Friday, October 3, 2014
From Parma to Milano
I am at 32,000 feet in the EXIT row over Stuttgart, Germany on my way to Oslo. I have had a wonderful time visiting with a brilliant, 22 year-old, Lebanese Muslim that reminded me so much of our Kevin. He was totally winsome with spectacular wisdom and maturity. He studies medicine in Saudi Arabia where he lives with his mother, father and two brothers. He was RIPE for the gospel and was agreeable with my claim concerning “the mystery of godliness.”
On the train, I invited him up to sit with me for the hour and a half from Parma to Milan Centrale. We discussed every apologetic issue imaginable from Natural Materialism to Ethics. We agreed on many principle positions but what he found interesting is this, he believed them because they were Islamic positions regardless of the logic. I explained the “Why” of belief which he found informative and attractive. He said that he had never talked to a Christian who could make sense out their beliefs. I must say, he was a bit overwhelmed and I think if I had a Bible at that moment he would have grabbed it.
Now, I know what some people might be thinking. “Well, he was just being respectful and polite.” I’m sorry but he was greedy for the truth and when he heard it, he was aflame. I have done this long enough to know the difference between accommodation and thrill. I gave him my card and hope to hear from him. Though his father was in another seat behind us, he was quick to introduce us at the end and get a photograph.
Parma: September 28, 2014
I arrived at Malpensa / Milano late from Bucharest and there to meet me was Alessia Zambon the wife of Francesco Abortivi who circled the terminal while she waited. They rushed me back to Parma (2 hours) and my bed so that I would be fresh for Sunday morning. I arrived at around midnight.
Johnny: Converted three years ago
I had intended to preach an evangelistic message as I often do when I visit Parma. We always see response. At the last minute I changed my mind and I preached on revelation from Isaiah 6:1-7. What should happen when we encounter the glory of God? I related this to Paul’s conversion and testimony to King Agrippa in Acts 26. Since this was a message for believers, I didn’t expect what happened. At the end of the service a good number of people came forward to receive Christ. I am always thrilled by response since I almost never see it in Charlotte where the gospel is very available and taken for granted. These people are generally very needy and if there is a problem with altar calls it would be that many will come forward because they are more desperate for a solution to temporal problems rather than a desire to receive Jesus as Lord and Savior. We take all comers and have seen many discipled and attach themselves to the church so we continue to hold out free salvation to all who will call upon the name of the Lord.
Regrettably, some misunderstand who I am and want a photo with “the man of God” as it is typical for South Americans and African to hold teachers and preachers in high esteem. I accommodate them and happily pose as I like the moment as much as they do.
“It is something but it is not everything.”
Since it was rather heavy information I didn’t expect what happened. More came on Thursday night with serious resolve to study the matter. Pastor’s Aldo, Mariela and Francesco considered this message to come just at the right moment as some were drifting toward extreme teaching (although no one thinks the doctrine they ascribe to is extreme or minor) and encouraging others similarly. This can do little but eventually wind up in a split. This is the warning of Paul when he says that following men is immature and dangerous. I pointed out that many doctrines are good if not exaggerated and asked them to remember this much, “It is something but it is not everything.”
OCTOBER 2, 2014
In the evening we held our second Bible Study night. Upon arrival I was told that a journalist was here to interview me regarding, “Religious Dialogue.” I said, “Of course,” and met with her for about twenty minutes prior to the meeting which she happily sat through taking notes. I used the opportunity to witness out of the side of my mouth and she stayed after for some time as I explained that all religions are nothing alike and exclusive. If she meant “dialogue” as in a syncretistic coming together then this would be impossible since Christians have the pesky problem of Christmas and Easter which will not mesh with any other religion. I reminded her of something I had heard on radio that summarizes the difficulty of inter-religious “dialogue.” “A Muslim cleric was being interviewed when he made this astounding and unthoughtful remark, “Muslims and Christians believe many of the same things except they believe that Jesus is God.”
