Saturday, October 17, 2009

Oh Canada.

Roger, a Canadian here on business was busy taking a picture of the beach warning sign that has the different color flags and their warnings. These are rip currents, high winds and the blue flag is for Man of War or Jellyfish. He asked if this was for real, thinking it might be a joke. I told him sure but it does not happen very often with excessive dangerous jellyfish. I also said that some people can have adverse reactions and can die. He was surprised. I then said you know those that die from these stings are like anyone else who dies – they wind up in Heaven or Hell. I asked Roger where he thought he might go.

There was the transition – I did not even think about it, but the Holy Spirit led me through this and the rest of the conversation. Roger was very interested in hearing about Law and Grace. I wrapped it up by telling him to look for the Bible that was probably in his hotel room. He said he would and also read the “Why Christianity” booklet. I did mention if he saw a Book or Mormon to pitch it and not read it. He said he knew about this type of religion (I corrected him to call Mormonism a cult) because some of his relatives are JW’s and he knew what they said was a lie.
Pray Roger reads and follows through with where the Lord is leading him.

Dan was with another guy drinking coffee and I stopped to talk to him. Gave him a MDB and asked where he was going when he died. He said he was a Christian and knew about repentance and grace and would be going to heaven. I challenged him and asked if I were stabbed in the back and fell in front of him – how would I get to heaven? He answered again about repentance and that Jesus died on the Cross for the repentant sinner. So I thought this was easy, time to move on.

Then Dan explained he had stopped going to church because they did not like his life style. He told me the guy next to him was his life partner, Steve. Dan said he was married and has some kids but knew he was genetically homosexual. (huh?)

I asked him what he thought of the verses throughout the Bible regarding homosexuality. (1 Corinthians says 'no homosexuals will enter heaven'). He said he would deal with that when he died and was in front of God because he knew God knew him well enough. I asked if there was anything else in the Bible he thought was false. Either all the Bible is true or none of it is.

I left them thinking.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dogs: Good segue.

John was sitting on a bench with his dog. I gave him a MDB, told him it had an important message on it. He kind of looked at and put it in his pocket. I asked about his dog, a yellow lab, talked about my dog and the other dogs we had. That they died and I wonder what happens to them? He said "interesting thought" to which I replied – "what will happen to you when you die?"

He told me about growing up as a Catholic, etc. I then went right to the Law, Repentance and Faith. I told him that God wants the relationship, not a religion. He got a “Why Christianity” booklet to read. He thanked me for talking to him and not shoving religion down his throat and now he has something to think about.

While I was walking away he stopped me and asked if we were born sinners. I reminded him of Adam and Eve and how they were born sinless but then fell into sin, blamed everyone else, including God for what they did and now we inherited this sin nature. He was not quite sure so I asked John if he had kids and he said 4 of them. I asked if he sat down with them to teach them how to lie or non respect him and his wife 100% of the time. He said “I get it now”.

Another Saturday at the beach…

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Was it the Sound of Salvation?

re-posted from Tony Miano -

No audio. No camera. No video. Just me, my little PA, and a box upon which to stand.

It had been a very long week. A two-week re-piping of our home was completed, which left me with the task of repainting almost every room of our condo. I took a week's vacation, which is to say I used five vacation days so I could work on putting my home back in order. It most certainly was not a vacation. As many of my close friends can attest, I am not a handyman. But one thing I can do with marginal competence is operate a paint brush. So, that's what I did for six days--about ten hours each day. Paint.

During that time, my grandmother had not one, but two heart attacks--the second one in her doctor's office. She was rushed to the hospital where she underwent several hours of open-heart surgery. She is eighty-five and unsaved.

The surgery went well, with the surgeon saying that my grandmother's heart was the most beautiful heart he had ever held in his hands. Her recovery was going well enough for my grandmother to complain about the food at the hospital. Then something went tragically wrong.

One day, my grandmother began to coughing uncontrollably. As a result, she began to bleed. Within minutes she was in full cardiac arrest. Hospital staff heroically performed CPR for twenty-five minutes, until the surgeon arrived. She was rushed into surgery where the surgeon was able to repair the new damage to her heart. Unfortunately, while the CPR kept her alive, it did not provide enough oxygen to her brain.

My grandmother, although she can breathe a little on her own, will never come out of her present, vegetative state. Her sons and daughters are now tasked with deciding whether or not to stop feeding her and allow her to die. My grandmother made it clear to family members that she did not want to live in a vegetative state.

My relationship with my grandmother and my mother's side of the family has been estranged since I was about ten-years-old. The estrangement was the result of the divorce of my parents. But I care about her as a human being. Over the years, I had shared the law and the gospel with her on more than one occasion.

