Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.7)

I was walking down the enclosed sidewalk and following the brick wall when I was drawn to this man. I pulled out a dollar because that is all the cash I had left and gave it to him. This is Yousef Ali. He is a homeless man living at the Salvation Army and a former Christian who converted to Islam about 15 years ago. I made a recording of it but it is difficult to listen to with the airplanes pulling advertising banners circling overhead and hundreds of people passing so I transcribed our conversation.

This was the first Muslim I have ever witnessed to and it was a fascinating conversation although at times he was a bit philosophical and couldn't really articulate why he believed that Islam met the need in his life as opposed to Christianity. (Notice he has the 'Why Christianity?' tract and had already started reading it- Yay!). Here is the transcript of our conversation:

After he introduced himself I said, "It's really interesting but it's my understanding that with Islam you never really know for sure that you're going to heaven. Doesn't that concern you?"

Yousef: "Yes, yes that is absolutely true."

Me: "To me that would really concern me, wouldn't you want to know if you were going to heaven or not? What if there was a way you could know, wouldn't that be more reassuring?"

Yousef: "Uh, with the knowledge that I have now, the answer would be no because it would make me more lackadaisical."

Me: "What made you stop being a Christian?"

Yousef: "Islam spoke to my humanity and spoke to my connection with the universe."

Me: "So you kinda feel like you have to work off the bad."

Yousef: "Exactly! It kind of, well the bottom line is, it made sense to me because the issue I had with Christianity or the reason I'm not so sure of Christianity is because, well it's hard for me to explain, but it was somewhat the role of Christ in relation to the other prophets. If God has all knowledge and all wisdom did God, some 6000-7000 years after the first man was ever brought on the face of the earth subsequently send a bunch of other prophets? Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Jonah, Moses..."

Me: (I interrupted and asked) "It's sounds like you're very familiar with the Bible so what was your question about Christianity?"

Yousef: "If God sent all these prophets and said that I need a Savior and you need a Savior, why did God use all these prophets and say that you need to believe in Jesus Christ to be righteous when He sent countless prophets ahead of Jesus Christ? So it implies He is not the author of all knowledge and leaves room as if there was an error made...uh, I am told that the only reason that I am created to serve God, the one God and He is a very jealous God and I am not to share...(unintelligible)...There is nothing in the universe that assists God. He creates all things and controls all things. But the likeness of Jesus is the likeness of Adam and Eve in the garden and when you understand that (unintelligible)...It is kind of a test for humanity and most of us are failing it."

I was trying to pull him back to the law and get him to the law instead of this cosmic universe mumbo jumbo he was talking about and his reliance on works.

Me: "Well, if you look at it from the very beginning from Adam all the way down to Christ there was a plan that was being slowly revealed that a Savior was coming. Even when God used Moses, He instituted the Levitical Law they ended up having sacrifices and all the things they ended up doing was a foreshadowing of Christ. This wasn't an afterthought. This was something that God promised. It was Moses that ended up giving the law from God, right? This is God's standard of moral perfection. Do you know why he did that? It was to show that through these thousands of years, man just cannot be good enough because what happened is that they had to offer sacrifices and did it ever fully take it away?"

Yousef: "Yeah, that's right."

Me: "It just covered over the sin didn't it?"

Yousef: "Yes, but it's that same way today. You still have to offer sacrifices. You have to sacrifice yourself."

Me: "Well, as far as Christ, He was sacrificed once and for all. There is nothing else. There is nothing else that needs to be done. Have you ever told a lie? (He answered: Yes.) Ever stolen anything? (Yes.) Ever looked with lust which is adultery in your heart (Yes.) Have you ever taken God's name in vain by saying OMG?" (Yes.) Of course, we all have. But you see that's the thing, by God's standard, you know His moral standard of perfection is what He is going to use to judge us on Judgment Day. You know, here, we have our civil law and we have laws we agree upon like that we are not going to drive 100 m.p.h. through a residential zone, right? If we did, the law would arrest us and say, 'We clocked you doing 100 m.p.h. and let's say you were in a city that you didn't know, and the judge says in this city we don't tolerate that. You're going to have to pay a million dollar fine or go to jail the rest of your life.' I know it seems extreme, since you only broke the law once, but that's not the way it works. So this is the thing, if you're standing before the judge and he asks you how you plead you look at him and say, 'Well, you've got me on radar and you've got a video of it, I'm guilty.' If he hands down the sentence is he sentencing you justly? Yes, because you're a lawbreaker and so am I. If you can apply that same example to God, we will stand before Him on Judgment Day but the good news is that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave. Haven't you read Matthew? It said he appeared again, there has never been anyone else not even Mohammad came back...

