Friday, March 30, 2007

The Jaws of Life

Two of my deputies and a 17-year-old explorer survived a horrific collision, today. Both units were responding to a "back-up" request from another deputy, when the collision occurred.

Firefighters had to use the "Jaws of Life" to extricate the deputy who was trapped in the patrol car pictured in the foreground. The "Jaws of Life," which is actually a brand name, is the nickname given to several types of piston-rod hydraulic tools. These tools include cutters, spreaders, and rams. The most common use of these tools is to pry open badly damaged vehicles, in which victims are trapped.

One deputy remains hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. All three feel very fortunate to be alive. God's common grace covered the three survivors.

I spent the afternoon at the hospital, along with dozens of deputies, family members, and friends. I look forward to opportunities in the coming days, weeks, and months to minister to my wounded brethren.

Times such as these cause members of the law enforcement family to take stock of their own lives and consider their own mortality. I could see the looks of introspection on some of my law enforcement brethren's faces--despite their best efforts to hide behind the hardened exterior of a deputy sheriff.

All you have to do is look at the photo to realize that the end result of this collision could have been much different, even tragic. But I would like you to do more than simply look at the photo and say, "Wow."

Look at the photo, again. However, look at the photo with the following Scriptures in mind.

"Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away" (James 4:13-14).

"Behold, Thou hast made my days as handbreadths, and my lifetime as nothing in Thy sight, surely every man at his best is a mere breath" (Psalm 39:5).

"Man is like a mere breath; his days are like a passing shadow" (Psalm 144:4).

"And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment" (Hebrews 9:27).

"And He said to me, 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death'" (Revelation 21:7-8).

Jesus said, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28).

The ultimate statistic: 10 out of 10 people die. The truth: No one is promised tomorrow. The reality: No one knows the exact moment of their death. Everyone of us is but a blink of an eye away from finding ourselves a casualty in a scene like the one depicted in the photo.

The big question: Are you ready?

If you stumbled onto this blog, or if someone has sent you this article, and you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, what you may not realize is that you are already in a scene similar to that which is depicted in the photo. You may not be trapped in the twisted wreckage of a vehicle damaged beyond repair, but you are most certainly trapped--your life hanging in the balance.

You are trapped by your sin. No matter how much or how sincerely you believe you do not need to be rescued, no matter how much you deny your present spiritual condition, you are trapped by your sin. Try as you might to free yourself through your good deeds, self-righteousness, religion, or denial of the truth, you remain trapped. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

Whenever I arrived first at the scene of a major traffic accident, my counsel to anyone trapped in a vehicle was, "Be still. Help is on the way." I say the same to you, now. Please be still and allow the "Jaws of Life"--in this case, the Law of God (The Ten Commandments)--to pry open your heart so that the Rescuer can save you.

Have you ever lied? Have you ever stolen anything, regardless of the value? Have you ever taken God's name in vain--using the name of the God who gave you life as a filthy, curse word or to express excitement or disgust? Have you ever looked at someone with lust, thus committing adultery in your heart? Have you ever hated someone, thus committing murder in your heart? If so, then by your own admission, you are a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterous, murderer at heart.

If you were to die today and stand before the holy, righteous God and Judge, He would find you guilty of breaking His Law. Finding you guilty, because He is good, God would sentence you to eternity in hell, as the just punishment for your sins against Him.

If this concerns you, then the "Jaws of Life" has done its job, having pried open your heart, making your rescue possible. And the only one who can rescue you is Jesus Christ.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believers in Him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

"He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).

"For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly . . . But God demonstrated His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6, 8).

God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ--fully God, while fully man. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He died a horrible, bloody death on the cross, taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your many sins against God. He paid the penalty you should pay--and will pay if He doesn't save you. God the Father poured out His wrath upon God the Son, allowing His only Son to be crushed under the weight of the Father's wrath, because of your sin. God is so very loving and good that He allowed this to happen to His Son so that you might be saved from His wrath and judgment.

Three days later, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus, therefore, defeated death. He is alive today and forevermore. He is the eternal King of kings and Lord of Lords.

So, what is required of you? Jesus said, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15).

You must repent. You must turn away from and forsake your sin. You must humble yourself and seek God's forgiveness. You must, by faith, put your trust and your faith in Jesus Christ alone to save you. "For it is by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Cry out to Him now. Confess your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. "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 . . . For whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:9, 13). "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is not other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Take one more look at the photo. What will you do? And where will you spend eternity?

"The Polar Plunge Prophecy" -- Why Good Hermeneutics is So Important

What follows is an e-mail conversation I had a few weeks ago with a concerned member of my community. Here’s the first e-mail I received from Jane (not her real name).

“I am an intercessor at [name of church] and I have, through prayer, been concerned that harm may be planned against the police and the Special Olympics by the gangs and their death threats that were reported in the news. I've met with chaplains for firemen and now with intercessors for the county this past weekend. Jeremiah 1 was given as a warning. These 30 people are praying for me and I got back to our area and saw the ad about the festival for the Castaic area. I also saw the article in The Signal about the Aryan Brotherhood. All these death threats towards the police and the simple-minded are bad and both groups [police and Special Olympics] that the gangs hate being at one location is big trouble for us here in the Santa Clarita Valley and Los Angeles. COULD YOU PLEASE CONTACT ME AND TELL ME WHAT YOU HAVE DONE IN RESPONSE TO THIS EMAIL?”

The event to which Jane was referring was a Special Olympic fundraiser called “The Polar Plunge”, which was sponsored and hosted by the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the local chapter of the Special Olympics organization. Event participants raised donations by collecting sponsors. Sponsors agreed to give a donation, the size of which would be determined by how many hours the participant spent in the frigid, 55-degree water of Castaic Lake.

This year marked the second year for the event. Last year’s effort raised $9,000.00 to support local and national Special Olympic activities.

