Sunday, June 19, 2011

Michael Came Back

Last night I was blessed with the opportunity to join my good friend, David, and the Calvary Bible Church Evangelism Team at the Burbank Media Center. I was further blessed to have my daughter, Marissa, join me.

Before I stepped onto the box to preach, I looked around the media center and my mind was flooded with memories of the many Friday and Saturday nights of evangelism I enjoyed in this place, before I began my time of service at Living Waters. I thought of the several friends who would preach in the open-air for the first time, at this very spot. And I was filled with joy as I thought about the wonderful leader David has become--leading one of the very best evangelism teams in Southern California.

I used the death of Clarence Clemons as an introduction to Ecclesiastes 3:16-22, which was my primary text for the open-air.

There was no crowd to speak of, but the pedestrian traffic was constant and several people stopped to listen at a distance. Five young men were one group that stopped to listen from afar. I could tell they were listening as they periodically stopped their juvenile play-fighting and turned their eyes toward me.

As I finished preaching, I called to the group of young men and asked them if they had any questions. They seemed a little surprised that I called on them. They laughed and murmured among themselves. As they started to walk away, I called out to the one who seemed to be the leader of the group--a large young man wearing a bright blue t-shirt.

"You, in the blue shirt! I'm talking to you!"

He stopped and turned to look at me.

"That's right! You. I'm calling you out. Instead of murmuring to your friends, why don't you come over here and have a conversation with me. I want to hear what you think."

The group laughed and continued to walk away. In a final effort to get them to turn around, I said, "The Bible says that all liars will have their part in the lake of fire. That same verse also says that the cowardly will have the same fate."

That got the group to stop, turn around, and talk amongst themselves for a few seconds. But they eventually continued to walk away.

I preached for a few more minutes, calling those within the sound of my voice to repent and believe the gospel. Then, I stepped down from the box, and walked to where Marissa was sitting.

Within moments, I found myself partially surrounded by the group of young men, led by the one in the blue t-shirt. He said, "You said you wanted to talk to me?" He was several inches taller than me and well-built. I would later learn he was only 16 and played center for the Hoover High School football team.

I extended my hand. "My name's Tony. What's yours?"


Dean, one of my fellow evangelists who was there last night, would later tell me that he thought there was going to be trouble with the group, seeing how they had surrounded me. I must admit, for a moment, I wondered the same thing. But the Lord had other plans.

"What do you think about what you heard me say?" I asked.

"I didn't hear anything." Michael said.

"You liar!" One of Michael's friends retorted. "You heard what he said!"

Michael smirked.

Michael was wearing an ornate silver cross on a silver chain, around his neck. I pointed to the cross and asked, "What does that mean to you? Why are you wearing that cross?"

"Because I'm a Christian."

"And what does that mean to you? There are a lot of different kinds of Christians in the world. The word 'Christian' means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?"

"It means I know Jesus and believe the Bible."

"I'm a Christian. But let's say I wasn't. And let's say that I had only three minutes to live and you knew it. What would you say to me?"

"You have three minutes to live, so, enjoy your life."

"That's it?  That's all you would say to me? You wouldn't care what would happen to me after I die? That doesn't sound like a Christian to me."

Michael didn't know what to say.

I asked Michael if he went to church. He said he attended "once in a while." I asked him if he was familiar with the Ten Commandments. He said he was, but he couldn't remember any of them.

I walked Michael through the Law. He admitted to being a liar, a thief, a blaphemer, an adulterer, and a murderer-at-heart. He came to the understanding that according to God's standard he was not a good person and would go to Hell if he died in his present spiritual condition.

"Michael, you're not a Chrisitian. You're wearing a cross around your neck but you do not know the one who died on the cross. If you were to die today you would stand before Christ and He would say to you, 'Depart from me. I never knew you.' And this is why I wanted you to come back and talk to me--so I could tell you this."

I shared the gospel with Michael and his friends, calling them to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Michael, I gave you a hard time earlier because I care about you. I don't want you and your friends to go to Hell. I can't send you there, nor would I want to. But if I know the way to eternal life and I don't share it with you, that means I hate you. But I don't hate you. I may never see you again, but I care about you as human beings; and I don't want you to spend eternity in hell. Does that make sense?"

The young men quietly nodded their heads.

"Michael, do you have a Bible?"


"When was the last time you read it?"


"Go home and open it to the Gospel of John, the fourth book of the New Testament. Read it. You will see that what I'm telling you is true."

Michael and I shook hands again and I wished the young men a good evening.

As the group slowly walked away, I thanked God that Michael came back.