Tag Archives: Bus stops

Nick Speaks of Jesus on the Streets: The Story and the Lesson

Nick is the lead worshipper at GFC Don Mills, but more importantly, he deeply loves Jesus and is committed to following him.  Below he shares a really cool story about his experience of speaking about Jesus when he came out with me two weeks ago.

Friday night

Paul, Ricardo and I went out on Friday night to speak to people about Jesus. As is Paul’s custom, we walked around different bus stops to speak with anyone who was willing. We had a few good conversations but one that stood out to us was with a young man. Let’s call him Tim though that’s not his real name.

We met a man at the bus stop

Paul and I approached Tim (Ricardo stayed behind to pray) and told him what we were all about. We introduced ourselves by name and informed him that we were members at a church in the area and wanted to speak with people about Jesus. Paul began by asking him if he had any religious background. He told us that his mom was a Christian but he characterized her devotion as “moderate”.

Asking questions

Then Paul asked Tim about himself a little bit. “What are you doing?” Paul said. He responded by telling us that he was on his way home from work. Paul continued, “What kind of work do you do?” “Customer service,” Tim responded. At that point I broke my way into the conversation. “Do you get yelled at a lot?” I asked. “Yeah,” Tim laughed. I pushed the conversation a little further, “In this line of work do you see how messed up people can be?”

So began our conversation.

People are messed up

Tim agreed that some people are indeed messed up; but then he said that some people aren’t all that bad. In fact, he said that some people are good. In some ways Tim was right. People are made in the image of God and they do retain some of the good-ness that God created us with; but I told Tim that it’s interesting that you usually never meet anyone who thinks they are bad themselves. It is usually “other people” who are the problem.  He agreed at that point and said, “Yeah, we tend toward an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.” I wanted him to see that “we” are all part of the problem and not just “them,” so I asked him, “Tim if the world was filled with people just like you, do you think that all the world’s problems would disappear?” He said, “Probably not.”

The story of the Bible and its climax

I proceeded to tell Tim the story of the Bible and the climax of that story. It went something like this: Our world has been utterly destroyed by sin and we need a King who can put the world right. God promised that one day he would send his King and this is exactly what we read about in the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Jesus came into the world, in fulfilment of God’s promises, pushing back against sin and all of its effects. That’s why we see him healing diseases, forgiving sins, calming storms, casting out demons and even raising the dead. Jesus eventually died on the cross and rose again so that we ourselves could be forgiven of our sin and included in God’s kingdom. One day Jesus will return and make everything right. The thing about it, though, is if God is going to make the world right and rid the world of sin something has to be done about us. That means either forgiveness or judgement.”

The challenge

Afterwards, Paul challenged Tim. He asked him what he thought about this and if he ever thinks about these things. Tim told us honestly that he has always been indifferent to Jesus. He said that he’s indifferent towards a lot of things.

Our conversation continued for a while (he let three buses go by while we were speaking). He asked some good questions regarding the centrality of God and the importance of the gospel of Luke (We had copies that we were giving out). We let him know that the gospel tells the story of Jesus and is a good place to start but that the entire bible is God’s inspired word. Paul even had the chance to speak with him about Genesis 1-3.

This was an encouraging encounter. Tim was interested, open and honest. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again but I hope that he bows his knee to King Jesus and is welcomed into the life of the age to come.  Pray for him.

Five lessons learned:

1)      Talking about Jesus brings us joy: As I was speaking to Tim about Jesus I found that I myself was getting excited about Jesus. I began thinking, “Wow! This really is good news!”

2)      Seeing the gospels as the Gospel makes Christianity incredibly relevant to people:  There are many stories in the gospels about all sorts of people from all sorts of different walks of life. In Tony’s case he works in customer service. This is a career where one is continually yelled at and made to feel small. There are plenty of stories in the gospels about people who are “made to feel small” and how Jesus meets those people where they are. Ultimately, we see how Jesus came into the world to bring God’s kingdom and solve the systemic problem of sin that causes all the problems we encounter.