This is no small matter.
Apparently, I was reported fairly and admirably or so I am told. It is my hope that her life has been touched by the gospel. She seemed to understand all of my points both in the interview exchange and Bible study.
Parma: Wednesday, October 1, 2014
On Tuesday, my friend and landlord (Ducale Bed and Breakfast, Parma) asked me for lunch at his favorite restaurant, Il Cortile. Imagine, I have been a city block from this jewel and never knew about it. Tucked away on a side street a stone’s throw from my bedroom window is an amazing spot. The little sign betrays the hospitality and incredible, reasonably priced luncheon cuisine just inside the door.
Anyway, it was nice to enjoy personal time with a fellow I greatly admire. Finally, at the conclusion of the lunch – which he paid for, I got to the gospel and was able to explain the difference between evangelical faith and Roman dogma. I always feel that I have done my job when I convincingly get to, “Jesus paid it all.”
Giovanni is a spiritually sensitive man and treats these matters with seriousness and reverence. He is no mocker of God.
Parma: Tuesday, September 30, 2014
A Red Letter Day
Two-thirds of the room… Hunger?
“The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”
I had announced on Sunday that this was an important Bible Study that would take two nights, an hour and a half each night to work our way through and they should be prepared since I was going to bring some rather serious insight. I cautioned that only serious students should come. Only those who were able to hear the truth should show up. Now, what do you think happened? The place was packed with over seventy people ready to examine the scriptures.
I have been deeply disturbed by what I see all over Europe so taking up Ist Corinthians 3 and 4, I wanted to examine our relationship to leaders and what their relationships should be to us. Unfortunately, many European believers have little concept regarding how we view the very visible American evangelists, teachers and preachers available at conferences or by satellite television and internet. These people may range from Andrew Womack, Joyce Meyers, Ken Copeland, Benny Hinn to Paul Washer, John Piper or John McArthur.
Regrettably, there seems to be an insatiable need for mediators of one kind or another. They will attend one conference, view one person on a computer, read one flimsy book and suddenly they become devotees of a person or some doctrinal aberrance.
They assume that because these “Stars” are on camera and seemingly almost everywhere at once, they must be incredibly important. They have no idea, that some of these people are regarded as extreme or even cultish. I made it clear that not all Americans admire many of these people and that at the very bottom of much of American Christianity is the profit margin. While the teacher may teach truth, the lifestyle may be inconsistent with what they preach.
I gave them plenty of chapter and verse as we did a verse by verse exposition and then backed this up with many of the warnings coming from a variety of New Testament letters. There is no shortage of warning against spiritual “grandstanding” and idolatry.
MONDAY, September 29, 2014
I have a day to myself so I got off to a slow start. I did general errands like taking clothes to the cleaners at three times the US price, dropping in on friends in their stores and shops and so forth.
One of my joys is to draw portraits of friends and encourage them through gifts. In so doing, I have many friends that would have been missed. On Monday afternoon, I pooped around to see Halla, an opera singer and owner of the bar, Pulcinella. Her husband Paolo was there to greet me and since it was Halla’s day off, made arrangements for me to drop on Tuesday morning.
We did meet on Tuesday at 11 and as I thought, Halla was overwhelmed and lavishly expressed her gratitude. We chatted for quite some and long enough for me to learn her clear gospel confidence. It was nice to find a Lydia in this city. She wants to arrange a fall event when I would come again with a band and art show.
Later in the week I introduced her to Mariela who share many similar interests regarding the arts. In May Mariela will be hosting the seventeen member Ballet Magnificat from Jackson, Mississippi in the city of Fidenza only fifteen minutes away. Halla and Mariela talked about how they might collaborate making the event successful.
In the evening I went for a pizza at a rather well-known restaurant Al Corsaro on Cavour. There I met a family of four from Australia and across the tables did some low-grade witnessing.