So, on top of the physical exhaustion from working on the house, there was the emotional stress of my grandmother's pending death and trying to be an encouragement to my mom and my sister. Needless to say, there was very little time for evangelism that week.

Tuesday morning was my first opportunity in more than a week to hit the streets. Jimmy, one of my regular fishing buddies, was studying for an exam at The Master's College. David, another of my fishing buddies was working and getting ready for the birth his daughter. All of my girls were busy with school. So, I headed alone to the North Hollywood Metro Station.

A strange feeling came over me as I placed my box in front of the palm tree, on the sidewalk, on Lankershim Boulevard (the place where we set up to preach each week). I opened the box and removed my open-air preaching Bible and turned to Luke 13--the passage I would read as part of my Project Ezra effort, and the passage from which I would preach the Law and the Gospel. I could hear my heart pounding in my ears. Everything seemed loud: my breathing, turning the pages of the Bible, the traffic noise, people's footsteps--everything. It felt as though I was having a mild anxiety attack.

"I'm going home." I thought. "No one would know. The people here certainly won't care if I leave. I need a break. I'm tired. I don't feel like preaching, today. The Lord will understand."

"No." Another set of thoughts came. "I've got to preach. What would so many of my friends say at this moment?" I asked myself with a smile. "'Don't quit!' All right, Tony, get up on the box and preach!"

I read Luke 13 to myself as I waited for my courage to catch up to my conviction.

"Good morning, everyone. I would like to read to you this morning Luke 13..."

As is so often the case, once I started reading the Word of God aloud, the anxiety quickly melted away. The stress and fatigue from the last week meant nothing, now. All I felt was the excitement of preaching God's Word. "Thank You, Lord." I silently prayed as I read His word aloud to the people gathered there.

By the time I finished, I had been on the box for about twenty-five minutes. I offered those within the sound of my voice a free Bible. There were no immediate takers.

I started to pack up. My plan was to go home for a bit, and then head to Cal State University Northridge. Little did I know what the Lord had in store for me there.

As I put my PA and Bible in the box, I looked up to see a woman standing in front of me.

"I would like a Bible." She said quietly.

For the next fifteen minutes, the Lord blessed me as I got to reiterate the Law and the Gospel with a very nice lady. She confided that her boyfriend was a Christian and he read the Bible to her, from time to time. She admitted that while she thought she was a Christian, she wasn't sure where she would spend eternity.

Initially, I had given her a paperback ESV New Testament. Toward the end of our conversation I asked, "Do you have a Bible at home?"

"No. I've never had a Bible."

"Here. Let me have that one."

She seemed to pout as she handed me the paperback New Testament.

"I would like you to have this instead."

I handed her a leatherbound, compact-size ESV Bible. My pastor gives me a few of these beautiful Bibles from time to time, to use in my evangelism efforts. I reserve these special Bibles for folks who the Lord either appears to save while I am with them, or for those who seem genuinely contrite and interested (more than curious) in reading the Bible.

"Ohhhh!" She gasped. "Thank you so much."

I gave her my business card and encouraged her to call me if she had any questions about either our conversation, or what she read in the Bible.

She walked away, and I finished packing up and headed to my car. I praised God for his faithfulness and thanked him for the opportunity to preach His Word and to talk to the lady who now had her first Bible.

Fast-forward to Wednesday afternoon.

I walked into my office at Living Waters to see the customary solid red light on my desk phone. I had at least one message waiting for me.

"Hello." The message began. "My name is Jane (not her real name to protect her anonymity). I'm here with my sister. You gave her a beautiful Bible the other day. It's beautiful. Thank you for talking to her. I think I would like to talk to you, too."

She left her number with a request that I call her back. I dialed the number. And for the next two days I waited to hear from her again.

This morning I got into my car to head to Staples to buy a new memory card for my camera. As I pulled onto our street, my cell phone rang. I immediately recognized the number to be that of the Jane.

"Hi, this is Tony."

"Hi, Tony. It's Jane."

"I'm so glad you called."

"I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. It's been a busy week."

"No problem at all."

Jane told me that she was a Christian who was struggling with a failed relationship.

"Jane, since we don't know each other, I would like to ask you something. It will give me an idea as to where you're at, spiritually."


"Let's say you're a Christian and I'm not. You learn that I only have three minutes to live. I believe there's a God out there, and I'm scared. What would you tell me?"

"Well (a momentary pause) I would tell you to believe that there is a higher power. And I would tell you to repent and pray a prayer."