Yousef: "Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead,"

Me: "Yes but..."

Yousef: "You don't worship Lazarus. He wasn't the only one that was raised from the dead. He only did that by God's permission. You have to understand Jesus was a man just like everyone else...He ate food..."

Me: "Actually, He was fully God, fully man. Let me tell you one thing as far as believing you have got to know that Jesus is who He says He was."

Yousef: "He was the Messiah."

Me: "Out of all the prophecies, if there was just one man to fulfill just 8 of them, that number would be so large..."

Yousef: (Interrupted) "I would invite you to buy a Koran. Have you ever read the Koran?"

Me: "Parts."

Yousef: "Get one and read it in its entirety. But when you read it don't just read it like...put away your Christianity...put away your European-ness...put away your job, your mother, put away all the things that attach you to this world if that makes sense."

Me: "But I already have put away the world because I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and I can't be good enough. There is nothing I can do to save myself. I can NOT be good enough..."

Yousef: "You're absolutely right. I'm not disputing that, but what I'm saying is that Jesus can't save you either. Only by the grace of Allah."

Me: "Well, that is where we'll have to agree to disagree."

Yousef: "Elohim, most gracious and merciful...He promises to keep His promise to the people. The Koran teaches you how to (unintelligible) belief."

Me: "I don't know. The things I have read in the Koran and the things that I have had ex-Muslims tell me in the Koran is that it is a religion that is works based..."

Yousef: "That is correct."

Me: "And see, that is why Christianity is so different. Christianity is the only one... and it doesn't make lax, do you know what it does? It makes me respond out of gratitude for what was done..."

Yousef: "I agree."

Me: "Out of gratitude for what I could not do for myself..."

Yousef: "And I'll share this with you. God tells us in the Koran that the ones closest to you are the ones who can call themselves Christians when men humbly to love God study to learn... There will Christians in heaven also. Unfortunately, I'm not so sure if that is in error but it does warn those against saying that Jesus is God. It is the greatest sin in the sight of God. The only way you can get to heaven is to stop saying that.

Me: "I just...I can't because I'm compelled because I know that it is true."

Yousef: "God is the greatest."

Me: "He is. And, I will, I will pray for you and I will be thinking of you. If you would like, I do have this it's called, 'Why Christianity?' and it talks about all the major religions, Buddhism, Islam,..."

Yousef: "I'll share this with you, Muslims are in error too. God is the greatest."

Me: "I will think of you and I will use this picture to remember you and I will pray. I really will. Think about it. Read the brochure and see."

Yousef: "I will."

With that, I headed up the sidewalk to see who else I could talk to. It was a great learning experience. What I learned is that he had a fair command of the Old Testament and New Testament but is so deceived into beliving that Jesus can not be fully God and fully man because God is one and not in three persons. I don't know if I made a difference in his thinking or not that is something only God knows. Please pray for Yousef. He is so deceived by his works based religion and he basically just believes that if he accepts the grace of God that he will become lax. Pray that God will save him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.6)

While we were standing on the side in a little grassy strip against the wall handing out tracts, I wanted to walk further down and see where I was. As I was heading down, I couldn't help but hand a tract to these gentlemen and snap a photo. These are some of the best hats I've seen by the infield crowd!

I gave them some celebrity millions and the young one a teen celebrity million. Boy, I sure was glad I had those. If you don't know the difference between the celebrity millions and the teen celebrity million they're great. The teen celebrity millions have caricatures of popular teen celebrities. On the back where the Gospel message is, instead of asking someone if they have ever committed adultery in their heart, it asks if they have ever dishonored their mother or father which I believe is more appropriate for younger children since my children don't know what adultery is yet. I don't want my 8 year old knowing what that is indepth yet. There will be plenty of time for her to know.

