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Saturday, 24 January, 2009
We knew we will have to do this with a skeleton crew tonight, we just didn’t know how slim the skeleton was going to be.
Ryan is away this week, backsliding... er... holidaying with the family. Since most of the people who come in fortnightly have all showed up the week before, we knew there isn’t going to be many of us in the team this week...
It is nine o’clock, and team consists of me, my lovely wife and Rachel. Alex our regular not-so-friendly neighbourhood Atheists is within sight. This is going to be interesting...
Of course, this is where I tell you how my brilliant leadership just kicked into hyper-drive and Andrew the Fearless arisen to the occasion and saved the day. No, that didn’t happen. Instead, Craig Island and his crew showed up just in the nick of time. Yes, God providentially provided and Andrew did not break down into tears like a little girl.
We operated this night without the Bible table; everyone is to carry their backpacks so no one needs to watch the bags. By this time Nick has showed up as well, Dan is on his way to reinforce us and usually a few more people would show up throughout the night. We have enough so that I can preach without worrying too much about the safety of the girls. So off we go...
The mall is a little quiet for the Australia Day long weekend; I step up to the soap box and started to preach. A couple of teenagers, some looks to be drunk, have started to gather around me. I started to walk through the Law with a young man named Benny, who claimed to be a Christian. Initially Ben tries to say the right things, but when I was turning up the heat on him about breaking the law of God and the coming judgement, he did not like it. His knowledge of the Bible, and therefore the Gospel is absolutely abysmal. Benny and his mates keep referring themselves as Christians yet they were clearly intoxicated and were completely hostile to the Gospel. I couldn’t help but think that our modern evangelism endeavours are cranking out false “believers” like these young people with alarming rate. They have been to an outreach concert, walked the aisle and signed a card and now are reassured that God loves no matter what they do. As Benny and friends walks away, while I tried to explain to them the good news of the Gospel, it appears that they would reject it because they want to carry on with their sinful life style; I pray that God will save them out of His mercy.
Meanwhile Alex has been relatively civilized this week. From memory he did not engage me during the first half of the night. I stepped down after about an hour. There are now some one-on-one witnessing going on. By now the crew number has grown to about ten people and all of them have someone they were talking to. Nick has expressed that he wanted to open air preach. I do believe this is his first time and he is very keen to do so. I agreed to put him on and he stepped up to the soapbox.
Nick’s first open air went quite well. Later he commented after viewing the video that his volume was very low, it was loud enough to get Alex interested. In his usual form Alex started heckling Nick and while Nick was able to hold his ground he was not able to overcome Alex’s domineering style. I swapped with Nick and I wouldn’t say I won the contest, to Alex I am way too much of a fundamentalist dinosaur to satisfy his intellectual tastes; unfortunately to me, Alex’s arguments remain very much the same week to week. Our engagement usually ends with Alex finding someone more interesting to talk to. I don’t blame him, all I do is keep reminding him that God is going to have a day of reckoning with all men, Atheists or not. He knows the Law, he knows the Gospel, he can say many things on that great and fearful day but he won’t be able say that he is ignorant of the good news. We still pray for him, he doesn’t like it but we still pray for him.
As I stepped down from the soapbox the second time and the time is approaching midnight. A very polite young man and his girl friend were sitting next to where I was preaching. He stopped me and asked me a genuine question: “Why are there people who uses religion to their own personal gain?” He was asking that because he came from a religious background, and he has witness major hypocrisy in the church he was involved with and the scandal had to do with money. It was a very pleasant conversation as I get to explain that many who profess the name of God are not true believers. God will one day deal with people who have abused religion as a way to personal gain, if not in this life then on the day of judgement. In fact God will deal with all injustice that took place in this world finally and completely when that day comes. I turn the table on the young man and I asked him: “How will you personally do in the court room of God?” This leads to a fruitful conversation where I was able to show him God’s justice, walk him through the Law and finally present with him and his listening girlfriend, the Good News of Christ dying and saving sinners. When that conversation is over, it is past mid night. The crew had finished what they were doing and we were ready to leave the mall.
Despite a shaking beginning, the night ended with many people witness to. We pray God will be merciful and save those who have heard the Gospel tonight.
To God be the Glory.
Saturday, 17 January, 2009
We had a decent sized team at the start of the night. Ryan had a wedding to attend and will join us later in the night. The mall was relatively quiet. With the Bible table setup, Andre was the first preacher of the night. He did a good job presenting the Gospel. There were a few stayed to listen to him. From memory it was fairly uneventful for the earlier part of the night.
I was the next preacher up. Again while I preached there was not a lot of reaction from the crowd. I noticed a gentleman listening sitting on a bench to the left of me; there were very little traffic in the mall. I preached for about half an hour and closed my preaching with a general call to the Gospel.
