Hobart Report 11/8/15
The work in Hobart continues and the last fortnight has been particularly encouraging and there have been many opportunities to share the gospel with the people of Hobart.
As has been the case for many months now people are continuing to ask for Bibles and most weeks we are almost running out. There have been many conversations around the Bible table and we have had one lady attending church at Cornerstone Presbyterian as a direct result.
Last week I was able to have a conversation with a local neuroscientist who asked for a Bible despite his reservations about Christian beliefs. He and I were able to discuss faith and science for almost an hour and I was able to share the scientific basis for believing in God and His account of creation. While not agreeing on all points we were able to talk through thing well and I could present the gospel to him in light of the creation and fall accounts in the Bible.
Over the last two weeks two new team members Nathan and Taylor have been reading the Bible aloud in the mall. This has been fantastic and it is wonderful to hear God's word going out because it is the power of salvation and we have His promise it will achieve His purposes. It is also a great encouragement to see others prepared to step up and boldly stand and speak God's word publicly. This week Taylor read aloud the 7th chapter of Matthew's gospel well and clearly.
During my preaching there were quite a few hecklers and praise God, their noise attracted a crowd of listeners that lead to many gospel opportunities.
Mr S. was at his usual vocal best, trying to preach his twisted distortion of the gospel.
A couple of young men tried to tell us that God was not real because of abusive pedophile priests and tried to burn a copy of the new testament. After this failed to stop the preaching they tried to throw some food at me.
A tall young man told us he was an incarnation of the arch-angel Michael and Jesus was not God. Because of this we were told to stop preaching the gospel or he would be violent.
A Chinese ethnicity man tried to say that the God of the bible is false and God was responsible for both the origin of sin and incest in the first generation of people.
A very comic older man mocked the Bible and God and tried to detract from the preaching with jokes and humour.
A college student asked how we can trust the Bible since it has been translated from language to language so many times.
While these questions represent a challenge to the Christian worldview they are answered clearly by scripture and history. Not only that but these things also represent a challenge for those who would reject God. For example if we reject God as the source of good and evil people are left unable to say anything in the face of evils like pedophilia and violence. God be praised that we were able to declare the glories of God and the salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
After the preaching the whole team was caught up in conversation for the following hour. Many times people heard the gospel from the others in the team and most people went away glad that they could discuss these things and thanking the team for speaking.
We have had three extra people join our team, it is a wonderful thing to have the extra encouragement and help. As I have written previously, it is a wonderful thing to be part of the body of Christ! The skills and personalities of others in reaching our lost world is vital. No Christian is an island and this is especially true when we evangelise.
This week we had 9 bibles, and many tracts go out, this has been a consistent pattern for many weeks. For our small town this points to a significant hunger for the word of God and willingness to listen to the gospel.
Likewise there have been many great conversations around the bible table and during and after the preaching. Some of these conversations are bearing fruit and leading to people not only coming back each week but also seeking churches and discipleship.
This is what we long for and pray for, that God would call people from the darkness into his glorious light. Praise his name for his kindness to the people of Hobart. May many more come to know him as Lord and Saviour.
This last fortnight in Hobart has been a wonderful testimony to the fact there is a large number of people who support the gospel as opposed to a very vocal and sometimes powerful minority that wage war against it. I have many times spent space discussing the latter group and I could mention the opposition of folks like Mr S., hostile professing Christians, homosexual activists, angry local builders or shop owners. To be frank though I think they get enough airplay as it is.
In this report I would like to give a grateful thank you to all the many people who have stopped to encourage the team and I over the last weeks and months. Some of you have stopped to speak with us each week. Thank you Graham, Angel, Bobbie, Ewan, John, Michael and the many others. Others have stopped time to time and helped and encouraged us. Thank you Yodit, Sam, Freddie, Joel, Paige, Michael, Peter and the many others.
Also to the many of you who's names I've never found out, you pass in and out of our work like regular gusts of fresh air. Thank you to the lovely lady last week who prayed and spoke so graciously from her mobility scooter. Thank you to the very tall young man who stood up for me when things looked a bit out of hand during the preaching. Thank you to the charity worker who encouraged people to be respectful even if they differ from Christians. Thank you to the Christian school kids who gathered to show their support.
I cannot forget the faithful folk who minister with me as a team. Thank you Karl, Mitch, Gail, Jim, Taylor, Michael, Lauren, Adam. You give so much of your time and energy so selflessly and I praise God for you all. Keep doing what you do so well and trusting in the Lord.
