Providence's evangelism team recently purchased this prayer stand to assist in our outreach to the area. Joe and I gave it a "test drive" yesterday and we were blessed in our time out on the town.
Joe picked a perfect spot to set it up: just outside the municipal building in Mansfield, a place where people were definitely interested in having prayers offered for them! We were there from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm and enjoyed a steady flow of people passing by.
We got to pass out a goodly number of tracts, and many of them were read as people walked away or sat around waiting for their court hearing. More significantly, we had opportunity to talk to a couple people who wanted prayer.
One such person was Dora. Dora was 8 months pregnant and going in to court because her boyfriend had beaten her. She requested prayer for the case and her pregnancy. We talked with her, prayed for her, and gave her a gospel tract.
Ben was our most intriguing contact. He was on his way to an AA meeting up the street and, as he sped past, he asked that we pray for his sobriety. He came back after his meeting and we talked for about 1/2 hour about the gospel and how it applies to addictions. Ben expressed that he had recently made a profession of faith. So we encouraged him to continue trusting Christ for the power to overcome these addictions. Then we concluded our time with prayer.
All in all, we loved the addition of the prayer stand. For one, it is a good "marker." It helps people know what we are out to do. It also makes others more inclined to approach us as most people are willing to have prayers offered for them and would avoid someone who is out doing straight up evangelism.
As mentioned above, Joe and I had a great time out on our trial run. We are looking forward to doing this on a more regular basis. It is our plan to be in both Ashland and Mansfield on a weekly basis through the spring and summer months.
My sister-in-law has recently started a photography business. The picture to the left is just one sample of how skilled she is with a camera.
I had the pleasure of designing her website and absolutely loved having the opportunity to look at these fantastic portraits. One thing's for certain, Erika has a real knack for a fine mix with the colors. The photos integrate so well with the backgrounds.
My wife recently visited and Erika did a photo shoot with our newborn son. I can't wait to get the pics back because I know they are going to be great shots.
If you are in the Grand Rapids area, make sure you check out Spark of Life Photography.
The last post reported the death of diligence and here in Ashland. This post is a follow up, focusing in on the massive use of welfare & unwise distribution of charity.
One doesn't need to do a radically in-depth survey to understand the massive dependence upon government welfare programs here in this county. All you have to do is go to Wal-Mart on the first Saturday of the month. It is a stampede of welfare recipients who've just got their food stamp card recharged.
But it is not just the government. Private charities seem to lack real wisdom when "helping" the "poor." I've written before about how one church in town has given out things like ipods and jewelry, rather than basic items that will cover needs (such as peanut butter and bread). However, this indulgent attitude towards the "poor" (I prefer to call them "dead beats") is not limited to this one church.
All in all, this just goes to show that the private sector is just as guilty when it comes to feeding the lazy and self indulgent spirit that looms over the town.
I'm also skeptical of our highly beloved Associated Charities, an organization that receives from many churches and the United Way. I do not know AC well, but I've witnessed them giving to people who have no intention of working. In sum, there seems to be little to no accountability to the people they serve. Instead it is simply a private sector welfare program with massive distributions of freebies.
When United Way comes knocking or when the Associated Charities makes their pitch, it is always the same: "The need is greater now more than ever." Such a sales pitch should make you rethink your approach to what you are doing! If you are not fighting against the increases and causing it to drop, you are likely part of the problem.
It should be self evident: why work when you can have your cake and eat it too, along with a ton of Pepsi, while listening to your ipod, playing your video game, and chain smoking your cigarettes. If you can live happily by mooching off of everyone else, then it is a no brainer.
Government handouts and charity freebies are being pumped out non-stop and with virtually zero accountability. Thus we are only feeding the death of diligence.
I might sound like a broken record by now, but we need to return to the Biblical principle of "If you don't work, you don't eat." Kill all freebies and do not give anymore hand outs, especially ones where you are giving toys and luxuries away.
Stop with the sob stories of people going without for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Thanksgiving is a rendering of thanks for the prosperity God has granted. Christmas is about a Savior who was born to set us free from sin (including sloth).
If you want to help someone, make him work. Make them sweep floors for a can of soup and clean gutters for some real wages. If they complain about not being able to find a job, help them start a business.
My good friend and parishioner, Raylene Hlavaty, deserves recognition for her gospel work. It might not seem like much to many, but in her own way she is holding forth the banner of Christ.
For the last several years Raylene has been involved chautauqua style acts. One of her characters is the great hymnist, Fanny Crosby. Raylene dresses in full costume and narrates Crosby's life story. She also integrates some of Crosby's hymns into the half hour presentation.
Raylene has performed many times throughout the Mid-Ohio region. Each time she does she has opportunity to witness to Christ through the faith of Fanny Crosby.
To find out more about Raylene's acts or to schedule a program, visit her website: Timeless Voices Ohio.
Today the mayor of Ashland is to give his annual "State of the City" address. Prior to doing so he came to our county's monthly ministerial meeting to give a mini report....though I think that it was more of a lamentation.
The mayor expressed concern over the increasing number of people in town who are not willing to work. He said businesses have jobs, but are not able to retain employees for lack of drive.
The mayor gave an example of how one entrepreneur, who has begun a number of businesses in town, said he is not able to start any more companies because of how disinclined people are to work. He already has one business which has 34 openings he is not able to fill.
On another occasion Dan Philip, who is head of the Transformation Network here in town, expressed similar sentiments. He has said that the TN has top of the line job openings in manufacturing that they cannot fill, despite the fact that people stand in line for food handouts in record proportions at Associated Charities.
The mayor went on to express that the town does not have enough revenue to maintain its current levels of operation, despite their having trimmed 50 people city wide since 2007. As people have left or retired, these positions have been terminated or combined with other positions.
