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IMG_4754Last year we held our first evangelistic outreach meeting within walking distance of my S. Providence parish, right on Broad Street in Providence. Last Saturday evening we had our second. As before, we recruited Pr. Luis Morales to translate for me. We sang Psalm 1 in Spanish and English, and we read and preached from Matthew 21:1-11 on the Triumphal Entry.

In addition to many of our own folks, as well as the Morales family, several African contacts in the parish and the larger community came out. These are all professing Christians, but definitely not Reformed. While evangelism is my top concern, close behind is the pressing need to raise the profile of biblical, Reformational theology and worship within urban evangelicalism. Please pray that God may own these efforts as well.

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Another addition to the ‘Chalmers Audio Library.’ A fascinating defense of religious establishments, arguing for them on the ground that they serve as a great, national Home Mission. In my opinion, he counters some of the standard objections well.

 

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IMG_4156“I will come by you into Spain.” (Rom. 15:28)

Ever since I turned my sights to South Providence, there was no looking back. While conversions have been slow in coming (O come, Holy Spirit!), yet there has been a striking openness, especially among the Hispanic community there. I have been invited into the homes of many families and sweet, little old ladies, proclaiming the timeless truth of Jesus with my rather flawed, Gringo-Spanish. I have many an open door to read Scripture, expound, exhort, and pray. And of course, I’m keen to introduce the richness of the Reformed faith where there is quite a range of sub-par ‘Christianities.’

The struggle, of course, has been that our regular services have only been in English. With our slender resources, we’ve done various things to bridge the gap. We’ve had special midweek meetings with translation. And we’ve attempted on and off to have our services translated into Spanish. But because I can’t predict when someone will take up the offer to worship with us, it has really put a damper on that project.

Well, in recent weeks, things have changed. One Hispanic family – we’ll give them the surname here, “Ortega” – has started coming. Last Lord’s day was the second time in three weeks, and they seem rather interested. A brother in our church and I had met them doing door to door a couple of years back, and they were quite receptive. Finally, something clicked. They came to our uber-Presbyterian, psalm-singing, KJV-reading church … and they weren’t scared away. They seem to track with and appreciate the preaching. It is a young unmarried couple with a little boy and a grandmother. The couple is evidently unconverted, whatever their opinions of their state might be. The grandmother seems to be a devout Bible reader, judging from her very used copy.

The couple is bilingual, but the grandmother is not. So we’re working on some kind of translation of my sermons, which is not straightforward. If you are bilingual, Reformed, and willing to help from a distance, please drop us a note!

And please keep these folks in prayer. They could easily lose interest and drift away. I’m quite prepared for that, as I’ve seen in my day many promising starts fizzling out. Please pray ultimately for a regenerating baptism of the Spirit of God, clothing the Word with power.

We were also struck that a Liberian sister who joined our church from the outreach saw the young lady and realized that they were good friends from high school. Perhaps I shouldn’t read too much into that. But a coincidence? I think not.

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broken_glassA brother and I were making our way through a street in our district some years back. We came up to a black fellow in his 30’s as he was standing outside his apartment complex. We struck up a conversation and spoke to him about God, the soul, and the judgment to come. Out of nowhere – or so it seemed to us – this fellow broke down and wept. He confessed a deep sense of his sin, especially his sinful and violent anger. It was very touching and a more hopeful sign that God was not done with this sinner and was striving with him by His Spirit then and there.

He was soon in church, under the preaching of the Word, law and Gospel. He came with his girlfriend (something of a common law wife?) and two special children. Around that time, our family visited them in their apartment. We opened God’s Word, spoke with them about the “one thing needful,” and prayed with them. I came back frequently, as their door was always open.

“Charlene” was very engaged, hopeful that we could be of help to “Tyrone.” She explained that he would be gentle as a lamb when sober and was a very hard worker. But when he drank, the storm broke loose. He could be abusive and had been in and out of jail. It became clear to me that Tyrone had had a very troubled childhood and tried to drown his painful memories in drink. During this time, he was holding down a construction job and seemed to manage well enough. But eventually the wheels came off. Charlene had to call the police on him in one drunken outburst, and he ran. He was caught and thrown in jail.

