There are many challenges in the Christian life, many ways we trip and fall, many ways we confront suffering and pain, many opponents, and many uncertainties. In all these things, we are comforted that Christ goes with us in it all. More than that, Christ conquers all these challenges through us and makes us more than conquerors in Him.
This last two weeks have been quite a challenge for both my church and I. My regular heckler Mr S. has leveled a complaint against my pastor Campbell Markham and I under the Anti-Discrimination act here in Hobart. The complaint whilst long and convoluted is clear on one thing, the issue at hand is primarily the content of the Christian faith. Christian convictions regarding morality, the gospel, the sanctity of life, and the reality of God’s coming judgment are all under attack. Australia’s usual “holy cows” have been used in this complaint; homosexuality (and SSM), abortion, Islam, and the big one “offence”. It appears that a public Christian response to these is not only forbidden in the eyes of progressive ideologues like Mr S. but also in the eyes of the law (ala the Anti-Discrimination Act).
My Pastor has been targeted for writing letters to the editor and reproducing them as blog posts. The “offensiveness” of his comments is the excuse used to attack his reasoned, gentle, clear, and biblical response to homosexual campaigns in our state and nation. I must wonder what comes next if “offensive” church blogs and newspaper articles are open to legal action. Are we going to have people monitoring the content of pastors’ sermons and submitting them for assessment under the Anti-Discrimination Act?
Before you laugh at the ridiculousness of that thought you need to be aware that part of the complaint against me comes from a sermon I preached at a local church!
I will not weary you with the large list of my apparent legal misdemeanors. Suffice to say that apparently, I can and have breached the law with almost everything I’ve done in Christian evangelism for the last 4-5 years. Obviously, I reject the accusation that I and the team of Christians with me are hatefully bigoted against others who don’t share our views. Our team has worked hard (and sometimes failed) at keeping the balance needed between gracious and gentle proclamation and the clear need to present God’s unflinching opposition to all forms of sin. Over the years we have had a long string of people come to us and apologise for their opposition as they can see that we love the people of Hobart and act from that love. Many of these people are not Christian and some radically disagree with Christian doctrine, yet they can see that Christian street preaching is motivated not by bigotry and hate but rather by loving concern.
Where to then from here? The first port of call in this for all Christians should be prayer. We must praise and glorify God for His goodness in all this, even in challenging times we can trust His wisdom and exult in His Holiness. We need to ask that this will lead to an expansion of God’s kingdom and a deepening love for His ways in Christians. We need to confess our sin and ask for Christ Jesus’ mercy, no Christian is perfect and I am worse than most. We need to ask our loving heavenly Father to give us what we need for today, that we could live and glorify Him in how we live. We need to plead for forgiveness for our enemies, please don’t stop praying for Mr S.. Lastly, we should to call out to God for Him to act on our behalf and fight the spiritual war that this complaint is as small expression of.
Second thing we should be doing is to let this motivate us to Christian witness. Look at what is happening here as a warning brothers and sisters, opportunities to witness are lessening in our nation. Use the opportunities you have now to speak to others about Jesus. Needless to say, this complaint will not stop the team and I from publicly sharing the glorious gospel news here in Hobart.
Thirdly, as Christians I believe we have a responsibility to stand up to this opposition. What does that look like? Firstly, it involves preaching the gospel! Also, though it involves making this issue as public as you can, this sort of thing breeds in the dark. Bring it out into the light. Write respectful but urgent emails to your local, state and national representatives, make them aware of this and your concerns.
Lastly, we should trust God has all this in hand and it will end up glorifying His name and being for the good of His people. We can trust Him!
God gave us a day where some meaningful chats were had with those He had prepared to come under the sound of His gracious gospel this day.
- Natalie, grew up in the USSR, had been taught in school that there is no God but she was to be a good citizen. They told her how to be good. Ryan took her through the Builder/building analogy and some more necessary corrections before getting to the law and gospel. Seeming to understand intellectually, she later asked, "If someone believes in God ... that one will be saved?: this also was corrected so Jesus, the Way, was shown to be the necessary Mediator. Now she has a gospel of John. May the Father show her the truth and grant her repentance and faith to be saved.
- Bek, a contact from mid-May, who after hearing the Good News again, still does not get it. Sadly, she does not read God's Word daily; it is one of the main means of grace according to Acts 2:42! Here is another church-goer who is still far from God. May He deal with her in her great need and give her ears to hear and faith to believe.
- Phoebe, educated in a Roman Catholic school, was unsure of getting to heaven. First, I showed her 1 Jn. 5:11-13, then going through the Law and Gospel, I stressed Jesus perfection does not (and cannot change because God will not have an imperfect Saviour) so we can always trust Him completely, Heb. 13:8. Her response was most heart-warming. May God bring her to see that Jesus is all she needs, Heb. 7:25.
