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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
“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.
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 Corsaroon Cavour. There I met a family of four from Australia and across the tables did some low-grade witnessing.
Hollow Christianity, Catholicism and Atheism is no match for an ardent Islam
Let’s welcome Trojan Horse
Every time I stand in an airport security line I think that the tail is wagging the head. How is it possible that perhaps less than 100,000 people in the entire world manage to hold the western world with a billion and a half people hostage forcing us to all sorts of stupidity? As I visit some European cities I think that I am in north Africa. When it comes to Arab immigration, multi-culturalism has proven to be sheer folly. They will never understand assimilation.
BY 2050 THIS COULD BE REPLACED BY SLAUGHTERED, HANGING GOATS.
Welcome EURABIA and Sharia law. Parma, Italy will no longer produce their famous prochiutti and salumis. Muslims are having 6.8 babies per couple while Italian’s maintain the lowest birth rate in Europe of less than 1 per couple. The same is true of England, France, Germany, Holland and other Western European countries. The number one birth name in Holland, Belgium and France is Mohammed. BUY AND READ, “AMERICA ALONE, The end of the world as we know it.”by Mark Steyn. Welcome your children and grandchildren to the new world reality. We’d better hope Jesus comes back and soon!
This is the part I most dislike. I hate the day when it is all over, I pack up again, say our goodbyes and go to the next city. It is hard to imagine the bonding that can take place in one week. It was a small group but such nice students and staff. Can I say it? Yes, these are my friends (brothers and sisters) now and though we may never see each other again on this side of glory, we have shared the divine privilege of meeting and this will make the reunion so much sweeter.
I am in a VW van with two others and a driver on our way from Costanta to the Bucharest airport where I will fly back through Zurich to Milan. I have put my earphones in my ears, turned Willie Nelson up loud to muffle the non-stop Romanian between my three companions. The young guy driving the van is not entirely hospitable to me, so I am playing the tortoise. This was all Sarah’s fault since she chased after the van, pounding on the window to say, “Goodbye.” Alarmed, he stopped, I opened the door and hugged her, he crossed himself, swore and we went on.
So then, after I put my computer aside, packed it away, I took out my Bible and began to read. About twenty minutes later, I put my Bible away, took off my earphones and settled back into my seat for what might have been another hour of non-stop Romanian.
Suddenly, he spoke to me. The big fellow sitting next to me spoke up in English asked where I was from and why I was in Costanta. This led to questions about where he was headed. From this I learned that he was a cook on a ship and headed for Greece. I told him why I was in Costanta and he said, “I saw you reading a Bible. Are you a Mormon?” Apparently, this is the first question they ask when they find out you are here from North America in some religious capacity. Mormons are incredibly visible in most European cities. This gave me opportunity to explain the difference between Biblical faith and Mormonism. Because we were fairly close in age he seemed to respect what I had to say. He told me he was Orthodox and said his prayers and carried an icon of the Virgin Mary everywhere he went. For the next thirty minutes I presented the authentic Christian faith. He was quite friendly and agreeable to the claims of the gospel. He took my card and said we should get together when I am in Costanta again. He promised to write me when he got to a computer and internet but mostly he will be at sea for the next six months. This doesn’t seem like much but every word punches a hole in the darkness.