"Why do I need to repent?"

"Because we're all sinners."

"Yeah, but I think I'm a pretty good guy. I've never cheated on my wife. I love my kids. I pay my taxes. Won't God take all of that into account?"

"Um. That's a good question."

I let Jane stew on that for a moment or two.

"Okay. Let's switch roles, now. I'm the Christian and you have three minutes to live. Here's what I would say to you.

"Jane, in just a few minutes you are going to stand before Almighty God; and He is going to judge you according to the perfect moral standard of His Law. If you've ever lied, He will see you as a liar. If you've ever stolen anything, He will see you as a thief. If you've ever taken His name in vain, He will see you as a blasphemer. If you've ever had a lustful thought about someone other than a spouse, then God will see you as an adulterer. If you've ever hated anyone, He will see you as a murderer.

"God is holy, righteous, just, and good. He must punish sin. And the punishment God has ascribed for sin is eternity in hell. And that's what you face in about two minutes, unless God does something."

"This is what God did. Two thousand years ago, God the Father sent His Son to earth in the person of Jesus Christ--fully-God and fully-Man, and without sin. Unlike you and me, He never once violated the Law of God in thought, word, or deed. He was perfect in every respect."

"About thirty to thirty-three years into that earthly existence, He voluntarily went to the cross. He suffered and died, shedding His innocent blood--taking upon Himself the punishment you rightly deserve for your sins against God. Then, three days later, He rose from the dead, forever defeating sin and death. He is alive today and He will return at a time of the Father's choosing.

"What God requires of you, Jane, is that you repent. God commands that you turn from your sin and by faith, and by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. He is your only hope.

"In just a minute or so you are going to stand before God. Unless He saves you, you are going to spend eternity in hell. My hope is that instead of receiving what you deserve for your sins against God, you will receive what you and I don't deserve, which is grace, mercy, and the free gift of eternal life. So, please, repent and receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior while He has given you time.

"Does that make sense?"

There was a moment of silence on the phone.

"Whoa!" She said. "How did you do that?"

Jane's response was almost humorous; but I believe, more importantly, it served to reveal the condition of her heart. Jane thought she was a Christian, but was likely not saved.

"Jane, I was able to do that because I know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior."

"Ohh." She said with a somewhat downcast tone of voice.

"Jane, what I'm about to say to you may seem kind of hard. But even though we've never met, I care about you as a person. So, just know that as you listen to what I'm about to say."


"What do you do for a living?"

"Well, I'm going to school right now."

"What do you want to do when you finish school?"

"I would like to be an alcohol treatment counselor."

"Jane, what if I told you I know everything there is to know about alcohol treatment. You're curious, so you say, 'Okay, Tony. Tell me everything you know about alcohol treatment.' And I say, 'Well, people who drink a lot get drunk. And if they get drunk a lot it's hard to stop. So, I think people should stop drinking.'"

Jane chuckled.

"Would you believe I know anything about alcohol treatment?"

"Well, you might know a little bit."

"But would you come to me for counseling?"

"No way."

"Good. Neither would I."

We both laughed.

"Now, Jane, I'm going to ask you a tough question. And again, I'm asking because I care about you."


"Jane, why should I believe you are a Christian when you can't tell me how to become a Christian?"

"You're right. I guess you shouldn't."

Jane and I talked for another half-hour. We talked about the difference between saving faith and religion. We talked about the difference between grace and works. We talked about the forgiveness of God, as seen in the story of David and Bathsheba. We talked about the difference between real and false assurance. We talked about the biblical understanding of adoption and how not everyone born to the human race is a child of God. We talked about what it meant to be "born again."

"Jane, is there any sin in your life (and you don't have to be specific with me) that you love so much that you are willing to spend eternity in hell so you can enjoy that sin in this life?"

Jane thought for a moment. "No. There is nothing in my life worth going to hell for."

"Then, again, I want to encourage you to cry out to God in repentance and faith. If He saves you, if He causes you to be born again, then He will take your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. You will begin to love the things that God loves and you will begin to hate the things that God hates. You will begin to love to read His Word. You will begin to love having fellowship with other followers of Christ. And there's another thing you will love to do."

"What's that?"

"Can you remember a time when you couldn't wait to share news with people?"

"When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter."

"How old is your daughter?"

"She's twelve."

"I have three girls: 22, 20, and 15."


"Remember how you couldn't wait to tell people that you were pregnant?"


"Remember how easy it was for you to talk about it, and how often you talked about it?"


"Well, that's the way it is with people who know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. They are so grateful for the free gift of eternal life God has given them that they can't wait to tell people what God has done for them; and they can't wait to tell people how they can come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior."