May our great sovereign Lord, deal with each one contacted this day as only He can, Rev. 4:11.
The Lord gave us a pleasant winter's day and we were pleased to welcome a new worker )for the second time) in the Lord's (Mt. 9:38) harvest! Please pray for:
- Daniel, an Asian who had never heard and said that he loved knowledge. Being introduced to God's moral standard for mankind, he admitted his lying. After going through the gospel message, he thought that maybe here was too much knowledge. However, praise God, when it was stressed to him that his future will be either eternal life with God or in God's eternal prison, he said that he will check it out. Pray that he does read the Bible and that God opens his mind to understand his great need for the Saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ; to trust in Him alone.
- thank God for two different Christian couples who encouraged us in this aspect of God's work; one couple follows Operation 513 0n Facebook.
- a teenage lass, Frankie, who was very open and intends to respond now. Pray that she counts the cost and makes a serious commitment to follow Jesus.
- John, a supposed Christian, who had believed in Jesus for a long time; after all, wasn't He sent to save us?. However, John has remade in his own mind so that Jesus is fallible, a sinner. Now, as an aging man John neither fellowships nor changed his mind when shown Heb. 4:14,15 that our great High Priest never sinned. He was challenged to read and study Eph. 2. May God humble him and grant him the grace to repent and trust in the sinless Saviour.
To God be the glory for He alone is worthy to be praised.
The rain came pouring down for the first half of the outreach last night in Brisbane city. But thanks be to God that there was an awning we could find shelter under, which happened to be where all the people walking by also were.
For a lot of the people we encounter on a Saturday night, they will never ever just rock up at a church, and that is why it is so important that the church goes out to the world with the gospel.
Last night, a prime example of these kinds of people were two Aussie blokes who were brothers and had never been to church in their life nor heard much about Jesus. They initially were not sure if there was a God, but after being shown that just as a builder must have had a builder, so must the universe have had a creator, they said, "That makes sense." We went on to run them through the good person test, which they flunked (as we all have!). And once they knew they deserved hell, one of them asked, "What can we do then?"
We went on to explain the news of Christ's death and resurrection, taking our hell punishment for us, and they said that that made sense. They wanted to find out more, so we also gave them a gospel of John each to take home and start reading. They are going to count the cost of trusting in Christ. Please pray that God brings them to repentance and faith in Christ alone.
Every conversation had and every gospel tract that went out will never return void! To God be the glory!
God gave us a day where His protection was obvious as well as His usual guidance. One young man threatened Ryan with physical violence when he heard Jesus mentioned. Ryan walked away unharmed but the foul language continued for a little while longer. But that is all part of God's training and equipping of His witnesses and so the work continued. Please pray for:
- Jacob heard it all before his mates enticed him away. The peer pressure was evident but may our Lord draw this teenager to the Saviour.
- Matthew was given an overview of the Bible and how the gospel is central; that head knowledge is a precursor to saving faith. May the Lord stir him to read the Bible and see his great need for Christ.
There was one of those incidents that cheers the soul. I had given a "What is the Most Stolen Book?" tract to a man who was not religious and not likely to change anytime soon. The woman sitting on the bench behind asked for a tract also. As I seemed to be getting nowhere fast with the man, the lady started to hand the tract back so I asked her what she thought and she said, "Good!" Just then Ryan came by so he was able to help the lady to understand the gospel, for which she was thankful. Isn't the Lord wonderful the way He does things so we know He is aiding us in this work.
As always, to God alone be the glory and we thank Him for the privilege and pleasure of serving Him.
It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon as Sarah, Kylie, Adro, Karl and I arrived to share the Gospel in the Toowoomba’s CBD. After meeting together and praying we decided to split into three teams and head out. Adrian and I took one side of Margaret street whilst Sarah and Kylie took the other.
Karl travelled by himself for a while down Ruthven street and was eventually joined by Paul who came after work to help with the work. The two of them continued handing out tracts and were even able to connect with some people who were sitting under a bridge. The Gospel is for people from all walks of life and thus sometimes you can find yourself in places you don’t normally expect to be. I always admire Karl and Paul’s quiet strength and this situation was just another example of where they stepped out for the sake of others. Looking back on their conversation we pray that those people under that bridge will personally encounter the God who loves them.
Meanwhile Sarah and Kylie were able to engage a number of people. One of those was a woman sitting under a bus shelter. When they offered her a tract the woman gruffly asked “Is it about Jesus?” Sarah gently responded “Yes it is ” to which the woman’s face suddenly lit up and she exclaimed “Praise the Lord!” Turns out this woman was a local Christian and she was thrilled to see the work of evangelism going on in her city. Which goes to show… you can never judge a person by appearances.
