Haight/Ashbury, San Francisco

Learning how to forgive

Once I was punched in the face while preaching. At the time I was an evangelist with SOS Ministries in 1987. I was leading a group to Haight/Ashbury St. in San Francisco. I remember it was really busy, and it was a good team, and they were excited to take their church to the streets.

Haight/Ashbury was the place the “summer of love” kicked off, it peaked in 1968. It has a certain sense of notoriety, and even in 1983 it still had a dubious reputation as a center of the counter-culture. “A cult a day is born in San Francisco,” a pastor friend once shared with me.

Normally the neighborhood where I took a team would direct me on how to preach. Tonight I focused on God’s love for sinful people.

That message seemed appropriate for this place, especially on this street. God loves these people very much.

A young man came forward. He told me that he was a backslidden Christian, and his father was an Assembly of God pastor. He had run away from home. Suddenly he began to weep. The entire team seemed to lean forward and I know they were praying earnestly for him. It seemed to me that he was teetering on the brink.

His punch however came unexpectedly.

His fist hit me square in the nose. My eyes began to water. Oddly enough he took a step back and began to really cry out. My team wasn’t quite sure how to respond, but I hoped they prayed even harder. I sort of gasped and tried to shake it off. Someone must have called the police.

The Holy Spirit was very much present, both convicting and comforting each of us.

One or two minutes went by and suddenly he stopped sobbing and he became really angry. He took a step and then tried to kick me in the stomach, but I dropped the mic and caught his foot. I was ready for him this time.

About 20 minutes went by before SFPD showed up and asked if I wanted to press charges. I thought for a bit, but deep down I knew that wasn’t the will of my Father. Maybe I should of, I don’t know. But I thought about my own sin and couldn’t judge no one.

The Father was reaching him while teaching me!

God loves His prodigal children very much, He understands the guilt and shame (and frustration) they feel. The Father however is always watching and waiting. He works through life’s circumstances to lead them home. Each belongs to Him. He continues far past what we think is possible. He will never give up.

“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

1 John 3:16

I suddenly saw a “wounded” brother, very confused and quite angry. Not with me, the team, or the music–but with God who created him, and died for him.

At that moment I just happened to be God’s love for this prodigal.

“How did Jesus expect His disciples to react under persecution? (In Matthew 5:12 He said), “Rejoice and be glad!” We are not to retaliate like an unbeliever, nor sulk like a child, nor lick our wound in self-pity like a dog, nor just grin a bear it like a Stoic, still less pretend we enjoy it like a masochist. What then? We are to rejoice as a Christian should and even “leap for joy” (Lk. 6:23).”

     John Stott

Setting Yourself on Fire

Difficulty and pain sometimes come from others, and challenges to the Lordship of Jesus often come from our unique circumstances.

But what if it was something we’ve done?

I remember the classic picture of a Buddhist monk who sat in the middle of a street. He was serene as he soaked himself with gasoline, and lit himself on fire as a protest against a war he believed was wrong and evil. He burned himself in front of the cameras.

All too often we’re pretty much responsible for our own self-immolation. It is we (and we alone) that set ourselves ablaze. Sin affects our minds and hearts. We set ourselves on fire.

When we sin– when we walk in ‘known’ disobedience we always put ourselves in an awful place. We love it but learn to hate it too. But we continue to do it regardless of the awful death that ensues.

God promises to forgive us. Out of our ashes, He keeps bringing us life and hope.

You can be forgiven. You can find life again, even if you’re fully responsible for the evil we’ve done to yourself. Yes, we all sin, and yes we walk in our own personal rebellion. But Jesus knows it all. These awful things we’ve all done can be forgiven.

As a man and a preacher of the Gospel, I realize that I often choose to sin. In spite of all I know and teach I realize that I can live in the ashes of my own making. As one who also struggles with bipolar, I understand that I’m even more susceptible to doing awful things. I understand that I choose darkness even though others will call me “a man of God.”

As you read this I’m praying that you find His forgiveness and mercy. You’ve come a long way it seems, but you must see His blood that was ‘released’ from His veins and arteries for you.

He desperately loves you–even if you’ve set yourself on fire, and sit in the ashes of your doing.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

Bitter Water

In Exodus 15 there’s an incident that carries weight for today. Israel has come to the springs of Marah. The water is bitter. The people turn to Moses. They challenge him and the complaint voraciously. “Why have you brought us here?” They press Moses to the point of mutiny. They are furious.

Some commentators believe this bitter water was a laxative, and anyone who drank this “bitter” water made many trips to the outhouse!

Moses is shown a branch of a common tree. The Lord speaks a word of ďirection he’s to throw the branchaďirectly into the spring. It’ll cure the water, and make it sweet.

It seems to me that Jesus’ awful cross cures the bitterness we absorb as we make our way through life.

Was Jesus Mentally Disturbed?


“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

Mark 3:21, NIV

Even our Lord’s own family did not believe Him.  I can see them gathering out of concern, not only for concern for Jesus, but for the family name– perhaps they felt a need even to protect themselves?  They talked at length, and decided on an intervention, to take custodial care– as families must do at these difficult times.

Jesus had been saying things, disturbing things. 

He had resolutely confronted the religious system, and then rebuked King Herod and the civil government.  He was living on an edge, and the sense that His family had was that He had become mentally unhinged.  He had been cavorting with decidedly irreligious and wicked people.  He lived in constant bedlam, with people mobbing Him for healing.

His teaching seemed extremely radical, almost absurd. His “parables” contained bizarre ideas. And the massive crowds actually would chase Him, trying to anticipate His next move. He was essentially a celebrity –  a “rock star.” I suppose we have no idea, of His appeal to the masses.

We have some choices that must be made. What do we make of Jesus? Is Jesus Christ:

  • Legend
  • Lunatic
  • Liar
  • Lord and GOD?

In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis makes this statement,

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg–or he would be the devil of hell.”

“You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

The accusation has often been the case for His followers. Some of Paul’s friends thought he was crazy when he went blazing over land and sea to carry the gospel to every city. But his answer was, “No, I am not crazy; the love of Christ controls me” (2 Cor. 5:14). 

This was a good kind of crazy. 

He was being used by Jesus to continue the ministry that Jesus had started– the establishment of the Kingdom of God. 

I believe it is a far deeper insanity, that seals up the truth and the light and keeps it away from unbelievers.  It is crazy to know total forgiveness and unconditional love, and then to avoid opportunities to share that same love. Now, that is crazy!

Our fear of being ostracized and mocked is an intense experience. Peer pressure is not just something our teens go through. We are always in danger of being molded into the world’s image.

Who are we? 

Our Lord and Master was vilified, He was falsely accused of insanity.  But perhaps, it is the other way around.  Perhaps it is this world, and its bondages and sicknesses that is ill.  

You must decide.

Please see this link: “Who is Jesus Really?”

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