BESIDES THE TIME I ALMOST DIED OF PNEUMONIA IN THE ARMY, THERE'S ONLY ONE OTHER TIME THAT I CAN EVER REMEMBER IN MY EXPERIENCE THAT I SAID "NO" TO GOD. You heard the story about how I was in that little trailer and the Lord showed me what a ministry I could have in Miami, Florida, by setting up a Soul Clinic there and a mission station for the Caribbean, and what a marvellous ministry we could have. But I'd never done anything like that in my life. Yes, I'd taught school, I taught Sunday School, I taught high school, but I'd never run a Soul Clinic or a Bible school.--Besides, that required buildings and money and students and advertising. I could think of all kinds of things I didn't have.
I THOUGHT IT WAS A GREAT IDEA! "Yes, Lord, that's a great idea, Miami's just the place for a missionary headquarters and border base for the Caribbean, tremendous, Lord! I'll write Fred Jordan and I'll tell him to get Gordon Swanson to do it!--Because he is that flashy kind of personality, tremendous on the platform, good-looking and strong, let him do it, Lord, not me! I haven't got the faith for it, I haven't got the personality for it, I'm not a very good speaker, my wife has already convinced me that I can't preach and I can't do much to serve the Lord, so I'm just letting her and the kids serve the Lord and I just drive'm." That's about all it amounted to. I just quit preachin' and went to teachin' my children.--But as a result, look what happened!
ALL THOSE YEARS I THOUGHT I WAS A FAILURE and I WAS DEFEATED and I HAD MISSED MY CALLING, whatever it was, I didn't know, because it hadn't even started yet! For one thing, there weren't any hippies yet! So I virtually gave up. I got kicked out of my church, I tried everything to serve the Lord and everything seemed to be a failure. I was no good as a Pastor, it seemed like I wasn't much good as a teacher, although I did last in that almost longer than anything. And I didn't have the flare and the talent of an evangelist. I could lead the singing, that was about all, but I hadn't even begun preaching yet. My Mother did all the preaching and when I did try to preach I always was too long-winded and blasted them too hard and nobody liked it, all those stuffy old church people, because I just told them off, I told them what I really thought!
I USED TO WALK DOWN THE AISLE and PUT MY FINGER RIGHT IN THEIR FACES and SAY, "You vile, filthy sinner, you think you're so good and churchy and so self-righteous, but you're such a hypocrite!"--Because I knew'm.--"God says even the drunks and the harlots and the publicans and sinners are going to get into Heaven before you!" Can you imagine how popular I was?--How popular that message was? Because they weren't witnessing, they weren't getting out doing anything for the Lord, they weren't litnessing, they weren't doing a thing, just sitting there listening to pretty little sermons and putting their few little pennies in the wastebasket! So I knew'm!
I'D GET UP BEFORE A HUNDRED PEOPLE and SAY, "I KNOW YOU GUYS ARE NOT WITNESSES FOR THE LORD, I know you're not soul-winners, I know you're not obeying God! I'll bet there aren't two or three people in this whole congregation that really love the Lord and love sinners enough to get out and witness and win souls! I can prove it to you right now! I've got the goods on you!" And they'd sit there thinking, "Huh! He doesn't know anything about me, how can he tell? This wise guy thinks he knows me, he's never even been here before, never saw me before, how can he tell?" Some of you remember how I found out, the test that I gave.
I SAID, "ANYBODY WHO LOVES THE LORD and LOVES SOULS ENOUGH TO WANT TO WITNESS and WIN SOULS, HAS RIGHT THIS MINUTE SITTING HERE GOT SOME GOSPEL TRACTS IN YOUR POCKET OR YOUR PURSE, and WHOEVER HAS, STAND UP!"--And about two or three little old ladies or old men would stand up, some of them shabby, some of them a little crazy, and of which the congregation was almost ashamed because they went down to bars on Saturday night and passed out tracts, or to Skid Row and passed out tracts to the whores and the bums, and the church was actually ashamed of them!