In any given month I see hundreds of these folks who encourage the team and I immensely. The gospel goes out steadily week by week and in the end it doesn't matter what the proud ones say because God sits in the highest place, ruling over all that happens. This last fortnight the gospel has been preached, almost thirty bibles have been taken and hundreds of tracts given out. There have continued to be vocal opponents but God is faithful and brings with them the many voices that speak more quietly but more encouragingly.
Praise God in the Highest
This week in Hobart we have had a incident of Christophobic discrimination by both the police and the local retailers. God be praised this only temporarily limited the preaching of the gospel and distributing tracts and bibles.
I was joined this week by a brother from the north of the state and his lovely wife. Caleb and I decided to start a little early and so made use of Elizabeth arcade. No permits are needed for this area and it provides an excellent area to preach and hand out tracts to people coming through the mall.
I began the preaching with a message regarding the Lord's supper and the need everyone has to be saved and made right with God through Jesus' death and resurrection. Caleb next preached on the holiness of God and our sinfulness. In all of this only small comments were made and few hecklers spoke but many people were obviously listening as they stood or sat in the mall.
Shortly following this we were approached by two police officers who informed us that what we were doing was a public nuisance and we had to stop because complaints had been made. It was clear that Jay Jay's manager was one of the sources of the complaint as she was interviewed by the police before they came to speak to us.
Caleb and I declined to stop preaching as we were not breaking any laws. The police constables then warned us that we would be given a move on order and then arrested if we persisted. After they left I began to preach again focusing on a clear proclamation of the gospel and the need we all have of that gospel. The officers again spoke with the council and then the staff in Jay Jay's before coming to speak to me. I was given a move on order because of the content of my preaching. The issue was not the manner of my preaching or any threatening or obscene comments. It was the offensive Christian gospel that was unacceptable and illegal according to these officers. And so under threat of arrest I left the CBD.
Later in the afternoon I walked to the police station to file a complaint regarding this incident. After a short discussion with one of the sergeants the move on order was rescinded and I was free to be in the CBD again. With this done I went with the team to preach again in the mall and proclaim the glories and hope of the gospel.
Please pray that the gospel will be freely proclaimed in Hobart and the police will be lawful in their behaviour from now on. Pray also for the team and I, that we will be wise, gentle, respectful yet bold and not give into fear or anger.
I have been away for the last fortnight and today it was wonderful to be back into sharing the gospel with the people of Hobart. Apparently our absence has been noticed, lots of people have come up and commented that they haven't seen us for a while. I pray that God would use our presence as a visible reminder to people of who we preach and stand for. May God bring to mind all the gospel people know when ever they see us in the street!
We started the day with the bible table and chatting to people who came to the table. One of these was Mr R. who had questions about the bible and believed some things that were obviously contradicting the bible. We talked for a period but he left insisting that we/I were scare-mongering. Later in the afternoon during the preaching he returned and had a long conversation with Karl which was excellent.
I praise God that He has raised up all sorts of different people to be part of our team here in Hobart. There are so many people that other members of the team can reach who I cannot. Never think dear friends that you are unable to evangelise because "I am not like person x who is gifted in evangelism...", there are people in your town that only you will be able to reach. God has gifted you with the life and experience that you have so that you can share His glory and gospel with particular people. Trust God and go share your faith with those around you, they need you to bring it to them and your Lord commands that you do.
Mr S. our regular heckler has also taken a different approach recently as I have written previously. This week Mr S. set up a table also in the mall seeking to engage with people about cults, psychics and clairvoyants. He is also seeking to encourage atheism and draw people away from religions of all types. While there is obviously major differences/disagreements between us I praise God for the opportunity that this creates. His work brings many atheists to our area of the mall and we are then able to share the gospel with them. Please pray that we will be able to boldly and wisely share the gospel with these people and encounter their world view in a way that changes them for Christ.
May God's Name be praised!
Thank you all for your ongoing prayers for the work in Hobart's CBD. God is blessing the work and many tracts and bibles have been going out. People have been coming back for repeat conversations. I have even had non-Christians stop me when giving out tracts to thank us for what we are doing and encourage us to continue.
One repeat visitor at the bible table is an older man who is interested in the Christadelphianism. Primarily he came to discuss the issue of hell which he struggles with (as do many people). He is attracted to the idea of annihilationism, that God would destroy completely sinners at the final judgment and that there would be no hell in an eternal sense. Praise God he has been willing to discuss what God says in His word about these views. It has been encouraging to see the openness that he has to consider and struggle with these issues. Please pray that he will continue to come and speak with us and that we would be able to share wisely and respectfully from God's word.
