Friday, January 26, 2007

"I See What You're Staring At"

We entered the In-n-Out Burger restaurant to grab some dinner, before heading home. My daughter Michelle, my brother-in-law Ian, and Dru (fellow leader of our local GNN evangelism team), had spent the last few hours at the local Wal-Mart. We were at Wal-Mart to do some on-camera interviews with people waiting in line to have a young actor named Corbin Bleu sign their copy of his book. People started to line up for the book signing four hours before the event. Hundreds of people were in line. The Lord provided several wonderful opportunities to witness to people, on-camera. Look for these stories in a future “glory to God” article.

We ordered our food and sat down at a table to debrief the evening’s evangelism. As I walked up to the counter, I crossed paths with a young couple. The young man stared at my shirt pocket, which was filled with billion-dollar bills. I smiled and said, “I see what you’re staring at. You can have one.”

I handed him a billion-dollar bill. As I did, I noticed the curious look on his girlfriend’s face. I removed another bill from my pocket, handing it to her, and said, “You can have one, too.”

They sat down at their table to enjoy their dinner. Both were examining their billion-dollar bills. I picked up our order and returned to our table. The four of us thanked God for the evangelism opportunities He gave us at Wal-Mart, and for the food He provided. After a time of good conversation (and food), we got up from the table to head home. I dumped our trash in the trashcan next to where the couple was sitting—the couple that was now two billion dollars richer.

The young man, whose name was Yenci (20 years old), got my attention and asked, “Can you tell us what these are?”

“They’re billion-dollar bills.” I said. “There’s a gospel message on the back.”

As they examined the back of the bills, I asked them if they knew the billion-dollar question. The young lady, whose name was Carolina (19 years old), tried to quickly scan the back of the bill. “Ah, ah, ah.” I said playfully. “No cheating.”

“The billion-dollar question is this. What’s going to happen to you when you die? What do you think?” I asked.

Carolina pointed to the sky, and said, “I’m going to be up there, looking down at everyone down here.”

“So, you think you’re going to heaven?” I asked.

She nodded her head. I asked Yenci the same question. He hoped he was going to heaven, but he was less confident than Carolina.

I took both Yenci and Carolina through several of the Ten Commandments. They both admitted to being lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterers at heart. They both agreed that if they were to die and stand before God, He would find them guilty of breaking His Law. They both also agreed that if God found them guilty they would spend eternity in hell.

When I asked them if the thought of going to hell as the just punishment for their sin against God concerned them, Yenci quickly said that it would concern him. Carolina, however, was more reflective. After a few moments, and with more of an attitude of indifference than defiance, Carolina said, “No.”

With a bit of consternation, I asked Carolina, “Don’t you care about your life? Are you telling me that you don’t want to live?”

She shook her head slightly, but I wasn’t convinced. “What if two men came into this place to commit a robbery? What if they came up to the two of you and held guns to your heads and demanded your money? Would you hope to survive? Wouldn’t you beg for your life?” I asked.

Carolina, looking more serious now, said, “That actually happened to both of us.”

I was taken aback for a moment. I’m sure the surprise showed on my face. “That really happened to you?” I asked. “You were robbed at gunpoint?”

“Yes.” She said.

“When that happened to you, didn’t you hope to survive? Didn’t you want to live?” I asked.

“Yes.” She answered.

“Then listen to what you are saying. When facing physical death, you wanted to live. Yet you’re telling me that it doesn’t concern you that you are facing an eternity in hell when you die. That doesn’t make any sense.” I said.

I let Carolina think about that for a moment. “Aren’t you the least bit concerned about what’s going to happen to you when you die, if God judges you for every time you’ve sinned against Him?” I asked.

“Yes, it concerns me.” She said. “I just haven’t given it much thought.”

I asked Yenci and Carolina if they knew what God did so they wouldn’t have to go to hell—so they could spend eternity with Him in heaven. Carolina said she had no idea. Yenci, on the other hand, asked, “Didn’t He die so that everyone can be forgiven?”

I took Yenci and Carolina into an imaginary courtroom. I explained to them that they had broken the law. They were arrested, confessed to the crime, and were found guilty after a trial. “On the day of sentencing, you tell the judge that you are very sorry for committing the crime. You tell the judge that you would try not to do it again and you ask him to let you go.” I said. “Would the judge be a good judge, following the law, if he let you go?”

They both agreed that the judge should not let them go simply because they were sorry.

I continued the analogy, explaining to Yenci and Carolina that the judge sentenced them to a million-dollar fine or life in prison. They agreed that the fine was more than they could ever hope to pay. I told them that just as the judge was about to cart them away to prison for the rest of their lives, someone walked into the courtroom—someone the had never met.

The person approached the judge, placing one million dollars on the judge’s bench. The person explained to the judge that he had sold everything he owned to raise the money to pay their fine. “Your honor.” The person said. “I’m paying Yenci and Carolina’s fine because I love them. Please let them go.”

I told Yenci and Carolina that they were still guilty of breaking the law. However, seeing that justice had been served, the judge looked at them and said, “You’re free to go.”

I asked Yenci and Carolina if the thought of the judge letting them go because someone else paid their fine sounded like good news to them. Carolina shook her head.

“Why don’t you think it would be good news?” I asked her.

“Because I don’t think it would be right. I wouldn’t deserve it.” She said.

“That’s right.” I said. “You wouldn’t deserve it. We’re not talking about a loan. We’re talking about a gift. You can’t earn a gift. The person paying your fine did so because they love you.”

“What would you think of the person who came into the court and paid your fine so you could be set free?” I asked Carolina. Her answer blessed my heart.