Just a few hundred feet from where we were I met Dennis from South Africa. When I told him I had a friend in South Africa he asked me who it was, as if he'd know Nigel. He didn't know my friend which was no surprise. He was trying to sell beer and water out of his cooler. I gave him a million and that's all I needed to start the conversation. I found that as long as I tried helping this man sell his water he was interested in talking.

Our conversation began by me asking him the million dollar question on the back of the tract: Did he think he was good enough to go to heaven?" I asked, "Have you heard of Heaven and Hell?" He said, "Oh, yes lots of times." I asked where he thought he'd go. "As far as I know...I wish to go to heaven rather than hell," he said.

I said, "Oh, absolutely! What do you think you need to do to go to heaven?" He said that "You must worship and believe."

It was a really interesting experience because we were constantly interrupted by people buying water or him trying to sell water but he still wanted to talk. It was a good opportunity for me because I gave the people a "Derby Trivia" tract as they were leaving. So I explained to him that he was close in his understanding, but that worshipping and believing is not all that is required. I told him that he must have faith in Jesus and repent. I explained that his all of his sins anytime that he has told a lie, stolen anything, were what was going to keep him from heaven because God uses a standard to judge everyone by and we don't measure up to that standard. Since he had a thick South African accent I kept asking if he understood what I was saying to him. He said he did so I continued. I explained that when we believe and repent that He will not hold us guilty. We can't earn our salvation and he wholeheartedly agreed.

I gave him the "Why Christianity?" Gospel tract. As I explained that it was a Gospel tract he told me that he was searching for answers. He said he wants to know more about God and doesn't know how to find out! I was stunned. I had never heard anything like that come out of someone's mouth on the street ever. Just goes to show you how limited my experiences are. He asked where I go to church and I explained that I lived over an hour away and didn't live in this city. Mental note: I guess I should do some work before an outreach in an unfamiliar city to get the name of a local church or pastor to refer people to should the need arise.

I reiterated with him what needed to be done and he said that he really appreciated out talk and he would read the "Why Christianity?" tract. I encouraged him to get a Bible and read the book of John and to believe and repent. He shook my hand and thanked me once again for our conversation. I was not met with anger or hostility but a man whom God is working on his heart who is searching for answers. Please keep Dennis in your prayers.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.5)

Here is a picture of my oldest son and Rachel handing out million dollar bills to the people passing by. My son handed out Kentucky Derby Trivia tracts and about 400 million dollar bills. Rachel's hat was a hit and when million dollar bills weren't flying off of it, it was a really great conversation starter.

My youngest daughter actually had a conversation with this woman. you can barely see the woman behind the man that is walking. The lady asked her what it was she said, "It's a Gospel tract that tells you about Jesus." I was so proud of her and her willingness at such a young age. I told the kids they didn't have to hand out tracts but they had to go with me since my husband was out of town being a pallbearer at a funeral. They all joyfully handed out tracts.

Although, I did think it was funny to hear a woman comment as she passed, "That is just ashame that they are making those kids do that!" If only she knew.

In fact, my eldest daughter (below, wearing the black sweats with white stripes) said she was too scared to hand out tracts. I told her that was OK and said she may just want to try handing out one. After she handed out her first one she was hooked! She really enjoyed handing them to people and having them request more as well as realizing that afterwards someone may go home and read the tract and become convicted of their sin and repent. She shared on the way home that she was terrified at first and didn't want to, but after so many people enthusiastically accepted the tract, she saw that what I had been telling her was true: attitude is everything. Do you really care about the spiritual state that people are in or are you doing this to notch numbers in your belt?

Here is TJ and Brian. Brian just went to the Academy in March and lives not too far from Louisville. TJ was his team leader at the Academy. It was great to meet another brother in Christ and one that likes wearing just spanky T-shirts to boot. Here he is featuring his "Evolution of the Coco-Cola can."