The team are now regularly handing out tracts at the nearby traffic intersection, that is when they are not caught up in gospel conversations! I regularly look around to check on tracting team members only to find they are deep in gospel conversation. Praise God for these wonderful opportunities and the privilege of gossiping the gospel in Hobart!
Our regular heckler Mr S.has been staying away but over the last two weeks he and I have chatted for short periods. It was a positive discussion and he is wanting (as I am) to make sure that things remain calm in the mall on Tuesday afternoons. I am grateful for this and hope that we will be able to have more positive discussions in the future. Please continue to pray for Mr S., that God will bless him and give him peace.
We have begun preaching again in the mall and for the last two weeks the people who have gathered have been very quiet and listening to what was said. In some ways this has been a challenge as it is easier to bounce off people's questions and gather a crowd from the heckling. At the same time I am grateful for the opportunity to preach on an issue uninterrupted and develop thoughts fully. There were small groups that gathered and the usual people sitting/standing at the edges of hearing range pretending not to listen but obviously straining to hear.
This week I decided to be ambitious and have begun a series of sermons on the world's greatest preacher's one recorded sermon. I began with the telling and world inverting verse:
Mt 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
From this verse I sought to show how the sinful nature of our hearts and the pride that comes naturally to us all prevents us from coming into the kingdom of God. Also on the other hand the humble attitude Jesus points to is an expression of true repentance. If we will not put down our self-centredness we cannot come to Jesus in faith to seek His Goodness, His righteousness, His atonement and His life. This is in many ways the first step in becoming a child of the kingdom.
There is great riches in this one verse alone and there is much that could be said. Please pray that I will do Jesus' words some kind of justice in my preaching and that it will draw people to him in Hobart.
Praise God for His grace and kindness!
We have changed our approach in the Hobart mall for the next two weeks due to an incident last week. There was a group of people that began to be destructive at the incitement of our regular heckler combined with some foolish words on my part. I was pushed around a little and the bible table was scattered but mercifully no-one was hurt. I light of this I am refraining from preaching and we will run only the bible table and hand out tracts for the next two weeks. As much as I am unhappy to be doing this I think that in order to keep the peace there is a need to let things cool off for the next couple of weeks.
This week we have seen God honour this desire to live in peace with others and share the gospel sensitively. Many bibles went out from the bible table and we handed out many tracts and great conversations were had. I have decided to limit the team's interaction with Mr S. as he is essentially using this as an opportunity to stir up strife and abuse team members. Mr S. was not happy that we have done this and spent the afternoon harassing me. Thankfully though this limited his ability to interfere with other good conversations going on around him.
Please pray for:
• Mr S. : even in the need to limit his damaging behaviour we long to see this young skeptic saved and come to love Jesus. Please pray that God would humble him and bring him life.
• Miss P : a school girl I have spoken to previously who loves Jesus but her atheistic parents prevent her from attending church and recently "confiscated" her bible. I have replaced the bible and we hopefully will soon have her connected to a Godly lady for regular fellowship and discipleship. Pray that God will make a way for her to be able to attend Church and live out her faith despite her parent's opposition.
• Mr S.C. : a regular in the mall who frequently comes to speak to us, he has heard the gospel a couple of times but is still vague on what he thinks of Jesus. Please pray that God will drive the gospel deep into his heart and save him.
• Mr A. : another atheist who has some questions and protests but is cagy on why he is truly opposed to the gospel. He took a bible today and has said he would read it. Pray that God would use His Word to convict and redeem him.
As always please pray for the team that we would be enabled to share the word of God in full with boldness and love.
Praise Him for his generosity to use us sinners in His work!
There is some opposition to the work in Hobart's CBD that has begun to make itself felt. This has primarily come in the form of increased aggression and abuse from our "regular heckler" Mr S.. Please continue to pray for him, he needs salvation and the peace of God.
This week we where initially unable to enter the mall due to the Lady Mayoress making an inspection of the new street cleaning machine. This was turned into a blessed opportunity as Mitchell and I were able to hand out 80 or so tracts in the space of 30 minutes. Praise God for those 80 little soldiers of The Lord, they will never sleep, never get tired of preaching the gospel and be patiently waiting for whoever looks at them. I love giving people tracts, they will turn up in some of the most interesting and astonishing places.
The Bible table has continued to be a source of good conversations, this week we had three good conversations that occurred around the table.
Ms A. - has recently lost her son due to suicide and struggles with a neighbour who is abusive. Yet in-spite of this she is an active member of the Salvation Army church here in Hobart. We were able to talk at length and encourage each other.
