Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Gospel In Jail ... from the Beginning.

(Lee County Stockade)
When I am in Florida, I have been going to jail with my friend Bobby. No, not in the habit of getting arrested, but enjoy the privilege of going into the jail, sitting with a group of prisoners and an open Bible for hours at a time, explaining the scriptures to them. My good buddy and brother-in-Christ, Bobby, introduced me to the jail, where he has been ministering for something like eight years. Bobby is a gifted evangelist, competent apologist, great friend and preaching buddy. When I am in Florida, Bob and I regularly spend time in the open-air preaching and sharing the Gospel one-to one and ministering in the jail a couple nights a week.

This year we began to often use a bit of an extended outline quite often. We begin, after opening with prayer, to ask questions about what the guys believe, answering some, but mostly taking notes to make sure we cover false-beliefs during our time. We then begin with Genesis 1:1, confronting the difference between what they were taught in school (evolution) and the scriptures; giving evidence for the Genesis account. We talk about how creation is the Natural Revelation God has given us to show His existence (Psalms 19 & Romans 1) but how this shows the existence of a God, but not all of who He is. He has revealed to us much about Him by Special Revelation of the Word of God (the Bible). We then talk a little about the science of Textual Criticism and fulfilled prophesy; how the Bible can be shown to be true.

We then work our way through scripture beginning with the Fall of Adam & how all of us as descendents of Adam inherit Adam’s sinful nature; are born guilty and sinful. The Flood screams of God’s condemnation of evil and sin; how something like hundreds of millions of people die and only eight are saved. What happened to those who didn’t get on the Ark. The men usually answer that they died. ‘Yes’ we answer, ‘but what happened to their eternal souls?’. The room usually gets quiet as the truth sinks in that many millions (maybe as many as a billion) were damned to Hell for their sin and only eight were saved.

We move on to explain how in Exodus God revealed His Law. We go through each of the Ten Commandments showing how we have ALL broken each one of them and many, many times. The scriptures show that judgment and Hell await us. I often then open up Romans 3 and beginning at the tenth verse, read God’s view of mankind:

as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." (Romans 3:10-18 ESV)

What a condemnation! We then ask them to imagine standing before a judge (an all too familiar experience for these men). ‘Imagine you are standing in front of a judge about to plead innocent ... then you notice them beginning to roll a series of big screens into the courtroom. You learn that there were 27 video cameras all recording the crime scene in high resolution 1080p video with digital audio. You also are told that there were dozens of eye-witnesses all with camera phones lined up to testify. Also, finger-print and DNA evidence is waiting to be presented ... what’a you gotta say? Nothing!’ I then look down and read:

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (Romans 3:19-20 ESV)

The Cross! We explain the life, atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We explain the call to Repent of Sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone, and the Blood He shed on the Cross of Calvary. Bob and I take the time to explain Repentance and Faith.

Afterwards, we show by scripture that God is sovereign in salvation. We show how it is God who takes out our heart of stone, giving us a heart that desires to please Him. So often, people expect instant results, rather than what historic Christianity has long expected; a wrestling, a crisis of faith. We exhort the men to get on their face before God, pray fervently that He would show them their sin, and give them a repentant heart. We instruct them to use His Means of Grace (reading their Bibles, Prayer, Biblical Preaching, Christian Counsel and Fellowship).

It is amazing to me, that when the Gospel is laid out before these men with much background and explanation, we see men sobered. I’ve seen men that were openly mocking beforehand, who were rather sombre, humble and thoughtful as they left our time together.

I am summarizing a session that normally takes some three hours in a few lines. I believe this work is so incredibly valuable. I am not able to be there now, but my good friend Bobby continues faithfully (as he has done for more than eight years). Please pray for Bobby.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lucayan Presbyterian Kirk

Before we left the Bahamas in June, I was asked to fill the pulpit for Pastor Kirkland. Scott was returning to Scotland to bid farewell to the Church of Scotland (as the Bahamian churches just left the Church of Scotland and joined themselves to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church).  I felt the responsibility was great, as Scott Kirkland is a faithful minister of the Gospel; to have him entrust me with his pulpit was an honour. 

