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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Why Hell?

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, “Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:22-24 NIV

“I don’t believe in hell,” our server, Ally, told my best friend Nancy and me. “How can a good God create hell?”

Nancy and I had just left her church choir practice and were sitting at the end of a long table with several of her friends, including her Minister of Music. Sensing Ally was shy, we talked so quietly that Nancy’s friends at the end of table didn’t even know what was going on.

“Do you believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said. “I believe in Jesus. I just don’t believe in hell. We’re all good and God loves us so we’re all going to heaven.”

“If that were not true, would you want to know it before you die?”

Ally stared at us for a few seconds and finally said, “Yes. I just can’t believe God would create hell.”

I began explaining the theology about hell. I talked about fallen angels, free will, and Jesus going into hell. Ally’s eyes glazed over and I remembered that non-Christians don’t have the Holy Spirit and can’t understand such things.

“Ally,” I said. “I’m a Christian. Like you, I believe in Jesus. I’ve gone a step further. I’ve invited Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. When I did that, the Holy Spirit entered me. The Holy Spirit helps me understand things that cannot be understood without Christ. The Bible is God’s letter to me. When I read it, God is talking directly to me. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Sin is the Bible word for making mistakes. The wages of sin is death. The Bible says there is a hell and that's enough for me to believe it. It also says all who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. I may not like it but I believe hell exists and I trust God about that. If you pray to receive Jesus, you’ll also start developing that same kind of trust and understanding.”

Ally relaxed. Believing it because it was in the Bible was enough for her.

“Would you like to invite Jesus into your life right now?” I asked.

“Oh no, I can’t,” she said, frantically looking at Nancy’s friends. “I’m self conscious.”

“Ally,” I said. “We’re the only people in the restaurant. Everyone else at this table is talking and aren’t watching us. Look at my hands. They’re shaking. My heart is about to beat out of my chest. This is your moment. I don’t usually push but I can’t describe how I’m feeling. I think God wants you to do this now. I’m good at making this easy and will tell you exactly what to say.”

“Ok,” she whispered.

Nancy and I took her tiny, trembling hands. Together, we gave Ally the words that would change her destiny. Aloud, I added the words, “God, please help Ally understand all the things she doesn’t understand.”

When we finished, Nancy asked Ally if she could tell everyone sitting at the table. Ally said yes so Nancy got their attention and announced Ally’s good news. Everyone at the table clapped.

“Do you have a Bible?” I asked. “The Bible will help answer your questions.”

“No,” she said.

“I’ll bring you one this week,” Nancy’s Minister of Music eagerly spoke up. He will follow up, get her a Bible, and invite her to their church.

“Thank you,” Ally said, as we left. “Thank you so much.”

Nancy and I have been together a week. We’ve had 17 salvations. I leave her tomorrow to move to the next stop. Like Ally, I sometime wonder, why hell? The only answer I have is that I trust God and believe the Bible. I hate the idea of people going to hell.

Join us in our “Give’em Heaven in 2011” campaign. Invite me to your area to go evangelizing. Pray for us. We’re almost out of money and it is only March. Consider making a donation to this ministry. Tell your community about Jesus. Give’em Heaven in 2011!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Yes, No, We'll See

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6-7 NIV

Mardi Gras came to an end. It is time for me to give my best friend Nancy back to her husband, Barry. It was a good four days and well worth our time and the money people donated to make it happen. We had 15 salvations, passed out tracts, and presented the Gospel numerous times. We met so many faithful Christians there doing the same thing. The Bible says to think on what is lovely and leading people to Jesus is lovely.


“If you get to heaven and God asked, ‘Girlfriend, why should I let you in?, 'what would you say?” I asked a woman who had just told me she was going to heaven. I’d guessed she was about 25. Her black skirt was so tight and short that I wondered how she moved.

She was silent for minute. Finally, she said, “I have no idea!”

“Good answer,” I said. “You’re honest. I can work with that. Do you believe in Jesus?”

“Yes,” she said. We confirmed the facts of His birth, death, and resurrection and she was well informed. I spoke scripture about how to get to heaven and she listened with rapt attention. Someone had taught her about Jesus but not the way to Him. When I invited her to pray, she was ready and eager.

