No Room at the Inn
Dear Christian friends,
As we read the Christmas story, it shouldn’t surprise us to learn that there was no room at the Inn. After all, many families were visiting Bethlehem because of the census. What surprises us is that nobody opened their home to Joseph and Mary, especially since she was about to give birth. The Hebrews were known for their hospitality and God had commanded them to take the poor and the stranger into their homes.
In Genesis 18, three men (whom we later learn were angels) visited Abraham, warning him about the judgment God had intended on Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham immediately told his wife to bake some bread and told his servant to kill a choice calf. Abraham knew nothing about these three strangers but he was extremely hospitable to them.
If three strangers came to our door, would we let them in? Would we let Joseph and Mary into our homes? Probably not. We live in dangerous times and will not risk the potential danger to us and our families. In Genesis 19, two angels visited Lot in Sodom. Sodom was certainly a dangerous place, filled with men who wanted to rape the visitors. For Lot, this was all the more reason to insist that these strangers stay at his house. He knew they would not be safe in the streets. In Judges 19, an old man in Gibeah saw a traveler who had no place to stay and insisted he stay at his house, knowing the streets were not safe. Again, the men of the city wanted to rape him.
The Bible has much to say about taking in strangers, “The stranger did not lodge in the street; but I opened my doors to the traveler” Job 31:32. “Is not this the fast that I have chosen…that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house” Isa. 58:6-7. “Come…inherit the kingdom prepared for you…for I was a stranger and you took me in” Matt. 25: 34-35. ”No widow shall be put on the list unless…she has lodged strangers” 1 Tim. 5:10. “Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares,” Heb. 13:2.
Most Christians argue that it’s too dangerous to take in strangers. They might steal your possessions and, worse yet, might harm someone in your family. These are valid concerns. I believe we should exercise discernment and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit in determining whom we should let into our homes. Lot and the man of Gibeah probably sensed that the strangers visiting them were decent men. I believe that if God has blessed us with a house, at times He will lead strangers to us that he wants us to take in. There will always be an element of risk, but we must allow our lives to be directed by God’s Word and His Spirit, not by our fears.
Beware of Famous Quotes
Last week, as I was witnessing in Berkeley, a man told me that I didn’t need to use words to communicate the gospel. However, he apparently found it necessary to use words to tell me that. This reminded me of an interesting teaching I found on the internet called “Beware of Famous Quotes.” It came from the International House of Prayer (Kansas City) website (www.ihop.org) and was written by Hal Linhardt. The quote he was referring to was one commonly attributed to Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if you must – use words.” While this quote will not be found in his writings, Francis did tell his friars not to preach unless they had received permission to do so and he added “Let all the brothers, however, preach by their deeds.” Linhardt has substituted his own saying, which is indeed Biblical: “Preach the Gospel at all times and – you must use words.”
Certainly, it is important that Christians practice what they preach. However, as Linhardt notes, “For centuries [Francis’] words have provided an ‘escape route from obedience’ to millions of Christians. Many in the church have seized upon his words to mean, ‘I witness with my life, therefore I do not feel the need to speak about Jesus Christ.’ And with one broad brush, the fearful, the lazy and the carnal sweep away the testimony of the entire Bible…i.e. the use of words to tell about God.”
“Our human nature always wants the easy route. It is no exception in evangelism. We want to do evangelism because it is commanded by our Lord, but we do not want to speak directly to unbelievers about Jesus because we fear man more than God, love comfort more than obedience and are distracted by the world rather than fixing our gaze on Jesus and His word. Furthermore, our fallen nature and the devil team up to persuade us that simple words of truth spoken in love come across as ‘crass, religious, traditional and ineffective’. To assuage any lingering conviction, we produce ‘evangelistic strategies’ that leave us in our comfort zone and the unsaved person in his darkness. (Let the reader understand.) Such self-deception dishonors God and helps no one….”
“Wrong trends left unchallenged become the accepted and even venerated church standards until God rescues us from the error of our ways….This ‘silence trend’ in evangelism has been unchallenged so long I fear it has ensconced itself in our thinking as if it were a legitimate Bible teaching. It is time for a reformation of common sense based upon Biblical example regarding how we reach the lost. It is time to speak up for Jesus Christ….’
