Panhandlers, Street Preachers, and Jesus

I was certain the guy was in it for the money; trying to sell me his beliefs in order to get at my wallet.

I had it all figured out. Yep, I knew I didn’t need all the religious junk the guy on the street corner was trying to sell me.

Sure. I wasn’t perfect. Who is? But I was at least as decent as the guy standing in front of me.

Besides, the only reason he was telling me his story was because he was really just panhandling. He’d tell his story to those passing by, then hand them a paper, and ask for a quarter or some kind of donation.

Hey, I wasn’t against hitting people up for spare change. I’d done it many times; in Denver, Colorado Springs, and at a number of truck stops between Des Moines and North Platte. But I never thought of inventing some story to go along with it. What a great idea!

But I wouldn’t have used such an unbelievable story. Really! Some guy named Jesus, who supposedly lived 2000 years ago, who loved me enough to die on the cross for me. Yeah, right.

What? Did I look that gullible?

I was eighteen when the Jesus nut tried to get my money and convert me at the same time. Eighteen and full of knowledge.

It wasn’t the first time I’d heard the fairy tale. I think I was sixteen when a white-haired pastor tried to brainwash me. Oh, he was a decent enough kind of guy. He seemed to genuinely care for me. And he was a fairly good ping pong player.

But he was a preacher. At one point in his life he got suckered into believing the Jesus story, and now he got paid to talk about it.

I figured he wasn’t that different from the street corner dude. They both talked about Jesus and they both got money for telling the story.

But I wasn’t going to buy it. I was smarter than that.

Besides, my friends and the people I admired were looking at a different kind of churchy stuff. Buddhism. Buddhism and dope. I couldn’t see why the Jesus trip was any better than the Buddha thing, and at least with the Buddha and dope deal I’d get something for my money.

Yeah, the Buddha and dope people wanted money also.

I eventually gave up on the whole “religion” thing: Buddha, Krishna, dope, and spare changing.

I was eighteen, married, and employed. I didn’t hurt anyone, didn’t put anyone down, and believed everyone should live and let live.

And I could do that without any help from Buddha, Krishna, drugs, or Jesus.

Especially Jesus. 

But something happened. How it happened, I still don’t know. I mean, does a farmer know HOW his crop grows? He knows he plants, waters, controls the weeds, hopes for enough sunshine; but he can’t explain the how part.

Like I said, something happened. The things I’d heard from the white-haired preacher, the street corner Jesus nut, and a number of other Jesus followers began to take root.

Take root and grow.

Three years later, after moving to a different state and discovering there are Jesus nuts in other parts of the country, as well as in Iowa, I began hearing the Jesus story from a most unlikely source – my heart.

My own heart began telling me I was rejecting the only One Who really loved me. My own heart? Yes, my heart was convicting me, reminding me of just how evil I was.

Finally, after months of wrestling with myself and God’s word, I gave up. No, that’s not quite right.

I died. Not physically, of course, but the old Jan died and I realized it could have been me nailing Jesus to the cross. Because he took my sins upon Himself as He hung there.

I immediately became a new creation in Christ; the old passed away and the new started growing.

And still is.

That was over forty years ago. It still amazes me, after all these years, how such a perfect Man could love me enough to pay for my transgressions, my crimes against man and God; just so I could experience His love and life forever.

And believe it or not, He did it for you, too.

“But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:5 – 53:7 NLT)

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun.” (2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT)

The love of God has been demonstrated, the work of the Son is complete. There’s only one thing keeping you from experiencing everlasting life.

Turn from your way (repent) and choose His (believe the gospel).

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12 NLT)

And you wanna know something? I’m not telling you this story so you can give me money.

Nope. I’m not a salesman; I’m a satisfied customer. 

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