I love telling children about Jesus. With the permission of the supervising adults, we gave out many children’s tracts and presented the gospel to several groups of children, using a picture cube that tells the story of Jesus.

One grandmother agreed to let me talk to her 5 grandchildren and said, “These 3 here're saved but these 2 ain’t. I told them about Jesus but their mama don’t take them to church.”

As I told the story of Jesus, I stopped at each section of the cube to make sure the two unsaved little boys, aged 6 & 8, understood. They not only understood, they believed. The grandmother had taught them well.

“May I ask them to invite Jesus into their lives?” I asked.

“Yes,” the Grandmother answered without hesitation.

I turned to the boys. “You know and believe everything you need to know to become Jesus’ friend. Do you want to do that now?”

They both nodded solemnly but when they repeated the simplified salvation prayer, they said it clearly and enthusiastically.


I long for every encounter to be lovely, but not all are. Many refused the tract. A few were rude and occasionally obscene. I heard several times, “I’m good. Don’t bother me.” I honored their wishes and moved on, praying for them as I left.

We’ll See

Several listened to the Gospel, took the tract, and promised to say the prayer later. I believe that at least two of those will really do it. Who knows, maybe more than that. I didn’t push beyond my invitation to pray.

My favorite, “We’ll See” are the intellectuals who love to debate. They pontificate about science, future lives, philosophy, other deities, or what ever book they have just read. I listen completely and do not debate. In fact, I try to express no opinion about their opinions. I’ve found opinions escalate debate and while they might enjoy it, we get nowhere.

When they finish their speeches, I usually ask, “If Jesus were the way, truth, and the life and no one could get to the Father except through Him, would you want to know it?”

One person this week said no so I moved on.

Most often, I hear something like, “That’s a silly question. I could never know that. It would be impossible to know.”

I smile and say, “I knew you were going to think it was silly but it is a serious question. If there were a way you could know beyond a shadow of doubt, would you want to know? If Jesus were the only way to heaven and you were going to end up spending an eternity in hell without Him, would you want to know it before you die?”

Most say yes. I then say, “I want to give you the Jesus Challenge. It takes courage but I think you’re up to it. Ask the Jesus you don’t believe it if He is real. Tell Him you need proof. Feel free to tell Him you don’t believe and how ridiculous you think the notion of there being only one-way to heaven really is. He has big shoulders. He can handle it. Ask Him if He is real and then watch with an open mind. If He isn’t real, you have nothing to lose. If He is real, you have eternity to gain.”

Two Mardi Gras clad confirmed atheists took the Jesus challenge this week. I gave them my card and said, “You’d better hang on to your hat and my card. Over the years, I’ve heard back from several people who took the Jesus Challenge. Their stories were astounding. Contact me and tell me your story about how Jesus proved Himself.”

Yes, it has been a lovely week. I love going outside to play with my best friend, Nancy. Evangelism is my favorite kind of play. Evangelism is not Nancy's calling but she is always willing support me in my adventures. When we wake up tomorrow, I’ll drive Nancy back to Atlanta.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Reason

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Rom 10:13 NIV

Today, I think I discovered the reason I felt so driven to attend Mardi Gras. I suspect Anthony was the main reason God wanted me here.

On Sunday, Nancy and I took a break from witnessing to watch a delightful street show. For an hour, we watched 4 talented young men perform amazing gymnastic feats, tell jokes, and dance.

Throughout the show, I focused on Anthony, who appeared to be the leader. His mouth contained what I think is called a “grill” and when he laughed, his twinkling gold teeth competed with his twinkling eyes. Because of some of the jokes, I suspected he wasn’t a Christian, but I appreciate talent and anyone who can make me laugh.

After the show, I stood in the long line to give my compliments. “You guys were great,” I said. “You are also good at getting money out of people. You asked us for $5 and sure enough, I found myself putting $5 in the basket instead of my usual $1. I’m in ministry and $5 is precious.”

“Oh, he’s good at a hustle all right,” quipped the young woman standing next to him.

“Yes, he is,” I said. “As I watched the show, I couldn’t help but think that God has big plans for your talent and humor. I can see it one day leading young people to Christ but that would mean you’d have to become a Christian first.”

Anthony and his friend laughed.

