Today I had some wonderful discussions as I handed out tracts. Due to strong winds and a head cold I was not preaching or manning the bible table. God used this time to wonderful effect with opportunities a plenty ditched in my lap. Two conversations stand out from the rest
Stopped when I offered her an eternity tract and asked what it was about. "Its about life after death" I responded. This sparked a long very constructive conversation about the bible, and Christianity. Sue is an atheist and had been heavily involved in the church of England before moving on.
She initially said that she believed there is no life after death so I challenged her to show evidences to support this thought. As most atheists do, Sue claimed that there is no need to support a negative statement and the burden of proof was on me. I urged her to see that there is still a truth claim being made (no afterlife) and so there is a burden of proof to be born to be philosophically consistent. This then spun a huge number of different topics that were quickly touched on and then we'd move on. This rapid fire questioning is something that most atheists do and I often wonder if it is something that is shared on the internet as a good way to bamboozle religious people.
Slowly the real issues came out clearly and they focused on suffering and old testament law. I gave a very brief explanation of why we need God to even understand suffering and how unsatisfying the atheistic perspective is morally. We briefly discussed how the old testament law is to be used by Christians today and why we don't stone people for sin.
The last issue to come up was the fact that Sue is a lesbian and there is significant hurt and rejection that she is dealing with in how the Church responded to her. I spent a while just listening to her story and hearing what she had experienced. I let her know I was sorry for how she had been treated. I affirmed that homosexual people all deserve love, respect and kindness from Christian people.
I also pointed her to the fact that God views all sin as equally a rejection of Him and that she was not any different from me in that she had sin. I urged her to consider that the difference between us was that I was loyal to Jesus as my Lord and Saviour and she was loyal to... herself as she said.
We talked some more and she headed off thanking me for a good conversation.
Mr M. had spoken to me at Mr S.'s skeptics table previously and listened as Mr S. and I discussed evolution and creation. Though he is an atheist Mr M. is interested in what I and other religious people think and was both pleasant to speak to and open to consider new thoughts.
In reference to the existence of eternity Mr M. was curious how it is possible for the non-material soul to interact with the material body. This in turn made him wonder if there was a soul and therefore eternal life. We discussed that the how of the interaction of the soul with the body is not revealed to us, but that we don't understand how something works does not make it imaginary. It is a commonly accepted fact that we are more than our bodies and mankind's search for meaning is an indication of this. Also the evolutionary/materialist story is entirely unsatisfactory, ie that we have "just happened" to develop a morbid fascination with death and what it means. I am skeptical that such a trait could some how be a survival advantage and therefore would persist in the population to today.
I also pointed to eyewitness testimony as a support for life after death. Many people returned from the dead: Lazarus, the son of widow at Nain, the daughter of Jarius, all the people raised when Jesus died, and Jesus Himself. All of these are witnessed to in the best ancient history in the world - the bible.
We also discussed the different responses to my work and the work of the team. It is a varied affair and will always be. Mr M. left thanking me for the conversation and saying he'd be back to talk more in the future.
May God be praised for such fantastic conversations.
Standing in the Elizabeth Street Mall on a Friday lunch time is a different crowd to Tuesday. People are more laid back and there is less of the mid-week rush to get lunch and back to work. This week was my second Friday outreach for the year and it is a productive time mostly. The team is smaller, usually with me and only one or two others able to come, but God as always brings people for us to minister to.
This week I preached twice and we engaged people on issues raised with the preaching but I didn't have the bible table. This approach allowed me to preach even if there is no-one to mind the bible table but did reduce our presence in the mall when there was no preaching happening.
The first conversation of the day was with Mr S. my regular heckler. Mr S. and I have been discussing the rightness or wrongness of God's judgement of Jericho for some time now. Mr S. is horrified at the slaughter of the people of Jericho and in particular the women and children of that city. The fact that this was commanded by God if anything increases his horror. In many ways this event is something akin to the acts of ISIS or other Islamic massacres that have occurred in recent days.
I have been telling him for some time that God has the right to give and take life and to judge sinful mankind. The deaths of people at Jericho are only a small picture of what God does on any given day throughout the world. People die every day due to sin in the world. Ultimately the issue that Samuel has with Jericho is the same of most atheists and skeptics, that these deaths overtly show God's right to judge mankind. The right to judge moral matters skeptics want to keep for themselves, along with the right to judge God's actions as good or evil. This shows up in Mr S.'s and most skeptics commitment to abortion rights. These folk accuse God of evil on many points for death and suffering in the world and then assume they have the right to determine when a baby is a human and when it is only a "foetus" or "embryo". Before the time determined by them in their limited wisdom it is perfectly acceptable to end any life as long as a good justification can be found and it is a benefit to the woman involved. This hypocrisy shows clearly the moral bankruptcy of morality without God as centre, inevitably people take for themselves authority over the lives of others that is not their's to take.
