Participants: Ruthie Jacobsen (Host), R. Peter Neri
Series Code: IAA
Program Code: IAA000398
00:01 There are many people today
00:03 who are following an aberrant,
00:05 unhappy lifestyle, looking for happiness
00:09 in all the wrong places.
00:11 But God wants them to hear His voice,
00:14 He has a better plan for them.
00:17 We have someone here with us today
00:19 from Las Vegas, Nevada,
00:21 I know that you're gonna be blessed
00:22 and you want to hear him, we'll be right back.
00:49 Welcome to Issues & Answers.
00:52 Today, we'd like to focus on what we do,
00:55 how we think, how we feel
00:58 about reaching out to people around us,
01:00 who have different lifestyle choices than ours.
01:03 When you think of people who are openly following
01:07 a gay lifestyle, or lesbian, or prostitution,
01:12 or alcohol, gambling, drugs,
01:17 these are things that you want to deny.
01:20 You want to say, that doesn't happen in our family,
01:23 that doesn't happen in our city, in our church.
01:27 We don't know if anybody who is living like that.
01:30 Oh, yes, we do.
01:32 This probably touches every family in someway.
01:36 Every family had someone that fits that category,
01:40 that that qualification or some close friend.
01:45 There are people all around us
01:48 who are struggling with these habits and lifestyles.
01:52 And it really is important to us as Christians
01:57 to look within and decide how do I feel
02:01 about working with people like this,
02:03 can I welcome them into my heart,
02:05 into my home, into my church,
02:08 how can I be of help in their life?
02:11 In Psalm 26, it says,
02:13 "Redeem me and be merciful to me.
02:16 My foot stands in an even place,
02:18 in the congregations I will bless the Lord."
02:21 I believe God is saying,
02:23 I want all of the people created in my image
02:27 to hear my voice, I want everyone
02:29 to have an opportunity for salvation.
02:32 Our guest today is a dear friend,
02:36 Pastor Peter Neri, thank you for being here
02:39 and Peter is a pastor of the Paradise
02:43 Seventh-day Adventist Church in Las Vegas, Nevada.
02:47 The city that they proudly call 'Sin City.'
02:50 Sin City. That's right,
02:52 that's where we're from, believe it or not.
02:55 Describe the city to us.
02:56 I was appalled, Peter,
02:59 the first time I got off the airport,
03:01 I mean, at the air, got off the plane at the airport.
03:04 The first thing you see,
03:05 you're surrounded by one arm bandits they call them,
03:09 you feel like you're in a casino, gambling everywhere.
03:13 It's pretty prevalent not to mention,
03:16 Ruthie, the billboards everywhere
03:18 and even the neon moving images
03:23 in the baggage claim area showing revealing shots
03:27 of all different kinds.
03:29 Pornography. It's incredible, yes.
03:32 Yes, you can't even get out of the airport
03:35 and it's amazing, because you think,
03:38 well, I'm gonna pick up some groceries,
03:41 you can't go to a grocery store,
03:43 because gambling is there and--
03:46 The gas stations. Every service station,
03:49 this is a city of gambling. It is, it is.
03:52 And vice of all kinds, sin of all kinds,
03:56 this is why people proudly advertise that as sin city.
04:01 Sin city, yep. And someone was telling us,
04:04 I was talking to Ben, one of the cameramen here
04:07 just before we started this, and he said,
04:11 when he was in Las Vegas recently,
04:14 walking down the street,
04:15 he looked at the faces of people
04:18 and he did not see happiness.
04:21 Maybe some people had lost their lost money
04:25 in gambling or were coming to city for a divorce,
04:30 or you know, all kinds of tragedies
04:34 because of those lifestyles.
04:36 It's a very prevalent thing in Las Vegas,
04:43 and the sadness, and the degradation is very obvious
04:47 and that's why we're there.
04:49 We're there because we need to reach these people
04:52 and we're working on that.