Here’s my response to Jane’s e-mail:


“Thank you for sharing your concern.

“I’m not sure what you mean by saying, ‘Jeremiah 1 was given as a warning.’ Since Jeremiah 1, specifically verses 14-16, is a prophecy regarding the pending invasion of Judah by Babylon and her allies, I do not see how it could apply to ‘The Polar Plunge’ fundraiser event scheduled for March 10, in Castaic.

“While I will certainly join you in praying for the safety of all of the event participants and spectators, beyond that I'm not sure what more you would have me do in response to your message. If you have any tangible evidence that there is a specific threat against the event or event participants, I will gladly pass it along to the appropriate agencies.”

I could sense Jane’s frustration as I read her reply.

“Are you aware of the article in The Signal [about] the death threats to the police and their families? I know someone whose friend got one recently and she is a police wife. These men have gone to the courts to get their names and addresses off of the record and the gangs are hacking their addresses from credit card information.

“A lot of police live up here and I know that the Aryan Brotherhood hates the mentally retarded, and that they think that they should not live. You put these two groups of people in one place together and it is an opportunity for that twisted mindset to do something horrible.

“What I got from the Lord was a warning that disaster was on the way. A boiling pot or cauldron has liquid in it and so does the lake. And we are located in the north. I'm even checking the source of waterways to see if there could be bad industrial or pesticide-laden water there.

“I am new to all of this but I do know I was warned before the [brush] fires through Scripture. I can tell you that there are multiple prayer groups across the US that are praying about this right now that took it seriously.

“I took the towns of Judah to be like all the towns we have here: Valencia, Newhall, etc. If there is more I can help you with I’ll contact you. Thank you for responding.”

My response to Jane was as follows:


“I have served as a deputy sheriff and chaplain in this community for twenty years, so I am very aware of the inherent risks to officers and their families. With all due respect, your application of Jeremiah 1 to what you believe you heard from the Lord is a misinterpretation and misapplication of Scripture. You must be very careful not to take Scripture out of context. To force a meaning into Scripture is called eisegesis, which is the wrong way to approach Scripture. We should always practice exegesis when approaching the Word of God, which is to draw the true meaning from the text and to apply it in its proper context.

“Again, respectfully, Jeremiah 1 has nothing whatsoever to do with Castaic Lake, North Los Angeles County, mentally retarded people, police officers, and/or the Aryan Brotherhood. It is a specific prophecy about the pending attack upon Judah, by the Babylonians. The fact that you are misinterpreting and misapplying Jeremiah 1 should show you that what you have allegedly heard is not from the Lord, because He would not contradict His own Word. Please consider these things carefully.

“I am praying for you.”

While I had hoped that the conversation would continue, seeing it as I did—as an opportunity to disciple another believer, I am not surprised that I have not heard again from Jane. I have no doubt Jane was sincere. I have no doubt that Jane was well intentioned when she contacted me. I am likewise sure that Jane truly believed her own prophecy, which made her correspondences all the more troubling.

March 10th marked the day of the big event. A couple hundred participants, including community members, Special Olympians, and deputy sheriffs, took the plunge. By all accounts the day was a huge success. I personally talked to one of the event organizers and he said the event went off without a hitch. The community came out in force to support the participants and to enjoy a day at the lake. Whereas last year’s event raised $9,000 for Special Olympics, this year’s efforts raised more than $50,000!

The Polar Plunge Prophecy did not come to pass. It was a false prophecy.

I share this story, not for the purpose of debating whether or not the gift of prophecy (in its predictive, foretelling form) is operative today in the lives of Christians. Genuine followers of Jesus Christ are on both sides of the fence regarding the issue. The reason I share this story is that it serves as a prime example of what can happen when Christians, or anyone else for that matter, mishandle the Word of God.

Jeremiah 1:14-16 says, “Then the Lord said to me, ‘Out of the north the evil will break forth on all the inhabitants of the land. For behold, I am calling all the families of the kingdoms of the north,’ declares the Lord; ‘and they will come, and they will set each one his throne at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all its walls round about, and against all the cities of Judah. And I will pronounce My judgments on them concerning all their wickedness, whereby they have forsaken Me and have offered sacrifices to other gods, and worshiped the works of their own hands.’”

As I tried to explain to Jane, Jeremiah’s prophecy (which was fulfilled) dealt specifically with the invasion of the Babylonians and their allies against Judah. If Jane had looked at and studied the passage from a historical-grammatical perspective, she would not have associated an ancient, fulfilled prophecy with a 21st Century Special Olympics fundraiser, in Southern California.

Here are two very important terms for any serious student of the Bible. The first is to be applied by every student of the Word. The second is not. (The following definitions were taken from

Exegesis — a theological term used to describe an approach to interpreting a passage in the Bible by critical analysis. Proper exegesis includes using the context around the passage, comparing it with other parts of the Bible, and applying an understanding of the language and customs of the time of the writing, in an attempt to understand clearly what the original writer intended to convey. In other words, it is trying to “pull out” of the passage the meaning inherent in it.

Eisegesis — a theological term used to describe an approach to interpreting a passage in the Bible by “reading into” the passage a meaning that is not evident at all by the passage itself, or the context in which it appears in the Bible. Thus eisegesis is usually perceived as a negative term, and indicates that the person using the method of eisegesis is not being intellectually honest. Instead, he is coming to the passage with a pre-conceived notion on a particular doctrinal matter, and wishing to force the passage to fit that preconceived notion.

Here are some keys to help you avoid misinterpreting Scripture (This is not an exhaustive list, but it will help you to get started in the right direction.):

1. Observation. Begin your study of any verse or passage by answering three basic questions. What does the verse or passage actually say? What does the verse or passage not say? And what questions come to mind as a read this verse or passage? Good Bible study never begins with interpretation. It always begins with observation.