The rest of the day was also quite interesting, the first time I preached the gospel a small number of people gathered and listened as I preached and afterwards I was able to discuss things further with a couple of people. Praise God the gospel is going out in Hobart and He is preparing hearts here!
The second time I preached I had a number of hecklers. One of these was a young man who I have spoken to before about Christ. He was rejecting Jesus then and apparently little has changed. He began by coming to try and taunt me with some sexual comments and attacks. This increased when I began to speak on the issue of sex and the horribleness of perversion and promiscuity. I pointed to the fact that God calls us to chastity or marriage as the only two good options for sex. All other sexual expression is a perversion of the good and holy thing that God has given us in sex. I urged people not only to purity but also to repent of their sexual sin and put their trust in Jesus. After a short period this became too much for this young man and he decided to try and intimidate me into silence. Trying to find an excuse to use he asked me what I thought of Arabs (meaning Muslims), I responded that there are many wonderful Arabs and they make wonderful Christians. He then accused me of hating Arabs and being a racist, and after a little bit of this and intimidating me with one of his mates he wondered off again mouthing off about Christians.
Praise God this brought in a crowd of people to who I could share the wonderful love of God for all people regardless of their skin colour. I called people to follow Jesus who loves so dearly that he died to save sinners. I urged people to give up their other loyalties and trust in Jesus only.
After this there were also a number of other hecklers and a bit of a question and answer time. Many of them left at the end thanking me for the chance to talk and ask questions.
Praise God that His word goes forth!
What an wonderful day it has been today in Hobart! There has been great conversations had and God's eternal gospel has been proclaimed in the streets.
I was joined today by the ever faithful Karl, Jarred, RJ, Peter and Peter and his daughter. We initially set up in the mall with the bible table expecting to see Samuel there but it appears he is taking a break at the moment. After a short set up period I got up to preach from the passage in James which calls our lives a mist or vapour. I compared this Godly wisdom to the worldly view that we are all alright and just fine. I went on to show that we are not ok and are rather naturally selfish idolators who worship anything but the true God. Lastly I glorified God's mercy and kindness to us by giving Jesus Christ to die in the place of sinners and redeem all those who trust in Him.
Afterwards I was able to have a long conversation with a young lady who is well aware of Christian things but is struggling with the judgement of God in the old testament. We talked through the immense patience that God showed in the old testament, forgiving sin again and again throughout the history of Israel before finally bringing down punishment hundreds of years later. Also we looked at how Jesus was utterly condemning of sin in the new testament despite being both merciful and kind. The truth is that God has never changed in His dealings with us, He loathes sin and rebellion this is true; but He also is merciful and kind and forgiving. This is show clearest in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We spoke about many other things and I urged her to read the bible and think on these things further.
After this we spent some time handing out tracts and spoke to a few people briefly as we did so. It always warms my heart to see tracts going out and people walking away with the gospel in their hand.
I preached again on the persecution of God's people and those who would bring the gospel in particular. I again urged the people of Hobart to trust in and embrace the only saviour Jesus Christ and not to trust in those things that would let them down eternally. Quite a few people stopped to listen and some of them took bibles away with them. Afterwards Karl got into a long conversation with a Muslim lady and her sister. He was able to share the gospel with them and also urge them to read the gospels as the Qu'ran tells them to do. It was quite a long conversation and they walked away thanking Karl for sharing with them.
To finish the period in the mall I read out the story of Christ's crucifixion in the gospel of John and we sang "Man of Sorrows" with Jarred leading us. It certainly turned a few heads in the mall to hear us belting out praise to God!
After the team left for the day I spent an hour handing out tracts on my own and ended having a huge discussion with a young man who has a strong interest in the new age and reincarnation. We spoke about truth and falsehood, sin and hell, the historicity of Jesus' life and work, and also reincarnation itself. I urged him to consider the truth claims of the bible and likewise to test the truth claims of the new age movement. I also urged him to consider reading the bible and to carefully watch the reaction of those who heard and consider why they may reject it. As we parted ways he asked directions to our church and said he would try to come on Sunday.
Praise God for when He moves in grace! Praise Him in the highest!