3)      Just be yourself and talk about Jesus: Evangelistic “schemes” can be incredibly helpful at times (I know I’ve benefited from them at times) but it’s important to just be yourself. We are talking to human beings not robots. Talk to people where they are at and then talk about Jesus. You don’t need a PhD in Missions to do that. Although evangelism can be hard work at times it can also be really fun when we are ourselves.

4)      Pray: God is in control and can soften people’s hearts. We need to plead with God that he would do just that and that he would lead us to those whom he wills.

5)      Worship: Evangelism is worship. Whether you experience a Tim or a person who wants nothing to do with you God is glorified when Jesus is proclaimed.

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Day 19: I Blew It!

Exactly a month ago, I was at a bus stop talking to an elderly man about God. He told me that he’s not really into the Bible but that he’s got his own version of God (and that he’s quite comfortable with that). He was a kind man and quite fond of God’s kindness to him. Let me explain.

God’s kindness

He assured me that he’s on good terms with God. He told me about a couple of serious accidents that he endured and, with God’s help, fully recovered from. He acknowledged that it was God who kept him and helped him recover. As far as he was concerned, he didn’t need God’s mercy; God’s smile was upon him.

Time for me to speak

I listened to him for a while. And after he shared, I sensed the boldness of God to share some words from Jesus. I wanted to share what Jesus said about God being kind to the wicked. Indeed, God’s kindness is not a full proof indication that one is on good terms with God. So I told him, “You know what, everything you’re sharing makes me think of a passage of Scripture I read recently. It’s in Luke’s Gospel. Just one second. Let me find it.” (I pulled out my Bible and starting flipping around in Luke). I stood there searching and searching and searching. I keep telling him, I’m gonna find it; just one minute. This went on and on and on. No joke, I think at least 3 minutes passed! I felt like an idiot. I couldn’t find it! Where is that verse! The bus came. We said our good bye’s and that was it. I didn’t tell him anything!

I blew it!

I had the perfect chance to speak the Word of Christ into his life, but I didn’t have it memorized; and worse, I couldn’t find the address! I failed. This is especially bad because I had been struck by these words of Christ just beforehand and assumed I’d remember them! Bad assumption. So afterwards, I found the passage, and drilled it into my head, saying over and over (aloud), “Luke 6:35, 6:35, 6:35!”

In Luke 6:35, Jesus says of God, “he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Those are some pretty startling words to deal with. You should memorize this reference with me. Countless unbelievers appeal to God’s kindness to them as an indication that they are certainly in his good books. Well, though they may think this way, Jesus certainly doesn’t. God is kind to all. Assurance of being in his good books must be determined another way.

But the lesson to be learned here is this: memorize the reference!

Though I blew it, I know that man’s eternal welfare doesn’t hinge on my performance. May the Lord be kind to him with the loving-kindness of salvation.

Day 6: “I’m Frightened!”

After talking to so many people who are either hostile or indifferent to the Gospel, I thank God for conversations like this one! What follows is a summary and it’s quite abbreviated, but it’s the most encouraging talk I’ve had for quite some time. I will refer to her as T and myself as P. After a minute or so of conversation, here’s how things went:

P: Can I take some time to go through this little booklet called Two Ways to Live?

T: I got that last week.

P: Really, maybe my friends gave it to you?

T: One guy was white; the other was Indian.

P: Yep, those are my friends. We’re from the same church, just over there (pointing), on the other side of those buildings. Well, what do you think?

T: I still have it, but I haven’tread it.

P: Well, while you wait for the bus can I go over it with you?

T: Sure.

P: (reading from the booklet) God is the loving ruler of the world. He made the world. He made us rulers of the world under him.

T: Okay.

P: But we all reject God’s rule by trying to run our life our way. But we fail to rule ourselves or society or the world. We’ve sinned; everyone has. I know you seem like a very nice person, but when the Bible assesses you and I, here is the assessment: “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Romans 3:10). Would you say that you are a sinner?

T: Well, yes, we all are.

P: But God is just. He won’t let us rebel forever. His punishment for our rebellion is death and judgement. So, what we deserve for our rebellion against God is punishment.