04:54 And you know, Peter, you said that,
04:56 you actually have people walking into your church
04:59 who have said, I have seen the Lord,
05:03 I've seen the gospel on 3ABN,
05:07 and I have found hope.
05:09 And so I want to come and worship with you.
05:11 It's amazing, it happens almost,
05:15 if, every Sabbath.
05:18 Wow. We have somebody come in
05:20 and they had not been there before.
05:23 Have you gone to the Bellagio or the Wynn
05:26 or some of those huge places
05:29 that are multi million dollar structures?
05:34 Just to try to meet people and to share the gospel
05:39 or to pray with people,
05:40 how do you minister in Las Vegas?
05:43 Well, we're, the first thing we're doing is
05:47 we're opening our arms to those who walk in the doors
05:52 We were starting there, that first initial contact
05:56 is absolutely essential that the people know
05:59 they're in a safe place where they're not gonna be judged.
06:03 And yes, I've been down there.
06:07 We go down and we were in the preliminary stages,
06:10 I should say, of checking it out,
06:12 and we've seen what Ben mentioned,
06:15 the unhappiness that's there.
06:17 And we're trying to figure out
06:18 how exactly to get in
06:20 and we're working on that right now
06:22 and that's gonna happen shortly.
06:24 Tell me about, is it a deacon?
06:28 Yes. Tell me about him.
06:29 Okay. One of my deacons is a man
06:35 who used to drive limo.
06:39 And of course, he's had some very famous people
06:42 that he's picked up at the airport
06:43 and he drives from one casino to the other.
06:45 And of course, he goes
06:48 to a further away city called Pahrump,
06:53 about a half hour from Las Vegas,
06:55 where they have those legal houses of prostitution there.
07:00 And all, the whole ball of wax is drugs, alcohol,
07:04 all of that goes together even for the limo drivers.
07:09 And in his absolute lowest point of his life,
07:15 he found 3ABN.
07:17 3ABN on the UHF station in Las Vegas
07:22 that the Paradise Church and some of the other
07:26 Adventist churches there downlink.
07:29 And he found the hope that he needed,
07:34 he found the encouragement that he wanted,
07:38 and he found the power necessary
07:41 to change his life. Amen.
07:43 And now he is one of my most active members.
07:49 In fact, when he's in-charge of the food bank
07:52 that we have, when anytime anybody wants food
07:56 he will drop whatever he's doing,
07:58 he comes to the church, he helps them out,
08:00 why does he do that?
08:02 Because he found the hope and help through Jesus
08:07 and you should hear him talk to those people.
08:10 And he knows what it's like to be on the other side.
08:13 He does, and he wants them to know
08:15 what he now knows, he wants them
08:17 to experience what he experienced.
08:21 You give a lot with food for the homeless don't you?
08:24 Yeah, and also every Sabbath afternoon
08:26 we have a group that goes out,
08:28 one of my other elders heads that up
08:31 who used to be in the board walking
08:34 down in the Atlantic City, is a pretty wild guy.
08:38 Isn't that interesting?
08:39 And he found through 3ABN the Seventh-day Adventist church,
08:43 he had move to Las Vegas.
08:45 Now, he's one of my elders and he's in-charge
08:48 of going out feeding the homeless,
08:50 the group that goes out every single Sabbath
08:52 to feed the homeless on the street.
08:54 And they bring their literature,
08:56 they talk with the people, they pray with the people,
08:59 it is so exciting to see the tears come to their eyes.
09:04 They're looking for hope, Ruthie,
09:06 and just to be present there and to bring
09:10 a kind word to them, it just sort of revives them again.
09:15 We talked to them about well,
09:17 where are you at night now, what's going on,
09:19 we make suggestions on things
09:23 that could maybe help the next step
09:24 you could take to get off the street of necessary.
09:28 It's just not only amazing but to be part of it
09:33 is one of the greatest joys.
09:35 Tell me about this deacon that is going to be,
09:38 it's he on the police staff?
09:40 No, he's not a deacon. Okay.