Here Jessica and my youngest daughter and my youngest son in action. They handed out several. I must say, having children handing out tracts certainly reduces the hostility that a crowd has towards you. Only a fool would attack a child verbally and it didn't happen. Another thing I noticed about the kids handing out tracts, every homosexual man that was offered a tract readily accepted one from the kids but would rebuff the men or anyone else. In fact, it was the homosexual men that would make kind comments. I believe it was safe to assume that when two men are walking hand in hand and wearing things that no other man would that they were homosexual. That is one thing that bothers me about sharing the Gospel with homosexual men who have already been witnessed too in an angry, hostile way. It breaks my heart because when you scream at people that they are going to hell as if God sets homosexuality apart from all other sins and puts you on the the "Do not pass go and go directly to jail (hell)" pathway as if you were playing Monopoly, it's just wrong. ALL sin is wrong not just sexual sin or perversion. To tell people this is the way God is, is a grave error in my opinion and I believe it does more damage than good.

There were all kinds of entertainment literally on every street corner. I commented to TJ that I was going to tell Kelli how much he wanted a pair of those black and purple stockings the banjo player was wearing. Unfortunately, TJ said he already had a pair. He wasn't kidding. Only in Kentucky.

Yet another shot of the unbelievable crowds that were there. We had to be standing in the middle of approximately 10,000 people that passed us by just in out little area.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.4)

This is Djinda and she comes from Thailand. For some reason she was attracted to us, especially my daughters. She held on to my arm and wouldn't let go. She didn't want me to buy anything nor was she panhandling me. In broken English she said, "This for you" as she pointed to them. She just wanted to give them bottled water. I knew she was out there trying to make money and I didn't want to take something from her so I politely refused, but she insisted. Then she said, "I learn English. I love American citizens!" She was just a sweetie pie.

I gave her a "Why Christianity?" booklet tract and the "Are you a good person" cartoon tract. This is a good tract since there are so many pictures. I ordered it from Living Waters. It's all I had and I knew her English was limited. When I gave it to her, she asked what it was. I told her it was a Gospel tract and that it told about Jesus. She sort of understood. When I said it was about God she seemed to understand a little more and gave me a hug. She then held my hand and wouldn't let go. I told her it was for her to keep and to get someone who understands English to read it to her. I suggested maybe her teacher could help her. She wasn't weird but she just kept holding on to me and didn't want to let go. It wasn't a bad thing. I'd just never had anything like that happen before. Maybe I reminded her of someone. We were heading up the sidewalk so we needed to leave. She gave me one more hug and I snapped this photo before we left. I will pray for her for the rest of my life.

Rachel was standing beside me and as we were leaving, we talked to each other wondering if perhaps God had ordained this woman to spend eternity with Him and moved her from Thailand to a corner in Louisville, Kentucky to receive the Gospel this very day so that she might be saved. I'm not saying that is the way it will happen, however, I believe keeping an eternal perspective on all that we do and our motives is so important. I wished that I could have communicated the truths of God to her but I don't worry about it because God will accomplish what He desires and won't be thwarted by a language barrier.

Remember Numbers 22-25? It is the story of Baalam. Balak summoned Baalam who was a seer to curse Israel. It is actually a very funny story rich with irony as every time Baalam opened his mouth he spoke blessings upon Israel which really hacked Balak off. Through seven oracles given by God, Baalam spoke blessings which leads to this principle: God can speak through whomever He chooses and through whatever means He chooses and truth may be presented through an unlikely source.

Will you look for those times when God calls you to obey? What area of your life are you not obedient?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.3)

Derby Drunks are Damned?

I was glad that the kids and I moved down the street away from the entrance to the infield. There are several entrances to Churchill Downs. There is the main entrance where all the celebrities, royalty from Arab countries, and people who have corporate sponsored box seats enter. However, there are two main entrances to the Infield. The infield is filled with every kind of drunken orgy-like behavior you could imagine. There is a huge brick wall around it so you can't see inside, but you could only imagine what it is like on the inside as you watch the streams of people entering.