It has been a wonderful day in Hobart this week. The weather has become hot and dry (for Hobart that means 25 degrees) with lots of people in the mall shopping for Christmas or just sitting enjoying the warmth. We were able to share the gospel with many people and the word of God preached. As no-one else was using speaker's corner this week we had the bible table set up for the entire afternoon and many bibles and tracts went out. There were a number of good conversations that were shared around the table.
Taylor and I spoke to a gentleman Mr S. for sometime who was coming from a drinking session and appeared to have many hurts and troubles in his life. We encouraged him to put aside the alcohol and instead look to Jesus for healing and comfort and salvation.
We were encouraged by a lady that stopped to listen to the preaching and chat around the bible table. She said that gospel preaching was something that Hobart needed regardless of anyone rejecting the message. Each time a preacher got up she repeated this as loudly as she could!
Taylor and I took turns to read out the first chapters of Luke and I spoke on the Christ of Christmas and the great and glorious work he has done for sinners. After this Taylor preached on Jn 3:16 and following verses doing a great job bringing out the meaning of the text clearly.
Last in the day I spoke on the beatitudes, focusing on "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God". I brought out the terrible reality that sin has tainted all of us and we are not pure, as our consciences show all too clearly. Then I spoke of God's Holy hatred for sin and awesome power, which come together to mean we are all in danger from God. What we need is someone to change our hearts and praise God that is exactly what Jesus did on the cross! I urged the people of Hobart the turn and trust in Jesus Christ as He is their only hope.
After the preaching a number of people gathered to talk. Taylor, Meg and Gail spoke to Mr S. the regular heckler at some length. I spoke with Mr M. and Mr E., Mr E. had what appeared to be regular atheistic objections the the Christian faith but was not a regular atheist himself as he believed in all sorts of supernatural things. Mr M. rejects Jesus, yet very insistently tries to teach Christians what to believe about the bible and each time I have spoken to him it is the same. This week he was wanting to speak about Christmas and how Christians should not celebrate it at all as it has pagan roots. Much of what he brought out is from the Jehovah's Witnesses or Judaism. I engaged with him on the issue trying to show that the timing of the celebration has nothing to do with the date of Jesus's birth. Rather the date shows that ancient pagans turned from their gods to worship Christ. I urged him to do likewise in this and in the many other things we talked about.
After about an hour talking and sharing our faith with this group we packed and headed home. Praise God that His word goes out!
This week in Hobart the gospel went out again and the healing, saving and convicting words of our Lord went to work on the hearts of the people here. It has been a great day and there have been many encouragements.
The first of the day was a wonderful conversation with Andrea, a Christian man from Italy who was very excited to see the gospel being shared on the streets. He shared with me his walk with the Lord out of Catholicism to now worshiping in a methodist church. It was a privilege to hear what God has done in Andrea's life and how he was brought from despair to hope. He also encouraged me to continue in the work of sharing the gospel in Hobart.
The second encouragement for me came when we set up the bible table. Karl got up to speak from a collection of bible passages and did a fantastic job drawing people to seek Jesus and trust in Him. It is wonderful to look around at people nodding and smiling as my brother spoke. Afterwards I read the story of Jesus' birth in Luke, something I hope to do regularly as we approach Christmas.
After this we spent some time engaging with some skeptics who had gathered to chat with Mr S.. Karl, Jim and myself all had some good conversations. I particularly enjoyed discussing philosophy and faith with Mr E., one of Mr S.'s friends. The others all were having great discussions also from what I heard.
We set up the table again after an hour (council regulations...) and Taylor got up to speak. He spoke from the parable of the sower in Matthew's gospel and shared the gospel beginning with this telling story. And again I saw many people appreciative of my brother's words of hope.
I next got up to speak from Mat 5:4; about the Godly grief that we all should have for sin and the hardness of our hearts. Also I pointed to the wholeness, peace and healing that God offers in Jesus Christ for those who will repent of sin and trust in Him. Afterwards many gospel conversations were had and we left the mall praising the God of heaven for His grace.
This last couple of weeks in Hobart has been a mixed bag of responses and events. We now have five people in the team who will stand and speak! Both Karl and Mitch have stood to read the word of God and did a fantastic job. Taylor has continued to increase the amount he preaches and is now doing a great job of preaching the gospel from various texts. Nathan has been likewise improving but has had immense pressure from his work hours and so has been away for a couple of weeks. Please pray for those who preach, that they will be kept from both pride and fear.