2. Near and Far Context. In order to rightly understand a verse or passage, the verse or passage must be interpreted in light of what is going on before and after the verse or passage in question. Begin by looking at the verses immediately before and after the verse or passage you are studying. Once you have done that, broaden your observation to the beginning of the chapter, and then to the entire book. How does the verse or passage you are studying fit into the overall theme of the book?

3. Let Scripture Interpret Scripture. God is not schizophrenic; and neither is His Book. God’s Word will not contradict itself. Cross-referencing is a good way to avoid taking select verses or passages and interpreting them in a vacuum. If your interpretation of Scripture contradicts other clear verses or passages, then you should be confident that the misunderstanding is on your end—not Scripture’s.

4. Interpret Historically. Ask the basic investigative questions. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How? Interpret a verse or passage in light of what the answers to these questions would have been at the time of the original writing. This is a mistake Jane made in her prophecy about the Polar Plunge.

5. Learn from Good Teachers. Once you have done the heavy lifting by opening the Word of God and studying it for yourself, turn to teachers who are known for rightly dividing the Word of God and see what they have to say (commentaries) about the verse or passage you are studying. Other resources that will be useful include biblical maps and charts, archaeological studies, etc.

6. Trust the Holy Spirit to Lead You. If you are a born-again follower of Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit as your helper. Trust Him, through prayer and meditation upon the Word of God, to reveal to you the right interpretation of Scripture. Keep in mind that the right interpretation of Scripture is not based on what you want to hear or believe, or your feelings. The right interpretation of Scripture is based on truth—God’s truth.

Here are some excellent resources to help you learn how to study the Bible.

1. Living By The Book, by Howard Hendricks

2. Evangelical Hermeneutics, by Robert Thomas

3. Basic Bible Interpretation, by Roy Zuck

4. Biblical Hermeneutics, by Milton Terry

5. How To Study the Bible, by John MacArthur

6. How To Study the Bible, by Richard Mayhue

Thursday, March 29, 2007

"I Don't Believe George Bush Exists"

Agnostic: "I don't believe God exists."

Christian: "Why."

Agnostic: "Well, look at the crusades. Look at how many people have been murdered over the centuries, in the name of religion. Look at people like Jim Jones and David Koresh who lead people to their death under the guise of Christianity. And I don't like what the Bible says about homosexuality. And look at all of the violence and evil in the world."

Christian: "So, that's your evidence to prove that God doesn't exist?"

Agnostic: "Yeah. I think that shows that God does not exist."

Christian: "Hmm. Well, I don't believe George Bush exists."

Agnostic: "What?!"

Christian: "That's right. I don't believe George Bush exists."

Agnostic: "How can you say that? Of course George Bush exists."

Christian: "Nope. I don't think so. Women abort their babies. Illegal aliens continually cross our borders. The war in Iraq isn't going as well as I hoped. And Tony Snow (George Bush's press secretary) was just diagnosed with a reoccurrence of cancer. Why should I believe that George Bush exists with all of that going on."

Agnostic: "That doesn't make any sense. What does abortion, illegal immigration, the war in Iraq, and someone being diagnosed with cancer have to do with the existence of George Bush?"

Christian: "Well, because these things are happening, I think that proves George Bush doesn't exist."

Agnostic: "That's ridiculous! Of course George Bush exists. It doesn't matter that women are having abortions, or that illegal aliens are entering the country, or that the war in Iraq isn't going well, or that Tony Snow has cancer."

Christian: "So are you saying that my opinion about these things, or the existence of these things has nothing to do with whether or not George Bush exists?"

Agnostic: "That's right."

Christian: "Then how can you say, with any assurance, God doesn't exist? Just because there are negative things happening in the world, and just because the Bible says things you don't like, doesn't prove God doesn't exist. Your opinion about the world, your opinion about the Bible, and your opinion about how God should respond to what is taking place in the world will never serve as evidence for the non-existence of God."

Agnostic: "I've never thought about it that way."

Christian: "So, since God does exist, in spite of the evil you see in the world around you, have you ever thought about what is going to happen to you when you die?

Agnostic: "Well, if God does exist, I hope I will go to heaven."

Christian: "Do you think you need to be a good person to go to heaven?"

Agnostic: "I'm sure that has something to do with it."

Christian: "Would you consider yourself to be a good person?"

Agnostic: "Yes, I would."

Christian: "Would it be all right if I asked you a few questions to see if that's true?"

Agnostic: "Sure."


You need not be a scientist or a scholar to dismantle the beliefs of an agnostic. Common sense and simple reason will do just fine. The goal, of course, is not to win an intellectual argument, but to transition the conversation from the natural realm to the spiritual--to move the discussion from the intellect to the conscience. Once you've made the transition, take the person through the Law (the Ten Commandments), using the method found in the Good Person Test. If they are at all humbled by the Law, then share with them the gospel of God's amazing grace.

You needn't be afraid of agnostics or professing atheists. Yes, they may be smarter than you (or maybe not). But even if they are smarter than you, you are infinitely better armed than they are. You know the Truth. So, speak the Truth in love. And remember: the Lord has not given you, the Christian, a spirit of fear. Rather, He has given you a spirit of power, and love, and discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).

(I would like to thank my friend, Todd Friel, for first sharing this analogy on Way of the Master Radio. The above is an expansion of his analogy.)

Now, go share your faith.....while you still have time.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lunch Hour at the Mall

My brother-in-law, Ian, is a traffic engineer for our city. Like me, Ian, enjoys sharing the gospel with lost souls. Instead of downing a ham & cheese sandwich for lunch, Ian decided to spend his lunch hour with me, fishing for souls at our local mall.

We had several good conversations, the last of which was was with a group of teens in the food court. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager?

You have? Okay. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager who claimed to be a Marxist?

