Thursday, March 9, 2017

Muslims Need a Mediator Too!

“No, Jesus did not die on the cross, and he did not die for our sins.” Muhammad said to one of the guys from the Ohio team. “If we have more good deeds than bad deeds, then God will pardon us on the day of judgment”.

This is the Islamic view of salvation. Muhammad was a very knowledgeable and articulate man, and he had a lot of arguments against Christianity. Hearing their discussion, I said, “Excuse me, I’ve been listening to your conversation and I just have one question: you believe in a Holy God, you believe in a day of judgment, and you believe in hell fire, but even if you have more good deeds than bad deeds, you’ve still lived an imperfect life. Now tell me, how can a Holy God be impressed or satisfied with your imperfect and only partially righteous life?” I followed up by saying, “You have not lived up to God’s standards, and you know it. If God is going to accept your imperfect life, then He must lower His standards and become unholy.” This led to a very deep and meaningful discussion about what it means for God to be “holy” and how sinful men can be made righteous in His sight. I ended by saying, “Muhammad, we both believe in a Holy God, a day of judgment, and hell fire. The difference between you and I is this: I believe in a mediator – Jesus Christ, the Son of God - who has fulfilled the righteous requirement of God’s law, who has suffered the wrath of God in my place, and who has made his righteousness available to sinners so that we can be righteous, not by our works, but by his.” He confessed that he has never thought about these things, and he thanked me for sharing. I gave him my contact info and I hope to hear from him again soon.

Friday, February 10, 2017

When Rock Bottom Hits

Carol's report from our first night of Don't Walk By 2017:

As we walked down one of the long corridors of Penn Station, we saw an elderly man poking bags of trash with his cane. He was obviously looking for food, so we approached him to invite him back to the church for a warm meal. Our friendly invitation really cheered him up because he was having a horrible day. Just a few hours earlier he lost his glasses and then someone pick-pocketed him while he was sleeping on the train and stole his ID. He was at rock bottom. “I feel like God isn’t hearing my prayers.”, he said. After getting robbed, he was considering jumping in front of a train and ending his life. We prayed for him and he gave us a big, toothless grin. Meeting him that day was God’s intervention into his life diverting him from his suicidal plans. This is why we make ourselves available to the Lord, because he sees each person and wants to reach them in their moment of need! 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mercy Granted: Going Home for the New Year!

Today, at the Prayer Station, I met a man named Tommy. The moment he walked up to me, I could tell he was deeply troubled. He earnestly requested prayer and when we asked him the reason for his request he began to explain why he was so anxious and distraught. Tommy was on his way to see his probation officer, whom he hadn't seen in months (we got the impression that he had missed several appointments), and he was expecting to hear some bad news... that he would be going back to jail. Obviously, I couldn't do anything to keep that from happening, but we put it in God's hands and prayed that God would see that Tommy wanted to change and he wanted to be a good father who was there for his kids. A Few hours later, Tommy came back. He came right up to me, shook my hand and said, "I'm going home! I'll be home for New Year's" He was ecstatic. We congratulated Tommy and gave him a big hug. That experience was amazing, and I'm very thankful I got to have it!

Hopefully this fresh touch of mercy will transform Tommy's life 
and lead him to overflow with thanksgiving to God.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Breaking the Enemy's Grip

We were pleasantly surprised to see Julio at the park recently. He hasn’t come around in a while, but he was back again and looking better than usual. Apparently his wife had allowed him into the house to shower and get all cleaned up. He was excited to tell us how well his family is doing. His oldest daughter is a flight attendant and his younger daughter is studying to be a doctor. When we asked how he has been, he hung his head in shame and said, “I’m drinking a little less… but I’m still drinking.” Julio turned to alcohol at the early age of thirteen and is still addicted to it at the age of 57. He confided in us, “Drinking is evil. It’s from the devil! But I can’t stop, and it’s ruining my liver. This stuff is going to kill me.” We told him that we all have sins that we need to be forgiven of, but that Jesus also offers us something more – deliverance from those sins. Julio is tired of drinking and living on the streets, but he is not yet at the point where he is willing to surrender his life or his addiction to Christ. We prayed for him and gave him a gospel of John, and said, “Julio, you read this until you know who Jesus is. When you feel the urge to drink, you ask God to deliver you from this addiction.” He said, “I will, I will read it every day and tell you what I learned.” The Enemy has a very tight grip on some people, but we believe that Jesus has the power to break these chains that hold people in darkness and set them free! Please keep praying for us and all the people we minister to on the streets!

Twelve Years of Prayer

Down in the subway station, amidst all the hustle and bustle of people trying to catch their train, Carol spotted a homeless man and approached him to ask if he needed prayer. She had been feeling a little discouraged up until this point. Traveling all the way from Ohio with her school team for this mission trip, she came with high hopes of seeing lots of people come to Jesus, but they were not as receptive as she expected. Yet God seemed to put this man in her path specifically to encourage her and change her perspective. He happily accepted the offer for prayer and began to tell Carol his story. He has been on the streets for twelve years, and during that time he would regularly go to a Christian soup kitchen for food. Just a few months ago, God got a hold of this man and he gave his life to the Lord. He told Carol that the people at that soup kitchen had been praying for him for twelve years!

This story totally changed the way Carol viewed evangelism. She realized that sometimes we don't see fruit right away and we just have to keep planting those seeds and praying for people. She reported to our team, "Through this trip I learned that it is not my job to save everybody. My job is to do whatever I can to help them get one step closer to the Kingdom of God."

Jesus is More Than a Guru

One recent example of how frequently we get to interact with the diverse people groups of New York City is our new friend Shamanunda. He is a Hare Krishna from India who is here in the city to study under a very famous guru. He stopped by the park one week because he was struck by the words of Jesus displayed on the side of our van - "Go out into the streets and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled." When Ryan went over to greet him for the first time, Shamanunda said, "These words of Jesus and the work you guys are doing... this is compassion." This sparked a very deep discussion about our religious beliefs and the identity of Jesus. Shamanunda believes that Jesus is one of many ways to God, and that each person should practice the religion that works best for them. Of course, this is not what Jesus taught, and in each of our encounters with Shamanunda, we have been able to challenge him on the exclusive claims that Jesus made about himself, such as, "I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father except through me" (John 14:6).

Ryan talking to Shamanunda about Christ