Eventually, Charlene had enough. She left with the children and went to New York. Tyrone drifted along. Occasionally I’d reach out to him, or he’d call me. Thankfully his number never dropped, or I might have lost him for good. I learned that he found another girlfriend and began living with her. She called me one day a few months ago to tell me that he was in jail again, so I went and visited him. I spoke frankly with him about his soul and His need to get right with God through Christ.

This last Saturday, he was released. I went to visit and pray with him that night, then took him to church in the morning. I decided to break with my series in Exodus that Lord’s day to deliver a message that would be clearer for him, so I preached on the Parables of the Hidden Treasure and the Pearl of Great Price. O that the Father would savingly draw this poor prodigal to His Son and begin to heal all the brokenness that sin and Satan have wrought!

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Sowing_seedWent out in my nearby Lakewood parish Friday. Very encouraging overall. First, approached a couple of fellows who were talking in their driveway. Not wanting to interrupt, I handed them my literature. “Don’t let me interrupt you … unless you’re open to talking religion!” Well, they were. The one fellow, a 40-something biker type with a braided beard, told me that Christianity was suspect, having come down to us through the ages through oral tradition. He didn’t mention the telephone game illustration, but that was the gist of it. I explained to him and his friend the radical concern the early Christians had in bearing witness to the truth. Eventually, I gave the great ‘for instance’ in Saul of Tarsus. Open enemy. Jihadi type. A card-carrying, high profile Jew who hated the Christians. Then he claimed he witnessed the risen Christ, then began “preaching the faith he once destroyed.” At the very least, we should sit up and take notice. I invited him to church, and he indicated that I would probably see him someday.

Another fellow was on his phone, standing outside of his car. This chap professed to be a Christian and named a local, evangelical church where he had attended. But life had got in the way and his employment wouldn’t let him off to worship on Sundays. In the course of the conversation, I admonished him about his duties to follow Christ all the way. “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” I told him I was rather concerned about his soul and that he was really taking a gamble spiritually. He took it well, but I fear not well enough.

My third talk was a briefer one. The fellow was on his way, and I try to be courteous. But we did talk long enough to hear a similar story to the neighbor above, though this one was Roman Catholic in his background. I did urge him to consider the call of God, “Seek ye the Lord, while he may be found …”

Last, the second ‘none’ (no religion) was a 30-sometime white lady. Very nice, but had her doubts about God. I began to speak to her of reasons for God, when her husband/partner came up, asked what all this was about, and tried to wrap things up. “Could I possibly finish my thought?” As I did, it seemed as though a chord was struck. Something in the first none’s eyes told me that the second none was getting in the way of something important. Someone important. The One who is All.

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I’m beginning a new series of occasional posts on my ‘parish’ outreach efforts in R.I., mostly vignettes from door-to-door district visitation. If you would, please pray for these efforts. New England truly has ‘rocky soil’ spiritually – but we know that stones stand no chance before Jesus. More at ‘Reformed Parish Mission‘ page.

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Last Friday I was doing outreach in my neighborhood in Warwick, R.I. A number of doors remained closed, one after the other. Some days are busy, some are slow. Nearing the end of my time, I approached a house with a car in the driveway – plastered with secular, left-leaning bumper stickers. You know the type. Would this be a clash of two very different fundamentalists?

Not surprisingly, the fellow who came to the door fit the bill. He sported an armful of tats, his head shaved on the sides with a shock of purple hair flowing down, and a black shirt with pro-science imagery. We talked for a good while, his two children occasionally interrupting. He told me he was a science teacher in a middle school and was an atheist. A former Roman Catholic, he had given up on religion, though he didn’t tell me why.

John (not his real name) was rather polite. Kind of nice, for a strident atheist! After some discussion, I engaged him about whether there is any transcendent value or worth to human beings. Something that justifies our shared belief that we should treatCharles_Darwin_aged_51 them with dignity. We cut down trees for our benefit and harvest wheat for our consumption. Why wouldn’t we do that with humans? What makes some matter more valuable than other forms?

We eventually wrapped things up after I shared a verse with him summarizing the Gospel, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb. 2:9). May the Fisher of men save one of Darwin’s footed fish!

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Here is a great article highlighting the lessons we can glean from John Knox and company on missions.

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