I was a fraction of a second from stepping down from the soap box, the gentleman who sat on the bench came up to me with a question. He started out being very courteous and looked as if he was genuine in his tone and attitude. His question revolved around the problem of evil – one of the most common objections we encounter on the street. The basic argument boils down to this:
A. The God of the Bible is Loving
B. The God of the Bible is All Powerful
C. Evil is incompatible with a loving God
D. An All powerful God can stop evil anytime he wants to
WE KNOW FOR SURE:
E. Evil exits in the World
F. God is incapable of stopping evil - HE is not all powerful
G. God doesn't want to stop evil - HE is not loving
The flow of the above logic, based on the REALITY of evil in this world, people have come to the conclusion that God does not exist. It appears to be a very powerful argument, and we encounter this in the street on a semi-regular basis. There are many ways to point out the flaws in the above argument; I won’t bore you with them all. My favorite route to take is to point out the inconsistency in trying to deny the existence of the Christian God, yet still utilize the Judeo-Christian standard of good and evil.
I questioned the gentleman: “How do we know what is good and what is evil without God?” The problem is that when we say it is evil for “innocent” people to die or suffer, I would agree, if someone is truly innocent and endures what appears to be needless suffering then that would be evil. Problem is, according to the Bible, no one is innocent, everyone is guilty and when we suffer the consequences of sin, either from the hand of others or through our own rebellion, we receive from the hand of our Creator, what we rightfully deserve. That’s not all the Bible has to say about evil but the Bible is very clear about evil, it is measured against a immovable standard set out by a Holy and Just God, and He deals with evil, and will deal with it ultimately, in His own time and in His own way, that is perfectly consistent with His nature.
On the other hand, when human beings attempt to call something evil, by what right do we do so apart from God’s law? In the humanistic point of view based upon the Darwinian philosophy of “survival of the fittest”, why is it evil when people die? They are not fit enough for their environment, so they have lost the “race” why would that be evil? If one group insist on that certain “bad” things happening around the world is “wrong” or “evil”, but another group think such things are perfectly good even admirable, who is to say which group is right? Do we take a vote?
I tried to answer this gentleman’s objection with the same courtesy I received initially. It was soon apparent that he did not want an answer; he just had an axe to grind. He was not happy with my answer and the exchange was becoming less friendly than how it started. Every two minutes the gentleman was changing the subject, never allow my answer to be complete. It was very frustrating but at the same time our interaction was attracting a sizable crowd. The gentleman was unhappy about the fact I was standing on the soap-box, I told him that I was preaching and this helps me attract a crowd. He was unhappy that I was “yelling”, I told him that I was preaching and this helps me attract a crowd. He was unhappy that I was not allowing a “conversation”, I told him that I am preaching so I am not about having “conversations”, besides if you could stop changing the subject every two minutes the “conversation” could go a lot further.
This gentleman was temporary distracted as I was not giving the satisfaction of dominating over the preacher, I turned and addressed a young man named Kenny. He is a young man in his late teens and so happened he is Taiwanese just like me. Kenny said that he does not like Christians because his previous experiences with youth missionaries who promised young people just like himself if they just accept Jesus into their heart then their lives will get better and all their problems will go away. Problem is that these kids did not get the abundant life they were promised and they felt that they were lied to. I tried to answer some of His objections and then take him through the Law and Gospel. I held his attention for a good ten minutes until the gentleman I was dealing with all of the sudden wanted a piece of the action again, asking completely unrelated questions and demanding that I address his question. I refused because I was half way speaking with Kenny and that annoyed him enough that he went away in a huff. When I turned to address Kenny again, trying to pick up where we left off, he angrily said to me: “I have heard people like you before, and I am really not interested.” So Kenny walked away as well.
I stepped down from the soap box, I said to myself: “I think I am done for the night.”
As providence would have it, this preacher have made absolute hash of things, Ryan showed up just in time to take over. While Ryan is getting ready, I went to my little corner to sooth my inner child. A very encouraging young man named Jared came up to me, he is a Christian who happened to pass by. He said some very kind words to me about my preaching and we had a great conversation about evangelism. While I was trying to explain why we use the Law before the Gospel, Kenny came back with his girlfriend and wanted to apologize for walking off. What happened then can only be orchestrated by our Lord. I was just speaking to Jared about using the Law in evangelism and Kenny gave me a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the use of the Law in presenting the Gospel. More importantly I was able to explain to Kenny about the true promise of the Gospel, and it is not about living our best life now, but it is about the forgiveness of our Sin. I walked through the Law with him and showed him the justice of God in punishing law-breakers. I asked him if he understand that if he dies tonight, he will face God in judgment and God would be just in sending Kenny to hell. He said yes. I then spoke about the grace of God in Jesus Christ. That God send His son to die for our sin upon the cross, taking our punishment, and if we will believe in His name, repent from our sin and trust in the work of Christ alone upon the cross then God will judge us righteous, not because of our own deeds, but His. Again Kenny said yes, and his girlfriend heard the Gospel as well. Kenny and I shook hands, I promised I will pray for him, they walked away with the Gospel message loud and clear.
