Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Picket Signs #2

By: Rachel Martin

I have seen all those people we talked about in the last blog and never really got it.  I never really understood until I saw my husband in action on the street doing evangelism I never understood how it’s supposed to be done.  What I see my husband doing is a far cry from what we think of when we think street evangelists.  It is about Holy Spirit lead conversations.  He plays a little music to get
people’s attention, inevitably someone will come up and sit and start talking, and then puts down his guitar and just talks.  He walks around and looks people in the eye and asks how they are and means it.  He randomly tells people Jesus loves them or keep up the good work, or we will pray for your hard day.  He asks them if they know Jesus. He hands them a tract and waits to see if they come back or have questions.  He prays for people who are hostile.  He gives what he has or our necessity bags to the needy in order to get the right to talk to them.  Walks the walk and talks the talk.

Now having said all of that, do I believe that there is a place for picketing?  Absolutely.  I just think it should be done in a manner that shows the love and desire for real change of heart that Christ taught. Do I think there is a place for signs and gimmicks?  Yes we use them all the time.  I once knew a man who would sit out in front of our local grocery store with a huge cross for hours on end.  He said he just wanted to remind people that Christ died for their sins. I have another friend that leaves rocks with scripture written on them in public places and was considering sitting on the street corner and giving people cupcakes and telling them Jesus loves them. If you are a brave person that wants to draw attention and make a splash absolutely stand on the corner with a sign.
I even think that there is even is a place for hot button topics to steer people to the Bible and what it says.  Sure go ahead and stand out on a street corner.   How about instead of a sign that reads “Muslims get out of our country” how about one that reads “come sit with me and let’s talk about our faiths”.  Of course then you have to be ready to let the Holy Spirit guide you and also give an account for your faith. The ultimate goal must always be to bring people to a knowing saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and his work on our behalf.  If that is not our end goal then we are just sinful people trying to show the world that we are somehow better when the truth is, we are no better.  The only difference is that we have accepted the Bible to be true.
Maybe you are not a stand on the street corner kind of person.  I know I am not.  I wanted to be married to a street evangelist not one myself.  I do it on occasion as I do believe it is something we should all try.  However if that is not for you then start small.  I know it is hard to let your fellow office workers know who you are and what you believe in.  But if you give them treats when you do
can anybody be mad.  I mean seriously.  If someone that was a hardcore atheist gave me some gluten free cupcakes with a note that said “I don’t believe in Jesus or God” I would think it odd but I would at the very least respect that.  Maybe ask them about it.  Have a conversation.  Tell them I don’t agree but that I appreciate that they are bold enough to share that.  Starting small is OK.  Talking with co-workers about going to church or praying with your son at night before bed is OK.  It is a start and if that is all it is right now that is really OK because you have to start somewhere combating the idiocy of others that have given us a bad name. Now here comes the hard part.  These people give Christians a bad name.  What is the way for Christians to start to win back their reputation? 


 Perhaps you have been reading this blog thinking in generalities.  Maybe you have been remembering people you have seen with signs or people you have told about Christ when put in that situation.  However I am talking about you.  Yes you specifically.  If the only people that are willing to speak out and stand up for Christ are the rude people with no understanding about what to do, it gives us all a bad name.  I was recently at my nephews little league game.  It was sweet and those kids played hard, badly.  There were a handful of dads out there helping them out, showing them how it is done.   Right now that is what the majority of us are doing, is sitting on the sidelines with all the info doing nothing.  Letting the little leaguers just swing away and keep people running for fear of getting in the cross fire.
We have to start fighting back here people.  There is no doubt about it.  Hate is winning and we are on the losing end of this battle thus far.  I for one hate to be lumped in with some schmuck who has no idea what he is doing.  Letting people think we are all small minded bigots with nothing but hatred in our hearts.  We must start globally, as a church, as individuals, and followers of Christ to quit allowing others to do our work for us. We must stop just shaking our heads at the idiocy of people who call us brothers or saying there is nothing to be done about it.  We must start making ourselves known and vocal about our faith, or not only will the world win but they will think us jerks who have nothing to offer.  The truth is we have everything to offer! 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Picket Signs