You have? Okay. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager who claimed to be a Marxist and a deist--someone who believes God exists but is uninvolved in the affairs of the world and of men?

You have? Okay. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager who claimed to be a Marxist, a deist, and a theistic evolutionist--someone who believes that God initiated creation, but then evolution took over?

You have? Okay. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager who claimed to be a Marxist, a deist, a theistic evoluntionist, and a person who believed that truth was relative--not absolute?

You have? Really! Okay. Have you ever shared the gospel with a teenager who claimed to be a Marxist, a deist, a theistic evolutionist, who believed that truth was relative--not absolute, and had a somewhat smug attitude?

You haven't? That's okay. Neither had I...before I met this young lady.

A young man in the group professed to be very religious. He was friendly, but rather self-righteous. Another young man in the group claimed to be a Christian who disagrees with what the Bible says about homosexuality.

What began as a silly offer to win a $5 gift card to "In-n-Out Burgers," became a 20-minute conversation in which Ian and I talked to the teens about evolution, the Big Bang Theory, truth, science and the Bible, the Law, and the Gospel.

Click here to listen to the entire conversation. There were disagreements (certainly), but no arguments. The Law and the Gospel was preached. Ian and I used a number of analogies. And pay particular attention to how Ian uses the imagery of a dismantled clock to dismantle our Marxist, deist, evolutionist's view of things.

What I hope you will take away from listening to this conversation is that no matter what someone may throw at you, so long as you stand on the truth--the Law and the Gospel--you can survive conversations like this. Not only can you survive, but you can effectively leave your listeners questioning their faulty belief systems and, in their place, plant spiritual seeds the Lord could use to draw unsaved sinners to Himself.

He Is In The Presence Of The Lord

Sergeant John O'Neil (LASD, Centurion Fellowship) was ushered into the presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, on Friday, March 16, at approximately 1415 hours. John's wife, Cindy, and their two adult children, Sean and Lindsay, were joined by family and friends at John's bedside, as he began his eternal life with our great God and King.

I count it a great honor and privilege to have known John in this life; and I look forward to seeing him in the life to come. John was a man who loved the Lord deeply, who loved his wife and children passionately and sacrifically, who cherished prayer and fellowship, and who deeply cared for other people. I knew John to be not only a gentleman, but a gentle man. My one regret is that I did not meet John sooner than I did. But thanks be to God that I was blessed to call John my friend, my brother in Christ, and my brother behind the badge.

John and his family have taught me a great deal over the last several years. They have served as godly examples of faith, worship, prayer, courage, peace, and love. While I am sure they all experienced moments of fallibility during the long ordeal now graciously at an end, if they ever showed such human fraility in my presence I cannot remember, because it was utterly overshadowed by the obvious fruits of the Spirit so often exhibited in their lives.

While I was not blessed with the honor of being at John's bedside when he went home, I did experience the love, warmth, care, and worship that enveloped John and filled his room the day prior to his home going. Yes, many tears were shed that day. But the sorrow was for one another--the family and many friends John would leave behind. Thoughts of John, on the other hand, were filled with joy and anticipation, because we were all supremely confident about John's destination--heaven.

Never a somber song played on the stereo. Only worship music filled the air. And it wasn't long before the music coming from the stereo served merely as background vocals for the voices of the people singing in the room. The Bible's command to pray without ceasing was not only believed, but obeyed. Throughout the day people could be seen (if not also heard) praying, both inside and outside John's room. In a day and age when "church" can mean so many different things--many of which are unbiblical, the Book of Acts was alive and well in John's room. The Body of Christ could be seen as it should be seen--living as it should live, worshiping as it should worship, caring as it should care, and loving as it should love.

Please join me in continuing to pray for Cindy, Sean, and Lindsay, and John's extended family. Pray for all of those who have been impacted by John's life, faith, courage, and physical death. Pray for the many seeds planted in the hearts and minds of unbelievers who knew John and who may now be asking significant questions about their own mortality. Pray that every Christian who knew John will follow in his evangelistic footsteps--using John's gallant fight and entrance into eternity as an occasion to present the Law and the Gospel with lost and dying souls. May the Lord Jesus Christ be glorified in it and through it all.

John is in the presence of the Lord, now. As Cindy and I mused more than once the other day, since "with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day," we will see John "in just a minute."

See you in a minute, my brother.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Preaching at the Auto Parts Store

Michelle (my eldest daughter) and I went to an auto parts store this morning. Those who know me well know that I have no business being in an auto parts store. I am not, shall we say, mechanically inclined. But, for those of you who might worry about such things, fear not. I was in the store to purchase an item for my daughter's car that requires no assembly, no special training or certification to use, and it is not used to repair anything.

Michelle and I approached the counter to make our purchase where Bob greeted us. As Bob rang up our purchase he repeatedly glanced at my T-Shirt (see photo).

My good friend and fellow evangelism team leader, Jerry Parker, designed this particular T-shirt. Pictured on my T-shirt were several $5 bills and the following text:"Are you a good person? Pass a 3-question test and I'll give you 5 bucks cash, right now, on the spot! This is not a joke."

"So, what's the test?" Bob asked."It's the good person test." I answered."Can I give it a shot?" Bob asked.

"Sure! Would you consider yourself to be a good person?" I asked.

I must admit, I was a bit surprised by Bob's interest. He was the first person to ever inquire about the test, after reading my T-shirt. I have worn the shirt several times and have looked forward to using it to initiate spiritual conversations with strangers. Needless to say, wearing such a T-shirt requires the other person to take the first step toward a conversation. It probably wouldn't work well if I walked around asking people, out of the blue, to read my T-shirt.

"Yeah. I think I'm a good person." Bob answered.I began the conversation by asking Bob if he was familiar with the Ten Commandments. With the help of another store employee who overheard our conversation and was curious, Bob named seven of the Ten Commandments. I praised his effort, since most people can only name two or three.