Buoyed by this experience, Sarah and Kylie continued their adventure down the street. Off in the distance they saw a large group of tattooed people and they thought “Let’s go share the Gospel with them”. Now reader you must understand: Large groups of tattooed people are unusual in Toowoomba. Generally speaking we don’t have large tattooed groups of humanity walking around as you see in larger cities…so groups of such people around here tend to evoke all sorts of disconcerting old-school stereotypes. Kylie and Sarah though walked up to them and offered them tracts that explained the Good news of Christ. The members of the group took the tracts and minus a few snickering remarks were willing to read them. This was the second time today God sought fit to explode stereotypes and show our hearts once again that appearance is not as important as we might think in exhibiting the heart underneath.
Adrian and I however were travelling down Margaret street during this time when we suddenly met an older man who was evidently quite drunk. As he began to speak to us you could tell that he was both friendly and earnest in what he was saying. He told us how he was a bloke who has made some mistakes with his life but that he would always be there for his family if they needed him. He also said he had respect for religion and knew of some of the ministries that serve the homeless in Toowoomba.
At the end of our rather lengthy conversation he said he would read the tract we gave him and thanked us for the conversation. We directed him towards some of those ministries who provide dedicated support for the homeless in Toowoomba and I genuinely hope we get to see him again someday. Jesus has often freed people from the grip of alcoholism and has reconciled families and we pray that this may be the life-story of this man as well.
After bidding farewell to our new friend* we had only walked a few meters before we met a completely different type of person. After rather bluntly refusing a tract, this man walked a little further on before spinning around and saying “Actually, I will take one of those!” He then came over, quickly grabbed a tract out of my outstretched hand and said rather triumphantly “This is going on FaceBook!” His tone left no doubt regarding what he thought of the Gospel tract.
Before I could get a word out he turned around and stormed off. To be honest I find this sort of behaviour really frustrating. We are currently living in a society that is more fractured than ever. It seems like everyone is talking and no one is listening. Never before have it been so easy for us to live an “echo chamber” of our own group’s thoughts and opinions and therefore genuine, truly respectful dialogue between opposing sides on *any* important topic is in short supply.
If we as a society are going to live together I believe we need to learn to listen to each other (this includes Christians learning to listen to others as well). We also need to learn how to “fight well”…where we can passionately debate and critique other’s views and then shake hands afterwards and share a drink. And when you think about it there is a no more profoundly important topic which holds such wide-reaching ramifications as that of religion. All religions…and all non-religious philosophies… need to learn to speak beyond the memes and the triumphalist talk and actually have a face-to-face discussion with “the other”.
So I suppose that is part of my frustration. But as is the case with street evangelism, things tend to change quickly and it wasn’t long before Adrian and I met a tradie who was happy to dialogue.
This tradie (Nathan) had come up to work on the new Grand Central development and was presently waiting for a door to open so he could grab some tools he’d left on the job site. The three of us chatted for a while and Nathan told us that he was an Anglican who went to Church with his aging mum. We went over his understanding of the Gospel and helped point out that God saves people not because of how good they are/have been but because of the fact that Jesus is good and has made a way back to God for all who would trust in Him and leave their life of rebellion against Him.
Overall we had a great chat together and I encouraged Nathan to become involved in a Small Group at his church. As I look back over the events of the day I think I can speak for the whole Toowoomba team when I say it was fantastic day and we pray that God will receive all the credit for what He has done and will do in Toowoomba.
*name withheld to protect privacy.
It has been a cold couple of weeks here in Hobart and it is sometimes hard to go out into the mall and do outreach. Praise God that when we are weak He is strong and supplies all that we lack! In spite of the cold it has also been a wonderful time here in Hobart with many fantastic opportunities to share the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.
Over the last couple of weeks Mr S. our regular heckler has taken to setting up a pro-homosexual marriage table in speaker’s corner. This means that during the hour that he is set up we need to go to other areas. This has been a blessing rather than the irritation I suspect that he intended it to be. It has meant that we have spent much more time in prayer and many more tracts have gone out into the city, as tracting is restricted at speaker’s corner.
The other blessing is that this has been a prompt for us to pray more frequently for Mr S.’s salvation. He is a young man who is blindly committed to atheism in the face of many evidences and has been heavily involved in the occult for many years (he even has the tattoos to prove it). He desperately needs salvation as do so many in this sinful city. Please be in prayer for Mr S., that God would soften his heart and show him the greatness of his sin and the even greater love of Jesus. And if you are reading this Mr S., please be sure of our ongoing prayers and hope for your inclusion in God’s family.
Preaching went well today but was a little quiet as always is the case in winter here in Hobart. At one point a small crowd gathered as I spoke with a man and I could share the gospel with those gathered.
On the other hand there has been a flurry of interest in the bible table today, with most of my bibles taken in the first 2 hours. Also we had a couple of enquirers wanting to talk about theological issues. Both enquirers were utterly committed to anti-biblical positions, one of them parading as biblical.