Carolina looked at me and said, “I would love that person for the rest of my life.”

I shared the gospel with them—explaining that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, the sinless Lamb of God, died a horrible, bloody death on the cross to pay their fine. He took upon Himself the death sentence they deserved. Three days later He rose from the dead and is alive today.

Before I took Yenci and Carolina back to the courtroom, I asked them to consider something. “Let’s say they two of you started to sin ten years ago. Let’s say you sinned against God only three times each day. Do you realize if you died tonight and stood before God, you would stand before Him having broken His Law more than ten thousand times?”

The thought seemed to startle them. They both leaned back in their seats and their eyes opened wide. “What do you think a judge would say to a criminal who stood before him in court with a rap sheet with ten thousand entries?” I asked. “Do you think the judge would believe the criminal, even for a second, if the criminal said, ‘Judge, please let me go. I promise I will never break the law again.’”

Yenci and Carolina agreed that the judge should not believe the criminal. “Neither will God believe you.” I said. “If you don’t repent of your sin and trust Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, when you stand before God, He is going to see you for who you really are—not for who you think you are. God is going to unfold a rap sheet with tens of thousands of entries, each one representing a sin against Him. Saying you’re sorry won’t cut it. He is going to find you guilty and He is going to send you to hell.”

To this point, I had been standing over the couple. Sensing a connection with the couple and that there was yet more conversation ahead; I squatted down and rested my arms on the table. “I don’t want that to happen to you.” I said. “I may never see you again, but I care about you. I give away those silly billion-dollar bills hoping that I might get to have conversations with people like you.

“The Bible says that it is appointed once for a person to die, and after this comes the judgment.” I said. “Your are both young. You might have sixty, seventy years ahead of you. I hope you do. But the truth is you might not make it home tonight. And like the criminal standing before the judge waiting to be sentenced, when you die and stand before God, that will not be the time to get right with Him. It will be too late. But if you will repent and trust Jesus Christ to save you from your sin, when you do stand before God you will not receive what you deserve—His righteous judgment and eternity in hell. Instead you will receive what you don’t deserve—His grace and mercy and eternity in heaven.”

I asked Yenci and Carolina if they understood what I was saying to them and why I was saying it. They both said they understood what I had shared with them and the motives behind the words. Yenci said, “You are doing a very good thing by talking to us this way.”

Then Carolina said something that almost brought me to tears. While tears did not flow, my heart broke for her.

“This conversation is very important to me.” She said. “You see—two months ago I found out that I have cancer of the kidneys.”

Carolina explained to me the pain she was in. She explained the painful surgical procedures she would have to endure and the chemotherapy to which she would be subjected in order to try to rid her body of the cancer.

I delicately asked if her doctors had given her a prognosis. She said the doctors weren’t sure.

“Carolina, the hope of a person who turns from their sin and receives Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior is heaven—eternity in the presence of the Lord. God doesn’t promise us a perfect life, here on earth. In fact Jesus promised the opposite. He said that we should expect hardship. But He also said that we should take courage because He has overcome the world.

“Do you know what else those who know Jesus as their Lord and Savior are promised?” I asked her.

“No.” She answered.

“A new, perfect body in heaven.” I said.

She smiled.

I asked Yenci and Carolina if there was any reason why they wouldn’t get right with God. They both said no. In fact, Carolina said, “I would do it if He asked me.”

I told them that it was not a coincidence that Yenci had seen the billion-dollar bill in my pocket. It was not a coincidence that we were having this conversation. I asked them to consider if we were having the conversation because the Lord wanted them to repent and believe. They both nodded their heads.

“Do you believe what I am telling you?” I asked.

They both said that they believed everything I told them.

“Why don’t you cry out to God, right now?” I asked. “Confess your sin. Tell Him that you want Him to help you turn away from your sin. Ask Him to save you and be your Lord and Savior.”

Yenci and Carolina looked at each other. I could see the hesitancy in their eyes. “I think we have a lot to think about.” Yenci said. “But I know now that we’re not promised tomorrow.”

Carolina allowed me to rest my hand on her arm and pray for her. I prayed for her physical healing. I prayed for the wisdom and discernment of her doctors. And I prayed that Yenci and Carolina would repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

When I finished praying, I ask them if I could give them a couple of things, which were in my car. Carolina said, “Please. We would like that.”

I ran out to my car and returned with two copies of “How To Live Forever Without Being Religious” and “You Have The Right To Remain Silent.” I gave them to Yenci and Carolina, explaining to them that my friend wrote the former and that I wrote the latter.

Carolina looked at the back of the tract and read the label giving information about my home church. She pointed to the label and asked, “Is this where you preach?”

I explained to her that while I am one of the leaders in the church, I was not the pastor. She asked. “If we e-mailed or called you, would you tell us when you are going to preach at the church?”

I smiled and told her that I would be preaching on February 11. “In fact,” I said, “if you come to visit my church, I will take you both to lunch afterward.”

Carolina smiled and said, “Really?”

“You bet.” I said. “If you come to church and see me, we are going to lunch that afternoon.”

I thanked Yenci and Carolina for giving me their time. We said our good-byes. I think I floated out to my car. God is so very good!

Pray that Yenci and Carolina will repent and receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. And pray that I will be allowed to keep my promise to buy them lunch.

To God and God alone be all the praise and glory for what He did after a young man stared at the billion-dollar bills in my pocket.


Anonymous said...

This story really touched me, I started tearing up! You are my favorite blog to read, your stories are so encouraging. Thank you so much for writing about your experiences! To God be the Glory!

cler said...

i prayed for yenci and carolina, this really touched me. to God be the glory! amen