I asked Bob if he thought he had been able to keep the Commandments. He said that he thought he had."Bob, have you ever told a lie?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered."If you tell a lie, what does that make you?" I asked.

"A sinner." He answered with a smile on his face.

"True." I said. "But, more specifically, if I were to lie to you, you would say, 'Tony, you're a...'"

"A liar." He answered.

"Have you ever stolen anything?" I asked."Yes." He answered.

"So, if you have stolen something, what does that make you?" I asked.

"A Thief." He answered.

"That's right. Have you ever taken God's name in vain—meaning you have used His name to express disgust or excitement?" I asked.

"Yes I have." He answered."That's called blasphemy. In fact, the Bible says that the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." I said.

I could tell by the look on Bob's face that he had an idea where the conversation was going. Wanting to be sensitive to the fact that I was talking to Bob while he was working, I said, "Bob, I don't want to interfere with your work. So, we can end the conversation whenever you need to."

"How would you define adultery?" I asked.

"Cheating on your spouse." He answered.

"That's true. But Jesus actually said, 'Everyone who looks on a woman to lust for her has committed adultery with her already in his heart.' Have you ever looked at a woman with lust?" I asked.

"Yes." Bob answered with a chuckle.

"So, Bob, by your own admission, you are a lying, thieving, blasphemous, adulterer at heart. Does that sound like a good person to you?" I asked.

"No it doesn't." He answered.

"Well, Bob, you didn't pass the good person test." I said. "I can't pass the test either. I'm guilty of breaking God's Law, just as you are.

"Now, here's where it gets a bit more serious." I continued. "If God judges, using the Ten Commandments (His Law) as His standard; if you were to die today and stand before God, would He find you innocent or guilty of breaking His Law?" I asked.

"I would be guilty." He answered.

"And if God finds you guilty of breaking His Law, do you think you would go to heaven or hell?" I asked.

"Well, I hope I would still go to heaven." He answered.

"I'm sure you would like to go to heaven. But based on God's standard of the Ten Commandments, where do you think you would go?" I asked.

"Based on that standard, I would go to hell." He answered.

"Does that concern you?" I asked.

"Yes it does." He answered.

"Do you know what God did so that you might not face eternity in hell?" I asked.

"He sacrificed His life." He answered."That's right." I affirmed. "Bob, have you ever been in a courtroom?" I asked.

"No." He answered.

"But you're familiar with what goes on in a courtroom, right?" I asked.

"Yes." He answered.

"Let's say that just as you've admitted to breaking God's Law, you break man's law. You are caught. You confess to committing the crime. And the evidence is against you. You're guilty. You're standing before the judge on the day of sentencing. The judge looks at you and says, 'Bob, you're guilty of breaking the law. The just sentence for your crime is a one-million-dollar fine or life in prison.' Could you possibly pay a one-million-dollar fine?" I asked.

"No." He answered.

"Neither could I. The fine is beyond what I could ever pay." I said. "So, the judge is about to send you to prison for the rest of your life, when someone walks into the courtroom—someone you have never met.

"The man walks up to the judge's bench and puts one million dollars on the judge's bench. He looks at the judge and says, 'Your Honor, I've sold everything I own. I've given up everything and I've raised one million dollars. Because I love Bob, I want to pay his fine. Please let him go.'

“The judge looks at the payment, and then he looks at you. You’re still guilty of breaking the law. That hasn’t changed. But the judge sees that your fine has been paid. Justice has been served. The law has been satisfied. The judge says to you, ‘Bob, your fine has been paid. You’re free to go.’

“Bob, would that be good news to you?” I asked.

“Yes it would.” He answered.

“What would you think of the person who did that for you?” I asked.

“I would be grateful.” He answered.

“Bob, that’s what God did.” I said. “God came to earth in the person of Jesus Christ—fully God, while, at the same time, fully man. He lived a perfect, sinless life. And He died a bloody, horrible death on the cross, taking upon Him the punishment you deserve for breaking God’s Law. He paid the fine you should pay for every time you have lied, stolen, blasphemed the name of the God who gave you life, committed adultery, and for any other sin you have committed against God. Three days later He rose from the grave and He is alive today.

“But it’s not enough to simply believe these facts in your head. Have you ever been on a plane?” I asked.

“Yes.” He answered.

“Think of it this way. You and I are on a plane. The pilot comes over the speaker and says that the plane’s engines have lost power and that the plane is going to crash. He tells us that we are going to have to jump out of the plane and that there are parachutes under our seats.

“We look under our seats and we find the parachutes. We believe they are there. We are happy that they are there. The plane drops to about 10,000 feet. The doors open and we are told to jump for our lives. I put my parachute on. You don’t put your parachute on. We both jump out of the plane. Which one of us is going to survive the jump?” I asked.

“You are.” Bob answered.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because you put on the parachute.” He answered.

“And that’s what it means to have a genuine, saving faith in Jesus Christ.” I said. “In order to be saved from receiving the just penalty for your sins, which is eternity in hell, you must put on the Lord Jesus Christ the same way you would put on a parachute—trusting Him to save your life, the way you would trust a parachute to open when you jump out of the plane.

“Bob, you need to turn from your sins. This is called repentance. You need to turn from your sins and, by faith, put your trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. You will never be good enough to earn or deserve God’s grace and mercy. Neither will I. No one is. Trying to be a good person won’t save you. Going to church and doing good works won’t save you. Only Jesus Christ can save you. Bob, I don’t want you to go to hell.

“The promise is this. If you turn from your sins and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, instead of receiving what you deserve when you stand before God—which is eternity in hell, you will receive what you don’t deserve—which is His grace and mercy, and eternity with Him in heaven.”

I reached into my back pocket a removed a tract wallet that was given to me by my friend, Ray Comfort. Inside the wallet I keep $1 and $5 bills, along with billion-dollar gospel tracts. I pulled out a $5 bill and handed it to Bob.