Firstly was a man from the local hyper-charismatic church, they teach that there is no salvation possible without first baptism and then second speaking in tongues. We have spoken before and today was in many ways no different from previously. I opened scripture to show how their teaching contradicts scripture, and he refused to see what I sought to share. The only difference was a tragic one. Previously people from this church have sought to prevent me from sharing the gospel only by distraction. Today though I was told not to preach the bible message the way I do as it includes parts of scripture that are for Christians only and should never be preached outside a church. This man also told me that I am wrong to tell people to repent and believe only as they must also be baptized and speak in tongues.
These two issues stem from the same root, which is the legalistic rejection of God’s grace. This is a deadly error that the Apostle Paul wrote against in the book of Galations, salvation is all of grace or it condemns us outright. We destroy the gospel and make it very bad news indeed if we say like the legalists of Galatia that we must keep certain laws or do certain things (in this case baptism and supernatural languages) in order to be saved. If we seek to be right with God through law keeping we are bound to keep ALL the law, and none of us do that. Please pray that God will remove the deception that these folks are under and lead them into a relationship with Him of grace. Please also pray for us that we will be kept from this same error of law keeping, we are all bent in the direction of this sin and it is only by God’s grace that we stand.
The second enquirer was a man who believed that the word of God was corrupted and a mish-mash of myth and legend. Yet despite this he appeared quite confident in being able to tell what was true and false in the “mix”. It is the first time I have ever been told that the Cross is a two-dimensional version of the Qiblah in mecca (think folding paper to form a cube…) and that the Davidic star of the Jews links into Revelation chapter 3 and the “synagogue of Satan” in Philadelphia.
Apparently two thousand years after the fact it is crystal clear that the whole bible is cobbled together from previous myths (including Mythras who came after the writing of scripture). Not only that but this man was also certain that Christianity was a hoax and a means of controlling us and keeping certain people in power. I was able to share some reasons to believe the bible is what it claims to be (the divine inerrant word of God) and unfortunately, he was unwilling to listen to much more than that. Please pray that God will open this man's eyes to the truth and bless him with salvation.
Praise God for the many and varied opportunities that He brings us each day!
On Saturday night for our Brisbane city outreach, we were blessed to be joined by students from a local Bible college who wanted to get a bit of experience doing evangelism. We encouraged them each to tag along with a more experienced team member, so they could get a bit of feel for how it is done. And it was great to see a good number of them throughout the night get out of their comfort zone to share the gospel with the lost.
During the open air preaching, God drew in people to listen and watch as the gospel was also illustrated on the sketchboard. This also lead to a bit of interaction with a number of people in the crowd, as they were run through the good person test. And once the preaching concluded, it was a joy to see lots of gospel conversations being had with some of the people who had been listening.
One conversation the team had was with a man named Leo who had no idea on how to get to Heaven, but after hearing about sin, the coming Judgement and the cross, he said, "Oh that makes sense!" He said that he wanted to that day trust in Christ. Please pray he counts the cost.
To God be all the glory!
For our outreach at the Gold Coast we had over 15 people on the team. It was chilly, but still there were plenty of people walking around.
We talked with all sorts, from those who subscribe to reincarnation, to those who admit they love their sin, and even to those who think that whatever anyone believes is true for them. We also got to speak to a Christadelphian family who were not aware that the Bible speaks of salvation by grace through faith alone (rather than through baptism), the deity of Christ, the reality of Hell and personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.
As they were shown the verses in the Bible about these things, they understood what it said and so had no rebuttal. They said they would read about these things in the Bible when they got home.
Please pray for all who heard the gospel tonight - through the hundreds of gospel tracts that went out, through the one to one conversations and through the preaching of the gospel in the open air. To God be all the glory!
God saw fit to use the team that gathered for the outreach today in Brisbane city. It was school holidays which meant more people were about. That excited us.
When we arrived, the first chat that one of us had was with a young lady who came to Australia six years ago. She was not sure about how to get to Heaven. She listened intently as the gospel was explained to her, and she said that she doesn't have a Bible. At that point, I realised that we had left all the gospels of John in the car. So I went back to the car to get them and then gave her one.
It was a day when quite a number of people we spoke with were happy to take a gospel of John to start reading after being shared the gospel, including Jason (from a Christian home but didn't know the gospel), Tivia (grew up Buddhist), John & Harris (secular) and Kat & Talia (never considered about eternity).
A Chinese lady named Summer also asked us if she could learn more about Christianity and the Bible and so we passed her details on to a local church in the area.
Every Christian is to be part of the Great Commission, and we praise God that we had the privilege of being part of it yesterday in Brisbane city. Please pray for those who heard. To God be all the glory!