Note: Real name changed to protect the guilty.

Burger King isn’t exactly the place you expect to find an atheist, but they are cropping up in all kinds of unexpected places, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found one there or rather, one found me. I have discovered, sadly, that when someone sees you in this day and time reading your Bible in a public place like Burger King, they assume you are a preacher. It had happened on several occasions, but on this one particular day, it was a quite different experience—scary, to be exact.

Usually when people saw me reading the Scriptures and chose to speak to me about studying God’s word, they’d say, “Where do you preach?”

I would politely say, “I’m not a preacher, I’m just a businessman.”

Oftentimes, they would get a funny look on their face, like it was the strangest thing they ever saw, in a shocked sort of way they would ask, “Why are you reading the Bible?” I would respond that I was preparing to teach a Bible class or that I was working on Bible thoughts to put on my prayer web site called Prayer Thoughts (at That would be it. But this particular day was quite different. I’ll never forget it.

I was sitting in a booth, my regular spot in the corner, a place by the window with plenty of light for reading. An elderly gentleman with long, white curly hair plopped down in my booth before I even saw him coming and sat right across from me. He looked a little like the pictures of the genius Albert Einstein, but without the mustache. He smiled and greeted me in a quite friendly fashion and said, “Where do you preach?”

So far, nothing unexpected, considering my track record of at least one or two people asking me the same question every week. I had developed this habit of early-morning Bible study alone and had practiced it religiously for about seven years. I offered my standard answer, “I’m not a preacher,” but this didn’t lead to the logical and normal line of questioning that so often had followed this mundane beginning. In fact, I don’t even think he heard me answer. He started telling me about a Bible story that I was familiar with, and then he made some observations about that particular story.

I sat there, a little shocked at this unexpected turn of events, but slowly began to tune in to the points he was making about the passage. This was my second shock: he was wrong about the events in the story, and his recounting of the “facts” in the selected story had resulted in some equally incorrect deductions.

When he finally paused to take a breath, I politely opened my Bible to the passage and read the details that he had misquoted and misapplied. This led him to attempt to begin an argument, which I was not about to engage in, given the bizarre circumstances surrounding the entire event. As his lips moved, an epiphany jolted my brain, reminding me of a passage I had just been studying and welling in my mind as an unexpected opportunity to test the biblical teaching from that passage.
I had just been reading two passages that teach that if a person can’t verbalize the statement “Jesus is Lord,” that person has a spirit other that the Holy Spirit. In other words, they have a demon or a demon spirit:

“This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God” (1 John 4:2-3, NLT).

“No one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3, NLT).

The thought that exploded in my brain said, Test this Bible teaching. Ask this man if Jesus is Lord. I had never done this in my life, but I’ve done it many times since, and several times the answer that came was shocking. So, I thought, here I go.
Dr. Smith was a retired professor from a major secular university out in the west. “Excuse me, Dr. Smith,” I said, “is Jesus Lord?” What happened next was so surprising and so rapid-fire that even now I have chills up and down my spine thinking about what he said and did.

First of all, he leaped up from our booth there at Burger King. In fact, his exit was so fast that my mind had trouble processing it, like the blurry feet of Wylie Coyote as he gears up for chasing the Road Runner. Dr. Smith was in his late sixties or early seventies, so the shock I felt from this explosion of movement was considerable.

The next thing I noticed was his demeanor. His angry look, clinched jaw, gritting teeth, hunched back, and index finger pointing right in my face all caused me to feel what I can only describe as utter shock. Then his words reached my ears, and my brain began to process the loud, audible response, “No—who is Jesus anyway?” came through those gritting teeth. “Who is God?” he continued. “I don’t know who that is.”

As I look back on it now, I realize how intricately the Holy Spirit of God was leading me to the right—or best—words at that exact moment. This revelation lead me to a surprising response from Dr. Smith, and the end result is that I’m much better prepared for the battle between good and evil, the great spiritual battle between Satan and God.

I looked up at his face—only inches from my own—and smiled. Then I said, “I’m going to pray for you that one day you will know Jesus as Lord.”

His quick response to this new idea was a scream—right there in Burger King—as every head turned to look. “No. Don’t pray for me.”

Now I spoke softly right to him. I leaned in closer and smiled, saying, “I will.”

He turned around and stomped through the exit. He ran out to his car.  When he backed up and put it in gear, he floored it; burning rubber as he left the parking lot. He was completely defenseless against my prayers.  And he KNEW it.

I never saw Dr. Smith again, but I have learned to ask the simple question, Is Jesus Lord? to many people over the years since then. It’s quite revealing. It’s direct. It’s simple. It tells you exactly where people stand; no guessing. I encourage you to ask all your friends and acquaintances this same question. And be ready to pray for them when you get the wrong answer. Be soft. Whisper if it helps. But smile. Then pray. Heaven will be fuller because of it, and your reward will be great. See you there.

“My Search for the Real Heaven” by Steve Hemphill – pages 152 – 155