The response of Hobart people has been the same as it always has been, a vocal minority of folk dislike our work and a large majority appreciate it and tell us so. The shopkeepers of the mall are not happy with our activities and both Jay Jays and Lowes continue to make complaints. This showed itself through a visit from the chamber of commerce and a couple more discussions with police officers, both of whom accuse us of being a public nuisance. It is not surprising when opposition arises but we need to respond in the right way, please pray that we will bless and pray for those who despise us and that we will not give into depression or antagonism.
As the afternoon has now been divided between Mr S. and ourselves the team and I have taken advantage of the times we are not able to work in the mall to reach out on the surrounding streets. We have been handing out tracts and sharing the gospel where possible with people around the CBD.
This week I preached from Mat 5:3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven". A moderate number of people gathered to hear the gospel preached and I was able to discuss the message and various biblical matters with a young busker afterwards.
Karl read from God's word and Taylor preached from lamentations. Both of them were loud and clear with their speaking and were kind with those who heckled them. It is wonderful to see God's grace in action in their responses.
Praise God for His grace.
Hobart is a city that has powerful people committed to the exclusion of the gospel. For the last couple of months there has been a string of incidents with shop owners, council officers and police officers. The team and I have been repeatedly threatened with arrest or ordered to leave areas that anyone should be able to use to speak or hand out literature.
The repeated claim of shop owners is that we are harassing people by politely handing literature out and offending people by preaching the gospel. Police and council officers have likewise reiterated our gospel activity as their motive for seeking to remove us from public streets. This ongoing harassment and discrimination has had a toll on both myself and the rest of the team.
We have been instructed by council that we are not to preach or hand out literature anywhere in the city other than the specific area assigned for speakers corner (where you are unable to hand out literature by the way). The Tasmanian Police have repeatedly voiced their unconditional support for the council regardless of our protests that council actions are illegal. Council bylaws do not support these instructions nor does any other legislation within Tasmania or Australia. If team members do not obey this illegal instruction we face loss of our permits to use the mall to evangelise and the police will be called to move us on or arrest us.
We are currently assessing what approach to take in this situation. Please be in prayer on our behalf; ask that we will continue to preach the gospel and that we would have wisdom, Godliness and boldness in how we behave.
God will be glorified in Hobart and the proud hearts and enemies of His way will fail. We pray they will fail as God draws them to repent of their sin and come to love and trust in Jesus.
Glory to God in the Highest!
The gospel continues to be proclaimed in Hobart and praise God that He is at work in our city. There are many listeners that gather each week when we preach the word. We are reading sections of scripture and preaching from some of those scriptures each week. Many have come and encouraged us to continue after sitting to listen as the bible is read out chapter by chapter. Nathan and Taylor have begun preaching and so there is now three preachers in the team. It has been a great privilege to see them reading scripture and proclaiming the word of the Lord.
Over the last couple of weeks we have seen a large number of people coming to speak to us in the mall seeking a church to attend or wanting to speak to someone about spiritual matters. Most of these conversations were directly related to scripture being read or preached. A few of the people we have encountered and would ask for your prayers for are:
Mr F. – a young atheist bloke who has spoken with me and others in the team before. He was quite abrupt in his approach to conversation at first but he was willing to interact and discuss. He believes there is no evidence to support the bible and that Christians consistently cherry pick from the bible, avoiding the bad parts deliberately. We spoke for some time and it became clear that Flynn was searching seriously for answers and had been doing research to find answers. I gave him some of the facts that support the truth of the bible and encouraged him to read the bible and come speak with us again. Please pray that the Holy Spirit would draw Flynn back to speak again and that the gospel message would dwell in his mind constantly.
Miss L. – a young lady who identifies as a homosexual and has a past that was very traumatic. We talked for quite some time and were able to discuss calmly and kindly what the bible says about the homosexual lifestyle and why. I was also able to clearly explain the gospel a couple of times over. She left still disagreeing but at the same time happy that we had spoken. Please pray that Lauren would heed the call of God to repent of all sin and trust in Jesus.
Mr E. – a friend of Mr S. (the regular heckler) who came to chat and spoke at length with the team and had a great chat with Mitch. I unfortunately was quite angst filled after an encounter with the Hobart City Council and was quite short with him. He was very gracious after I apologised to him and was keen to come back and chat with us again another day.
Miss M. – a young lady that spoke to me whilst I was preaching in Elizabeth lane some time ago. She came wanting to know where we went to church and if she could attend. Miss M. expressed a desire to know God and be doing something meaningful on Sunday. Please pray that she will attend church and draw near to God and that nothing would keep her away.
There have been many others who have come but space does not allow to mention them all. Please pray that God would work through the team and bless the many people that come and speak to us.
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.