On Friday evening together under the banner of Operation 513 members from local churches hit the Surfers Paradise Mall in the heart of Gold Coast. As usual the mall was fairly busy, there was a decent sized team out and the public had the opportunity to hear the Gospel.
A few sketches were done which drew quite a crowd, which was exciting to see but as the evening progressed and temperatures dropped less people gathered around to see the preaching. Despite the dwindling numbers there were some absolute highlights in Gospel conversations during the night and a great one coming right at the end with a man named Michael.
Michael professed to start with of being a Catholic. He went to a catholic school, his family christened him catholic and similar ideas. Though that was a while in the past Michael said that he was fairly sure he'd get to Heaven because he was a decent guy. After seeing the core of his belief it was time to pose some questions, see where he really placed his trust and what he believed about God.
He acknowledged that God is good and loving and said that meant overall everyone should be able to get into Heaven. When challenged on whether or not a good God must judge, whether justice must be served Michael conceeded the point and said that God must have a standard. When taken a little further things started to get a little worrying for Michael. At first being quite sure that he was going to Heaven but after 15 minutes of conversation there was no assurance based on his works.
Michael admitted he was a lying, theif a blasphemer and adulterer at heart and on that judgement by God He said there was no way he was going to Heaven. As a late-twenty year old Michael started to get emotional and asked, "Does that mean I have no hope?"
When asked if he had any way of fixing it Michael was lost for answers and basically gave up defeated, not having an answer and being quite worried about it. Then asked, "Why are you hear then? Surely you have an answer?"
It was a great pleasure to be able to share the Good News of Salvation that despite our spiritual bankruptcy and despite our inability to save ourselves, God displayed His love, His mercy and grace in that whilst we were sinners, Christ died for us. Michael couldn't listen more intently and said he was interested and excited and took a bible. He said he would have to take a read and consider trust in Jesus Christ!
Please be keeping the teams in prayer as they head out, in their personal lives as well as on organised times. Please pray for Michael and many others who were faced with the Gospel and challenged by the call to surrender to Jesus Christ! Please thank God for bringing along people to hear His Gospel!
Soli Deo Gloria!
It has been a mixed week this week in Hobart. Very cold but showers coming and going and even sleet and snow flurries. Likewise the responses from people has been mixed (as always). I was privileged to be able to preach the good news two days this week and give out many tracts and bibles.
Tuesday was very cold but there was a short break in the showers during which I preached in the mall. Despite the cold a small number of people stopped to hear the word expounded and some faithful Christian friends stopped to pray for the preaching. The rest of the day I spent handing out tracts and speaking to people, though few wanted to stop due to the weather.
On Friday the weather was fine and there were many more people willing to stop and talk. We set up the table and within a couple of minutes some asian students from the university had come and taken bibles. A Christian couple came and spoke with us for a little and encouraged out work in the mall and took some literature on evolution.
Just before I was about to get up and preach God brought a man to speak to me who needed help. Little did I know how much help he needed when he first arrived! He had just spent the night in the police station cells for drug and alcohol offences and had a restraining order placed on him for family violence. With tears in his eyes he told me that he believed in God but had progressively walked into sin until his family call the police when the abuse became too much to bear. He had not been able to go to work that morning and was going to have to tell his boss about what had happened. The whole situation sounded like a complete train wreck.
We talked for a while and I contacted his boss for him and gave him an opportunity to talk. I spent a lot of time just listening but also urging him to get away from the drugs and alcohol as a matter of urgency. He stayed around for a period and listened to the preaching. Afterwards he came and spoke to me again. There were a few glimmers of hope in the situation. His wife is praying for him and has allowed him to use a flat their family has as a place to stay. He was also intending to go and spend time praying and reading the bible we had given him. I encouraged him to come to church, to dive into the word and seek out the support he will need over the coming months. I pray that God will bless this man with the strength and wisdom to walk away from these sins and follow Jesus.
After I preached the gospel we also had another young man approach us to talk at the bible table. He was quite drunk and happily displaying the bottle of wine he was working through in his jacket pocket. Mr J. was hitting the drink because he had had a big fight with his girlfriend. His plan to deal with the fight was to get drunk and then go dancing that night and then sort things out in the morning. I could relate to where Mr J. was at, it is our human nature to resort to more sin (almost like a release valve) when we have messed up and sinned!
He claimed to know and love God and have seen Him in a near death experience when he was younger. In light of this I urged him to abandon both his drunkenness and reconcile to his girlfriend. God has made him for more than messing around with these things and God hates it when we sin. Unfortunately Mr J. loved a god that "was cool with all this", a god that was in complete agreement with him in all he did in fact. We urged him to see that this was not the God of the bible who had given him life but a false god, an idol. We urged him to repent and trust in Jesus but Mr J. walked away happy with both his sin and with his god. Please pray for Mr J. and many like him who live lives of happy rebellion, not knowing the wrath that is being stored up for them on judgment day. Pray that God will soften their hearts and bring them to humble repentant trust in Jesus Christ.
The team came together for a time of prayer after this and we held up the people we had encountered in the city to the Lord. It is such a wonderful thing to gather as God's people and speak to our loving heavenly father.