“Bob, you didn’t pass the good person test. No one can. I know I certainly can’t pass the test.” I said. “But just to show you that I’m not playing games with you, I want you to have this $5 bill. It’s an example of grace. The definition of grace is receiving something you don’t deserve, something you haven’t earned. It’s a free gift. Likewise, salvation is a free gift.”

I also removed a billion dollar gospel tract from my tract wallet and handed it to Bob. “And thanks a billion for talking to me today. You will find much of what we have talked about, on the back of the tract.”

We shook hands and said good-bye. As Michelle and I walked out of the auto parts store, I noticed that several of the store employees and customers had been listening to my conversation with Bob. Michelle and I walked to our car praising God—thanking Him for the opportunity to preach the gospel in an auto parts store.

Pray that Bob, and anyone else who heard the preaching of the Law and the Gospel, will be drawn by the Holy Spirit, to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Way of the Master Radio (03-12-07)

Marissa (my 17-year-old daughter) and I, once again, spent the afternoon at the Valencia Town Center. We had are line in the water, but the fish just weren't biting. But, as He always does, the Lord provided someone to talk to Ray and Todd on-air.

Due to an important on-air phone conversation with a self-admitted homosexual, Ray and Todd had time for only one "street fishing" segment.

Today's "street fishing" segment guest was Kristy. Kristy works at the Hollywood Video kiosk in the Valencia Town Center. I met Kristy a couple of months ago while "street fishing." She was willing, at the time, to go on-air; but her job duties kept her from participating. I thank God that I saw her again today. I was so thankful to find someone to put on the phone, I promised Kristy a $5 In-n-Out Burger gift card as a "thank you" for participating.

Kristy is married and is five months pregnant with her first child. She learned just a few days ago that she is expecting a baby boy. She told me that she believes people go to heaven. She also said she believes in Jesus. She honestly added that she is not sure why she believes the way she does.

I encourage you to listen to Ray's conversation with Kristy. Although the conversation never became adversarial, listen closely and hear how Kristy's tone of voice changes when Ray gently confronts her with the Law and the Word of God. Ray quickly and seamlessly overcomes her objection regarding the reliability of the Scriptures.

By the end of the conversation, Kristy still believed she would go to heaven. As I always do, I asked Kristy how the phone conversation went. She thought it went very well. She said that she appreciated the conversation because she has no friends or family members with whom she can discuss spiritual matters.

I spent some time, in between customers visiting Kristy's kiosk, further explaining the Law and the Gospel, and reiterating the courtroom analogy Ray shared with her. I gave her a copy of Ray's book, How To Live Forever Without Being Religious. I pointed out that the book contained the Gospel of John and encouraged her to read it. She said she would.

I told Kristy that I would be praying for her and her baby (and I encourage you to do the same). As promised, I gave her the In-n-Out Burgers gift card. I also bought a few DVD's, hoping she would see care for her in the gesture.

Since Kristy works at one of my regular fishing ponds, I told her I would stop by and say "hello" from time to time. I will share any significant updates regarding Kristy's spiritual condition.

It was another good day of fishing.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Behind the Scenes of Way of the Master Radio (03-06-07)

I thought it was going to be a slow day of "street fishing", as evidenced by this little turtle Amanda (my 12-year-old) and I saw walking across the walkway warmed by the mid-day sun. But, as the Lord always does, He provided us with plenty of fish from which to choose, at the Calabasas Commons.

Johnny was the phone guest for the first hour of the show. Johnny told me he was raised in an Islamic home, but he had long since turned his back on that religion. He very recently read a book by Deepak Chopra and was thinking seriously about spiritual things.

Following Johnny's conversation with Ray and Todd, I had a good follow-up conversation with Johnny and his two friends. Listen to the conversation. Pay particular attention to one of Johnny's friends who appears to be humbled by the Law. The other friend is clearly not. Johnny is still undecided.

Our phone guest for the second hour was Caesar. Caesar had come the the Calabasas Commons looking for a job. It took the offer of a $5 gift card to "In-n-Out Burgers" to get Caesar on the phone. The phone conversation was very short, due to on-air time constraints. Listen in, as I take Caesar through the Law and the Gospel.

Caesar was a fairly humble young man. When I talked to him about Christ's sacrifice on the cross, I asked him if he would allow his 2-year-old daughter to be crucified to save my life. His eyes opened very wide and he was quick to say no. With Amanda by my side, I told Caesar that I would allow him to die if the only way to save his life was to sacrifice my daughter on the cross. The Law and the Gospel seemed to make more sense to Caesar after hearing the analogy.

It was yet another good day of "street fishing."

Sunday, March 04, 2007

"Lord, Please, I Don't Want To Kill Him."

It was anything but just another Friday night at the Burbank Town Center. The evening began normal enough. The team was blessed with several new participants, including a few men from my home church who recently participated in a Way of the Master One-Day Training Seminar, which I led. We opened with prayer and then I immediately climbed atop the stool to open-air preach.

The crowd was light, but I was able to draw a crowd with the offer of stuffed animals for the right answer to simple trivia questions. I had two silent hecklers during the first open-air session. I use the word “silent” to describe them because they heckled me by walking up to the stool and dropping at my feet the stuffed animals they won just a few minutes earlier. The look of disgust on their faces told me their dislike was not for the stuffed animals, but for the message and the messenger. “And you will be hated by all on account of My name” (Luke 21:17).

Despite the returned teddy bears, a number of people heard the preaching of the Law and the Gospel. Following the open-air preaching, the team divided into groups of twos and threes and moved about the public square and the surrounding streets, looking for opportunities to engage people in conversation.

About an hour later, I decided to preach again. The crowd was larger and louder this time. A significant number of “wannabe” gang members, kids who are in the area every weekend, were part of the crowd. They were profane and sarcastic. They were both the best and the worst hecklers I’ve had in a while.