That week’s sermon is posted below:

Kidney Stones


While we were away in the Bahamas, Sue began to suffer from a Kidney Stone.  This landed her in the ER twice and eventually five-days admitted to the hospital.  Bahamian hospitals are a mite different from Canadian ones; the nurses rule with a rod of iron here.  They have restricted visiting hours and young children are never allowed on the ward.  Interestingly enough, they have huge respect for the Man of God, so when our pastor Scott Kirkland came to visit her at the close of visiting hours, they left him alone, while they normally would have ejected anyone else.

It took some time (and visits to a U.S. Hospital and a Canadian doctor) but Sue seems to have recovered.

Gospel in Haitian Creole

We were privileged to once again spend some time in the Bahamas late this spring.  Though I did spend some time preaching at the downtown bus terminal as used to be my habit here; we spent quite a bit of time working at a local community largely populated by Haitian refugees.  Quite a few of the men have been deported back to Haiti, leaving the women and children to fend for themselves.  Fending for yourself is quite difficult when you are not legally allowed to work. 

Among other things that we were involved in doing, we felt it was important to focus on the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Every day, we took a time to gather people together and simply the Gospel.  Online at Biblegateway.com there is a Haitian Creole Bible; so were were able to make huge posters of the scripture I preached on each day, in both English and Haitian Creole.  Sometimes Sue would help me in French to bring an understanding of what we were trying to explain. 

Our last day, we surprised them by acting out a skit; Sue walked in the room as were gathered for our ‘devotional’ and as she walked to the front, Ben held out his hand like he was holding a gun and yelled “bang, bang, bang”.  Sue fell to the floor yelling for help; that she was scared of Hell, how can she get to Heaven?  I coaxed the ladies to help her, tell her the way of salvation.  We were frustrated to find that only one could (finally) after some coaxing.  We felt the language barrier was a bit of a problem with our skit.  J

At the end, we believe that there were a couple who seemed to understand the Gospel and seemed to be trusting in Christ.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Open Air Preaching, Spring Breakers, New Home, Ministry Plans …. ?

We were blessed today to listen to Pastor Tom Ascol (some will remember him from the Amazing Grace, History & Theology of Calvinism DVD series) preach on I Corinthians 2:10-16.  Here in the deep south there is very much ‘Churchianity” but we are blessed to be able to sit under the teaching of men of God like Pastor Vance of Gunnery Road Baptist Church and Pastor Ascol of Grace Baptist Church.

Yesterday, we were blessed to have been allowed of the Lord to proclaim His Gospel to many.  We are docked on Estero Island in SW Florida, where Spring Break is in full-swing.  Providentially, our dock is about half-way down the island, and not in the middle of the masses of party-goers; a much more wholesome environment for our family.  Yesterday the two miles to Times Square where we regularly preach and talk to folks about the Gospel of Christ, took me about 80 minutes to drive … lots of people.

As we setup our O.A.C. Sketchboard I looked around to find a pirate posing for pictures, a group of noisy Columbian martial-arts/dancers and later a couple painters and a very-loud magic-act.  There were many, many people coming to and from the beach and strolling along the water-front.  I tried to be very winsome with my words, smile and demeanour without any compromise of the Truth of the Gospel. I must admit I was surprised (but pleased) how many people stopped to watch and listen while I painted and preached the Gospel.  Many engaged in trying to yell out guesses of the words I was painting & I gave prizes of $1,000,000 Gospel Tracts to those who yelled the correct answer first. It was a blessing to see that many young-people stopped to listen to the Words of Truth.  Bob and I were able to talk to quite a few people after and in between sketching/preaching sessions.

One man (obviously under-the-influence) kept praising God, but the words from his mouth kept praising his own efforts to become good enough for God … he was trying to use his own works as a ladder to get to heaven.  Bob and I both spent quite a bit of individual time with him and I finally left him with “…if righteousness were through the law (“good works”), then Christ died for no purpose” Galatians 2:21 ESV. I explained marks of true repentance and declaring one’s own goodness is not one of them … “If we say we have not sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” I John 1:8.