T: But what if we have a struggle that we really wan’t to be rid of but we can’t seem to overcome it?

P: Do you mean sin?

T: No, not sin; I’m not talking about hurting others, but an inner struggle.

P: Do you mean something like, say, anger?

T: Yes, like anger. What happens if I struggle with that?

P: Well, if it’s unrighteous anger, you will be punished because it is sin.

T: But what if I go really deep in prayer.

P: The Bible teaches that you can’t remove the guilt of your sin.

T: But what if I really try to stop and I don’t like it?

P: No, God hates all sin. He is just and must punish it.

T: So there’s nothing we can do?

P: That’s right; it’s too late; we’re guilty.

T: (with sincere concern) So, I’ll be guilty forever because of my sins?

P: Well, there is a way to receive forgiveness and that’s the good news.

T: (looking straight at me with all seriousness) Well you better tell me soon because I’m frightened!

P: Okay, Well here it is: Because of God’s love, He sent His Son, Jesus, into the world. Jesus always lived under God’s rule. He didn’t rebel like us, but he came to die in our place. And by dying in our place he took our punishment and brought forgiveness.

T: Really?

P: (Bus came) Oh, do you need to get on the bus?

T: No, it’s okay, I’ll just get the next one.

P: Okay, well, not only did Jesus die for sinners, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus conquered death and now gives new life and He will return to judge the world.

T: So, this is why Jesus came?

P: Yes, and we will either trust in Him and what He has done for us, and submit to his rule, receiving the forgiveness, or we reject him and we’ll be punished for our sins.

T: Thank you for sharing.

P: Well, isn’t it great news?!

T: (In a sobered manner)Thank you; I’m going to pray about this.

I really encouraged her to come to church to learn more. She has my contact info, as well as all the church info she needs. Please pray for her salvation.

Day 4: Talking to Atheists

Yesterday marked the fourth day of our summer evangelism schedule. Three co-labourers joined me in spreading the gospel in Don Mills – what a joy it is to strive side by side for the faith of the gospel!  Out of the four substantial conversations I had, the first three were with atheists (back to back to back). Here is an abbreviated summary of the conversations:

God is a Myth

Arthur and I met an elderly lady at the street corner. We made some small talk but quickly asked her about her thoughts on Jesus and her religious background. She said she was an atheist. For her, any stories about God = myth. She grew up in a United Church, was very involved, but eventually parted ways, convinced that Christianity isn’t based on truth but fancy ideas. She said, “It’s for the weak.” (She speaks better than she knows; cf. Mt 5:3).

She kept saying, “I don’t need God,” and “I’m fine.” Eventually I responded (gently, yet firmly) with, “Do you think you’ll be saying that on your death bed?” I went on, “Look, everyone dies; you will die. I will die. And judgement is coming. Are you prepared for that?” My comments on death must have triggered her thoughts of funerals. She replied, “You know, of all the funerals I go to these days, they don’t really mention God much any more. They’re memorials about the persons life.” (She went on to speak of how nice that is). She basically told us that times are changing; people are finally coming to terms with reality; there is no God. Christianity (and other religions) is basically for stupid people who can’t live with the reality that there is no God, no hope after death and so on.

We tried to talk to her about the historical facts about Jesus, but she wouldn’t have it; she seriously questions the reliability of Scripture. It’s all mythology in her mind. We had some other questions for her as we sought to engage her and weaken her confidence in her atheism. I told her that she is suppressing the truth about God, but in a candid way she simply told us, “good luck as you talk to others; better luck with someone else.” May God show her that she needs him.

Scientific Atheism

Shortly thereafter, we approached another lady whose atheism was largely governed by her allegiance to science. I talked to her for a while about the usefulness and goodness of science. However, I also talked about it’s limitations, namely when nailing down issues of origins. The scientific method of hypothesis, observation, analysis and conclusion suffers in the study of origins; it’s too late to observe! She agreed and admitted that the theistic view of the origins of the world is no irrational. In fact, she said, “I know science and Christianity is compatible.” Even so, she prefers the atheistic model.

