Meet Winnie.

Winnie knocked on my door the other night, and when I opened the door she
breathlessly asked “I’m sorry to bother you sir, but is there any chance I
could come in here while the police are talking to my boyfriend.”

Wow! I was nonplussed to say the least.  My first inclination was to say yes and let her in.  My second was to worry about involving my
family with a person whose boyfriend was being questioned by the police.  I didn’t give worry any opportunity to
besiege me.  I let her in immediately and
offered her a chair.

Scriptural Principle:

Hebrews 13:2 “Forget not to show love* unto strangers: for
thereby some have entertained angels unawares.”

* The NIV says “to entertain”

She sat down and told me what was going on: She had come home from walking over to the nearby Wendy’s for some dinner to find the police in her apartment and her boyfriend with his hand in the air.  

“I slipped out before they could see me.  Why are the police talking to my boyfriend?”

“Are you OK?” I asked.  

“I’ll be OK; I just—Why are the police in my room?” she was mervously opening and shutting her cell phone.

“Would you like me to go up and find out what’s going on for you?” I asked, but she rather emphatically declined, saying that she just wanted to call her brother to pick her up.  After she had made the call, I asked if I could pray for her.  She was amenable, so I began to pray.  

I prayed for everything I could think of.  For peace and comfort for Winnie, for wisdom for the cops and for her boyfriend and his friend, for speed and safety for her brother.   And then I continued as follows:
“Lord, we know you love us, that you love Winnie, and that your desire for us is for our good.  Thank you that with all of creation at your fingertips you love us so much that you want to have a personal relationship with each one of us, that you care about the details of our lives, that you know Winnie’s situation right now.  Lord we know we don’t deserve your love and relationship, that you are a perfect and just God and we have all done things that break your law and deserve to be punished.  Lord thank you that even though the punishment for breaking your law is death, that you desired a relationship with us so much that you sent your son Jesus Christ who was perfect and had never broken your law so that he could willingly take our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to pay the price for all the bad things that we have done.  Thank you that if we believe that you are who you say you are in your word and if we choose to make you Lord of our lives and if we accept the gift that Jesus made when he died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins that you offer us eternal life with you.  Thank you so much for your mercy, even when we don’t deserve it.”
It may come out a bit contrived here on the page, but when I was praying it was heartfelt, from the spirit, and though I was aware of the fact that it was a witness, I wasn’t praying <i>to</i> witness.  I was praying from my heart to my God.  Nevertheless I realize that it was a witness and I believe that Winnie recognized that I was not pushing at her, but simply praying, interceding for her.  

When I finished praying, my wife came in and asked if she could get Winnie something to drink.  She had already been in our apartment for almost an hour.  My wife made her some tea, and she made a few more phone calls before her brother arrived to take her away.  I gave her my card at some point during all of that, but I found it on the floor of our apartment after she left, so I will probably know how the Spirit used my prayer in her life, and that’s OK, because it’s not about me, it’s about Him.  

I will also just mention that I was so blessed by my wife after Winnie was gone, I really was worried about how my wife would feel about my having just invited her in like that, considering her situation and our family with three young children.  My wife turned to me after she left and said “I feel like maybe I wasn’t hospitable enough to her.  I didn’t even offer her something to drink until she had been here for a whole hour” (like she had had the opportunity!)  I assured her that she had been more than hospitable enough, and my spirit soared to know that I had a wife whose spirit was in harmony with my spirit and the Spirit of God.  What a blessed encounter!

For someone who has committed himself to evangelism–to fulfilling the great commission, I feel an awful lot like Moses, “I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10b)†  Fortunately, the Lord has a way of getting past our inhibitions and enabling us to minister when we commit ourselves to Him.  This week I met Rob and Joy (not their real names).  Rob and Joy are homeless, young, and confused.  They approached me in the parking lot of the hotel, asking for money to buy food.  Rob said he had a job that was starting the next day, and that they just needed some food because they were very hungry.

Confession Time:
I have had a very hard heart toward panhandlers; when I see someone on the street with a sign, I tend to look the other way.  I am, in these situations, very much the Pharisee or priest from the story of the good Samaritan.  Please pray for me that the Lord will continue to soften my heart, and teach me to have greater compassion.

For some strange reason, the Lord moved my heart in this instance, and I told them to hold on and I would walk with them over to the Wendy’s to buy them some food.  I quickly ran up to our room and told my wife what was going on and that I would be back in a few minutes.  When I got back outside, Rob and Joy had already gone to the other side of the parking lot.  I walked over and said “You didn’t think I was going to come back out did you?”

“Well,” Rob said, “A lot of people…” his voice trailed off.

“I’m not going to sneak out on you.” I said.  “I want you to know that even though we only just met, I care about you.  Let’s go get you something to eat.”  We went in to the Wendy’s and as we were standing in line, I got out one of my prayer cards.  These are home printed double-wide business cards that have my info on one side, and blank lines on the other.  That way I can fill in the info on one card and keep it to remember how to pray over someone, while giving them the other card so that they can get in touch with me when God moves in their lives.  I asked Rob if it was OK if I wrote down their names and some info so that I could pray over them.

