Ominous skies and a prediction of rain foreshadowed my return trip to Toowoomba today.
Driving back from Brisbane the little coward in me was quietly hoping that a storm would cancel tonight’s event while another part of me prayed that God would let the outreach go ahead.
I arrived in the Toowoomba CBD a little later and I saw that God had allowed the storm to skirt around the city. We were thankfully good to go.
Out of our 5 regular team members only Paul was available tonight and so the two of us meet at the Margaret Street McDonalds and prayed together. Paul is an amazing man of God and our team is blessed to have this quiet, knowledgeable and genuinely passionate bloke regularly join us.
We spent time in prayer together, which in 12 years of Street Outreach never fails to be an experience best described as that “electric yet calm” experience of being in the presence of God. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would do big things in the CBD tonight and that God’s would save and transform many, just as He graciously did for us whilst we were in the midst of our sin and indifference to Him.
We began the outreach by walking up and down one of the main streets of the CBD in Toowoomba (Margaret st) and gave tracts to people we encountered. Thursday nights tend to bring out a certain kind of person and whilst families are rare you’ll find groups of teenagers and groups of adults of various ages all milling about looking for things to do. You’ll also find a number of people sitting by themselves which can provide opportunities for conversation should the person in question wish to talk.
Our first conversation was with two younger women who were waiting on the side of the road. I offered one a “Good Person” Comic and was immediately met with the wary reply “Is it about Jesus?” When I said yes, she replied that she was not interested and upon further discussion told me that she had an “Italian Catholic” background. I asked her if she had considered her Catholic background now as an adult, to which she replied “Yes and I’m definitely not interested” with a fair degree of anger in her voice.
It is times like this when you can choose to pursue the conversation or not. There are no hard and fast rules..it’s rather how the situation “feels” and the person’s tone and body language. In this case we chose to pursue the conversation a little further and then wish these two women a good night.
I constantly second guess myself over these situations, yet the general approach we take is to risk “under-engagement” as compared to “over-engagement” which can leave the person with negative memories of pushy, Bible-bashing Christians. Instead, we want to leave hardened and overtly hostile people with a generally good memory of their brief encounter with us. It may become the only good memory of Christians they have and we pray that next time they may be more open to discussing weighty issues with Christians (either on the street or ones they know in their day to day lives).
Our next encounter on the streets played out very differently. Paul and I met a group of three middle-aged men who were standing around and talking. We came up to them and asked them “Have you gotten one of these tonight?” and handed each of them a tract. One of the asked “What is this all about?” and Paul replied it was about Jesus. This answer instantly sent all three men to reading our tracts with an intense interest. One of them mentioned “Oh wow! I go to the Church just up the street.” as he pointed to St Luke’s Anglican. He then eagerly went back to reading the tract. It was really heartening to see such a response from such an unlikely source and we pray that these men will have a genuine and undeniable encounter with God if they haven’t already.
The rest of the night passed rather quickly. It was blessing to be able to engage in this work and to met so many different people from different walks of life and share the awesome news of who God is and what He has done/is doing and will do for men and women even today.
We entrust the night’s efforts to God, knowing that not one encounter or one tract was wasted. He cares more about this city and about its people more then we ever could and we look forward to the ripple effect of tonight’s work into eternity as He sovereignly moves for His glory and our joy.
After an afternoon of rain we wondered whether it would be a wet night of outreach at the Gold Coast, but God answered our prayers by keeping the rain at bay.
We had a team of 6 of us, with some of the regulars away. But it was NOT a dull night...for a number of reasons.
Among the different people we spoke to, one was a man named Ethan. He had gone to Catholic schooling when he was young and during school he would ask his teachers about eternal things, but they kept saying to him, "Don't worry about that stuff. It's not important." So ever since then he was confused about what Christianity was about.
As we were talking with him, he said he's a good chap, but after being shown the law of God, he saw that, like the rest of us, he hasn't lived up to it. So we explained the news of Christ's death and resurrection taking the punishment we deserve in our place, and he remarked, "I have never understood any of these things. This makes sense." He was happy to take a gospel of John and said that he would start reading it everyday.
Later on in the evening, a man came up to the team and someone on the team began sharing the gospel with him. This man asked for prayer. As he was being prayed for, all of a sudden he started moving uncontrollably, his voice changed, and he began screaming out and making all kinds of noises. It drew a lot of attention from people walking by and he kept being like that (and becoming increasingly violent) until the police arrived and then he was instantly back to normal.