THEY'D PASS THEM BY and ALMOST DRAW THEIR SKIRTS ASIDE for fear they'd touched an unclean thing, this person that went down to those filthy places and passed out cheap little Gospel tracts with print so small you could hardly read'm and said, "Jesus loves you, God loves you! Here's good news for you! Would you like to have Jesus?"--Or they'd stand on the street corner and preach, even without a Salvation Army Band, and just talk there. They almost looked like some of the other bums and whores, and maybe they had been, maybe that's why they had sympathy and concern and love for them. Almost every real good Gospel church, at least that I ever went to, usually had one or two or three out of a hundred or two hundred who were that kind of queer, odd, peculiar, screwy people who went out on the street and passed out tracts and tried to witness and win souls, and the rest of the church was usually ashamed of them!
DO YOU KNOW WHY THEY WERE ASHAMED OF THEM and DIDN'T LIKE THEM?--BECAUSE THEY WERE A FINGER POINTING AT THEM, literally, accusing them of not doing the same thing! They didn't actually accuse'm, but they made them ashamed of themselves and to feel guilty themselves because they didn't do it and knew they should! So they tried to say, "Well, that's not for every Christian." Even the preacher would say, "Well now, don't worry about that."--Right after I would get through telling the people that every single Christian ought to be a witness, that that's virtually a condition of Salvation: Everyone that believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth Christ as Lord shall be saved! (Rom.10:9,10)
DON'T TELL ME YOU CAN BELIEVE and RECEIVE JESUS and NOT CONFESS HIM and STILL BE SAVED! Think of how many times the Lord said, "If you don't confess Me before men, if you're ashamed of Me before others, I'm going to be ashamed of you before the Heavenly Father!" So the Baptists figure as long as they do it once, walk down and shake the preacher's hand, that that's all they ever need to do, that settles it for the rest of their life! They've confessed Him once and that's it. All they have to do is come to church every Sunday, and that's another confession. If people just see you in church, it shows you're confessing Jesus, if you just carry your Bible to Sunday School you're confessing Jesus. You don't have to say a word, you don't have to go down on filthy Skid Row with bars and bums and whorehouses and love those people and put your arm around them and get their fleas and God knows what kind of germs! But I have seen people that had that much love. I must confess, I had a hard time doing it, but I've done it!--But that wasn't to be my ministry. I'd never been a bum of that kind so I didn't have the empathy others had who had been.
BUT I KNEW THOSE CHRISTIANS and I COULD POINT MY FINGER IN THEIR FACES! I knew'm like a book, because I'd been with'm all my life, sick of'm most of my life, because of their hypocritical, self-righteous, holier-than-thou, pompous piety and unwillingness to save the lost, unwillingness to witness, unwillingness to get out and witness and litness and sacrifice to tell others that Jesus loved them, and certainly most of all unwilling to go to the mission field! That was the rarest thing. Missionaries were just very very special and of course not everybody could be a missionary.
AND RIGHT AFTER I'D GIVEN THESE TALKS THAT EVERY CHRISTIAN HAS TO CONFESS CHRIST, every Christian has to get out and witness and win souls, however you do it, litnessing or whatever you're doing, the preacher would get up right after me, time and again I'd have preachers do it, and say, "Well, that was great and that certainly is a marvellous ministry for some people and some Christians, but of course not all of you can do it and not all of you are able or talented or know how to talk or how to do these things. We understand that you can't do it, but thank God for the few of you who can. That's all right, you go ahead, we'll let you, we'll tolerate it, we'll put up with it."--That sort of an attitude. They didn't say it in so many words, but that's what they meant.
HE'D SAY, "BUT THE REST OF YOU, ALL YOU REALLY HAVE TO DO IS COME TO CHURCH and PUT YOUR MONEY IN THE WASTEBASKET and I'LL DO THE PREACHING and THE SOUL-WINNING FOR YOU! You bring those sinners to church and I'll save'm, officially! After all, how can you save them out there on the street or in their homes or someplace else? You're not a preacher! You can't officially perform the ceremony, the hocus-pocus-dominicus-abracadabra and get'm in, I have to do that! I've got the college education, I've been to cemetery, I'm the one that can do it! You don't know how to do it, that's what you pay me for! Don't try it or you might make a mistake! Don't say it, don't witness, you don't know the Bible well enough!"--Preachers actually taught their people that! "You just bring'm to church and I'll get'm saved!"--Because they wanted to fill up the building.
