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

The Snare of the Fowler, A Satanic Trap

“Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the perilous pestilence.”

He shall cover you with His feathers,
And under His wings you shall take refuge;
His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”

Psalm 91:3-4, NKJV

“There is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.”

C.S. Lewis

I believe that there is a great opposition to living free. Satan contests every square inch. His ‘modus operandi’ parallels the predator. He likes to hunt human beings. We see his power and influence all around us.

I’m being quite careful not to be melodramatic or manipulative when I say this, but Satan has a terrible plan for your life. He often uses human ‘lackies’ to carry out his wishes.They will use deception, lies and foolishness to snare people’s souls. They [he] will even resort to brute force. As a result, many believers are being persecuted for their faith.

Some Old Testament thoughts:
14 “David now stayed in the strongholds of the wilderness and in the hill country of Ziph. Saul hunted him day after day, but God didn’t let Saul find him.”
1 Samuel 23:14, NLT
5 “My future is in your hands.  Rescue me from those who hunt me down relentlessly.”
Psalm 31:15
7 “We escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap. The trap is broken, and we are free!”
Psalm 124:7

And there is plenty more where this come from. And we haven’t even got to the New Testament yet, where there are substantial references to this kind of attack. The doctrine of Satan is developed further there. Perhaps it is because we encounter the person of Jesus Christ and the act of personal redemption He made for each of us. Through this we discover that we have an enemy that we were never really aware before. And guess what— he hates us!

Some New Testament thoughts:
4 “Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
12 “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
Ephesians 6:12

Just as we have in Jesus a personal savior, we find we also have an anagonist and a sworn enemy that is set on going to war on us. We didn’t ask for it, and it would be really swell if he didn’t exist at all. But the evil around us has a source  and we dare not minimize it.

Our fealty to Jesus becomes critical at times like this. Spiritual warfare has an ebb and a flow to it, sometimes the battles can be intense, and at other times less so. But we cannot do nothing at all apart from the blood of Christ. We must defend ourselves, by calling out to God, or else we will become a casualty.

  1. We can pray.
  2. We can read truth (the Bible).
  3. We can praise and worship.
  4. We can put on “the armor of God’ (Ephesians 6:11).
  5. We can “submit to God” (James 4:7).
  6. We can resist Satan and be firm in our faith, (1 Peter 5:9).
  7. We can “plead the blood of Jesus” over our lives, and over our loved ones, (Exodus 12:13)

Probably the capstone is the following verse. This pretty much sums up this ‘act of resistance’ we are all called to do. I wanted to emphasize it because it is critical:

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

Martyrdom Maybe?

martyers

Believers must consider the issues of being salt and light in a pagan culture who refuses to claim Christ as Lord.

The Words of Jesus demand our complete response to the Gospel. The temptation is often reducing the call to something easier and more comfortable. We don’t really want to give up the world’s system for all that the Kingdom of God declares to be true.

It’s imperative as disciples that we fully understand that Jesus is Lord, not a political leader–not a nation or a political party. We’ve become citizen’s of something that is superior to a patriotic physical reality. We don’t fit. (Philippians 3:20 and Ephesians 2:19.)

Steps to faithful living as we seperate ourselves from the World’s way of doing things really must be considered:

In order to do this must make the choice:

  • To be true. Endure. Continue to pray and witness. Be faithful to Him.
  • To be prayerful. At least working on it. I know prayer is supremely powerful, linking my inadequacy with God’s capability.
  •  To be joyful. Sing often. Thanksgiving all the time. Our tormentors hate joyful hearts. It seems to disturb the darkness that is part of sin and rebellion.
  • To be real. Being faithful to Jesus. No lies, no illusions. Every aspect of our lives is to be the truth. We understand that Jesus is alive, and He is Lord.
  • To be giving. Time or talent, it’s a stringent test of a believer’s maturity. Money is secondary. We serve Jesus with an open hand.
  • To be convinced. We need to become fully convinced of the message of the gospel, and to be sure of His love. Not easy, but always needful. 