One young man who was not numbered among the hecklers agreed to take the “Good Person Test.” I took the young man through the Law and he expressed a level of concern about his spiritual condition and his eternal destination, apart from Jesus Christ. Right as I began to share the gospel of grace with the young man and the rest of the crowd, another man stepped forward and stood shoulder to shoulder with the young man. The young man was so uncomfortable with the stranger’s presence that he moved several feet away.

The man’s clothes were dirty and disheveled. Several of his front teeth were missing. His eyes were wild and his glare was filled with hate. He held a metal lighter in his right hand. As he stared at me, he repeatedly and forcefully flung open the lighter, lit the flame, and closed the lighter. He handled the lighter as if it was a switchblade knife. “And you will be hated by all on account of My name.”

I could feel my pulse quicken as I stood on the stool. I quickly scanned the crowd. I found my two daughters. Okay. They’re fine. I thought. I could see that several of the men on the team, who were dispersed throughout the crowd, were alerted to the man’s presence. My friend, Mike Dunagan, took up a position next to the man. My girls were safe. I had “back-up” in the crowd. I continued to preach the gospel.

The man grew more agitated with each word I spoke. “I want to talk to you!” He insisted. I told him that I would talk to him in a minute. “No. You’ll talk to me now!” He said.

I looked at him and said, “No. I will talk to you in a minute.” He continued to murmur, trying to get my attention. I ignored him and continued to preach the gospel. When I finished preaching the gospel, I turned to the man and asked him if he had a question.

The man extended his bare forearms. Even from a distance, I could see numerous deep scratches running from the crease in his arms to his wrists. The wounds were at various stages of healing and were obviously self-inflicted with a knife or razor. “Is it a sin to cut yourself?” The man asked with anger and resentment in his voice.

I explained to the man that since we were created in the image of God, it is sinful to intentionally mutilate or otherwise injure the jewel of His creation. He wasn’t happy with the answer. Then again, I don’t think he was looking for an answer. He was looking for an argument.

After I answered a few more questions from the crowd, I stepped off the stool and approached the man. The crowd, which included the disrespectful and obstinate group of teens, closed in around us. The air grew tense and electric. I had seen this kind of gathering many times before. More often than not, it was while working patrol having been called to the scene of a street or bar fight. Most of the people at such scenes were curious bystanders or instigators taking the side of the person willing to throw the first punch.

“Do you have a question?” I politely asked the man.

“Do you believe Jesus is God?” He asked. The man’s chest was heaving. His nostrils were flared. He was shaking, slightly.

“Yes I do.” I answered.

“No he’s not!” The man exclaimed. “Who is the god of this world? It’s not Jesus!”

“Oh, you want me to say that Satan is God.” I said. “Satan is not God. He is not omniscient. He is not omnipresent. He is not all-powerful. He is a created being.”

“I’ll bet you your soul!” The man growled.

“I’m not gambling with you. I’m not betting anything. What I just told you is true.” I asserted.

“How do you know that?” He protested.

“I know it is true because the Bible is true.” I answered.

“Well, I don’t believe the Bible!” He said.

“I can see that.” I answered.

“I believe in the Satanic Bible. I worship Satan!” He said.

“That’s unfortunate.” I said. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

“I’ll bet you your soul!” The man said.

“I am not going to gamble my soul with you. My soul doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to Jesus Christ. I am His.” I answered.

It took every ounce of strength (a strength that was not my own) to maintain a calm demeanor. As I talked to the man I did several things. The most important thing I did was pray. I also assessed the situation from a law enforcement perspective. “Lord, I hope this man doesn’t pull out a knife and stab me in front of my girls. Is this the day You will allow me to suffer and die for my faith? If I have to take this man down in front of all of these people, both the profane and the curious, they will use it to say, ‘Aha! See. You’re a hypocrite. We can’t believe what you’re saying to us.’ Lord, please, I don’t want to kill him.”

Yes, I was concerned that I might have to kill the man. Since I was unarmed, I planned in my mind how I would disarm the man if he produced a weapon and how, if necessary, I would use the man’s weapon against him to stop the threat.

The police officer must constantly role-play every conceivable scenario in his or her head. Even though he or she is well aware that they can’t anticipate every possible set of circumstances, they have to be ready for anything. So, as I prayed asking the Lord to give me wisdom, discernment, Scripture, a calm demeanor, and physical safety, I was also formulating a plan for stopping the threat if the man decided to attack me. If necessary, I would kill him to stop the threat.

I purposefully do not carry my firearm when I go out witnessing. The reasons are philosophical, not necessarily doctrinal. For me, it’s a matter of conscience. That being said, it certainly wouldn’t be sinful for me to carry my firearm since I can do so lawfully and biblically (Romans 13:1-5), as a sworn police officer.

However, knowing my own heart, knowing that I possess the “on-duty 24/7” mindset of a police officer, my concern is that by carrying my firearm when witnessing I run the risk of prematurely turning to a weapon in the physical world to handle a deteriorating set of circumstances when I should continue to do battle in the spiritual realm. There is a reason why II Corinthians 10:4 is the cornerstone verse of Ten-Four Ministries. It’s not because it contains the numbers 10-4 (although that’s nice). Rather, it’s because of what the verse says.

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (11 Cor. 10:3-5).

“Then I’ll take your soul!” The man said.

“You’re not taking anything. You can’t take my soul. My soul belongs to Jesus Christ. He is my Lord and Savior.” I proclaimed.

The man continued his barrage of profanity and blasphemy and walked a short distance away. I looked at the crowd and asked, “What do you think about what you are hearing! This is serious! Do you not care about where you will spend eternity?” I asked. I no longer had the elevation of my stool, and I was completely surrounded by people.