Yip, my job was done.
Jared and I continued our conversation, we exchanged contact details and he left just before Ryan got up to preach. It was still very quiet in the mall so Ryan just faithfully preached the Gospel to those few who passed by. The situation quickly changed as a young man in a full business suit started heckling Ryan and accusing the God of the old testament is cruel and unjust for allow “slavery”, institute capital punishment and the command of slaughter of whole people groups. While his objections are not new, the mischaracterization of the Old Testament is again a semi-regular occurrence on the street, the angle and the way he presented his arguments was quite new. Ryan tried to answer his objections but the gentleman danced around the issue and was not allowing the preacher to answer these questions thoroughly. Furthermore he was extremely militant towards Christianity, with every argument indented to undermine the position of the preacher. The plot thickens as he revealed himself to be a Zoroastrian, a very interesting religion as it turned out. Claiming to be the oldest religion in the world, and therefore MUST be the true one, these good people believe in a good God who created the universe, there will be a judgment day that is coming and as good Zoroastrians their good deeds can out weight their bad and that is the primary reason why they see Christianity as corrupt because the Bible says that God is not impressed by our good works and that is just not fair. (Disclaimer, the above paragraph needs to be read with your “sarcasm” goggles on.”)
It is not fair that God does not let sin slide... I am yet to figure out the logic of that sentiment.
I took my chance to engage the gentleman conversation as he was leaving the preaching spot and I tried to answer his objections one on one. He was much more polite in that setting and we were able talk about some of his problem with Christianity in better detail. Turns out, shock and horror (I am not sure if I am being sarcastic here…) the gentleman used to be a “born again” Christian. He even has the proof of his previous religious fervor, the name of Christ is tattooed in artistic flair across both of his forearms. The problem appears to be that the Christianity he used to be a part of was not moral enough for him, for all the talk of being “different” Christians were not different to the world, yet Christ was taught as being “the only way”, not as a way to salvation, but as a way to better behavior management. When he encounters Zoroastrianism, viola, here was a way other than Christ that produces better morality, and better self discipline. Of course, Christianity is now proven to be a lie, because it doesn’t live up to the promise.
Tragic state of affairs indeed, I tried to show him the real Gospel, but the wall of self-righteousness was so high that even the Law of Moses was too soft and corrupted for him. He refuses to see that he is a sinner in the sight of God; in his view the Christian God is unjust to not take the good works of man into account when it comes to the final judgment. By the end of the night our conversation did not go anywhere, for one thing I am unfamiliar with Zoroastrianism, for another, I am amazed at the level of self-confidence in his own righteousness. “The Pharisees lives” is thought that enters my brain as I said good bye to my Zoroastrian friend. I have heard much smarter and wiser Christian teachers warning that the modern version of “love-me-to-death” Christianity is going to push people into either hardcore atheism, or hardcore legalism such as Islam, or what I saw tonight. Maybe it’s just my gen-x pessimism coming through, but are we seeing some of that trend in the world today? Something for me to think about anyway.
As time passes midnight, Ryan stepped down as the last preacher. It was a good night again because God is sovereign in all that He does. Despite a quiet night, the whole time the team is on the street, member of our team is having a conversation about the Gospel with someone all the time. The Gospel went out to many people and God’s name is gloried when his Gospel is faithfully preached.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Monday, 26 January, 2009
Since it was Australia Day, I knew that it would definitely be busy down at Surfers Paradise. So Peter Webber and I made our way down to the coast. We noticed that many people were dressed up in national colours and a lot of people put flags outside the windows of their cars. So once we arrived, we started handing out gospel tracts to every one we met. Big Money and Million dollar notes worked very well because people saw it as a novelty note for Australia Day. So many people came back asking for more for their friends.
After a few witnessing encounters, I stood up to preach and nearly instantly people started to heckle. Within minutes a crowd of about 100 people had started to gather as they listened to the preaching. I ran the good person test through a couple of most vocal hecklers, and they recognised their helplessness towards God. They knew they deserved Hell. I then preached the cross of Christ and how one can be forgiven of their sins. Since more and more people were joining the crowd, I made sure I went over the law and gospel again, elaborating on certain parts, to make sure the message stuck in their heads.
None of the hecklers had anything meaningful to say though. They were just amazed that someone would do stand up and preach like this. One guy decided to pick me up off the place where I was standing and move me 5 metres away, after which I simply went back and started preaching again.