Praise God for a wonderful week.
With school being back from holidays, Woodridge was back to its usual busier state yesterday during our weekly Tuesday outreach. Alan had brought along his flip-chart that has some intelligence test questions on it.
The kids loved it. It's a great tool to show that even though we think we know the answer, we can get it wrong. So it's helpful to show the skeptical out there that even though think they know they're right about God not existing, how do they know they're not wrong?
Yesterday we also got to speak to quite a number of people about the gospel, including a young guy named Theo. We have been witnessing to him for a number of years now. He goes to a Seventh Day Adventist church, but the last time we spoke to him he was very adamant in thinking that we are saved by faith and works.
But when we spoke to him yesterday, he acknowledged that he was wrong about works saving him, and instead he says it is by faith in Christ. So we asked him whether he is 100% certain he is going to heaven and he said he isn't. He said that it's because he needs to make himself worthy enough to have assurance of salvation, and then even went on to admit that no one can ever be sure they are saved.
We pointed out that he's going straight back to salvation by works there. Our salvation isn't dependent on our own worthiness, because if that was the case, we would have no chance of being saved at all. We reminded Theo of the thief on the cross next to Jesus. That man had murdered people and yet in the minutes or hours before he died, he trusted in Jesus and said to Jesus "Remember me when you come into your kingdom". And Jesus said to him, "Today, you will be with me in paradise."
Quite often people who have grown up in the Seventh Day Adventist church confuse the distinction between faith and works. We reminded Theo that it is by grace through faith alone that we saved, nothing of our own efforts or law keeping, because Jesus has died for our past, present and even future sin. And if we are saved, it will show itself by our works.
Theo very much appreciated the chat and is keen to keep talking about it next time. Please pray for him. To God be the glory!
We had very productive evening of outreach on Friday night at the Gold Coast. At this time of year the culture of Cavill Avenue changes as many Muslims from the Middle-East come here for holidays. As such, we spend much time engaged in Islamic apologetics and also distributing material in Arabic.
The night began off with an 'interesting' conversation. Upon arrival, we noticed that two of the team members were already engaged in discussion with two Australians. Eventually, I found myself in the midst of the dialogue dealing with a man who was very much into the Hebrew Names Cult. This cult believes that we must call Jesus, Yeshua, as they believe the name Jesus comes from Zeus. We spoke about this for sometime, it was clear that the man we were speaking to had no idea about history, theology or the Bible.
He also believed in a flat-earth, denied the Trinity, believed that Christianity was only invented 400 years ago, and that I was a Mason who is enslaved to science. We tried our best to answer his objections to present the gospel to him, however, both he and his wife were beyond irrational. It is times like this that I am very thankful that the salvation of human souls does not depend on me, as nothing I said seemed to penetrate the deception they willingly embraced. However, I take hope that the seed of truth was sown, and I pray the Holy Spirit waters that seed and brings this couple to true freedom in Jesus.
During this time, Ryan was preaching using the sketchboard and a good size crowd had gathered. There seemed to be a general interest in the preaching tonight with all preachers having crowds stop the listen.
After Ryan finished preaching I set up my sketch, and prepared the chemical cross for my presentation. Tonight, I tried a new sketch which focused on the purpose of life and the futility of life without God. A crowd gathered, and the gospel was proclaimed. The chemical cross was used at the end of the message to illustrate the work of Jesus, and people seemed to be attentive to that object lesson.
Towards the end of the night, we were engaged in discussion by a Muslim man, and a couple of his mates. This Muslim man lives and works on the Gold Coast. He was friendly, but very passionate about Islam. He hated the Jews, but didn't seem to mind Christians. He claimed to be an expert in the Bible, but he didn't understand it. He thought the Bible only had 37 books in it, and that the Bible teaches there are three gods. We tried our best to answer him, but he was very hardened towards the gospel. Yet, he did take a tract which is aimed at Muslims. Please pray the Lord would soften this mans heart and bring him to Christ.
Friday night really marked the beginning of our main Islamic outreach for the year. Please pray for us over the coming weeks as we seek the reach the Muslim world while they are holidaying on the Gold Coast.
The gospel went out again last night in Brisbane city. We know that people's greatest need is forgiveness of sins found only in Jesus, but last night a couple people on the team were also able to help an intellectually impaired man who had just arrived in Brisbane but was planning on just sleeping the night on a park bench. They were able to give him a feed and find a place of accommodation for him, but also most importantly, tell him the gospel.
Meanwhile, the rest of team were busy handing out gospel tracts and talking to people about Christ. One young Chinese man I spoke to, whose English name is Frank, was initially looking at the sketchboard, at what was painted on there. So I gave him a tract, but his English wasn't the best. So I ran over to my bag to get a Chinese version of our comic book tract. I gave it to him and he read every page of it right in front of me.
After reading it, I asked him what he thought. As we were discussing, the language barrier was quite difficult. So I got him to come over with me to the sketchboard so I could use the visuals that were on there to help him understand the gospel. On the board was a scale between 0 and 100, and I asked him where he would place himself in terms of how good he is. He said right in the middle.
