Monday, July 31, 2006
Yosemite Falls above- see more pictures after the story.
Jesus and JM at Panera Bread...
I have not added to my blog since we returned from Uzbekistan. In that time we spent time in Tennessee, Virginia, Florida, Texas, and now finally have settled in California. After two and a half months we finally have an internet connection and are settled enough for me to continue blogging. Much has happened, but I am not going to try to sum up the time since we returned. From now on I will continue my habit of writing about my experience of Jesus each week, but for today I wanted to share a story from my time in Chattanooga. We did not have internet at home so I had to go to Panera Bread Company and do e-mail there. On this particular day I had a ton to get done. I had preached at City Gate that morning on how Christianity keeps people from coming to Jesus. I had encouraged us to ask the question, "Where is Jesus and what is He doing?" And then to go join Him in that. As I arrived at Panera in that state of mind the following happened...
I normally sit at one of two tables next to an electrical outlet- they were both occupied so I moved to a different table and got to work. Next to me sat a young kid doing some pencil sketches; I guessed he was around 15 or 16. A girl sitting in the table next to him got up to go to work and they chatted a bit.
She left and he turned to look at me (I was not looking at him, but realized it when I looked up) and said, "What do you think?"
Now I don't think anyone is worse at basic stranger conversation than I, but this kid was very persistent.
I made a comment about the drawing and turned back to the computer. At that point I felt the Spirit of Jesus nudging me that it was no mistake that I was sitting next to this young man. I was going back and forth about how much work I had to do and so on... Of course my argument was contradicting everything I said in my sermon earlier in the morning.
JM kept talking to me about many random things apparently oblivious to the cold shoulder, disinterested body language I am giving him. I notice that I am only half-turned and finally give in and give JM my attention.
It turns out he is 16, and in some kind of juvenile home as his mom was in jail and his dad was unfit due to emotional abuse. His brother is 27 and looks after him, but they clearly don't understand each other. He is a hurting young man and desparately seeking acceptance somewhere. He wants to be in the Navy and do "solo missions". He is a pretty good runner- 5:27 mile. He likes being an outcast, but pretends to be a preppy so his social worker won't get on his case. He is barely passing school; talking to me is partly to distract him from studying. He is a punk rocker, though you would never know it looking at him. He was wearing a normal leather belt, but has now changed into a black leather belt covered with spikes. His brother would not like the punk belt so he has to sneak it on. He is screaming out for someone to love and accept him for who he is, if he only knew who he is.
At this point I've said about five words and we've been conversing for well over half an hour. He gets a call on his cell phone, and I go back to my e-mail and to arguing with the Holy Spirit about what I know I need to do. I am praying and arguing. So, how do I bring up Jesus? I have told him what my job is in a less than bold way.
He gets off the phone, and I say, "Let me ask you a question. What do you think of Jesus?" (pretty subtle!)
He gives an answer about Jesus being a great leader and some other stuff. I follow with questions that are trying to get him to answer personally about himself and Jesus. I ask where Jesus would hang out if He were in Chattanooga?; would Jesus hang out with him?; would He and Jesus be friends?
At this point it was so like the woman at the well in John 4 it was sort of spooky. He changes the subject saying, "My brother says that God hates all homosexuals. The Bible says they are lower than dogs, I know. What do you think?"
[At this point his brother showed up, and they talked a bit. His brother left, and he gave me his attention again.]
I said that I think Jesus loves them just like you and me; I show him some verses in the Bible, and bring the conversation back to us.
We talked a bit more about Jesus and what kind of a person He was- smartest man who ever lived, loves us, standing beside us, will never leave us,...
He asked if backslidden people go to heaven. I answered about the blood of Christ being the only acceptable payment for our sins, and then I gave the example of the two books to illustrate how we receive Christ's righteousness (2 Cor. 2:15).
[At this point we were interrupted again, and I am getting the sense that Satan was trying to disrupt the time.]
When we started talking again he talked about his mom, and how he wants to live with her, and how she does not think God will accept her after everything she has done.
At this point I have fully turned toward him and am leaning forward in my seat so that my elbows are over my knees. I am looking him right in the eye, and I asked, "Have you ever heard of the story Jesus told about the Prodigal Son?" He answerd in the negative with a shake of his head, and I said, "This is how Jesus described God the Father." And I told the story making it a bit contemporary. He was riveted to my words. As I got to the part about the son returning, I asked him what he thinks the Father did. He said he did not know. I told him and give Spurgeon's "showering with kisses" idea, and his eyes start to tear up. Jesus was touching his heart deeply. I continued a bit about God's love for him and repentance and how Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us.
Once I finished we talked a bit more and JM thanked me. He looked a little different. Jesus had met him there and given him something he did not have before we started talking.
What will happen to him? I am not sure. I pray he clings to Jesus. He mentioned some friends and being invited to a church. God clearly has him in His sights. Who knows how the world will be changed by that one conversation from a Jonah-like messenger?