Today I Experienced Life’s Greatest Privilege

Today I led a woman to faith in Christ.  It made me so happy!  Here’s the story.

My wife and I finally decided to take the plunge and purchase cell phones.   We made an appointment to choose the plans and pick out the phones.  The saleslady and I chatted while waiting for my wife to arrive for the appointment.   We talked about her job, how long she had been working, and so on.

After a few minutes I asked her one of my favorite questions.  “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?”  “No,” came her simple and sincere answer.  She continued with a flurry of good reasons why she could not attend church–family, work on Sunday morning, two jobs, etc.  I listened, and then launched into my own story of how I gave my life commitment to Christ.

“During college years I came to a pivotal crisis in faith.  I had to go one way or the other. If Jesus Christ really rose from the dead I would give my life to him.  On the other hand, if He did not rise from the dead, I would give up this whole faith thing.  Since I was studying history, I knew the canons of historiography (how to evaluate the veracity of historical claims).  For example, 1) how long after a purported event was the incident recorded?  2) Did eyewitnesses write the reports or were the accounts second or third hand? 3) How many witnesses were there?

“As I began my quest for truth I was soon surprised at both the amount and strength of the evidence.  In fact, the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was overwhelming.    For example, Peter knew Jesus well, was an eyewitness of Christ after the resurrection, and was even crucified for the sake of Jesus.  Men don’t willingly die for a cause they know is false.  John claimed to see Him with his own eyes, hear Him talk, and touch Him with His own hands.  Then he documented his experiences with Jesus so many people could know the facts.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the best attested fact of all ancient history.  The evidence would stand up in any court of law today.  The evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is incontrovertible from a purely historical point of view! “

The saleslady listened with careful attention.  “Does all this make sense to you?” I asked.  Her response was a clear “Yes.”  “I have good news for you,” I continued.  “Jesus Christ died for your sins . . .of which we all have plenty, especially me.   (She smiled at this.)  Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.  We can receive forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life by simple trusting in Him.  He is our substitute.  He died for us.  He paid the price for our sins.”

I asked again, “Do you understand all this?”  Again, “Yes.”  So I asked, “Is there any reason why you would not want to receive Jesus Christ into your life right now?”  “No,” she replied softly.  So I instructed that she could pray right there and that she didn’t even need to close her eyes.  We were in a public place and no one would know what she was doing.  I only asked her to let me know when she was done praying.  While I ate my lunch, she said, “I’ve done it!”

We talked a little more about salvation through trusting Jesus Christ.  She was happy to tell about another new birth—she and her husband were going to have a baby!  In a short time, my wife arrived.  We shared the good news, enjoyed the moment and then focused on something less important—cell phones!

It’s fun to lead someone to salvation through Jesus Christ.  This is how I do it.  How do you do it?

A Happy Experience During the Oil Change

This morning I had a happy experience of an unusual sort.  I went to Meineckes for an oil change and met the new manager.  While waiting for the oil change, Kurt and I chatted.

We talked about jobs, how long we had each lived in Muscatine, and about family.  I found out Ethan had already met him and given him an invite card to church!  To have a mutual friend is a great connection and generally releases trust.  That was the case with Kurt and me. After a minute or so of conversation, I asked,” Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  His immediate answer was an emphatic,” Yes, I have!”   Kurt went on to explain his background and a particularly meaningful experience he’d had in church.

I gave him another invitation card and invited him to visit church.  Thanks, Ethan, for preparing the way.

I’ve found over and over again that people want to talk about their faith and experiences with God.   Have you found the same?

Ben and the Potting Soil

“Please pick up some potting soil on your way home,” requested my wife.  I stopped by the garden center, located the type of potting soil Kari requested, and completed the purchase.  A young man came out to the car to help load.  While walking together I introduced myself and discovered his name was Ben.

Ben was a laconic fellow in his early twenties who surprised me with his initiative.  Instead of loading one sack at a time, he grabbed two forty pound sacks together and easily set them down in the trunk of the car.  “You’re strong, Ben!” I remarked.  We made some small talk before I asked, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  “No, I don’t care about that stuff!” was his answer.  He replied with a sense of finality, and I rose to the occasion.

“But God cares about you, Ben!  He proved it by dying on a cross for you and your sins.  You’ve heard about that, haven’t you?”  Ben remained silent and hung his head.  I continued with some good news.  “Jesus Christ not only died for our sins, but he rose out of death to live in us so we could do what’s right.  All we need to do is receive Him and His free gift of salvation.  With Christ inside our body, life becomes a huge adventure.”