09:43 I have an officer in the Las Vegas police department,
09:49 whose wife is a member and he's coming to church
09:53 and he's very interested in the church,
09:56 he himself is not a Seventh-day Adventist.
09:59 And he's on the vice squad,
10:02 and his wife tells me the stories of how he feels
10:09 when he makes a bust down in the strip that's,
10:12 that is their job to go down there
10:14 and to make a bust and they get these
10:17 13, 14, 15 year old young girls
10:23 that have been prostituted by running away from home,
10:29 they're contacted by certain individuals
10:33 who then usually get them involved in drugs.
10:37 Methamphetamine. Methamphetamine,
10:39 is the main drug. Yes. Big one.
10:42 Once they're into that they easily transfer them
10:45 into the sex trade and they become slaves.
10:49 And by the way,
10:50 when they share their money with this man,
10:55 the bulk of their money goes to him.
10:57 Sure, yeah. Not to her, and so--
11:01 In fact, if I'm not wrong,
11:03 she barely has enough for food and clothing.
11:08 But she does, they give her enough
11:10 I think for her methamphetamine
11:12 to keep her going.
11:14 And what a sad life.
11:16 And you know, you see pictures of these girls,
11:19 beautiful, wholesome, healthy. Oh, yes.
11:22 Young girls, and then just a few years later
11:26 they look like they're 50 and 60,
11:28 because meth will do that.
11:30 Changes the color of their hair,
11:31 they lose their teeth, it's just a horrible life.
11:36 And their life is over really as far as emotionally,
11:40 and physically their health is gone.
11:43 It's a very sad choice that they make.
11:47 It really is, it's very sad.
11:49 And of course, we know that Jesus
11:51 is the only answer, the only solution,
11:55 the only power available to them to get them off that.
11:59 And that's why I'm so interested,
12:02 because I'm now in communication
12:04 with the police officer and it looks like
12:08 it's very likely that I will now be part of his group
12:13 as a chaplain so to speak.
12:16 And I can get involved after the bust is over
12:20 and try to help these individuals
12:23 that they arrest to get back on their feet
12:26 and to hear this wonderful message.
12:28 Now, are they arresting the girls
12:30 or they arresting the pimps or both?
12:33 They're actually targeting the girls
12:36 in order to figure out who the pimps are.
12:39 Okay. They want to help the girls.
12:42 Sure. But they want to get the pimps.
12:44 And so that's how they do it.
12:48 And I'll tell you, he, to hear the stories,
12:55 he'll, his wife told me, he calls home
12:59 and the first thing he asks, is where is my daughter?
13:04 How old is their daughter?
13:06 Sixteen. Oh! Honey,
13:09 she's at home, she's at home.
13:12 She knows exactly why he called,
13:14 she knows exactly what he's feeling.
13:16 But he's so torn up.
13:17 He's torn up, he's torn up, and so,
13:19 and by the way that's why
13:21 I would like to get involve with them
13:23 if nothing else to help the officers
13:25 that have to deal with this every single night.
13:29 I can't imagine how they feel dealing with this.
13:32 It's got to be devastating.
13:33 Oh, yeah.
13:35 And also the disappointment he told me,
13:38 when after they make a successful bust
13:41 and they transfer the girl over to a safe place
13:45 to find her back on the street two weeks later.
13:48 Because she didn't know
13:49 what else to do, where else to go.
13:51 And if she doesn't have some help
13:53 to get off the drugs. Right.
13:55 She's going to go back to get money
13:57 for the drug habit. Yeah.
13:59 And that's what we're hoping
14:01 that I can get involved now,
14:03 get some of my church members involved,
14:04 two have already volunteered
14:06 and we're gonna start networking to see
14:08 if we can take the necessary steps to provide
14:11 all the needed things for these girls to get off.
14:14 And you know what, Ruthie, I got to say this,
14:17 it's difficult as it is for me to say this,
14:21 we also have to figure out how to help the pimp.
14:25 I can't imagine that Jesus loves the pimped
14:28 just as much as He loves me but it's true.