THEN IF ONE OF THESE DEAR OLD SISTERS OR RAGGEDY OLD MEN who witnessed every Saturday night or every chance they got, and always had tracts in their pocket or purse, would haul one of these bums or drunks or whores into church, the whole congregation would be absolutely horrified and avoid'm like the plague! "They might have diseases or slobber or vomit that'll rub off on me, or I might get some horrible vile filthy blood disease from these terrible stinking people!" They wouldn't even give them a chance. They'd only come due to the pleas of this dear old soul that won'm to the Lord, "Come on to church, please come to church with me!"--Just as the Preacher told'm to!
THEY USED TO TELL ME, "I DON'T WANT TO GO TO THAT CHURCH, I KNOW THOSE PEOPLE! I know people out here in the World who don't even know Jesus, that are better people than them, who don't love Jesus and don't go to church, but are more honest than some of those crooked people on that church board that have gypped me and a few others like that! They don't want me there!" "Come on, now, come on!" "No, no, brother, they don't want Indians in that church. No, no, no, I can't go there, I'm a Mexican. You'll see, they don't want me in your church." I said, "Come on now, they're Christians, they'll love you, they'll be so glad to see you coming!"--Boy, little did I know!
I BROUGHT'M TO CHURCH, and BECAUSE I WAS SO PROUD OF THEM and THANKFUL FOR THEM, I SAT THEM RIGHT UP FRONT! That's usually the only place there was enough room anyway, because in churches you've got to come early to get a back seat, did you ever notice that? They always start filling up from the back and they only go forward if they have to.--Because the further they can stay from the preacher and the pulpit, the better they like it, so he'll not be able to see them and their sins and look'm right so close in the eye. I didn't even stay in the pulpit, I walked down the aisle and would stick my finger in their faces! Some of them would actually get scared to death and thought I was a mad man!--I was mad! I was very angry with Christians! You can imagine how popular I was!
I WAS REALLY A ONE-NIGHTER, MINE WERE ALL ONE-NIGHT STANDS!--Ha! That's all they could take it, and I was on my way! "Oh, brother, we'd love to have you for Sunday evening service, it might help us get a crowd. You can show your movies and pictures and give your little talk, whatever it is, and have your children sing! Ah, we'll advertise and we'll do it! Park your trailer in our church yard and use the bathroom, that's great, and we'll get you a little offering." So Mother Eve would get up on the platform and play the piano while our precious little kids would get up there and sing away, and everybody was all smiles, everybody was happy, wonderful! "This is great entertainment, this guy is going to show us colour slides and movies, and oh boy, this is a great show! I'm sure glad we came tonight!"
AND THEN BEFORE I'D SHOW MY PICTURES I'D SAY, "WELL NOW, I WANT TO GIVE JUST A LITTLE WEE WORD OF INTRODUCTION."--And I'd start preaching to'm, preaching at'm, and telling them about their sins. I'd start out by telling them what we do and how we do it: "Our family and our children go out on the street and we do this and do that", and I'd tell'm how wonderful it is and how many souls get saved. Did they look happy?--Their faces began to fall! You know why? They thought, "What kind of nuts are these, anyhow?--Some kind of weirdos off the streets that go down to Skid Row and preach to the bums and the whores and the drunks and pass out tracts! That's some kind of a quirk, people that pass out tracts!"--And they'd begin to get embarrassed for us.
AND THEN I'D BEGIN TO SOCK IT TO'M! I'd walk right out of that pulpit and point my finger in their face and say, "You ought to do the same thing, it's wonderful! You ought to always have some tracts in your pocket or your purse!"
For years I thought I was an awful downright dirty sinner if I walked out the door without tracts in my pocket and my wife without tracts in her purse, and we always gave tracts to everybody--the elevator boy, the bell boy, the waiter, everybody, and talked to them about the Lord. That was our main job, our main pleasure, our avocation and our vocation, to witness and talk to people about Jesus and love'm for the Lord. It was wonderful, we loved it! Thank God my Mother loved it too, she was a wonderful personal witness, not just a pulpit evangelist! She always talked to everybody about the Lord wherever she went. She wasn't always much on tracts, she just was great on personal soul-winning. She'd nail'm right on the spot, talk to'm and get'm saved! We didn't always have a chance or time, a lot of times we did, but we'd always carry tracts.
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