Our message was well-received. We didn't water down the Gospel and tell them that God had a wonderful plan for their lives and that He is love without explaining that they were in danger because they were sinners. But, we also didn't start screaming at them through a bullhorn holding signs saying, "DERBY DRUNKS ARE DAMNED!" Folks, you don't get cuts in the line to hell because you are a Derby Drunk. It just isn't so.

If a person who regularly shares the Gospel by means of sandwich boards and large signs while using a bullhorn ever reads this blog, know that I consider you a brother or sister in Christ. However, there is a way to share the true Gospel, including using the words "judgment," "hell," and "sinner" without watering down the message. But, you also need to know that while God is a jealous God who has unbelievable wrath against sin, He also is filled with incomprehensible love. He is filled with so much love that He provided a way for us, the wayward, stiff-necked, disobedient children to spend eternity with Him. The church has, for several years, told only about His love and not His wrath and I believe that is a grave error. But, to share only about His wrath and never mention His love or to explain what "sin" really is or what "repentance" really means to people who really don't know is just as grievous.

In all the posts I have made about the Kentucky Derby outreach and the ones I am about to make, notice that people are not angry with us or screaming at us. Look at the faces in the photos- they are smiling! What the photo doesn't show are the quiet moments that these people had as we shared the Gospel and their conscience convicted them. Their mouths were stopped and they were left defenseless. We shared the good news and many said what we often hear, "I never understood it that way before." or "I'm going to go home and pray." As we were leaving, they weren't flipping the bird at us or screaming, they were waving good-bye, asking for more tracts or quietly contemplative. That's all I'm going to say about method.

Seeing so many people, brought the verse to mind, "Broad is the way that leads to destruction." Besides seeing such a mass of humanity living utterly depraved lives right in front of us, the "sign people" broke my heart. The crowd was absolutely hostile to the people who had signs stating that "Derby Drunks were Damned!" and "Mothers should be home with their children not drunk in the street." The signs were akin to approaching a sleeping person in a darkened room flipping open one of their eyelids and shining a flashlight in it and wondering why they got so offended! It was very hard to see and and hear. There was a lot of profanity thrown in the direction of these people, who while well-meaning, were unbelievably offensive.

We walked down the street and around the corner handing out our tracts all the way down the street until we found a location next to the brick wall where peddlers were. Along the wall were people selling beer and water, homeless people, people playing instruments for money. It was much more pleasant.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.2)

Here's a close-up of the fabulous conversation starter Derby hat. She just got a cheap straw hat and taped million dollar bills on it with a sign "Anyone want $1,000,000?" She glued roses on top since the Kentucky Derby is also known as "the Run for the Roses" and -voila! That's one snazzy conversation starter.

TJ witnessed to this guy- he was a character! TJ gave him a million dollar bill and began to witness to him. I was recording the conversation when Merlene walked up and I began witnessing to her. Fish were jumping in the boat left and right. These pictures don't do it justice. While we were talking, the kids were handing out tracts and even Donald was handing out tracts in the middle of the street.

After TJ had explained the Gospel the man knew we were talking about God so when I went to take a picture he said, "Oh don't take a picture with me wearing this shirt!" I thought that was pretty amazing that this man's conscience was convicting him about the content of his shirt after TJ's conversation with him! Funny, huh?

This is Merlene. I met her as we were coming out of the ally. She saw Rachel's hat and asked for a million. I offered her some Obama millions and she asked for more. She was going to a cookout later that night and wanted to give them to her kids and some friends. I thought, "Go right ahead." This woman is going to aid in the spreading of the Gospel. It's mind boggling to think that someone she gives the tract to could read the message on the back and be brought under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and then repent and believe!

She asked what the tract was since it looked like a picture of Obama on the million dollar bill. I told her it's a Gospel tract and on the back is the million dollar question. So she flipped over the bill and read the million dollar question out loud. I asked her, "Do you think you're good enough to go to heaven?" She said, "I hope so." Whenever someone answers like that, it always breaks my heart and I immediately spend time taking them through the complete Gospel message because it's apparent they really don't know and they they probably do not possess a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. She really thought she was a pretty good person and that she could go to heaven until I took her through the good person test.

