23 March 2012

Depravity's Got Talent

 From Tony Miano at Cross Encounters

Does today's post title have you a little perplexed? Allow me to explain.

It was only 100 degrees, today, on Avenida Entrana. I think it may be premature to call it a "cooling trend." Once again, affirming and friendly motorists far out numbered the angry ones. But of all the motorists who passed by, one in particular is etched in my memory.

Traveling at no less than 40 mph, a man on a motorcycle approached the intersection, heading eastbound on Lyons Avenue. Before he entered the intersection, he rose to his feet and stood straight as an arrow. Then he slowly stretched his arms out to his sides, with his palms facing forward, and tilted his head back. He maintained this position all the way though the intersection. He was living proof that depravity's got talent. But his talent was overshadowed by his blasphemous display as he mockingly tried to mimic Jesus hanging on the cross.

The Lord, however, would redeem the time on Avenida Entrana.

I was just about to leave to meet Mahria and the girls at In-n-Out Burger for dinner when I was approached by two Hispanic gang members. Now, some who read this may jump at the chance to call me judgmental for referring to the two young men as gang members. But having worked as a gang investigator for a number of years, I believe the old adage is still true. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and walks like a duck; well, it's probably a duck.

Both were dressed in the latest in gangster apparel, complete with baggy pants, monogrammed belt buckles and matching dark baseball hats, and the usual array of costume jewelry. Both had tattoos that looked like they either etched their own body or an even less talented body artist did it for them. One was short. One was tall.

"Ready for what?" The short one said with a sarcastic tone and a grin on his face.

"Eternity. Are you guys ready for eternity?"

"When is that?" The short one asked.

"When you die. We're all going to die someday. Right?"

Both nodded their heads and agreed. In their answer, each tried to express their lack of concern with a little false bravado.

"So, what's going to happen to you guys when you die?" I asked.

Neither knew for sure, but both affirmed a belief in heaven and hell.

"What does a person have to do to go to heaven?" I asked.

"Be good." They answered.

"Have you guys been good?"

They laughed and shook their heads.

I took the two young men through the Law, with both admitting to being lying, thieving, blasphemous, murderers-at-heart. Before I could even ask what they thought God would do with them if He found them guilty of breaking His Law, the shorter one looked at the ground and said, "I'm going to hell."

The taller one nodded his head in agreement.

"Does that concern you guys?" I asked. Both said that it did.

"Do you have any idea what God did so that you might not have to spend eternity in hell?"

"Jesus died on the cross." The taller one answered.

"Have either of you been in a courtroom?"

"In a courtroom?" The shorter one asked.

"Yes--in a courtroom."


"Me, too. In fact, I probably spent a lot more time in courtrooms then either of you. I was a deputy sheriff and I worked COBRA (the gang unit at Santa Clarita station)."

Their eyes grew as large as saucers.

The shorter one chuckled and said, "Oh, man. I'm outta here."

"Don't worry about it. I'm retired, now."

I took the two young men through the courtroom analogy. As I did, a sheriff's patrol car slowly made its way through the intersection. I made eye contact with the deputy and gave the customary nod of acknowledgement. I'm sure the sight of a guy holding a large cross talking to two gangsters was probably something he doesn't see every day.

When I turned back around, both of the young men's eyes were fixed on the patrol car. Their posture seemed to indicate that they were ready to run if the patrol car stopped.

I stepped between them and their view of the patrol car. "Relax. Nothing is going to happen." I said.

I shared the gospel with them. The taller one said, "I understand what you're saying."

"Get right with God, you guys. You're not promised tomorrow. And the time to get right with God isn't when you're standing before Him waiting to be judged. That would be like standing before a judge in a courtroom and saying, 'Judge, I didn't think I would get caught. I didn't think the jury would find me guilty. And I didn't think you would punish me. So, I think you should just let me go and forget about the whole thing.'

"A good judge would turn to you and say, 'You should have thought about that before you broke the law.' And the same will be true when you stand before God.

"Does that make sense?"

"Yeah it does." They answered.

We shook hands and I asked them to think carefully about what I told them. They said that they would.

They started to cross the street.

"You guys be careful."

"We will!"

I walked to my car, praying for those two young men the entire way. Once again, I thanked God for using the cross to give me the opportunity to share the gospel with two young men I may not have ever met, otherwise.

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