Ben stood there, hanging his head and listening.  “You want to go to heaven when you die, don’t you?”  Ben immediately lifted his head and looked me in the eyes.  I had his attention.  “Jesus cares about you personally, Ben.  All you need to do is trust Him and accept Him as a free gift into your life.  It’s not about a lot of does and don’ts.  Think about it.  The choice is yours.”

I got in the car and drove home.  But the story doesn’t end yet.  That same evening Kari and I returned and bought some fruit trees on end-of-the-summer sale.  Ben again helped us load.  “Have you thought any more about what we were talking about?” I asked.  “No,” he admitted, “I’ve been working the whole time.”  With that we loaded the trees together and parted.

But the story does not end yet. . . .  Some researchers report, on average, a person needs to hear the gospel seven times before he responds.  If that’s the case with Ben, he may need only one or two. .  . or six more witnesses to stop by and plead the case for Jesus.  Perhaps God will let you be the reaper.  Don’t let Jesus die in vain.

How many more times will Ben need to hear the gospel before he responds?  What do you think?

The Man Who Wore His Pants So Low

The crowd of ticketed passengers was waiting at the gate for our flight from Portland to Salt Lake City.  As is typical, we were avoiding eye-contact, yet all the while profiling our fellow passengers.  There was the severely overweight man; I hoped not to have to squeeze into a seat by him.  There were the ladies with necklines so low I would be embarrassed to have to sit next to them.  There was a foreign-looking guy with scraggly hair and pants so low his belt was actually below his buttocks.  I’ve never seen a man who wore his pants so low.  Fortunately, he wore such a long-tailed shirt that that he was not exposed.  I mused, “I think I could handle sitting next to him.”

I boarded the plane and found my assigned aisle seat, 27C.  A lady came and took seat 27A by the window.  Finally, just before closing the doors, the man with the low pants came and sat down beside me in 27B.  He immediately fiddled with his cell phone so as to avoid any contact.  After awhile I interrupted him by introducing myself.  “My name is Ze,” he returned.  I found out to spell his name and that he was a Pilipino from Manila.  I told him my trip with my wife to Mindanao and our wonderful experiences in the Philippines.

After the plane took off I asked, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  He replied affirmatively, yet so vaguely that it left me wondering.  As we conversed I discovered that he was born a Roman Catholic, that he had received Christ as a child, (“a long time ago”), and that he had been divorced four years ago.

As the flight continued, I shared parts of my life and my story with Ze.  He began asking questions about my life.  He was very interested in our farm and what else I did.  I told him I was a marriage counselor and we talked about the many benefits of marriage.  He began to open up about how his marriage had fallen apart and how he had tried, without success, to keep it together.  Ze knew I was interested, so he shared his life.  He has a Bible (“I have many Bibles”), he reads almost daily, doesn’t go to church, and has no current job.

Near the end of the flight I asked if I could pray for him.  “Sure,” came his welcome response.  We had talked almost non-stop for the duration of the trip.  Surprisingly, Ze was more interested in me and my life than perhaps any stranger I have ever met.

Want to make a friend?  Take courage and simply ask, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  I find this works for me.  If you’re leading people to Christ regularly, I’d like to know how you do it.

Witnessing at Wendy’s

The Wendy’s Restaurant at the Detroit Airport was not only crowded, it was chaotic.  People were literally shouting to be heard.  This was not your ordinary suburban Wendy’s.  The tables were close; the aisles narrow and loaded with standing travelers trying to down a burger.  I spotted a couple stools against a far wall but with a Frosty in one hand, a burger plus baked potato in the other and luggage over my shoulder, I felt hopeless to reach the far side of the restaurant.  With relief I noticed one empty seat right at my feet.

“May I take this seat?”  I asked the lady sitting at the table.

“Yes,” came the reply.

I ate silently and quickly.  Clearing my garbage, I thanked the lady for the seat.  She smiled, “You’re welcome!”

We engaged in brief chit-chat and shared our travel destinations.  I asked her, “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?”

“Yes, we have,” she replied, apparently including her family.  “And we all go to the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Omaha”.

Since I had once lived in a black neighborhood in Omaha I related a significant event I had experienced there.  We got acquainted in the next minutes as her family joined in the conversation.  With smiles we blessed each other as I left for my departure gate.  Strangers across race and distance had become bonded in Christ, pleasantly satisfied by our brief encounter in a crowded restaurant.  It was all possible because of the question, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your Life?”