At one stage, in order to drown out the preaching, a group of guys started saying "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie", at which the crowd joined in with "Oi, Oi, Oi". Then everyone proceeded to sing the national anthem, but instead of making the preaching stop, they simply attracted more people to find out what was going on. So that once they had finished singing, I simply resumed preaching saying that even though it is great to be an Australian, even Australians will die one day. And after that comes the judgment. I praise God for bringing in all these hecklers, as they attracted more people to hear the gospel message.
I had the usual things thrown at me, like beach balls and thongs, but this time I also had a blow-up kangaroo thrust into my face. I also got soked with Coca-Cola, which some guys thought would be funny to do. However, all it did was add more credibility to the message, because the people listening saw that I was willing to keep preaching this message, even when things like that were done to me. For Jesus' words ring out so clear: "Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do." (Luke 12:4) All an unbeliever can do is kill the body, so there is no reason why we shouldn't share our faith.
After an hour of preaching, I stood down and had numerous people thank me for the message I was preaching. Even non-Christians came up to me saying, "Look, I don't believe your message, but man, do you have guts. I'm really going to think about what you said." Others who said, "Your message has changed my life." Praise God.
We then did some further one2ones and tracting with the people there. After my voice had recovered, I stood back up to preach and God again brought in a massive crowd to hear the gospel. This time, some of the hecklers had some questions, like "Where did God come from?", "How was the world made?" So I spent a little bit of time answering those questions.
There were a couple people drinking beer as they listened. They tried offering me a beer and a cigarette in order to distract the preaching, so I proclaimed to them that "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?" (Matt. 16:26). I asked the whole crowd whether they had lied, stolen something, looking with lust. They all said they had. I pointed out that it makes them deserving of Hell. I then explained why our good works can't credit us salvation, and that salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.
At this stage I saw two policemen start to cross the road towards me. They stood in the crowds for a couple minutes, so I thought they were simply going be my protection if a heckler did something to me. But instead, they came up to me and said that because people were putting beer bottles and cigarettes in my face, they were going to have to move me on. I asked, "What don't you simply move along the people who are doing those acts, as they are the ones breaking the law?" They simply said no. So I said that we have permission from the council and from one of the members of Queensland Police. The officiers just said, "No you don't", and they didn't even want to check with the people who had given us permission. Then they gave me a move on order. However, even during the dialogue with the police, the crowd kept listening. It added further credibility to the message I was preaching, as they knew I would stand strong to the gospel message even though the police regularly moved us on.
But thankfully, when we got moved on was just about when I was finishing preaching anyway. So praise be to God that both Peter and I were able to spend many hours on Australia Day witnessing to the people of the Gold Coast. Please pray that God will convert the people who heard the gospel message.
Here is some more photos from the outreach:
To God be the glory!
Thursday, 22 January, 2009
Praise God for opportunities to speak with people and share the great news of sin forgiven and hell passed over for all of those who trust in Jesus Christ. Jim, Sucraj, Karl and I gathered in barkers pool for just that reason this week. We began with prayer and pleaded that God would break the hardened hearts of the people and bring them to faith in Jesus.
There is a fair amount of foot traffic through barkers pool of a Friday night but it comes in fits and starts. This means that we are often giving out large numbers of tracts all at one time and it would be great to have more hands as the crowd of people come through. This night however appeared to be all about conversations because just as one would stop another opportunity would pop up. Every member of the team had one good conversation through the night and it was encouraging to hear people getting the gospel again and again.
At the start of the night I had a good chat to a local security guard and his mate. They took tracts from me as they wandered through the square and the younger of the two wanted to know what it was about. He had obviously had some Christian upbringing and so we were able to discuss the common misconception that if someone is "good" and moral then God will be pleased with them. We talked for a period about the seriousness of sin and the greatness of God who we offend in our sin and then I pointed him to the cross of Christ as the cure for this huge problem. Unfortunately he was called away on work and the conversation ended with this brief look to the cross but I pray that he would be convicted of his sin and drawn to faith in Jesus.
Jim and Sucraj also had great conversations with some of the local teenagers and while (as there is often with the youth in Sheffield) there was resistance to even the concept of God, they listened and asked questions. Karl likewise was able to engage a man with a very jumbled set of beliefs but patiently and kindly set forth the reasonable and wise plan of salvation in Jesus alone. Both these groups left without any outward sign that they were changed by the exchange, but we trust that God is able to use His word to good effect.
The night as a whole was very encouraging and we left with exultant hearts, praising Him for His goodness to us again.
Friday, 16 January, 2009
Since I knew that I was unavailable to lead the Gold Coast team on Saturday, we decided to have it on Friday instead. It was very busy at the Gold Coast, even though it was a week day, which I suspected was because it was still school holidays.