14:32 And they deserve to know the hope and help.
14:35 They have gotten into that lifestyle
14:37 because of something in their background.
14:40 Sometimes, they grow up in very dysfunctional home
14:44 and they're treated like they have no worth.
14:47 Someone said that, many of the people
14:50 who are in the penitentiary were told.
14:53 And I think, it's something like 50 or 60% of the people
14:57 who are there were told by their parents
15:00 one or both parents, you are worthless,
15:03 you are trash, you're gonna just end up
15:06 in the penitentiary someday.
15:08 Well, when a child hears that.
15:10 Self fulfilling prophecy.
15:11 That's right, when a child hears that,
15:15 parents get what they expect
15:17 and that kind of thing is so damaging, so destructive.
15:21 I don't know, if you were with us,
15:24 but this was several years ago
15:25 before you went to Las Vegas.
15:29 The National Prayer Committee was in Las Vegas.
15:33 Oh, yes I remember, yes,
15:35 they had one of their meetings there.
15:37 Yes, and we held the meetings
15:41 in one of the large churches in Las Vegas.
15:43 And the pastor was telling us
15:45 that a woman was driving home
15:49 to her apartment one evening,
15:51 and she was a prostitute,
15:54 she had $700 in her purse,
15:58 she was driving home and she saw,
16:00 it may have been a Wednesday night.
16:02 She had to come up this field and pass this large church
16:05 and there were a lot of cars in the parking lot.
16:08 The light in the church was on,
16:10 and something just spoke to her heart and said,
16:14 pull in here and see what's going on in this place,
16:17 you need something that you don't have.
16:20 And she walked into the church,
16:22 stayed there for the prayer meeting.
16:25 And went forward at the end and told the pastor,
16:28 I just need to have you pray for me,
16:30 I'm a very unhappy and worthless woman.
16:34 But she said, I have $700
16:36 and I just want to give that here as my offering.
16:40 And they prayed with her, she found the Lord,
16:45 the Lord found her and she now
16:48 is one of the people working in the church.
16:51 They showed a picture of her standing beside people
16:57 when they're baptized. Oh yeah.
17:00 Because she shares her hope,
17:02 and her experience, and tells them,
17:04 this is real, God can do anything.
17:07 And this is really the message
17:08 that people are dying to hear.
17:11 Yeah, it is. And you know I'm sure
17:13 as our listeners are listening to you right now,
17:16 they're saying, well,
17:18 I've never had that experience,
17:19 so I really can't do anything about it.
17:23 But the truth is that if you know Jesus Christ you can.
17:27 That's right. They need a word of encouragement.
17:30 That's right. And God will give you the words to speak,
17:33 we've got to get out there where they're at.
17:37 And not shun them.
17:38 And not shun them, we've got to come into contact
17:40 with-- that's what we're doing.
17:42 The human, that's wonderful.
17:43 The human nature, you know,
17:46 our own human nature says, walk away,
17:52 don't get dirty, those people are trash.
17:56 Really, that's what our fallen nature tells us.
18:01 Don't associate with people
18:03 you will become like them.
18:05 That's not what Christ did. No.
18:07 When Christ was here,
18:08 he went right where they were,
18:11 and that's why the Pharisees called Him a drunkard.
18:17 Because He went to the parties
18:19 and was right there with the people
18:22 who were categorized as sinners.
18:24 Yeah, he hung around them,
18:26 they didn't like that, you know.
18:28 I believe the fallacious tradition
18:32 of the ceremonial washings of the Pharisees
18:37 developed from them coming into contact
18:40 with the common people in the market before they ate.
18:44 And I think it give them a false security
18:50 that they were clean.
18:52 And that they're above them too. Yes.
18:54 And that's what we've got to--
18:56 And that can happen to us. Yes.
18:58 That can happen to us,
19:00 because in the eyes of God there are no levels,
19:04 but the ground is level at the foot of the cross.
19:06 Yes, that's right.