How to Make a Friend: Howard and the Butcher Plant

I raise grassfed Lamb.  My work takes me to a butcher plant in a neighboring town.  An employee named Howard and I have talked briefly several times over a period of years. You could say we have “chewed the fat” about weather, lambs, his work and so on.  I knew his name, but I don’t know if he knew mine.  We were acquaintances, nothing more.

One day I dropped off some young lambs at the locker.  Howard and some other workers were arriving.   We greeted each other with a “Hello” and “Good morning”. Then I took courage—it’s often breathtaking—and asked Howard in front of another worker, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  He looked at his co-worker, who turned away, busy with his preparation for the day.  Howard turned to me and began to pour out personal stuff from his heart.  Stuff most men don’t often open up about.  “Well, I think so, but I’m not sure.”  He went on telling some of his struggles and admitting his faults.  I could tell he really wasn’t sure. Nonetheless, as he kept talking, he was making a public confession of his faith in Jesus Christ, perhaps for the first time in a public way.

I was not able to go farther with Howard that day.  Yet something had changed in our relationship. . . .

The next time I saw Howard was several weeks later.  He was standing in a group of workers and customers at the locker.  He immediately turned his attention to me and introduced me to another worker.  His introduction was kind, gracious and full of wit, claiming that I was “a wise man and filled with wisdom”.  He made jokes about how he and I each had the same occupation.  Always pleasant in the past, this time he was overtly friendly.  You see, we had both taken a risk and shared something in common—faith in Christ.  We were brothers.  We had come to the same table and eaten together.  And he wasn’t afraid to show it in front of a group of co-workers.

I experience this “brother factor” phenomenon repeatedly and with few exceptions.  Men (and women) want authenticity.  People want to talk about their faith and their struggles with God.  All of us are looking for real people with whom we can open up.  Sometimes it’s easiest with a stranger.  Would you give someone the opportunity?

Texas State Student Opens to Christ

A surprise knock on our door at 8:30 one morning brought me face to face with a handsome young man named Troy.  He was pitching children’s books to pay for his education at Texas State.  After making it clear we had no children in his target age group, we chatted briefly about Texas football—the Aggies and the Longhorns.  Shortly, the inevitable question came easily:  “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”  He demurred, but I could tell he was interested.

Since he asked for a plat map of our neighborhood, I disappeared into the house to fetch the map.  When I returned I asked again, “Have you given your life to Jesus Christ?”  This time he answered clearly, “No, but I want to.  I was raised Catholic.  My grandma has been diagnosed with cancer with only 6 months to live.  I pray for her every day.”

I commended Troy for his desire and his prayers, but did not want to get sidetracked.  I continued with the gospel message about Jesus Christ dying for our sins and rising again for us.  “Salvation is a free gift that we can receive in simple child-like trust.  Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to receive Jesus Christ into your life right now?” I asked.  He affirmed his desire to receive Christ and “get back with Him”.   I explained how he could receive Christ either right now or at home when he was alone.  He affirmed that now he knew how to receive Christ as Savior and chose to pray alone that night.

I blessed him and he went on his way.

It’s Fun to Witness at Gas Stations

At a Costco Service Station in Mt Vernon, Washington I was trying to buy gas.  Unfortunately, my card didn’t work.  An attendant came over and offered to help.  With his instructions, the gas began to flow and I was left for the 3 minute fill with a helpful attendant.

“Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?” I queried.  “Yes, I have!” came his cheery response.  “And this job is a result of my faith.  I was out of work and needed a job.  God answered my prayers and this job suddenly popped open.  They selected me and I really enjoy what I’m doing.  I get to help people all day long.”

“That’s great,” I remarked.  ”Your faith really shows.”  He helped me in my moment of need and I was able to encourage him in his faith.  We parted with the happy satisfaction of being new friends and brothers.

Have You Received Jesus Christ into Your Life?

My lack in evangelism has embarrassed me. Though I am a Spirit-filled pastor, I have gone months, sometimes years without leading anyone to Christ outside of church services.

One night God impressed me, “Lift up your eyes and see the fields, that they are white for harvest.” (John 4:35) Weeks passed until I finally thought, “If God said that, I better test it out.” So when a man came to buy a lamb I had raised, I asked him straight out, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life?”

“No,” he replied.

“But you’d like to, wouldn’t you?” I asked.

He paused pensively for a moment and then stated, “Yes, I would.”

I gave him a brief gospel lesson, “Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again from the dead.” “Would you pray to receive Jesus Christ right now?” I asked.