I spent some time arguing for a Creator based on the design in the world and then started to talk to her about morality. I asked her, “What is the basis for morality?” She said that it is cultural. And just as I was arguing for the incoherence and impossibility of her position, the bus arrived. I gave her some good Christian literature.

May the Lord show her that he is the Maker of heaven and earth. And may she come to worship the Son, who is before all things and in whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).

“I Don’t Care” Atheism

Later on, I met a young man waiting for his bus. He was hard, tough and rugged. But he was friendly enough to carry on a conversation.  I could tell it was an inner struggle for him to keep talking with me, but by the grace of God he did. He told me he was an atheist, had no religious background and didn’t really care about Jesus or anything about God.

When he told me he was an atheist, I asked him what he thought of Jesus. With a cool and slightly annoyed spirit, he said, “Well, maybe if he’d drop down here and say hello, I’d say, ‘What’s up.'” I responded, “You think that’s what it would take? Well, what if he did, but not only that, what would you do if he told you that he is from God, Christianity is the truth and you must follow him. Would you?” He said, “I don’t know.” (Thinking of Luke 16, I am doubtful that he would). He assured me that he doesn’t care about these things. He told me that needs to work and provide for his family; that’s it. He said, “Another day another dollar.”

I asked him what he cares about. He said, “family.” I affirmed the value of family and told him straight up: “Look, 10 years ago, there’s no way I’d be on the streets talking to people about Jesus. Something happened to me. I started to follow Jesus, but I didn’t do it without reason. There are reasons that lead me to follow Christ. Namely, that it’s true. This stuff isn’t just in my head; it’s real. God, Jesus the truth of Christianity; this stuff just is, and I’m gripped by these realities.”

He said, “What about all the other religions. So they’re all wrong?” I said, “Jesus said he’s the only way to God. And I believe it. But hey, he’s either right or he’s wrong. The claim may sound arrogant, but it’s not arrogant if it’s true.”  He saw the logic yet still seemed quite sceptical.

Before long, he posed another objection, “But what about the Old and New Testaments; they teach different messages.” (I think he meant to say: “They are inconsistent”). I told him, “Look, the Old Testament is made up of 39 books and the main message can be summed up in one sentence: ‘Somebody’s coming.’ God had made a number of promises to his people. And the New Testament can basically be summed up in one sentence as well: ‘I’m here!’ God kept his promises. Jesus is the One who God has promised, and he brought salvation for us, those who have sinned and rebelled against him.”

The bus soon came and as I was warning him about the judgement to come, he said, “I don’t give a s#@t.” Then he said good bye. My heart really mourned over his hardness of heart. I believer Jesus is powerful to soften it. My goal was to put a stone is his shoe. By the grace of God, I hope it stays in there!

Well, that is a brief summary of part of Day 4. We had other more encouraging conversations with people who seemed more receptive, but I felt it wise to share about the difficulties of my conversations with atheists. Oh how they need the gospel and a worldview that can make sense of it! May the Spirit work in their minds and hearts.

Disrespectful Jesus and a Determinded Evangelist

Disrespectful Jesus

I was speaking to a man the other day, I forget much of what we disguised, but I recall feeling compelled to preach John 14:6. His response was interesting: “That’s disrespectful!”  Though things got a little heated from there, I’m glad I was prompted this way because it sparked a very telling conversation.

He went on and said more. If my memory is correct, I think he started to question whether Jesus really said that (or meant that). He tried to defend Jesus (that being his unbiblical idea of Jesus), arguing that Jesus would not hold such an absolute and exclusive view.

In particular he kept commenting on the exclusive claims of Christ, saying things like: “that’s crazy,” “that’s disrespectful,” “I can’t believe that,” “that’s not right.” He talked about other religions, other scriptures and issues of interpretation. My attempts to reason with him seemed unprofitable at large (but you never know how the Lord will use those conversations!). Near the end of our talk I told him, “If I were you my knees would be shaking because one day you will stand before Jesus and He will judge you. He says in the Bible that He will judge the world. You will give an account to him.” He replied by telling Steve K. and I that we’ll have to agree to disagree and encouraged us to move on. Things ended on the friendliest note possible (in light of the nature of the exchange). Interestingly, he said what we were doing (out sharing what we believe) was good. Good? Yes, he said, “good.”