19:08 Peter, I want to share a little story that to me,
19:12 it says, something about heart.
19:15 And this is what we're talking about, isn't it?
19:17 Is heart, maybe some of you saw this,
19:21 because it was on, I got it by e-mail.
19:24 Last week, I took my children to a restaurant.
19:27 My six-year-old son asked if he could say grace.
19:30 As we bowed our heads, he said,
19:32 "God is good, God is great.
19:34 Thank you for the food,
19:35 and I would even thank you more
19:37 if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert.
19:40 And Liberty and justice for all! Amen!"
19:43 Along with the laughter from the other customers nearby,
19:46 I heard a woman remark,
19:48 "That's what's wrong with this country,
19:50 kids don't even know how to pray.
19:52 Asking God for ice cream! This is ridiculous!"
19:56 Hearing this, my little son burst into tears.
20:00 Is God mad at me?
20:02 See Peter, this is how our attitude toward people
20:07 who we think are doing wrong, I mean,
20:09 we can give them the wrong impression,
20:11 the wrong words, the wrong,
20:13 even the wrong expression on our face
20:16 can be discouraging to someone. That's right.
20:20 Hearing this, my little son burst into tears,
20:22 and he asked, Is God mad at me?
20:26 Because that's what they feel,
20:28 they feel is God mad at me.
20:30 As I assured him that he had done a terrific job,
20:33 an elderly gentleman
20:34 approached the table and said,
20:36 "I happen to know that God thought
20:38 that was a great prayer."
20:40 "Really?" my son asked.
20:42 "Cross my heart," the man replied.
20:45 Then, in a whisper, indicating the woman
20:48 whose remark had started this whole thing,
20:51 "Too bad she never asks God for ice cream.
20:54 A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes."
20:57 Naturally, I bought my kids ice cream
21:00 at the end of the meal.
21:01 My son stared at his for a moment,
21:04 and then did something
21:06 that I will remember the rest of my life.
21:09 He picked up his sundae and without a word,
21:12 walked over and placed it in front of the woman.
21:15 With a big smile he said,
21:17 "Here, this is for you.
21:20 Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes,
21:22 and my soul is good already."
21:27 But, you know, I guess that really does illustrate
21:30 what we're talking about, Peter,
21:32 and that is, a heart for others.
21:35 A heart that says you're hurting,
21:39 and I care, and I know someone,
21:43 the great healer who can help you.
21:46 Yeah, and you know,
21:48 no one can make their heart that way,
21:53 only those who do spend the time with Jesus.
21:57 He makes their heart that way.
21:58 That's right. That's why I know aybody can do this.
22:01 That's right.They can do this, they can do reach out,
22:04 they can make themselves available,
22:07 step out of their comfort zone,
22:09 because God will use you in a very special way.
22:13 That's right.
22:14 And it's amazing to me,
22:16 you don't have to be a pastor--
22:17 And He even gives you a heart to want to--
22:20 Want to do it, yes.
22:22 And that comes through spending time with Him
22:24 through prayer, He actually gives you
22:27 that very desire that you have in your heart.
22:30 And we can do it, we can do it,
22:32 We need to do it.
22:34 And there's many more stories out there.
22:36 You know, I think one of the reasons
22:40 that so many people are showing up at our church
22:45 is because, if I can say, my members receive them.
22:52 That's good. Yes, and they nurture them,
22:55 and they don't judge them or criticize them.
22:58 I know, they don't look the same,
23:00 they don't dress the same, they don't smell the same,
23:03 they don't talk the same.
23:05 But that's where I used to be
23:08 before God brought me to this point.
23:12 And now I realize that all of us are being called
23:15 to bring and allow people to get to that point.
23:20 And not as it were, put out that little spark
23:25 to quench that little smoky, dimly smoking flash.
23:31 And, you know, I think that is so important,
23:33 Peter, I'm glad you said that,
23:34 because people have said,
23:36 well, I went to that church one time,
23:39 no one smiled at me, no one greeted me,
23:43 no one told me
23:44 that there was a fellowship lunch afterward.
