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!