That ended our conversation. As I thought over what we had discussed, I was struck by the fervency, absoluteness and certainty of his relativism. His relativism seemed unshakable. And he was not alone. There were two others I spoke with that day who were deeply rooted in religious relativism! The one told me “when you say someone is wrong you are walking on thin ice.” The man who said this is a Chemistry prof at York U. (We talked for a long time!).

A Determined Evangelist

All that being said, not everyone believes such things. I talked to a nice Muslim man earlier that day. He would describe religious relativism as crazy. And there are lots of Muslims in Don Mills! Even so, I am determined to get better equipped to know how to better reason and preach the Gospel to committed relativists. Of course, there is nothing better than the Bible when it comes to getting equipped for the Lord’s work, but there certainly is a place for learning from others.

Alex Philip, who is a close friend of mine (and Chaplain at Peoples Christian Academy), recommended “True For You But Not For Me”: Overcoming Objections to Christian Faith by Paul Copan and Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing your Christian Convictions by . So, over the next couple of months I will be reading and reviewing selected chapters from these books. I will review them and interact with them over a number of blog posts.

So, if you’d like to read along with me, grab the books and share your comments. I pray that God will use these books to better equip us to do what the Thessalonians did – to sound forth the word of the Lord that man people may “turn from idols to serve the living and true God and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead.”(1 Thess 1:9-10). Stay tuned!

Does God Have Evil in Him?

A couple of weeks ago, my brother and I shared the Gospel with you young skeptic who had a Catholic background. I ran into him again at the bus stops on Saturday (interestingly, bus stop evangelism can turn into a very relational ministry as you meet with and follow up with the same people).

I asked him, “Hey, I remember you – I met you a couple of weeks ago with my brother. What’s your name again?” He said, “X” (I will not use his real name). I said, “So, where did we leave off?” Not answering my question, and with a smirk, he said, “I saw Jesus in my cereal this morning.” I replied, also smiling, “Did he say anything to you?” He responded, “No, but he had a beard and he tasted good.”

There must be some evil in God

Getting more serious, and in a respectful manner, he told me, “Look, I think belief in God is a nice idea and there are some reasons that support it, but it’s not for me.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Well, you (referring to me) said that everyone is made in the image of God. And people have evil desires, therefore that makes God evil. I mean, we have evil desires and if God made us this way, there must be some evil in God.”

I gently told him,”Maybe I was not clear on this last time we talked, but the desire of man has been corrupted. God created everything good, but he created Adam and Eve with a free will. Now they had the potential to choose evil and they did. Do you think that still makes God evil?”

He said, “Yes. He knew it was going to happen and he didn’t prevent it; there must be some evil in him.” A little shocked by the logic of his argument I said, “Okay let me get this straight, you believe that because God created Adam and Eve with a free will that could potentially chose evil, that means that somehow God has evil in him.” He said, “yes.”

I sought to refute his argument

I sought to refute his argument saying that it is necessary for God to create beings with the potential to do evil, IF the created beings truly are to be free. It doesn’t  necessarily follow that God is evil. God could have created something more like robots who could not choose evil. X thought that would be better. Of course, when an argument goes down this track we are dealing with utter arrogance: “I know better than God.”

Whatever the case, I argued: the fact that God created people with a free will, who could choose good or evil, simply means that God created creatures with a free will. It follows that this design is either wise or foolish. But as soon we enter into discussion about God, the Creator, it is unfitting for the creatures to judge him. Job learned this the hard way. God said to him,”Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me.” (Job 38:2-3). Romans 3:4 – “let God be true and every man a liar.”

The bus came . He had to go. I am so thankful to God for guiding me to X. I was especially encouraged that he had been thinking about our first talk. He recited some of the very truths I taught him before. For example, he said, “we are created in the image of God.”

May God cause his face to shine upon X and may he show him that “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). I hope and pray that I see him again.