Drugs and lack of drive were two motives that our mayor cited. The lamentation also mentioned the failure of people to show up or show up on time regularly for work. In other words, just plain sloth and love of pleasure.
Ours is a hedonistic culture. People are living for themselves and have no theology of work. Work is considered a "necessary evil" and something to avoid at all costs.
All in all, Ashland is becoming an economic ash heap because the will to work has died. The town's economy will continue on a downward spiral so long as people love pleasure and refuse to join the workforce.
The hit Disney movie, Frozen, has taken the US by storm and it’s hit song, “Let It Go!” can be heard on every elementary school playground around the country. Even my 2 yr old could sing some of the song before she ever saw the movie!
As I heard bits of the lyrics float past my ears, something didn’t sit right with me. But, I decided to hold judgment until I heard the song in the context of the entire movie. This weekend, my girls and I watched Frozen together and “Let It Go!” struck me as a song that espoused a lot of popular philosophies about a life contrary to the Bible’s teaching. I decided to look at 3 main themes and dissect them in light of the Bible.
First, Elsa laments the fact that she’s always had to be the “good girl.” “Don’t let them in, don’t let them see, be the good girl you always have to be” and “Let it go! That perfect girl is gone!”
I do believe that this is a cry of a lot of children in the church today. As Christian parents, we have done our children a great disservice if we have only emphasized outward behavior without a heart turned to Christ. Our children need to know that they can’t be the “good girl” or the “good boy” because we are all infested with sin. We need to be constantly pointing our children to Jesus as their Savior and Redeemer who alone is good and perfect. We all need to be humble enough to confess our sins to God and to one another (James 5:16, I John 1:8-10), not pretending to be without sin like the Pharisees (Mt. 23:23-28).
I feel badly for Elsa and her situation and can only pray that my girls will not feel this need to put on “perfect airs”, but instead will put on Christ.
Then, we get to the heart of the song, the rousing “let it go” chorus. The music crescendos as Elsa sings “Let it go, let it go, Turn away and slam the door. I don’t care what they’re going to say…” I’m assuming that Elsa is letting go of her gift/curse of freezing things. Are we supposed to just let go of whatever is “trapped” inside of us? Is that being true to ourselves?
The Bible encourages self-control (Gal. 5:16, 5:22-25) which seems the antithesis of letting it go. In my own observations of myself and other people, letting go of inhibitions only leads to sorrow. Elsa also says she doesn’t care what people are going to say, which is a very prevalent thought pattern today. “Be true to yourself and don’t worry about anyone else” is what we often hear.
Should we as Christians care what people think of us? My study of Scripture and an article by John Piper leads me to say “Yes” and “No”. If people are saying things against us because of our walk for Christ and stands we take for His Kingdom, then no, we don’t care what the world says (Gal. 1:10, I Thess. 2:4, I Tim 3:2). However, the Bible does put some importance on what others perceive about us (Prov. 22:1, Rom 15:1-2, I Peter 2:12). As John Piper stated, the most important question we can ask of ourselves is, “Is Christ honored in our lives?” (Phil. 1:19-20). So, Elsa lets it go, but she is still miserable, trapped in her ice castle. Doesn’t sound so exhilarating does it?
Finally, Elsa claims “it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through, No right, no wrong, no rules for me, I’m free!” I would hope this would make any Christian squirm. This statement is what feminists, homosexual activists, atheists, and many other groups want us (and our children) to believe. Their theory is that rules constrain you and keep you from happiness. Is this what God tell us in His Word?
No, in John 8:31-36, Jesus talks about by abiding in His Word, we will know the truth and that is what sets us free. He goes on to talk about being a slave to sin and that Christ comes to set us free from this bondage. Romans 6:16-23 also talks about being slaves to sin until Christ changes us and we become slaves to righteousness. Our all-knowing, all-powerful sovereign God has given us rules to live by, not to makes our lives miserable but to give us a full life.
I’m sure all of us can personally attest to the misery we feel when we live how we want, whether it’s letting our anger take control or eating too much or worrying about the future. We can also tell sobering stories of friends and family who threw off all inhibitions and are now realizing that their choices weren’t as freeing as they first thought. I believe this is shown in the movie – Elsa ends up needing Anna and the others and she experiences great joy when they are reunited. I don’t think “Let It Go” would make a good finale song in the movie, because Elsa found the emptiness of her life following the philosophy she promoted.
So now what? Am I banning all things Frozen from my house? No! I plan on using these observations as lessons to go over with my girls. I want to hear their opinions and see if they can discern what the Bible says. I want to hear if they feel trapped trying to be the “good pastors kids.” Then, I'll encourage them that the things they need to be letting go of are things like our selfishness, greed, envy, unkind words, etc.
And as they try to do this, they need to continue to flee to Christ, the only One who will never let them go.
[This is a special guest post by Elizabeth, my beloved wife. It is her first post in the blogosphere, and, I hope, not her last.]
Ashland is an interesting name for a city. I understand that it came from the estate of a Kentucky congressman. However, it seems to sum up well the state of our city today: the land of Ashes.
I'm going to be starting a series of posts dealing with how Ashland is deteriorating and quickly becoming an ash heap. This is not for the purpose of being a curmudgeon or complainer. Far from it. I love this city. I was born and raised here, and came back to it to minister within it.
My intent is for the purpose of information and restoration. Proverbs 14:34 says, "Righteousness exalts a nation." This implies that a nation is brought down by the lack of righteousness. The Scripture is replete with examples of how God causes lands to perish because those nations fail to fear and honor Him.
This, in a nutshell, is the problem with Ashland. It is not prospering because this community is not living in the light of God's principles. It is my hope to express where we have fallen short so that we might repent and see times of refreshing in our land.
Find the series under the tag Land of Ashes.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.