. Today, we were driving on PCH and wondered what church could answer our questions. We decided to stop at Hope Chapel after seeing your sign.” Marianna nodded in agreement.

I invited them into the counseling room and retold the old, old story from Creation to Redemption. “Do you believe that you are sinners who need to turn away from your sins? Do you believe that Jesus is the only way to be forgiven?” Both nodded and prayed to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Right then, I hooked them up with a Spanish-speaking bible study leader who invited them to come to his weekly meeting. Both nodded.

“Would you like to come to our Saturday Spanish-translation service?” I asked. Both nodded.

Gonzalo and Marianna were no-shows.

But, I have their number.

*****

What do you think happened to them? Be creative.

I didn’t have much fire last week. I was going through the motions trying to be faithful to talk about Jesus everyday, even though I didn’t really want to. But I had to, because people are really dying and going to Hell. Sometimes though, it doesn’t go as nicely as I would like and sometimes I feel like a total kook…

I thought that I would be rather clever on April 1st when I walked up to the counter at Supercuts and greeted the three ladies standing there with, “Happy Atheists Day!”

Three vacant stares returned my greeting.

“Uh, Happy Atheists Day,” I said a little more meekly. “A fool says in his heart there is no God, that’s what the Bible says.” Bemused looks.

Now the three vacant stares stared at each other. Then they all left, except one who dug through her purse for something at the cash register while ignoring me. There were no customers but I still had to sit down to wait for my “hairstylist.”

Barbara had an attitude. No warm hello or “How are you?” As I sat in her chair I said, “I got my haircut from you a year ago.” (see E-vangie Tales #2 at www.Thirst4God.com ) “Did you hear my greeting when I came in?”

“Yeah,” she said, “We just didn’t understand it.” She cut my hair without another word.

“Do you go to church?” I asked while paying my bill.

“At St. Lawrence across the street.”

“If you were to die today Barbara, would you go to Heaven or Hell?”

“I think Heaven.”

“Why Heaven? I asked.

“I’m not sure.”

“The only way you can get there is by believing that Jesus died for you, He did it all.”

Barbara glared at me as she took my payment, then walked to the back. I glanced over my shoulder in time to see her whispering something to the other Supercutters who came out of hiding.

*

Gus just about ignored me at Whole Foods, as I paid for my overpriced, organically grown, all-natural, gluten-free, something-or-other that my wife wanted.

Gus: How are you?

Me: Thankful, how about you?

Gus: Yeah.

Me: For what?

Gus: Life.

Me: Yeah? Who are you thankful to? (Gus thumbed through a book of ordering codes.) Gus, who are you thankful to? (He continued to thumb…)

I picked up my groceries and walked away.

*****

And how was your week?

I don’t know if you’ve ever encountered a similar dilemma, but whenever I’d tell someone that I’m a Christian, I was always stymied when the other person would respond with, “I’m Catholic.” What do you say then? I think I’ve found the answer…

The problem lies with the fact that both the “Born Again” Christian and the Catholic have similar beliefs: One God who came to earth as a human, Jesus. Born of a virgin. Died to save sinners and rose again. So what’s the difference between the two? How can I share the Gospel with someone who thinks that he is already saved (and indeed some are)? I don’t want to get into an argument. Doctrinal debates can be confusing. And Pope jokes never work.

I tried something new with the teller at Wells Fargo. After exchanging a few pleasantries during a recent transaction, I asked Mario if he was a Christian.

“I’m Catholic.”

“Oh good,” I said. (I was actually thinking, “Oh no. That’s the end of this conversation. What the heck can I say to this guy?) Then I asked, “What do you think is the difference between a Catholic and a Christian?”

“Christians are mellower,” Mario replied, “And they don’t do certain things…”

“Like what?”

“Well, they don’t party, get drunk…stuff like that.”

“Let me ask you another question,” I continued, “If you were to die today, would you go to Heaven or Hell?” (Catholics always give one of three answers: “I don’t know.” “Hell.” Or “Purgatory.”)

Mario’s answer was, ”I don’t know.”

“That’s the difference between a Catholic and a Christian, Mario. Christians know they are going to Heaven.” I then proceeded to tell him why.

A simple conversation. No mess. Respectable.

And no Pope jokes.