“I know another group who uses karate to lead people to Christ. They go into high schools and churches. They are using their talent to change the world,” I said. “It was all I could think about as I watched your show.”

Anthony was polite but people were waiting so I left and didn’t expect to see him again.

Today, Nancy and I meandered over to Artillery Park, the same place Anthony’s group had performed the day before. We were expecting a huge Christian worship service but were surprised to see Anthony’s group finishing a show and the Christian worship team standing around.

It turned out that both groups had paid for permits for use of the same space. I watched Anthony interact with the Christian team as they compared permits. Then, Anthony stuck out his hand, shook the pastor’s hand, and started removing his equipment.

I walked over to Anthony. “You guys are a class act. You could have made that difficult and yet you didn’t. I know this is costing you money and you must be disappointed. I appreciate how cooperative you’re being.”

“I just wanted to see his permit,” he said. “Last year Christians told me they had a permit and it turned out they had lied.”

“Lying isn’t Christian,” I said. “I’m sorry that happened to you. By the way, I still think God has big plans for you.”

“You remind me of an old lady who always comes to Mardi Gras and tries to pray with me.”

“Maybe that old lady couldn’t come so God sent another old lady to talk to you about Jesus,” I joked.

To worship with what looked to be a thousand Christians right in the middle of Mardi Gras was amazing. There standing across from fortunetellers and party goers circling Jackson Square, Christians danced, sang, jumped, waved flags, prayed, and took communion, all in the name of Jesus. As the worship service neared the end, I noticed familiar athletic pants moving up behind me. Somehow, in that big crowd, Anthony had ended up right behind me.

He seemed to be under conviction so I began praying for him and waited until the end of service to talk to him.

“I’m glad you came,” I said, standing up and touching his arm. “I’ve been sitting here praying for you. I can’t stop thinking that God has big plans for you in the body of Christ.”

“I think I’m getting there,” he said quietly.

“You don’t have to ‘get there.’ We can do this right now. The Bible says all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. The wages of sin is death and the gift of God is eternal life. All who call on the name of Jesus will be saved. Let’s call on Him right now. I’ll tell you exactly what to say.”

“OK,” he said.

Anthony gave me his hands and together, we prayed for him to receive Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Nancy congratulated him. Anthony left to set up for his next show, changed forever.

“I knew it!” I told Nancy excitedly. “I knew last night he was going to accept Jesus. God is going to use his talent in the church. I think Anthony may be the reason I was supposed to come to Mardi Gras. I feel like I could go home now and I’d be finished.”

“I’m OK with that,” Nancy grinned. I knew what she meant. Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras was definitely not Nancy’s choice for a place to be. I’d needed someone with me and she’d come because I needed her.

“No,” I said. “Sorry. We have one more day. Let’s finish this.”

We’ve had 10 people pray to receive Jesus. Tonight, we strolled Bourbon Street praying for the drunken crowd and handing out tracts. We were encouraged by how many Christians were there doing the same thing. Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday. Where sin increases, grace abounds.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Making Lemonade From Lemons

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Rom 8:28 NIV

Lemons start out sour. If you squeeze them and add sugar, they turn into wonderful delicious lemonade. Logic would have it that when a sour, squeezed life meets the sweetness of Jesus, that life would turn as sweet as a tall icy glass of lemonade. The sad reality is that it doesn’t always work that way.

Today, Day 2, of our Mardi Gras experience, my best friend Nancy and I stood and watched some sour faced Christians using an amplified bullhorn and vile posters to shout obscenities and condemnations to Mardi Gras attendees. To add insult to injury, they did it standing on the steps of the magnificent St. Louis Cathedral that Nancy and I had enjoyed so much yesterday.

They weren’t alone in their heckling. Because this wasn’t their first year of torturing party goers, non-Christian members of the crowd came prepared with bullhorns and nasty signs of their own. I apologized to Jesus as Nancy and I listened to the loud and sometimes obscene insults being tossed back and forth.

“I’m so sorry,” I told an angry man yelling into a bullhorn and wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Jesus pictured profanely. “I’m a Christian. Jesus is about love. Those people yelling at you are not representing the Jesus I know and love.”

“No kidding,” the man said. “They come every year. They stand on the stairs of a church we love and say horrible things.”