"Oh. I see what you mean."

"Jane, many people misunderstand what God did through His Son, on the cross. Let's say you and your daughter were in court one day. You decided to take your daughter to court as a civics lesson. You wanted her to see a court trial.

"Well, as it turns out, the day you decide to go to court is the day of a murder trial. The judge finds a man guilty of murder and sentences him to death.

"Just as the judge is about to have the man taken away to be executed, he turns to you and says, 'Jane, I will let this convicted murderer go if you will allow me to execute your daughter in his place.' Would you do it?"

"No way!"

"Neither would I. There is no way I would sacrifice one of my daughters so that a convicted criminal could go free."

"That's right."

"But Jane, do you understand that's what God did. 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.' God the Father allowed God the Son to be executed in the place of convicted criminals like you and me. So great is God's love that He sent His Son to die for sinners."

"That's beautiful."

"Yes it is. It's beautiful, Jane. It's a miracle. And it's a miracle I hope God will allow to take place in your life. We may never meet in person, but I hope one day when I'm standing before God's throne and worshiping Him that I will turn to my right or my left and see you there, too."

"That's what I want."

"Well, I think you need to spend some time examining yourself and talking to God."

"You're right. That's what I'm going to do. Thank you so much for talking to me."

"I'm really glad we had a chance to talk."

"Can I come to your church?"

"Of course!"

I gave Jane directions to the church and information about the time and format of the service.

"My wife and I will be praying for you and your sister, today."

"Please do." Jane paused. "I might want to talk to you again. Would that be all right?"

"Absolutely. You have my number. If you have any questions or if you just need some encouragement, don't hesitate to call."

"Thank you."

"You have a blessed day."

"You have a blessed day, too."



I hung up the phone and immediately began to praise God, lifting my hands in thanksgiving to what He had just done. And then I thought to myself, "Did I just hear the sound of salvation? Did God save Jane during our conversation?"

Only God knows. But that is certainly my hope. Her voice was humble from the very start of the conversation. If anything, her voice became even more humble as our conversation progressed. Her response the the gospel--to the atoning work of Jesus Christ was, to use her word, "beautiful."

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
Oh Lord, is that what I heard this morning? Was it the sound of amazing grace touching a human soul? Was it the sound of salvation?

Oh Lord, for Your glory, may it be so!

Posted by Tony Miano at 9:54 AM

Monday, October 12, 2009

Friday night evangelism and a dead body.

Friday Fest brought out its usual lost people. There were many opportunities for us to witness and preach the Gospel. We had our “Are You a Good Person?” booth setup to invite the question to be asked and for people to strut up and say that they are a good person.

I spoke with a guy (Derrick) about 14 who wanted to know what the booth was about. He also wanted to let me know that he was a good person. He said he understood what Jesus did for him on the cross and he had admitted at church he was a sinner. After more discussion, he realized he did not really know why he was sinner, until we went through the Law. Galatians 3:24…..

I took him through the courtroom scenario in which he was guilty of a crime, sentenced with a $10 million fine or life imprisonment. The question was: Would he be able to pay the fine? Now, if someone came in to pay his fine, and the judge accepted the payment, he could then be lawfully set free since payment was made on his behalf. I told Derrick how Jesus did a similar thing but its effect is eternal.
He had head knowledge of Jesus, but did not totally understand what Jesus did for him on the Cross. I told him to really think about what Jesus did. He needed to repent for his sin and put complete faith in Jesus Christ. Derrick said he thought he had done this but was not certain.

I reiterated he should read the info I gave him. I then asked if he reads his Bible everyday and he said he did not have one. I asked how he was going to speak to God if he did not read His Word? He did not know because his parents don’t have the gas money to go to church. Usually this is the time someone asks for money. Instead I offered him a Bible for which he was very grateful and said he had to leave and get back to his parents. I watched him leave, meet his parents at a outdoor restaurant-bar who were apparently drinking away the gas money. Pray for Derrick…..

"See the body laying there?"

Well it’s a great attention getter to use while open air preaching, which Wes and Justin were doing. Of course, people complained their little kids were frightened and the street fair folks requested we remove it. This begs the question, what were little kids doing at a street party like this?? The 2 people from the street party organizers said they really did not like telling us to put away “Annie”. They both said they were believers and really admire us for doing what we are commanded us to do. We complied and put “Annie” back in her case….. Wes and Justin went back to preaching.