“Sure” he said.

“That would be so great” said Joy, and proceeded to inform me that she was suffering from kidney stones which were extremely painful.  I asked her if I could pray about them right then, and she said yes, so I prayed a very short prayer.

“Dear Lord, I ask you right now to heal Joy’s kidney stones let them disolve away instead of passing.  Please spare her that pain that she’s going through.”

Joy said “You know, I believe, if that helps any.”

Opportunity missed:
This type of ambivilent unsure statement about belief offers a perfect opportunity to talk about what belief does and doesn’t do and the difference between belief (“even the demons”) and faith.  This time I let the comment slide, but next time I’ll be prepared to take the opportunity to turn things towards eternal truths.

I don’t know why other than the Lord must have been just taking control of my tongue, but I then asked them if they had a place to stay.  They indicated that they didn’t, and somehow I found myself purchasing them a single night at the hotel. 

I was really rather stunned at what I had done, so much so that I didn’t even mention it to my wife when I got back to our room.  I was speechless over my own actions, but the worst part was that although I had had the opportunity and had turned things towards spiritual things, I had not clearly laid out the truth of the law, justice, punishment, and salvation to Joy and Rob–some evangelist I was.  I vowed before the Lord that Joy and Rob would not leave that hotel room without hearing the truth from me.

The next morning, I got up early, went to Wal-Mart and purchased some cheap $.50/ea. toiletry items and 2 $2 towels, and went over and knocked on the door of their room.  They answered the door. 

“I brought you over some toiletry items in case you wanted to take showers because since it’s an extended stay hotel they don’t provide those kinds of things.  Do you mind if I talk to you for a minute?” 

“No problem.”

“Sure.”

“Thanks,” I continued, “I just wanted ya’ll to know that I really care about you–so much so that I just couldn’t let y’all leave before I talked to you about something that’s really important to me and to you.  Do you know what happens after we die?”  Neither Rob nor Joy had an answer; in fact, both shook their heads.  “I do.  The Bible says that it is given for a man once to die and after that the judgement.  That means that after we die we’re going to be judged by God.  Now, God is perfect, completely and totally perfect.  He’s never done anything wrong, never told a little white lie, nothing.  You and I look at rapists and murders and might think wow they are so bad I wouldn’t want to associate with them.  God is so perfect that even if we think we’ve lived a good life, by his perfect standard, we’re as guilty as a rapist or murderer. 

“Because God is also just He doesn’t just let us off the hook.  We deserve to die, and He has to pass the just sentence, which is that we must pay for the wrong things we’ve done by going to hell, a place where the Bible says there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.  It’s not a pretty picture.  You Joy, Rob, and I–we’re all doomed to burn in Hell for all eternity.

“You know what the worst part is?” (No answers from Joy and Rob) “God actually loves us and wants to have a relationship with us.  Wants to know us and to hang out with us, but He can’t because justice demands that we be separated from Him.  So God, because He loves us so much, came up with a plan that would satisfy the demands of justice, yet still allow him to have a relationship with us.  He sent His own perfect Son, who was in fact also God himself, down to the earth to take the punishment for our evil.  I’m talking about Jesus Christ.  He died because of our bad deeds.  God laid on Him the punishment for everything we’ve done wrong, and because He was perfect, because He’d never done anything wrong Himself, he was able to pay the price, to pay the fine for the laws we broke. 

“So God offered us this great gift.  He says ‘If you’ll confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your hearts that God has raised him from the dead, then you will be saved.”   That means that if we believe and say Jesus is Lord, if we turn away from sinning and strive to sin no more, to make Jesus the Lord of our life, and if we believe that the word of God, the Bible, is true and that Jesus is alive, then we don’t have to take the punishment we so richly deserve for our lives as liars and thieves.  Instead when we are judged after we die, God will say Jesus already paid the price for this one, let him come into heaven with me and celebrate.”

Joy and Rob had remained pretty quiet throughout the whole story.  I hadn’t engaged them with questions the way I’ve been taught.  I finished up. “Thank you guys for listening to me.  I really didn’t want you to leave without knowing that I cared enough about you to tell you about the truth.  I’m going to be praying for you that God will reveal Himself to you, that you will continue to meet people who will tell you the truth and that you’ll turn toward God and repent.  Of course I’ll be continuing to pray for Joy’s kidney stones as well.  Please keep the other half of the card I filled out for you yesterday, and if you have any questions about anything I’ve said, if you’d like a Bible to read for yourself what God has to say, or if you need help, give me a call. I’ll accept even collect calls.

That was the last I saw of Joy and Rob, I pray they made it up to Frisco safely and his work is now getting them back on their feet, but most of all I pray that God will use my witness, stumbling and halting though it was (and believe me I left out a lot of stumbles and halts to fit this into a reasonable length blog post), to bring them to Himself.