Some defiantly shouted that they didn’t care. Others had looks of concern on their faces. So, I approached those who showed their concern with their facial expressions and silence, and shared the Law and the Gospel with them.

Moments later, the man returned, even more agitated than during our previous conversation. “So, why is there so much war in the world?” He demanded.

“There is so much war in the world because every man is sinful. Man chooses to war with his fellow man. Every person is responsible for his or her own sin, and every person will give an account on the Day of Judgment, before a holy, righteous, and good God.” I answered.

“Who was the first man to sin?” He asked.

“Adam.” I answered. And because of the sin of Adam, every person is born with a sin nature. We are all sinful, myself included.”

“You’re a liar! You just lied!” He said. “Eve was the first person to sin.”

“You’re right.” I said. “Eve was the first person to sin, and Adam was the first man to sin.

“You lied! You lied!” The man shouted.

“I didn’t lie.” I said. “But it doesn’t matter whether or not it was Adam or Eve who sinned first. What matters right now is where you are going to spend eternity. Because I care about you, my hope is that you will repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. I don’t want you to go to hell.”

“I don’t care!” The man shouted. “I’m going to hell and I’m going to heaven. And when I get to hell, I’m going to kick Satan’s butt. And when I get to heaven, I’m going to kick God’s butt.”

The man angrily walked away, with many of the teens following him. He walked over to a nearby light pole and intentionally and repeatedly slammed his head into the pole. He then began to hold his lighter close to his mouth and started spewing large flames from his mouth.

The man disappeared for a while, only to return wearing a long, black, Matrix-esque trench coat and very dark sunglasses. He stood at the far end of the square with his feet shoulder’s width apart and his hands folded in front of his waist. He stood there motionless, staring at us as we engaged people in conversation.

We all kept a close eye on him. Now that he was wearing a trench coat, I wondered if he had gone somewhere to retrieve a weapon, such as a shotgun, and was concealing it under the coat. Fortunately, the man did not approach us again, and he left the area for good about fifteen minutes later.

It was a very intense situation. But the Lord was glorified through it all. The Law and the Gospel went forth in spite of the physical threat and the spiritual warfare that had taken place. The Lord allowed a profane and disturbed man to draw the largest crowd of the evening, which allowed us to preach the gospel to the many people. In fact, the best conversation I had that night came after my confrontation with the man—a man who was either mentally ill, intoxicated, demon possessed, or a combination of any of the three.

You can click here to listen to a wonderful evangelism opportunity with a group of people, among which was a young man named Daniel who would eventually ask, “So how do I put on the parachute?”

It was a great night of fishing.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Word from Martyn Lloyd-Jones

One of my favorite preachers is D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. If you are interested in learning about the life and ministry of one of the great men of God, of the 20th Century, I highly recommend Iain Murray's two volume biography. (The cover of Volume 2 is pictured here.)

From time to time, I am going to share quotes from the good doctor. The following passage is quoted in the before-mentioned volume and originally appeared in Lloyd-Jones' work, Preaching. Here the doctor recounts an opportunity he had to preach at Oxford University, in 1941.

It fell to my lot to preach on the Sunday night, the first service of the mission, in the famous pulpit of John Henry Newman--afterwards Cardinal Newman -- in St. Mary's Church, where he preached while he was still in the Church of England. It was, of course, chiefly a congregation of students. I preached to them as I would have preached anywhere else. It had been arranged, and announced, that if people had any questions to put to me, an opportunity would be given to them if they retired to another building at the back of the church after the service had ended. So the vicar and I went along expecting just a few people. But we found the place packed out. The vicar took the chair and asked if there were any questions. Immediately a bright young man sitting in the front row got up and said that he had a question to put; and he proceeded to put it with all the grace and polish characteristic of a union debater. He paid the preacher some compliments and said that he had much enjoyed the sermon; but there was one great difficulty and perplexity left in his mind as the result of the sermon. He really could not see but that the sermon might not equally well have been delivered to a congregation of farm labourers or anyone else. He then immediately sat down. The entire company roared with laughter. The chairman turned to me for my reply. I rose and gave what must always be the reply to such an attitude. I said that I was most interested in the question, but really could not see the questioner's difficulty; because, I confessed freely, that though I might be a heretic, I had to admit that until that moment I had regarded undergraduates and indeed graduates of Oxford University as being just ordinary common human clay and miserable sinners like everybody else, and held the view that their needs were precisely the same as those of the agricultural labourer or anyone else. I had preached as I had done quite deliberately! This again provoked a good deal of laughter and even cheering; but the point was that they appreciated what I was saying, and gave me a most attentive hearing from there on. There is no greater fallacy than to think that you need a gospel for special types of people.

Amen, doctor! The note I wrote in the margin of the book, next to the above passage was this. "One gospel for every man. Amen!" What was true sixty-five years ago is still true today. There is only one gospel, and that gospel should be preached just as Jesus and the apostles preached it--straight. The gospel is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), and it doesn't need our help. Everyone who hears the gospel is, as the doctor said, "ordinary common human clay and [a] miserable sinner like everybody else."

Therefore, the gospel does not need to be presented in a more scholarly manner for the intellectual. It does not need to be presented with theatrics for those who need to be entertained. It does not need to be watered down for the angry man or the skeptic. It does not need to be presented with an apology for the person once taken advantage of by false religions or false converts. And it should not be presented with the promise of life-enhancement, with the hope of gathering decisions.

It should be preached as Jesus preached it. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). To the intellectual, preach the Law and grace--repentance and faith. To the bored and lethargic, preach the Law and grace--repentance and faith. To the angry man and the skeptic, preach the Law and grace--repentance and faith. To the religious and irreligious, preach the Law and grace--repentance and faith. To the happy and the sad, to the rich and the poor, preach the Law and grace--repentance and faith. "There is no greater fallacy than to think that you need a gospel for special types of people."