After arriving to the coast, we spent a few minutes in prayer and Bible reading together. We then moved to our regular preaching spot and we noticed that there were a bunch of construction workers sitting underneath the tree next to where we preach. So I got up to preach and not long after I started preaching, a guy heckled me saying, "I can prove the Bible is wrong in 2 minutes." I wanted to find if this guy was religious at all, in order to know where he was coming from. However, he didn't want to answer any my questions. He just kept wanting to get his 'special' argument out, that apparently disproves the Bible. His argument when along the lines of "There are thousands of people who don't believe the Bible, therefore it is wrong." Obviously this argument is fallacious, as it's simply an appeal to popularity.
So I went onto talking about what the Bible says is to come after we die, and that is the judgment. The lad didn't like hearing about. I proceeded to ask the people in the crowd whether they had broken any of the 10 commandments. The common response came back that they all thought they were good people. So I went through some of the 10 commandments with them to order to bring the knowledge of sin. This lead into the gospel message about how we can be forgiven of our sin if we repent and trust in Christ's death alone to save us.
The construction workers and a lot of the crowd stayed for pretty much the whole time I was preaching. I pray that God will convert them using the seed that was planted in their hearts.
After I got down from preaching, David Strachan got up to preach. He did a great job making known to the people of the Gold Coast about Christ and Him crucified. I praise God for Dave's commitment on being a regular witnesser on the Gold Coast team.
We encouraged Rachel to also have a go preaching open-air. And after a little bit of deliberation, she was up there preaching the judgment to come and the wonderful news of the gospel. I think that was her second time preaching open-air ever, and she did a great job.
Many seeds of the gospel were planted today. Please pray God will convict those people of their sin and draw them onto Himself.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Friday, 23 January, 2009
Friday night saw yet another record turn-out for the team. We had some people join us for the first time: Geoff and Sam (friends of my church and just visiting before they head back to Australia), Petra (a friend of Jannah and Elyske) and Rhys (my younger brother). The rest of the team was as follows: my brother James, Carl, Wesley, Andrew, Steve, Ben, Susi, Jannah, Elyske and me.
After meeting in Café Nero for a time of devotions and prayer we headed up to the square to begin our ministry. Quite a few were new to street evangelism so I primed the team as to what we were about and what the evening would entail. I then stood up to preach and used a recent atheist bus advertisement as my springboard into the spiritual. The advertisement reads: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." I explained that God is not the source of worry in this world. Worry comes ultimately from sin. We trust in ourselves and we trust in others, however the Bible says without faith (in God) it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). I had only been preaching for about five minutes when a police officer approached and asked to have a word with me. I came down of my stepladder and we spoke together for a minute or two. His concerns centred on the idea that my message could offend some and lead to a breach of the peace. I responded by saying that I never aimed to be offensive or antagonistic and that it was still lawful for me to exercise free speech according to the law of the land. I asked him if I had broken the law and he told me that "technically" I hadn't, although there was the issue of the council and its laws. I told him I had been coming to Leicester Square for almost a year and it had never been proven to me that I was in breach of any law. He allowed me to carry on preaching but warned that if there was a breach of the peace he would have to take action.
Every Friday night we come out I am aware that the message we breach could well upset some people, which could lead to them complaining to the authorities. If a breach of the peace does happen it needs to be made clear where exactly the threat is coming from. In a court ruling regarding this issue the following statement was made: "A judgment as to the imminence of a breach of the peace does not conclude the constable's task. The next and critical question for the constable, and in turn for the Court, is where the threat is coming from, because it is there that the preventive action must be directed." We ought to conduct our speech in such a manner that it does not seek to offend and that it does not carry a deriding tone. Even so, the message of the gospel is itself an offensive message, simply because it exposes sin. People will always react negatively to the light of the gospel (because they love darkness) and so offence will arise. There is nothing we can do about this. God has commissioned us to preach His message. It is His message that saves and so that is the message we must preach.
After I had finished preaching we set about to talking with people one-to-one. It was such a joy to see everyone get stuck in. I made myself available just in case those new to the team needed any help. After a little while I got talking with a young man named Zack. He believed in evolution, although he also believed in his own version of God. His version was certainly not the God of the Bible. We talked for a little bit about the logic behind the need for a Creator God. Unfortunately we did not talk for long as he was pulled away by his friends. I managed to hand him a booklet entitled "Is there really a God," which has the gospel at the back. Please pray for Zack.
Afterwards I got talking with two young ladies. One was a Muslim and the other did not believe in God. I rationalised the existence of God first and foremost and then explained why Christianity is the answer, simply because it presents the only viable solution to man's greatest need. We have sinned and in the scheme of God's justice that means we are guilty. Our only hope is for someone to serve the punishment in our place. There is only one perfect substitute and His name is Jesus Christ. To this they responded by saying it was wrong that I was trying to enforce my beliefs on others. I explained that I was not trying to force anyone against their will; I was simply offering the Christian message and making a case for it being the truth. They understood this and left with an in-depth gospel tract, thanking me for talking to them. Do pray that the Lord would bring them to salvation.
