Monday, July 09, 2007

Spiritual Warfare on Venice Beach

No, the people pictured above are not members of our team. More about them later.

Our team on Saturday consisted of me; my brother-in-law, Ian; three of Ian's kids; Mike (a friend from church); Chris, from Adventures in Christianity; Leon, from Evangelism Team; and Leon's little brother. Our fishing hole that day was the boardwalk on Venice Beach.

The marine layer was thick, so we didn't see the sun until later in the afternoon. The boardwalk was packed with people from all over the world. At one point, I counted at least six foreign languages that I heard--none of which I could identify.

During our four hours on the boardwalk, we distributed hundreds, if not thousands of gospel tracts. Leon and I conducted four open-air preaching sessions (Click here to listen my first and second session.), and the team enjoyed numerous one-to-one conversations. The gospel went forth, in spoken and written form, to thousands of people. It was a great day.

To a person living in Southern California, Venice Beach is just another beach community. To the visitor from out of state or out of the country, Venice Beach is, well, a strange place. Street vendors lined the boardwalk. Psychics, artists, musicians, salesmen, con artists, vagrants, drug dealers and users--you name it, Venice Beach has it. Add to that the steroid stallions of Muscle Beach; the beach bums, surf rats, and skaters; tourists from all over the world; and the only people who can really afford to live along the beach--the wealthy, and you have a very diverse and eclectic community.

Leon and I alternated open-air preaching. During Leon's second open-air session, he had a heckler who served as evidence of the reality that the American Church has a false convert problem. As Leon succinctly and biblically spoke to the crowd about the Law, a lady standing behind him continually shook her head and took verbal shots at Leon and his message. The intoxicated woman standing at the heckler's mic claimed to be a Christian. Yet her demeanor, language, and answers to Leon's questions suggested anything but a born again follower of Jesus Christ. Even so, the woman standing behind Leon continually supported the other woman's profession of faith. And, like so many professing Christian hecklers, she seemed to be getting angry with Leon.

Finally, Leon asked the woman to step up to the microphone and stand for her convictions. She accepted the challenge and immediately challenged what Leon was saying about repentance and judgment. She also tried to take Leon to task for quoting Scripture instead of reading directly from the Bible.

The woman asserted that all someone has to do is ask Jesus into their heart to be saved. When Leon rightly asserted that the Bible doesn't say that, the woman became even more indignant. So, Leon handed the woman his Bible and asked the woman (pictured to the left) to show him where it says in the Bible that a person should ask Jesus into their heart.

Although it took her a while, as expected the woman turned to Romans 10:9, which says, "That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." As you can see, the verse does not say, "Ask Jesus into your heart."

During the conversation, the woman declared that she was a Christian, in part, because of the church she attended. When she named the church and the pastor, I had even more concern for the woman's spiritual well-being. Her "pastor," who leads a megachurch in Southern California, is known for his heretical teachings.

Once the woman took the mic and began to "preach a different gospel," the crowd soon took her side. After the woman had her say, she marched away, taking most of the crowd with her. She served as yet another example of how quickly a false convert can disrupt the preaching of the gospel.

But all was certainly not lost. Leon kept preaching. People listened. And the real gospel went forth!

Earlier in the day, I handed a tract to a man and watched him walk away. Moments later, he and the person with whom he was walking stopped, turned around, and approached me. The older of the two men looked at me and said, "Will you preach the Word to this man?"

I thought the man was kidding, at first. I smiled at the two men. "No. I mean it. Will you preach the Word to this man?" The older man said.

He was serious. So, I shared the Law and the Gospel with the the younger man. Click here to listen to the conversation.

As I talked to the younger man (his name was Marcus), I learned that the older man was his father, James. When I had finished sharing the gospel with Marcus, James said, "I just picked up my son from the airport. Just this morning I was praying, asking God to help me to get through to my son."

James was wearing dark sunglasses, so I couldn't see his eyes. But there was a quiver in his voice, which told me that had James removed his sunglasses I would have seen the tears of a father, weeping for a lost son.

I assured Marcus that, with God, there are no coincidences. I told him that I believed our conversation was a divine appointment--possibly an answer to his father's prayer. I begged him not to waste the opportunity he was being given to get right with God. I also asked him to think about how much his father loved him. I told Marcus that neither I nor his father wanted him to spend eternity in hell.

I gave both men copies of my books, and copies of the "Hell's Best Kept Secret" and "True & False Conversion" CD's.

Please pray for Marcus. Pray that he will come to genuine repentance and faith, in our Lord Jesus Christ.

As my last open-air preaching session drew to a close, Ian noticed a group of Hare Krishnas making their way to our location. Just moments after I finished preaching, without saying a word or acknowledging our presence, the band of cultists simply gathered in front of our "heckler's mic" and began to play music, chant, sing, and dance. Occasionally, one or more of the group would look back at us with a sarcastic smirk on their face.

We had already begun to pack up, so I didn't see the point in confronting them about their rudeness. Instead, I made my way through the crowd and simply asked people if they had any idea what message the Krishnas were trying to get across. Their answers did not surprise me. Click here to listen to the audio.

I wept more than once Saturday as I looked back on my conversation with Marcus, and with the other people I met throughout the afternoon. Every witnessing opportunity is a blessing and a gift from God. But I readily admit that thinking about a father (a stranger) bringing his son to me and asking me to share the gospel with him is overwhelming. What a privilege while, at the same time, a sobering responsibility. I know I am not responsible for Marcus' salvation. But as an evangelist, I am a steward of the gospel. I must share it right. I must share it often. I must be ready in season and out of season. I must share it with love and compassion. I must always keep in mind that proclaiming the gospel is a privilege and a gift, not a right. I must remember that Christ is returning at any moment (1 Peter 4:7).

Lord Jesus, until you decide to take me home, please fill my days with conversations with people like Marcus! Only for Your glory, Lord. All for You glory, Lord!

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