As I explained that if we break a law here and end up in court then it makes logical sense that if God is the judge that He will judge us by His law and that our own goodness or our own assumption of goodness doesn't matter. She really listened and then just stared in silence for a few seconds at the million dollar bill and said, "I see what you're saying." I explained that this requires faith and repentance in Jesus Christ and that He is the only way God will forgive our sins. I always explain repentance and distinguish it from worldy sorrow. She thanked me for our talk and said that she was going to think about what we had discussed. I thanked her for talking with me. She was more than happy to pose for this picture. She also had to get back to work trying to entice people to park in her yard.

It took us about 45 minutes for us to walk one block because there were so many people in the neighborhood and on the street that would never be on 4th and Central. Here is TJ handing out tracts to some of the traffic safety officers.

We headed up the street and these police and security officers were seated at the entrance to a gate in front of the stables where the horses who were getting ready to run in the Derby were stabled. The man that is closest to TJ is Officer Alvin. He asked who published the tract and if we were with someone I'd never heard of before. TJ told him that this tract was from Way of the Master and Ray Comfort. He got really excited and said, "I LOVE Way of the Master! I listen to everything I can get my hands on!" That was really neat to see another brother in Christ. You never know who you might run in to.

The military police were happy to take some tracts and "Derby Trivia" tracts too. We made sure to give some tracts to the young ladies right by the MP's who had just been asked to pour out their beer all while trying to convince them that they were 26! They barely looked like they were out of their teens.

We probably handed out 100 tracts and had about 10 one on one conversations with people from where we parked the cars up to where we hit the main gate for the infield.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fishing at the Kentucky Derby (pt.1)

The 135th running of the Kentucky Derby was my first ever. If you've lived here any length of time, you soon learn that unless you have box seats you don't want to go to the Derby. The crowd in the infield is wild and raucous, it's a madhouse, parking is crazy and it just turns into an excuse to get drunk and behave badly. There were an estimated 150,000 people attending today. My husband couldn't join us because he was to be a pallbearer at a dear friends' father's funeral 3 hours from where we live. Once we arrived, it took us an hour to get through the traffic as I scouted the closest and cheapest place to park. After sizing up where I was and the best way to leave, I chose a guy that offered to allow me to park in his backyard for a mere $20. I thought $10 seemed more fair so I asked, and he agreed. We drove down an ally and parked in his backyard. I called TJ and told him I found a place for him to park and had gotten the guy to cut his price in half. Here's my team as we get ready to walk the 2 blocks to our rendezvous point on 4th and Central Ave.

Soon enough, TJ arrived with his father-in-law, Donald, and two young ladies, Jessica and Rachel. Kelli (TJ's wife) wisely stayed home with their very young children. We later discovered this was definitely no place for the very young.

As we walked out of the ally, we witnessed to everyone we could find who was out on the street. The mood was festive. In the picture below, Donald is carrying the box of tracts, TJ is talking with Mike (the guy whose backyard we parked in), and Rachel and Jessica are beside them.

While TJ witnessed to someone else, Donald began by handing this gentleman a "Derby Trivia" tract.

My eldest son handed tracts to these little girls. Absolutely EVERYONE took a tract, wanted a tract, and asked for more tracts! **I highly recommend the Teen Celebrity Millions from Living Waters. The teen crowd loves them.**

Unfortunately, I'm so old I have no clue who these people are on the tracts. The only one I could guess was Miley Cyrus. At least I had Jessica and Rachel who quickly rattled off each one of these teen celebrities. I told the girls to stay close to me, I definitely saw I could use their help.

Have you ever seen a finer team of evangelists?! They ranged in age from 8 1/2 to 17. Rachel designed this hat and put million dollar bills all over it. I really liked it because you really are supposed to wear a hat to Derby and this was spectacular. What a conversation starter!

We prayed that the rain would hold off because earlier that morning it was pouring and rain was forecast all day. So, with approximately 5000 tracts between us we headed with high spirits under cloudy skies.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Rainy day evangelism

I was going on a fishing trip and there was rain in the forecast all day so I shot a quick video that shows what I packed for the day. Hopefully, it will be helpful to know what to pack for rainy day evangelism.