After connecting with the rest of the team to see how they were doing I decided to stand up and preach once more. I began by talking about the greatest book the world has ever known. I gave the facts but kept the answer hidden with the intent to create a curious interest to those listening. Some did stop to listen and at one point cried out for an answer to the question. As soon as I told them it was the Bible they scoffed and walked away. It was as if I had something to offend them. It's startling how much of an offence the Bible is seen to be, a book that offers a love that cannot be equalled.
After I had finished preaching we continued to speak with people one-to-one. I had the opportunity to speak with a young man who had lost his faith in God after his mother passed away about four months ago. He had grown up Catholic and told me that he still visited his priest in order to receive counsel and advice. We could not talk for long but he gave me his details and said it would be fine if I contacted him to continue our conversation. His name is Sam, do pray for him and also that I would be able to continue talking with him.
Wesley had been finding it a bit difficult to talk with people and so I was very happy to see him in a conversation after I had talked with Sam. It can be disheartening at times when you try and approach people with the gospel and they turn you away every time. The Bible tells us that many enter the path that leads to destruction, and only a few find the path that leads to life (Matthew 7:13-14). Still, we preach the gospel to every creature, knowing that God saves sinners through the preaching of His gospel.
Praise God for a wonderful night of ministry. It was a blessed time indeed.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Thursday, 8 January, 2009
In the cold and dark of the post Christmas and new years period there often few people around of an evening. At the same time there are some that are out and I believe God puts them in our path to bring them to know the truth. This has been born out again and again in my experience of work in Sheffield's streets.
I was joined but John who had been witnessing for 4 hours when I arrived from work at 7.15pm. He was mid discussion with a couple that were obviously drunk and the lady of the two was busy justifying her sin when I arrived. I briefly tried to speak with the man but the conversation did not get far as he was very drunk.
After they left (praise God with tracts in their pockets) a regular heckler as such arrived and Momen and I began to discuss what a Muslim would do with the words of Jesus when He claims to be God in flesh. In particular we addressed the passage of John 5:21ff, and in typical Muslim style Momen began by taking one small part of the passage and saying that that obviously means that Jesus was not claiming to be God. We struggled back and forth on this for some time, I tried very hard to make clear to him the doctrine of the Trinity but I fear that much I said was lost on him due probably to my poor explanation. An athiest friend of Momen's arrived and they left together.
While I had been discussing with Momen, John had began discussing with a pair of young men and they were taking in turns to shout at him their objections to God and Jesus Christ. I jumped in to engage one of them and John continued to have a discussion with the young man that appeared more willing to listen. Both of these blokes were very angry but this one was very angry and full of curses and blasphemes against God. The reason why was that they had buried their friend of 18 that day and nothing was going to stop the pain and angery that they felt. Arguments were not working in reasoning with him but compassion stopped him and I hope made him think twice about what we stand for. While I didn't get to speak with him much about Christ I pray that God would graciously open his heart to the tract he left with and that in repentant faith he would be healed and saved.
Around this time Jim, Carl and Jemma all arrived and we had a time of prayer together. Interestingly Momen arrived while we prayed and hung around close by, so Jim bless him "preached" while praying so that Momen heard the gospel one more time. Afterwards a rather cold John headed off to warm up and we stayed to hand out tracts and speak to people. Jim and Momen began to discuss and debate again and after a while they went to look at a manuscript at Momen's house.
The remaining three of us handed out many more tracts and after a long period of this prayed together and then headed home.
Saturday, 10 January, 2009
Andrew Hsu was out of town over the weekend, so I knew it would just be me leading the team for this week. But thankfully we still had enough team members for the outreach. Witali and Jason were back again this week as well, and they were a blessing to the team.
Once we had set the Bible table up, David Strachan stood up to preach. He was heckled a bit by Alex, but stood faithful in preaching the gospel. A few people stopped to listen to what he was saying. After he got down, Kevin had a turn preaching. Kevin pointed out that the Bible says that the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, so it is no wonder Alex does not like to hear it. Alex agreed it is utter foolishness.
After preaching the wonderful news of how one can be saved, Kevin tagged me in deal with Alex. From the start, Alex kept repeating his famous line, "There is no God!" But his arguments this week were once again very foolish. He kept trying to say that it is impossible to prove God, I would ask him to substantiate that statement, but each time he couldn't. Instead he would put the burden of proof onto me to prove God. While I agree the theist is under the burden of proof to provide evidence for God, but if Alex wants to make the absolute negative that it is impossible to prove God, he now has assumed a massive burden of proof that he must bear.