We don't know exactly what's happening behind the scenes in the spiritual realm but we know God is always in control. And the gospel went out to a lot of people tonight, so to God be the glory!
On Tuesday at Woodridge we had a team of 5 of us as we sought to make Christ known to whoever happened to be there.
One person on the team got chatting with a guy named James who had just been kicked out of his home and had all his stuff stolen and given away by his housemates. So the team member took him to the local Kmart to buy some clothes for him, and got to share the gospel with him.
Later on, James returned to where he had met us, and some others on the team got to chat further with him, further explaining the gospel to him so that he came to grasp it. Please pray for James that he would repent and trust in Christ.
Please also pray for a man named Lyle who wasn't sure whether God would let him into heaven. Even though he knew about Jesus' death on the cross, he thought his good deeds had an essential part in him getting to heaven. We spent a bit of time looking at a few passages of the Bible that speak of salvation being a free gift, nothing that we earn, but one that we receive by faith alone. Good works will simply naturally follow if we are saved.
Hundreds of gospel tracts went out, and Christ was honoured, so to God be the glory!
It has been a busy fortnight here in Hobart, many people have been coming to listen to the preaching and there have been extensive debates on numerous issues. It has been wonderful to see the gospel preached to the large crowds but there have also been some very challenging moments also. Many bibles have gone out from the table and good conversations had whilst the preaching is going on.
Some of the issues raised are predictable and have been well answered by wise Christians in the past, some of these were:
If God is all powerful, can He make an object so heavy He cannot lift it? (answer: God can do all things consistent with His character and His character is not logically absurd)
The burden of proof in this argument is all on you as a Christian – prove God is real (answer: Christians have a burden of proof to bear and there is huge amounts of evidence for God's existence. Atheists on the other hand have an impossible burden to bear – to prove God does not exist means you must know all things and all time!)
If God is real then why is there so much suffering in the world (and variations of that thought)? (answer: there are many options to answer this, two options in summary: God provides us with the grounds of good and evil, if He is absent what do you base your protest of evil on? God made this world good and the evil we see came into it by our wrong doing, one day He will redeem the world.)
Why do you do this? (answer: Because I care about you and want you to have the great blessing that could be yours in Jesus Christ)
Some of the questions though have been very modern and very topical today and form part of the secular class of “untouchables”. Issues that no one is allowed to question the status quo on, you simply need to shut up and agree apparently.
I'm gay, what does God think of me? (answer: God has shown His great love for you and me both by sending Jesus to die for sin on the cross. We both deserve judgment and hell for our rejection of God and wrong doing but you and I both can be made God's precious children if we turn from sin and humbly trust in Jesus)
What does God think of abortion? (answer: All life is given by God and children are precious in His sight. To perform an abortion is to kill a human being at an early stage of life and is murder.)
What about other religions? (answer: Jesus said He was the only way to God and no-one would come to the Father any other way. He made an exclusive claim and proved His authority by miracles, prophecy and resurrection.)
For most days it has been wonderful to preach as I was given the opportunity to share the gospel liberally when engaging with people. It was good to keep coming back to the centrality of the gospel and Jesus Christ. Arguments are good to a point but the reason for doing this is to draw people to Christ, praise God He gave the opportunity!
Soli Deo Gloria
Two teams of two thanked the Lord for giving a break in the rain so we could take the good news forth to. While the 'pier' duo watched and prayed for the rescue of a becalmed jet skier, we set about proclaiming Jesus as the sole rescuer of sinners, e.g.
- a Hindu lady, Sheeva, came with a burdened heart.She now understands that there was nothing she can do by way of her works to please God. She left with some hope and gave us a hug. Our prayer is that God would draw her to the Saviour, Jn. 6:44.
- Ray and his family have been visited by J.Ws. but he knows that it should be 'Jesus only' but we need to ask God to reveal His truth to him.
- Harry, a young teenager who is well read and not afraid to ask questions or present his views. He did not seem to grasp the gospel, so Ryan took the conversation back to basics, "Do you believe in God?" Progressing through the truth, Harry arrived at the point where he said he would download a Bible onto his PC. We recommended that he begin reading in John's gospel. He was also given a 'comic' tract for his friend Ethan. Pray the God's grace abounds. (This concluded just as he had to go meet his parents who had walked over to King Island and back. We also left, and as we did, precipitation was again falling.)
Praise God for the privilege of serving Him knowing that our efforts are acceptable through the office of the Mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ and our equipping for this work is the unction of the Holy Spirit. It is God who trains my hands for battle >> Eph. 6:10ff.