We ended the evening by painting “ONE WAY?” in HUGE letters on the back of one of our sketches on the sketchboard, enlisting some passing Christians as a rent-a-crowd to make it easier for passers-by to join an already listening crowd, rather than being the first one to stop.  I climbed up, introduced myself, acknowledged the awkwardness (with a smile) of someone in this modern day standing on a stood at the beach with a Bible, but asking for the kindness of a few moments of their time (numerous folks stopped to listen).  I opened up with “…And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12ESV & the words of Christ “I am the way, the truth and the life no one comes to the Father but by me”?  I asked if anyone knew what that meant, what we were to be saved from and the explained that we were to be saved from God, from the Wrath of God.  I asked, “"What?!”  Isn’t God the all-loving God who loves everyone?!  This seemed to be a good way to begin to explain the real revelation of scripture of the standard of the Law, the sin of man, the amazing Work of Christ & the call to Repentance & Faith.  Bobby then got up and opened up the Gospel of Mark and explained the cost of discipleship.  The Lord was merciful and blessed us with a gentle, winsome tone, but much passion in our speech as we pleaded with the crowd to repent and trust in the previous saviour.  One Christian lady came up and tried to offer us money to support us; Bobby asked her to pray for us instead (we aren’t allowed to take money in the city park we preach in & don’t want to diminish the preaching of the Gospel by taking money in front of the lost).

Looking back, I believe & trust the afternoon/evening was God-honouring.

Also, over the past months, it has been a privilege to take a Bible and sit with groups of prisoners at the local county jail for hours at a time, explaining God’s Word.  So many of them have little understanding of the Bible, but what they’ve been told in churches that may or may not be faithful to God’s Word. Because we are able to sit with them for two, three or more hours.  We’re learning to start with a Spiritual Survey; where we ask a series of questions to try and learn where the men are spiritually & what they know and understand.  We then often begin with Natural Revelation (how Creation screams to all men “There is a God! … see Psalm 19 & Romans 1) and then slowly progress through Special Revelation (The Bible; it’s super-natural nature & an outline of some of the evidence that show it is God Breathed), The Fall of Man & Man’s Fallen Condition (Gen.3 + 6:5-8 (where did the millions and millions of people go who were destroyed at the flood?), Rom. 5:12 & others), the Moral Law + Judgment (Ex.20, Mathew 5, I Cor.6:9-10, Rev.21:8, Romans 3 + others), the Cross (John 19 & Isaiah 53), the call to Repentance & Faith (various), the New Birth (John 3, John 1:13, Ezekiel 36-37) & Marks of the New Birth (i.e. evidence … I John & others).  It seems to take about three or more hours, but where are you blessed with a captive audience who volunteer to be locked in a room with you and your Bible for hours?  My brother Bob has been doing this for many years it’s a real education and inspiration to go with him.

It seems the Lord has seen fit to shake up our lives this year and plans for ministry.  Not to spend time with lots of details, but we’re not in the places or doing the things we’d planned, but are looking to Him.  We’ve moved off the sailboat we used to live on and are not living on a trawler of similar length (but MUCH more interior space for our family).  The new boat was already in our family, so made the transition easier to make.  This vessel does take more fuel to operate (a factor that concerned me much) but the living accommodations are much easier for life and boat-schooling (i.e. our affectionate term for home-schooling afloat) plus some serious air-conditioning that will allow us to start earlier in the fall and stay later in the spring than we could on the sailboat.  We are in one-place working on local ministry and evangelism a lot so the cost of fuel for travel seems to be smaller factor than we originally were thinking.

We are planning (Lord Willing) to return to Freeport, Grand Bahama for about month in the very near future to reconnect with the church there, our friends Pastor Scott Kirkland and his wife Anita & investigate the Christian Community Centre that is being established in a poor neighbourhood of Freeport.  We’d like to see operating what we’d only heard plans about when we were last there, and whether our Lord might have us be somehow involved in this Gospel Centred effort to be in the community and both helping with temporal needs (poverty, job-skills, social help) & at the same time focusing on the Good News that Jesus Christ died for Sinners.  Please pray for us in this regard.

Thank-you for reading this long-overdue update.  There is much, much, much that I’ve not mentioned, but it’s been hard to stop and blog.  Maybe I will sit with some of you and share more another time.

We are considering me attending an Open Air Campaigners week-long training conference in Maryland on our way back to Canada (May 31-June 5).  We are juggling time, accommodations and the financial commitment this will require.  We are not asking you to, but if the Lord should give you a desire to help with the cost of this training session, email me, I’d be glad to explain what I will be doing and why I am considering attending.

Please pray for us; we NEED your prayers! “…The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16

In Christ & by His Grace Alone!