23:46 No one shook my hand, no one made sure
23:49 I had a place to sit.
23:50 I'll never go back to that church,
23:52 that's the coldest church around here.
23:54 Well, so people really want to have a connection
23:57 with the Lord, but they know that they,
24:01 it comes through fellowship
24:02 and encouragement through God's people.
24:05 And they learn the love of God
24:08 when it's exemplified in the life of God's children.
24:13 That's exactly, that's exactly right.
24:15 And I just know
24:17 God has something really special for our church,
24:21 because in these last days
24:23 there are more and more people.
24:24 See, we're talking about Las Vegas,
24:27 but the Internet has made those kind of things
24:32 available to everybody everywhere. That's right.
24:34 And we all have to recognize
24:37 that we need to be minute people for God--
24:40 Movies today. Oh, the movies, yeah.
24:42 Movies and videos, and even magazines,
24:46 and if you're watching a newscast,
24:50 it'll cut away to some commercial that is,
24:58 I'm just amazed at the kind of things
25:00 that they'll show on television.
25:03 And children are exposed to all kinds of things.
25:08 Yeah. It's really, we live in a sick society.
25:11 Yeah, we really do. Where Hollywood is using crime,
25:14 and violence, and all kinds of illicit,
25:19 unhappy home situations as entertainment.
25:23 Entertainment. And so children don't know,
25:26 they think it's funny.
25:27 Yes, set the standard which is anti-biblical.
25:31 That's right, that's right.
25:34 So there are things that we can do every day
25:37 to love other people and to show them God's love.
25:40 Peter, I was so blessed,
25:41 when I was there in your church. Yeah, yeah.
25:44 And you had a large baptism that day.
25:46 The thing that really spoke to me
25:48 was that you had all the people,
25:51 the baptismal candidates,
25:53 who are gonna be baptized that morning
25:54 sitting in one row.
25:56 And then you had all the people,
25:58 who had been working with them,
26:00 and mentoring them, and coaching them,
26:02 and studying the Bible with them.
26:04 They were sitting immediately behind them.
26:08 And so I just, I got tears in my eyes
26:12 as I saw that close relationships,
26:15 the caring, and when those people were baptized,
26:19 you could just see big smiles on the faces of the people
26:23 who had been studying with them,
26:24 and praying for them, and loving them to the Lord.
26:27 And something else that impressed me,
26:30 and blessed me was that, Andre,
26:33 the young man from the Indian reservation.
26:36 Right. You told him when he was baptized.
26:39 I was gonna go to your reservation
26:42 and have an evangelistic crusade.
26:45 But I understand, you've already started it.
26:47 Yeah, he's already started, it's amazing.
26:49 Isn't that wonderful?
26:50 In fact, let me give you an addendum to that Ruthie.
26:53 This Sabbath, his little niece is gonna be baptized.
26:59 And she is already doing Bible studies
27:02 at her public schools for her friends.
27:04 How old is she? She's nine years old.
27:07 Isn't that beautiful? It's amazing to me.
27:10 That's wonderful. Yeah, so--
27:12 And that, that to me speaks
27:14 of the authenticity of what God is doing.
27:17 And I want, I want our listeners to know this too.
27:21 This isn't happening necessarily,
27:25 because we're in Las Vegas.
27:27 I believe it's happening because we're intentional.
27:30 Yes. About being prepared to receive them
27:34 if God chooses to send them.
27:36 And I'm glad you said that,
27:37 because every city has people,
27:41 who the enemy wants to just way down with guilt,
27:45 and condemnation, and fear.
27:47 And yeah, God wants to reach them.
27:51 Our time is gone so quickly, Peter,
27:53 and it's time for us to say goodbye to our, our viewers.
27:57 But thank you for joining us,
27:59 thank you for inviting us into your living room.
28:01 And we look forward to seeing you again.
28:03 And we'll be praying for you.
28:05 God bless, have a great week.