“I’m so sorry,” I said. The irate anti-Jesus crowd gathered around us and Nancy and I apologized to all of them, lacing scripture with our apology. We listened to their frustrations until they seemed to settle down. Other Christians walked by and added their apologies.

Are you wondering where the lemonade comes in? I was furious with those sour faced Christians until I remembered that all things worked together for good for those who love God and have been called according to His purpose. Those sour Christians had handed us opportunities to evangelize. Those opportunities led to at least 1 salvation, many presentations of the Gospel, two commitments from “atheists” to ask Jesus to reveal Himself, and a chance to be Jesus to an angry mob.

All things today did work together for our good. Nancy and I had a good day. We worshiped and prayed together and shared Jesus with many people. 4 of those conversations resulted in salvations. That makes a total of 8 salvations for Mardi Gras. I must also confess that Nancy and I also took time today for a 20-minute much needed foot massage, watched some amazing street performers, and visited fun shops. After all, we are female and best friends.

Tomorrow, I’d really like to meet those sour faced Christians again and thank them for providing us the opportunity to apologize for their hostility. I suspect that thought isn’t from God so instead, I’ll focus my attention on demonstrating love to a lost and dying world. For tonight, I’m just going to enjoy the lemonade.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Heaven Came Down

By Cheryle M. Touchton
The Pocket Full of Quarters Lady

It isn’t unusual for best friends to go to Mardi Gras together. In fact, everywhere my best friend Nancy Edwards and I looked, friends were partying hearty together at the 2011 Mardi Gras. Nancy and I have been best friend for over 40 years so naturally, we want to be together any time we can. What is unusual is the reason we went. Nancy and I were at Mardi Gras to lead people to Christ.

Day 1 started out slowly. It was raining as heaven literally came down. Cold, wet, grumpy people huddled together under the awnings that decorate the French Quarter. They were not in the mood for friendly conversation.

To stay warm and dry, Nancy and I ducked in to two museums and the magnificent St. Louis Cathedral. We felt like God gifted us with a few moments to just be girlfriends enjoying the history and beauty of the city of New Orleans. Realizing the rain was there to say, we bought $3.99 ponchos and begin our work.

We walked and walked and walked. We handed out a few tracts but mostly we started conversations. We heard one young man say, “I look 21. I can get away with it.”

I touched his arm and said, “No you don’t. You look 19.”

“Did you hear me say how old I was?” he asked, looking surprised.

“No,” I said. “You look 19.” That was our door opener to tell the group about Jesus. No one from that group prayed to receive Jesus but we encouraged them to stay safe because we knew they had mothers that cared about them.

Then, in park overlooking Jackson Square with St. Louis Cathedral as a back drop, heaven came down and glory filled our souls. Nancy noticed a man taking a picture of 5 beautiful young women. She offered to take the picture for him so he could be in the picture and he told her that he wasn’t with them. After he took the picture, he moved on but Nancy and I stayed and struck up the conversation that resulted in 3 of them praying to receive Jesus. Look in the photo gallery and notice the smiles on their face right after they bowed their heads and invited Jesus into their lives.

Nancy and I continued on. We talked to many people. We passed a jewelry store, and being female, we had to go in. We hadn’t gotten 5 feet into the store before heaven came down again. Nancy says my eavesdropping is a spiritual gift. I overheard a young woman saying to her friend, “I love my mother but…”

I turned to her and said, “You can stop right there. You love your mother. You don’t have to add the but.” She and her friend both went to laughing.

She answered, “My mother is wonderful. She prayed with me before I came.”

“Are you a Christian?” I asked.

“I am,” she said.

“If something happened to you tonight, do you know where you’d go in the next life?”

“Heaven,” she said. “My name is written in the book of life.”

“What about you?” I asked her friend. Three minutes later, her friend’s name was written in the book of life, as she prayed to receive Jesus.”

Nancy stepped back to take a picture and the sales girl said, “I’m not really supposed to let you take pictures in here but I overheard what was going on and wanted to let you capture the moment.” The sales clerk told us she was a Christian.

We arrived back to Providence House at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary bedraggled, tired, and wet but excited to “Give'em Heaven in 2011.”