“Yes, but I don’t know how,” he said with fright in his face. I led him in a simple prayer, which he repeated after me. After prayer, he looked up with the sweetest words and expressions of gratitude.

The next day I brought a Bible to his house. He was cutting down a tree, so I took the axe and helped. When his wife came out, I introduced myself and asked her if she had received Jesus Christ into her life. She replied no, but that she wanted to. I gave her the same gospel message. She wanted to pray silently, so I acknowledged her wish.

This began a series of encounters with people I met in everyday life. I’ve been able to lead a girl to Christ at a flower shop, a young man at Wal-Mart and a fellow at an auto repair shop. Not everyone receives Christ on the spot, of course. Recently, while waiting for someone, a college girl named Cassie was in the same room. After chit-chat, I asked her, “Have you received Christ Jesus into your life?” Unlike most, she couldn’t say yes or no although she admitted she was searching. This opened the door to give her a Josh McDowell booklet to help answer her quest and boost her along the road to discipleship.

I’m still learning. Here’s what I’m discovering. Evangelism is a lot of fun.

Jesus is right—the harvest is ripe. People are ready; they just need to be shown how to receive Christ.

Surprisingly, this key question, “Have your given your life to Jesus Christ?” does not seem to offend people; rather, they welcome the opportunity to talk about their faith. Almost everyone—more than 9 out of 10–answers the question yes or no.

The great commission is best translated, “As you are going. . . make disciples.” I’m able to begin this discipleship process in the normal course of life without going out of my way.

This simple question is a great opener, but more than a starter. It leads to salvation. We are called to reap, not just sow or water. (John 4:37) If appropriate I often ask, “Is there any reason why you wouldn’t want to receive Jesus Christ into your life right now?” Some people are prepared and waiting. Other Christians have already done the legwork with them. We come along and follow up on their labor. Jesus gave this principle about evangelism, “One sows and another reaps.” Jesus said, “I have called you to reap.” (John 4:37-38)

There is power in the gospel. Invariably, I give a clear gospel summary according to I Corinthians 15:1-4. Jesus Christ died for our sins. Jesus Christ rose from the dead. The gospel is the power of God for salvation. Get a handle on this one if you can! Use the simple gospel. Use the name of Jesus.

Jesus didn’t follow up everyone. If He didn’t try, why should we? Let the Spirit lead.

When I’m filled with the Holy Spirit and have vision for people (seeing the fields), evangelism comes more naturally. The risk is still breath taking–but what an adventure!

I have made a decision not to criticize but rather be supportive of various forms of evangelism. There’s a lot of variety. “Different spokes for different folks.” What works for one may not work for another. Find a style that works for you and use it.

The world is waiting. We’re winning not just “souls”. It’s Judy or Jim or Megan or Brett who are going to hell. We turn them around by caring enough to ask simple questions and giving the simple gospel.

Follow-Up New Believers? WWJD?

What would Jesus do about “follow up” of new converts?  Do you remember WWJD and the wristband phase of the 1990’s?  I didn’t wear the wristband, but like many, I was challenged to ask, “What would Jesus do?” when I needed to make a decision.

Fortunately, we can learn what Jesus did about follow up of new converts by looking in the Bible.

The whole question about what to do with new converts became real to me after I led a new acquaintance to Christ.  The very next day I drove to his home to give him a Bible.  While in his back yard I met his wife and asked her, “Have you received Jesus Christ into your life like your husband?” She replied simply, “No.”  But I could tell she was interested, so I led her also to accept Christ as Savior.

Soon—I think it was while I was driving away—I felt a strange impression, “Don’t follow up on this couple.”  Since I’ve always been big on not leaving new converts out in the cold to die, I was shocked and perturbed.   I’ve led the follow-up committee for several crusades.   My teaching at evangelism seminars has been,” You wouldn’t neglect a new-born baby to die of starvation.  Don’t let that happen to a spiritual baby either.”

Was this “no follow-up” impression from God or from my own mind?  I did a Scriptural search to find out.  Reading through the New Testament, I found two instances where Jesus actually met again with a new believer. The first instance is the story in John 5:14 of the man who had been lame for 38 years.  The second is found in John 9:35, where Jesus went to the blind man and asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”  The second instance seems to me to be an intentional attempt to locate and follow up.

Perhaps Jesus did follow-up other new believers, but these are the only two recorded instances that I have identified.  This truth set me free.  Numbers of times I have chosen not to witness knowing I could not follow up with someone because of distance or some other reason.  Now I can freely witness and let the Spirit lead:  With some I will follow up, with others I will do what Jesus did—trust God for the seeds to grow.