“There must be words about Jesus Christ for evangelism to take place. Words about Jesus may come in many forms such as the printed page, one on one conversations, film, video, DVD, web pages, TV, radio, etc. But irregardless: NO words….NO evangelism.
“The angel said to Cornelius, ‘Call for Peter for he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and your household.’ Acts 11” “We had boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much tribulation.” “For just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts…speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved.”… 1 Thes. 2: 2- 16. Linhardt attached a page of scriptures that confirm his point that the use of words is essential in evangelism. Those who take the Bible as their authority for faith and practice will certainly agree with him.
On the Streets
Many cities have very little foot traffic on their sidewalks. The best opportunities to witness on their streets are during special events. In San Francisco, we can witness to thousands of people on the streets every day. For this reason, I do not think we need to witness at every special event. Given the choice, I prefer organizing our own event to witnessing at someone else’s event. This gives us a more receptive audience.
The big event in San Francisco this past month, of course, was the Giants’ unexpected win in the World Series for the first time since they moved here in 1958. We witnessed at three Giants’ baseball games this year. While we wanted to witness at the World Series, we did not want to be viewed as “party spoilers” by the baseball fans. After the “baseball hysteria” dies down, the spiritual vacuum in the hearts of the unsaved will remain.
On Friday October 22, we witnessed at 16th St. and Valencia. Dave spoke with Heather, who had a lot of questions about the Bible. After they spoke, she said “You piqued my interest and I’ll start reading the Bible.” We also spoke with several other people. Juan listened as Kylan and Eric preached, and then talked with us. Mitch said he wanted to serve God, but needed help. The next day, we witnessed in Berkeley. Dave spoke with a homeless man named C.J., who was receptive to the gospel. Dan spoke with Carl, who had some mental problems.
One of the difficulties we face each winter is the unpredictable weather. I need to make a decision about where we will witness an hour or two before we leave, based upon the weather forecast. However, that forecast is often wrong. On Friday October 29, the forecast said there would be a 90% chance of rain that evening. There was almost no rain that night. On Saturday, the forecast said the chance of rain was 10%. It rained quite hard that afternoon. On Sunday, the forecast was again a 10% chance of rain. It was sunny all day with scarcely a cloud in the sky.
Sometimes when I preach, I talk about how the Bible is able to predict events hundreds of years into the future, with perfect accuracy. Our meteorologists, with all their expensive equipment, cannot predict the weather a few hours in advance!
Note: Outreaches are subject to change. Call (510) 761-6120 to confirm outreaches or for more information.
Friday December 3, 10, 17 Witnessing in San Francisco neighborhoods. 7:30 – 10 PM (Call for location).
Saturday December 4, 11, 18 San Francisco or Berkeley Outreach. 11 AM – 4 PM (approx.) Location depends on weather. (Call for location).
Ministry News and Needs
Thank you so much for your prayers and financial support for this ministry.
I received an email today from Kostya, who attends Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg, Russia. He had translated a teaching I wrote on “Friendship Evangelism” into Russian.
Please pray for those we have witnessed to recently, and those who have written us in response to tracts, including Dennis, Merril, James, Patrick, Daphyne, and Albert (SF), Summer (Houston) and Charles (Vacaville prison). Please continue to pray for Dan and Dave, as they still need to find employment.
As we move into the rainy season, our outreach location depends on the weather. The weather is often uncertain, so it is best to call us a few hours before the outreach – 4 PM for Friday night outreaches and 9 AM for Saturday afternoon outreaches.
I hope some of you will join one of our outreaches this next month. Christmas is always a great time to share the gospel. People are busy with their Christmas shopping, but we need to remind them about the real reason for the season.
I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and New Year.
Yours in His love,
1. People in Halloween costumes receive tracts at Powell and O’Farrell St.
2. Tom (l) witnesses to homeless man in Berkeley.
3. Larry passes out tracts at Wharf.
4. Noreen Coca witnesses to man in Berkeley.