Mr A. - a long term contact of Carl's, he is a Shia Muslim and they have had many conversations and discussed the person of Jesus many times. Please pray for him that he would follow the true prophet and only saviour Jesus Christ.
Preaching this week focused initially on the two prisoners in Bali and what a scandal it would be if their lawyer was to offer to take their place. Yet this is exactly what we see in the work of Jesus our Lord, He takes the place of sinners who hate Him so that they can come into a loving relationship with God.
Romans 5: 6-11
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Mr S. as always had some very forceful opinions to air and some very aggressive opposition he directed at the team. Ironically Mr S. thinks that the forgiveness of sin is one of the most shameful aspects of the gospel. He preaches for me in a backhanded manner, parading around the scandal of forgiveness of even the most evil through Jesus. He equally thinks that hell is abhorrent and will preach on how horrible God's punishment of sinners in hell is. Through all of this I try to provide the theological correctives needed and let him preach the gospel!
Interspersed through the various rants (he was not in a good mood this week for some reason) that Mr S. had this week a few other people asked questions:
Three high school girls - asked about homosexuality and divorce. I spoke with them about God's model for sexuality and marriage (a loving Christlike husband serving and his wife submitting to his love). I also emphasised as I have to frequently that Christians are called to love and respect people even when they must identify a lifestyle as sinful and leading to hell. One of the girls was very affected by by the preaching and took a bible afterwards. Please pray that she would love the giver of these good gifts not the just gifts.
Homosexual man - protested that the bible is written by man and we cannot know any of it is true (Chinese whispers scenario). There are so many good responses to this that we are spoilt as Christians. I provided a couple of reasons to believe but he left scoffing. Please pray that God would open both his ears and his heart to hear the truth.
One high school guy - as a secularist this guy essentially wanted to stop the preaching because it is forcing Christianity on others. He stayed afterwards for a period and listened to the discussions/debates that happened. He did not engage a lot but would comment from time to time. Please pray that he will consider carefully what he has heard and will come again and be changed by the gospel as he hears it.
It was a full week and afterwards there were good discussions that continued for an hour after we finished. Please pray for the people of Hobart, many that I do not interact with hear the gospel and need salvation through Jesus Christ. Pray that the Holy Spirit would give them life and bring them to Jesus. Pray to The Lord of the harvest to save souls and send workers into the fields of Hobart.
Most of all please pray that God would be glorified in all that we do and say and that he would keep us from the many stumbling blocks that litter the path of this ministry.
The last two weeks have been a real mix of interesting interactions, both around the bible table and during the preaching. I normally begin the day with the bible table set out and give people an opportunity to approach me and discuss and take literature. Later in the day I will get up and preach for a period of about an hour.
While the time around the bible table is quieter than the preaching with less hecklers, I love the opportunity it provides for the less bold to come and talk. This week I managed to sit down to pray for only a couple of minutes at a time. Praise God my prayers were constantly interrupted by the very people that I was praying for! Most people were repeat visitors and we were able to continue our conversations from previously.
Mr M. stopped by, he is a skeptic who enjoys discussion with Christians and stopped shortly to discuss with me again but could not stay long.
A couple of young ladies stopped to chat, one of them had previously attended my church but had since stopped attending. Both of them appeared to be heavily influenced by the new age movement, speaking of meditation and the like, voicing doubts about the bible, and insisting that God is only love. I gently spoke with them of the seriousness that we must have when God says that he doesn't love our sin but loathes it with a holy and consuming hatred. I urged them to listen to the warnings and the promises of the bible. It is wonderful to consider the love of God when he is our father, but we must first come to him the way he calls us, through faith in Jesus.
A young satanist who has heard the gospel many times also came with a question. How could Eve be a woman given the bible says that she was made from the side of Adam a man? I pointed out that God is the ultimate geneticist, and to remove a Y chromosome and duplicate the X to "change Eve's sex" would child's play for him who made the DNA code in the first place. This seemed to satisfy him but of course he said he would come back with other questions and left unchanged by the information.
Please pray for all these folk, they need the Holy Spirit to give them life and bring them to Jesus in faith. Pray that God would act in mercy for Hobart. Pray that his ministers in this city would be faithful in proclaiming the gospel whenever they can.
The preaching has been very busy and I have very slowly been preaching through the first chapter of Romans. Many people react strongly to this book of the bible, not surprisingly as God speaks bluntly of our sin and his hatred of it and of the saviour Jesus Christ.