In response to my argument for God that I presented, Alex denied the second premise by saying that the universe is eternal. I showed him that both science and logic demands that the universe have a beginning. But his argument went on the lines of this: "Since the sum of all the matter and the anti-matter is zero, the universe is in exactly the same state as it was at the singularity. Thus the universe is eternal." This argument is clearly fallacious (even assuming the Big Bang theory is true), as there is a major distinction between what the universe was like at the singularity and is today. I pointed out that if matter and anti-matter come together, they cancel out; they both cease to exist. He agreed on this point. So on the Big Bang theory point of view, there was absolutely nothing at the singularity. But at t=1, there was now something. Nothing becoming something means that that something had a beginning. He kept trying to get around this by saying that the sum of the universe is still the same though. But I responded, "So what? The universe exists now, and did not exist at the singularity, so thus the universe must have had a beginning. An analogy paralleling this is if we imagine that we have a scale with two things balancing each other out exactly, so that they are the same weight. But on one side is a bar of gold, and on the other side is a pile of dirt. Even though the sum of the mass of the two items on the scale are exactly the same, there is a distinct difference between a gold bar and a pile of dirt.
So Alex then proceeded to say that he disagreed with the first premise of my argument - "Everything that has a beginning has a cause". So I asked him to give an example of something that goes against this premise. He said that fluctuations within the Quantum vacuum are examples of things that go in and out of being uncaused. At least the example he gave is better than what he used to say, that the universe is evidence of something that had a beginning without a cause. For that is clear circular reasoning. But even virtual particles in quantum mechanics do not provide an example of something that arises without a cause. For they rely on the quantum vacuum for their temporal existence. The quantum vacuum is actually a sea of fluctuating energy, and the virtual particles borrow the energy for their existence from that. So I pointed out that Alex still had not provided an example of anything that goes against my first premise.
However, Alex didn't want to give up his argument. So I proceeded to talk about the judgment to come and the standard at which God will judge the world. Alex clearly did not like hearing about this, and would just keep repeating his line, "There is no God". It seems as though he thinks that the more times he says it, the more chance it will come true one day.
After presenting the law and the gospel to Alex and the crowd, who were still intently listening, I stepped down after almost an hour of preaching. Jason was the next preacher up, and being the first time he has preached with us, he apparently did very well.
I was unable to listen because I was having a dialogue with two Muslim fellows from Saudi Arabia who had been listening to my preaching. We chatted about the distinct differences between Islam and Christianity, and I was able to present the gospel to them. I pointed out that in the Qur'an, Allah is presented as a deceiver. "As in Surah 4:157, he made it appear as though Jesus died on the cross, when really he really didn't, according to the Qur'an. To make someone believe something that is not true, is deception. Moreover, these fellows agreed that Jesus' followers were called Muslims. And so, not only was Allah deceiving Jesus' enemies, He was also deceiving the Muslims at the time into thinking that Jesus did really die. So if Allah did that back then, how do you know that Allah has not deceived you in giving you the Qur'an?" They were unable to respond, but wanted to dialogue more about this, so we exchanged email addresses.
Dave finished off the preaching for the night, calling all people everywhere to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Below is some video footage of Alex heckling me while preaching on Saturday night:
Soli Deo Gloria.
Saturday, 3 January, 2009
It was Saturday, and I knew that we once again had the wonderful privilege of preaching the gospel in the middle of Brisbane city. We had three new people join us for the outreach - Witali, Jason and Marcus. It was great to have them along with us as Josh and Peter were still away in the UK. After some prayer, Bible reading and fellowship, we made our way to Queen Street Mall at 9pm and starting setting up the Bible table.
Alex (our regular agnostic heckler) was in again tonight spreading his message of love and...err, I mean, hatred towards God. Alistair was the first preacher up and God drew in a small crowd to hear the preaching of the gospel. During this time, Alex was engaged in a conversation with someone so he did not heckle. However someone who heckled on the New Year's Eve outreach was in again, holding a Bible that he had received the previous week. Apparently, he had been doing some reading of it and wanted to ask Ali a few questions about it. Andrew suggested Ali just have a one2one conversation with him because he knew his questions would be complex and would steer the preaching off the gospel.
So David Strachan got up to preach and almost immediately Alex started heckling him. Since he is a newer preacher and doesn't know how to handle hecklers just yet, he tagged me in to deal with Alex. Alex seemed like he was a broken record, spouting the same line over and over again, "There is no God! There is no God!". So I provided some good proof for God, but like always, Alex just dismisses it offhand. If seems as though when anything that proves God is provided for him, he rejects it because it simply does not agree with his presuppositions. Paul was right when He said: "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools" (Romans 1:21-22).