By: Rachel Martin

While I was home in my little sleepy town in Costal Oregon this summer there was some great debates about something that received nationwide news coverage.    There was a man standing on the street corner of our local town with a sign stating his beliefs in a hateful manner and then attributing those things to Jesus.  Now I am not trying to weigh in on his motives or faith or weather what he did was right or wrong.  It just got everyone talking in our town about it and it got me thinking.
What is appropriate when it comes to sharing our faith and why are we not as bold as those who would spout their beliefs in hurtful ways.
What I will give to the people who picket for their faith, is at least they have the guts to do it.  My
guess is the way these people, (with the signs and loud argumentative behavior) were brought to Christ was not though yelling and anger.  I imagine it was with love and acceptance and someone sitting down with them and talking about the truth.  Their motives may even be sound but no one has taught them how to do it appropriately.  I could go on about the fact that there is a HUGE need for real discipleship in the American church at large which, I think, is a major part of the issue but that is a blog for another time. That fact that there is no mentorship leaves people with passion about their faith and reaching people to do some real odd stuff. 
I recently saw a video of a group of young Christians standing on a street corner.  One would stand on a “soap box” and loudly read the Bible.  I kind of appreciate that.  Not my bag but far be it from me to tell them not to read scripture loudly in public.  The problem came when his cohorts would get into yelling matches with passersby who stopped to talk.  Has anyone ever been won over by anything from being yelled at or getting into arguments?  An argument in and of its self makes a person more stubborn and less inclined to listen to what is being said.  I am a level headed forgiving person and when someone starts to argue with me I just shut down or get mad and tune them out.  We are talking about people who do not know the love and peace found in Christ.  Is it really the best tool to yell at them?
Take the topic of abortion for example.  Again not making judgments just using a hot button topic.  I see people with signs standing on street corners and the side of the road and at family planning
clinics.  Signs that post hateful thing and then throw Christ in there like “abortion is evil and you are going to hell”.  What about a sign that says “I will adopt your unborn child just as Christ can adopt you into his family”.  Now what would that say to those people going into an abortion clinic.  People love to talk and talk about how bad it is but unless we are willing to do something about it as Christians, give free counseling, adopt potential aborted children, share our stories, put our money where our mouth is and show these people the love and forgiveness in Christ nothing we do matters. 
Whenever I see people with picket signs I think of a million better ways to put it.    Another hot button topic is gay marriage.  Hey guy with all that anger in your heart, how about a sign that says “Jesus died for your sins” instead of “homos are going to hell”.  I know if I saw a sign that said “Christians have it wrong, your all going to hell, Buddhism in the only way to Heaven”.  I would roll my eyes and probably steer clear of them.  My husband would try to go give them the gospel but then again I am married to a street evangelist.  How about a sign that makes you venerable instead of hated.  How about something like “I struggle with anger and it’s a sin God has forgiven me of”.   Something simple like scripture.  For God so loved the world.   At the fair I told the guy in the “Are You Going to Heaven” booth that I loved what he was doing and to keep up the good work.  He told me that they have brought something like 5,000 people to Christ.  All they do is sit there and wait for people to come to them!


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A Lost Sheep in the Street

By: Daniel Martin

Close to Thanksgiving I was on a trip up to the United States to pick up some friends of ours at the airport. I was in a rush.  It is always a chore to get across the border in a timely fashion.  I didn’t want to show up too late at the air-port and have our guests wondering what happened to me.

As I was driving through Rosarito (a largeish town near our home in Baja Mexico) I saw a woman in tight brown pants and an almost non-existent shirt talking at the air and yelling at people passing by.  She was hauling around a large beg of laundry.  At first I thought she was in distress but as I kept driving I realized she probably just high, or crazy, aslo I was pretty sure she was a prostitute. I love to be a help to people like that because I know that not many are helping people outcast by society.  Do you remember the words of Jesus, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”  Most people who live on the street, understand their own desperation. They are almost always an open ear because so many have given up on them. I think they are easier people to talk to about Jesus, because you don’t generally have to spend your time trying to convince them that they aren’t great people that God would be stupid not to have on their team.   As I was driving, thinking about heading to the airport, and getting to the boarder sooner rather than later; God once again drove my heart towards compassion, and I turned the car around.

