Monday, August 8, 2011

Drew Was Drawn To The Cross


A tragedy happened in my community the other day. A retired dentist, allegedly battling depression, picked up his in-laws, brought them to his home, executed both of them as they sat in the car in the driveway, and then turned the gun on himself. The man's in-laws were 95 and 90, respectively.

Marissa and I decided to go to the corner of Bridgeport Lane and Newhall Ranch Road, in Valencia, with the "Are You Ready?" cross. Undoubtedly people in the otherwise quite and upscale neighborhood would be thinking of the murder-suicide, and maybe thinking about their own mortality. Our hope was that people would see the cross and consider how they would answer the question, "Are you ready? Are you ready to stand before God and give an account for your life?"

I had spent the day with the Third Street Heralds on the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade, and I would stand in the pulpit of my vacationing pastor the next morning. So, the plan was to spend only about an hour on the corner, before the sun went down, which would give me enough time to put the finishing touches on my sermon.

Traffic was light on Newhall Ranch Road (a major roadway), for a Saturday evening. But hundreds of motorists and passengers saw the cross as they drove by.

I looked at my watch and let Marissa know that we would head home, soon. Moments later, I heard the familiar "clickity-clack" of skateboard wheels traversing the cracks separating the large blocks of concrete that formed the sidewalk. I turned around to see a young African-American man riding a skateboard in my direction. I took out an "Are You Ready" gospel tract from my tactical bag and waited for the young man to arrive at the corner.

As he came to a stop, I handed the young man the gospel tract. "Here ya go." I said.

He took the tract and looked at the front and the back.

"It's a gospel tract." I offered.

"I don't know what that means."

"It has a gospel message about Jesus on the back."

"Oh. Okay."

"Let me ask you. What do you think is going to happen to you when you die?"

He paused for a moment. He said he would be with the Lord. I asked him why he believed that. He said he had turned his life around and repents whenever he does something wrong.

I asked him if he grew up going to church. He said he did. I asked the question because it was obvious to me that while he knew some of the Christian "lingo," he didn't really understand what it meant.

He wore a white tank top t-shirt. Above the shirt's neck line, and just below his clavicles, the young man had a tattoo that read: "Fear God and not them." To each side of the slogan was a tattoo of a cross. He had more tattoos on other parts of his body, including his left forearm. There he had the acrostic "R.I.P.", followed by a name I couldn't read, along with some other tattoos that seemed to indicate some kind of gang involvement--past or present.

His name was Drew. He was 18-years-old.

"Drew. Let's say you and I are friends. You're a Christian and you know I'm not. And you and I know that I have only three minutes to live? What would you say to me?"

"What do you mean?"

"You know I'm about to die and you know that I don't know the Lord. What would you say to me?"

Drew thought for several seconds and said, "I don't know."

"Okay. Let's switch places, now. I'm the Christian. You're my friend. You're about to die. And you don't know the Lord. Here's what I would say to you."

In just a few minutes' time, I shared the law and the gospel with Drew.

"Drew, what are you good at?"

"Music."

"What kind of music?"

"Rap. I play the sax. I produce music."

"Let's say I came up to you and said, 'Drew, I know all there is to know about rap music.' So, you say to me, "Okay, Tony. Tell me all you know about rap music.' And then I say, 'Roses are red. Violets are blue...And I can't remember the rest.'"

I paused for a moment and waited for Drew to chuckle, which he did.

"Drew, if I said that to you, would you believe I know anything about rap music?"

"No. I know where you're going with this."

"Okay. Then Drew, if you wouldn't believe I knew anything about rap music; why should I believe you are a Christian when you can't tell me how to become one?"

"I hear what you're saying."

"Drew, are you sure you know the Lord?"

Drew looked off to the distance for several moments. He wasn't sure. Or should I say he knew he didn't know the Lord.

"I've turned my life around. I mean I've really turned it around. I use to do some bad stuff--a lot of bad stuff."

I assured Drew that turning his life around wouldn't make him right with God. I also assured him that no matter what he did in his past, there was forgiveness in Jesus Christ.

"I'm glad I met you, today." Drew said.

"I'm glad I met you, too. That's why I'm out here with this cross--hoping to have conversations with people like you.

"When was the last time you read the Bible?" I asked.

"Months ago."

"When was the last time you missed a meal?"

Drew smirked and nodded his head.

"If you wouldn't miss a meal to feed your stomach, you should be even more concerned about feeding your soul. Do you have a Bible?"

"Back in Indianapolis." Drew had recently come to California from Indiana, and would likely return to Indiana, soon.

"If I gave you a Bible, would you promise to read it?"

"Yes."

I removed a nice leather ESV "New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs"--one my pastor had given me just for times like this--from my tactical bag and handed it to Drew. "Start with the Gospel of John. It's the fourth book of the New Testament. You could probably read it in one sitting."

We shook hands and said good-bye. I told Drew that we would be praying for him. He thanked me and crossed the street the next time the light turned green.

As he rode away, I told Marissa that Drew was the reason we came to the corner--a corner where I had never before stood with the cross. She agreed. We made our way to my car where we prayed for Drew's salvation.

Sola Deo Gloria! Drew was drawn to the cross.