Last week a group of homosexual youth gathered together to condemn my "hate speech" and protest that I was doing the wrong thing in many ways. Mr S. (a regular atheistic heckler) as he often does joined in encouraging them to heckle as much as possible. Interestingly many of them stayed to talk after I had repeatedly shared the gospel and given apologetics on the God given model for human sexuality - marriage. We talked sitting on the ground for around an hour and went our separate ways on good terms. One very telling moment was when a young man said that I was advocating a homosexual genocide. I turned to the rest of the group and asked them if I had said anything even remotely close to that. They all said no and one young lady said that I had repeatedly underlined that I loved homosexuals and that was why I was preaching the gospel. This was a turning point in the conversation and from then on I was able to more freely share with them. One of them even showed an interest in meeting to talk further.
This week I spoke of the vile nature of sin and how it pollutes our lives and even when we struggle against it we can never break free of it in our own power. I also spoke of God's hatred of this sin and the natural consequence that will come of continued rebellion and rejection of God. I also spent a little time discussing the glorious world that God has put us in and how every scrap of it proclaims God's divine nature and eternal power. This lead to a group of hecklers responding to my words. Many arguments were put forward but always answered with an eye to the cross, which is always the real issue, even if it is unsaid.
One of the most interesting moments was when Mr S. asked me to list the three things that keep me from doing evil. I said that first my relationship with God does, then his commands do and lastly the love for my neighbour that he has given me does. What keeps Mr S. from evil? Nothing. It is purely his choice. It is not often that an atheist is as honest as this so I thought an application of this principle would be good. Here is how I put it : Say Mr S. and I get really angry, so angry that we want to kill each other. The person who determines my moral position on murder is utterly unmoved by my temper and murderous rage, God still hates murder no matter what I think. The person who determines Mr S.'s moral position on murder it currently considering doing it and so of course is very much swayed and changed. Atheism provides no hope of any restraint of evil deeds and more than that it provides no hope of any endurance in good deeds.
There were many hecklers and the gospel was preached many times and my day ended with a couple of hours sharing with a young marxist who had heckled earlier. While the team were talking to others in the crowd, we talked at length. I encouraged him to turn to Jesus as marxism will ultimately let him down, as will any lesser thing than God himself.
Please continue to pray for Mr S. and the many hecklers that come to speak to me, they are people with a great need. Pray that God would show them his glory, their sin and the wonderful saviour our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is my first report on the work in Hobart CBD so I will give you readers a brief outline of what has happened over the last 12 months.
After negotiations the council down here has allowed freedom of speech in Hobart CBD in one particular area of the Elizabeth Street mall. This allows preaching and limited tract distribution for 4 hours twice a week. While it is far from complete freedom it is an opportunity that we praise God for. Over 2014 a small group from the church I attend (Cornerstone Presbyterian) have been witnessing successfully in the mall. This has involved preaching, tracts and one to one conversations fortnightly.
The response to this has been strong enough to merit a longer weekly outreach which will happen each week on a tuesday. We will meet in the mall from 12pm until 5pm to use a bible table and hand out tracts and preach the gospel of God's grace.
This tuesday was quite good, we almost ran out of bibles. Despite a relatively windy day the bible table was quite useful with people stopping regularly from 12-3pm to chat and take bibles. I was able to share the gospel with one man who stopped by and also encourage the couple of Christians that came by to encourage me.
Preaching this week was a mixed response, I was preaching from Romans. Rm 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. It was a simple gospel message of salvation to all who repent and believe in Jesus, no matter who they are or what they've done. A small crowd gathered to hear and I was blessed with the presence of fellow believers in the crowd praying while I spoke.
At first no-one interacted with me but then one lady started to protest that what I was saying was nonsense (not the word she used...). I attempted to engage her on this but then quickly her boyfriend chimed in that I should shut up. This quickly escalated into a lot of them shouting and telling me to go away in foul language. I was worried that the guy might try to knock me down as he promised, but it was the lady who took a swing when I wasn't looking and got me on the jaw.
At that the pair of them took off and I had the undivided attention of a moderate group of people who had just seen me struck! Talk about God sent opportunities! I preached the gospel and pointed out that outside of Christ I and everyone listening were no different from this hate filled couple in the eyes of God. We all have hated God in our own ways and because of this need a saviour. I urged the listeners to turn to Jesus and trust in him and continued in that vein for some time.
This was made interesting by a gent who wanted me to stop because there were churches for this sort of thing. When I knocked him back on that offer he decided my crowd were all paid and it was all a set up. Just to emphasise the point he then went about offering people $50 a pop to leave so that I would stop! Despite the amusing diversion many stayed and listened as I expounded the gospel.
As the day came to a close the gospel had been preached, and many people had the word of God in their hands. And it don't matter what the proud one's say, because God sits in the highest place!
Praise His name.