I didn’t see her where she was, because she had gained more ground on me heading toward the south of town.  Right after I spotted her I saw a guy selling burritos. I put the two together and decided to get her some burritos. It’s a wise practice to give people with drug addictions necessities instead of money. I watched a documentary on prostitutes in the states this last year. One of the things that one of them said is that she would seldom use money on food in her few hours of free time, because the drugs would drive out the pain and give her the strength to keep going. I know that this is a typical mentality for those taken captive to this life style. Keep in mind that there are very, few people who would chose prostitution as a profession. Most prostitution worldwide is a result of coercion or literal slavery.

When I came up to her she was still chatting at the air and stumbling around barefoot carrying her big bag of laundry. She was a beautiful woman with lovely long black hair that was matted with sand. She was actually covered from head to toe with it from spending the evening on the beach. I handed her the burritos and said “Es por tu” in my terrible Spanish. She said thank you, and “I need money” in her terrible English. I said I don’t have money for you. She said she had no place to stay. I felt bad because, at the moment I had no place to point her to. I still have to find a women’s rehab close to us, yet  I can name a couple of men’s off hand. I tried to understand what she was saying as she was talking pretty quickly in Spanish and I had to keep saying, “Sorry my Spanish is very bad.” Between phrases she would smack her lips nervously and talk to the person behind me that wasn’t there. I am pretty sure she was taking meth, as being rational and coherent at moments and still having hallucinations seems to be part of the drug form my experience with others on it. 

I asked if she knew Jesus and said that Jesus was my savior, and gave her a tract in Spanish. Then I asked if I could pray with her and she said yes. I put my hand on her shoulder and prayed for her, that she would find a place to stay, that God would show Himself to her. I also prayed that if she was possessed or if the person behind me wasn’t just something she was seeing but some entity, that it would leave her alone. When we were done praying she walked away briskly and I followed her to try and tell her I could pay for her getting her laundry done if I was there with her. I think at that point she felt threatened thinking that maybe I was there to trying to get on her good side. She tried to hand back the burritos and the tract and I kept telling her they were a gift and insisted she kept them. She did and walked away quickly across traffic. I yelled out “I’ll be praying for you” in Spanish, while she was getting away.   

One of the things that has been a concern for me in the current years is human trafficking. It also seems to be on the public conscience because it has been on an all-time rise as a moral issue as our world slides farther away from God, and entire industries are built upon the exploitation of other people. I’m not na├»ve, I know I can’t dismantle the sinful injustice of the “world’s oldest profession”, or put a significant dent in the problem alone. One thing that I know for certain in my years of preaching the Gospel is that there is no demographic that God cannot reach.  I know it’s not true because I hear stories. They aren’t my stories. However they are the stories of other individuals who talk about how one person taking the time out of there day or life to spend, give, converse or just listen to the other person makes a difference.  It’s us just yielding to the power of the Holy Spirit and his ability to take our insufficient offerings and make them more than enough.

 God only knows where people like this woman go. I have talked to many people about the Lord and the results are up to Him. I know very few that have made a decision and kept following Jesus. In a way it keeps me grounded, realizing that they are Gods reward, because He purchased them at the cost of his son.  I hope that my burritos, broken Spanish, and gospel track will help her find a way out of the life she is a prisoner to. I pray and in the end know that God can do anything.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Gospel in the 21st Century - Part 3 - Celebrities