Then I had four 15 year old girls show up at the booth for their Good Person test. One was pretty quiet and asked for a Spanish Gospel of John, another went through the test – failed as we all do, then asked “Will Jews go to Hell because they are Jewish?” Of course the answer was ‘No’ they will go to Hell for sinning, not repenting and not putting their faith in Yeshua as the Messiah. I told her I am Jewish and she actually stood there with nothing to say – shocker!

The other 2 girls claimed to be lesbians. 2 of the other evangelists with me also talked to them for a little while as they were getting pretty disruptive and trying to get me off topic with the first 2 girls. The 2 lesbians were hostile and completely antagonistic toward God and were asking the usual “how can a loving God send people to Hell?”, “There is no God” and “we originated by the big bang”, etc. They mocked the Bible yet I said they would believe any book a teacher throws in front of them because it is “scientific”. I was told that everything could be proven by science so there is no Creator. I asked them to make me some honey while they were standing there or a bee to make the honey. Where did all this stuff around us come from? They did not get the challenge.
Finally I told them that they can believe whatever they want but one day they will stand in front of the God they hate and be without excuse. Then it will be too late.

The girl who wanted the Spanish Gospel came back over and said she really knew she was going to heaven and why she would be. I kindly suggested that if she were really serious about her relationship with God she might want to re-evaluate coming to this event and the friends she has.

By 9 O’clock most people were getting too drunk to make any sense so we shut it down and went home….

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Saint Nicholas

Lately, I've been feeling a great deal of spiritual pressure. This week, I talked to both my Mom and Dad about it. They independently gave me the 'get back to basics' talk and so this morning I did exactly that.

I met Nicholas this morning in the nursing home. My friend Allyson, stood outside his room to pray for him as we talked. He explained to me that he was from Boston and that he moved into this facility after retiring two different times. We talked about Boston and about his family. He told me that he and an older sister were the only ones left now.

"Now what happens, Nicholas? You know, after we die."

"You know, I've always been curious about that. Some people say that's it and some people say there's something more." he said.

"What do you really think? Do you believe in Heaven and Hell?" I asked.

"Well, yes I do. I think there is a Heaven and a Hell." he answered.

Nicholas was under the impression that as a 'good christian man' he would go to Heaven automatically. We went through some of the 10 Commandments and Nicholas soon saw that he had grieved God by breaking His Law.

"So you see, Nicholas you are actually destined for Hell. You know Jesus talked more about Heaven than He did Hell...He was trying to warn us to stay away! People will be in so much pain that they will gnash their teeth. The fire will not burn out. I've never seen anyone in so much pain that they gnaw on their tongue but I have heard of it. What a horrible place to spend eternity!" I said.

"I don't want to go to Hell!" Nicholas stated adamantly. Then he said, "I don't think God would send me to Hell for these small things I've done."

"No liar will be found in Heaven...'all liars shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone'. God said that there is 'none righteous-no, not one...' and that includes you, Nicholas." I explained how our sin is against God-not just each other.

Nicholas conceded that he was headed for Hell. I explained that Jesus came to take our sins upon Himself and pay for them. Nicholas listened carefully.

"Does this make sense to you, Nicholas?" I asked.

"Not exactly." he said. I stopped and prayed that the Holy Spirit would open his ears to hear Truth. Salvation is of the Lord.

I gave Nicholas the illustration of a courtroom where he would stand, guilty of manslaughter after running over a small child. He could apologize but not be let free on that basis. When presented with the fine of $2M he was unable to pay it. After a neighbor stepped in to pay the fine for him, justice was satisfied and he was free to go!

"Does this make sense" I asked again.

"Yes, it does. You know you're the first person who's ever told me this!" When he said this the expression on his face said everything. He looked as though he had barely missed being run down by a truck.

After explaining repentence and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way, I asked him if he thought this was important enough to take care of today.

"Yes!" he said.

I told Nicholas he could just pray to God right there if he wanted to. He seemed very hesitant and I thought maybe he was a bit embarrassed to pray with me there.

"You don't have to pray with me here."

He still hesitated. "Ahhh...I don't know how to pray. I can't say as I've ever done that."

"Well, just talk to God, He already knows everything. He's been waiting a long time to talk to you, Nicholas."

Nicholas was quiet, but then said, "God please forgive me for sinning. I don't want to go to Hell-I want to follow Jesus!"

After we talked a bit more I asked him to read a couple verses from the book of John. He read out loud and smiled afterwards.

"Does it make more sense now?" I asked him.

"Yes, thank you for this book."

"I'll bring you a Bible soon so you can read every day, OK?"

"OK. Thank you for coming to tell me." he said, without looking up.

John 3:16-18 For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes on Him is not condemned, but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.