"Count your blessings, name them one by one..." give God the glory for what He has done today, e.g.
- Sylvester, raised in a Christian home, fell into atheism for a time, and now saying 'Sorry' to his family and was unsure about God's existence. After he responded well to the builder analogy, Ryan took him through the law and gospel. Sadly he wants to sort things out with his family before he considers Christ. Pray that God would give him a sense of urgency - he is on the brink of the pit and eternal punishment.
- Teressa attends a church but some of her prayers are off-centre although she claimed to trust Christ alone. Pray the Lord would correct her thinking so that she takes the gospel as it is in the Bible.
- Jessu is a young man living by the 'golden rule' although he knew practically nothing of God's revealed will in the 66 books of the Holy Scriptures. After giving him an apologetic for why it is reasonable to accept the Bible as God's Word, going through the builder analogy, then going through the law and gospel, he said that it made sense. Pray that he downloads a Bible onto his phone and checks out the claims of Christ to be his Lord and Saviour, as he stated that this was his intention as his bus arrived.
So, in a small but important way (important because it is God's work) the good news is sent forth again. Thank you for praying and praise God that His greatness is unlimited - Ps. 145:3 and so praise is His due and His alone.
We had a great outreach at Sunnybank yesterday, we had 4 of us on the team and praise the Lord, plenty of gospel tracts went out (in English and Chinese).
Three highlight conversations:
1. We spoke with a typical Aussie lady named Taylor who says she has never thought about God or eternal things before, but by the end of the conversation she had a lot to think about. She was happy to take a gospel of John to start reading. Please pray for her.
2. A young couple who I happened to speak to the guy a few months ago in Capalaba. He remembered me, and he said he was much more open this time. He kept bringing up "there is no evidence" even after I discussed some with him. But later he admitted that he doesn't believe in God not because of a lack in evidence, but because he wants to live in sin. But the couple soon agreed that living sin doesn't really satisfy at all.
As the conversation progressed and they heard the gospel, the couple said, "We have never heard it explained like that before. That makes perfect sense!" They each took a gospel of John to start reading. Please pray for them.
3. A Chinese man named Joe who said that his parents are Christian but he doesn't believe in God. After pointing to the fact that the universe had a beginning, he soon realised that God exists. We went through the law of God and the gospel and he said, "I am going to have to really think about this. I am going to talk to my sister about it too because she is a Christian."
To God be the glory!
We thank the Lord that he brought in plenty of people to chat to during our outreach at Woodridge on Tuesday. From those with a religious background to even someone who had never heard of Jesus before.
Two on the team spent quite a bit of time speaking to a Seventh Day Adventist who was confused about whether law-keeping was what will save him. We took him to passages in Galatians and Romans which make clear that by keeping the law of God no one will be justified in the sight of God (as we can't keep it perfectly), but that it's only through faith in Jesus. However if a person has faith, it will evidence itself in good works and obedience to God.
One chat later on that we had was with a Chinese man named Joey. He thought that he would go to Heaven based on his goodness. So we took him through the law of God, and he began to see his sinfulness, so we then explained that Jesus lived on the Earth 2000 years ago and died on the cross, rising three days later. He said he had never heard of Jesus before. But what surprised us is that he came quite quickly to understand the message of grace through faith.
By this time, we had already run out of the Bibles that we had brought that day, giving them out to others who wanted to take one. So Joey said, "I know what I can do, I can download one on my phone, and I am going to start reading it tonight!"
To God be the glory!
The Lord's work is glorious because He is, e.g. Acts 13:48 "... and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed." Thanks for those praying for His work this day:
- Some who had previously refused to take tracts, today took a tract. Pray that they, or others in their households, read the tract through and God stirs their spirit to seek Him out.
- Josh now appreciates intellectually the gospel; pray the Lord draws him to commit fully to being Jesus disciple.
- Alisha likewise; it seemed that she began to accept the facts of salvation but needs a sense of urgency. to respond in repentance and faith.
- Lily now appreciates the faith somewhat better understanding how trusting Christ, perfect Substitute, gives her acceptance with God that removes any fear of Judgment Day - 1 Jn. 4:16-18
And some people were 'good' regardless of what God says, and others were very imaginative in their excuses but we pray that God might be merciful to some...Thank God that in spite of our inadequacies, He equips us for the battle and He always has the victory - to Him be the glory and praise, now and for ever, Amen.