By: Daniel Martin

          At the end of the 20th century we ended up with a culture that is enamored with celebrities.  Something that once started with presidents and people that accomplished great feats has ended up with viral video stars and reality T.V. characters. But have you ever taken the time to question why? Or, rather, why are these people celebrities? Why does our culture need so many people to look at and spotlight?  I believe that it has to do with our insecurities. We believe that there is some model of happiness or perfection just on the horizon and a superficial standard keeps getting raised up so that people can hold closely there futile false hopes (or in the reverse say that at least I am not like them.
I play guitar, and love it. In the guitar world I find that there is an ever pressing search for the next Hendrix. He is constantly being bolstered as the greatest guitarist the world has ever known. No doubt Jimi was an amazing guitarist. He was completely unique and a virtuoso and as left brained as he was left handed.  But while we keep searching for the next Hendrix, we are missing a host of others innovators that could be just as influential at guitar. Jimi just died before he could get old. 
I remember the day Whitney Huston died. Davey Jones of the monkeys also died the same day. No one seems to remember Davey Jones, but to me he was really something because he sang “Day Dream Believer.” A cheesy love song that I will probably always love because my mom used to sing it when I was young. I know Whitney is on a different level as far as raw talent but I personally can’t recall any of her music besides “I Will Always Love You.”  Yet everyone will think of Whitney forever. She died before she could get stale. Some people will remember the Monkeys and Davey Jones. Most though will remember the band getting old, stale past retirement, being dated to the 60’s and doing a television special in the 90s for nostalgia. Celebrity is a world of one or the other. It’s always fleeting. You burn out or fade away. It hasn’t given us an answer on our quest for personal worth, no matter how great it looks in a dress; or how cleaver the catch phrase, or how attractive the spokesman.
The same problem can be found in the worldly minded church. The Devil can use the name of even good Christian people, as a superficial standard. How many times have you found yourself flying the flag of a certain pastor, or teacher? Have you been talking about the saints of old and the founders of the faith as if those days can never happen again? Have you been telling other people that they were “IT”, and if God only had them around? Have you found yourself saying, “If there were only more of them what would the world look like?” If so, you are missing what the Bible is saying about all the great people that have ever served the Lord. They were used by God because they decided to let God use them. They were men of faith because they responded in faith to God. Those people are amazing and unique. You are amazing and unique too. You can be as amazing, because you are perusing God by faith. God is not looking for the next Hendrix. He is looking for you.
Let’s stop being so worldly. The Devil wants you to think that those were the glory days of Christ. Why can’t today be? Use your gifts to be great for the LORD. John Piper, Matt Chandler, and Francis Chan are all Godly men that have influenced me. But their popularity will be forgotten in the years to come. The truth though, never gets old.  You are no less in Gods eyes. Are you less faithful? Maybe you have made an idol out of them and you have decided to make them like a team you root for. Maybe you have made an idol out of me? “Well that is Dan, he has the gift of evangelism, he is outgoing by nature, and he is just really good at it”.  That really is what the Devil wants. It’s another one of his hidden cards. He wants to make you think that making a difference is for the “giants” of the faith. That somehow they have a different source then the scriptures. That reaching the lost is up to a “somebody”, and you are a “nobody.”
                Worldliness in this regard has reached a foolish level in the church. I remember in high school wishing that people like Britney Spears and bands like Limp Bizkit would turn to Christ for the sake of all the people that idolized them. I thought if those celebrities knew Jesus they would have the same effect for Christ that they had in making much of themselves. I think around the same time there were other Christian artists that thought the same thing. There were four or five Britney Spears clones and at least a Dozen Bands that sounded like Limp Bizkit. They all suddenly appeared in the Christian music scene. I even remember one band had a sticker on the front that said for fans of Limp Bizkit. Now it’s almost comical to think about since those artists have waned in popularity. What was once edgy, envelope pushing, and suggestive, in the world is now just yesterday.
The Church seems to be currently the kings of cheap popular imitation. Preaching styles, how we look, our art, the way we view politics, our values; are mostly poor imitations of the culture we live in. It’s there to create a safe version of the world for Christians, and a palatable version of the church for non-Christians.
                Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that suits and ties, or black buggies should be our standard. The Church that does not engage the culture will not be salt and light to it either. What I am talking about is the lie of celebrity. The truth is that we have more to say to the world than the world has to say to us. However, as long as we are not starting with scripture, we will be calling the kettle black forever. We will continue to be a terrible and annoying imitation of the world that claims to be better than the world. We will be a private club that denounces worldly private clubs. We will talk about the new electronic device at the pulpit and denounce materialism. We will not personally give our kids the answers but make sure they aren’t hanging around with the wrong crowd, and use the church assembly as a kind of safe party. We will have Christian versions of every worldly value, with different names. It shouldn’t be this way, and the shame is, we can only think of ties, ankle long skirts, and formalities as the alternative.
                What we are lacking is authenticity. The Devil loves looking like he has all the good ideas. We have bought into the lie. In doing so we are giving the Devil our words. Words like peace, marriage, unity, and faith. If there is no authenticity with the people of God, then we are giving the Devil a house to live in and people who will worship him. He wants to keep the Church powerless to affect the world until the church becomes his church. While we are so busy being like the world our things have been hijacked. His things look sacred and ours look run of the mill. The Devil, a shrewd businessman ready to sell us the pyramids, while we are busy trying to turn something eternal into our next topic: business.