The Joy of Evangelism

Here is an encouraging post from one of my fellow workers. I have been really encouraged by Ewan’s decision to carve out time on Saturdays to spread the Gospel with me. This is what he writes about last weekend’s work:

Recently I had the opportunity to join Paul, Julian and Joe on a Saturday afternoon at Don Mills and Lawrence for community outreach. It was a cold, blustery, rainy, gray day and we were a bit put off by the weather. We were worried that nobody would want to stop and talk with us, but setting our faces like a flint, we sallied forth.

Some amazing conversations

As it turns out, we had some amazing conversations. We met an Iranian man with a half-hearted commitment to Islam. Paul approached him and he quickly opened up in response to Paul’s friendly and self-effacing manner. We began to talk about the differences between Islam and Christianity, in particular the contrast between the two faiths in terms of self-justification vs. atonement. This fellow knew almost nothing about Christianity – for example, he didn’t know that Christians held Jesus to be God. We had at least 10 minutes of conversation with him before his bus pulled up and he had to go.

Next came my turn. We walked into one of the bus stops, thankful for the shelter from the rain and wind. Standing alone was a Philippino woman, middle-aged, bracing herself against the cold. I introduced myself and Paul, explaining that we were from a local church and we were speaking with people to invite them along. I enquired about her religious beliefs and it turned out that she was Catholic. I asked her to explain how she believed she could get to heaven and she replied with the usual Catholic mantra of faith mixed with some variety of self-effort and self-righteousness. It was on this point that we discussed and debated for the next ten minutes. Borrowing Paul’s Bible, I pointed her to Ephesians 2, emphasizing that salvation was God’s gift, not our works. She seemed surprised. I explained that all our attempts at righteousness are woefully inadequate and even displeasing in God’s sight. This concept of the vanity of works and our utter dependence on Christ’s righteousness proved a stumbling block – she just couldn’t wrap her head around it, and she kept coming back to her own righteous works, despite my best efforts. The bus arrived, the seed was sown, and we saw her off with a friendly handshake.

Ironically, the very next person we spoke to was also a Catholic woman, and Paul tackled the same problem (more efficiently than me, I think) of trying to show the vanity of works righteousness. He brought her back time and again to Ephesians 2 and Romans 3. Sadly, the same unwillingness to recognize the emptiness of self-righteousness revealed itself. They spoke for a very long time (the bus schedule is thankfully quite slow on Saturday afternoons).

I was filled with joy

As I stood beside my brother bearing witness to the glory and all-sufficiency of our Saviour, I was filled with joy. At one point as he stood there explaining the gospel I realized that everyone in the bus shelter was trying hard not to pay attention and failing miserably (and there were a lot of people huddled into that shelter). It dawned on me afresh the desperate need of all these souls – people created in the image of God, corrupted through sin, children of disobedience, blind and dead to God and the things of the Spirit, under wrath and judgment. How desperately they need our message! What a joy to stand there and invite fellow humans to be reconciled to God.

The message we hold

One of the things I love about the practice of evangelism, at home or at work, at school or at the rink, online or on the street, is that it keeps the beautiful simplicity and incredible power of our message fresh and real. Nothing enables you to appreciate the gospel like telling someone who has never heard it before. In our hands we hold the central truth that makes sense of our world, reveals our destiny, and restores us to a right relationship with God.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:6)

From a medical standpoint

From a medical standpoint, it would be like writing a prescription for the cure for all cancers. This boggles my mind – how humbling to be appointed to dispense the ultimate cure for the human condition: “We have this treasure in jars of clay…” (2 Corinthians 4:7).

Joy and evangelism are inextricably linked. The very purpose of our gospel is joy. “These things have I spoken to you, that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be full” (John 15:11). Moreover, there is joy in heaven at the salvation of sinners (Luke 15:7). Yet also, simply sharing the gospel brings great joy, the Spirit’s reward for testifying to the value of Christ. Such joy bears so much fruit – it enlivens our walk with God and enflames our zeal for His glory. “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). This is what full Christian living is about.

So give the gospel, and get the joy.