After discussing the existence of God for a little bit, I ran Alex through the good person test. By this time a rather large crowd had gathered who were interested in the discussion taking place. Alex knew that he had broken almost all the commandments of God and admitted that he loves to sin. But as soon as I explained the consequences of his actions, he would repeat his famous line, "There is no God! There is no God!" He didn't like the conviction of sin it seems. When I asked him what evidence he has that there is no afterlife, he said, "Have you ever had a thought outside your brain?" That was his whole argumentation. If you're like me, you would scratch your head and say, "That doesn't prove anything, Alex".
After this, I preached about how one can be saved from the wages of their sin, and that is through Jesus Christ alone. Through Jesus' death can we be forgiven because He can pay the fine that we deserve for our sins, but only for those that repent and trust that Christ's death is the only reason why they will be saved. During this time, Witali had a couple ask him what message was being preached, for they did not speak English well. Witali found out that they were German and Witali is from Germany, and so He was able to witness to them in their native language.
Once I had finished preaching, I tagged Ralph in who finished the preaching off for the night. At this stage there were also many one2ones happening with many people interested in learning more.
Praise God that the gospel message went out to many people and please pray that God will convert those that heard the gospel or received tracts. Also remember to keep Alex in your prayers that his hatred towards God will one day be transformed into a love for Him.
Soli Deo Gloria.
Wednesday, 31 December, 2008
Charles Spurgeon said: "I can think of nothing better than for a Christian to celebrate the coming of the new year by preaching to the lost as they are rushing to see the fireworks at Southbank."
Nope, he didn't say that, but he really should have.
It has been a tradition of sorts for the team of Operation 513 to open air preach and celebrate the new years by sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The team met up at 9:00 p.m. and were bracing for a long night ahead of us. A good number of people showed up for the special event, we have a rather sizable team of around 15. Everyone was all tracted up and ready to go. In short order the team were pass out tracts to the non-stop stream of people and there were quite a few one on one witnessing happening.
Being a night usually marked by drunkeness and lewdness, the Law was in full enforcement.The boys in blue were patrolling the street in large numbers, (and occasionally posing for photos for the tourists) and also were the council officers. A couple of officers from the city council approached us twenty minutes after our arrival, they were quite happy to see that we have obtained council permit for the night, has a few words about safety and carried on with their duties in Queen Street Mall.
David, Ryan and myself took terms open air, people were very distracted at this point, there were many passer-bys but not many stick around to listen. The people handing out tracts were a lot more fruitful as the constant streams of people meant a lot of tracts went out, and many conversations took place. All went very well without incident as the clock approaches midnight, people were increasing their pace as they make their way towards the river where the fireworks and the count-down takes place.
Ryan was the preacher who had the privilege of closing 2008 out by preaching the Gospel. The Queen street mall is almost empty as people rush to the celebration, almost all of them ignore the preaching as they rush by. However there were a few who aborted their original plans of attending festivity and stopped to listen to the Gospel. Ryan, for example, stepped down from the soap box to witness to someone as the count down was going on, to Ryan and his listener, something more important was taking place than the celebration. There were many more who received the Gospel as the Calendar flipped over to 2009, preaching or receiving the Gospel, I am sure there's no better way to start your year.
After the fireworks is over, we are now getting ready for the crowd to move back from Southbank into the city, only this time, instead of trikleing through the mall like the first half of the night, the crowd now arrive in droves. We had preachers ready again, and the Gospel went out as massive amount of people walk by.
Between Ryan and myself we managed to gather a rather large and hostile crowd. A young man who was a professing Muslim was extremely rude and loud, the crowd caught on his negative behavior and was becoming more and more hostile by the minute. While the young man carried on with much zeal for what he believed in, there were very little reasoning in his arguments. He asserted again and again that according to the Islam Jesus was only a prophet and not God as the Christian teaches, when I confronted his belief system with some very basic "Dr. James White" apologetics, he was unable to give anything that remotely resembles an answer. He just gets louder and ruder as it goes on and eventually the council officers who spoke to us earlier in the night stepped in as in their opinion the situation is our of control.
While I respectfully disagree with their assessment, I choose to take on their suggestion and have the preaching cease for the time being and just have one-on-one witnessing. Well, one-on-many on as most of the team finding themselves addressing multiple persons at a time. It was a very interesting time as I find myself speaking to a group of Muslims, and the young man who had cause much of the aggravation still yelling at the top of his voice when asserting his long defeated arguments. Dan were addressing a very self-righteous non-practicing Catholic and his friends right next to my little gathering with the Muslims men and from the corner of my eye I can see a few people gathered around Ryan, despite the absence of open air the Gospel was still being proclaimed to the crowd. By the end of the night (2:00 a.m.) there were many great witnessing encounters, Gospel tracts went out by the hundreds and it was indeed another great start of the year in Brisbane for Operation513.
I think when I finally got to bed, it was 4:00 a.m. This maybe a year without much sleep, but to God be the Glory.
S. D. G.
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