I asked him about whether he had done certain sins before, and he had and I said, "Where do you deserve to go then?" He said, "Hell." Then he asked, "But what can I do then?" So I explained the cross and how we need to trust in what Jesus has done as the only reason we are forgiven, and as a result, we will then want to live the rest of our lives for Jesus. He was very receptive. I then helped Frank download a Chinese Bible to his phone so he can start reading it.
As they say, 10 of out 10 people need the gospel. Glory to God that some more people heard it last night!
To get some comic book gospel tracts (in English) to hand out yourself, go to: www.operation513.com/comics
Thank you to all who prayed for the outreach in Brisbane city Wednesday. It went well without any hassles, praise the Lord!
As we were preparing for the sketchboard presentations, a bunch of kids were intrigued at was being drawn, even guessing which colour would be next. Once prepared, we used the sketchboard to speak on the subject of the Way to Heaven. As others came by they saw this group of kids sitting on the ground looking on, so a number of them joined in sitting on the ground listening to the gospel. It was good to see the crowd were even happy to interact and answer questions.
Throughout the afternoon, the team was busily sharing the gospel with people who were interested. We gave a couple of full Bibles out and dozens of gospels of John. Not only that, plenty of gospel tracts went out too. We praise God that He can use all these different things to draw people to Himself.
Tuesday we had some great gospel conversations with people at Woodridge (QLD, Australia).
One guy we witnessed to was named Em. He had been to church a number of times in his life and they had told him that to get to heaven, you need to cleanse yourself of all your sin by living righteously. Em admitted though he wasn't living God's way. So we talked about how we have all sinned and how even if we cease sinning, God cannot ignore the history of our sin.
We then went on to explain that Jesus came to pay for our sins and how we need to trust only in Him for our forgiveness. But Em didn't get it. So we explained the gospel another way to him, but he still didn't understand it. Since he had always been taught something different, grace was such a foreign concept to him. We had to explain the gospel some ten times before he said "I get it now!"
We encouraged him to repent and count the cost of following Jesus, but at the same time, not to delay. At the end of the conversation, Em said, "You know what, I was actually on my way to a party, but after this conversation, I am now just going to go home instead."
Glory to God that His word is so powerful!
Monday is not my normal day in the mall as it is not possible to get a permit to speak in the mall on this day. It was also a very cold and windy day. I dress for the cold on these days and I suspect the locals think I am a visitor from Queensland. Truth be told after a couple of hours in the wind I am normally chilled to the bone. There was opposition from store owners and police today but I wont focus on that as there were some great encouragements also.
I tried a couple of different spots around the CBD today and preached a couple of times in Elizabeth lane. The first time I preached on Luke 7:11-17 on the raising of the dead man at Nain by our Lord. I urged people to see that they are like the dead man on the bier, in desperate need of the life that is found in Jesus alone. I urged people to give up on their own strength (they have none) and to stop looking at the wrongs of others (they are sinners too). Instead I called people to love and follow Jesus who asks us only to love and follow Him, humbly repenting of the sin we all have.
There was a group of people that gathered to hear and as always is the case when people are listening to the word, satan raised up distractions and opponents. One foul mouthed lady cursed both Jesus and God and then began to abuse and curse (literally) me in the name of satan. Another local atheist who has "been studying me for years" tried to herd people away from this obvious threat to the secular world view he wants to maintain. Despite this and in part because of this opposition a group of young people stayed until the end of the sermon and encouraged me for standing and preaching. We had a good chat afterwards.
Over the course of the day I handed out almost 150 tracts and almost universally there was smiles and politeness from even those who would not take a tract. I pray that the witness of a Christian smiling and wishing people a good day when they decline will have an impact even if they don't take a tract on that occasion.
Praise God for using a cold and opposition filled day to bring the gospel to needy sinners!
It appears that there is a seasonal cycle in Hobart. During the warm and dry months of the year there is little issue with outreach in the CBD. Unfortunately during the wet and cold months there is increasing opposition that arrises.
Much of this opposition surrounds the use of Elizabeth Lane, a small side street off the mall near speakers corner. According to the by-laws this lane is not a part of the mall but there is almost continual conflict regarding it's use. The conflict comes from two different stores within the Lane who are radically opposed to the practice of street preaching and tracting. Interestingly the other store in the lane have told me that they have no issue with our work as long as I don't picket their front doors! (something I have no desire to do to anyone)
This conflict has involved verbal abuse, security guards using stand over tactics, council officers called to remove me, and police called to arrest me. The stated reason does not stack up with the behaviour of the stores. Their claim is that outreach interferes with their stores and it distracts and drives away their customers. Yet they have friendly relations with a distracting local artist who regularly sells paintings in the same area of the lane. Also one of these stores has repeatedly complained about the Christian busker in the mall and to the best of my knowledge have made no issue with other buskers. I find it difficult to see this as anything other than anti-Christian intolerance or at very least intolerance of publicly expressed Christianity.
I am seeking legal advice and mediation on this issue with the store owners. I want to see an end to these hostilities while maintaining religious freedom in the city and my hope is that the issue will be resolvable quickly.