In the time of ancient Rome, Christians were in the limelight, it seems, but only as martyrs. Believers made a definite decison to die rather than renounce their faith. Often faithfulness was especially hard–one had to count a cost to follow.

It’s good to understand the world never burned a casual Christian at the stake.

The lions in the Coliseum made quick work of the Christian’s faith. Thousands of believers were burned at the stake. But these martyrs succeeded in reaching many by their witness, and a pagan empire was brought to Christ, en masse!

Someone said that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Perhaps martyrdom will be our path to reach America with the Gospel.  The New Testament word for “witness” is martyr.  It very well may be that our blood will be the seed for a new generation of believers. It should come as no surprise. 

martyrdomI preached once on the UC Berkeley campus.  It’s a  challenging place; a condensed stronghold of a godless ‘intellectualism’ (if you can imagine that).  There is always a few people that for the most part bright and engaging. 

But as I got ready to leave, I met a university professor.  He looked at me in his tweed jacket and sweater vest and said something I will never forget.  “Too bad we can’t feed you to the lions”.  That’s all he said. When he spoke to me it was was a flat-calm statement–terse, cold and frightening–it was eerie and quite weird– mostly because I knew he meant it. 

In this ‘enlightened’ campus, there was a coldness–a hatred that I never encountered in the areas of inner San Francisco–Polk Street. or the Tenderloin’ where I preached also.

True, the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood in SF can be a little ‘rough’ at times, I once was punched in the face while preaching by an angry ex-believer, but to be honest, nothing compared to ‘Berzerkeley‘ (that’s what we called it.)

In three years of full-time evangelism I never met another man that was as hateful to the gospel of Jesus Christ as this professor in Berkeley. This incident was a brazen and deliberate calculation against the Gospel. Perhaps persecution by hardcore intellectuals will become the catalyst for our martyrdom to come. (?!).

No matter what happens. We are in God’s hands. Period. 

Our obedience to Jesus should be a decision we must make right now.  We can’t just hope to stand, or hope to be faithful. We must actively plan for persecution. This could very well be our time. It’s coming. And please get ready, you must watch and pray.

“But others trusted God and were beaten to death, preferring to die rather than turn from God and be free—trusting that they would rise to a better life afterwards.”

Hebrews 11:35

 

Post art “The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer,”  by Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

We’re Pretty Much Scum

a1705366707_10

“To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.”

1 Corinthians 4:11-13, NIV

The apostle Paul isn’t ashamed to be called ‘scum.’ He realizes that this is his ‘standing’ in this world’s opinion. He is regarded as a nobody and of little value by the ‘powers-that-be.’ A tension exists between the believer and the world system. The expectations that the world has is part of the package that we have been given. The message of the Cross is the ultimate foolishness. Jesus told his own disciples that:

“If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

John 15:18-19, NLT

 The world hates us because we belong to Jesus.

It is his reproach we bear. We should not see the trial and sorrows as our issue, and we shouldn’t get upset by the world’s snub. The tension is real and we can expect being ostracized. In fact, we might do well to be concerned if we don’t see it.

After all, hatred is such a hard word.

And the stigma should humble us— it has a supernatural origin. We shouldn’t expect otherwise. To follow Jesus means we will only experience what he is already gone through. Some of us will follow him even to martyrdom. The hardships and challenges do not invalidate our walk, rather they confirm what he said would happen. The world is under seige by Satan,  it is his spirit that controls the unbelieving world.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

*********

Father of all comfort, please come to your servants who are suffering for their faith in you. Meet them and hold them close to you. Give them boldness and awareness. Seek them out and make them your witnesses in a hostile world. Give them the Spirit of Jesus and help them overcome by their love. ~In Jesus Name, Amen

 

bry-signat (1)

 

%d bloggers like this: